I hear mention of the "Clash of Civilizations" I don't know whether
to laugh or to cry.
because it is such a silly notion.
To cry, because
it is liable to cause untold disasters.
To cry even
more, because our leaders are exploiting this slogan as a pretext
for sabotaging any possibility of an Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation.
It is just one more in a long line of pretexts.
Why was the
Zionist movement in need of excuses to justify the way it treated
the Palestinian people?
At its birth,
it was an idealistic movement. It laid great weight on its moral
basis. Not just in order to convince the world, but above all
in order to set its own conscience at rest.
childhood we learned about the pioneers, many of them sons and
daughters of well-to-do and well-educated families, who left behind
a comfortable life in Europe in order to start a new life in a
far-away and - by the standards of the time - primitive country.
Here, in a savage climate they were not used to, often hungry
and sick, they performed bone-breaking physical labor under a
they needed an absolute belief in the rightness of their cause.
Not only did they believe in the need to save the Jews of Europe
from persecution and pogroms, but also in the creation of a society
so just as never seen before, an egalitarian society that would
be a model for the entire world. Leo Tolstoy was no less important
for them than Theodor Herzl. The kibbutz and the moshav were symbols
of the whole enterprise.
idealistic movement aimed at settling in a country inhabited by
another people. How to bridge this contradiction between its sublime
ideals and the fact that their realization necessitated the expulsion
of the people of the land?
way was to repress the problem altogether, ignoring its very existence:
the land, we told ourselves, was empty, there were no people living
here at all. That was the justification that served as a bridge
over the moral abyss.
may be asked: why were the refugees not allowed to come
back to their homes once the war was over? Well, it
was they who in 1947 rejected the UN partition plan and
started the war. If because of this they lost 78%
of their country, they have only themselves to blame.
of the Founding Fathers of the Zionist movement was courageous
enough to call a spade a spade. Ze'ev Jabotinsky wrote as early
as 80 years ago that it was impossible to deceive the Palestinian
people (whose existence he recognized) and to buy their consent
to the Zionist aspirations. We are white settlers colonizing
the land of the native people, he said, and there is no chance
whatsoever that the natives will resign themselves to this voluntarily.
They will resist violently, like all the native peoples in the
European colonies. Therefore we need an "Iron Wall" to protect
the Zionist enterprise.
Jabotinsky was told that his approach was immoral, he replied
that the Jews were trying to save themselves from the disaster
threatening them in Europe, and, therefore, their morality trumped
the morality of the Arabs in Palestine.
were not prepared to accept this force-oriented approach. They
searched fervently for a moral justification they could live with.
the long quest for justifications - with each pretext supplanting
the previous one, according to the changing spiritual fashions
in the world.
justification was precisely the one mocked by Jabotinsky: we
were actually coming to benefit the Arabs. We shall redeem
them from their primitive living conditions, from ignorance and
disease. We shall teach them modern methods of agriculture and
bring them advanced medicine. Everything - except employment,
because we needed every job for the Jews we were bringing here,
which we were transforming from ghetto-Jews into a people of workers
and tillers of the soil.
ungrateful Arabs went on to resist our grand project, in spite
of all the benefits we were supposedly bringing them, we found
a Marxist justification: It's not the Arabs who oppose us,
but only the "effendis". The rich Arabs, the great landowners,
are afraid that the glowing example of the egalitarian Hebrew
community would attract the exploited Arab proletariat and cause
them to rise against their oppressors.
did not work for long, perhaps because the Arabs saw how the Zionists
bought the land from those very same "effendis" and drove out
the tenants who had been cultivating it for generations.
of the Nazis in Europe brought masses of Jews to the country.
The Arab public saw how the land was being withdrawn from under
their feet, and started a rebellion against the British and the
Jews in 1936. Why, the Arabs asked, should they pay for the persecution
of the Jews by the Europeans? But the Arab Revolt gave us a new
justification: the Arabs support the Nazis. And indeed,
the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, was photographed
sitting next to Hitler. Some people "discovered" that the Mufti
was the real instigator of the Holocaust. (Years later it was
revealed that Hitler had detested the Mufti, who had no influence
whatsoever over the Nazis.)
arch-enemy, according to this theory, is Islam. Western
Civilization, Judeo-Christian, liberal, democratic, tolerant,
is under attacked from the Islamic monster, fanatical,
II came to an end, to be followed by the 1948 war. Half of the
vanquished Palestinian people became refugees. That did not
trouble the Zionist conscience, because everybody knew: They
ran away of their own free will. Their leaders had called
upon them to leave their homes, to return later with the victorious
Arab armies. True, no evidence was ever found to support
this absurd claim, but it has sufficed
to soothe our conscience to this day.
may be asked: why were the refugees not allowed to come back to
their homes once the war was over? Well, it was they who in
1947 rejected the UN partition plan and started the war. If
because of this they lost 78% of their country, they have only
themselves to blame.
came the Cold War. We were, of course, on the side of the "Free
World", while the great Arab
leader, Gamal Abd-al-Nasser, got his weapons from the Soviet bloc.
(True, in the 1948 war the Soviet arms flowed to us, but that's
not important.) It was quite clear: No use talking with the
Arabs, because they support Communist tyranny.
But the Soviet
bloc collapsed. "The terrorist organization called PLO",
as Menachem Begin used to call it, recognized Israel and signed
the Oslo agreement. A new justification had to be found for our
unwillingness to give back the occupied territories to the Palestinian
came from America: a professor named Samuel Huntington wrote a
book about the "Clash of Civilizations". And so we found the mother
of all pretexts.
arch-enemy, according to this theory, is Islam. Western Civilization,
Judeo-Christian, liberal, democratic, tolerant, is under attacked
from the Islamic monster, fanatical, terrorist, murderous.
is murderous by nature. Actually, "Muslim" and "terrorist" are
synonymous. Every Muslim is a terrorist, every terrorist a Muslim.
did it happen that the wonderful Western culture gave
birth to the Inquisition, the pogroms, the burning of
witches, the annihilation of the Native Americans, the
Holocaust, the ethnic cleansings and other atrocities
without number... Now Western culture is the embodiment
of freedom and progress.
sceptic might ask: How did it happen that the wonderful Western
culture gave birth to the Inquisition, the pogroms, the burning
of witches, the annihilation of the Native Americans, the Holocaust,
the ethnic cleansings and other atrocities without number -
but that was in the past. Now Western culture is the embodiment
of freedom and progress.
Huntington was not thinking about us in particular. His task was
to satisfy a peculiar American craving: the American empire always
needs a virtual, world-embracing enemy, a single enemy
which includes all the opponents of the United States around the
world. The Communists delivered the goods - the whole world was
divided between Good Guys (the Americans and their supporters)
and Bad Guys (the Commies).
Everybody who opposed American interests was automatically a Communist
- Nelson Mandela in South Africa, Salvador Allende in Chile, Fidel
Castro in Cuba, while the masters of Apartheid, the death squads
of Augusto Pinochet and the secret police of the Shah of Iran
belonged, like us, to the Free World.
Communist empire collapsed, America was suddenly left without
a world-wide enemy. This vacuum has now been filled by the Muslims-Terrorists.
Not only Osama bin Laden, but also the Chechnyan freedom fighters,
the angry North-African youth of the Paris banlieus, the Iranian
Revolutionary Guards, the insurgents in the Philippines.
the American world view rearranged itself: a good world (Western
Civilization) and a bad world (Islamic civilization). Diplomats
still take care to make a distinction between "radical Islamists"
and "moderate Muslims", but that is only for appearances' sake.
Between ourselves, we know of course that they are all Osama bin
Ladens. They are all the same.
way, a huge part of the world, composed of manifold and very different
countries, and a great religion, with many different and even
opposing tendencies (like Christianity, like Judaism), which has
given the world unmatched scientific and cultural treasures, is
thrown into one and the same pot.
view is tailored for us. Indeed, the world of the clashing civilizations
is, for us, the best of all possible worlds.
between Israel and the Palestinians is no longer a conflict between
the Zionist movement, which came to settle in this country, and
the Palestinian people, which inhabited it. No, it has been from
the very beginning a part of a world-wide struggle which does
not stem from our aspirations and actions. The assault of terrorist
Islam on the Western world did not start because of us. Our conscience
can be entirely clean - we are among the good guys of this world.
still take care to make a distinction between "radical
Islamists" and "moderate Muslims", but that is only for
now the line of argument of official Israel: the Palestinians
elected Hamas, a murderous Islamic movement. (If it didn't exist,
it would have to be invented - and indeed, some people assert
it was created from the start by our secret service.) Hamas
is terroristic, and so is Hizbullah. Perhaps Mahmoud Abbas is
not a terrorist himself, but he is weak and Hamas is about to
take sole control over all Palestinian territories. So we cannot
talk with them. We have no partner. Actually, we cannot possibly
have a partner, because we belong to Western Civilization, which
Islam wants to eradicate.
In his 1896
book, "Der Judenstaat", Theodor Herzl, the official Israeli "Prophet
of the State", prophesied this development, too.
This is what
he wrote in 1896: "For Europe we shall constitute (in Palestine)
a part of the wall against Asia, we shall serve as a vanguard
of culture against barbarism."
thinking of a metaphoric wall, but in the meantime we have put
up a very real one. For many, this is not just a Separation Wall
between Israel and Palestine. It is a part of the world-wide wall
between the West and Islam, the front-line of the Clash of Civilizations.
Beyond the wall there are not men, women and children, not a conquered
and oppressed Palestinian population, not choked towns and villages
like Abu-Dis, a-Ram, Bil'in and Qalqilia. No, beyond the wall
there are a billion terrorists, multitudes of blood-thirsty Muslims,
who have only one desire in life: to throw us into the sea, simply
because we are Jews, part of Judeo-Christian Civilization.
With an official
position like that - who is there to talk to? What is there to
talk about? What is the point of meeting in Annapolis or anywhere
is left to us to do - to cry or to laugh?
The above article is published by Gush Shalom.
by Uri Avnery:
Avnery is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom.
He is one of the writers featured in The Other Israel: Voices
of Dissent and Refusal. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch's
hot new book, The Politics of Anti-Semitism. Those who want
to help out Gush Shalom can email firstname.lastname@example.org
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