When peace-loving Israeli liberals present their conflict with Palestinians in neutral, symmetrical terms – admitting that there are extremists on both sides who reject peace – one should ask a simple question: what goes on in the Middle East when nothing is happening there at the direct politico-military level (ie, when there are no tensions, attacks or negotiations)? What goes on is the slow work of taking the land from the Palestinians on the West Bank: the gradual strangling of the Palestinian economy, the parcelling up of their land, the building of new settlements, the pressure on Palestinian farmers to make them abandon their land (which goes from crop-burning and religious desecration to targeted killings) – all this supported by a Kafkaesque network of legal regulations.
Saree Makdisi, in Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation, describes how, although the Israeli occupation of the West Bank is ultimately enforced by the armed forces, it is an “occupation by bureaucracy”: it works primarily through application forms, title deeds, residency papers and other permits. It is this micro-management of the daily life that does the job of securing slow but steady Israeli expansion: one has to ask for a permit in order to leave with one’s family, to farm one’s own land, to dig a well, or to go to work, to school, or to hospital. One by one, Palestinians born in Jerusalem are thus stripped of the right to live there, prevented from earning a living, denied housing permits, etc.
Palestinians often use the problematic cliché of the Gaza strip as “the greatest concentration camp in the world”. However, in the past year, this designation has come dangerously close to truth. This is the fundamental reality that makes all abstract “prayers for peace” obscene and hypocritical. The state of Israel is clearly engaged in a slow, invisible process, ignored by the media; one day, the world will awake and discover that there is no more Palestinian West Bank, that the land is Palestinian-frei, and that we must accept the fact. The map of the Palestinian West Bank already looks like a fragmented archipelago. [continued…]
No people mourn better than the Jewish people. For seven days after death, the family sits shiva, a vigil at home for loved ones to comfort one another and reflect on the life lost. During the following year and then beyond, the stages of mourning develop to allow next of kin to continue their lives while still remembering who is gone from them.
The process is successful for Jews, but it is failing the Jewish state. Six decades since the gravest of their tragedies, Jews have collectively yet to find a sustainable way of moving on without forgetting the Holocaust. The inability to do so poses dire consequences for Israel and the possibility for peace.
For Israel, the Holocaust didn’t end in 1945, but reconstituted itself in the country’s political and social cultures. It’s no accident that Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust museum, is physically connected to Har Hertzl, Israel’s national cemetery. The symbolism hits you over the head: Israel was born out of the Holocaust, and the price to protect the Jewish people from another one is steep. There is truth in that, but also danger. Binding too tightly the slaughter of Jewish civilians by Nazis and the deaths of Israeli soldiers by Arabs turns every threat to Israel into another Holocaust. [continued…]