Sunday, June 3, 2018

It's not the 'occupation,' it's the Jews - Dror Eydar

by Dror Eydar

If you're so inclined, look up the Hamas charter online and you will see how blind some of us tend to be to our enemies' deep-seated ideological foundation against our very existence not as Israelis, but as Jews.

Hamas members attend the funeral of their comrades who 
were killed in an explosion, in the central Gaza Strip last month
Photo: Reuters

Look at any news site in the world, and in almost all of them, you'll find the Gaza Strip reported as a territory "occupied" by Israel. 

Here's the reality: Israel withdrew from Gaza in the summer of 2005, under the misguided assumption that the Palestinian Authority would have jurisdiction there. 

But that was not to be the case. Six months after Israel's withdrawal, Hamas won the Palestinian election and the following summer staged a violent coup. The fact that Hamas was preparing for war prompted Israel to monitor the border crossings between Israel and Gaza, knowing very well that Hamas was less interested in the welfare of the residents of Gaza than in obtaining weapons and building defenses.

The facts are readily available to anyone who looks, but that never seems to matter. We are consistently described as occupiers. Incidentally, the Egyptians also monitor their border crossings with Gaza, but no one ever pulls the "occupier" label on them. That's reserved only for the Jews.

Let's reiterate: The "occupation" is not a claim, it is a perception, and it is founded on the notion that Jewish sovereignty over any part of the Land of Israel is abhorrent. In the aftermath of the Oslo Accords, Israel relinquished control over the vast majority of the Arab population in Judea and Samaria. They have a Palestinian government with a Palestinian flag and a Palestinian national anthem and Palestinian budgets. They are supposed to vote in Palestinian parliamentary elections. Most of the territory isn't populated, and Israel has a historical right to it as a nation.

The Israeli military deploys around the Palestinian areas to protect them, and us, from Hamas radicalization. What happened in Gaza could happen tenfold in Judea and Samaria if we make the mistake of pulling out. If we do, we will really have to fight for our lives from the homefront and the Palestinians could sustain a worse blow than anything seen before. So yes, there is an Israeli presence around Judea and Samaria. But unlike the reality in Gaza, our military presence in Judea and Samaria has proved itself. The Judea and Samaria region is one of the calmest, safest places for Arabs in the entire Middle East. But that doesn't matter. The view of Israel in the world is even worse now than it was before the Oslo Accords. We are seen only as occupiers.

Bleeding hearts and rights activists contend that we need to "separate from them or give them full civil rights." But we did separate from them. "Give them an independent state," they demand. They had every opportunity to establish a state in Gaza, but they demonstrated that civil government, in and of itself, is not a priority for them. They only care about self-rule as a weapon of war against us. "Well, then, give them full civil rights," they say. But they do enjoy civil rights under the Palestinian Authority. Who says that every ethnic minority is entitled to its own independent state? And if the designated state fails to thrive, and makes the lives of its citizens miserable? And worse yet, if the state poses an existential threat to Israel? Will it still be deemed such a fundamental right?   

So in the absence of an independent state "give them full Israeli citizenship," they argue. And that will solve the "occupation" problem? There are Arab representatives in the Israeli Knesset already. As far as they're concerned, are they not under an occupation? Do they accept the self-definition of the state that they inhabit? Do they accept its symbols? Do they recognize its sovereignty over the land? You can't fool us. Anyone who read the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee's so-called position paper – "The Future Vision of the Arab Palestinians in Israel" published in 2006 – will see that to them, the Jews are foreign colonialists who came to a land that doesn't belong to them (Palestine). As long as Israel defines itself as the national state of the Jewish people, and not the state of any other nationality, the Arab political (as well as much of the intellectual) leadership will continue to feel that their Israeli citizenship was forced on them as a result of their "catastrophe" in the 1948 War of Independence. So what if they have Israeli citizenship? Would it make a psychological difference to a prisoner if he was allowed cast a vote in the elections for warden? Would it change the prisoner's status?

Incidentally, what about Jordan? Most of Jordan's citizens are Palestinians under the rule of the Hashemite dynasty, originally from the Kingdom of Hejaz. Does this situation not meet all the known criteria for an occupation?

The West, including Israel, holds the Middle East to Western political standards and applies Western insights to the Middle Eastern reality, even though the region is far more ancient than the West and its fundamental governing, political, cultural and religious perceptions are entirely different than the West's. The West speaks in the language of logic – a rational language that flattens the deep layers of life here, ignoring the region's ancient mythology and misguidedly believing that the religious factor here can be countered in the same way it was dealt with in Europe (these days, Christian Europe itself is a bit helpless in the face of the Middle Eastern religion flooding its streets). 

If you're so inclined, look up the Hamas charter online and you will see how blind some of us tend to be to our enemies' deep-seated ideological foundation against our very existence not as Israelis, but as Jews. Article 8 of the charter, the organization's political and military platform, presents Hamas' slogan of resistance, which was originally the Muslim Brotherhood's slogan since 1928: "Allah is [the organization's] goal. The Prophet is its leader. The Quran is its constitution. Jihad is its path, and death for the sake of Allah is its most coveted desire." 

This is the root of all the charter's assertions. For example, article 12 describes how negotiations between states or peoples – one of the underpinnings of the conventional Western thinking – are secondary to the idea that the "Nationalism [of every nation], from the point of view of the Islamic Resistance Movement, is part of the religious creed." Do you believe that? In psycho-historical terms, this is tantamount to subordinating the logos (rationalism) to the mythos. This view of the world will never intersect with that of the West unless the Arab world undergoes a profound cultural and scientific revolution, like the West did in the last thousand years. But that's not the topic at hand – we are talking about the "occupation."

Just look at all the Arab countries that have fallen apart before our eyes in the last decade in a vortex of fire and blood. What is actually collapsing is the false nationalism that was artificially imposed on the peoples and tribes of the region some 100 years ago by the European colonialists who divvied up the Middle East after World War I. In one instance, these colonialist powers decided, for example, that the Sunnis, Shiites, Druze, Christians, Alawites and Assyrians are one single nation called Syria. So they decided. The region is now reverting back to the tribal structures that preceded these arbitrary divisions. It is going back to its ancient clan and ethnic structures. The veneer of Western rationalism is crumbling and the Middle Eastern mythology is now erupting back to the surface. 

The debate about the "occupation," therefore, is being conducted within the Western construct that assumes a right to national self-determination for every distinct ethnic unit. The West is talking about Israel controlling another people while in reality, the "occupation" is just the tip of the iceberg of the Jewish issue in the region. Take the time to examine the four territories inhabited by Palestinians: the Gaza Strip, Judea and Samaria, Israel and Jordan. The deeper problem is not the "occupation" in the Western sense of controlling another people, but rather in the ancient, mythological sense of controlling the land. 

So while the West talks about "territories" that can be shared, the Arab world talks about land, and in our region, the existence of a man is derived from the man's connection to the land and his possession of it. That is the reason for the endless bloodshed to obtain this land. It is history rapping on our heads in its mysterious ways, forcing us to reconnect with that ancient component in our identity that the good land symbolizes in us. 

Dror Eydar


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