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Seeing the real victims

“Poor Israel.” How often we hear that lament.

Sixty-seven years ago, like many others, I commiserated with Jews recovering from victimization by the Nazis. I marveled at the Zionist quest for a secure homeland for Holocaust survivors. Vicariously sharing this dream, I neglected consideration for people already living in villages and farms who would be violently driven out by newcomers to their “promised land.”

Visiting Israel for the first time in 1963, I resented Arab hostility to Jews and danced in celebration with kibbutzim youth.

When, in 1967, Israel preemptively attacked its hostile Arab neighbors — an act carefully planned to improve defenses by capturing territory upon which to also expand — I began to examine this narrative of victimhood and biblical prophecy Zionist leaders had created. Territory taken from Jordan, from Israel’s border to the western shore of the Jordan River and home to many of the Palestinians refugees driven earlier from Israel, was now occupied as the West Bank.

Our President Johnson saw Israel’s lightning assaults on its neighbors as an ally for American economic interests in the Middle East. $3-billion in economic and military aid soon flowed annually to Israel. (Fifteen years ago cost of this aid to U.S. taxpayers already exceeded $134-billion. Congress recently made special provision of millions just for Israel’s Hamas rocket shield.)

Touring the West Bank in 2007, I observed shining white cities on many of the hilltops, home to half a million Israeli settlers. Those I visited had swimming pools and lush parks, while Palestinians in the valleys below are denied sufficient water for homes and farms. Palestinians are largely walled in, have homes demolished to make way for settlements, wait in long lines to pass check points and need permits to travel. Settlers move freely along a network of paved private highways. (Since 1967, Israelis have demolished 29,000 Palestinian homes.)

Israeli Army-defended settler abuse of Palestinians and destruction of their crops and olive trees in the West Bank is common. Of course, living conditions for Palestinians in the virtual Israeli “prison,” called Gaza, are far worse.

In 1987, seeking freedom, Palestinians began nonviolent actions. These included strikes, boycotts, painting graffiti, erecting barricades and tax resistance. By 1993, youth were also hurling stones. Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s response to nonviolent protest was to order the army to break the bones of demonstrators, and there is video evidence this policy was carried out.

Any wonder that Palestinians ­— having experienced four decades of miniature Holocaust (their Nakba) at the hands of Israelis — began again to protest occupation abuses (2nd Intifada 2000-2005), this time resorting to violence?

Peace with Palestinians is not elusive; it simply has never been a Zionist objective. From day one, this has been to make the Palestinians go away. Ironically, Adolf Hitler’s early effort to create living space in Germany was his plan to make Jewish peoples emigrate to Madagascar.

Asymmetric warfare:­ Israel, ranking third behind the U.S. and China in combat power, facing unarmed civilians is the circumstances on the ground. Rockets smuggled into Gaza and inaccurately sprayed by Hamas in the direction of Israel, like so many thrown stones, allow Palestinians a sense they are trying something in their plight. When missiles hurtle through the air, poor Israel begs for the world’s sympathy, and our presidents mindlessly chorus, “Israel has the right to defend itself.”

Advancing West Bank colonization, the Israeli government has only pretended engagement in peace talks. Palestinian conditions for peace with Israel have long been creatiing an independent state along the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Israel ensures talks fail through insistence upon “no prior conditions.”

For such reasonable peace as Palestinians require, Zionists would have to yield creation of Greater Israel in the whole of historic Palestine. The truth is, Zionists will “talk” but never agree to a two-state solution.

It is time for us to demand our government not just criticize such actions but abandon all support for this rogue Israeli state.

I’m quite certain Hamas fighters would rather not spend their lives firing rockets into Israel. All who seek genuine peace must finally realize this can only be achieved when both sides in this dispute have their fundamental needs met.

Carl Doerner of Conway is an author and documentary filmmaker.

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