Today’s NY Times has an op-ed from settler leader Dani Dayan, who urges that the world accept the status quo of occupation, albeit with some vague improvements.
Dayan repeats some of the nonsense that we would expect:
Arabs called for Israel’s annihilation in 1967, and Israel legitimately seized the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria in self-defense. Israel’s moral claim to these territories, and the right of Israelis to call them home today, is therefore unassailable.
Dayan should know; he emigrated from Argentina in 1971, and his right to rule as a member of the “indigenous” Jewish population over the “non-indigenous” people who have been living there for centuries, is similarly “unassailable.” One would expect to see such use of language in a particularly outdated Twilight Zone episode where every spoken word signifies its opposite.
While it’s difficult to see any merit in the racist arrogance of this op-ed, there are moments when Dayan stumbles, for his own perverse purposes, into some clarity.
Approximately 160,000 Jews live in communities outside the settlement blocs that proponents of the two-state solution believe could be easily incorporated into Israel. But uprooting them would be exponentially more difficult than the evacuation of the Gaza Strip’s 8,000 settlers in 2005. The attempts by members of the Israeli left to induce Israelis to abandon their homes in Judea and Samaria by offering them monetary compensation are pathetic. This checkbook policy has failed in the past, as it will in the future. In the areas targeted for evacuation most of us are ideologically motivated and do not live here for economic reasons.
It’s hard to argue with that logic. Indeed, Norman Finkelstein has conceded an even higher figure – 200,000 – as the number of settlers who would be relocated within the green line in a two-state settlement. Yet he foresees 95+% of those settlers accepting monetary inducements, and the remainder fleeing in fear when the IDF announces it will no longer protect them. On virtually all other matters, a comparison between the likes of Dayan and Finkelstein would be absurdly one-sided in the other direction, but on this, I find Dayan to be more persuasive.
Dayan also should be taken seriously in his plea for continuation of the status quo. We often use words like “unsustainable” and “intolerable” to describe the occupation, but those are clearly aspirational rather than accurate descriptions of present-day reality. The occupation has been sustained, and has been tolerated by the international community, for nearly half a century. While we debate one-state versus two-state solutions, and speculate whether Israel would ever dare a large scale expulsion of millions of “ethnic undesirables,” with or without cover of war with Iran, continuation of the status quo is a short-term certainty, a medium-term likelihood, and a long-term option. No one ever thought it would last 45 years, and Israelis, the people in power, seem to be able to function quite well in callous disregard of the misery they are imposing on millions of others. Indeed, without considerable international pressure, continuation of the status quo of occupation, which is truly unbearable only for its victims, is likely to continue indefinitely.
Another inadvertent “virtue” of Dayan’s piece is that it lays bare the “Jews rule” foundation underlying all of Zionism. Dayan casually proposes perpetuation – forever, it seems – of a system in which Israeli Jews, through the actual use and/or threatened use of its highly advanced military firepower, exercises complete domination over another people who are denied any authority over their own lives.
Presumably, Dayan is unconcerned with the niceties of pretending to live in an actual “democracy” where the government rules by consent of the governed. By contrast, “liberal Zionists,” whom he charitably calls the “Israeli left,” place a much higher value on this fig leaf deemed necessary in polite circles of the 21st century. However, Dayan, more than his liberal country(wo)men, exposes the ethnic privilege underlying all of Israeli society. No doubt he would unapologetically acknowledge that there can be no true equality between Jews and others in the Jewish State, while the “Israeli left” would prefer the fiction that discrimination against non-citizens can be minimized to tolerable levels.