Yesterday, the New York Times gave Dani Dayan, one of the leaders of the settlement movement, an opportunity to publicize his prescription for Israeli/Palestinian co-existence in an op-ed. I have mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, Dayan’s ideology is thoroughly repulsive. His prescription for the future, which he labels “peaceful non-reconciliation,” is a combination of maintenance of the status quo while ameliorating some of the more onerous conditions Israel imposes on Palestinians. He proposes that Israel retain control of “Judea and Samaria,” that it continue to exercise military rule over millions of stateless Palestinians, but that it loosen its stranglehold by making concerted efforts to make Palestinians happier despite the permanent loss of freedom, equality in the land of their birth, and justice under international law.
Nevertheless, Dayan’s is a point of view that deserves publicity. With all the talk about the peace process, the relative merits of the one-state solution versus the two-state solution, and the supposed unsustainability of the status quo, the fact is that Dayan’s hope for the preservation of military occupation (minus his vain hope for a kinder and gentler strain) is clearly the most likely scenario to prevail in the near future. In fact, the utterly predictable and widely predicted failure of the peace process is directly attributable to the fact that Israel enjoys the present situation and wouldn’t mind if it lasts forever. After all, it remains in complete control of the entire area from the river to the sea, with the full military, economic and diplomatic backing of the world’s primary superpower. Why should Israel make any “concessions” to international law and common decency when there are absolutely no negative consequences for intransigence?
Dayan’s professed concern for the welfare of the Palestinians who are to be dominated and subjugated forever may even be sincere – who knows? Perhaps he really believes that if “we” keep the natives happy, or at least happier, they and the international community will get off “our” backs. If Dayan had been more forthright and transparent that he favors perpetual rule by force of arms by one ethno-religious group over all others, the ugliness of his racism would be more obvious. The problem is that he focuses most of his essay on the window dressing of reduced restrictions on Palestinians, making it seem that concern for their welfare is his primary motivation.
Which brings me to the worst aspect of the Times op-ed. It is a re-tread. Less than two years ago, Dayan was given the same platform to make virtually the same arguments. At that time, Dayan proposed a permanent continuation of the status quo while some restrictions on Palestinians should be lifted. The only thing different about Dayan’s new op-ed is a much bigger emphasis on his faux concern for Palestinian misery to disguise or at least distract from his devout wish for perpetual Israeli military rule over stateless Palestinians of the wrong ancestry.
And let’s not forget that Dayan was the subject of a 2012 Jodi Rudoren profile that praised his worldly sophistication without asking troubling questions. This fawning article was duly criticized on Mondoweiss by James North, Jerome Slater, and Matthew Taylor. What is behind the Times’s love affair with this unremarkable man who has achieved fame only by relentlessly promoting his own tribe at a terrible cost to others? Does a sophisticated taste in fine wines really count for so much?
As a counterpoint to Dayan, let me offer the thoughts of the late great Edward Said, one of the very few who accurately predicted the failure of the “peace process” at its inception in the early 1990’s. After about a decade of events that were confirming his foresight, Said wrote:
The important thing for now is to keep hammering away at the phony rhetoric and promises of the peace process, showing relentlessly not only that it hasn’t worked and has created a gap between rulers and ruled, but also, and more importantly, that in its present form it cannot work. Human, political and civil rights are indivisible: they cannot be partially achieved by one people and fully enjoyed by another living in the same territory. This is the deep flaw of Oslo. The only way to overcome it is to raise the cry “equality or nothing, for Arabs and Jews”.