Israeli spokespeople have sharply denounced UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for his criticism of Israeli occupation and settlement-building, and in particular for his suggestion that Palestinian violence is born out of desperation and hopelessness. The Secretary General, the Israeli response has it, was defending terrorism. Mr. Ban’s op-ed in the NY Times defending his criticism of Israel, however, betrays either a profound ignorance of the so-called ‘conflict’, or insufficient courage to speak the truth.
After repeating the myth that the ‘occupation’ began in 1967 (thus burying the very events upon which justice today depends), Mr. Ban speaks of the international community’s efforts to strengthen the Palestinian Authority, as though this were beneficial to the Palestinian cause. The P.A., however serves at the pleasure of Israel. The illusion of Palestinian autonomy frees Israel from the day-to-day responsibility for the territories, and allows Israel to claim it is a democracy when in reality it runs a single apartheid state whose ‘citizens’ in Jerusalem and the West Bank are blocked from voting because of their ethnicity. Behind the P.A. fig-leaf, Israel has already imposed the one-state solution.
The Secretary General cites as progress proposals for “investment and development” in Palestine’s Area C (under Israeli rule), condemning Palestinians to further economic occupation without challenging the suffocating Israeli control that destroyed Palestine’s historic self-sufficiency in the first place.With a single word—“stalemate”—the Secretary General obfuscates the entire situation to his audience. It is no stalemate: Israel holds all the cards. All the aggression is Israeli. No Palestinian occupies, controls, or lays siege to Israel. Nor is it a ‘conflict’, which means two roughly equal ‘sides’, each with a means of defense and offense, each with a valid legal position to its claims, each with the ability to bring its side of a ‘dispute’ to the media. Israel is entitled to a vast, modern military machine, the unquestioning acquiescence of the world’s most powerful nations, and the political perks that come with the status of nation-state. The Palestinians are denied any normal political and military means of self-defense. Palestinian peaceful resistance is consistently rewarded with bullets and a media vacuum.
Mr. Ban tells the Palestinians that they “must make political compromises to bring Gaza and the West Bank under a single, democratic governing authority … This also means consistently and firmly denouncing terrorism and taking preventive action to end attacks on Israelis, including an immediate stop to Gaza tunnel construction.”
This pronouncement is so problematic that one hardly knows where to begin. First, he omits East Jerusalem from Palestine, violating his own Security Council’s resolutions, and international law. East Jerusalem is no different than the West Bank and Gaza, except that Israel says it “annexed” East Jerusalem, a statement with no legitimacy even—thus far—in US law. If something is stolen, it does not become less stolen by virtue of the thief stating that s/he is keeping it.
Mr. Ban implies that Palestinians are culpable for the split P.A., with Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank, as though divide-&-rule was what the Palestinians voted for rather than what was violently imposed on them from the outside. Fatah, the party set to win by Israel and the US ten years ago, lost the election because of perceived corruption and indifference. Having to pick from the choices allowed them, the Palestinians elected Hamas—though highly popular and respected Palestinian leaders could not run because they had been kidnapped and imprisoned, or assassinated, by Israel.Without even a mention of the murderous siege of Gaza that has been tolerated by the UN since 1948 in various forms, Mr. Ban berates the Palestinians for making tunnels. Which tunnels is he referring to? Those connecting Gaza with Egypt that keep Gaza from complete starvation under Israel’s siege? Yes, those tunnels are supposedly also used to smuggle in rocket-making materials. Whatever one’s pragmatic or moral view of Qassam rockets sent into southern Israel (areas that were supposed to be Palestine had the UN held Israel to its agreements under the 1947 partition plan), it is, again, the world turned on its head: Israel’s every vicious attack by air, land, and sea is touted as ‘defense’, while the Palestinian blow-back, infinitesimal by comparison, is terror. Or does he refer to those tunnels allegedly built right under the heavily fortified ‘border’ between Gaza and Israel, a move that (if indeed such tunnels could be built right under Israel’s eyes) would in any other context be considered obvious and legitimate self-defense against the illegal siege and frequent attacks?
“Israelis”, he tells us, are “reeling from near-daily attacks”. Indeed—Israel has created a situation in which individual violence is the inevitable result, and would be the result no matter what people on earth were put into that Kafkaesque pressure-cooker. If he were more astute, he would have stated that these “near-daily attacks” are the result that Israel, needing to present the Palestinians as a threat, wants, and seeks to cause.
Just since 2000, Israel has killed approximately ten thousand Palestinians for its illegal political ends, but this is not terrorism. When Palestinians react with violence, it is terrorism, even when the objects of the violence are the invading military or armed ‘settlers’. Yet when Mr. Ban assures Israel that he denounces terrorism, his context is Palestinian terror. But the staggering difference in the body count is not in itself a moral argument; in the end, it is that the root and cause of the entire catastrophe is Zionism’s unwavering aim, dating from the late nineteenth century, to expropriate Palestine for a settler state based on ethnic supremacy. That is the issue that Mr. Ban must address. The occupation and settlements that he cites are merely its artifacts. Off-camera, Tel Aviv is surely popping champagne corks in the Secretary General’s honor for having safeguarded the core Zionist/Israeli mythology that is at the root of the century of misery.“I will always stand up to those who challenge Israel’s right to exist”, he assures the world, handing Israel carte blanche to define just what ‘Israel’ is, a definition the world has waited for in vain since 1948. Does it extend to Ma’ale Adumim? The Jordan? The Nile? Will citizens someday be equal? We’ve no idea, and it doesn’t look promising, but whatever it is and may be, we support it.
It is interesting to note that during the 1940s, when Zionist terrorism was wreaking havoc in Palestine on a near-daily basis, leaders like Ben-Gurion, Weizmann, and Sharrett (then Shertok), excused the terror as a reaction to limits on Jewish immigration, and indeed went so far as to say that the terror would not stop until Zionist political demands (in the form of the Biltmore Program) were met.
The Secretary General inherited the United Nation’s Original Sin, General Assembly Resolution 181, the Partition Plan for Palestine, followed by seven decades of failure to hold Israel accountable. His is not an easy job. Yet for all his evident frustration in the face of Israel’s ever-bolder intransigence, in the final analysis he has merely reinforced the lies through which the ‘conflict’ endures.
Tom Suárez is currently finishing a major work on Zionist violence during the British Mandate and early statehood years, to be published in 2016 by Skyscraper Books.