What’s the big difference between Israel’s 1967 occupation and its 1948 occupation? In short, the difference is that the second one disturbed Zionists a little bit more. Not for moral reasons – but for nationalist ones.
1948 was an occupation. Although Israel had initially made it clear just before its declaration of independence, at least towards USA, that it would adhere to the sketched UN 181 Partition Plan, it expanded into territories assigned to the ‘Arab’ part – and virtually all battles occurred on the latter territories. The occupation of these combined territories entailed military rule for the next 19 years – for the Palestinian civilian constituency only.
Although Israel had made it quite clear that it was not about to withdraw from the combined territories, Israel was admitted to UN in 1949 despite its already present and blatant violations of UN resolutions. Whilst the UK for example expressed great concern about admitting such a state, other countries expressed ‘hope’ that admittance would encourage Israel to follow through with the requirements of the resolutions. They could not have been more wrong.
Now, the 1948 occupation did not disturb Zionists that much for two reasons:
1) There was a widespread consensus, expressed emphatically by David Ben-Gurion (mostly in ‘internal’ dirty laundry deliberations), that the territories assigned by UN 181 (which assigned 55% of Palestine to a third of the population, which owned 7% of land) were far too constraining.
2) The great majority of the Palestinian population had already been ethnically cleansed– about 80% (750,000 out of 900,000). So the size of the remaining minority was a ‘tolerable’ size, albeit under military rule.
Zionism had disseminated the victimhood propaganda quite effectively, professing a ‘war of self-defense’, ‘fighting for our existence’; and as the Holocaust was still very fresh, the ‘west’ was mostly prone to accept this rationale.
The military rule seemed to have stopped in 1966 for mostly ‘moral’ concerns (big deal; holding your own civilian population under military rule is a no-brainer form of moral corruption), yet accepting the fact of this minority’s existence was a tolerable matter.
When 1967 came, it initially caused Israelis the same sense of euphoric ‘liberation’ from the territorial ‘constraints’ of the 1949 Armistice lines (which the ‘leftist’ Israeli ambassador Abba Eban had compared to ‘Auschwitz’, hence the colloquial term ‘Auschwitz borders’), as well as conveying ‘deterrence’ towards the surrounding states. The idea of retreat from the territories occupied was very, very far from the mainstream left leadership.
Crimes of the 1967 war — including summary executions of POW’s, attack on a USA vessel and further ethnic cleansing — are less known about today than crimes of 1948; because many 1948 documents have been declassified, but the classification of 1967 documents has been extended for another 20 years.
For most Israelis, the 1967 occupation began as a very acceptable, even cherished, success. The opposition to the occupation of 1967 was not moral at its core. It was a realization that the intention to hold on to these territories without the possibility to effectively ethnically cleanse them, without causing international furor, would leave Israel with a large Palestinian constituency under its control. It was, after all, not 1948 anymore – Israel was already established. Besides, the short 1967 war did not provide the same protracted time span for thorough ethnic cleansing as 1948 had.
The ‘moral’ arguments about the inevitable violence of such subjugation (coupled by gratuitous barbarism of soldiers) have amounted, and still do, to what is known as ‘shooting and crying’. This ‘moral’ argument, accompanied with arguments such as ‘the occupation destroys our moral fabric’, have competed with an inherently morally corrupt ideology of quasi-ethnic exclusivity (known as Zionism), held as sacred by the same ‘moralists’. This represents a typical inherent contradiction of liberal Zionism, where the ‘humanity’ moralism applied in one case is cancelled out by the corrupt moral aspect of the other.
The double moral is in reality not merely contradictory, but also false in its ostensible ‘balance.’ There is no balance; it is simply that the nationalist concern supersedes the ‘humanitarian’ concern. In the end, Zionist ideology is about ‘us’ against ‘them’. The way in which Zionist liberals manage to maintain Zionism together with the ‘humanitarian concern’ (unto themselves as well as unto others) is by advocating the nationalist ‘advantage’ obtained by adopting the ‘humanitarian’ concern– but it’s still an ‘extra’ to the nationalist advantage. Thus the mainstream Zionist left advocates a ‘two state solution’ for the demographic advantage it would give the state. With a touch of sentimental ‘humanity’ and a bemoaning of what the occupation ’causes us to have to do’– they also are prone to ‘blame the Arabs’ for ‘not missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity’ (as Eban quipped). Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak also blamed the Arabs in 2000 in his deceitful misrepresentation of the ‘generous offer‘ he made to Yasser Arafat, whose ‘refusal’ of the offer proved ‘there was no one to talk to’.
The Israeli left shifted considerably to the right from that point. The left would thus bemoan the gradual loss of this ‘opportunity’, and with time, they will, and do, adapt to the ‘reality’, ‘forced upon them’ by circumstance.
Then there are those further to the right who simply do not have such moral scruples. Their goal is more direct, in the sense of keeping it all and making the world comply by all means. The game they are bound to play, when holding key power positions (as Netanyahu does), in order to uphold the puppet show of ‘liberalism’ in the alliance with USA, is an occasional lip-tax of ‘intending’ or ‘wanting’ to end the occupation, whilst on other occasions vowing to keep the occupation.
For all purposes and intents, the so-called ‘two-state’ solution has been a mere smoke-screen by the left (which initiated and fervently expanded settlement activity throughout its rule) and the right. No one intended it for real.
With time, most all Zionists are already in the mode of maintaining status quo, and awaiting the time in which the world will finally drop its ‘hostile’ requirements. For after all, ‘it’s not really Israel’s fault’, and ‘you have to be realistic’…
Israelis don’t want to speak about ‘occupation’ that much anymore. Left leader Yitzhak Herzog chides journalist Gideon Levy for ‘obsessing’ about it. And a new discourse is gaining strength in Israel: that settlers are not all that bad, they are mostly normal people like you and me.
Indeed, there is not much difference between the settlers of 1967 and those of 1948. In time, the world may come to regard both simply as ‘the Israeli situation:’ a ‘settler state,’ because it ‘had no other choice’.
The consequence of such an understanding is of course that Israel is an Apartheid state. Those who seek to maintain its liberal image despite this damning fact, seek to prolong the idea of it being ‘temporary’.
Temporary? This is how Zionism has operated, ever since its pre-state ‘fence and tower’ settlements: creating ‘facts on the ground’ and using whatever propaganda and coercion necessary to make the facts a fait accompli.