This came out yesterday in the pages of the New York Times:
The “economic workshop” in Bahrain this week, a summit of business leaders and political figures, is the first step in the rollout of the Trump administration’s long-awaited Israeli-Palestinian peace plan. However, because the plan offers a new approach, many on the Palestinian side, including President Mahmoud Abbas and the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, say that the plan is dead on arrival and that engaging with it is tantamount to a Palestinian declaration of surrender. I ask: What’s wrong with Palestinian surrender?
Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon’s opinion piece, titled “What’s Wrong With Palestinian Surrender?” posits that the current Bahrain conference (today and tomorrow) is something that Palestinians should have embraced, rather than rejected.
This “economic workshop”, based upon the “deal of the century” concept, is indeed proving to be dead on arrival. Arguably, this is just the Emperor’s New Clothes, where the gown is called “New Palestine”, offering no political substance, just a lot of money. Not only has the Palestinian Authority boycotted it (and persuaded Palestinian businessmen not to attend) – Israeli officials are reportedly not going to be there either.
Danon is simply chiding the Palestinians for yet again missing a wonderful opportunity. Yet he is quite clear about what this opportunity means: It’s an opportunity to surrender.
With Danon, one is often instinctively caused to think “is he being serious?” – but then you remember that this is the guy who waves bibles at the UN Security Council to claim ownership of all of historical Palestine, and you get that yes, he’s being serious.
Danon writes that the problem with Palestinians is that their “national identity” is about “destroying Israel”. Having chided the Palestinians for their high unemployment rates despite foreign aid (Danon does not mention that Israel plunders about 78% of that aid, though he does note over 50 percent unemployment in Gaza), Danon then procedes to point out the supposed essential flaw in the Palestinian national identity:
Yet [Palestinian Chief Negotiator] Mr. Erekat and the Palestinian leadership choose to stay the course and reject the term “surrender.” In doing so, they expose the uncomfortable truth about the Palestinian national identity: It is motivated not by building a better life for its people but by destroying Israel.
To bolster his point about this intrinsic flaw, Danon points out how “Western national ethos” is liberal – and here he brings not only the US “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” and the French “Liberté, égalité, fraternité”, but also the Israeli “natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate in their own sovereign State”. This is deeply ironic. If Danon were following the vein of the former two, he could have cited something else from the Israeli Declaration of Independence, for example “complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex”. For all the discrepancy between what is written and reality, it would have at least looked better. But no, Danon chooses one of the most nationalist, exclusivist clauses, containing the “master” language, which in the Israeli reality has an all too cynical meaning. Danon reveals his white-and-Jewish-supremacist bias, which he seems to think is enlightened.
Danon then compares this to the supposed Palestinian ethos, citing from the 1968 PLO charter:
In contrast to these Western national ethoses, the charter of the Palestine Liberation Organization, a precursor to the Palestinian Authority, states its “mottos” as “national unity, national mobilization, and liberation” and talks about the “basic conflict that exists between the forces of Zionism and of imperialism on the one hand, and the Palestinian Arab people on the other.” Palestinian leaders have rejected multiple peace overtures, launched intifadas and wars, and sponsored countless acts of terrorism in adherence to this belief.
Putting aside for the moment that the PLO has moved to recognize Israel in treaty, in the 1993 Oslo Accords (while Israel has never recognized Palestine and Danon’s Likud “flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river”), Danon’s former comparison of the “Western ethos” as opposed to these supposedly backwards Palestinian “mottos”, precisely betrays the colonialist nature of his Zionist venture. The Palestinians are not allowed to “liberate” themselves from enlightened colonialist rule – the best they can do is “surrender”, for their own good, of course.
Palestinians need to commit “national suicide”
Danon falsely suggests that the Palestinian aim for statehood is anathema to recognizing Israel and what he calls “the Jewish people”. The fact that Israel is recognized in the Oslo Accords proves this is an invalid point. The two-state solution was precisely seen, at least from the Palestinian standpoint, as a means of recognition of both Israel and Palestine, where the PLO had already made concessions to suffice with a mere 22% of historical Palestine (this ideological concession was already being made around the early 1980’s). But Danon now says that Palestinians should be willing to negotiate even without any prospect of a state, to give up that ambition totally:
With this national ethos, negotiating without the explicit endorsement of a Palestinian state is seen as a rejection of the Palestinian national identity, and an acknowledgment that Israel and the Jewish people are here to stay. In short, for Mr. Abbas and Mr. Erekat, this approach is akin to national suicide. Yet a national suicide of the Palestinians’ current political and cultural ethos is precisely what is needed for peace. The belief that the Jews have no right to the land and Israel is to be destroyed, which engenders a culture of hate and incitement, needs to end.
In other words, Danon is saying to Palestinians “drop dead.” Danon is thus suggesting that Palestinians should resort to hopes of a better afterlife, following their suicide. At least there’s something to look forward to.
Surrender, like Egypt
Danon makes the invalid comparison of Palestine to other sovereign countries, some of which had surrendered in the past yet experienced a prosperous (economic) future later. He thus brings examples from World War Two:
The United States did not eradicate the German and Japanese people after their surrender in World War II, but instead helped transform them from imperial military powers to what are today among the world’s leading economic powerhouses.
To bring the comparison closer to our times and to the region, Danon compares Palestine to Egypt:
In the Middle East, following defeat in four conventional wars between 1948 and 1973, Egypt surrendered the idea that it could wipe Israel from the region, and President Anwar Sadat chose peace, which Israel was ready to accept. After the 1979 peace agreement, Egypt became a favored recipient of American foreign and military aid, and the beneficiary of an influx of Western investment. There is no reason to believe a Palestinian declaration of surrender could not lead to a similar transformation.
These comparisons are deeply problematic, for several reasons. First, Palestine is not a state like Egypt, or Japan, or Germany, with a military, with their own sovereign territory etc. Palestine is essentially a fully occupied set of Bantustans which are at the mercy of Israel’s whims, from checkpoints in the West Bank to seasonal massacres in Gaza.
Second, Egypt did not “surrender” – in fact, it surprised Israel in a devastating joint attack with Syria in 1973, which Egypt fought on its own occupied Sinai peninsula – not even Israeli territory. That attack was the language of force, which Israelis regularly chide the “Arabs” for being the only thing they understand. When Sadat offered peace overtures to Golda Meir in 1970, he was ignored; Defense Minister Moshe Dayan said “Better Sharm el-Sheikh without peace than peace without Sharm el-Sheikh”, referring to the Sinai coastal town. So, in 1973 Israel got force, a language it understood, and that led to the peace treaty signed in 1979, where Israel agreed to withdraw from the Egyptian Sinai. If one wants to use the word “surrender”, it could be argued that Israel “surrendered” its wishes to control the Sinai.
“The Palestinians have little to lose”
Finally, Danon ends his torturous article with the paragraph:
The Palestinians have little to lose and everything to gain by putting down the sword and accepting the olive branch. Israel awaits the emergence of a Palestinian Anwar Sadat, a leader who is willing to do what is best for his people — a leader who recognizes that building a bright future requires surrendering a dark past.
It may be a Freudian slip, when Danon says “the Palestinians have little to lose”. US moves to defund various forms of aid to Palestinians, to “remove from the table” the critical issue of Jerusalem by moving its embassy, and Israeli blackmailing in the form of withholding tax revenues, amongst a plethora of other coercive measures, appear to be aimed at forcing the Palestinians into ever more dire economic straits, from which they would be prone to extricate themselves by acceding to the “economic peace” plans which involve their “national suicide”. But colonialists often make this error in judgement. They assume, that the only thing their inferior subjects want is to exist, and make money. Like Jared Kushner said it recently, when he suggested that Palestinians were not ready to govern themselves:
What [the Palestinian people] want is they want the opportunity to live a better life. They want the opportunity to pay their mortgage.
The idea that these people might want, or need, freedom from the yoke of oppression, is apparently beyond the scope of the colonialist mind. As Danon says, they need to surrender. And this is not in order to be “masters of their own fate”. Oh, no, Danon makes clear that mastership is reserved solely for Jews in Israel and Palestine. Palestinians need to know their place in this hierarchy. In this hierarchy, Danon, the bible-waving Jew, is at the top, and Palestinians are at the bottom.