This article can be read in French, Spanish, German, Turkish and Polish.
By Sharmine Narwani
The phrase “right to exist” entered my consciousness in the 1990s just as the concept of the two-state solution became part of our collective lexicon. In any debate at university, when a Zionist was out of arguments, those three magic words were invoked to shut down the conversation with an outraged, “are you saying Israel doesn’t have the right to exist??”
Of course you couldn’t challenge Israel’s right to exist – that was like saying you were negating a fundamental Jewish right to have…rights, with all manner of Holocaust guilt thrown in for effect.
Except of course the Holocaust is not my fault – or that of Palestinians. The cold-blooded program of ethnically cleansing Europe of its Jewish population has been so callously and opportunistically utilized to justify the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian Arab nation, that it leaves me utterly unmoved. I have even caught myself – shock – rolling my eyes when I hear Holocaust and Israel in the same sentence.
What moves me instead in this post-two-state era, is the sheer audacity of Israel even existing.
What a fantastical idea, this notion that a bunch of rank outsiders from another continent could appropriate an existing, populated nation for themselves – and convince the “global community” that it was the moral thing to do. I’d laugh at the chutzpah if this wasn’t so serious.
Even more brazen is the mass ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinian population by persecuted Jews, newly arrived from their own experience of being ethnically cleansed.
But what is truly frightening is the psychological manipulation of the masses into believing that Palestinians are somehow dangerous – “terrorists” intent on “driving Jews into the sea.” As someone who makes a living through words, I find the use of language in creating perceptions to be intriguing. This practice – often termed “public diplomacy” has become an essential tool in the world of geopolitics. Words, after all, are the building blocks of our psychology.
Take, for example, the way we have come to view the Palestinian-Israeli “dispute” and any resolution of this enduring conflict. And here I borrow liberally from a previous article of mine…
The United States and Israel have created the global discourse on this issue, setting stringent parameters that grow increasingly narrow regarding the content and direction of this debate. Anything discussed outside the set parameters has, until recently, widely been viewed as unrealistic, unproductive and even subversive.
Participation in the debate is limited only to those who prescribe to its main tenets: the acceptance of Israel, its regional hegemony and its qualitative military edge; acceptance of the shaky logic upon which the Jewish state’s claim to Palestine is based; and acceptance of the inclusion and exclusion of certain regional parties, movements and governments in any solution to the conflict.
Words like dove, hawk, militant, extremist, moderates, terrorists, Islamo-fascists, rejectionists, existential threat, holocaust-denier, mad mullah determine the participation of solution partners — and are capable of instantly excluding others.
Then there is the language that preserves “Israel’s Right To Exist” unquestioningly: anything that invokes the Holocaust, anti-Semitism and the myths about historic Jewish rights to the land bequeathed to them by the Almighty – as though God was in the real-estate business. This language seeks not only to ensure that a Jewish connection to Palestine remains unquestioned, but importantly, seeks to punish and marginalize those who tackle the legitimacy of this modern colonial-settler experiment.
But this group-think has led us nowhere. It has obfuscated, distracted, deflected, ducked, and diminished, and we are no closer to a satisfactory conclusion…because the premise is wrong.
There is no fixing this problem. This is the kind of crisis in which you cut your losses, realize the error of your ways and reverse course. Israel is the problem. It is the last modern-day colonial-settler experiment, conducted at a time when these projects were being unraveled globally.
There is no “Palestinian-Israeli conflict” – that suggests some sort of equality in power, suffering, and negotiable tangibles, and there is no symmetry whatsoever in this equation. Israel is the Occupier and Oppressor; Palestinians are the Occupied and Oppressed. What is there to negotiate? Israel holds all the chips. They can give back some land, property, rights, but even that is an absurdity – what about everything else? What about ALL the land, property and rights? Why do they get to keep anything – how is the appropriation of land and property prior to 1948 fundamentally different from the appropriation of land and property on this arbitrary 1967 date?
Why are the colonial-settlers prior to 1948 any different from those who colonized and settled after 1967?
Let me correct myself. Palestinians do hold one chip that Israel salivates over – the one big demand at the negotiating table that seems to hold up everything else. Israel craves recognition of its “right to exist.”
But you do exist – don’t you, Israel?
Israel fears “delegitimization” more than anything else. Behind the velvet curtain lies a state built on myths and narratives, protected only by a military behemoth, billions of dollars in US assistance and a lone UN Security Council veto. Nothing else stands between the state and its dismantlement. Without these three things, Israelis would not live in an entity that has come to be known as the “least safe place for Jews in the world.”
Strip away the spin and the gloss, and you quickly realize that Israel doesn’t even have the basics of a normal state. After 64 years, it doesn’t have borders. After six decades, it has never been more isolated. Over half a century later, and it needs a gargantuan military just to stop Palestinians from walking home.
Israel is a failed experiment. It is on life-support – pull those three plugs and it is a cadaver, living only in the minds of some seriously deluded foreigners who thought they could pull off the heist of the century.
The most important thing we can do as we hover on the horizon of One State is to shed the old language rapidly. None of it was real anyway – it was just the parlance of that particular “game.” Grow a new vocabulary of possibilities – the new state will be the dawn of humanity’s great reconciliation. Muslims, Christians and Jews living together in Palestine as they once did.
Naysayers can take a hike. Our patience is wearing thinner than the walls of the hovels that Palestinian refugees have called “home” for three generations in their purgatory camps.
These universally exploited refugees are entitled to the nice apartments – the ones that have pools downstairs and a grove of palm trees outside the lobby. Because the kind of compensation owed for this failed western experiment will never be enough.
And no, nobody hates Jews. That is the fallback argument screeched in our ears – the one “firewall” remaining to protect this Israeli Frankenstein. I don’t even care enough to insert the caveats that are supposed to prove I don’t hate Jews. It is not a provable point, and frankly, it is a straw man of an argument. If Jews who didn’t live through the Holocaust still feel the pain of it, then take that up with the Germans. Demand a sizeable plot of land in Germany – and good luck to you.
For anti-Semites salivating over an article that slams Israel, ply your trade elsewhere – you are part of the reason this problem exists.
Israelis who don’t want to share Palestine as equal citizens with the indigenous Palestinian population – the ones who don’t want to relinquish that which they demanded Palestinians relinquish 64 years ago – can take their second passports and go back home. Those remaining had better find a positive attitude – Palestinians have shown themselves to be a forgiving lot. The amount of carnage they have experienced at the hands of their oppressors – without proportional response – shows remarkable restraint and faith.
This is less the death of a Jewish state than it is the demise of the last remnants of modern-day colonialism. It is a rite of passage – we will get through it just fine. At this particular precipice in the 21st century, we are all, universally, Palestinian – undoing this wrong is a test of our collective humanity, and nobody has the right to sit this one out.
Israel has no right to exist. Break that mental barrier and just say it: “Israel has no right to exist.” Roll it around your tongue, tweet it, post it as your Facebook status update – do it before you think twice. Delegitimization is here – have no fear. Palestine will be less painful than Israel ever was.
This article was first published on Al Akhbar English on May 17, 2012. It can be read here in French, Spanish, German, Turkish and Polish.
Follow the author on Twitter, Facebook, The Huffington Post and Al Akhbar English
Thank you for the lesson. Palestine has a right to freedom from oppression, as do many other countries that are under siege by Western corporate influences. If the Israeli government can be overthrown like Iraq and Afghanistan, and replaced with a truly democratic government, then its citizens deserve the same rights and freedoms that we in the U.S. at least pretend to have. We are a little upset about the draconian behavior displayed by our police, but their is always hope they will be ordered to obey constitutional law or face incrimination from the courts.
This is the best written article I have read in nearly a decade. It cuts thru all the zionist disinformation and propaganda in just a few sentences. It lays out exactly why zionism and israel are a failed racial colonialist settler project. It summarizes how so-called persecuted jews became the thing that they feared and hated most, the nazis, our 1st modern day terriorist organization, who terrorized the world and invaded peaceful countries, only to be vanquished off the earth like the worthless bigot filled trash they are. I see israel as experiencing the same fate, only their death will be much gratifying because they didn’t learn from the mistakes of their oppressor.
A rather hysterical little comment. Worse, though, for someone with an Oxford connection, is the lack of nuance and ideological nature of your analysis. Colonialism, that old chestnut? The substantial numbers of ME Jews who helped build the new state of Israel were as indigenous to the region as anyone. You seem to be driven more by emotion than any objective historical appraisal.
Nonsense. Who’s your source, Alan Dershowitz challening Joan Peters?
Hi Sheldon. That you believe the notion that substantial numbers of ME Jews helped build Israel is somehow based on a single pro-Israel source suggests you too see all this in purely ideological terms.
An objective academic appraisal (particularly a “history from below” approach) really cuts through all the rhetoric and myth-making, on both sides. Unfortunately the above comment misses that point, which surprised me given the Oxford connection. We can all be biased, by all means, but let’s at least try to build our cases on facts, not lazy cliches, which merely contribute to perpetuating the current conflict outside the region.
Who said I believe that? However, Peters’s book was praised to high heaven by American Zionists — and then it was demolished even in Israel.
Again you miss the point. It’s not about a single pro-Israel source. Do some homework, and then respond to the fallacious argument that so many Israeli Jews did not originate in the ME. Even before immigrants fleeing the Russian pogroms arrived, Jews were a majority in Jerusalem. And 50-60 years later, shortly after independence, displaced ME Jews flooded in from Iraq, Iran, North Africa, the Yemen. They and their offspring, hundreds of thousands (possibly several millions) are as indigenous to the Middle East as anyone else in the region. But of course the above post, in the name of ideology, ignores this inconvenient truth.
This justifies pushing out the Palestinians? I didn’t say no Jews were there.
You need to read what I wrote. What you claim cannot justify what the UN and the major powers did to the detriment of the Arab residents.
Sheldon, please read what I said, rather than what you think I said. My point is very simple: the author of this blog seeks to juxtapose the notion of Israeli Jewry as a colonial, external transplant (or European Jewry fleeing the Holocaust) with the displacement of indigenous Palestinians. It is a tired, lazy and unpersuasive argument which goes against the evidence of many hundreds of thousands (if not several millions) of Israeli Jews having being as indigenous to the ME as anyone. I won’t even get into how many Palestinian families trace their origins to North Africa and arrived at the same time as the Zionists, or how many Palestinians acknowledge some Jewish ancestry within their families.
If academics are to contribute seriously to an understanding of the real issues they need to move away from cliches and focus on facts. Here is a fact: Israel is not a wholly external transplant, many of its inhabitants are just as indigenous to the region and land as the Palestinians. You negate one, as the author above does, and you inevitably negate the other. Do you see the point?
Calvin, zionism is completely an invention of European Jews – nothing to do with Arab Jews whatsoever, who themselves have no claim to Palestine. Jews living in Palestine prior to the occupation of zionists are Palestinians; foreign Jews (from both Arab and non-Arab nations) are Israelis. A Moroccan Jew or Iraqi Jew has no more right to Palestine, than does a European, Russian or American Jew. All are part of the colonial power and privilege system to ethnically cleanse Palestine of non-Jews indigenous to the land.
Sandboxer, a Jewish history within and claim to the land came long, long before European Zionism. Indeed even in the post-biblical period Jews and Samaritans represented a majority in the land at the time of the Muslim invasion through to the Crusades. So the standard Marxist narrative of Israel as a purely modern colonial transplant simply doesn’t stand up.
Incidentally, this comment of yours interested me: “A Moroccan Jew or Iraqi Jew has no more right to Palestine, than does a European, Russian or American Jew.” By that standard all Palestinians originally of immigrant stock (many also, for example, from North Africa) equally have no right to the land. Or do you only exercise this standard for Jews?
Like I said above, negating one negates the other.
You have met the key issue head on. Raising the “right to exist” canard is intended merely to change the subject whenever the rights of the dispossessed and brutalized Palestinians are brought up for discussion. Thank you.
Well written!!! It will be included on my website Wednesday. i have links everyday about the oppression Palestinians are going through. It’s easy to spot, all got to look for is the words “Who are the real terrorists out here?”
I’ve got you bookmarked.
This piece is so wild that I thought Ms Narwani was holding it up to ridicule. I expected that at any moment she was going to begin exposing the extreme and crazy position she was in fact expounding. I could not believe she was serious. I even checked to make sure she had not written it on April 1! I was shocked to dicover that this articulate writer actually appears to believe the poisonous, Pythonesque, deranged stream-of-consciousness that poured from her laptop (the technology of which she would not possess if not for the existence of the state of Israel). If Ms Narwani really believes her own articulate revision of history, she either needs to go back to college or she needs a good shrink.
Great to see your vigorous reaction. It shows that Ms. Narwani was right. The more disgusted you are, the happier it makes me and millions more like me of Arab/Persian origin. Thanks and please remain upset, and, oh get used to it because the people if Israel need peace before reaching inner peace!
Thank you Ahmadinejad. I can’t tell you how gratified I am to know there are people of Arab/Persian origin like yourself who see through the lies Ms Narwani articulates. God bless you for your courage.
My laptop wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the state of Israel?
Slightly obscene to hear Israelis suggesting that a high-tech industry justifies ethnic cleansing and colonialism.
India and China can cover me just fine…Israel has no right to exist.
Thank you Sharmine but are you able to communicate in terms others than tired, worn-out clichés? Your article is inaccurate from start to finish. Israel is not guilty of ethnic cleansing. Israel is not an apartheid state. The state of Israel has enriched your life and that of its Arab neighbours. If Israel’s neighbours would stop biting the hand that feeds them both they and the friend they hate would be far better off and there would be a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. I think a better online monicker for you would be ‘Shadowboxer’.
Oh, is Sandboxer the author of the above essay? If so I’d especially be interested to hear her response to my question.
Dear Sharmine, vicious armed forces are able every year to humiliate and shatter a principle we both know is true – that “might does not makes right.” And as long as millions of people are wrongly schooled by such events to believe that might makes right, Israel will have at least that much so-called right to exist.
I worry that your outburst has caused you to have been distanced by some liberals whom you thought were friends. They might no longer be your allies for the simple reason that they are too busy pretending to be the world’s conscience, and their attachment to corporate media makes it impossible for them to check their ‘facts’ – they have been taught a slant on history that makes your argument sound unreasonable and even irrational – a line that cannot be crossed.
I think the most effective way of relegating Israel to non-entity status is by resolving in all my writing to actually treat Israel as non-existent – by ceasing to refer to the colony in any way, at any time, in any context.
God knows there are enough evil entities in the mix against Syria (NATO, GCC, the Saudis, jihadists, etc.) to allow Israel’s alleged role in events simply to “go without saying.”
Avoid the storm of outrage and attacks from Israel’s closest supporters who – by the way – never seem to pay attention to articles which do not mention Israel.
When I began to read your first paragraph, I thought you were talking sense. Until I got to the last clause. It is not israel that believes ‘might makes right’ but Hamas, which has vowed to kill all Jews and fires missiles daily at the towns of southern israel. Oh, and by the way, the reason ‘Israel’s closest supporters’ never seem to pay attention to articles that don’t mention Israel is because those article don’t mention Israel. The simplest and best way to avoid the ‘storm of outrage’ from Israel’s supporters is not to tell palpable and outrageous lies about the country.
Mike, your confused reaction to my paragraph results from failing to see that I was making no distinction between the military leadership of Hamas and of Israel when I referred to vicious armed forces. Both are expressions of the fallacy that might makes right. It’s not an either-or situation.
“The United States and Israel have created the global discourse on this issue”
Excuse me, but that is nonsense. Israel was created by virtue of a UN decision, in which Israel (obviously) did not take part and in which the US had only one vote. In other words, its establishment was a decision taken by the int’l community.
If you don’t like that, tough. That’s how the world operates. The other option is, of course, violence, but the Palestinians have already tried that and it hasn’t worked.
SHARMINE, YOU HAVE WRITTEN A GENUINE CLASSIC.
Arab Muslims only occupied the Roman province of Palestine because they drove out, by force of arms, the Christian Romans. It was only theirs by right of conquest. Now that the Jews have driven out the majority of Arab Muslims, the former Roman province of Palestine is theirs by right of conquest.
The Muslim Arabs have tried to re-conquer Palestine on several occasions and been defeated each time. They should either re-conquer the place or stop whining about getting beaten.
There is a country in this world that is endangering world peace with its nuclear ambitions, it has created a refugee problem that caused scores of people to leave their homes without compensation, which resulted in ethnic cleansing of vast stretches of land. Its a country that claims to be democratic, but which oppresses the religious minorities that lived there for centuries. This country is … Pakistan.
One sees a poor defense against this article in most of the comments here. This is not a question of Palestinians against Jews. This is a question of right and wrong. Israel was certainly transplanted in the heart of the Arab Middle East by the ever meddling powers of western Europe aided and abetted by the Zionist leaders of the US. What is appallingly ridiculous is white Native Europeans from all over Europe claim Israel to be their ancestral land based on their belief in the Jewish religion which they hardly know about, giving them the reason to migrate in alarming numbers, while not recognizing the rights of the native Palestinians who have been living on this land for centuries!
The oft repeated argument justifying this immigration policy is that this part was where Jewish people actually lived some centuries ago or this area belonged originally to the Jews. If this argument holds any good what gives NOT the the right to people of native American origin to claim then the landmass of North America and the US as their legally original homeland and consider all immigrant communities of European origin who had actually perpetuated a holocaust against and occupied their country, to be alien so that they can be thrown back to Europe where they actually came from? Doesn’t this then give the right to Maoris to throw back the Scots and Irish and English settlers who had usurped their lands not so long ago? Does this argument of the Israeli Zionists not justify the kicking out of all English Irish and Scottish origin people of Australia who actually exterminated the native aborigines of the land,completely occupied it and now call themselves Australians? The list could go on. Why doesn’t Israel and her supporters just admit that this is an illegal occupation of a land from their rightful inhabitants?
Israel has certainly a right to exist but not on the heads of the Palestinians.They should go back to the lands they came from. Lands of East and Western Europe.
When, please, was there ever a Palestinian state? Southern Syria, yes. But never a Palestine.
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The historical revisionism of Zionists will not ultimately succeed in perpetual distortions of reality. The populace of Can’an included many tribes but they were genetically similar until modern times when Europeans who’d been bribed out of starvation were brought to Palestine to hijack a country. The initial crime of Zionist historical distortions, along with its strategy to get a foot in the door of the oil-rich middle east will be erased and future generations will hold accountable those fanatical Zionists who remain.
The Zionist elders knew of the value of oil because they lived in the vicinity of Baku Azerbaijan and were selling oil by the 17th and 18th centuries CE. Palestine was the foot in the door and Biblical fanatics were too stupid to see they were being lured into illusions of being the supreme chosen by the supreme god.
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