A One State “Solution”

I have long been an admirer and supporter of the Oslo Accords, which set out a step-by-step roadmap for establishing peaceful relations between Israel and the West Bank and Gaza–a so called “Two State Solution.” The new HBO film, “Oslo” premiers today. Continuing the work started by my IMF colleague, Arne Petersen, I spent two years leading IMF technical assistance missions to Israel/WBGS to develop the Palestine Monetary Authority. “My travels to Jerusalem”  A growing consensus has concluded that the two-state solution is dead, and sadly I reluctantly agree. It has failed because of poor Palestinian leadership, Israeli governments (especially Benjamin Netanyahu’s) that were happy with the stalled status quo, and American governments that allowed the Israeli government to get away with it.

Israel has behaved like most other colonial powers of the last century and in many ways worse. It has populated its Occupied Territories with illegal Jewish settlements and has carved up the West Bank with walled off, exclusively Jewish highways that make normal life for the Palestinians impossible.  It is small wonder that Palestinian youth are fed up and revolting. It is either ignorance or dishonesty to blame the tensions on Hamas, the bad guys in Gaza–the Israeli prison of Palestinians between Egypt, the Mediterranean and Israel proper, and cut off from the rest of the West Bank. “How Israel lost the culture war”

But of course, Palestinians outnumber Jews in the land of Canaan despite seven decades of effort by Zionists to attract Jews from around the world to the new Israel. This threatens the Zionist dream of a democratic Jewish homeland. The starting point for a one-state or any other solution should be the insistence that Israel honor the human rights of all inhabitances of the land it controls, i.e., from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River. A recent report of the Human Rights Watch concludes that Israel is an Apartheid state. Large numbers of Jews around the world are offended by Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians as second-class citizens. The United States has embarrassed itself and undermined its moral standing by supporting the Israeli government’s behavior.  Fareed’s Global Briefing”

One state with a constitution that protects all of its residents equally should protect Jews as well as Palestinians to live and worship as they see fit. Such rights should not depend on having Jewish governments.  More Jews live in the United States than in Israel and such an arrangement works well for them here.

I remember well being driven from Gaza to Jerusalem in 1995 by an Arab Israeli cab driver. As we chatted about the situation in the area, he volunteered that “you know, the Palestinians and Jews are cousins.” I replied that “maybe they are even brothers.” He paused and replied: “No, brothers would not treat each other this way.”  “The Economist: Two States or One?

Israel and Palestine

Who started the feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys? Who is to blame? In the case of the new nation of Israel in the land of Canaan (Palestine) we might go back to Adam and Eve or more recently to the Balfour Declaration in 1917 (see the brief history in my book “Palestine-Oslo Accords-My Travels to Jerusalem”) to see where the feuding began.

Who started it?

But let’s start this current, tragic round of fighting with the Israeli police attacks on demonstrators “rallying against the forced expulsions of Palestinian families from the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah…. At least 90 Palestinians were wounded on Saturday [May 8] during an Israeli police crackdown on protesters outside the Old City of Jerusalem, while another 200 Palestinians were injured on Friday when Israeli forces stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque.” Al-Aqsa Mosque, known as the Dome on the Rock in English, is Islam’s third most sacred site. Muslims believe that Muhammad ascended to heaven from this site.

 “Jerusalem court delays Palestinian Sheikh Jarrah eviction hearing”

Israel’s Supreme Court “is reviewing a judgment to evict Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem. Their homes sit on land that was owned by Jews before Jordan occupied the eastern part of Jerusalem in 1948. Israeli law allows the heirs of the original owners to reclaim property in East Jerusalem. Yet Palestinians cannot claim their former homes in West Jerusalem (or anywhere else in Israel). No wonder Palestinian residents of the city are always ready to protest.

“The injustices elsewhere are worse. Palestinians in the wider West Bank, like those in Jerusalem, have watched Israel confiscate land and build settlements on occupied territory, which is illegal under international law. They must also deal with Israeli checkpoints and an onerous permit regime. In Gaza more than 2m Palestinians have been cut off from the world by Israeli and Egyptian blockades since 2007, when Hamas grabbed control.” The Economist: Only negotiations can bring lasting peace to Israel and Palestine”

That is the immediate background to the dozens of rockets launched by Hamas from Gaza starting on Monday (May 10): “Palestinian militants launched dozens of rockets from Gaza and Israel unleashed new air strikes against them early Tuesday, in an escalation triggered by soaring tensions in Jerusalem and days of clashes at an iconic mosque in the holy city.” “Israeli police Palestinians clash Jerusalem holy site”

At least 30 Palestinians, including 10 children, and three Israelis were killed as tensions in Jerusalem spread west toward the seacoast Tuesday. Israeli airstrikes flattened a multistory apartment building in Gaza and rockets fired from the Gaza Strip reached Tel Aviv in an unusually far-reaching barrage that sent residents of Israel’s largest city scrambling into bomb shelters.  “Israeli clashes Palestinians turn deadly Jerusalem tensions spread”

More concerning than the exchange of rockets between Gaza and Israel, is the sharp rise of violence between Arab Israelis in Israel and between Palestinians and Israelis throughout the West Bank.  A major problem is that there are no good guys on either side. “Most Israelis are comfortable with the ‘anti-solutionism’ of Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, who shows little interest in pursuing a permanent settlement with the Palestinians….  Fatah, has not done much better in the West Bank. The party’s leader, Mahmoud Abbas, is in the 17th year of a four-year term as Palestine’s president. He seems concerned mainly with preserving his own power.”  The Economist: Only negotiations can bring lasting peace to Israel and Palestine”

Critically, the United States has failed to promote Palestinian rights, giving one-sided support to whatever Israel does.

Sadly, the winners, if we can call them that, of today’s tragic fighting are the status quo leaders (Netanyahu, Abbas, and Hamas), who have failed to address the central issues of the coexistence of Israelis and Palestinians in the land of Canaan. War, or the threat of it, are historically tested instruments for strengthening public support of existing leaders.  In a recent report on the situation in Israel, the Human Rights Watch pronounced Israel an Apartheid state.  “Israel report apartheid” The Jewish diaspora are increasingly speaking up against the policies of Israel. The United States could make a major contribution by conditioning its very large financial aid to Israel on its respecting the rights of Palestinians.  “A New U.S. Approach to Israel-Palestine”  

I shudder to think what might be happening by the time you read this.

Hate Crimes

“The shooting deaths of eight people at Asian-run spas in Georgia this week triggered a vigorous national debate Thursday over whether the mass killing amounted to a hate crime.” “Georgia hate crime law-Atlanta shooting”  These deaths (and recent attacks on Asians more generally) raise several issues that I would like to explore. 1. What is the point of hate crime laws?  The poor ladies killed in this attack could care less what motivated Robert Aaron Long, the 21 year old shooter. 2. Whose fault is it? Let’s start with the shooter (and other attackers), please. 3. What should we do about it (beyond locking the shooter, and other attackers, up)?

What is the point of hate crime laws?

“Georgia State Rep. Chuck Efstration, a Republican who helped shepherd [Georgia’s Hate Crime] bill into law, said it was intended to allow for especially stiff penalties for crimes in which “the perpetrator’s prejudices and biases are attacks not only on the victims but on all of society.  Thank goodness law enforcement will have the ability to charge this as a hate crime if the facts support that,”   [op cit]

Georgia State University law professor Jessica Gabel Cino noted that: “The majority of the victims are women, and they are Asian. Those are two protected statuses.” And what if they hadn’t been?

Traditional laws do differentiate between first, second, and third degree murders, but if you plan to and succeed in killing someone, it didn’t traditionally matter whether you loved or hated the victim. I can understand why such information might be useful in exploring approaches to mitigating the risk of such future murders, but I don’t see its relevant to the guilt and punishment of the murderer. I do not support capital punishment, but Mr. Long should surely be put away for the rest of his pathetic life whatever motivated his killing spree.

According to Mr. Long, “he was on a mission… to stem his addiction to sex. The spas were ‘a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate.’”  “What happened-Atlanta shooting”

In determining the length of a sentence, courts do pay some attention to the motive for a crime as well as the crime itself but a special category of “hate crimes” has always seemed troubling and unnecessary to me.

Whose fault is it?

In a free society of responsible citizens, we must never forget that in the first instance the fault for a crime rests with the criminal. But it is fair to ask what motivated the criminal. While Mr. Long’s horrible crimes do not appear to be motived by the hatred of Asian’s, there has definitely been an increase in verbal and physical attacks on Asians over the past year. Much of the press has been quite eager to point to the hate filled and divisive statements against China by former President Trump. While he is certainly guilty of poisoning public discourse on China, immigration, Muslims and related topics, it is an odd place to look first.

Animosity toward Asians, and Chinese in particular, arises in the first instance from the behavior of China (shorthand for the government of China — synonymous with the Communist Party of China). In fact, unfavorable attitudes toward China have skyrocketed around the globe over the last three to four years. “For our enemies we have shotguns explaining Chinas new assertiveness” Public attitudes toward China are lower in Australia and the U.K., for example, than in the U.S. and fell sharply well before the Covid-19 pandemic.  “China global reputation coronavirus”  Attitudes toward China began to deteriorate in the face of Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea, violations of the one country, two systems agreement for Hong Kong, theft of intellectual property from the West, and treatment of the Uighurs in the Xinjiang region, to name a few. China’s suppression of information on the virus producing covid-19 pales in comparison to its bad behavior in other areas.

What should we do about it?

The world that objects to China’s behavior needs to stand together in pointing it out. Former President Trump’s stand-alone, bilateral approach was a failure. But it is very important when the U.S. and other governments criticize China to clearly differentiate the government of China from the Chinese people, whether citizens of China or the U.S. or elsewhere. It is the Chinese government–the Communist Party of China–that is misbehaving.

The distinction between a government and its people is important more generally. For example, those who criticize the misbehavior of the Israeli government toward the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, are sometimes mistakenly accused of anti-Semitism–i.e., of being against the Jewish people. It is likely that many are reluctant to criticize the Israeli government for fear of being accused of anti-Semitism. As the Biden administration joins with other countries to criticize the misbehavior of the Chinese government, it must, and it is, clearly distinguishing the Chinese government from the Chinese people. And we, each one of us, must speak out at the sight of rude or inappropriate behavior toward Asians, or anyone else. ALL LIVES MATTER.

My Travels to Jerusalem

Palestine: The Oslo Accords before and after, My travels to Jerusalem By Warren L Coats (2021) Kindle and paperback versions available at: Oslo Accords: Before and After

An intimate account of the establishment of the Palestine Monetary Authority and related adventures by one of the International Monetary Fund’s post-conflict, transition economy monetary experts. From being stranded in the desert without a cell phone, to hearing the sound at breakfast of a suicide bomber, to meeting with Yasser Arafat, and Stanley Fischer of the Bank of Israel, the author shares his adventures in the land of Canaan over a sixteen year period.

The establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 in Israel’s ancestral homeland required dealing with Palestine’s existing residents. In the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel’s occupation of the territories given to the Palestinians when the United Nations first recognized the State of Israel (the West Bank and Gaza Strip) increased pressure to resolve that issue. The Oslo Accords offered a path to its resolution, based on an agreement between Yasser Arafat, representing the Palestinian people, and the government of Israel, to swap land for peace (the return of Palestinian lands in exchange for Palestinian recognition of the State of Israel and its right to exist in peace).

One of the elements of the Oslo Accords was the establishment of a central bank in the Occupied Territories. Between 1995 and 2011 Warren Coats lead or participated in the missions of the International Monetary Fund to assist the Palestinian Authority in establishing and developing the capacities of the Palestine Monetary Authority. This book recounts the highlights of his visits, which included meetings with Arafat, as well as Bank of Israel officials.

Previous Books

One Currency for Bosnia: Creating the Central Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina by Warren Coats (2007)   Hard cover: One Currency for Bosnia

FSU: Building Market Economy Monetary Systems–My Travels in the Former Soviet Union By Warren L Coats (2020)  Kindle and paperback versions available at: FSU-Building-Economy-Monetary-Systems

Afghanistan: Rebuilding the Central Bank after 9/11 — My Travels to Kabul By Warren Coats (2020)  Kindle and paperback versions available at:  “Afghanistan-Rebuilding the Central Bank after 9/11”

Iraq: An American Tragedy, My Travels to Baghdad By Warren Coats (2020) Kindle and paperback versions available at: Iraq-American-Tragedy-My-Travels-Baghdad

Zimbabwe: Challenges and Policy Options after Hyperinflation by Warren L. Coats (Author), Geneviève Verdier (Author)  Format: Kindle Edition Zimbabwe-Challenges and Policy Options after Hyperinflation-ebook

Money and Monetary Policy in Less Developed Countries: A Survey of Issues and Evidence by Warren L. Coats (Author, Editor), Deena R. Khatkhate (Author, Editor)  Format: Kindle Edition Money and Monetary Policy in LDCs-ebook

Oslo: the Play

IMG_2150Yessar Arafat and Warren Coats in the PLO office in Gaza in February 1996.

Last night I saw the Round House Theater’s magnificent production of Oslo, the story of the secret meetings in Norway that led to the establishment of the Palestinian Authority.  It was a moving (heart wrenching) and balanced recounting of how these meetings achieved agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization on “land for peace” as it was called at the time after many years of failed official negotiations. I urge you to see it.

We heard the PLO negotiators lay out the Israeli theft of their homes and killings of their people and we heard the Israeli negotiators lay out the Palestinian attacks on Israelis and on the efforts of Jews to establish and secure an Israeli homeland.  For perspective, since the second intifada (between September 29, 2000 and January 31, 2018) at least 9,560 Palestinians have been killed by Israelis and 1,248 Israelis have been killed by Palestinians.  “The View from the West Bank”

The play focused on the unusual approach of these negotiations, which built on the development of trust and respect between the opposing negotiators and the agreement on achievable steps one step at a time. Between their long negotiating sessions in an isolated room near Oslo, they dinned, drank and bonded together. Unfortunately, the play fails to provide us with an overview of the resulting agreement, which applied the same step by step confidence building approach to the incremental establishment of a Palestinian government (the Palestinian Authority) and withdrawal of Israeli troops from the West Bank and Gaza. The PA was given governance authority for a limited number of functions in order—step by step—to build both institutional capacity and trust.

One of those functions was the establishment of the monetary authority (central bank). I led the IMF team that helped establish the Palestinian Monetary Authority and have many stories to tell of my many visits to Israel and the West Bank and Gaza in 1995-6 plus a number of visits in later years (most recently in December, 2011).

The PMA has developed into a well-run organization of which Palestinians (and those Israelis who see a successful Palestine government as important and necessary for their own security) can be proud.  It helped a great deal that the Bank of Israel and PMA developed good relations. Stanley Fischer was the governor of the BoI from 2005-13 and George Abed was governor of the PMA from 2005-7. They had both previously been colleagues at the IMF. “Jerusalem in August 2006”

It is with a broken heart that I watch Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, with help from American President Donald Trump, increasingly abandon the two state solution of the Oslo Agreement for an apartheid single state regime in which “democratic” Jewish control is preserved by denying what would become the majority Palestinian residents their right to vote. “The Future of Israel and Palestine”

 

The Future of Israel and Palestine

At an otherwise friendly dinner conversation at the home of Israeli friends, our host explained that Israel having taken over the West Bank and Gaza Strip (WBGS) in the 6 day war in 1967, i.e. having won the war fair and square, so to speak, the Palestinians and the rest of the world should accept that reality and move on. He was articulating the one state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem. The WBGS now belongs to and is part of Israel (though Israel did withdraw later from and gave up Gaza).

The Zionist movement’s goal of establishing a Jewish homeland, a Jewish nation, seemed fulfilled with the U.N.’s recognition of the new state of Israel in 1048. The commitment of its Jewish residents to building a democratic state required achieving and maintaining a Jewish majority in the population. Absorbing the West Bank into Israel presents some obvious challenges. If you are not familiar with the history of Israel, I urge you to read my summary of it: “View from the West Bank–A History of the Conflict”

One state for Israel and the West Bank would have a majority of Palestinians. The Jews around the world willing to move to Israel (the earlier strategy for obtaining a Jewish majority) have pretty much already done so and birth rates among the Palestinians are higher than among the Jews. Thus a consolidated, democratic, and Jewish state would require second-class citizenship for its Palestinian residence. A British journalist living in Nazareth, Israel explains this in more detail: “With-more-palestinians-than-jews-israel-waging-war-of-attrition”

Former President Jimmy Carter described this potential outcome in his 2006 book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,” where he wrote: “The bottom line is this: Peace will come to Israel and the Middle East only when the Israeli government is willing to comply with international law, with the Roadmap for Peace, with official American policy, with the wishes of a majority of its own citizens — and honor its own previous commitments — by accepting its legal borders.” This reality is recognized by many Israeli and even endorsed by some: “Israeli minister-endorses-apartheid.”

An apartheid regime for Israel would be an affront to liberal democratic values not easily swallowed by the Jewish diaspora. In fact, it would not be acceptable at all. That argues for continued effort to agree on a two state solution. In the following article Ronald Lauder, President of the World Jewish Congress, makes the case for the two state solution that the U.S. and U.N have worked for until now (or perhaps until last year) as the only morally and practically acceptable solution to this problem: “Israel’s Self-Inflicted Wounds”.

What we are seeing now, however, is something much uglier. The third option to two states, or one apartheid state, is one state that has ethnically cleansed the unwanted Palestinians in order to preserve Jewish control in a democratic state. The increasingly corrupt regime of Bibi Netanyahu seems to be moving in this direction and uncritical U.S. support of whatever his government does is putting the U.S. at odds with the rest of the world. For a similar review, see: “The-strange-catharsis-of-hopelessness-in-Israel”

U.S. tacit support of continued construction of illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land was resoundingly rejected by the U.N. When President Trump moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem “The United Nations General Assembly voted… 128-9, with 35 abstentions, on a non-binding resolution condemning President Trump’s new policy recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel…. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told an emergency meeting of the General Assembly [that] ‘the United States will remember this day in which it was singled out for attack in the General Assembly for the very right of exercising our right as a sovereign nation.’” This is the language of a bully, not a world leader, and I was appalled and embarrassed for my country. “UN-votes-to-reject-US-decision-on-Jerusalem-despite-threats”

More worrying are increasing signs that Netanyahu’s government is indeed pursuing the ethnic cleansing option. In addition to stealing Palestinian land in the West Bank for Israeli expansion, Israel has increasingly isolated and stifled the Palestinian economy. “Israel-Jewish-nation-state-bill”

Israel has occupied the West Bank for fifty years. Some of its treatment of its wards would be seen as human rights violations if committed by any other country. “Alabama-Israel-apartheid.” Recent Israeli laws are escalating such abusive treatment, allowing “the minister of interior to revoke the residency rights of any Palestinian in Jerusalem on grounds of a “breach of loyalty” to Israel.” “Israel-passes-law-strip-residency-Jerusalem’s-Palestinians”

Last December you may have watched the video of 17 year old Ahed Tamimi attacking two Israeli soldiers who had just shot her 15-year-old cousin Mohammed Tamimi in the head at close range with a rubber-coated steel bullet. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YFen2KdqbU. The Israeli soldiers get points for staying cool. Ahed is now servicing eight months in prison after agreeing to a plea bargain. More recently (March 30, 2018) Israeli soldiers shot and killed 16 Palestinians on the Gaza Israeli border and wounded hundreds. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-43593594 “Both UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini have called for an independent investigation. On Saturday, the United States blocked a draft UN Security Council statement urging restraint and calling for an investigation of the violence.” Such blind obedience to Netanyahu’s government does not service the U.S. or Israel well (not to mention the Palestinians). Israel rejected the call. “Israel-rejects-calls-independent-probe-Gaza-violence.”

To ours and Israel’s shame, ethnic cleansing seems to be winning out. During my many visits to Israel and the West Bank and Gaza I marveled at the open debate among Israelis of these issues and praised their free press. I wrote the following from Jerusalem 12 years ago and again praised the importance of a free journalism. “Jerusalem-in-august-2006″. I am now waiting for today’s tweet attacks from Mr. Fake News, and wondering if we are in danger of letting it slip away.

As a bonus, I recommend the following video discussion of these issues at the New America: “Ultimate-deal-or-ultimate-demise”

 

 

 

Uri Avnery on Israel

Uri Avnery is an amazing Israeli Jew. I have never met him but receive articles from him regularly and would like to share the last three of them with you. His history is remarkable. You can read part of it in the second article below (December 23) and more of it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uri_Avnery. Needless to say I share his views, as do many (but by no means all) of the Israelis I have met and worked with in Israel. You can keep up with his writing here: http://uriavnery.com/en/hatur.html

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Uri Avnery

November 18, 2017

  A History of Idiocy

I am furious. And I have good reason to be furious.

I was going to write an article about a subject I have been thinking about for a long time.

This week I opened the New York Times and lo, my yet unwritten article appeared on its opinion pages in full, argument after argument.

How come? I have only one explanation: the author – I have forgotten the name – has stolen the ideas from my head by some magical means, which surely must be branded as criminal. A person once tried to kill me for doing the same thing to him.

So I have decided to write this article in spite of everything.

THE SUBJECT is idiocy. Particularly, the role of idiocy in history.

The older I get, the more convinced I am that sheer stupidity plays a major role in the history of nations.

Great Thinkers, compared to whom I am a mere intellectual dwarf, have pursued other factors to explain what has turned history into a mess. Karl Marx blamed the economy. The economy has directed humankind from its earliest beginnings.

Others blame God. Religion has caused awful wars, and still does. Look at the Crusades, which for almost two hundred years raged in my country. Look at the 30-year War, which devastated Germany. No end in sight.

Some accuse Race. Whites against Red Indians. Aryans against Untermenschen. Nazis against Jews. Terrible.

Or geopolitics. The White Man’s Burden. The Drang-nach-Osten.

For many generations, Great Thinkers have been searching for some deep explanation for war. There must be such an explanation. After all, terrible historical events cannot just happen. There must be something profound, something sinister, which is causing all this untold misery. Something that has accompanied the human race from its very beginnings, and that still directs our destiny.

I HAVE adopted most of these theories in my time. Many of them impressed me very much. Great thinkers. Deep thoughts. I have read many thick volumes. But in the end, they left me unsatisfied.

In the end it hit me. There is indeed one factor common to all these historical events: foolishness.

I know that this sounds incredible. Foolishness? All these thousands of wars? All these hundreds of millions of casualties? All these emperors, kings, statesmen, strategists? All fools?

Recently I was asked for an example. “Show me how it works,” an incredulous listener demanded.

I mentioned the outbreak of World War I, an event that changed the face of Europe and the world forever, and which ended just five years before I was born, My earliest childhood was spent in the shadow of this cataclysm.

It happened like this:

An Austrian archduke was killed in the town of Sarajevo by a Serbian anarchist. It happened almost by accident: the planned attempt failed, but later the terrorist happened upon the duke and killed him.

So what? The duke was a quite unimportant person. Thousands of such acts have happened before and since. But this time the Austrian statesmen thought that this was a good opportunity to teach the Serbs a lesson. It took the form of an ultimatum.

No big deal. Such things happen all the time. But the powerful Russian empire was allied with Serbia, so the Czar issued a warning: he ordered the mobilization of his army, just to make his point.

In Germany, all the red lights went on. Germany is situated in the middle of Europe and has no impregnable natural borders, no oceans, no high mountains. It was trapped between two great military powers, Russia and France. For years the German generals had been pondering how to save the Fatherland if attacked from the two sides simultaneously.

A master-plan evolved. Russia was a huge country, and it would take several weeks to mobilize the Russian army. These weeks must be used to smash France, turn the army around and stop the Russians.

It was a brilliant plan, worked out to the finest detail by brilliant military minds. But the German army was stopped at the gates of Paris. The British intervened to help France. The result was a static war of four long years, where nothing really happened except that millions upon millions of human beings were slaughtered or maimed.

In the end a peace was made, a peace so stupid that it virtually made a Second World War inevitable. This broke out a mere 21 years later, with even larger numbers of casualties.

MANY BOOKS have been written about “July 1914”, the crucial month in which World War I became inevitable.

How many people were involved in decision-making in Europe? How many emperors, kings, ministers, parliamentarians, generals; not to mention academicians, journalists, poets and what not?

Were they all stupid? Were they all blind to what was happening in their countries and throughout their continent?

Impossible, one is tempted to cry out. Many of them were highly competent, intelligent people, people versed in history. They knew everything about the earlier wars that had ravaged Europe throughout the centuries.

Yet there you are. All these people played their part in causing the most terrible war (up to then) in the annals of history. An act of sheer idiocy.

The human mind cannot accept such a truth. There must be other reasons. Profound reasons. So they wrote innumerable books explaining why this was logical, why it had to happen, what were the “underlying” causes.

Most of these theories are certainly plausible. But compared to the effects, they are puny. Millions of human beings marched out to be slaughtered, singing and almost dancing, trusting their emperor, king, president, commander-in-chief. Never to return.

Could all these leaders be idiots? They certainly could. And were.

I DON’T need the examples of the thousands of foreign wars and conflicts, because I live in the middle of one right now.

Never mind how it came about, the present situation is that in the land that used to be called Palestine there live two peoples of different origin, culture, history, religion, language, standard of living and much more. They are now of more or less equal size.

Between these two peoples, a conflict has now been going on for more than a century.

In theory, there are only two reasonable solutions: either the two peoples shall live together as equal citizens in one state, or they shall live side by side in two states.

The third possibility is no solution – eternal conflict, eternal war.

This is so obvious, so simple, that denying it is sheer idiocy.

Living together in one state sounds logical, but is not. It is a recipe for constant conflict and internal war. So there remains only what is called “two states for two peoples”.

When I pointed this out, right after the 1948 war, the war in which Israel was founded, I was more or less alone. Now this is a world-wide consensus, everywhere except in Israel.

What is the alternative? There is none. Just going on with the present situation: a colonial state in which 7 million Israeli Jews oppress 7 million Palestinian Arabs. Logic says that this is a situation that cannot go on forever. Sooner or later it will break down.

So what do our leaders say? Nothing. They pretend to be oblivious to this truth.

At the top of the pyramid we have a leader who looks intelligent, who speaks well, who seems competent. In fact, Binyamin Netanyahu is a mediocre politician, without vision, without depth. He does not even pretend that he has another solution. Nor do his colleagues and possible heirs.

So what is this? I am sorry to have to say it, but there is no other definition than the rule of idiocy.

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Uri Avnery

December 23, 2017

  Cry, Beloved Country

ANYONE PROPOSING the death penalty is either a complete fool, an incorrigible cynic or mentally disturbed – or all of these.

There is no effective therapy for any of these defects. I wouldn’t even try.

A fool would not understand the overwhelming evidence for the conclusion. For a cynic, advocacy of the death penalty is a proven vote catcher. A mentally disturbed person derives pleasure from the very thought of an execution. I am not addressing any of these, but ordinary citizens of Israel.

LET ME start by repeating the story of my own personal experience.

In 1936, the Arab population of Palestine launched a violent uprising. The Nazi persecution in Germany drove many Jews to Palestine (including my own family), and the local Arabs saw their country slipping away from under their feet. They started to react violently. They called it the Great Rebellion, the British talked of “disturbances” and we called it “the events”.

Groups of young Arabs attacked Jewish and British vehicles on the roads. When caught, some of them were sent by the British courts to the gallows. When the Arab attacks did not stop, some right-wing Zionists started a campaign of “retaliation” and shot at Arab vehicles.

One of these was caught by the British. His name was Shlomo Ben-Yosef, a 25 year old illegal immigrant from Poland, a member of the right-wing youth organization Betar. He threw a grenade at an Arab bus, which failed to explode, and fired some shots that hit nobody. But the British saw an opportunity to prove their impartiality.

Ben-Yosef was sentenced to death. The Jewish population was shocked. Even those who were totally opposed to “retaliation” pleaded for clemency, rabbis prayed. Slowly the day of the execution drew near. Many expected a reprieve at the last moment. It did not come.

The hanging of Ben-Yosef on June 29, 1938 sent a powerful shockwave through the Jewish public. It caused a profound change in my own life. I decided to fill his place. I joined the Irgun, the most extreme armed underground organization. I was just 15 years old.

I repeat this story because the lesson is so important. An oppressive regime, especially a foreign one, always thinks that executing “terrorists” will frighten others away from joining the rebels.

This idea stems from the arrogance of the rulers, who think of their subjects as inferior human beings. The real result is always the opposite: the executed rebel becomes a national hero, for every rebel executed, dozens of others join the fight. The execution breeds hatred, the hatred leads to more violence. If the family is also punished, the flames of hatred rise even higher.

Simple logic. But logic is beyond the reach of the rulers.

Just a thought: some 2000 years ago, a simple carpenter was executed in Palestine by crucifixion. Look at the results.

IN EVERY army, there are a number of sadists posing as patriots.

In my army days, I once wrote that in every squad there is at least one sadist and one moral soldier. The others are neither. They are influenced by either of them, depends on which of the two has the stronger character.

Last week something horrible happened. Since the announcement of the American Clown-In-Chief about Jerusalem, there have been daily demonstrations in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians in the Gaza Strip approach the separation fence and throw stones at the soldiers on the Israeli side. The soldiers are instructed to shoot. Every day Palestinians are wounded, every few days Palestinians are killed.

One of the demonstrators was Ibrahim Abu-Thuraya, a 29 year old legless Arab fisherman. Both of his legs were amputated nine years ago, after he was injured in an Israeli air-strike on Gaza.

He was pushed in his wheelchair over the rough terrain towards the fence when an army sharpshooter took aim and killed him. He was unarmed, just “inciting”.

The killer was not an ordinary soldier, who may have shot without aiming in the melee. He was a professional, a sharpshooter, used to identify his victim, take careful aim and hit the exact spot.

I try to think about what went on in the shooter’s brain before shooting. The victim was close. There was absolutely no way not to see the wheelchair. Ibrahim posed absolutely no threat to the shooter or to anyone else.

(A cruel Israeli joke was born immediately: the sharpshooters were ordered to hit the lower parts of the bodies of the demonstrators. Since Ibrahim had no lower parts, the soldier had no choice but shoot him in the head.)

This was a criminal act, pure and simple. An abhorrent war crime. So, did the army – yes, my army! – arrest him? Not at all. Every day, a new excuse was found, each more ridiculous than the other. The shooter’s name was kept secret.

My God, what is happening to this country? What is the occupation doing to us?

Ibrahim, of course, became overnight a Palestinian national hero. His death will spur other Palestinians to join the fight.

ARE THERE no rays of light? Yes there are. Though not many.

A few days after the murder of Ibrahim Abu-Thuraya, an almost comic scene was immortalized.

In the Palestinian village Nabi Saleh in the occupied West Bank, two fully armed Israeli soldiers are standing. One is an officer, the other a sergeant. A group of three or four Arab girls, about 15 or 16 years old, approach them. They shout at the soldiers and make abusive gestures. The soldiers pretend not to notice them.

One girl, Ahd Tamimi, approaches a soldier and hits him. The soldier, much taller than her, does not react.

The girl comes even closer and hits the face of the soldier. He defends his face with his arms. Another girl records the scene with her smartphone.

And then the incredible happens: both soldiers walk backwards and leave the scene. (Later it appears that the cousin of one of the girls was shot in the head a few days earlier.)

The army was shocked by the fact that the two soldiers did not shoot the girl. It promised an investigation. The girl and her mother were detained that night. The soldiers are in for a rebuke.

For me, the two soldiers are real heroes. Sadly, they are the exceptions.

Every human being has the right to be proud of his or her country. To my mind, it’s a basic human right as well as a basic human need.

But how can one be proud of a country that is trading in human bodies?

In Islam, it is very important to bury the dead as soon as possible. Knowing this, the Israeli government is withholding the bodies of dozens of “terrorists”, to be used as trading chips for the return of Jewish bodies held by the other side.

Logical? Sure. Abhorrent? Yes.

This is not the Israel I helped to found and fought for. My Israel would return the bodies to the fathers and mothers. Even if it means giving up some trading chips. Isn’t losing a son punishment enough?

What has become of our common human decency?

************************************

Uri Avnery

December 30, 2017

 The Man Who Jumped

NOBODY DESCRIBED the outbreak of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict better than the historian Isaac Deutscher.

A man lives in a house that catches fire. To save his life, he jumps out of the window. He lands on a passer-by in the street below and injures him grievously. Between the two a bitter enmity arises. Who is to blame?

Of course, no parable can reflect reality exactly. The man who jumped out of the burning house did not land on this particular passer-by by chance. The passer-by became an invalid for life. But on the whole, this parable is better than any other I know.

Deutscher did not provide an answer to the question of how to solve the conflict. Are the two condemned to fight each other forever? Is there a solution at all?

COMMON SENSE would say: of course there is. True, the injured person cannot be restored to his former condition. The man who caused the injury cannot return to his former home, which was destroyed by the fire. But…

But the man can – and must – apologize to his victim. That is the minimum. He can – and must – pay him compensation. That is what justice demands. But then the two can become friends. Perhaps even partners.

Instead, the man continues to harm the victim. He invades the victim’s home and throws him out. The victim’s sons try to evict the man. And so it goes on.

Deutscher himself, who fled the Nazis from Poland to England in time, did not see the continuation of the story. He died a few days after the Six-day War.

INSTEAD OF quarreling endlessly about who was right and who was wrong, how wonderful we are and how abhorrent the others are, we should think about the future.

What do we want? What kind of a state do we want to live in? How do we end the occupation, and what will come after?

Israel is divided between “Left” and “Right”. I don’t like these terms – they are obvious misnomers. They were created in the French National Assembly more than two hundred years ago by the accidental seating of the parties in the hall at the time, as seen by the speaker. But let’s use them for convenience sake.

The real division is between those who prefer the people to the land, and those who prefer the land to the people. Which is more sacred?

In the early days of the state there was a joke making the rounds. God summoned David Ben-Gurion and told him: you have done great things for my people, make a wish and I shall grant it.

Ben-Gurion answered: I wish that Israel will be a Jewish state, that it will encompass all the country between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River and that it be a just state.

“That is too much even for me,” God said. “But I will grant you two of your three wishes.”

Since then we have the choice between a Jewish and just state in part of the country, or a Jewish state in all the country that will not be just, or a greater and just state, that will not be Jewish.

Ben-Gurion must be weeping in his grave.

SO WHAT are the solutions proposed by the two major forces in Israeli politics?

The “Left” has by now an orderly program. I am proud of having contributed to it. It says, more or less:

(a) A State of Palestine will come into being next to the State of Israel.

(b) Between the two states there will be peace, based on an agreement that will provide for open borders and close mutual relations.

(c) There will be joint institutions as necessary, by consent.

(d) The united city of Jerusalem will be the capital of both states, West Jerusalem the capital of Israel and East Jerusalem the capital of Palestine.

(e) There will be a limited, agreed, one-to-one exchange of territory.

(f) There will be a limited, symbolic return of refugees to Israel, all other refugees will receive generous compensation and “return” to the State of Palestine or remain where they are.

(g) Israel will remain a mainly Jewish state, with Hebrew as its first official language and open for Jewish immigration according to its laws.

(h) Both states will join regional institutions.

This is a clear picture of the future. Both ardent Zionists and non-Zionists can accept it wholeheartedly.

WHAT IS the program of the “Right”? How do its ideologues see the future?

The simple fact is that the Right has no picture of the future, no program, not even a dream. Only vague sentiments.

That may be its strength. Sentiments are a strong force in the life of nations.

What the Right would really like is the endless continuation of the present situation: the military occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and the indirect occupation of the Gaza Strip, enforced by blockade.

Cold logic says that this is an unnatural situation that cannot go on forever. Sooner or later it has to be institutionalized. How?

There are two possibilities, and only two: an apartheid state or a binational state.

That is so obvious, that even the most fanatical right-winger cannot deny it. No one even tries to.

There is a vague hope that the Arabs in Palestine will somehow pack up and just go away. That will not happen. The unique circumstances of 1948 will not and cannot repeat themselves.

A few well-to-do Palestinians may actually leave for London or Rio de Janeiro, but their demographic weight will remain negligible. The mass of people will remain where they are – and multiply.

Already now, there live between the sea and the river, in the Greater Israel of the dream, according to the last count (July 2016): 6,510,894 Arabs and 6,114,546 Jews. The Arab birthrate is bound to fall, but so will the Jewish one (except for the Orthodox).

What would life be like in the Israeli apartheid state? One thing is certain: it would not attract masses of Jews. The split between Jewish Israelis and Jews in the USA and other countries would widen slowly and inexorably.

Sooner or later, the disenfranchised majority would rise, world opinion would condemn and boycott Israel, and the apartheid system would break down. What would remain?

What would remain is the thing almost all Israelis dread: the binational State. One person – one vote. A country very different from Israel. A country from which many Israeli Jews would depart, either slowly or rapidly.

This is not propaganda, but simple fact. If there is a right-wing ideologue somewhere who has an answer to this – let them stand up now, before it is too late.

I CANNOT resist the temptation of telling again the old joke:

A drunken British lady stands on the deck of the Titanic, with a glass of whisky in her hand, and sees the approaching iceberg. “I did ask for some ice,” she exclaims, “but this is ridiculous!”