Whether discussing the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948, the murder of thousands in Gaza in the summer of 2014, or the racism and terror to which Palestinians have been subjected by Israel for seven decades, Israelis are resolved to claim that they hold the moral high ground. Whenever the Israeli narrative and Israeli legitimacy are brought into question Israelis react with panic or violence or both.
From accusations of anti Semitism and support for terrorism, to attacks on one’s credibility and even the actual bombing and killing of thousands in Gaza – this is the range of reactions from Israelis to the possibility that the Zionist narrative is flawed, not to say a blatant lie. Some will say we must not generalize, it is not the people, it is the leaders who are at fault but this too is a lie. Israel’s leaders were elected by the people and on the issue of Palestine there is no opposition.
Israeli claims to the legitimacy of its existence and the legitimacy of its genocidal policies toward Palestinians rest on shaky ground. Palestinians are not being killed because they pose a threat to Israeli security. Anyone with half a brain can see that they have never posed a threat to Israel, not even in the slightest way. But Palestinians do pose a serious threat to the legitimacy of Israel and this means that it is very tough to argue the case for Israel in front of a critical audience without being embarrassed.
A recent piece in the Electronic Intifada, Ali Abunimah describes an incident which lead Students at the University of Texas at Austin to call for a professor to be investigated for assaulting a group of students who were staging a protest on campus. The incident occurred just before a lecture given by Stanford University historian Gil-li Vardi about the Israeli military as an “offensive, daring, highly effective and initiative-driven army.”
Well, that statement right there ought to PO just about anybody.
There is a video that shows the students, members of the Palestine Solidarity Committee, attempting to make a protest statement, and Professor Ami Pedahzur, director of the Institute for Israel Studies, aggressively confronting them, at one point pushing his face up to one of the students, clearly threatening them physically. At one point another man is seen as he proceeds to rip a Palestinian flag from the hands of one of the students. According to the piece in EI, the man who grabbed the flag is James Hasik, a weapons industry contractor, graduate student at the University of Texas and fellow at the Atlantic Council. These professors behaved exactly like Israeli soldiers and settlers, who regularly try to intimidate Palestinians in an attempt to silence them.
The Israeli narrative, like the holy grail, must be protected everywhere and at all cost. It is what defines us as Israelis, without it we have no identity and what’s worse, no legitimacy. In Palestine or Austin Texas, it is our duty as Israelis to confront anyone who dares to question it. The narrative begins with us, the Jewish people being the descendants of the ancient Hebrews who lived somewhere within the boundaries of today’s Palestine some three thousand years ago. Though, as I look at my features and those of my immediate ancestors I see nothing that resembles dwellers of any country of the Levant, but that’s of little importance at this point. We were forced into exile by the Assyrians, then the Babylonians and finally by the Romans but now, over two thousand years later we have returned to claim our country back.
Being that we are good people, we accepted UN resolution 181 that called for the partition of Palestine and allowed for some of our land to be allotted for the Arabs of Israel. The Arabs being anti-Semitic by nature attacked us, even as we were struggling to establish a fledgling state for Jews – and thankfully, being that we are the descendants of King David, who defeated Goliath, and descendants of the Maccabees who defeated great empires, we defeated the Arabs. Having defeated them, and being the compassionate people that we are, we asked, begged in fact the Arabs of Israel to remain, yet they got up and left. Hundreds of thousands of Arabs left their homes, their land, and walked away into the sunset. This mass migration was described by so many Zionist leaders (all of whom were secular and non-believers) as nothing short of a miracle. Thus we the Jewish people were able to establish Jewish majority on our land, and a state for the Jews in The Land of Israel, after two thousand years in exile and only a few short years after the holocaust. A pretty powerful narrative.
Whenever Israelis participate in dialogue groups, peace camps and other such normalization activities, the one topic that cannot be discussed is the Palestinian narrative of 1948. No questions regarding the legitimacy of Israel and the crimes the Zionists committed in 1948 are permitted. The argument is that since the past cannot be undone, why bring it up? We must focus on the future. The problem is that we cannot create a future unless we discuss the past. And although the past cannot be undone, justice can be executed, remedies and restitution for crimes that were committed can be established. In fact, they must be.
But this is why Israelis of all walks of life feel they have the right, indeed, a duty to defend the narrative, defend the Holy Grail like the knights of the round table. But there is nothing chivalrous about the behavior of Israelis. Maintaining almost seven decades of a ruthless apartheid regime, is not chivalrous, it is Sparta. The violence and abuse and legal discrimination that Palestinians had to endure over the last seven decades, and continue to endure today are precisely the reason why Israelis feel the need to preempt the question of its legitimacy with violence.
Why is the Palestinian question not resolved? Why are the refugees not permitted to return? Why is the Gaza strip under siege and regularly attacked with such vicious force? Why are thousands of Palestinians held in Israeli jails? Why are Israeli soldiers and armed vigilantes permitted to murder Palestinians with impunity? Israel is faced with two choices: End the occupation of Palestine, free the prisoners, end the siege on Gaza, allow the refugees to return and pay restitution. But Israel doesn’t want to do that. So the only other option is to bomb and kill the Palestinians and blame them for being terrorists, untrustworthy and incapable of living in peace with others.
It just so happens that as we discuss yet one more failed attempt to silence the Palestinian voice at the University of Texas at Austin, the Palestinian Poet Rafeef Ziadah just released a new album of her poems called “We Teach Life.” In one of the poems she so beautifully recites, named “If My Words Can Stop This” she says:
“If my words can stop this.
If they can stand in the way of a bomb, a drone, or a bullet,
I would lay them at the feet of every child in Ghazza,
And offer them like prayer.
I would recite them over and over and over like the holy names of God.
I would write them endlessly until all language breaks.
But words can’t stop this,
So I offer you the silence.”
But her poems offer no silence, sharp as a razor, they cut deeply and awaken us to feel for a moment that which Palestinians endure with such courage and dignity their entire lives. And hard as they try, no professor or soldier, or settler will ever be able silence her voice, or the voices of Palestinian students on campuses, or the voices of Palestinians in the villages and the refugee camps. No amount of violence or lies can silence this truth.
This article was written by Miko Peled for American Herald Tribune on Nov. 26, 2015. Miko Peled is an Israeli writer and activist living in the US. He was born and raised in Jerusalem. His father was the late Israeli General Matti Peled.