At the heart of the Israel-Palestinian conundrum are choices just about no one on any side is willing to make. In a recent issue of the Nation, Neve Gordon laid out these decisions — all of which center on who controls the land, who can settle where — particularly starkly, and so usefully, from the point of view of the Israelis.
The Jewish settlements are at the heart of the heart of this crisis, or more likely a dagger already deeply implanted in the heart of the crisis. Gordon manages to point out with at least faint optimism that when the French finally made the decision to withdraw from Algeria, they had to withdraw far more settlers than an Israeli government would. They had to dismantle a whole, many-generations old, thoroughly entrenched colonial way of life. What he doesn’t mention is that the result was a near civil war/coup d’etat in France, a moment more perilous than any the post-World War II French republic has faced. Without De Gaulle — and there are no Israeli De Gaulle’s at present in sight — who knows what might have happened.
In the meantime, in the heart of Jerusalem, the heart of the heart of a struggle for land of unmitigated intolerance, a Frank Gehry designed museum of “tolerance” is to be raised. Former Jerusalem mayor Meron Benvenisti in an article in Ha’aretz launches an all-out assault on the very idea, which I found on target, despite the fact that I’m a fan of Gehry’s architecture. Tom
By Neve Gordon, December 9, 2002, The Nation Magazine
Returning to Israel after an extended absence can be a disturbing experience. On the way back from the airport to my Jerusalem apartment, I noticed new posters tacked onto utility poles and bridges along the highway. They read: Transfer = Peace and Security. The meaning was unambiguous: Israel must expel the 3 million Palestinians living in the occupied territories — and perhaps even its own Palestinian citizens — in order to achieve peace and security.
While racist slogans have become pervasive in Israel, it was this particular message — the notion of expulsion as a political solution — that unhinged me. One does not need to be a Holocaust survivor to recognize the phrase’s lethal implications. The slogan, however, does not merely underscore the moral bankruptcy of certain elements in Israeli society; it also helps uncover some of the inherent contradictions underlying Israel’s policies in the occupied territories.
A museum of tolerance in a city of fanatics
By Meron Benvenisti, December 5, 2002, Ha’aretz
Only in the holy city of Jerusalem are white elephants tempted to believe they have found their heaven. No matter where they come from, when someone decides to bring them to Jerusalem, the elephants first prosper, stuffed with all the hollow slogans of provincial kitsch, ignorance, and greed that blossom in the holy ground. But sadly, the life span of the white elephants is very short, because the struggle for survival is cruel and ruthless and their importers are interested in the profits resulting from bringing them to the city, not in the fate of the beasts after they’ve arrived.
The skeletons of such white elephants are scattered throughout the city, and others that up until recently were considered “vital for the very existence of the city” are struggling to survive.