Twenty Years After: Other Realities
The Report devoted to “The June War: Twenty Years After” (MER 146), while a commendable effort, falls short in confronting other realities befalling the Palestinians, especially in Israel and the Occupied Territories. Would that the situation was merely a confrontation between the Israeli state (particularly in the form of the IDF) and the Palestinians who are living there! Things, unfortunately, are not that simple.
While only about 3-4 percent of Israelis live in West Bank or Gaza settlements, their impact on the territories, as well as Israel within the Green Line, has been enormous. In practical terms, Amana (the settlement wing of Gush Emunim) has taken advantage of all legislation regarding the construction of kibbutzim and moshavim, and also has a lobby of 27 Knesset members who support the construction of more settlements and roads. Indeed, it is possible to drive from Tel Aviv to Emmanuel and Ariel and totally bypass any Arab towns. Funding has recently been approved to build a highway which would effectively replace Derech Hebron as the conduit for settlers going from Hebron, Kiryat Arba and the Gush Etzion district into Jerusalem, so they could avoid Bethlehem and the adjoining Dahaysha refugee camp, which recently had a fence erected around it so that its inhabitants would not be able to throw stones at vehicles belonging to Israelis living in Kiryat Arba. It is possible to board an Egged bus in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv headed toward any settlement and never feel the sense that one has “left” Israel and entered territories under military occupation. Anyone who has ever been to Kiryat Arba will attest that its apartment buildings hardly look temporary.
For those of us who identify with the progressive forces in the Middle East, the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza (not to mention the annexation of East Jerusalem and the Golan) pose serious questions, the least of which is its impact in Israeli society. For the [Israeli] nationalist forces, military occupation presents the best of both worlds. Presently, Gush Emunim can use Jordanian land usage law, British detention law, and Israeli law to its advantage (not to mention having the IDF back them up). If the territories were to be annexed, they would lose all of that. For the dovish and progressive forces, military occupation is temporary, and allows them to show their concern for the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza, while denying national rights to “their own” Arabs, and constantly questioning the latter’s loyalty to the Israeli state.
Finally, a word about the peace process. As much as Shimon Peres is pushing for an international conference (against the wishes of his Likud partners in the present National Unity Government), he is still firmly rejectionist in his vision for any role that the PLO might play in such talks. One also wonders — given the permeation of Israeli institutions in the West Bank and their total integration into the Israeli state and civil society — just what, at this point, an international conference is supposed to do. Is it going to change the attitudes that many Israelis — both in and outside of the territories — have toward the Palestinians living in their midst? And if a political settlement is made that declares that Jews or Israelis have no religious/historical rights to Hebron (as Camp David implied with the subsequent evacuation of Yamit), then what right do they have to Safad or Jerusalem?
These are not easy questions to answer, but must be raised to demonstrate that the struggle over the West Bank and Gaza is not a simple one of a repressive state subjugating the local population. Where the Zionist movement made the mistake of saying there was a land without a people for a people without a land, many proponents of the two-state solution seem to forget that there are Israelis living in the territories and Palestinians living in Israel. While recent diplomatic efforts, along with renewed resistance in the territories, seems to indicate that “this is the beginning of the end,” the same thing has been said of South Africa since the Soweto uprising 11 years ago. Simply stated, the occupation has gone on for 20 years, and can go on for 20 more. The future does not look bright.
Israeli Academics Speak Out
On behalf of a group of Israeli academics residing temporarily in the United States, we call upon those concerned about the future of Israel to demonstrate their support for the existence of the state of Israel by opposing the continuing occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The State of Israel was founded in 1948 with the support of the community of nations as a political solution to the Jewish plight in the twentieth century: a homeland for the Jewish nation, and a response to the problem of the Jewish refugees. We wished to establish a democratic society with equal rights for all of its citizens. The Six-Day War in June 1967 brought a dramatic change in the short history of the Israeli state, a change which now threatens its future. Occupation of Arab territories with more then 1.3 million Palestinian inhabitants, daily abuse of basic human rights, expulsions, arrests and humiliation undermine the moral and democratic foundations of Israeli society, and perpetuate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On this twentieth anniversary of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, it is increasingly evident that the occupation has totally penetrated the fabric of Israeli society. For the sake of both the Israeli and the Palestinian peoples it is necessary to work toward a political solution that will take into account both the political and human rights of the Palestinians as well as Israel’s right to exist. To reach such a solution, there is no realistic alternative to direct negotiations between Israel and the representative of the Palestinian people, the PLO. It is the unconditional US political and economic support for Israel which contributes to the continuing occupation. For the sake of the future of Israel, we urge you to do whatever you can to end this unconditional support. We are aware that this is a drastic request, but we believe that the continuing occupation represents the greatest threat to the survival of the Israel we know and love.
Chomsky on Government Violence
As a long-time reader and now subscriber to MERIP, I recently re-read an interview with Noam Chomsky in MER 140 (May-June 1986), “The First Prime-Time Bombing in History.”
There were so many truths in that interview that needed saying, and were said so succinctly by Professor Chomsky, that it seems almost petty to argue a point, but in his response as to whether “terrorism” will be used by the US government to silence opponents in the manner that communism was used in the 1950s, he virtually rewrote the history of the left in the post-war era.
To quote Chomsky: “Government force was no greater in the early fifties than…late 1960s…. There was vilification, which is a pain, but it’s not death. I don’t want to understate what happened — people did lose their jobs — but it was mainly a kind of moral collapse of the old left.”
As for the highly dubious claim that government power was no greater in the 1950s than in the 1960s, it should be pointed out that while there was no COINTELPRO per se, the full machinery of governmental repression was in high gear. There was an FBI run amok; loyalty boards too numerous to catalogue; the destruction of a militant class-conscious labor movement and a general purging of the ranks of labor, the arts, sciences and professions of progressives and radicals. There also existed HUAC, SISS, the McCarran Internal Security Act and the McCarran-Walter Act, which led to numerous deportations of “subversives” and greatly reduced the proportion of immigrants from “non-white” countries. It also allowed for deportation hearings to be removed from the courts into the jurisdiction of the Immigration Service, which conducted its own hearings unhampered by such niceties as rules of evidence. The Smith Act trials of Communist Party leaders resulted in jail terms averaging 8-10 years for the crime of advocating an ideology. A manufactured spy hysteria led to the ritual executions of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. And yes, people did indeed “lose their jobs,” not hundreds, but many, many thousands, and an ever vigilant FBI was there to make sure that no new jobs were available, by thoughtfully “warning” any prospective employer that their new employee was a suspected of subversion. To speak of this frightful period — when the US was gearing up for world hegemony and silencing all dissenting voices — as the “moral collapse of the old left” seems as egregious a statement as, for example, “The so-called ‘Palestinians’ left of their own accord in 1948.”
The courage and conviction shown by those Chomsky terms the “old left” compares very favorably with that of the New Left. This is particularly true regarding the white student movement against the Vietnam war, a large portion of which seemed to evaporate when the immediate threat of shipment to Vietnam ceased, though a genocidal air war still raged. Many in the Movement did resist and fight back, and are today to be found working in various organizations and publications such as MERIP and NACLA. However, to imply that the Left in the 1950s did not resist not only maligns those who not only fought back (against an infinitely more repressive government and a spineless Cold War press), it also distorts history. They were there fighting then — militant trade unionists, Communists, socialists, Spanish War veterans — and many are still active in every phase of progressive struggle in this country. It serves no good purpose to disparage the achievements and sacrifices of any section of the Left: “old” or “new.” Those who resisted what has come to be called McCarthyism (Trumanism or Hooverism would be more apt terms) were and are heroes, and deserve a better fate than being spoken of — albeit in an otherwise excellent interview — as part of, or the cause of, “the moral collapse of the old left.”
Peter K. Spalding
Mill Valley, CA
Noam Chomsky Responds: Peter Spalding takes issue with my statement that “government force was no greater in the early fifties than…late 1960s,” but even taking his response at face value, it is not pertinent to this statement. What is required is a comparative evaluation, and that he does not attempt. There is by now an extensive literature documenting the government repression of the late 1960s, including FBI participation in outright political assassination (Fred Hampton), fomenting of violence in the ghettos (gleefully recorded in internal FBI documents), massive efforts to undermine the civil rights movement, the black movements (with seriously demoralizing effect), the Socialist Workers Party, the peace movement and entire New Left, the women’s movement and others, including infiltration, instigation of violence, defamation and burglaries on a remarkable scale — and plenty of examples of loss of jobs as well, though this was the least of it. A comparative analysis would show that the comment to which Spalding takes exception was in fact understated.
It is not surprising that state repression escalated rapidly in the 1960s, to a level easily comparable to (in fact beyond) anything known from the preceding decade. There were large scale popular movements to repress. But the repression was in general less successful, though some of the movements collapsed for other reasons (e.g., SDS, undermined not by government repression but by internal developments). The reason was that the targets of repression kept to their convictions, which they upheld with pride and honor, and had a substantial community of support. These factors were generally lacking during the period of “moral collapse of the old left” in the 1950s, despite the courage and integrity of some of those who did not yield. We do ourselves no favors by failing to perceive the nature and importance of the factors that makes resistance to inevitable state repression feasible, and by failing to understand the meaning of the historical record.