Stuart Reigeluth
Gulf News (Opinion)
February 1, 2010 - 1:00am

In case there is any doubt: Israel really needs to change its discourse. What we hear from Israeli leaders, what we see in the mass media, it's all distraction, the noxious kind that blinds even those who propagate such a discourse from seeing another reality.
On Wednesday, Israeli President Shimon Peres, a slippery politician who follows the flows of power like a parasite, stood at the podium in the German Bundestag (parliament) and adjusted his glasses and thick wad of papers.
This was a unique commemoration of the Jewish Shoah (Holocaust), because for the first time ever an Israeli Jew spoke in Hebrew in the heart of Berlin exactly 65 years after the Soviet Army liberated the largest Nazi camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
An emotional speech was expected, but Peres proceeded to read page after page in a dull monotonous voice. He stopped to put on his Jewish skullcap to read the Prayer of the Dead, and then continued to turn page after page.
Each page became increasingly filled with propaganda of the most pernicious kind that reinforces current stereotypes, leads to the obfuscation of the truth and calls for more of the same regional dynamics, which for Israel means war and more war.
Predictably, Peres ended his tiresome reading by condemning the dictatorships that surround Israel and openly named Iran. Admittedly, Iran does very little to attract international benediction, but did the entire Bundestag have to break into applause?
As if that were not disconcerting enough, the overwhelming appreciation shown for Peres' speech came after listening to the typical half-truths propagated by Israelis time and time again about the nature of Israel's existence.
In a nutshell, Peres said that unlike other nations in the world, Israel's "existence" is threatened by its "demagogic" neighbours; it is the only "democracy" in the Middle East and really respects human rights and that, from the beginning, it has "made the land fertile".
The myth of "a land without a people for a people without a land" was made popular as the Zionist motto back when David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir were busy colonising as much as possible of Palestine. The fertility claim is really old and sterile now.
As for "democracy", Israel could theoretically be defined as such, if that means holding elections while denigrating Arab political parties, denying the 1.5 million Arabs equal rights and defining the state of Israel as Jewish.
Of course, Peres also said that Israel "does not want to govern others" and wants peace with a two-state solution. Peres shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Arafat in 1994 for their efforts under the Oslo "peace process" which involved plenty of process but achieved little peace.
Israel claims to want two states but maintains economic control of the West Bank (the military occupation is a big business), while Jewish colonies grow. Seen from the outside, the Israeli security system has already created a single state.
As the Israeli analyst Menachem Klein pointed out, the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank has nightmarish long-term consequences for Israel. It will be difficult to be both democratic and Jewish once the demographic balance shifts.
Israel's discourse is so filled with contradictions and so counterproductive for Israeli Jews that it's very sad to observe from afar, and sadder still to see the regional complacence and international acceptance of the status quo. It amounts to resignation about the future. In fact, the Israeli discourse is no more than another denkmal (German for memorial).
Ignoring the future
Memorials remind people of the past, help define the present, but ignore the future. Berlin has so many Jewish memorials already that one more speech really just adds to the artistic and lop-sided graves of the tremendous "Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe" next to the Brandenburg Gate.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights reported that between January 21 and 27, two Palestinians were wounded by Israeli gunfire in the West Bank; the Israeli Army arrested 29 Palestinian civilians, including two women and a child, in the West Bank; five Palestinian farmers were evacuated near Nablus and Jewish colonists uprooted 15 olive trees near Ramallah. Visit for more depressing details of last week in Palestine.
Peres reminded the Germans again of their historical responsibility towards the Jews. Heads nodded morosely, although most have only witnessed the repeated wars between Israel and its Arab neighbours. Europeans may think they still owe the Jews of Israel support because of the horrors of the Holocaust, but the truth is that by swallowing the official Israeli discourse, they are doing more harm than good. Peres received a standing ovation.


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