Gershon Baskin
The Jerusalem Post (Opinion)
July 11, 2011 - 12:00am

There is a well-documented phenomenon in societies as they reach the final stages of a deeply rooted, bloody conflict. I call it “digging in the heels against the current.” During this final phase, some societies show their ugliest face. I am talking about the stronger side, the one required to make truly hard concessions on real assets such as land. Such societies face a growing sense that the world fails to see the justice on their side. Indeed, the world usually supports the side perceived as the “underdog,” even when that side uses terrorism to support its cause. The world sympathizes with its weakness and often discounts its shortcomings.

The stronger sides often loses any sense of its own strength and adopts an attitude of weakness. By portraying its weakness internally, it ends up justifying behaviors which it would normally have condemned.

Israel is not the first nation in this situation.

There are many examples of societies that failed to accept the inevitable and, instead of acting with intelligence and dignity, sacrificed their own humanity in defense of their ‘right’ to defy what almost everyone else sees as their wrong. The final two years of South African apartheid were among the most repressive and aggressive of its too-long existence. The final period of British rule in India witnessed atrocities committed by the most civilized army on Earth at the time. The last years in Sudan provide another example of horrendous brutality, misery and death.

When Israel resorts to calling pro-Palestinian activists trying to enter the country legally through its international front door “hooligans,” “terrorists,” and “Hamas lovers,” and needs 600 policemen to prevent their entry, something is happening here that needs introspection.

When Israeli society feels a deep sense of threat because a few hundred pro-Palestinian sailors aboard a group of 10 barely seaworthy boats try to break the siege of Gaza, then something is happening beneath the surface that should not be ignored or explained away as anti-Semitism or de-legitimization campaigns.

There was no real threat from the recent flotilla. Yet the perceived danger was expressed with existential urgency.

When Israel feels threatened by Palestinian villagers who organize a march from their village to their spring every Friday for the past two years (in Nebi Saleh), and has to resort to shooting hundreds of teargas grenades at 50 protestors armed only with flags and songs, and the public justifies this state-sponsored violence by calling the villagers terrorists, then we have entered that final stage of the conflict described above.

THE LEGISLATIVE agenda of this Knesset, sponsored by this government and promoted by hate and fear mongers, is further evidence that Israel is digging its heels in against a current whose strength is increasing. The ‘Nakba Law,’ the allegiance oath, the Anti-political NGO laws, the Anti-boycott Law – all these are symptoms of a society which has lost control of its own sense of legitimacy, and therefore uses a temporary coalition majority to impose limits on its own democracy in order to create a façade of strength and determination.

Israel is in a race against time, and if it doesn’t change course, it’s going to lose.

Israel’s speedometer and compass are currently focused on September or shortly beyond, but even if the current government manages to convince enough countries not to support the Palestinian bid in the UN, the end of Israel’s control over the Palestinian people cannot be stopped.

Israel wants and needs security. It wants and needs recognition of its legitimacy.

Israel wants and needs to resolve the Palestinian refugee issue within the Palestinian state. It wants and needs recognized and secure borders. Israel wants and needs the entire world to recognize Jerusalem as its capital. None of these can be attained without first meeting similar needs and desires of the Palestinian people.

But instead of declaring its readiness to recognize a Palestinian state, Israel is busily working to prevent its emergence.

All declarations of support for a two-state solution are irrelevant in the face of the hard reality that the Israeli prime minister, foreign minister and all its diplomatic service are actively trying to prevent the Palestinian people from achieving liberty. This is how most of the world perceives it; this is how every Palestinian sees it.

THE OPPORTUNITY is at hand to turn the page on this conflict and to begin a new era. Israel can change the way that almost every Palestinian views it. Israeli recognition of a Palestinian state on the basis of the Obama principles – ’67 borders with agreed territorial swaps, real security arrangements, a non-militarized Palestinian state, Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people and Palestine the homeland of the Palestinian people, and a willingness to open sincere, honest and time-bound direct negotiations – would be like a magic wand. Both sides would be compelled to enter negotiations, and both would then have to make hard decisions and painful compromises.

Instead, Israel is digging in its heels.

It will use its strength, sometimes with sophistication and cunning – as it did with the flotilla and the airlift of pro- Palestinian activists – and sometimes with mere force, as it does every Friday all around the West Bank. But none of this will buy security, legitimacy, or the end of conflict with the Palestinians.

This conflict will not simply go away.

The Palestinian people will not bury their yearning for freedom and independence.

The majority of nations around the world will not forever, and not even for a long time, bow to Israel’s refusal to remove its control over the Palestinian people.

The end of this conflict is inevitable. It has been long; it has been painful and bloody. It has created deep-rooted hatred, anger and despair. It generates fear, and fear feeds the sense that it is impossible to arrive at peace. There are ways to make that route a lot less dangerous. In the end, Israel and Palestine will live in peace and we all know, more or less, what a peace agreement must look like.

Why do we still refuse to see the inevitable?


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