Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Recognition of Palestine By Sweden, Britain,
and Latin American Nations Means a Protest Against Israeli Brutality
By Uri Avnery
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, October 16, 2014
IF THE British parliament had adopted a resolution in favor of the
Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the reaction of our (Israeli and
pro-Israeli) media would have been like this:
"In an atmosphere of
great enthusiasm, the British parliament adopted with a huge majority (274
for, a mere 12 against) a pro-Israeli motion…Over half the seats were
occupied, more than usual…the opponents of Israel were in hiding and did not
dare to vote against…"
The British parliament voted this week on a
pro-Palestinian resolution, and our (Israeli and pro-Israeli) media reacted
almost unanimously like this:
"The hall was half empty…there was no
enthusiasm…a meaningless exercise…Only 274 Members voted for the resolution,
which is not binding…Many Members stayed away altogether…"
our (Israeli and pro-Israeli) media reported on the proceedings at length,
many related articles appeared in the newspapers. Quite a feat for such a
negligible, unimportant, insignificant, inconsequential, trivial, petty act.
A day before, 363 Jewish Israeli citizens called upon the British
Parliament to adopt the resolution, which calls for the British government
to recognize the State of Palestine. The signatories included a Nobel Prize
laureate, several winners of the highest Israeli civilian award, 2 former
cabinet ministers and four former members of the Knesset (including myself),
diplomats and a general.
The official (Israeli and pro-Israeli)
propaganda machine did not go into action. Knowing that the resolution would
be adopted anyhow, it tried to downplay the event as far as possible. The
Israeli ambassador in London could not be reached.
WAS IT a
negligible event? In a strictly procedural sense it was. In a broader sense,
far from it. For the Israeli leadership, it is the harbinger of very bad
A few days before, a similar news item came from Sweden. The
newly elected leftist prime minister announced that his government was
considering the recognition of the State of Palestine in the near future.
Sweden, like Britain, was always considered a "pro-Israeli" country,
loyally voting against "anti-Israel" resolutions in the UN. If such
important Western nations are reconsidering their attitudes towards the
policy of Israel, what does it mean?
Another unexpected blow came
from the South. The Egyptian dictator, Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, disabused the
Israeli leadership of the notion that the "moderate" Arab states would fill
the ranks of our allies against the Palestinians. In a sharp speech, he
warned his new-found soul-mate, Binyamin Netanyahu, that the Arab states
would not cooperate with Israel before we make peace with a Palestinian
Thus he punctured the newly inflated balloon floated by
Netanyahu – that pro-American Arab states, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia,
Jordan, the Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar, would become open allies of Israel.
IN South America, public opinion has already shifted markedly against
Israel. The recognition of Palestine is gaining
ground in official circles, too. Even in the US, unconditional support for
the Israeli government seems to be wavering.
What the hell is
WHAT IS going on is a profound, perhaps tectonic change
in the public attitude towards Israel?
For years now, Israel has
been appearing in world media mainly as a country that occupies the
Palestinian lands. Press photos of Israelis almost always show heavily armed
and armored soldiers confronting protesting Palestinians, often children.
Few of these pictures have had an immediate dramatic impact, but the
cumulative, incremental effect should not have been underestimated.
A truly alert diplomatic service would have alerted its government long ago.
But our foreign service is thoroughly demoralized. Headed by Avigdor
Lieberman, a brutal heavyweight bully considered by many of his colleagues
around the world as a semi-fascist, the diplomatic corps is terrorized. They
prefer to keep quiet.
This ongoing process reached a higher pitch
with the recent Gaza war. It was not basically different from the two Gaza
wars that preceded it not so long ago, but for some unfathomable reason it
had a much stronger impact.
For a month
and a half, day after day, people around the world were bombarded with
pictures of killed (Palestinian) human
beings, maimed children, crying mothers, destroyed apartment buildings,
damaged hospitals and schools, masses of homeless refugees. Thanks to
Iron Dome, no destroyed Israeli buildings could be seen, nor hardly any dead
An ordinary decent person, whether
in Stockholm or Seattle or Singapore, cannot be exposed to such a steady
stream of horrible images without being affected – first unconsciously, then
consciously. The picture of "The Israeli"
in the mind's eye changes slowly, almost imperceptibly. The brave pioneer
standing up to the savages around him mutates into
an ugly bully terrorizing a helpless population.
Israelis not realize this? Because We Are Always Right.
It has often
been said before: the main danger of propaganda, any propaganda, is that its
first victim is the propagandist himself. It convinces him, rather than his
audience. If you twist a fact and repeat it a hundred times, you are bound
to believe it.
Take the assertion that we were compelled to bomb UN
installations in the Gaza Strip because Hamas was using them to launch
rockets at our towns and villages. Kindergartens,
schools, hospitals and mosques were targeted by our artillery, planes,
drones and warships. 99% of Israelis believe that this was necessary.
They were shocked when the UN General Secretary,
Ban Ki-moon, who visited Gaza this week, claimed that this was totally
Doesn't the General Secretary know that ours is
the Most Moral Army in the World?
Another assertion is that these
buildings were used by Hamas to hide their arms. A person of my age reminded
us this week in Haaretz that we did exactly the same during our fight
against the British government of Palestine and Arab attackers: our arms
were hidden in kindergartens, schools, hospitals and synagogues. In many
places there are now proud memorial plaques as a reminder.
eyes of the average Israeli, the extensive killing and destruction during
the recent campaign was completely justified. He is quite incapable of
understanding the world-wide outrage. For lack of another reason, he
attributes it to anti-Semitism.
AFTER ONE of the Lebanon wars (I
forget which) I received an unusual message: an army general invited me to
give a lecture to his assembled officer corps about the impact of the war on
the world media. (He probably wanted to impress his officers with his
I told the officers that the modern
battlefield has changed, that modern wars are fought in the full glare of
the world media, that today's soldiers have to take this into account while
planning and fighting. They listened respectfully and asked relevant
questions, but I wondered if they were really absorbing the lesson.
Soldiering is a profession like any other. Any professional person, be he
(or she) a lawyer or a street-cleaner, adopts a set of attitudes suitable to
A general thinks in real terms: how many troops for the job, how
many cannon. What is necessary to break the enemy's resistance? How to
reduce his own casualties?
He does not think about photos in the
New York Times.
In the Gaza campaign,
children were not killed nor houses destroyed arbitrarily. Everything had a
military reason. People had to be killed in order to reduce the risk to the
lives of our soldiers. (Better a hundred Palestinians killed than one
Israeli soldier.) People had to be terrorized to make them turn against
Hamas. Neighborhoods had to be destroyed to allow our troops to advance, and
also to teach the population a lesson they will remember for years, thus
postponing the next war.
All this makes military sense to a
general. He is fighting a war, for God's sake, and cannot be bothered with
non-military considerations. Such as the impact on world public opinion. And
anyway, after the Holocaust…
WHAT THE general thinks, Israel
Israel is not a military dictatorship. General al-Sisi may
be Netanyahu's best friend, but Netanyahu is not a general.
Israel likes doing business, especially arms
business, with military dictators all around the world, but in Israel
itself the military obeys the elected civilian government.
But the State of Israel was born in the middle of a
hard-fought war, the outcome of which was by no means assured at that
moment. The army was then, and is now, the center of Israel's national life.
It may be said that the army is the only truly unifying element in Israeli
society. It is where males and females, Ashkenazi and Oriental, secular and
religious (except the orthodox), wealthy and poor, old-timer and new
immigrant meet and are indoctrinated in the same spirit.
Jewish Israelis are former soldiers. Most officers, who leave the army in
their mid-40s, spread out in the administrative, economic, political and
academic elite. The result is that the military
mindset is dominant in Israel.
This being so, Israelis are
quite unable to comprehend the turn of world public opinion. What do they
want from us, these Swedes and Britons and Japanese? Do they believe that we
enjoy killing children, destroying homes? (As
Golda Meir memorably once declared: "We can forgive the Arabs for
killing our children, but we shall never forgive
them for compelling us to kill their children!")
FOUNDERS of Israel were very conscious of world public opinion. True, David
Ben-Gurion once declared that "it is not important what the goyim are
saying, what is important is what the Jews are doing!" but in real life
Ben-Gurion was very conscious of the need to win over world opinion. So was
his adversary, the right-wing Zionist leader Vladimir Jabotinsky, who once
told Menachem Begin that if he despairs of the conscience of the world, he
should "jump into the Vistula".
World public opinion is important.
More than that, it is vital. The British Parliament's resolution may be
non-binding, but it expresses public opinion, which will sooner or later
decide government action on arms sales, Security Council resolutions, and
European Union decisions. As Thomas Jefferson said: "If the people
lead, then eventually the leaders will follow."
The same Jefferson
recommended "a decent respect for the opinion of mankind."
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