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Table of Contents Introduction The Victim Position The Role of Denial Israel Real, Israel Disembodied: The Journalist, Honesty, and Emotions Part I: Memories, Self-Images, Images of the Other 1. Tantura: The Repressed Floods Back In May 23, 1948: Was There a Massacre? The Katz Affair What the Katz Affair Reveals About Its Protagonists An Old Technique: Challenging the Opponent¿s Legitimacy An Inadmissible Reality from the Past? The Expurgated Memory of the 1948 Generation 2. The ¿Purity of Arms¿: How to Escape from an ¿Ocean of Lies¿ An Official Version: The Israelis as ¿Just, Absolute, and Sole Victims¿ The Main Constituents of the Initial Israeli Denial The Missing Past in Literature ¿The Palestinians Don't Exist,¿ Nor Do the Refugees David and Goliath Moral Superiority Over the Enemy Tzadkanut: Systematic Self-Justification 3. ¿A Villa in the Jungle¿: The Israelis¿ Perception of their Environment The Keyword Bitakhon: Security Institutional Paradoxes of Israeli Society National Unity and Centrifugal Tendencies The Colonial Question The ¿Animal Nature¿ of the Arab Teaching Contempt 4. ¿These Semites¿They Are Anti-Semites¿: We Are What We Were Born to Be Sources of Israeli Orientalism The Influence of Ethnicism on the Jewish National Movement Very Old Arguments Still in the News Discounting the Other 5. ¿Something Like a Cage¿: The Dilemmas of the Israeli Historian Israeli Orientalism Applied to History ¿We Have No Partner¿ Benny Morris, an Israeli Historian Torn Between Ethnicism and Historical Truth 6. Tom Segev vs. Gideon Levy: The ¿Immunization¿ of Israeli Schoolchildren What a Young Person in Israel Can Know The Vicissitudes of Authorized Historiography: A Study of a Recent Textbook The Impossibility of Returning to the Former Historic Order 7. An ¿Artificial State¿: Internal Palestinian Obstacles to Understanding the Israelis The Palestinian Relationship to Israel The Nabka: A Catastrophe, But Not a Defeat? Part II. Israelis, Palestinians: The Temptation of the Worst 8. Mute Oracles: The Transformation of Israel After the Six Days¿ War The Emergence of the Bloc of the Faithful and its Impact 1967: The Establishment of Omnipotence Establishing the Routine of Occupation The Mechanisms of Colonization The Paradoxes of the Occupation 9. ¿We Missed an Extraordinary Opportunity¿: The Great Waste of the Peace Talks The Oslo Upheaval (August 1993) Seven Years to Negotiate a ¿Just and Comprehensive¿ Peace The Camp David Fiasco Taba, Geneva: Camp David Laid Bare 10. ¿Serial Liars¿: Creating a Useful Image of the Enemy The Post-Camp David Steamroller The Palestinian Uprising and Its Retroactive ¿Conception¿ The Function of Hasbara, Official Communication 11. ¿Sharon Is Sharon Is Sharon¿: The Creeping ¿Pied-Noirization¿ of Israel Ariel Sharon and the Palestinians The Intifada and the Israeli ¿Matrix of Control¿ The ¿Algerianization¿ of the Israelis The Lexicon of Occupation 12. ¿Terrorism: Tell Arafat to Stop This Nonsense¿: The Failure of the Palestinian Authority Either Armed Struggle or Secret Diplomacy The Palestinian Authority at Work Arafat: Muteness, Corruption, and Absence of Democracy Indiscriminate Suicidal Terrorism Demonization of the Israeli and Anti-Semitism 13: The ¿Brutalization¿ of Israeli Society and the Radicalization of Nationalism The Nationalist Bloc Pluralism Up, Democracy Down The University, the Media, and the ¿Traitors¿ The New Role of the Military The ¿Settlers¿ Party¿ and the Development of the National-Religious Movement 14. ¿An Insane Logic, a Form of Suicide¿: The Israelis Confront Their Moral Failure The Emergence of the ¿Moral Camp¿ The ¿Soft Underbelly¿ and the Temptation to Leave 15. ¿The Hidden Plot of Our Lives¿: Competing for Victimhood Israelis, Nazism, and the Shoah Appropriation of the Memory of Suffering Turning the Shoah and Nazism Into Abstractions The Vision of Present-Day Anti-Semitism Palestinian ¿Victimization¿ 16. Forward. Israeli Society After the Withdrawal from Gaza Reasons for the Withdrawal Drawing up the Balance Sheet of the Withdrawal Victors and Vanquished A New Political Map for Each Side Conclusion: Salvation Through Defeat Getting Out of the Impasse The Price of Reconciliation Afterword: Haim Gouri References Index Introduction With Yasser Arafat gone and George W. Bush reelected, Israel seems to be triumphant. From the military point of view it has largely overcome the insurrection of the Palestinians, the second intifada. And, the day Arafat was buried, its American ally announced the creation of a future Palestinian state, at best in, say, 2009, that is, after the end of its mandate and sixteen years after the famous ¿mutual recognition¿ at the time of the Oslo Accords in 1993, . . . and on condition that its new leaders have previously established a democracy in their as yet non-existent state, and that they undertake the ¿struggle against terrorism.¿ Failing that, the Palestinians will have to keep on waiting. Four and a half years after the onset of the new intifada in September 2000, and thousands of deaths later (four fifths of them Palestinians, the other fifth Israelis, the great majority of them civilians1) Palestinian society is bled dry, fragmented, and on the verge of chaos. But Israeli society, tense as ever, is in disarray. The two interlocutors are walled in by their certainties: the need to overcome terrorism for most Israelis, and, for most Palestinians, the need to maintain resistance. Many people on both sides understand that these modes of confrontation ultimately lead to impasse. The Palestinians are defending themselves but, in the current state of affairs, can¿t imagine that fighting will succeed in making the Israeli Army retreat from their territories. No matter: as long as the Israelis don't feel safe, they, the Palestinians, will not have been defeated. They will show that they are there, an unmovable obstacle. As for the Israelis, they know or sense that the victory, the eradication of terrorism that their generals keep on saying is on the horizon, is largely illusory; no wall of protection or security barrier will prevent terrorists inclined to seek death from trying to get beyond them nine times without success only to succeed on the tenth try. And they know that if terrorism is wiped out the question of real national independence for the Palestinians will remain. As long as there is no solution, the rebellion will begin again sooner or later. At the same time, nearly all Israelis reject the idea of a general abandonment of the occupied territories, at least not without a prior victory. Such a retreat would seem like a terrible political defeat, creating a frightening image of Israel in the eyes of the world, the Arab world most of all: the image of a loser. So they cobble together absurd plans: finding docile interlocutors among the Palestinians, or withdrawing from a given area of occupied territory in order to preserve the essential part of it. A bit of land here, a bit of land there, with the IDF (Israeli Defense Force), the army, involved in it all. Do anything, but just don¿t let go of the occupied territories. How, after a peace process in which Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) offered one another mutual recognition and engaged in negotiations from 1993 to 2000, have Israelis and Palestinians gotten to this point? Why have all Israeli governments since 2001¿those of Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon, and Ehud Olmert¿systematically turned their backs on any form of political negotiation with the president of the PLO, whoever he may be, thereby strengthening the position of the Islamists of Hamas to the point where the latter won a completely democratic election? Why has this approach, based on the primacy of security interests, not to mention the actual political stakes, proved an utter failure time and time again? And why have the Palestinians, for their part, largely come to support the Islamist party in the conviction that, where Israel is concerned, only what is called ¿armed action¿ pays off in the long run? This book sets out to examine such questions. This English-language version was completed at the beginning of 2006, just after the Palestinian and Israeli legislative elections. The second intifada, which broke out in late September 2000, had for the first time given birth to the victory, by a wide margin, of an Islamist party, Hamas. For the Israelis, it had brought Sharon¿s successors to power at the head of a new party, Kadima, which advocates the ongoing repression of the Palestinian people but, also for the first time, has broken away from the ideology of a Greater Israel. The Victim Position September 29, 2000: the second intifada is triggered. Why just then? The day before, Ariel Sharon had visited the Plaza of the Mosques. When he was the foreign minister of the former right-wing government, neither he nor any other member of the cabinet had ever gone there. The symbolism was too strong and its consequences predictable. Overlooking the Temple Mount of the Jews, the Al-Aqsa Mosque, located on the Plaza, is the third holiest place for Muslims; for many Palestinians it represents their hope of one day seeing East Jerusalem becoming the capital of their future state. In 1996, when Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu disregarded the warnings of security officials and authorized the reopening of a tunnel in the excavations of the ruins located under Al-Aqsa, the Palestinians were incensed. The Army responded with bullets. The heads of the Internal Security Service, Shabak (better known by its former name, Shin Bet), had intervened to avoid a breakdown of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. ¿The soldiers open fire, like shooting ducks. . . . [T]his has to be stopped right away, because we¿re attacking the honor of the Palestinian Authority. They¿re not just going to stand there,¿ Israel Hasson, the number two man in Shin Bet, told the Israeli officers (Enderlin 2002, pp. 55-56). The Palestinian police, too, had begun to shoot. Hasson and his counterparts negotiated a return to calm. The death toll: sixty-seven Palestinians, thirteen Israeli soldiers. Everyone could see how quickly the lighting of even the smallest fuse at Al-Aqsa could explode the powder keg. In 1999 the Labor leader Ehud Barak came to power. In July 2000 he entered into negotiations for a ¿global and definitive peace¿ with the PLO at the Camp David summit meetings, with the Americans serving as intermediaries. The meetings failed. In front of President Bill Clinton, Barak and Yasser Arafat undertook to renounce violence. After July, the talks continued more loosely. On September 26, for the first time, the Israeli prime minister received Arafat at his home for dinner. On the preceding day he had authorized Ariel Sharon to ¿visit¿ the Plaza of the Mosques, escorted by police. Perhaps in the political situation he was in after the failure at Camp David he could not have done otherwise. Perhaps he wanted to show Arafat how risky it was to refuse his offers. As head of the opposition, Sharon knew what he was doing: he was demonstrating that, if he were in power, any restoration of Palestinian sovereignty over East Jerusalem, and hence over the Temple Mount, would be definitively ruled out, and that Israel was ¿at home throughout Jerusalem,¿ Al-Aqsa included. Nothing happened on this September 28, or almost nothing. Several dozen young people were dispersed. The following day, the 29th, a Friday and hence the Muslim day of prayer, the young Palestinians flared up. The Israeli police sent in two thousand men. After prayers dozens of young people began to throw stones at the faithful and the tourists at the Wailing Wall on the lower level. The crowd of worshippers in Al-Aqsa Square did not scatter, and the Israeli police resorted to truncheons and tear gas. Soon, when the policemen themselves were hit by stones, they opened fire. Seven people were killed and around two hundred wounded, some of them right under the portico of the mosque, including not only young people but older ones unconnected with the stone throwers. The news spread on the airwaves. That very afternoon, and especially the next day, huge demonstrations filled the streets. Israeli police and soldiers, sometimes hit by stones and sometimes without waiting to be attacked, once again fired on the crowd. New victims fell, most of them young. As in 1996, armed Palestinians began to fire back. But this time the Israeli services negotiated nothing with their counterparts. Barak demanded that Arafat immediately and unilaterally put an end to the violence, or Tsahal would continue shooting. The demonstrations grew larger. On the fifth day Israel sent its first missile into a residential area, aiming at a building associated with Fatah, Arafat¿s organization. During the first intifada (1987-1993) the Israeli Army had never had recourse to tanks or aircraft. When I interviewed leaders and ordinary individuals as a special envoy of Le Monde in Israel and Palestine at the beginning of the intifada, I was struck by the consistency with which they all barricaded themselves in the victim position. On the Palestinian side, which in the early phase experienced ninety percent of the casualties, all I heard about was the ¿savagery¿ of the Israelis. Excessive force had certainly been used, but one question, to which there was no reply, aroused uneasiness: why had the young Palestinians initially shown their anger by throwing stones at a crowd of Israeli worshippers who had no part in Sharon¿s ¿provocation¿? What did this say about their general relationship to the Israelis¿not just to Israel as an occupying state, but to all Israelis? ¿If you endorse this as harmless,¿ I said to a lay instructor at Bir Zeit University, ¿tomorrow you won¿t denounce Hamas¿s attacks on civilians in Israel.¿ He shrugged his shoulders in rage: ¿If the Israelis continue to shoot down our kids like that, they¿re going to get attacked soon.¿ Neither he nor I imagined the level of suicidal terrorism that the intifada would produce. On the Israeli side, the refusal to consider disturbing facts seemed even more flagrant to me. Political leaders on the right and the left, intellectuals, ordinary people, all repeated the same argument: the Palestinians used Sharon¿s appearance on the plaza to initiate acts of violence; the rest was just propaganda. They concealed the killings of the following day or thought they had no significance. When I observed that the Israeli police had fired on an unarmed crowd, the response rang out uniformly: ¿Lo meshaneh [That makes no difference].¿ Shooting at the crowd was a non-event, a quibble on the part of the Palestinians. Nothing fundamental had happened that day. Israel had been attacked and had to defend itself. I pointed out in vain that Al-Aqsa was not just any place, that killing and wounding civilians at the entrance to a venerated site of Islam was not an indifferent act, that in shooting anywhere else the Israeli soldiers would not have evoked such an emotional response. The reply was always the same: ¿There or anywhere, what does it matter? The Palestinians were just waiting for an opportunity.¿ This was the final point, enabling the Israelis to consolidate their victim position, place the others in the position of the aggressor, and ask themselves no questions. A question like this, for example: ¿If the Palestinians were just waiting for a favorable opportunity to rise up violently while falsely posing as victims, why give them one?¿ Or: ¿Would the police have fired on an unarmed crowd if the crowd had consisted of Jews?¿ Shulamit Aloni had formulated these questions in an interview with me on October 21, 2000, shortly after the onset of the intifada. A former Israeli Minister of Education from the Labor Party, Aloni said she was appalled by what had happened at Al-Aqsa. She was almost alone in asking such questions in Israel. Since my meeting with her I have been haunted by a nightmare. If by chance there were a real accord between the two parties, if there were plans for an Israeli military withdrawal putting an end to the occupation of the Palestinians, there would always be some diehard willing to do anything to prevent it, another Baruch Goldstein, who, in despair at seeing his dream for a Greater Israel vanish, would commit a new massacre, be it at Al-Aqsa or at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron.2 Or a young Palestinian would manage to blow himself up at the Wailing Wall. You didn¿t want to understand the importance of Al-Aqsa? Well, an eye for an eye. These are horror fantasies. Nourished by the spirit of vendetta that holds sway in each camp, they arise after each ¿targeted liquidation¿ of a political leader or opposing terrorist by the Israelis, after each Palestinian attack. Then I recall the way the current conflict was triggered and my meeting with Shulamit Aloni. The old lady, former leader of the secular Zionist camp, has been less alone since then. Many of the Israeli pacifists who spontaneously adhered to the consensus in October 2000 admit today that Israel did indeed initiate the current cycle of violent acts. And for the most part they have dropped the idea that once prevailed among almost all Israelis, namely that the Camp David fiasco in July 2000 was due solely to Arafat¿s refusal to compromise. Most Israelis, however, are still convinced that the Palestinians responded with violence to offers at Camp David that were as generous as could be. They remain so even after the Geneva Pact, drawn up by former Israeli minister Yossi Beilin and former Palestinian minister Yasser Abed Rabbo in October 2004 as a model of a possible accord, ¿granted¿ the Palestinians, point by point, basically everything that the Israelis had refused them three years earlier, reducing their so-called generosity of that time to more just proportions. But few people in Israel are as yet disposed to hear this truth. As for the Palestinians, who have reverted so abundantly to the failed recipes of terrorism, their repression and enclosure are increasing, and their young people are escalating the level of their political demands. The Role of Denial A major theme of this book is the fundamental role played by denial in Israeli-Palestinian relations. The term is to be understood in its accepted meaning: refusal to acknowledge the truth of a fact or assertion. In the Israeli-Palestinian context, denial is accompanied by the creation of a diabolical image of the other, denying his actual reality, and hence also by the creation of a self-image denying or distorting one¿s own history and actions¿all of this so as to confirm one¿s own position as righteous and a victim in all circumstances. With twelve chapters on the Israelis, two on the Palestinians, and two final chapters on both, this book will seem unbalanced. It is, first and foremost, a book on Israeli society. Having lived in Israel for twelve years and closely followed its development professionally, I know this society much better than the other. I know Hebrew, not Arabic. And yet, because denial is at the center of the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians, because the history and behavior of the one side can¿t be understood without an awareness of the influence of the other, and because the denial in which each side is enclosed is also sustained by being the object of denial on the part of the other, it was impossible to focus on Israel society without mentioning the Palestinians. The two peoples are mingled, physically and mentally. And never has this conflictual intertwining been so strong as it is today. Beyond the vicissitudes of politics, the construction of the wall of separation Israel is building inside the West Bank has never been interrupted. But the people being walled in are not only the ones we think and see. By enclosing the Palestinians behind a wall, with watchtowers and barbed wire, the Israelis are walling themselves into a dramatic impasse. ¿Any structure built on unawareness of the suffering of others is bound to come crashing down. Watch out: you are dancing on a roof that rests on tottering pillars,¿ Avraham Burg, former president of the Jewish Agency, the highest authority of the Zionist movement, said to his compatriots. Describing an evolution toward ¿an unrecognizable and hateful Jewish state,¿ he described a country tragically digging itself into a moral crisis.3 ¿We don¿t hear anything anymore,¿ he said shortly thereafter, painting a picture of an Israeli society immured in ¿unawareness¿ of the other.4 Though it refers to historians, this book is not a history of Israel or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Nor, though it refers to the works of sociologists, is it a work of sociology. Nor, finally, is it an eyewitness account, though it presents a number of personal recollections and symptomatic anecdotes, experienced first-hand or reported. It is a bit of all that: a journalist¿s observations in the service of a study of mentalities. For it bears on the way the dominant mentalities in Israel have been forged, the mind sets in which the society represents itself and represents the Palestinians, and on the major lines of force within it that lead to rejection of the other, to the unawareness Burg described, and the mind sets that lead to opening. For the greater the denial of the humanity of other, the greater the development of an antidote to this unawareness. Why and how have the Israelis come to wall in the Palestinians and wall themselves mentally, for the most part, in a political impasse legitimizing the daily oppression of an entire people? And how does the denial mounted by the Palestinians to the constitution by the Israelis of a national society strongly sustain the Palestinians¿ own behavior? These questions form the framework of this study. The book is divided into two parts in which past and present shed light on one another. The first part is more specifically concerned with the past and the ongoing relevance of the events that marked it¿in particular the creation of Israel and the concomitant expulsion of the Palestinians from their land in 1947-1950¿and with the implications on both sides of the concealment of these events. This part of the book aims to show how, when we refuse to face up to the past, we also deny the reality of the present. The second part deals with the changes that have come about since the other founding event of modern Israel identity, the Six Days¿ War in 1967; with the way in which certain initial tropisms of the Jewish national movement, Zionism, have reemerged with greatly increased power; and with the way in which certain other tendencies have been gradually marginalized. The aim here is to show how the immurement in the denial of reality is structuring the current relationship to the Palestinians and moving the entire society in a new direction. By now the historical center that shaped this society has disappeared, to the point where someone like Ariel Sharon, who was always the staunch enemy of the Palestinian national movement, seemed to be a centrist on the political map. A large majority of Israelis think they are protecting themselves from any introspective assessment by becoming fixed in what the writer David Grossman calls the cult of force.5 A minority fear that this process will lead the country toward disaster. Although there is certainly denial on both sides of the conflict, it is much more constitutive among the Israelis. To begin with, it does not occur in the same context. Politically and physically, the Palestinians are the dominated. Their land has been occupied for thirty-nine years in the territories, or they have been second-class citizens in Israel itself for fifty-nine years, not to mention those who are refugees in Arab countries. The Israelis are the dominators: they determine the entire political, legal, and social setting of the daily life they impose on the Palestinians. The denial of that reality, moreover, is most clear on the Israeli side, where there is a systematic effort to present the conflict in terms of two adversaries in a situation of parity. For the Palestinians, the refusal to accept the constitution of an Israeli nation-state, a refusal that, for many of them, existed from the beginning or has been revived, is tied to their initial despoliation. In other words, for the Palestinians the denial of the other is anchored in their own reality. For the Israelis the refusal to recognize the reality of a Palestinian people and the national character of their resistance is the result of another denial of reality, an even more constitutive one: they deny that they expelled the Palestinians and that they dominate them today by unworthy means. It is surely because denial is more obvious on the Israeli side that, for those who observe the terrible routine of the occupation, the tendency to stand at a distance from it is also more important there. For, in the movement toward the recognition of the other, the road is paradoxically harder for the Israelis. In terms of self-image, the price to be paid is higher. It is they, and not the Palestinians, who had to make the greater mental and political effort to sign the Oslo Accords. Nor did these accords come as a great surprise in Palestinian political circles. For years Arafat had been making speeches preparing Palestinian public opinion for the turning point of the recognition of Israel. There was nothing similar on the Israeli side. There, Oslo struck like a thunderbolt. No prime minister had prepared public opinion for such a radical turn of events. On the very eve of its recognition, the PLO was still considered by the Israelis to be a terrorist organization that would never be recognized. And we all remember that dramatic scene of the signing of the accords in front of the White House: Arafat overdoing it as usual, and opposite him a tense Itzhak Rabin, and Rabin¿s moment of pulling back before being pushed by Bill Clinton toward the man whom, up to that time, he had never called anything but the ¿terrorist-in-chief.¿ From the onset of the intifada the role played by denying the most obvious facts, hiding or minimizing them, and often simply being ignorant of them, all of this part of the way each side looks at itself and creates a false identity for the other, have seemed to me to be a central element in the fundamental attitudes of both peoples. We have only to leaf through the textbooks distributed to schoolchildren for fifty years to see how each side, in its own way, passes along a narrative corresponding to a self-representation that serves its national interests: on the Palestinian side an absolute victim, powerless and without responsibility for its own destiny in the face of colonial machination; on the Israeli side a people pure of hand and thirsting for peace, confronting an adversary that has no national identity but is an eternal aggressor. Though the general forms of the denial are occasionally similar, its nature and manifestations are not identical or equal. For the side historically vanquished, the Palestinians, it is often rougher, sometimes subtly or even overtly anti-Semitic. For the historical victors, the Israelis, the denial is more categorical, more sophisticated, but equally imbued with racism. To be sure, in what will soon be sixty years of existence, especially in the phase following the mutual recognition between Israel and the PLO, steps have been taken in the direction of a collective modification in the way each side views itself and the other. With regard to the actual events occurring during the war of independence of the Jewish state in 1948, more and more Israeli historians have been corroborating what Palestinian works of history have been claiming for a long time. In the non-religious school system in Israel the most extravagant claims have been deleted from textbooks. Among the Palestinians there have been efforts to take into account the magnitude of the Shoah in thinking about the birth of Israel. Since the 1980s the term Israeli had regularly replaced Jew in official Palestinian political discourse. Yet in situation of high tension, when the conflict floods the entire field of thought and feeling, or rather when feeling banishes rational thought, structural denials and the need to confirm one¿s own victim image quickly come to the once again. And the stronger the denial of the other and of one¿s own role in the situation imposed on one, the greater the tendency to exploit on one¿s own behalf the denial manifested by the adversary. And the greater, too, the tendency to violence toward him and the entangled, mutually exclusive feelings of vulnerability, omnipotence, and impunity. What can the Palestinians do in the face of the firepower of tanks and the Israeli air force? What can they do, cordoned off as they are, when the army razes their homes and orchards in order to ¿improve visibility¿? Most of them eventually conclude that the Israelis, and, to their minds, Jews in general, are inherently barbaric. What can the Israelis do in the face of determined terrorists when each foiled attack, each destroyed house, doubles the number of candidates for martyrdom, when each new civilian victim quadruples that number? Eradicate the infrastructure of terrorism, Israeli leaders and generals proclaim. Fine, replies Uri Avneri, the old politician of Gush Shalom (Peace Bloc). But then, he says, you have to admit that the infrastructure of terrorism is the occupation itself. The occupation is the terrain on which terrorism prospers, borne along by desire for liberation. A large majority of Israelis can¿t understand this yet, even if they are becoming more aware of it in a confused way. For most of them terrorism, especially since it appears overwhelmingly suicidal, can only be a phenomenon disconnected from reality and rooted in the insanity of the Palestinians¿ hatred for Israel and the Jews, or in Islam, or in both. The concealment of the reality constituted by the occupation of a people so as to preserve a self-image is the reason for the shifting back and forth between present and past in this book. Today¿s events can be understood only if we take into account the processes underlying the identity formation of these two peoples, and the memory of the past, evoked by the protagonists, has surged up powerfully at the present time. Since he came to power, hasn¿t Ariel Sharon announced his ambition to carry on the 1948 war because, he says, ¿it isn¿t over?¿6 Haven¿t many Palestinians denounced what they see as the treachery of anyone who tries to work out a solution that does not include a general return of the 1948 and 1967 refugees to their homes? The concealment or distortion of present-day facts, large or small, the denial of the suffering inflicted by the occupation on those who have endured it for thirty-nine years, like the denial of the reality of the Israelis¿ fundamental fears and the means necessary to circumvent these fears, can be understood only through an analysis of the long process that forged them, immuring both adversaries. Historically, the most brutal manifestation of this denial has been the simple non-recognition of the other party. Politically, at the outset the PLO did not recognize either the state of Israel or Israeli society as a national entity. It originally advocated the departure of Jews born abroad; later, until 1988, its watchword became a secular and democratic Palestine accepting the presence of Jews only as a religious community and denying them any national character. Then came Oslo: the Israelis existed as such. After Oslo failed ¿the Jews¿ have once again replaced ¿the Israelis¿ for most Palestinians. In a mirror image, Golda Meir, Israeli prime minister in the 1970s, summed up the entire historical relationship of the Zionist movement to the native-born Palestinians in her famous statement that the Palestinians did not exist as such but were simply Arabs. She said this in order to ward off fate at the very time when, having been engulfed by history, the Palestinians were reemerging as a people. Here too denial involved the existence of the other side¿s specific national identity. The first intifada followed. After Oslo, the Palestinians were said to exist. After Oslo failed, ¿the Arabs¿ have once again replaced ¿the Palestinians¿ for most Israelis. For a long time, and to a great extent even today, this non-recognition has been accompanied by a denial of the most elementary facts. Thus the Zionist movement said it bought the land of Israel in due form¿which, for 87 percent of the land, was a lie. The Palestinians, they claimed, fled voluntarily in 1948, and so Israel played no role in the refugee problem, which it was up to the Arab countries to solve. As for the PLO, minimized up to 1993 as a mere ¿terrorist organization,¿ its character as a national movement was denied. The first intifada (1987-1993), the so-called ¿stone-throwing revolt¿ of Palestinian youth on the West Bank and in Gaza, ended in the Oslo accords. Why did that peace process shatter? Why, in 2000, did the Jewish population of Israel adhere almost unanimously to the notion of ¿Israel¿s generosity¿ at Camp David in the face of ¿Arafat¿s unwillingness to make peace¿? Why did the failure of the process negotiated there immediately reactivate deep, existential fears on both sides, with each people convinced that the other was aiming to make it disappear? Why did the Israelis at first almost unanimously endorse the unprecedentedly brutal repression of the new Palestinian uprising and then of an entire population? Why, after several weeks, did the Palestinians opt for terrorism against civilians in Israel? Why were Palestinian leaders unable to present their own people, the Israelis, and the international community with a plan clearly stating their political objectives? Why did the Israeli left, traditionally pacifist, initially swing in favor of national unity? Why did the Israelis bring to power Ariel Sharon, the most discredited politician in their country, a man whose career was marked by a series of crimes? Why, on the other hand, did many Palestinians gradually tip over toward the political views of the Islamists? How did the idea of a new expulsion of the Palestinians from their country regain such legitimacy in Israel? And how have the young people of the second intifada once again rallied behind the idea of a final abolition of the Jewish state? The answers to these questions have to do with the way each side, using the logic in which it has immured itself, has fostered the other side¿s radicalism. But after years of hopes for peace the sudden reemergence of closed logics based on the delegitimization of the opponent, and the formidable power of these logics, can¿t be explained solely on the basis of prior events. Deeper movements are at work. During my stay in Israel I quickly observed that, magnified or concealed, the past fills the present. Two dates would immediately come to the lips of those I spoke to, Israelis and Palestinians, young and old, politicians, intellectuals, soldiers, and people from all walks of life: 1948 and 1967. The first of these years is that of the partition of the historically British mandated Palestine, the second that of the conquest of its territorial integrity by Israel. What was obvious to me time and again was not so much that mutually exclusive narratives were put forth, each of them aiming to justify its position¿¿We accepted the partitioning of the country, but the Palestinians refused it¿ on the one side, ¿The Israelis drove us out and have since refused to acknowledge their wrongdoings and leave us our freedom¿ on the other¿but instead the relationship of memory to the account of the events. This is a relationship in which a central role is played by the rewriting of history through partial, and partisan, truths and the concealment of facts. In contrast, some of the people I spoke with (very few in the initial phase of the conflict) rejected this rewriting. Unable to make their voices heard among the majority, they felt a kind of despair and pessimism regarding the destiny promised to their own people. Here too there was a clear difference between Israelis and Palestinians. Many in this small minority of Israelis chose the ¿exile in silence¿ that the Algerian Frenchman Albert Camus had adopted in 1956-1958. As Michael Ben Yair, former legal adviser to the Rabin government told me, ¿I wrote publicly that we had established an apartheid in the territories, that nothing is worse than the daily humiliation we make the Palestinians undergo, that our society is rotting from within from its wish to dominate another people by force. Now I keep quiet. There¿s no point in saying what people don¿t want to hear.¿7 On the Palestinian side the silence took another form. After four weeks of intifada the former Communist leader, the physician Mustafa Barghouti, told me this: In firing on us so intensely the Israeli Army is pushing us to armed reaction. This would be a major error. But Arafat will go in the direction of guerrilla warfare. What¿s preventing him from issuing a call to the people: next Friday a general strike, everyone out on the streets, not one weapon, not one stone in hand, everyone in Jerusalem? What would the Israelis do, fire on peaceful crowds? But Arafat won¿t do it. He¿s incapable of thinking in terms of popular mobilization. All he knows is armed struggle or secret diplomacy. And if the Palestinians were to demonstrate today, there would be thousands of ¿Down with the Occupation¿ banners but also some ¿Down with Arafat¿ ones. That¿s why he¿ll go in the direction of armed struggle.8 Would Dr. Barghouti say this in public? No, he explained to me: resistance to the oppressor prevailed over disagreements. At bottom the reality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is relatively simple to observe. On the one side, for thirty-nine years a state, Israel, recognized by the entire international community, has occupied a territory outside its 1967 borders. The consequences of this occupation, beginning with the colonization and annexation of East Jerusalem, have been regularly deemed illegal in international law. On the other side is a national movement, the PLO, which officially claims the establishment of a state in these same territories. As long as the occupation continues, no one can see how, by some miracle, a viable solution could come about. The end of the occupation might not bring the end of the conflict or of the spirit of conflict. But, without it, no future of coexistence is possible. The problem is that the overwhelming majority of Israelis do not feel like foreigners in these occupied territories, which, as they have been taught since kindergarten, form part of Eretz Yisrael, ¿their¿ biblical land. The Palestinians, for their part, do not consider Israel a foreign place; most of their parents or grandparents were forced to leave it, and their family memory is marked by that exile. But another element is even more basic to the predominant mentalities. It is the vividness of the ideological models in place when the two national movements were coming into existence and taking shape. Israel is the culmination of a national Jewish movement, Zionism, which emerged in Eastern Europe at the beginning of the last century. Beyond its colonial aspects (understood in the strict sense: the emigration of a population coming from elsewhere and the conquest of the land) as they were espoused at the time, Zionism, like other national movements (Polish, Ukrainian, Serbian, Croatian, etc.) that arose in the same area, was characterized from the outset by a profound ethnicism. It is steeped in the cult of ¿roots¿; of the relationship to the land; the privileging of cultural specificity; the equation of nation and religion; and national emancipation via separation from others, if necessary by their exclusion. Despite the ravages of ethnicism in the twentieth century, and despite the evolution of modern societies, in which hybridity is increasingly becoming the norm (a phenomenon that creates multiple new problems and is uniformly rejected by nationalist, populist, and extreme right-wing movements), Israeli society in its entirety has remained deeply imbued with an ethnocentrism that has become more intense during the occupation of the Palestinian territories. Covering a story in a small, disadvantaged town, Kiryat Malakhi, in 2003, I was struck by the sight of a map of ¿Eretz Yisrael,¿ the Land of Israel on the wall of a kindergarten room. It depicted no borders of the Jewish state, no Arab city of the occupied territories, but everything related to the ¿roots¿ of the Jewish people in those territories was there: the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, the walls of Jericho, the Temple in Jerusalem, and the so-called Tomb of Joseph in Sishem (Nablus). This kindergarten was part of the public school system, not part of the network of religious schools. Before 1967 this map would have been unthinkable. In thirty years the relationship to the ¿Land of Israel¿ has gradually replaced the relationship to the state in Israeli minds. Faced with the governmental heir to the Zionist tradition, Palestinian nationalism as represented by the PLO is a classic Arab anticolonialist movement in the manner of those created between 1930 and 1950. For Yasser Arafat¿s Fatah, its kingpin, the Algerian NLF (National Liberation Front) has been a special model. According to the Algerian historian Mohammed Harbi (2004), the ideology of the NLF was characterized by ¿an ethnocultural nationalism taking identity as a natural given and the people as an organic community¿ (p. 39).9 An outgrowth of the Palestinian exile, the PLO is steeped in this ¿ethnocultural¿ concept. Despite the disastrous failure of independence movements in the Arab world, all of which have lapsed into nepotism and negligence, despite the door largely left open to Islamism by the failure of these regimes, and despite the terrible damage later wrought on its own people by the blind violence implemented by the NLF in order to get rid of the French occupier, the PLO remained stuck in its models. In the so-called freed territories stingily allotted to it by Israel after Oslo, it established a pathetic ¿power¿ modeled on the failed ethnocultural nationalist regimes of the Arab world, similarly leaving the door wide open to Islamism. Before marrying a Christian Palestinian woman, Arafat asked her to convert to Islam. From this point of view, beyond the domination of one side by the other, which remains the heart of the problem, what we also see in Israel/Palestine is the confrontation between two national movements, the first of which is a hundred years late on the level of political mentality, the second fifty years. In different ways, but equally deeply, both are marked by a fundamental ethnicism. Each of the two sides, though acutely aware of the inevitable presence of the other, basically wishes it would disappear. In the brief period of rapprochement after Oslo, this wish was partially consigned to oblivion, both side knowing how unrealistic it is. It has reemerged, stronger than ever, with the intifada, reshaping the mentalities of the two societies. In 2002, on a soundproofing wall along the Tel Aviv-Haifa highway, an advocate of a new general expulsion of the Palestinians wrote in large letters: ¿No more Arabs, no more attacks.¿ Mocking the absurdity of the wish for the disappearance of the other, an Israeli pacifist added: ¿No more Jews, no more victims¿ of attacks. Israel Real, Israel Disembodied: The Journalist, Honesty, and Emotions A study like this can only be written with the acknowledgment that its own reflections, too, are subject to deep emotions. I investigated Camp David and covered the recent intifada, from both sides, during its first thirty months. I did so as honestly as possible: honesty in the gathering of facts and the need to determine their degree of significance seem to me to be cardinal virtues of the journalist¿s profession, in contrast to objectivity, a subjective term prized by those who in fact judge it by the yardstick of their own convictions. Yet I never covered the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with the same eye, the same ear, as in other situations, and this for two reasons. First, raised in a family that counted as its most important concerns the Shoah10 and Zionism, I lived in Israel for twelve years during the 1960s and 1970s. I studied there and served in the army. I worked, got married, and raised children there. I was politically active on the extreme left. I have family there and many friends, including some of my dearest ones. I also know many Palestinians, some of whom I also count as friends. For twenty-five years I have visited Israel frequently for professional or private purposes. In short, when I¿m there I feel more at home there than anywhere else, and the conflict unfolding there is closer to me than any other. The second reason is that no other conflict in the world arouses such passionate interest, sometimes sincere, sometimes sickening, and not only among those who, as Jews, Arabs, or Muslims, feel personally concerned. Though many other wars are by far more devastating, especially for civilians, as in Chechnya or various places in Africa, none has had such an emotional charge in terms of identification with one or the other side, and none has led to such hidden blindness, deafness, anathemas, tensions, and inner unrest. Nor has any led to such distortions, exaggerations, half-truths, and concealment of facts despite the exceptional extent of academic research and media coverage. There is no journalist discussing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in France who has not found the amount of mail from readers on this subject to be disproportionate in comparison with mail on other burning issues of the day. These letters are rarely calm discussions; as a rule, when they are not filled with insults and threats, they denounce what they see as the disinformation perpetrated by the newspaper or the journalist. The same is true of the partisan spirit in which Le Monde is regularly accused of being Zionist by one side, anti-Semitic by the other. Given my background, it would have been surprising if, despite my efforts at honesty and professional discipline, I were not myself affected by the passion this conflict generates. But affected does not mean infected. A journalist¿s duty is not to an illusory ¿balanced treatment¿ but to the honest collection of facts and their placement in their local and historical context in the face of denials and concealments on the part of those for whom emotion prevails over any other consideration, and for whom the representation of events in the media will always count more than their reality. This duty is what gradually gave rise to this book. I have always been struck by the fact that, admired or condemned, Israel and its society have often been spoken of in the outside world in a disembodied, monolithic way. Stereotyped imagery is not unique to Israelis, but in their case it reaches proportions rarely found elsewhere. For facile imagery, whether positive (¿the only democracy in the Middle East¿) or negative (¿the colonizers¿), masks more complex realities. The 1990s had begun to open up a field of observation more attentive to the diversity and contradictions of this society. Outside Israel the resumption of armed conflict in 2000, focusing all attention solely on the political and military aspects, has led to an even more powerful recrudescence of the stereotypes promoted by distance. Since that time some people have been unable to speak of the Israelis except in terms of global denunciation. Others, mobilized in Israel¿s defense, can no longer hear the slightest criticism. For both foes and admirers, an imaginary country, one in which the way one portrays it to oneself replaces the realities, has taken over the domain of reflection. Some of my Israeli friends, too, obsessed with what they see as the other side¿s monstrousness, have become resistant to any criticism. But in general it is by far easier to discuss Israel, its politics, its lapses, and its crimes with many Israelis without fear of ostracism, than with many dyed-in-the-wool intellectuals, French or American, ready to decry in the strongest terms any thought considered dissident. These intellectuals are referring to an imaginary Israel that most Israelis themselves know does not exist. All one has to do is read the Hebrew daily press¿which is no paragon of honesty but remains a source of an important diversity of information¿to see how ridiculous it is to view this country with monolithic adulation. The corollary of the fixation of Israel in a negative imaginary form is the propensity to ¿Sharonize¿ all Israelis collectively as monsters. The inverse corollary is the positive notion of the fundamental purity of all Israelis, including Sharon, his supporters, and his successors. The admirers of Israel abroad conceal or minimize a number of disturbing phenomena: the emergence of a racism spreading so deeply that it is not even perceived as such, the powerful rise of mystical religiosity and superstitions, the legitimization of the idea that the Arabs should be thrown out once and for all, the daily implementation of means of repression contrary to law and morality, the upsurge in internal social violence, and the like. Yet these phenomena are taken for granted by many Israelis and reviled by others, who, Israelis themselves, are not scary anti-Semites. Politicians, officers, professors, artists, journalists, young people: these are the voices that will be heard in this book. I happen to be a Jew, and not one of those who have only recently discovered their Jewishness. In insulting letters I receive, or on the Internet sites specializing in hunting down ¿disinformation,¿ where I am sometimes a target, it is generally another formula that is used to characterize me: I am subject to ¿self-hatred.¿ This view comes from people who, mired in denial, tend for example to mobilize all their energy to ¿demonstrate¿ that the child Mohammed Al-Doura was not killed by the Israeli Army on the third day of the intifada but are otherwise indifferent or inclined to justify the deaths of hundreds of other Palestinian children who have been killed since then. Those who condemn this alleged self-hatred are usually the same people who find nothing to reproach in the most reprehensible acts committed by their own side. Understood in this sense, and not in its Sartrean meaning, ¿self-hatred¿ as used today in communitarian Jewish circles is ultimately just the banal equivalent of the epithets ¿bad Frenchman¿ or ¿un-American¿ uttered by other people in other circumstances. Behind this accusation we see the aggressive refusal to take the least critical look at oneself. People who are able to take a critical distance from themselves have always seemed to me to be more worthwhile and less dangerous than those who are convinced they have no faults or present themselves that way. And if being moved by the deprivation of freedom and dignity imposed by Israel on the Palestinian people for so long means being ¿a Palestinian-loving Jew,¿ in the disgusted reproach of a letter I received, I am quite willing to plead guilty,11 even though, since we are in the realm of the emotions, the fate of the Jews is of more personal concern to me. ¿The main question,¿ Admiral Ami Ayalon, former head of Shin Bet, told me, ¿is what are we making of ourselves, what do we want to make of ourselves?¿12 As the historian Nazmi El-Jubeh, a former official of the Palestinian Popular Liberation Front, replied in an echo, this question ¿also applies to the Palestinians.¿13 Part I: Memories, Self-Images, Images of the Other
Library of Congress Subject Headings for this publication:
Palestinian Arabs -- Government policy -- Israel.
Israel -- Politics and government.