Environmentalists Against War
Home | Say NO! To War | Action! | Information | Media Center | Who We Are

 

 

The Vocabulary of Annexation & The Definition of an Apartheid State


April 29, 2014
Uri Avnery / Information Clearinghouse & AntiWar.com & The Daily Beast

The secretary of state said that if Israel doesn't make peace soon, it could become 'an apartheid state,' like the old South Africa. Jewish leaders are fuming over the comparison. Meanwhile, Uri Avnery writes, "In Israeli politics, the word "peace" has become poison." Far-right members of the Israeli cabinet are stepping up calls for the immediate annexation of major portions of the occupied West Bank .

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article38335.htm

In Israeli Politics, The Word
"Peace" Has Become Poison

Uri Avnery / Information Clearinghouse

(April 25, 2014) -- Imagine a war breaking out between Israel and Jordan. Within two or three days the Israeli army occupies the entire territory of the Hashemite Kingdom. What will be the first act of the occupation authority?

Establish a settlement in Petra? Expropriate land near Aqaba?

No. The very first thing will be to decree that the territory will henceforth be known as "Gilead and Moab."

All the media will be ordered to use the biblical name. All government and court documents will adopt it. Except for the radical Left, nobody will mention Jordan anymore. All applications by the inhabitants will be addressed to the Military Government of Gilead and Moab.

Why? Becuase annexation starts with words.

Words convey ideas. Words implant concepts in the minds of their hearers and speakers. Once they are firmly established, everything else follows.

The writers of the Bible already knew this. They taught: "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof." (Proverbs 18:21). For how many years now have we been eating the fruit of "Judea and Samaria"?

When Vladimir Putin last week restored the old name of "New Russia" to the territory of East Ukraine, it was not just a semantic change. It was a claim for annexation, more powerful than a salvo of cannon shots.

Recently, I listened to a speech by a left-wing politician, and was disturbed when she spoke at length about her struggle for a "political settlement" with the Palestinians.

When I remonstrated with her, she apologized. It was a slip of the tongue. She had not meant it that way.

In Israeli politics, the word "peace" has become poison. "Political settlement" is the vogue term. It is meant to say the same. But of course, it doesn't.

"Peace" means much more than the formal end of warfare. It contains elements of reconciliation, of something spiritual. In Hebrew and Arabic, Shalom/Salaam include wellbeing, safety and serve as greetings. "Political settlement" means nothing but a document formulated by lawyers and signed by politicians.

The "Peace of Westphalia" put an end to 30 years of war and changed the life of Europe. One may wonder whether a "Political Settlement of Westphalia" would have had the same effect.

The Bible enjoins us: "Seek peace and pursue it!" (Psalms, 34:14) It does not say "Seek a political settlement and pursue it."

When the Israeli Left gives up the term, Peace, this is not a tactical retreat. It is a rout. Peace is a vision, a political ideal, a religious commandment, an inspiring idea. Political Settlement is a subject for discussion.

Peace is not the only victim of semantic terrorism. Another is, of course, the West Bank.

All TV channels have long ago been ordered by the government not to use this term. Most journalists in the written media also march in step. They call it "Judea and Samaria".

"Judea and Samaria" means that the territory belongs to Israel, even if official annexation may be delayed for political reasons. "West Bank" means that this is occupied territory.

By itself, there is nothing sacred about the term "West Bank", which was adopted by the Jordanian ruler when he illegally incorporated the area in his newly extended kingdom. This was done in secret collusion with David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first Prime Minister, who wanted to erase the name "Palestine" from the map. The legal basis was a phony conference of Palestinian "notables" in Jericho.

King Abdallah of Jordan divided his fief into the East Bank (of the Jordan river) and the West Bank.

So why do we insist on using this term? Because it means that this is not a part of Israel, but Arab land that will belong -- like the Gaza Strip -- to the State of Palestine when peace (sorry, a Political Settlement) is achieved.

Until now, the semantic battle remains undecided. Most Israelis talk about the "West Bank." "Judea and Samaria" has remained, in common parlance, the realm of the settlers. The settlers, of course, are the subject of a similar semantic battle.

In Hebrew, there are two terms: Mitnahalim and Mityashvim. They essentially mean the same. But in common usage, people use Mitnahalim when they mean the settlers in the occupied territories, and Mityashvim when they speak about settlers in Israel proper.

The battle between these two words goes on daily. It is a fight for or against the legitimacy of the settlement beyond the Green Line. Up to now, our side seems to have the upper hand. The distinction remains intact. If someone uses the term Mityashvim, they are automatically identified with the political Right.

The Green Line itself is, of course, the leftist concept. It makes a clear distinction between Israel proper and the occupied territories. The color comes from the fact that this border -- actually the 1949 armistice line -- was always marked on the maps in green. Until.

Until the (left-wing) Minister of Labor, Yigal Alon, decreed that henceforth the Green Line would no longer be marked on any map. Under an old law dating back to the British Mandate, the government owns the copyright for all maps printed in the country, and the Minister of Labor was in charge.

This remained so until Gush Shalom sued the government in the Supreme Court. Our argument was that since on the two sides of this line different laws apply, the citizens must have a map that shows them what law they have to obey at a given place. The ministry gave in and promised the court that it would print maps with the Green Line marked.

For lack of an alternative, all Israelis use the term "Green Line". Since Rightists do not recognize this line at all, they have not invented an alternative word. For some time they tried the term "Seam-Line", but this did not catch on.

A line between what? At the beginning of the occupation, the question arose what to call the areas just conquered.

We of the peace camp called them, of course, "occupied territories". The Right called them "liberated territories" and floated the slogan "Liberated territories will not be returned," a catchy rhyme in Hebrew. The government called them "administered territories" and later "disputed territories."

The general public just settled for "the territories" -- and that is the term used nowadays by everybody who has no interest in stressing his or her political conviction every time these areas are mentioned.

This raises the question about the Wall.

When the government decided to create a physical obstacle between Israel and the Occupied Territories -- partly for expansion, partly for genuine security reasons -- a name was needed. It is built mainly on occupied land, annexing in practice large areas. It is a fence in open areas, a wall in built-up ones. So we simply called it "the Wall" or "the Fence", and started weekly demonstrations.

The "Wall/Fence" became odious around the world. So the army looked around for a term that sounded non-ideological and chose "separation obstacle". However, this term now appears only in official documents.

With whom are we negotiating about the Political Settlement? Ah, there is the rub.

For generations, the Zionist movement and the State of Israel denied the very existence of a Palestinian people. In the 1993 Oslo Agreement, this idiotic pretense was dropped and we recognized the PLO as the "representative of the Palestinian people". But the Palestinian state was not mentioned, and until this very day our government abhors the terms "Palestinian state" or "State of Palestine."

Even today the term "Palestinians" evokes conscious or unconscious rejection. Most commentators speak about a political settlement with "our neighbors" -- by which they do not mean the Egyptians, Jordanians, Syrians or Lebanese, but You Know Who.

In Oslo, the PLO negotiators strenuously insisted that their new state-in-the-making should be called the "Palestinian National Authority." The Israeli side vehemently objected to the word "National." So the agreement (actually a "Statement of Principles") calls it the "Palestinian Authority" and the Palestinians themselves call it the "Palestinian National Authority." Palestinians who need urgent medical treatment in Israeli hospitals are turned back if they bring financial documents signed by the "Palestinian National Authority."

So the fight goes on along the semantic front. For me, the really crucial part is the fight for the word Peace. We must reinstate it as the central word in our vocabulary. Clearly, loudly, proudly.

As the hymn of the peace movement (written by Yankele Rotblit as an appeal by the fallen soldiers to the living) says:
"Therefore, sing a song to peace
Don't whisper a prayer
Sing a song to peace
In a loud shout!"


Uri Avnery is an Israeli author and activist. www.avnery-news.co.il





Israeli Ministers Call for West Bank
Annexation to Spite Palestinians

Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com

(April 27, 2014) -- Building off the momentum against the peace process since the Palestinian unity government formed, far-right members of the Israeli cabinet are stepping up calls for the immediate annexation of major portions of the occupied West Bank as a retaliatory move.

The calls are coming, predictably, from the same cabinet ministers who were opposed to the peace talks in the first place, Communications Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud Party) sought the annexation of the "Area C" portion as a chance to declare to the world that the major settlements within will always be part of Israel.

Finance Minister Naftali Bennett, the leader of the Jewish Home party, sought to go a step farther, demanding the annexation of the entire 60 percent of the West Bank that is outside of the direct control of the Palestinian Authority.

Bennett also argued that Israel should grant limited citizenship to the Palestinians swept up in the annexation, saying that being a minority in Israel was the best the Palestinians could hope for, and that those living under occupation "already have the best life in the entire Arab world."


Kerry Warns Israel
Could Become 'An Apartheid State'

The Daily Beast

(April 27, 2014) -- The secretary of state said that if Israel doesn't make peace soon, it could become 'an apartheid state,' like the old South Africa. Jewish leaders are fuming over the comparison.

If there's no two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict soon, Israel risks becoming "an apartheid state," Secretary of State John Kerry told a room of influential world leaders in a closed-door meeting Friday.

Senior American officials have rarely, if ever, used the term "apartheid" in reference to Israel, and President Obama has previously rejected the idea that the word should apply to the Jewish state. Kerry's use of the loaded term is already rankling Jewish leaders in America -- and it could attract unwanted attention in Israel, as well.

It wasn't the only controversial comment on the Middle East that Kerry made during his remarks to the Trilateral Commission, a recording of which was obtained by The Daily Beast. Kerry also repeated his warning that a failure of Middle East peace talks could lead to a resumption of Palestinian violence against Israeli citizens.

He suggested that a change in either the Israeli or Palestinian leadership could make achieving a peace deal more feasible. He lashed out against Israeli settlement-building. And Kerry said that both Israeli and Palestinian leaders share the blame for the current impasse in the talks.

Kerry also said that at some point, he might unveil his own peace deal and tell both sides to "take it or leave it."

"A two-state solution will be clearly underscored as the only real alternative. Because a unitary state winds up either being an apartheid state with second-class citizens -- or it ends up being a state that destroys the capacity of Israel to be a Jewish state," Kerry told the group of senior officials and experts from the US, Western Europe, Russia, and Japan.

"Once you put that frame in your mind, that reality, which is the bottom line, you understand how imperative it is to get to the two-state solution, which both leaders, even yesterday, said they remain deeply committed to."

According to the 1998 Rome Statute, the "crime of apartheid" is defined as "inhumane acts… committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime." The term is most often used in reference to the system of racial segregation and oppression that governed South Africa from 1948 until 1994.

Former president Jimmy Carter came under fire in 2007 for titling his book on Middle East peace Palestine: Peace or Apartheid. Carter has said publicly that his views on Israeli treatment of the Palestinians are a main cause of his poor relationship with President Obama and his lack of current communication with the White House. But Carter explained after publishing the book that he was referring to apartheid-type policies in the West Bank, not Israel proper, and he was not accusing Israel of institutionalized racism.

"Apartheid is a word that is an accurate description of what has been going on in the West Bank, and it's based on the desire or avarice of a minority of Israelis for Palestinian land," Carter said.
Leading experts, including Richard Goldstone, a former justice of the South African Constitutional Court who led the United Nations fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict of 2008 and 2009, have argued that comparisons between the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians and "apartheid" are offensive and wrong.

"One particularly pernicious and enduring canard that is surfacing again is that Israel pursues 'apartheid' policies," Goldstone wrote in The New York Times in 2011. "It is an unfair and inaccurate slander against Israel, calculated to retard rather than advance peace negotiations."

In a 2008 interview with Jeffrey Goldberg, then-Sen. Barack Obama shot down the notion that the word "apartheid" was acceptable in a discussion about Israel's treatment of the Palestinians:

"There's no doubt that Israel and the Palestinians have tough issues to work out to get to the goal of two states living side by side in peace and security, but injecting a term like apartheid into the discussion doesn't advance that goal," Obama said. "It's emotionally loaded, historically inaccurate, and it's not what I believe."

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told The Daily Beast that Kerry was simply repeating his view, shared by others, that a two-state solution is the only way for Israel to remain a Jewish state in peace with the Palestinians.

"Secretary Kerry, like Justice Minister Livni, and previous Israeli Prime Ministers Olmert and Barak, was reiterating why there's no such thing as a one-state solution if you believe, as he does, in the principle of a Jewish State. He was talking about the kind of future Israel wants and the kind of future both Israelis and Palestinians would want to envision," she said.

"The only way to have two nations and two peoples living side by side in peace and security is through a two-state solution. And without a two-state solution, the level of prosperity and security the Israeli and Palestinian people deserve isn't possible."

But leaders of pro-Israel organizations told The Daily Beast that Kerry's reference to "apartheid" was appalling and inappropriately alarmist because of its racial connotations and historical context.

"One particularly pernicious and enduring canard that is surfacing again is that Israel pursues 'apartheid' policies," Goldstone wrote in The New York Times in 2011. "It is an unfair and inaccurate slander against Israel, calculated to retard rather than advance peace negotiations."

Yet Israel's leaders have employed the term, as well. In 2010, for example, former Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak used language very similar to Kerry's. "As long as in this territory west of the Jordan River there is only one political entity called Israel it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic," Barak said. "If this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state."

"While we've heard Secretary Kerry express his understandable fears about alternative prospects for Israel to a two-state deal and we understand the stakes involved in reaching that deal, the use of the word 'apartheid' is not helpful at all. It takes the discussion to an entirely different dimension," said David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, an organization that has been supportive of Kerry's peace process initiative. "In trying to make his point, Kerry reaches into diplomatic vocabulary to raise the stakes, but in doing so he invokes notions that have no place in the discussion."

Kerry has used dire warnings twice in the past to paint a picture of doom for Israel if the current peace process fails. Last November, Kerry warned of a third intifada of Palestinian violence and increased isolation of Israel if the peace process failed. In March, Democrats and Republican alike criticized Kerry for suggesting that if peace talks fail, it would bolster the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

"It's in the Palestinian playbook to tie Israel to these extreme notions of time being on the Palestinian side, that demographics are on the Palestinian side, and that Israel has to confront notions of the Jewishness of the state," Harris said.

Kerry on Friday repeated his warning that a dissolution of the peace process might lead to more Palestinian violence. "People grow so frustrated with their lot in life that they begin to take other choices and go to dark places they've been before, which forces confrontation," he said.

The secretary of state also implied, but did not say outright, that if the governments of Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu or Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas left power, there could be a change in the prospects for peace. If "there is a change of government or a change of heart," Kerry said, "something will happen."

Kerry criticized Israeli settlement construction as being unhelpful to the peace process and he also criticized Palestinian leaders for making statements that declined to recognize the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state.

"There is a fundamental confrontation and it is over settlements. Fourteen thousand new settlement units announced since we began negotiations. It's very difficult for any leader to deal under that cloud," Kerry said.

He acknowledged that the formal negotiating process that he initiated and led since last summer may soon stop. But he maintained that his efforts to push for a final settlement will continue in one form or another.

"The reports of the demise of the peace process have consistently been misunderstood and misreported. And even we are now getting to the moment of obvious confrontation and hiatus, but I would far from declare it dead," Kerry said. "You would say this thing is going to hell in a handbasket, and who knows, it might at some point, but I don't think it is right now, yet."

Kerry gave both Israeli and Palestinian leaders credit for sticking with the peace process for this long. But he added that both sides were to blame for the current impasse in the talks; neither leader was ready to make the tough decisions necessary for achieving peace.

"There's a period here where there needs to be some regrouping. I don't think it's unhealthy for both of them to have to stare over the abyss and understand where the real tensions are and what the real critical decisions are that have to be made," he said. "Neither party is quite ready to make it at this point in time. That doesn't mean they don't have to make these decisions."

Kerry said that he was considering, at some point, publicly laying out a comprehensive US plan for a final agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, in a last-ditch effort to forge a deal before the Obama administration leaves office in 2017.

"We have enough time to do any number of things, including the potential at some point in time that we will just put something out there. 'Here it is, folks. This is what it looks like. Take it or leave it,'" Kerry said.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

back

 

 

Stay Connected
Sign up to receive our weekly updates. We promise not to sell, trade or give away your email address.
Email Address:
Full Name:
 

 

Search Environmentalists Against War website

 

Home | Say NO! To War | Action! | Information | Media Center | Who We Are