Some readers may have noticed that over time my posts on Israel/Palestine have become increasingly infrequent. That relative quietude reflects not indifference but despair. I’ve come to conclude that this is one of the many instances in which, contra Martin Luther King, the arc of history doesn’t bend inexorably toward justice; it just breaks, or gets broken.
I simply don’t see any prospect for a just resolution of the historic conflict over Palestine. A just solution would require powerful pressure on the stronger side—Israel—to give up what it has taken from the weaker side. There is no place from which that pressure is forthcoming. Despite cracks in the Israel-can-do-no-wrong consensus in the United States, the Biden administration shows no interest in seriously departing from that consensus. (The administration has moved to quash UN reaction to Israel’s most recent outrages in Jerusalem.) The Arab states have largely abandoned the Palestinians in their strategic embrace of Israel. Despite occasional lip service to the cause of peace and justice in Palestine, most of the rest of the world is indifferent.
Still, I think it’s important to remind ourselves occasionally of the basic reality of what is happening in Palestine. Israel is intent on maintaining an oppressive Apartheid state on the West Bank while continuing to dispossess its inhabitants. No, Israel is not the worst violator of human rights in the world today. Israel’s apologists always complain that her critics pick on her unfairly: Look at what the Chinese are doing to their Muslim minority! Look at Myanmar! Look at Syria! Or Ethiopia! But none of these other oppressive regimes enjoys the unstinting diplomatic protection of the United States, not to mention massive military aid.
These ruminations are of course prompted by current events. The anodyne lead headline in today’s NY Times is “Violence Erupts between Israelis and Palestinians.” A close reading of the article that follows reveals that the violence, as usual, was very one-sided: by far most of the victims were Palestinians. But you need to consult alternative news sources, like the dissident Israeli website +972, or Juan Cole’s Informed Comment, to understand that the main perpetrators and escalators of the violence were the Israeli police, with the Israeli government behind them.
Palestinian protests against the latest Israeli move in the ethnic cleansing of Arab East Jerusalem were met by heavy-handed police repression, which sent protesters seeking sanctuary in the Al Aksa Mosque. The Mosque’s status as one of the three holiest sites in the Muslim world didn’t deter police from entering the Mosque compound, and even the Mosque itself, during Ramadan, shooting rubber bullets and throwing stun grenades and flash bombs. Over 300 of the occupants were injured; most of them were hospitalized. After all, who cares about the “symbolism of armed policemen running over prayer rugs and attacking worshippers in one of Islam’s holiest sites, and during its holiest month”? The justification for the onslaught? People inside the complex were throwing rocks. (Arabs are notoriously adept at throwing rocks great distances.)
+ 972’s Haggai Matar ends his report on a note of hopefulness:
The escalating violence is a reminder that we cannot give up the fight against occupation and apartheid, and that replacing Netanyahu with another right winger will not solve the core issues that affect every aspect of our lives in this land. This is a terrible trap to be in, but it is the trap of Israel’s colonial reality. There is no other way forward apart from a struggle for equality and freedom for all the inhabitants of this land. It is nothing less than a struggle for life itself.”
I wish I could be that hopeful, but as far as I can see, the trap is tightly shut.