Workers' Liberty #68


Mutual respect or religious war

Israeli socialist Michel Warshawski writes an open letter to a friend in Israel's mainstream peace movement.

It has been seven years exactly since I wrote my last letter to you. It was the day after the signing of the Oslo Accords, when you invited me to dance with you in Menorah Square, celebrating an Israeli-Palestinian peace that had not yet acquired the suffix 'process.' Permit me to quote for you a few passages from that old letter:

'You danced in the square because you were happy about this peace. Not just plain peace, but a blend of peace, security, Palestinian chest-beating over sins committed (renunciation of terrorism), and far-reaching concessions by the other side. A peace that you can be proud of. A peace - so you boast - for which we are giving nothing ('Just a tiny bit,' whispers the prime minister) and gaining much: recognition, greater security, a halt to the Intifada, renunciation of terrorism, being relieved of the Arabs, and more. You are happy about this peace, and in its honor you invite me to dance with you. No thank you....

'Ever since I've known you, fifteen years already, you have struggled for peace, not as a value in itself but as a means of assuring us, the Israelis, of security. You are in favor of withdrawal from the Occupied Territories in order to assure Israel a Jewish majority; you demonstrated against Sharon because you were concerned for the soul of the Jewish youth; and you agreed to talk with the PLO lest we be compelled to talk with Hamas. I, by contrast, see peace as an end and not merely as a means, and call for getting out of the Occupied Territories because we have nothing to be there for, even if the occupation did not cost us even one victim or one cent; and I am against shooting children - and adults - simply because it is forbidden to shoot children or ordinary civilians.

'So what could be better for you than this peace? You got rid of Gaza, you separated Israelis from Palestinians, you gave them the dirty work and you didn't even promise withdrawal or a real state. Could peace possible be bought more cheaply? To you the Israeli- Palestinian connection was always a zero-sum game: anything we give them means less for us. He gains, I lose. If you were capable of really thinking in terms of peace, you would understand how far wrong you are: the more rights the Palestinian receive - more independence, more pride - the more we too profit. The more stingy we are, the more we lose....

'Nevertheless, the two of us are now committed to the same campaign: to bring about the full implementation of the Oslo agreement, in hopes that the new arrangements will prepare the ground for a true peace between Israel and the Palestinians. 'In hopes,' I say, because unlike you I do not rely on 'historical necessity' nor on Yitzhak Rabin and his government....Regarding Rabin and his government, you will agree with me that the burden of proof rests on not on my shoulders but on yours....'

Since the writing of these lines you celebrated the peace and you became fat and prosperous. The repeated and varied violations of the agreements did not move you, not to speak of any change in our culture of war and occupation, the arrogant tone of those negotiating in our name and their attempts to demand more and more in exchange for less and less. And why should this move you? You got what you wanted - separation, security, economic prosperity for the members of your class, validation from the international community and the ability to look at yourself in the mirror again with a feeling a satisfaction and self-righteousness - and for a dime. The orders of the day were orders of reconciliation with the settlers, and you endeavored to explain to whatever Palestinian friends you still had that if they want peace they had better take into account the requirements of internal Israeli reconciliation. Otherwise they will receive nothing except another disaster on their people as happened in 1948, etc. You did not demand sincere negotiations with the Palestinians and went along with the salami system, and when we told you that this will not work and that a war will surely break out again, you answered: 'If they want, they'll get, and if not that's their problem.' Because for you a war of conquest is preferable to a civil war.

'After all the dancing and rounds of applause for the architects of the agreement, are you prepared, along with me, to take to the streets in order to make sure that the prime minister does not get cold feet again, but does everything he can to get the agreement implemented? As one who is not obligated by Arafat's signature, are you prepared to demand that the issue of the settlements be dealt with starting now since, perhaps unlike Arafat you and I know that there is no possibility of advancement without immediately dealing with the settlements. Are you prepared, along with us, to demand more freedom and more rights for the residents of the West Bank, even if this isn't written in the agreement - out of concern for their human rights, or perhaps just because this too is a condition for advancement? Will you join us in demanding the release of the masses of political prisoners, or will you say, like Rabin, 'You didn't ask, we didn't promise, now it's too late.'

'I fear that again it will be just us - my friends and I - alone in this campaign, and that the entire job of making sure this agreement - - which is far from satisfying to us - gets implemented, will fall on us as well.' And that's the way it really was. In your eyes we were again dreamy leftists or worse, warmongers, enemies of peace. 'You demand even more than Arafat;' 'Let the government conduct the negotiations;' as well as 'We have to consider the right- wing voters.' For all your listening to our dear brothers and sisters in the settlements of Ofra and Tapuah, you stopped hearing the voices coming from Gaza and Nablus, from Dura and Kalkiliya. And, indeed, why listen to them? In peace as in war you determine what is good for us and what the reasonable borders are in a future agreement. In all your colonial arrogance you determine as well the Palestinians' text in the script of peace. Since 1993 you and your friends have been enjoying the fruits of peace, and the Palestinians await the fulfillment of your promises of withdrawal, of independence, of sovereignty, of freedom. They wait under an occupation, they wait under closure, and you celebrate and eat the fruits of peace. How long did you think that could last?

And lo and behold, to your surprise, they're not reciting the lines you wrote for them but their own script, and it is spoiling your show. The truth is that the Palestinians, and not only the Left and the Islamic Movements, but also the official spokespeople, never hid for a moment their red lines and their conditions. But, as I've said, you didn't see any need to listen because, after all, you are the exclusive director of the peace show.

You are angry today, you are boiling with rage: Why demonstrations all of a sudden? Why the sudden demands for sovereignty over Jerusalem? Why the demand to evacuate all the settlements? What is all this hate against the army, Barak, the Israeli peace camp? Who gave those Palestinians the right to depart from the script and recite a different text? What ingratitude, after all you were willing to give them, after seven years of peace happenings funded by the European countries!

Once more you tell them 'don't come looking for me.' Don't come looking for me because I've returned to the bosom of the consensus in order to defend my people and my homeland. The truth is that you haven't returned to any consensus because you never left it. You have never stopped working for national reconciliation with the worst enemies of peace. And by the way, as regards this reconciliation effort in which you became so prominent after Rabin's assassination, the Right understood very quickly that not only that you have no ideological backbone or morals, but to what degree you are a sucker. Like every extortionist in cheap detective films, the Right understandthat cowards like you can be extorted endlessly. As much as you were ready tpay to avoida civil war, the Right demanded more: from East Jerusalem you came down to Abu Dis, from Abu Dis to Hizma, from Hisma to Beitunia. Today you are ready to die for Psagot and Netzarim. Excuse me, not to die, to murder for brothers and sisters who settled in the heart of Gaza for the sole purpose to frustrate any possibility for peace.

The other day in a meeting in Jerusalem, one of your comrades from Meretz, from among the best and most honest of them, said: 'I am confused.' In light of the lack of confusion from you and most of your friends, I wanted to compliment him on his confusion. But I remembered the pictures I saw that day on television, the same media that is hostile to human rights, to intellectual honesty and to journalistic ethics, and I refused to be lenient with him, to be understanding towards his confusion. What is there to be confused about? A conquering army is using tanks and helicopter gunships to disperse demonstrations. What is so hard to understand here?

Seven years of deception and violations of agreements, and the Palestinians rise up. What is so hard to grasp? Barak threatens to impose Jewish sovereignty on the Haram/Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and they refuse to accept it as a permanent solution. What is so hard to understand? There is no place for confusion. There is an occupation and there is a struggle against the occupation. There are demonstrators and there is an army that has received orders to shed their blood. And don't come to me with the story of the rifles. Your glorious war record qualifies you to understand what even CNN reporters understand, that those rifles do not endanger either Israel or the soldiers if they don't get too close. They don't even endanger the occupation, since the means of control that have been developed under the guise of the peace process permit Israel to fully control the Occupied Territories 'without the Supreme Court and with B'tselem,' but also without a massive military presence. 'Bloodletting' was part of the contingency plans that the army prepared in the event that the Palestinians declare independence unilaterally, long before Sharon's provocation, and every child can see that the IDF was prepared in advance to spill blood. Your confusion, my dear friend, is artificial, because if it wasn't for the shame of all that is being done in our name and according to the orders of the prime minister you support, you would not have any problem seeing who is the victim in need of support and who is worthy of condemnation.

As for you, my friend from Peace Now, you're not even confused. You boil with anger at the Palestinians because they spoiled your celebrations and refuse to let you continue living the illusion that the occupation is concluding and that peace rules the land. Peace is a tango that takes two equal partners dancing in unity; it is not a dance of one who drags around his partner at will. And what do you say? 'If that's the way it is, they are not partners.' This time you're right. In your dance of peace you have no partners, only enemies. For your peace is his occupation; for your success is his loss; for your reconciliation is a closing of the door on reconciliation with the Palestinians.

'We have signed a cease-fire agreement, and it is good that we signed. But peace is still far away, because peace demands honesty, because peace demands equality. You want to force them to lie, you want of them a peace of surrender, you are celebrating a peace of master and slave. Under such conditions there will perhaps be peace- and-quiet, but Peace, no. Not until you open your eyes and your heart. Not until we are ready for a peace of partnership and equality.'

This is what I wrote you seven years ago exactly. You preferred to block your ears and close your eyes. I am sorry, I really am, that only through bursts of gunfire at Psagot and the exploding of missiles near Netzarim were they opened once more. I hope that your heart and your mind will open quickly as well, before buses explode in our cities. The choice has not changed: either genuine peace without dealing and deception, a peace of mutual respect, or a descent to a religious war in which there will be only losers.

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