Gates May Open, But Window May Close on Peace

Gates May Open, But Window May Close on Peace

Dahlia Scheindlin is a public opinion researcher and a political consultant. She is a contributor at +972 magazine and is currently writing her doctoral dissertation in comparative politics at Tel Aviv University, where she is also an adjunct lecturer.  She has an impressive article at the Dissent website  on “The Gatekeepers” and why its message has an uphill climb to influence mainstream Israeli thinking (read further for word of another significant article in The New Republic):

Can The Gatekeepers Open the Gates to the Empire?
…. Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian people may not be an empire, but after nearly forty-six years, it has become a sort of reigning paradigm of Israeli life. The Israeli Left has challenged, but never truly shifted, that paradigm.
…. The Gatekeepers, directed by Dror Moreh, is poised to have the greatest possible impact on the Israeli public, because it tackles the arena closest to that public’s heart: the security establishment. The film is a candid series of interviews with six former heads of the legendary Shin Bet, Israel’s Internal Security Agency, who criticize the state’s policy vis-à-vis the Palestinians…. It is also reportedly going to become a television mini-series on Israel’s state Channel 1.
Israelis deeply respect security figures, especially [those] … who do not talk of “peace”…. [They] lend credibility to the general themes of The Gatekeepers: security clashes with morality, the occupation is bad for security and social cohesion, and there is no clear vision or leadership regarding its future. … Moreh’s film could also fill a major gap in a left-wing narrative that has failed to provide counter-arguments to the Right on security issues. During the gory waves of terror in the Second Intifada of the early 2000s, the Right promised to fight back—security first, peace later. …
The six “gatekeepers” provide a general rejoinder that the status quo makes resistance and violence inevitable. … As Terror mushroomed, …. “We forgot all about the Palestinian issue”….  The Shin Bet got busy suppressing the symptoms and the political disease metastasized.
…. The film must also be considered in a context where the occupation is a paradigm that rules Israeli life. …  For example, most Israelis believe that “there’s no Palestinian partner,” and that this is why the occupation continues. Israelis are convinced that they themselves want peace (nearly 60 percent in the December 2012 Peace Index survey support a two-state solution), but that Palestinians continue to hate and refuse to recognize Israel. According to a December poll by the Truman Institute at Hebrew University, 60 percent of Israelis believe that the long-term goal of Palestinians is to conquer Israel, and 42 percent believe that they want to destroy the Jews as well as conquer the country. (In fact, 21 percent of Palestinians want to conquer Israel, and only 12 percent favor the latter, extreme option, according to a parallel survey by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research.) …
Moreover, the occupation has become … the fulcrum for being on Israel’s side. When local lefties or foreigners criticize the policy, Israelis believe they are objectively against Israel. The founding ideology of Zionism itself is being reduced to support for military rule over Palestinians. … Two generations of Jewish Israeli men and women have been inducted into an army whose primary purpose is policing Palestinians. The militarism of the occupation has seeped into civilian life and become normal.
In this environment, those who would dismantle the whole paradigm are “left” in the most disparaging sense: naïve, hypocritical, possibly self-hating traitors—or simply alien beings. When I asked a right-leaning friend if he had seen The Gatekeepers, he scoffed, “Why should I bother with a bunch of lefties?”….
And how will the film’s basic themes be filtered through those overriding narratives of Israeli life? Consider one theme, the tension between security and morality or legality. The chiefs speak head-on about targeted assassinations, collateral damage, interrogation practices, and major events such as the killings of two terrorists in captivity in 1984. The interviewees are thoughtful and probing. Foreign viewers have already commended the openness of their self-critique.
But again, little of this is new to Israelis, not even the self-critique. ….
A second major theme might have greater resonance: the occupation is not only bad for Israeli security, it corrupts Israeli society. It nurtures violent, fundamentalist Jewish scofflaws in the settlements. Details of the Jewish plot to blow up the al-Aqsa mosque could rankle Israelis. The plot was foiled but the conspirators were soon set free.
The most troubling part for many will be Carmi Gillon’s recollection of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, on his watch. Moreh musters all the emotional force and footage of that painful era—the incitement, the Nazi imagery, the torch-lit coffins at the demonstrations—as if bringing back the horror will remind Israelis of their desire to continue down Rabin’s path. But the film cannot do what Rabin’s death failed to do. In reality, Israelis did not blame the occupation for Jewish extremism; they clung to it. … When Camp David failed, Israelis reverted to a familiar approach: what doesn’t work with force will work with more force.
…. But could the paradigm be shifting? Is there growing realization within Israeli society that the social, political, moral, and military basis of the occupation is unsustainable? …
These are signs that the criticism is closing in. Neither repression nor force can save a failed policy. When flaws become too glaring, and voices speak out too fast, from too many different sides, something will trigger a paradigm shift. The Gatekeepers might just contribute to that process.

This article in The New Republic has an ominous title, but it begins with a hopeful premise, confirming what we’ve learned from Bernard Avishai and others on Mahmoud Abbas as a genuine partner for peace:

The End of the Two-State Solution: Why the window is closing on Middle-East peace
BY BEN BIRNBAUM [A Jerusalem-based writer]

One Friday evening last November, Mahmoud Abbas made a rare appearance on the popular Israeli TV station, Channel 2. … when the interviewer, Udi Segal, asked him about his vision for the future of his people, Abbas offered a reminder of why this man was once, and perhaps remains, the great hope of the two-state solution.
“Palestine for me is ’67 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital,” he said. “This is now and forever.” Abbas had been born in the town of Safed, which his family fled during Israel’s War of Independence in 1948 and which is now a part of Israel. Segal asked, did he wish to visit? Abbas raised his eyebrows. “I want to see Safed,” he replied quietly. “It’s my right to see it, but not to live there.”
Every Israeli viewer would have immediately grasped the significance of that statement. For years, one of the top obstacles to a peace deal has been the “right of return”—the Palestinian demand that some five million refugees and descendants be allowed to go back to their former homes. In Israel, whose population of eight million already includes 1.5 million Arab citizens, the phrase signals nothing less than the demographic destruction of the Jewish state. Among Palestinians, the right of return is sacrosanct. And yet, here was Abbas waving away the idea altogether. …

Click here for the entire article at The New Republic site.  

By | 2013-03-13T10:32:00-04:00 March 13th, 2013|Blog|0 Comments

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