By Nick Pretzlik
in East Jerusalem
25 May 2004
is innocent in a guilty society" Ghada Samman
is in intensive care - dependent on the oxygen of support from the Jewish
Diaspora and drip fed funds by the United States. Given the human and
financial toll, it is legitimate to query whether the apparent purpose
of Zionism today - to satisfy the Jewish sense of belonging and the
wackier elements of the Christian Right - is worth the price. Are the
pain and suffering and the political blowback of doing the bidding of
these two groups and a handful of settlers worth the decimation of the
indigenous Palestinian population, as well as the loss of Jewish lives?
The occupation of
Palestinian land, and the harsh methods employed to maintain it, have
corrupted Israeli civil society. Poison, which entered the body politic
and infected the head, now contaminates the nation as a whole. The Prime
Minister is mired in financial scandals, the police act as conduits
for the sale of stolen Israeli cars to West Bank Palestinians and soldiers
forge links with mafia gangs to supply weapons to militants in Nablus
and Jenin. Tax evasion is endemic and increasing numbers of Israelis
- those with dual nationality - choose to live abroad. Why do Israeli
Jews put themselves through all this? Why do they ignore the obvious
alternative - a dynamic, secular state incorporating Jews and Palestinians
with equal rights for all? Why do they insist on clinging to the concept
of Zionism - a concept, which should have been buried along with the
other nineteenth century colonial adventures?
Ten days ago I traveled
south from Jenin to Jerusalem down the fertile funnel of the Jordan
Valley -parched, rocky hills on my left, indistinct in the heat filled
haze, and mountains to my right, dazzlingbright in direct, early summer
sunlight. I should have been inspired. I was not. Instead I was ashamed
-ashamed that Britain with its Balfour Declaration of 1917 is the architect
of Palestine's misfortune,ashamed that even now - when Palestinian suffering
is apparent to the world - Britain does so little tohelp. It felt wrong
that I - a Brit - could slip comfortably away from Jenin, at a time
of my choosing,while the victims of Balfour remain incarcerated.
The day before my
departure, one man was killed and another wounded in a targeted killing.
No warning roar from an approaching tank's engine, and no ominous clink
of heavy metal tracks, just an Israeli assassin's bullet fired from
an apparently innocuous Palestinian truck piled high with boxes of chickens.
One more day in Jenin.
A system of barter
has developed in the town. With the economy dead and the remaining funds
leeching into the Israeli economy to pay for electricity, oil, gas and
other essential supplies, Palestinians are running out of money. Rents
are unpaid, shops give extended credit and much of the business done
by street coffee salesmen and falafel makers is given away free. Most
shocking of all - old people have started to beg.
We forget how sophisticated
Palestinians are. The demonisation process has continued for so long
that we no longer remember they possessed, until recently, the best
educational system in the Middle East. Cultured, clever and skilled,
these are the people the Israelis are attempting to return to the stone
refuge is religion and the clerics are taking advantage. Israeli occupation
and oppression encourages fundamentalism and Israel should be the first
to remember how dangerous that is. After all, it was Israel, who funded
Hamas in its early stages. The aim then was to divide and fragment Arafat's
Fatah power base by introducing a new dynamic into the arena. Israel
surely cannot wish to repeat that mistake.
While Islamic ardor
is being fanned by the actions of the state, the Jewish authorities
have embarked on a process of rearranging their relationship with the
Christian churches. In an article published in the Christian Science
Monitor, Jane Lampman quotes an official at the Latin Patriarchate,
who says "all indications point to the fact that the church is
slowly being strangled". The comment is given weight by reports
that the Israeli government has withheld visas for dozens of religious
workers and is in the process of reviewing the charitable status of
various groups. In spite of official protestations to the contrary,
it seems likely that the action is coordinated and systematic and that
the objective is to make life difficult for Christian institutions.
Later on Jane Lampman
provides another telling quote; this time from the Rev. David Jaeger,
a representative of the Holy See. He says "In the Catholic world
there is a growing view that Israel has deliberately framed a policy
to hurt the church". Anecdotal evidence, however, indicates that
evangelical churches are excluded from this policy.
Why? What reasons
would the Israeli government have for behaving in such a way?
The answer is that
the traditional churches are viewed by officialdom to be sympathetic
to Palestinians, whereas the evangelical institutions are often fervently
pro Israel and supportive of Zionist policies.
The smothering of
criticism from religious quarters, the racism increasingly engrained
in Israeli society, and the fascism apparent in Likud government policies
are indications of the way the future is being shaped. The Zionist dream
of Greater Israel may be on life support, but it is not yet dead. The
Iraq war is part of a process. It is an Israeli war and others are planned
to follow. The time has come for the world to wake up - the Barbarians
are already at the gates.