In this blog I return to the response to our article in The Age. Let’s begin with Lamm’s line that it is Israel who is trying to achieve peace “to establish an Israel and a Palestine living side by side together in peace”. This is the usual ritual incantation of commitment to a 2-state solution which Israel has made a practical impossibility under the relentless policy of illegal settlement. The presence of nearly half a million Israelis in the West Bank together with the military occupation and elaborate infrastructure of cantonisation, Jewish-only roads and illegal separation wall makes such pious pronouncements just cynical Orwellism. However, it has the reassuring sound of virtue and sincere commitment to peaceful co-existence – shamelessly, explicitly, suggesting, of course, that it is the Palestinians who are the cause of any obstacles and “opponents” of the two-state solution.
So, we see that Lamm’s article is remarkable for what it manages to avoid: Lamm neglects to mention the brutal military occupation and manic settlement building on Palestinian land that is difficult to reconcile with a commitment to a just peace or a meaningful 2-State solution. The illegal settlement program continues in bad faith even in the midst of “peace process” negotiations, however fraudulent these may be. Maps indicated below that are never seen in the press make the situation perfectly transparent.
Perhaps this is what Lamm has in mind when he refers to Israel’s commitment to “reaching a fair and just two-state solution to this long-standing conflict”. A map of the West Bank gives the picture of a territory in which 2.5 million Palestinians are confined to enclaves separated by Israeli roads, settlements, fences and military zones. The impact of Israeli civilian and military infrastructure is to render 40 per cent of the territory off-limits to Palestinians.
This map is produced by the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
While Palestinians are under military occupation and near-complete dispossession of their land, Lamm has the arrogance to portray Israel as the victim and suggest that the main problem is “the Jewish people’s right to self-determination”. It is difficult to understand how such a reversal of the obvious facts can be seriously uttered and seriously entertained, though it reflects the most common delusional reversal of the truth of the Israel/Palestine tragedy.
Lamm makes the usual attempt to smear critics with the anti-Semitism slur – and issue which I have addressed in an earlier blog. While they seek to identify Jewishness with support of Israeli government policies, they complain when critics of these policies fail to make the distinction. Furthermore, Lamm and the Israel Lobby have failed to appreciate the effect that these slanders have on most readers outside their ghetto. It should be obvious that representatives of any group who remain silent, tacitly condoning injustice and crimes committed in their name will bring opprobrium upon themselves. It is not those who publicly dissent and dissociate themselves from the group’s sins that are the cause of hostility.
Lamm tries to deflect our claim that Israel was never the David confronting Goliath by seeking to discredit Mearsheimer and Walt whom we quoted. Lamm tries to smear these scholars whose work is undoubtedly open to criticism for their controversial claims concerning the Israel Lobby, but this was not the issue on which we quoted them. Lamm’s effort to dismiss Mearsheimer and Walt is simply irrelevant to the David and Goliath claim. The basis for this specific claim can be found widely in the literature that is not just Israel Lobby propaganda as I have indicated in an earlier blog (Conflicting narratives, March 30, 2008). Even in 1948 the Israeli military force was superior to the Arab armies it confronted, despite being outnumbered. The 1967 June Six-Day War is always cited as another case when Israel faced destruction, but we need not rely on Mearsheimer and Walt. Perhaps Lamm might accept as more reliable the claims of the former Commander of the Israeli Air Force, General Ezer Wiezmann, Chief of Staff Chaim Bar-Lev and General Mattityahu Peled, all of whom held that there was no threat of destruction. Other sources that Lamm could hardly discredit include Menachem Begin and Abba Eban, both of whom discounted Nasser’s intention to attack Israel – a judgement shared by US officials at the time.
It is revealing that of all the serious issues at stake concerning the dispossession and brutalization of Palestinians, Lamm thinks that “The most problematic claim” we make is that Israel is not the state of its citizens but only of the Jewish people. Not our charges concerning Israel’s disproportionate violence, collective punishment, targeted assassinations, illegal settlements, daily humiliations and dehumanization of the Palestinian people, but our claim that Israel officially makes its own Palestinian population second-class citizens is the one that Lamm regards as the most serious issue. This suggests a moral blindness of pathological extent, so that our alleged unfairness in characterizing official Israeli domestic policies is of deeper concern than the litany of violations of international laws and abuses of Palestinian’s human rights.
Lamm’s tactic is, of course, not to deny our claim directly since it is simply a fact. Instead, Lamm uses a sleight-of-hand hoping to misdirect readers from the realities of Israeli policies, laws and official or unofficial administrative discrimination. Lamm lists other undoubted facts such as that Arabic is one of the country’s official languages. This will undoubtedly be a great comfort to those who are suffering wretched circumstances in Gaza and the West Bank under military occupation.
Lamm becomes simply absurd in citing the growth of the Arab population as evidence against our charge of ethnic cleansing. He conveniently neglects to mention our reference to foremost Israeli historian, Ilan Pappe, whose book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine provides the uncontroversial evidence for this indictment. This kind of response by Lamm is unworthy of schoolboy debaters but is evidently the best that a leading representative of the Israel Lobby can muster. Above all, it reveals the egregious inadequacy of the case against our criticisms.