One dissident Jew addresses the
Causes and Effects of the Al-Aqsa Intifada
At an October 26 CPAP lecture, Maxim Ghilan asserted that because Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak was unable to force his proposals through at Camp David, he allowed Ariel Sharon's controversial East Jerusalem visit in order to provoke a Palestinian response. Ghilan, director of the International Jewish Peace Union, discussed the uprising that resulted, as well as the role of the Israeli peace movement and the United States government in responding to the current crisis. Ghilan relayed his fears that conditions may be right for a mass expulsion of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship.

According to Ghilan, Barak went to Camp David with a "deliberate intention" to compel Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman Yasser Arafat "to bow to his approach" regarding final status issues. Arafat refused, so Barak moved to his backup plan. The "troubles broke out" ostensibly because of Sharon's visit to the Haram al-Sharif, said Ghilan, yet this was not accidental. Instead, the visit was an example of "political karate" by "Sharon and Barak [to try] to create a situation [in] which the Palestinians . . . would put themselves in the wrong." As a result of Sharon's visit, a popular uprising erupted.

This uprising is a "joint" effort between Palestinians with Israeli citizenship and those in the Occupied Territories. Although Palestinians inside Israel receive far more economic benefits than their neighbors in the West Bank and Gaza, their "political situation [has been] very, very bad." In the 1950s, "every single Arab was under curfew inside the borders of Israel." More recently, the presence of foreign media in Israel has helped to improve the position of Palestinian Israelis. Palestinians became members of the Knesset and took on other leadership roles. In response to their empowerment and statements critical of the system, Israeli authorities started investigating Palestinian members of the Knesset, increased the demolition of Palestinian homes, "beat up more and more people," and in short, "created a situation" in which young Palestinian Israelis felt compelled to join the new intifada.

This experience was similar to the first intifada, which was "started by that age group [in the Occupied Territories] which had nothing to lose"-those aged 9-14 who had no jobs, were "under curfew a great part of the time," and were willing to face the negative consequences of their protests. For similar reasons, Palestinians in Israel who had been "completely quiet for [more than] 50 years" ended their silence during this new uprising.

The involvement of Palestinian Israelis in these clashes "reinforced" the Israeli government notion of an "exchange of populations between the territories" and Israel. "This is a very nice phrase but what does it mean?" Ghilan asked. When one considers Israel plans to annex the settlement blocks in the Occupied Territories, there really are no Jewish Israelis to exchange. In reality, this is "a plan to throw out as many Arab Israelis as possible, take over their land," and create the "famed, fabled, fortressed Israel, in which only Jews live." Ghilan fears that if there is no intervention by the United States, there is the "possibility" of a "new Nakba" in Israel, referring to the "catastrophe" in 1948 when 800,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes during the formation of Israel. Now, the roughly one million Palestinian Israelis "are targets" and "we will only have ourselves to blame for not intervening in time" if they are chased out.

The U.S. government could prevent a Nakba from occurring, but it is unlikely to do so. The United States benefits from its support of Israel-it "does not have an ally" in Israel, "but an instrument." Ghilan referred to a "symbiotic relationship between the American military industrial complex and the Israeli military entrepreneur establishment" in which the "United States gives at least, apart from covert aid, $3.1 billion each year to Israel." Of this money, contended Ghilan, the vast majority is used to acquire "American planes, American military weaponry, American technology," and other equipment, so that the money returns to the United States. U.S. companies that produce military hardware profit tremendously. "As long as [this relationship] exists, America will not drop Israel." This arrangement helps to create employment, keep the dollar steady, and control Arab countries.

Ghilan discussed how Israel might proceed with a plan to expel Palestinian citizens. Such a strategy would be similar to what occurred in 1948 and 1967. There would be a massacre of about 400 or 500 Palestinians-not thousands-committed in a "spectacular way," and horror stories would be disseminated to encourage people to flee in fear. In a similar way, the 1948 massacre at Deir Yassin of more than 100 Palestinians by Jewish forces was "emblematic," and was used to frighten Palestinians. Israel would also expel prominent leaders in order to undermine Palestinian mobilization.

Ghilan evisions little Israeli resistance to such actions. He asserted that the Zionist peace movement is "for peace when there's peace and for war when there's war." This is why, he argued, Israeli peace activists have not been very forceful in the past few weeks. Rather than becoming stronger when there is a crisis-like the anti-Vietnam War peace movement-the opposite is occurring. One Israeli told him that Israel should kill 3,000 Arabs and then, perhaps, the Arabs would relent. Unfortunately, Ghilan said, 90 percent of Israelis will back the government's policies "like sheep." As is typical in all societies, Israelis will be unlikely to pay much attention until too many of their own people die. This pattern is even more evident in a closed society like Israel.

Turning to the more radical, non-Zionist Israeli peace activists who all along have raised concerns about Oslo, Ghilan said that he has "no illusions" about a "merry future," yet there are "small voices" from this community arguing their views on the Internet. Because the media is "pro-Israeli," particularly in the United States, "we [more radical peace activists] don't exist because they don't want us to exist." Still, "there is a future for people like us," but it will take a lot of blood before people say, "'yeah, you were right,'" and express regret that they had not listened earlier.

The above text is based on remarks delivered on 26 October 2000 by Maxim Ghilan, director of the International Jewish Peace Union and founder and editor of the Israel and Palestine Political Report. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine or The Jerusalem Fund. This "For the Record" was written by CPAP Publications Manager Wendy Lehman; it may be used without permission but with proper attribution to the Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine.


 
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