Why Israel Desires to be Hated by Palestinians

Yet an­other mas­sacre is un­folding in Gaza, the largest prison in the world.* We are sur­rounded by fa­miliar chatter: ‘Israel’s right to de­fend it­self’; ‘Palestinians’ le­git­imate res­ist­ance to (the 1967) oc­cu­pa­tion’; ‘who started it this time?’ Most in­si­dious, how­ever, is the stale re­frain, sung by a chorus which in­cludes President Obama, that the vi­ol­ence is dis­astrous for the ‘peace pro­cess’ aimed at a ‘two-​state solution’.

While it has been noted that one mo­tiv­a­tion for the Israeli gov­ern­ment, in the run-​up to elec­tions in January, is to unite voters be­hind a ‘no choice’ rhet­oric, there is a deeper mo­tiv­a­tion at stake here — to re­strict the ho­ri­zons of polit­ical de­bate, to con­trol what should be re­garded as a litmus test for ‘real­istic’, ‘mod­erate’ and ‘reas­on­able’ voices.

War is useful be­cause the pas­sion it arouses pre­vents people from asking two basic ques­tions that must be ad­dressed if the core of si­len­cing and vi­ol­ence that we are wit­nessing is to be grasped and, in turn, if pro­gress is ever to be made to­wards justice and en­during peace. First, what kind of state is Israel? Second, who are the Palestinians that this state is in con­flict with?

Israel was es­tab­lished to be a Jewish state. Its in­sti­tu­tions have al­ways been shaped and con­strained so as to en­sure the con­tinued ex­ist­ence of a Jewish ma­jority and char­acter. Passing a test of Jewishness en­titles someone to Israeli cit­izen­ship re­gard­less of where in the world she lives. Furthermore, her cit­izen­ship comes with a bundle of polit­ical, so­cial and eco­nomic rights which are pref­er­en­tial to that of cit­izens who do not qualify as Jewish. This in­built dis­crim­in­atory premise high­lights the apartheid nature of the state. But apartheid is not an ac­ci­dental fea­ture of Israel. Its very cre­ation in­volved im­mense in­justice and suf­fering. Shielding and ra­tion­al­izing this in­built premise pre­vents the ad­dress of past in­justices and en­sures their con­tinuity into the fu­ture. It is a premise that, in mat­ters of con­sti­tu­tional in­ter­pret­a­tion, takes pre­ced­ence over, and thus in­volves the im­pos­i­tion of ‘reas­on­able’ lim­it­a­tions on, equality of citizenship.

The Palestinians, we are told, are a people who live in the West Bank and Gaza. The im­pres­sion forced on us is that the con­flict con­cerns a com­promise to be made re­garding the cor­rect border between Israel and a Palestinian state. We are led to be­lieve that a par­ti­tion into two states would sat­isfy both genuine and real­istic as­pir­a­tions for justice and peace. In this view, the vi­ol­ence in Gaza is just an un­reas­on­able ab­er­ra­tion from an oth­er­wise noble peace process.

But Palestinians ac­tu­ally com­prise three groups. First, those whose fam­ilies ori­ginate in the ter­rit­ories that were oc­cu­pied by Israel in 1967 (Gaza and the West Bank, in­cluding East Jerusalem). Second, the des­cend­ants of the ap­prox­im­ately 750,000 non-​Jews who were eth­nic­ally cleansed in 1947 – 9 in order to en­sure a Jewish ma­jority in the new Jewish state. This group is dis­persed around the world, mostly in refugee camps in the ter­rit­ories oc­cu­pied in 1967 and the neigh­bouring states. Israel has per­sist­ently denied them their in­ter­na­tion­ally re­cog­nized legal right to re­turn. The ma­jority in Gaza con­sists of refugees from vil­lages which are now buried under Israeli towns and cities that were cre­ated ex­pli­citly for Jewish cit­izens, places which in­clude Ashkelon and Tel Aviv that were hit by rockets in the cur­rent con­flict. The third group of Palestinians, which Israel in­sists on calling by the eu­phemism ‘Israeli Arabs’, are the non-​Jews who man­aged to evade ethnic cleansing in 1947 – 49 and who now live as second-​class cit­izens of Israel, the state which likes to claim that it is ‘Jewish and democratic’.

Until 1948, the ter­ritory of Palestine stretched from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean. The vi­ol­ence that has af­flicted the area ever since is the direct result of an event whose true nature our so­ciety seems de­term­ined to deny. Violence keeps erupting be­cause of the si­len­cing and mar­gin­al­iz­a­tion of a simple truth sur­rounding any par­ti­tion policy: that the in­justice that af­flicts Palestine cannot be par­ti­tioned. It is be­cause of the de­sire to pre­serve a Jewish state that first, the legal dualism that ex­ists in the 1967 Occupied Territories as well as the horror at the ‘Separation Wall’ have be­come the dom­inant polit­ical dis­courses of apartheid; second, the refugees have re­mained dis­pos­sessed; and thirdly, both ac­tual and po­ten­tial non-​Jew Arab cit­izens do, and would, suffer dis­crim­in­a­tion. The two-​state vision means that the in­built apartheid within Israel, and in turn the in­justice to two groups of Palestinians, never be­comes the central polit­ical problem.

The range of re­ac­tions to the cur­rent carnage shows just how suc­cessful vi­ol­ence has been in sus­taining the le­git­imacy of Israel by en­trenching the polit­ical focus merely on its ac­tions rather than on its nature. These re­ac­tions keep the dis­course that calls for cri­ti­cizing Israel rather than for re­pla­cing it with an egal­it­arian polity over the whole of his­tor­ical Palestine.

Israel de­sires to be hated by Palestinians. By pro­voking vi­ol­ence Israel has not merely man­aged to di­vert the lime­light from its apartheid nature. It has also man­aged to con­vince that, as Joseph Massad of Columbia University once cap­tured, it has the right to oc­cupy, to dis­pos­sess and to dis­crim­inate, namely the claim that the apartheid premise which founds it should be put up with and ra­tion­al­ized as reas­on­able. Would any­body allow such a right-​claim to hold sway in apartheid South Africa? How come that the anti-​apartheid and egal­it­arian calls for the non-​recognition of Israel’s right to exist are being mar­gin­al­ized as ex­treme and unrealizable? What kind of ex­ist­en­tial fet­ters cause the world to ex­hibit such blind­ness and a drop of com­pas­sion? Is there no un­folding tragedy that an­ti­cip­ates vi­ol­ence against Jews pre­cisely be­cause past vi­ol­ence against them in Europe is being al­lowed to serve as a ra­tion­al­izing device of an apartheid state?

Israel has already cre­ated a de facto single state between the river and the sea, al­beit one which suf­fers from sev­eral apartheid sys­tems, one within Israel and an­other in the oc­cu­pied ter­rit­ories. We must not let Israeli ag­gres­sion pre­vent us from treating as mod­erate and real­istic pro­posals to turn this single state into one where all would have equal rights.

Oren Ben-​Dor grew up in the State of Israel. He is Professor of Law and Philosophy, University of Southampton, UK. He can be reached at: okbendor@​yahoo.​com.

* This art­icle was written be­fore the cease­fire agree­ment. However, its ar­gu­ment that un­less the core in­justice is touched upon res­ist­ance to apartheid will con­tinue. Thus, any cease­fire is in ef­fect just an­other lease of life be­stowed upon the polit­ic­ally in­sig­ni­ficant dis­course of two-​states and thus a mere post­pone­ment of fur­ther vi­ol­ence. The as­so­ci­ation of cease­fire with hope of ‘peace pro­cess’ to­wards two-​state solu­tion is a sham. [O. Ben-​Dor, 26 November 2012].

Republished here with per­mis­sion from Counterpunch.

  5 comments for “Why Israel Desires to be Hated by Palestinians

  1. 9 December 2012 at 2:18 pm

    Is this situ­ation sus­tain­able for Israel? Also, how do you think the new an­nounce­ment to build set­tle­ments in E1 zone will af­fect the two state solu­tion. There was an in­ter­esting opinion piece in the NY times that sug­gests a one-​state solu­tion in in­creas­ingly be­coming the only vi­able op­tion but it ob­vi­ously chal­lenges the ‘Jewishness’ of the Israeli state. Here is the link to NYTimes piece http://​www​.nytimes​.com/​2​0​1​2​/​1​2​/​0​6​/​o​p​i​n​i​o​n​/​g​l​o​b​a​l​/​i​f​-​n​o​t​-​t​w​o​-​s​t​a​t​e​s​-​t​h​e​n​-​o​n​e​.​h​tml

  2. Sandhu
    17 December 2012 at 10:49 pm

    What dif­fer­ence does it make to focus on the nature and the ex­ist­ence of a na­tion? If rheotoric and dis­course went down this route, would the pre­pon­der­ance of lit­er­ature and con­senses to the lack of sov­er­e­ignity of the al­leged na­tion force the na­tion to con­cede its lands? This route in it­self taints the al­leged na­tions right to self-​determination. Lets cut out ‘power ridden’ no­tions such as ‘self de­term­in­a­tion’ that sup­ports en­tities that hold the power. The al­leged na­tion con­cedes to its ac­cusers. Nothing would change, per­haps a re­versal of roles, the newly ‘haves’ against the now ‘have-​nots’, and whole lot more of blood. That is why the non-​recognition of Israel’s right exist is marginalised.

    On basal level, the real ques­tion is re­ci­pro­city — vi­ol­ence be­gets vi­ol­ence, ul­ti­matums be­gets ul­ti­matums. Extrapolating from op­erant con­di­tioning, this serves as a pos­itive pun­ish­ment and over time ag­gre­sion will stop. Primitive? Unsophiticated? Uncultured? Inhumane? Yes, but that is the course of things on a micro and macro level. The focus of re­ci­pro­city and pos­itive pun­ish­ment is mere at­tempt at de­scrip­tion of the con­flict and pos­sible course. It is not a fa­tal­istic dia­gnosis and pro­gnosis of the situ­ation. It is a humble re­sponse to the de­scrip­tion of apartheid. This is prima facie war not apartheid.

    The real ques­tion is: Why do Palestinians love to hate Israel?

  3. kamar finn
    1 February 2013 at 12:56 pm

    Oren– could you please tell me who the painting is by? kamarfiwi@​yahoo.​co.​uk

    • Admin
      6 February 2013 at 10:24 am

      Dear Kamar,

      Please place your cursor over the pic­ture and leave for a couple of seconds. All shall be revealed.

      Best wishes,


  4. Wallace Edward Brand
    20 September 2013 at 2:43 am

    Palestinians Alleged Right to Political Self Determination

    In 1920 at San Remo the Jewish People were re­cog­nized by the Principal Allied War Powers in WWI as owning the polit­ical rights to Palestine; the com­peting Arab claims also sub­mitted at the Paris Peace talks were im­pli­citly denied in Palestine but re­cog­nized in the rest of the Middle East, i.e. Syria & Mesopotamia and, in­dir­ectly later in Transjordan. The Allies had conquered this area from the Ottoman Empire in a de­fensive war. Their ruling was based on the his­toric as­so­ci­ation of the Jewish People with Palestine in which there had been a con­tinuous un­in­ter­rupted Jewish pres­ence for 3,700 years. In 1922 this polit­ical right was re­cog­nized by 52 na­tions but lim­ited to Palestine west of the Jordan River. The rights were re­quired to be placed in trust until the Jewish People at­tained a ma­jority of pop­u­la­tion in the area in which they were to ex­er­cise sov­er­eignty and were cap­able of ex­er­cising sov­er­eignty in that area.

    In 1948 the trustee aban­doned its legal dominion over the polit­ical rights that were in trust and the Jewish People had es­tab­lished uni­fied con­trol over Palestine west of the Jordan River with some ex­cep­tions. Just after it had de­clared in­de­pend­ence in that year, the Jewish People’s State of Israel was in­vaded. Judea, Samaria, and East Jerusalem were in­vaded by the Arab Legion sup­plied and led by the British; they be­came il­leg­ally oc­cu­pied by Jordan, and the Gaza Strip was sim­il­arly in­vaded and il­leg­ally oc­cu­pied by Egypt. By 1950 the Jews had also at­tained a Jewish ma­jority pop­u­la­tion in the re­maining area. With both a ma­jority pop­u­la­tion in the area gov­erned and the ability to ex­er­cise sov­er­eignty, the polit­ical rights to that area vested in the Jews so they had legal dominion over them and the Jews were then sov­er­eign in that area. Following 1967 the Jewish People had an­nexed East Jerusalem; in 1967 it also lib­er­ated the other areas that had been il­leg­ally oc­cu­pied. Later, in 2005 the Jews with­drew from the Gaza Strip.

    It fol­lows that now the Jewish People have sov­er­eignty over Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem as well as the ter­ritory within the Green Line be­cause they own and have legal dominion over the polit­ical rights to these areas and have es­tab­lished uni­fied con­trol over them even though they have not as yet as­serted that sov­er­eignty ex­cept for East Jerusalem.

    International Law does re­cog­nize the right of polit­ical self-​determination in the case of colonies ex­ternal to the areas from which they are ruled. This is re­ferred to as “de­col­on­iz­a­tion”. International Law sup­ports de­col­on­iz­a­tion. The quest for the right of political-​self de­term­in­a­tion of a group of people in an area in­ternal to the bound­aries of a state that has sov­er­eignty is re­ferred to as “se­ces­sion”. A se­ces­sion would vi­olate the ter­rit­orial in­teg­rity of a sov­er­eign state.

    Effective as of 1976, International Law re­cog­nized the right of a “people” to polit­ical self– de­term­in­a­tion but it did not provide any in­dic­a­tion of where that rule would be ap­plied. In any event, the so-​called “Palestinians” do not meet the test of a le­git­imate “people” but are, in fact, an un­dif­fer­en­ti­ated part of the Arab people residing in Palestine who were in­vented as a sep­arate “people” by the Soviet dez­in­format­siya in 1964.

    In a de­col­on­iz­a­tion, International Law gives pref­er­ence to self-​determination over ter­rit­orial in­teg­rity. International Law re­garding se­ces­sion of an area in­ternal to a state is a wholly dif­ferent matter. The right to se­cede is not a gen­eral right of polit­ical self-​determination for all peoples or na­tions. It is lim­ited by the ter­rit­orial in­teg­rity of a sov­er­eign state. The uni­lat­eral right to se­cede, i.e. the right to se­cede without con­sent from a sov­er­eign state, if it is to be re­cog­nized, say most com­ment­ators on International Law, should be un­der­stood as a re­medial right only, a last re­sort re­sponse to ser­ious in­justices. In ad­di­tion, those wanting to se­cede must show they have the cap­ab­ility of ex­er­cising sovereignty.

    There is no evid­ence of ser­ious in­justice to sup­port such a re­medial right for the Arabs residing in Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem al­though they have long com­plained of per­petual vic­tim­hood. Nor do they have the cap­ab­ility to ex­er­cise sov­er­eignty such as uni­fied con­trol over the area they wish to have des­ig­nated as an in­de­pendent state.

    It fol­lows that the so called “Palestinians” have no right to polit­ical self de­term­in­a­tion under International Law.

    See also, Roots of Israel’s Sovereignty and Boundaries under International Law http://​www​.think​.Israel​.org/​b​r​a​n​d​.​a​l​l​e​g​e​d​o​c​c​u​p​a​t​i​o​n​.​h​tml

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