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40 years of Israeli occupation and the prospects for peace

Interview with Naseer Aruri

Wednesday 6 June 2007, by Mordecai Briemberg

Dr. Naseer Aruri, born in Jerusalem, is a renowned Palestinian intellectual, an author of several books on the Palestine-Israel conflict , and Emeritus Chancellor Professor at the University of Massachussetts. He has been on the board of directors of Amnesty and of Human Rights Watch and is a founding member of the Arab Organization for Human Rights. Mordecai Briemberg interviewed Dr. Aruri on the Redeye program of Vancouver Cooperative Radio (102.7 FM), March 26. Here are extended excerpts from that interview.

Did Israel have a choice in June 1967 or did it have to wage war to preserve its existence?

It was not really a war imposed on the Israelis, but rather a war of choice. Israeli Major General Mattityahu Peled, a member of the General Staff planning Israel’s “Six Day War” said explicitly that at no point was Israel’s existence being threatened. He made many appearances in North American during the 1970’s and he talked about that war and affirmed, and reaffirmed, that it was a war of choice. To claim that it was an existential phenomenon is a hoax.

What were the results of the 1967 war?

When one looks at the results of that war, it could not have possibly been imposed on Israel. Look at the geo-strategic change that it created in the area. The target of that war was an Arab nationalist movement led by Nasser. By the end of that war Nasser was a pathetic figure and Nasserism was done in by President Sadat who succeeded him. The Palestinians were isolated, the Arabs were in disarray, there was fragmentation in the area. The war actually served the strategic interest, not only of Israel, but for a while the United States as well.

But when one looks at the long-range, one sees that the United States has suffered a great deal. The outrage that we see today at American policy in the Middle East began because of that war.

Are there stages in the development of the occupation?

When we look at occupation, the Israeli occupation is almost unique, not only because it is the longest occupation in modern history.

The Israeli occupation was calculated in terms of the strategic map, the geo-political map of the region. And it was one of the early acts of trying to redo or remap or reshape that strategic map. This is vastly different from occupation – which is temporary. In other words the intent of this occupation is politicide – to ensure that the Palestinians will not be able to exercise any sort of self-determination on any of the territory that lies between the river Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea.

So I think it would be more accurate to say this is a form of politicide rather than occupation

The Israeli sociologist Baruch Kimmerling wrote about “politicide”. In fact, he has a book by that title. In his book he defined politicide as a process that has as its ultimate goal the dissolution of the Palestinian people’s existence as a legitimate national, social, and economic entity, which may also include partial or total ethnic cleansing.

There’s a consensus on this within the Israeli body politic, meaning that the right and the left, what used to be Labour, Likud, and others, all are in agreement that there is no room for two sovereign states in the area between the river and the sea. We began to see the expansion of Israel – the creation of settlements in the 1970’s – when Likud was in power. It was continued by Labour. What we saw in Oslo in 1993 and beyond was to ensure the occupation would continue, but it would be repackaged and renamed.

So it is politicide. And we have been seeing it in the various acts of the Israelis all the way up to last week when they abducted the top officials of Hamas. It is all part of a process called politicide.

Is there no peace process?

I think that the ‘peace process’ which has been supervised by the Americans for decades has been a process that really was not meant to bring peace. How can so many Presidents, so many Secretaries of State really fail over a period of four decades in bringing about a peace if we assume they are the honest broker. Of course they are not. The Zionist movement intends to have a large state in historic Palestine and this has been sustained both by the U.S. and by the various components of the Israeli body politic.

Now with Bush 2 even the semblance of the ‘peace process’ has ceased to exist.

The Palestinians are told: if you want a ‘peace process’, and you want to come back to the table, we’re not really promising anything concrete on the table, but we’re just talking about a table – if you want to come to a table the purpose of which is not well-defined, then you have to meet certain conditions.

You would have to give up resistance. Resistance in the vocabulary used by Israel and the U.S. is “terrorism”. So in their vocabulary, you have to stop being “terrorists”, meaning you have to stop resistance. Secondly, you have to give up the right to return for the refugees, whose right of return has been reaffirmed repeatedly by the United Nations and other international bodies. Thirdly, you have to give up Jerusalem, your place in Jerusalem. Fourthly, you have to accept a fragmented entity – there will be no contiguity, no sovereignty in the area between the river and the sea.

So is the two-state solution a pipe-dream?

I’m afraid there is no room for the two-state solution anymore. I don’t think it has been seriously on the table in any case.

What remains are three alternatives, some of which are ominous, one of which is likely to take a long, long time. One alternative would be ethnic cleansing, that would be a continuation of what happened in 1948 when more than two-thirds of the Palestinian nation became refugees. The second alternative would be apartheid, which is formalizing the on-going process that is being practiced by Israel today under the name of politicide. The third alternative would be to live together in peace and equality where the equality and dignity of every single human being, irrespective of the religion of his mother or father, in all of Palestine, would be guaranteed. And I’m talking about a single state based on the equal protection of the law, as in the 14th amendment of the US constitution [or the Canadian Charter of Rights].

I think that these are the only possibilities. Two are terribly ominous, and the only alternative that is going to assure dignity in the long-run and equality for everybody is the single state.

So it’s ironic that the architects of Oslo may have inadvertently paved the road to the single state.