In the doubly promised land

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By LEONARDO AVRITZER*

Since at least the end of the XNUMXth century, we have been faced with competing nationalisms between two populations that historically inhabited the region

The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians over the same territory, which began in 1948 and has not yet ended, expresses an important issue, which is the simultaneity of the rights of the two peoples over the same land. Isaac Deutscher, Leon Trosky's biographer, is perhaps the one who best portrayed the drama of this conflict when he described it as follows: “a man jumped from the top floor of a burning house in which many members of his family perished. He managed to save his family, but in the fall he hit someone nearby, breaking his leg and arms. For the man who jumped there was no choice; but for the one whose legs were broken, that man was the cause of his misfortune.”1

The description is the one that best expresses the origin of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, which certainly involves the right of both peoples to the same land. If Jewish Israeli nationalism is a little earlier than Palestinian nationalism, as shown by important authors such as Khalidi2 and Yoel Migdal,3 the two classic authors on Palestinian identity – one of them Palestinian and the other Jewish-Israeli –, it is still correct to say that since, at least the end of the XNUMXth century, we have been facing competing nationalisms between two populations that historically inhabited the region .

Thus, the maxim of the Israeli writer Amós Oz remains: it is useless to look for the good guy or the bad guy when analyzing the conflict between Arabs and Israelis, because this is a conflict between right and right. Still, it is worth asking how a conflict between right and right can involve so many mistakes and so much violence. The answer lies in sabotage by radicals on both sides of the peace negotiations.

A table with four maps has been persistently circulating on the internet that shows the decrease in the geographic space reserved for the Palestinian state between 1947 and today. The map omits key political elements. The first is that the Palestinians and the Arab states rejected the partition carried out by the United Nations General Assembly in 1947. Israel, in its declaration of independence on May 14, 1948, invited the Arab countries and the Palestinians to accept the partition: “We make an appeal – in the midst of the harsh attack launched against us for months – to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to maintain peace and participate in the construction of the State on the basis of equal and full citizenship and through representation in all its institutions provisional and permanent”.4

The map also omits a fact of fundamental importance, especially for understanding the conflict in the Gaza Strip. It was Egypt and Jordan that occupied the most significant portions of what could be a Palestinian state in 1948 and annexed them in 1953. Jordan annexed and offered citizenship to Palestinians in the West Bank, while Egypt annexed Gaza and did not grant citizenship. Israel also granted citizenship to Palestinians who stayed within the borders of the 1948 armistice.

Thus, the map that is presented as what Palestine would be between 1948 and 1967, which was a portion of land annexed by Jordan and Egypt, in the case of Egypt, without involving the granting of citizenship, is completely false. The possibility of a sovereign Palestinian state only emerged in 1993 when the Treaty of Oslo was signed.

The Treaty of Oslo was based on a principle of international relations doctrine prevailing in Scandinavia that assumes that the establishment of relations of trust between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators who talked openly about what would be the basic principles of a plan: the recognition by Israel of right of self-determination of the Palestinian people and the recognition of the state of Israel by the Palestinians.

On the Israeli side, Yitzhak Rabin, and on the Palestinian side Yasser Arafat placed their signatures on a map in the presence of the President of Egypt, the US Secretary of State, the Russian Foreign Minister, at a meeting in Cairo in 1993 and signed a Letter of Mutual Recognition.5 Thus, the last map of this internet post was generated, in fact the only one that generated self-determination and recognition of the sovereignty of the Palestinian people. This was the most auspicious moment of a conflict lasting more than 70 years that marked three generations of Israelis and Palestinians.

However, the problem that led to the failure of the negotiations and the 1993 Oslo Treaty was caused by the two political forces currently facing each other in Gaza. On the one hand, the Israeli right, which, at that time led by Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu, questioned Palestinian sovereignty on the mosque terrace and thus unleashed a certain amount of Palestinian fury weeks before a peace proposal was presented to Arafat. On the other hand, Hamas, which is a religious fundamentalist organization that descended into terrorism in the 1990s.

Benjamin Netanyahu is the heir to a far-right dynasty in Israeli politics that has existed since the 1940s. His father, Benzion Netanyahu, became, in 1939, private secretary to Vladimir Jabotinsky, the main leader of the Zionist right, and editor of a revisionist magazine called Zionnews. Vladimir Jabotinsky argued in the magazine with the founder of Zionism, Theodor Herzl, who stated on some occasions “we do not want a Boer state”, rejecting a state model mirrored in apartheid South African.

Vladimir Jabotinsky defended the Boers for having achieved state self-determination.6 Benjamin Netanyahu, in his speech commemorating the 100th anniversary of Vladimir Jabotinsky's birth, stated that Vladimir Jabotinsky's greatness was to make it clear that what Zionism demanded were both banks of the Jordan River.7 Netanyahu Sr., as early as 1944, argued that Israel should not accept the partition proposed by the UN and in 1993 declared that Oslo would be “the beginning of the end of the State of Israel”. His son, as prime minister, decided to oppose the Oslo agreements. To do this, he found a partner on the other side of the Jordan River.

Hamas was founded by Palestinian imam and activist Ahmed Yassin in 1987, following the outbreak of the First Intifada. At its inception, Hamas was associated with the Muslim Brotherhood based in Egypt, which meant that it was always involved in community organization and social assistance to the Palestinian population, which made it popular among Palestinians. Hamas has always had a position of opposition to the Israel-PLO Letters of Mutual Recognition signed in Cairo, as well as the Oslo Accords, which generated the so-called “two-state solution”.

Hamas won the elections in the Gaza Strip in 2006, defeating its greatest enemy, Fatah, and immediately rejecting the demand of the so-called quartet (United States, Russia, United Nations and European Union) that it accept the agreements from Oslo. After this rejection and the subsequent military expulsion of the Palestinian authority from Gaza in 2007, which amounted to a military coup d'état, Israel closed the border with Gaza.8 Thus, Oslo had two powerful enemies who shaped what Amos Oz called the transition from “right and right” to “wrong and wrong”, that is, Benjamin Netanyahu decided to reinforce Hamas to the detriment of Palestinian authority because Hamas, in its strategy of total war, it does not call for the return of occupied territories.

The massacre of Israeli civilians in the southern part of Israel on Saturday, October 7 was the largest massacre of Jewish civilians since the former Soviet Union liberated the concentration camps in Eastern Europe in early 1945. Hamas's way of acting is reminiscent the way the Nazis acted, with the indiscriminate killing of men, women and children without any standard of humanity. The Israeli army and intelligence were caught completely off guard in the October 7 attacks because most of the Israeli army's permanent troops are in the West Bank defending settlers in the settlements, which is official government policy.

The ridiculous defense that existed in Gaza early on Saturday, October 7, suggests informal agreements between the Israeli government and Hamas that were betrayed by the latter. Secondly, the disorganization of the Israeli reaction is linked to the fact that Benjamin Netanyahu is isolating and disorganizing the military leadership because the leadership of the Israeli army has positioned itself against the judicial reform that he has been trying to implement since the beginning of the year.9 Thus, the scale of the tragedy is directly linked to the Israeli prime minister's management and the ideas he is trying to implement.

In the war in Gaza that followed the massacre of Israeli civilians, Israel has no good options. The military destruction of Hamas, which would be desirable, seems impossible to achieve and is generating collective punishment of the Palestinian population. The journalist from New York Times and the unofficial voice of the democratic movement in Israel, Thomas Friedman, diagnose the extent of the problem: Without a change of government in Israel, the Gaza war will likely mean an attempt by Benjamin Netanyahu to maintain his West Bank policy and destroy Hamas.

This destruction will most likely be partial and will imply yet another escalation of the conflict with Hamas repositioning its leadership among the Palestinian population of the West Bank, which appears to already be happening. Without the resumption of a process of relegitimization of the Palestinian Authority and a clear commitment to the two-state solution, there is no possibility of success for the Israeli strategy.10

Israel must also accept the United Nations' calls for a humanitarian corridor. Once again it is worth mentioning Amós Oz: the dilemma of the conflict at this moment is how to move from wrong x wrong to right x right, which is the recognition of mutual rights to the doubly promised land and the return to the architecture of the Oslo Accords.

*Leonardo Avritzer He is a professor at the Department of Political Science at UFMG. Author, among other books, of Impasses of democracy in Brazil (Brazilian civilization). [https://amzn.to/3rHx9Yl]

Originally published on special issue from vol. 8 da Pink Magazine.

Notes


[1] Deutscher, Isaac. 1970. The non-Jewish Jew. Rio de Janeiro, Brazilian Civilization, p 124.

[2] Khalidi occupies the chair that belonged to Edward Said at Columbia. See Khalid, Rashid. 1970 Palestinian identity: the construction of modern national consciousness. New York, Columbia University Press.

[3] Migdal, Yoel.1993. Palestinians: the making of a people. New York, Free Press.

[4] https://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Declara%C3%A7%C3%A3o_de_Independ%C3%AAncia_do_Estado_de_Israel.

[5] See, Dennis Ross. 2004. The missing peace, p. 135. New York, Farrar, Strauss and Girox.

[6] See Beinart, Peter. The monist prime minister. In: The crisis of Zionism. New York. Times book.

[7] Ibid, p. 106.

[8] See https://www.foreignaffairs.com/israel/hamas-what-israel-must-do

[9] See https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-65080919.

[10] https://www.nytimes.com/2023/10/19/opinion/biden-speech-israel-gaza.html.


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