Things have to change

Can Israel live with its own moral dilemma?


Things have to change
by Fariba Amini

"There is no such thing as the Palestinian people..."  -- Golda Meir, 1968

Israel recently marked its 60th anniversary, at a time of great upheaval all over the Middle East and while the Israeli society is divided on a number of issues. In many ways, the leaders of the Israeili State have not achieved what its founders meant to do - create a secure, democratic state based on social and economic justice for all the citizens. Israelis may enjoy freedom but the freedom of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians whose land, property, livelihood, trees, gardens and homes have been destroyed is nowhere in sight. For the majority of Palestinians, this is, instead, the anniversary of what they call "al-Nakba."  In Arabic, it means catastrophe.

According to historians, the population in Palestine in 1881 consisted of 450,000 Palestinian Arabs and 25,000 Jews. In 1899, the mayor of Jerusalem, a Palestinian Arab, wrote to a rabbi in France saying that yes, historically, Jews may desire to return to Palestine after 2000 years but "in the name of God, let Palestine live in peace." The rabbi gave the letter to Theodore Herzl, the father of the Zionist movement who in response assured Mayor al-Khalidi that the Zionists would bring prosperity to the land which would benefit both the Arabs and the Jews.

Almost half a century later, Ben Gurion, the father of the Israeli nation, said, "Why should the Arabs make peace? We have taken their country. Sure, God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? Our God is not theirs.  We come from Israel, it's true but two thousand years ago, and what is that to them?”

In his book, the Yellow Wind, the renowned Israeli writer David Grossman, after traveling and witnessing the misery of the Palestinians, wrote, "Who are these people who claim that they are acting in my name and in the name of my future (and who actually influence it decisively against my will), who are able to harden their hearts so much against others and against themselves, over the course of an entire generation or two, and become the kindling of the historical process they desire? What do I have to do with them? If they succeed in getting what they want, and if the opportunity presents itself (and in the inconstant Middle East it will eventually do so), and if they could proceed immediately to the next stage of realizing their grand plan, they will then be even stronger and more determined, wonderfully trained in hardening their hearts."

David Grossman is one of many Israeli citizens and peace activists who have systematically criticized the government policies of non-engagement. After losing his twenty-year old son Uri in the 2006 war against Lebanon, he refused to meet or shake hands with Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Grossman was in the midst of writing another novel when there was a knock on his door with terrible news, news no parent wants to hear. He stopped writing for a while but, encouraged by his colleagues, Amos Oz and A.B. Yehushia, he finished the novel.

Olmert, whose government is blamed for initiating and mishandling the war in Lebanon and who has been involved in numerous corruption charges, hosted G.W. Bush a few weeks ago. Mr. Bush, never knowing what to say and when to say it, used the occasion to compare the democrats to those who appeased Hitler, indirectly referring to Barack Obama, who is a proponent of direct talks with the "enemy."  While Israel celebrated its anniversary, many Israelis seemed torn between right and wrong. Olmert's family is a reflection of the deep divisions in the Israeli society: his wife and sons are involved in the peace movement.

Like other Israeli authors who are disturbed by the occupation, settlements, constant humiliation of Palestinians at checkpoints, and the destruction of their homes, Grossman talks of a society built not on principles of justice for all citizens but on the misery of a whole nation. In his book he mingles with and lives among the Palestinians. He witnesses much misery in all the places he visits. He witnesses the resentment, the anger of a people who have lost a part of their humanity. He visits a kindergarten, watches children who only draw pictures of fallen men and women, who are in filthy classrooms with nothing colorful, only shades of darkness. He talks to a man whose son was imprisoned for being a Fatah member, becomes a collaborator, is let out of prison, and, filled with shame, participated in the killing of a Jewish couple. The soldiers, looking for the son, interrogate the father, beat him in a room, and imprison him for four months. But he has no information; he has not been in touch with his son for years. One morning, the soldiers come with a bulldozer and, giving him 15 minutes to take his belongings, destroy his house. (According to a clause in the Israeli law, and following British precedent in Palestine, a military commander can order the destruction of any building in any village or city the resident of which has committed any type of security violation.) The son is found and killed but his body is never released to his family. The man, Mohammad, is left with nothing.

Talking to Grossman, Mohammed says, "If my son murdered, kill him. Kill him immediately! But why have you destroyed my entire life? Why have you made me and my family into beasts? I still have power in my hands"- he clenched his fist for me and trembled. "I could kill a million times the man who ordered my house destroyed. Did I ever do anything like that? Did I ever think like that before? I only wanted to live. Now they have made me like that, too. They have turned me into a murderer."

Having lost his livelihood, his home, his son, and no future in sight, he becomes a beggar going from one village to another, too ashamed to be a pauper in his own village.

In a study released in 1988, Benny Morris, Israel's most renowned revisionist historian, published a study about the Palestinian refugee problem which demonstrated that 60 percent of Palestinians were uprooted and their society devastated. 389 Arab villages were destroyed.

There are 4.5 million Palestinian refugees according to the UNRWA. Palestinians are scattered all over the world as far away as Chile, El Salvador, and even the U.S. Virgin Islands, with their families often left behind in the occupied territories. They cannot visit them, for they have no passports. The families cannot leave because leaving means never returning.

Palestine is now divided in two and there is not much hope for a Palestinian state in sight. The Palestinian people are divided by their own political forces, mismanagement and corruption and partitioned by the Israeli government.   At times, the reality of creating one state is becoming more of a myth. The many accords have fallen. The very last one, in Annapolis, was a sham and another show for the Bush administration whose policies have failed one by one in the greater Middle East. There are now two territories, but in reality, the peoples living there are the same whether in the West bank or Gaza: people from the same roots with the same desires, whose hopes have been shattered by decades of anger, hatred and bloodshed and whose leaders cannot come together to make the right choices and decisions.

When Jimmy Carter went to meet with Hamas, he was shunned and cursed by the right wing lobby and the Christian Right in this country. When Yasser Arafat met Rabin, they were both reprimanded by their people. Rabin was assassinated and who knows what really happened to Arafat who died suddenly of a mysterious illness. When Abbas became Prime Minister, inheriting a politically corrupt machine, he was not welcomed by his people. Yet, the Israeli and the American governments hailed him as a man of peace who might be able to bring together a uniform government. But he too, much like others, is powerless. In light of constant bombardments and tanks crushing little children and innocent civilians, he has had to defend his own people, whether they are in Gaza or the West Bank, or else he will be doomed.

The Palestinian lawyer and author Raj'a Shehade wrote in his book, The Third Way, that he had chosen sumud, endurance. "Of the two ways open to me as a Palestinian- {one is} to surrender to the occupation and collaborate with it or to take up arms against it, two possibilities which mean, to my mind, losing one's humanity-I choose the third way. To remain here. To see how my home becomes my prison, which I do not want to leave, because the jailer will then not allow me to return."

The Jewish people lived in Palestine 2000 years ago. It is understandable that, in their desperate search for safety and security, they wanted to return to this land, especially after the Holocaust. I had read and watched movies about the Holocaust, but the magnitude of the event only dawned on me when I visited the museum of Ann Frank in Amsterdam. I came to know about the Jewish people through the eyes of Anne Frank. This 15-year old girl and her family were destroyed only and only because they were Jews.

Nevertheless, with all the harsh realities of the 1940's, one cannot ignore that many of the settlers came from Brooklyn or other parts of the world and Israel was founded on the land of the inhabited people, the Palestinians.

The justice the Israeli society sought to build has backfired. Many may feel that the end of an era has come but the fact is it is only the beginning. If Israel does not find itself and get out of the quagmire it has created, no citizen on this side of the wall or the other side will ever have peace and security.

Israel must change its face in the 60th anniversary of its conception. Otherwise the world which has turned its back on the Palestinians will have also have to give up on a "democratic state" in the midst of corrupt monarchies and one man Republics. The Israelis will be remembered as people who created their country out of the ashes of World War II but upon the destitution of others. Isn't that a real moral dilemma?  Isn't the "transfer" of a majority of the populace, the Palestinians, wrong and immoral and that they, the Palestinians are in fact dying a slow death? How can a people who felt and went through all the agonies and losses take the hopes and livelihood of others? Shouldn't the compassion that the Jews expect from the world be reciprocal?

At a fundraising event for a democratic congressman a few years ago, I met Nancy Pelosi who had not yet become the Speaker of the House. I told her until the issue of Palestine and the Arab- Israeli conflict is unresolved, the Middle East would never see peace. She just nodded.

Even if Palestinians are scattered throughout the world, in small communities, and many of them are portrayed as violent, far from the reality of what and who they are, they are still a nation. What is the definition of a nation anyway?  ”A nation is a defined cultural and social community. In as much as most members never meet each other, yet feel a common bond, it may be considered an imagined community. One of the most influential doctrines in Western Europe and the Western hemisphere since the late eighteenth century is that all humans are divided into groups called nations.”

The world in general and the Middle East in particular need to see a real country and a state for the Palestinians, for everyone's sake and for Israel's peace of mind. And humanity owes the Palestinians a home they once had and is now lost. As the late Edward Saeid said in an article in 2002, "Palestinians will not go away."


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Creation of Israel-Source Books

by Jaleho on

Dear Monda, here are good books, two by Palestinian and two by Israeli historians on the subject:

The Question of Palestine ---------------- Edward Said

Bitter Harvest------------------------Sami Hadawi

A History of Modern Palestine-------------Ilan Pappe

Birth of Palestinian Refugee Problem 1947-49--------Benny Morris


Benny Morris more recently has made notorious comments justifying genocide of Palestinians. Like some Nazis who regret Hitler not finishing the "Jewish Problem" by a complete genocide of jews, Morris has regretted Ben Gurion not finishing "Palestinian problem" by a complete genocide of Palestinians in a Haaretz interview.

Still, his book on the subject is regarded as a respectable documentation of the ethnic cleansing and expulsion of Palestinians.

Naturally, for a heated subject like Arab-Israeli conflict, where there is a lot of established propaganda, it is hard to sieve wheat from chaff. That's why I always prefer PURE DOCUMENTS on the subject. The UN site is a fantastic resource. Also, there is a book called The Arab-Israeli Reader which is nothing but a collection of documents, from Herzl time all the way to Clinton's peace plan. It is by Walter Laqueur and Barry Rubin. It is not complete for a researcher, but any regular reader will find most needed documents in there.

I copied parts of the Herzl original Paper, The Jewish State (1896) from that documentary book.




Thanks Jaleh for the info

by Monda on

I admire your stamina and knowledge of history. Where did you find that Herzl quote? Can you suggest a comprehensive history of ME, or perhaps two good ones from different perspectives?


Israel NEVER sought Justice!

by Jaleho on

Fariba wrote:

"The Jewish people lived in Palestine 2000 years ago. It is understandable that, in their desperate search for safety and security, they wanted to return to this land, especially after the Holocaust."

That is the funny reasoning the Zionists give to Americans who don't know real history of Zionism and creation of Israel and hope people would accept it as a FACT.

First, the ancient Palestine, the land of Canaan, has been inhabited by many other groups, prior and after the Jewish kingdom: Greeks, Hebrews, Christians, Pagans, Persians, Arabs, and old Canaanite tribes. In that 5000 years, Jewish kingdom of David and Soloman only lasted 73 years!! Even if you consider the entire on-off Jewish kingdom from conquest of David to fall of Judah (1000BC-586BC), you get about 400 years. Somehow, the present day Zionist made that more important than 1300 years of CONSECUTIVE occupation of the land by Muslim and Christian Palestinians, and think the repetition of that absurd Jewish claim in US congress and US media actually gives the jews a RIGHT to other people's land. That is as absurd a basis for land claim as is the God's promise to his chosen favorites.

Secondly, Herzl (father of modern Zionism) was considering some land in either Palestine -Or-ARGENTINE for a Jewish State.

See, Zionism was a racist scheme born at the end of 19th century, early 20th century, which is historically the period of colonialism and settlements. Its purpose was no different than European settlers in colonial regions that reached Africa, Asia, and Latin America. And, like other colonial cases, it was the poor and disadvantage Jews who were supposed to go first and do the dirty work. {called Society of Jews}. I will quote for you from the article of Herzl in which he proposes the idea of "The Jewish State" in 1896 for the first time:

"The plan : The whole plan is in its essence perfectly simple, as it must necessarily be if it is to come within the comprehension of all. Let the sovereignty be granted to us over a portion of the globe large enough to satisfy the rightful requirement of a nation; the rest we shall manage ourselves. The creation of a new state is neither ridiculous nor impossible.....The government of all countries scourged by anti-Semitism will be keenly interested in assisting us to obtain the sovereignty we want. { can you see how ironically anti-Semitism is similar to Zionism in principle, and is being used to create it?! i.e., let's separate European Jews and send them away, rather than change individual country's anti-Semitic practices; let alone that the Jews who lived in Palestine for centuries, did equally well with Muslims and Christians there. }

...The plan, simple in design, but complicated in execution, will be carried out by two agencies: The Society of Jews and The Jewish Company
...We must not imagine the departure of Jews to be a sudden one. It will be gradual,{but} continuous, and will cover many decades ... The emigrants lowest in economic scale will be slowly followed by those of higher grade...

...Should the powers {in this case Britain, which was the mother of many other colonies, and the superpower du jour, the same role Israel sees in US now} declare themselves willing to admit our sovereignty over a neutral piece of land, then the Society {of Jews} will enter into negotiations for the possession of this land. Here two territories comes under consideration, Palestine and Argentine. In both countries important experiments in colonization have been made, though on the mistaken principle of a gradual infiltration of Jews. An infiltration is bound to end badly. It continues till the inevitable moment when the native population feels itself threatened, and forces the government to stop a further influx of Jews. Immigration is consequently futile unless we have the sovereign right to continue such immigration..."

As you see that holocaust was just a later EXCUSE to complete colonization of Palestine, which was the clear objective of the Zionist movement from 1896.

Later, in The Biltmore Program- Towards a Jewish State ( May,11,1942), Ben Gurion went to US, organizing American Zionists to reformulate this forceful Jewish immigration using the Nazi persecution as the pretext to continue Herzl recipe of 1896!! This was followed by the recommendations of the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry (1946), where the jews took only its 6th recommendation seriously: more massive Jewish immigration without native acquiescence. They discarded the part that prohibited the Jewish demand of forceful immigration to create a Jewish majority!

So, there was no original justice in mind in the beginning that you think has backfired now!
And, there's no good intention from either Israelis or Americans who have extended the "peace process" just to give Israel enough time to gobble up as much of Palestine as they can.

One thing that Herzl didn't know back in 1896 is that colonialism and apartheid would DIE in the 20th century. Israel and Zionism , as the last pillars of it will follow suit. That's why everyone talks so nervously about EXISTENCE of illegitimate state of Israel, and talks about 60 years as if it the most important part of the 5000 year history of that region! That 60 years is just a historical BLINK, typical of all historical aberrations, and will be at most another blink before it disappears in the dust bin of time by history's mandate. South African racists spoke with no less of an arrogance than Israelis today.


Dear Ben Medadi,I think

by sadegh on

Dear Ben Medadi,

I think that your lack of knowledge is hindering your ability to make an accurate judgement. Iran has very little influence in the Arab-Israeli conflict really (for one we're not Arabs or Israelis and there is very little getting around that fact) - they give some money to Hamas I'm sure, when this should be used to better the plight of Iranians who suffer day in day out, from economic deprivation and the like. Hamas will abandon their supposed 'allegiance' to Iran the second a higher bidder comes along. Therefore Iran should give Hamas ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, not only on moral grounds but because it doesn't even benefit Iran geostrategically, the latter of which one might at least be able to make a case for regarding Hizbullah.

The point is HOWEVER that Israel stands in DEFIANCE of 69 United Nations Security Council Resolutions, YES 69, and many many more that have been systematically blocked by the United States which has invoked its veto time and again irrespective of Israel's despicable actions and brutalization of the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Back. ISRAEL, aka the APARTHEID REGIME, and the US are the biggest obstacles to peace bar none and as we speak the Israeli government is appropriating more Palestinian land for a bunch of fanatical morons, who await the end of the world and the return of their very own Mahdi, the Messiah, advocate the genocide of the Palestinians in line with Biblical precedents and demand the expansion of Israel close to the borders of Iran itself in accordance with the design of Eretz Israel - brain-dead and dangerous idiots come in many stripes, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Hindu etc...As Abarmard said it makes no sense whatsoever to blame Iran - it's well know that Iran doesn't even provide a great deal of material support; the Hamas fanatics won't even pray alongside Iranian leaders because they deem them 'kafar'...Iranian leaders just use the the 'Palestinian cause' as a rhetorical device so as to make themselves out to be the vanguard of the Islamic world blah blah blah - in the real world there is little substance to it, and if Israel offers Hamas an apposite deal they're willing to accept, Iran will be shut out of entire the matter tomorrow will little to no recourse. In fact, far more of Saudi funds by means of charities and even government dispensations go toward funding Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The main players are Israel, the US and the Arab states on Palestine's immediate borders, Egypt, Jordan, but also Saudi Arabia. Iran has no serious role to play - if you assign the 'evil hand' of the IRI to everything you're at risk of creating a version of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, only this time with mollahs are the helm. The case of Lebanon is very different however and another question altogether, they can't be lumped together because the upshot will surely be muddled thinking in the end.

Ba Arezu-ye Movafaghiat, Sadegh



RE: Ben Madadi

by XerXes (not verified) on

I disagree with you. Israeli regime is THE most destructive element in the Arab-Israeli peace process



by AnonymousMe (not verified) on

You seemed puzzled so badly.
Do you really think there's an entity called "Nation of Iran"? Where is it? How do you define it in termes of eographical borders?
Are you thinking of Racial supremacy?


When are you going to write

by Anonymousaa (not verified) on

When are you going to write about our own continuing Nakbah???


Things have to change in Iran first

by jamshid on

"There is no such thing as the nation of Iran, there is only "Omate Islami"..."  -- Khomeini, 1979

Can the Islamic Republic of Iran live with its own moral dilemma? That is the main question.

Who cares about Israel while our own country is rotting? Iranians living in Iran certaily don't. Oh unless they are IRI supporters.


I don't see any resolution

by Anony (not verified) on

I don't see any resolution to this conflict. Both parties in the conflict are hell bent to destroy one another, period.

Ben Madadi

Re: Abarmand

by Ben Madadi on

Dear Abarmand,

Here is what I wrote: our regime is THE most destructive element in the Arab-Israeli peace process.

That doesn't mean "that there is no peace in Israel because of Iran" but that "our regime is THE most destructive element in the Arab-Israeli peace process."


Thanks for the artilce,,,and Mr. Ben Madadi

by Abarmard on

Mr. Ben Madadi are you suggesting that there is no peace in Israel because of Iran? Iran was the first country in the Middle East that accepted Israel as a country, then all their problems should have been fixed. It's much deeper than this and please, don't try to confuse the issue...It's not healthy. Don't blame or credit where it doesn't belong!

Thanks for this article. It's a well written and thought of. Any normal human should understand the issue without even trying to look at the politics of the situation. It's a humane thing, you either have it or suppress it!



good job

by supporter (not verified) on

Dear Fariba,
this is one of the worthier articles I've read in a long time.
thank you.


The question of trust

by sima on

I of course applaud the gist of your article and the efforts of Israeli peace activists. But there has been so much bad faith on the side of the Israelis that even I -- being neither the head nor the tail of the onion -- have a hard time trusting Israelis motives. For instance, how can one be free-thinking and democratic and believe in a "Jewish" state any more than any other religious state, say Muslim, Christian, or Hindu? How can one be pro peace and true co-existence without believing in a one-state solution? How can one be pro Palestinian human rights and deny Palestinian right of return? Etc. etc... 


Laughing at life

by Mehdi on

Reading here that "...4.5 million Palestinian refugees..." I though to myself that OK, I guess in maybe a few decades or centuries, when these refugees become educated in the West and learn about lobby system of the US and learn about world financial institutions and how money is being manipulated in the world and how countries have been taken hostage by a few elite, they will then amass some huge power, manipulate western governments and make them provide a country for them right smack in the middle of current Israel. They will call it "modern Islamic state" or something and they probably make up something similar to Zionism and maybe call it Shmionizm or something like that. They will "discover" that God's grandpa has promised them the land 3028 years before Moses ever appeared on Earth. And they will have all kinds of other prophecies to justify their existence. But they will also distance themselves from the current Palestine because they don't know how to deal with them. Oh, it can be very funny indeed...


With power, comes responsibility

by Mehdi on

I think Israel has tried for 60 years to have power but feel no responsibility. If they simply realized that, handling the situation would be very easy. Israel should work a little harder for peace. Stop relying ONLY on F-16I fighter jets and nuclear weapons. In the words of John Lennon, "Give peace a chance." And by that I mean, make a REAL effort; make some compromises; reach out and do something humane once in a while. Why is Israel the second most disapproved-of country in the world? It isn't because the world is unfair! I read someplace that the Jewish population is actually shrinking in Israel, despite heavy inflow of immigration. If I was Freud, I would say that the community does not feel deserving of prosperity and expansion. Maybe they feel guilty - I don't know. Well, just do something that will make you feel proud and worthy again.

Ben Madadi

Iranian element

by Ben Madadi on

Unfortunately for us, Iranians, our regime is THE most destructive element in the Arab-Israeli peace process. Our regime is THE most ambitious of Middle Eatsern regimes and it needs the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to feed its hatred and also hide its own disfunctionalities and inequities by blaming an external force.


Bravo Fariba.

by ahmad.bahai on

We all are proud of most accomplished and great Iranian women, espceially those like you who have great head on their shoulders!




Sources of your data

by Anonymous2008 (not verified) on

It would help if you give us names or sources of your "facts". ...." according to historians..." doesn't cut it. who is this historian?