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413 Israel and Palestine

413 Israel and Palestine - 1 Israel and the...

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1 Israel and the Palestinians (isr) The experience of the French in Algeria should serve as a warning that Israelis might become as brutalized and corrupted as many of the pieds noirs , who tried to rule over an alien people against its will.--Amos Elon, paraphrasing Israeli historian Yehoshua Talmon 1 We remain in a neocolonial relationship with the Palestinians, which forces us to do things that are incompatible with being a democracy. It coarsens Israeli life, making us all racists. Every time we see an Arab, we assume he’s a terrorist. And it is utterly demeaning for the Palestinians, who are lined up and searched like cattle every day.— Schlomo Avineri 2 This lecture is about comparisons and their use in history. Comparisons can be used to reveal new elements in the situations being compared. Why are things similar or different. However, comparisons can also be political statements. To say two situations are comparable, even if the differences are recognized, can work to associate one situation with another. To compare anything to the Nazi state and activities invariably tars the element compared. All comparisons can function as political statements and we should always begin by asking why things are being compared before assessing the value of these comparisons. I begin this lecture with this caveat because no contemporary historical situation is compared more often to other freighted historical situations than the relations of Israel and Palestine. I’ve worked some of these comparisons into this lecture. Assess their value. 1 NYRB, October 18, 2001, p. 10. At the heart of this analogy is the contention that Israeli settlers in the Occupied Territories are in an analogous position to that which Algerians of European origin held in Algeria before Algerian independence. The pieds noirs and the settlers made and make extraordinary demands on the nations of France and Israel to protect their interests. 2 Newsweek , August 13, 2001, p. 33. Of course, most Israelis have different views, and Israelis’ views (like those of Palestinians) change over time. Elon’s and Avineri’s concern in these passages is less with whether Israelis living in the Occupied Territories are colonists, but the effect of the situation on the political, cultural and social life in Israel. (Algerians of European origin in Algeria may have acted like colonists, but they were not technically colonists because Algeria was composed of three French departments; it was not a colony.) In any case, the point of starting with these passages is not to validate this position so much as to suggest that the debate on Israeli policy in Israel is far more broad-ranging than the debate on these same issues in the United States. There is a reason that many Palestinians, though they hate Israel, admire Israel’s democracy.
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