A Utopia or a Vision for Peace
July 28, 2009 By Ilan Pappe
[Contribution to the Reimagining Society Project hosted by ZCommunications]
Whenever the possibility of establishing an independent Palestinian state is mentioned by Israeli politicians, they take for granted that their interlocutors understand that the future state would have to be demilitarized and disarmed, if an Israeli consent for its existence is to be gained. Recently, this precondition was mentioned by the current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in response to President Barrack Obama’s two states vision, presented to the world at large in his Cairo Speech this June. Netanyahu made this precondition first and foremost for domestic consumption: whoever has referred in the past to the creation of an independent state alongside Israel, and whoever does so today in Israel envisages a fully armed Israel next to a totally disarmed Palestine. But there was another reason why Netanyahu stressed the demilitarization of Palestine as a sine qua non: he knew perfectly well that there was no danger that even the most moderate Palestinian leader would accept such a caveat from the strongest military power in the Middle East.
In Israel, as in the West, the vision of a demilitarized Palestine is accepted as a feasible scenario, whereas a peace based on the demilitarization of Israel as well would be regarded as totally insane and unhelpful, indeed unimaginable. This disparity in the attributes of statehood is part of a much larger imbalance in the international community perception of and attitude towards Israel and Palestine.
Most Israelis would deem it sheer lunacy to contemplate a future without the army playing a dominant and supreme role in their lives. It is with good reason that scholars regard Israel not as a state with an army, but an army with a state. Their state appears in the works of some brave critical Israeli sociologists as a prime case study for a modern day militarized society; namely one in which the army deeply affects every sphere of life.
[i] Imagining an Israel without this influence is more than a utopian vision, it is really an end of time scenario.
And yet in the long run demilitarizing both Israel and Palestine may be the only way of ensuring a normal life for all who live there, and all who ought to live there, like the million Palestinian refugees who were expelled from their homeland in 1948 and ever since. But this article aims to extend the meaning of the verb Disarm, to a wider, and admittedly more fluid interpretation. The more extended definition, it will be argued here, turns the idea of Disarming Israel from a utopian scenario for a very distant future, when the peace of the prophets would prevail, into a concrete political plan.
Long before one can contemplate any significant reduction of arms, let alone disarmament of anyone involved in the Palestine issue, a very different kind of disarmament is required, as a pre condition for reconciliation in Israel and Palestine. The wider context of disarmament must focus on Israel and less on Palestine, at least in its initial stages. There are no other current political, economic and military imbalances such as exist between Israel and the few hundred Palestinian fighters (even the term fighters for these Palestinians begs some stretching of our imagination). As these imbalances were there already in 1948, it stands to reason that only a transformative process in the attitude and nature of the stronger party in the equation will kick off any significant reconciliation on the ground. Throughout the one hundred years or so of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Zionist movement and later the state of Israel were the stronger party, and its policies towards the indigenous population of Palestine changed very little over that period.
This article is written under the premise that only a fundamental change in the basic Israeli policies towards the Palestinians and Palestine can lead to a change of attitude towards the Jewish settler community that came to Palestine in the late 19th century and colonized the land. Contrary to the conventional Israeli and Zionist narrative, still trumpeted proudly in the West today, the harsh anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian policies of the Jewish state are not a reaction to Palestinian hostility or general Arab animosity. These policies are in fact the cause of the regional antagonism towards Israel and Palestinian enmity towards it. Hence, since they are the source of the conflict and the reason for its persistence, disarming here is a quest for a way of exposing what lies behind the Israeli policies against the Palestinians. Since these policies have by now triggered the introduction of nuclear weapons to the region, the death of tens of thousands of Palestinians, thousands of people in the neighbouring Arab countries, almost twenty thousand Jews in Israel, inflamed a new wave of anti-Semitism as well as Islamophobia and finally strained unnecessarily the relationship of the West with the Muslim world, they are obviously a deadly weapon and must be revised
These policies are the product of a certain ideology, Zionism, or to be more precise of a certain interpretation of the Zionist ideology. Hence revising them would mean disarming Israeli Jews of the lethal version of the Zionist ideology, that which disables them to lead normal, quiet and secure lives in the country they have chosen at the end of the nineteenth century as their homeland. (read full article here)