Palestinaphobia of Israeli Jews Infects Both Left and Right

Amos Oz, who is so far distant in its ideological world view from Israel's nationalist right-wing, shares the same primeval fear of Arabs.

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Author Amos Oz.
Author Amos Oz.Credit: Ilan Assayag
Dmitry Shumsky
Dmitry Shumsky

It seems that it was not just by chance that the editors of Haaretz Magazine chose to publish an article by Amos Oz on the last Friday before the 2015 election. In his article, one of the greatest Israeli authors cried out in favor of the solution of two states for two peoples between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Alongside his cry was folded the hope that this time the cry would not fall on deaf ears.

But the truth is that these same justifications that serve Oz to convince the public and the country’s leadership to adopt the solution of two states also served every center-left government after the murder of Yitzhak Rabin in order to promote the peace process – and it has been proved beyond a shadow of doubt that they are not effective enough to bring us closer to dividing the land.

The fundamental claim at the base of Oz’s desperate call for dividing the land into two states is that the alternative is a single state, which over the years will become an Arab state. “If there will be an Arab state here, I don’t envy my children and my grandchildren,” writes Oz. In other words, what is supposed to encourage Israelis to agree to divide up the land between them and the Palestinians is a feeling of fear, anxiety and recoil at the thought of the possibility of living in Israel under the sovereignty of an Arab-Palestinian state.

But as long as what nourishes the discussion about the Palestinian people is their never-ending demonization, not only is it impossible just to divide up the homeland, but also to sit at the negotiating table with representatives of that same people. True, since Ehud Barak and his unfortunate “We are here, they are there,” we have witnessed the spread and rooting of this distorted understanding, according to which the growing desire on the Israeli side to distance ourselves from the bloodthirsty Palestinians could very well contribute to promoting peace. Since the colossal failure of this conception at Camp David, we are just witnesses time after time to the repeated failures.

We should not be surprised by this: After all, it is very difficult to have faith in a partner on the other side of the negotiating table when what you see in front of you as the alternative to dividing the land is a scene of pogroms and the murder of Jews in a “single state,” by the very same partner, in an imaginary future.

Moreover, when Oz and other supporters of the two-state solution, who are partners in the fear-mongering rhetoric because of the “binational state,” speak of the need to “divorce” from the Palestinians. They must remember that in relations between peoples – as opposed to relations between a couple – the obvious derivation from this metaphor is not “divorce” but “expulsion.”

In other words, the Israeli nationalist right wing, which is so far distant in its ideological world view from Oz, is a partner in the same primeval fear of Arabs and the same desire to distance ourselves as far as possible from them. But this camp has a different solution to these same fears and desires, which they see as much more obvious and natural – expanding the settlements, deepening the oppression and continuing the abuse of the Palestinians, in hope that as a result of all these things they will disappear from here some day.

After all, this is exactly what happened in the recent elections: At the same time the Zionist Union party and with the remnants of the left, including the clear supporters of Meretz in the example of Oz, continued to base themselves on the discussion of the anxiety and demonization of the Palestinians, and even to spread it among the broader public to promote the idea of a Palestinian state.

Benjamin Netanyahu appeared with his catchier response for the average Jewish Israeli in the street. To this same Israeli, who is in any case suffering from the same anxiety and demonization. Netanyahu’s message: A great big “no” to a Palestinian state out of a desire to make the lives of the Palestinians even more bitter, to break their spirit and cause them to give up on their aspiration for national equality and self-determination, and look for a new homeland outside Palestine.

The hope that by continuing to scare the public about the Palestinians, a regime whose policy of scare-mongering is daily bread can be replaced, has therefore turned out to be – not surprisingly – a false hope.

The only hope that remains is that the supporters of dividing the land will finally learn the lesson: As long as the justification for the division continues to be attached – as far as they are concerned – to a fearful drawing back from the demonic other side, the right will conquer the government time after time, because they offer the people a simpler and more effective drug for their Palestinaphobia than a dialogue with the Palestinians. In other words: Whoever continues to cry out in the streets that with the Netanyahu government we will remain stuck with the Palestinians forever, should expect to be stuck forever with Netanyahu’s rule.

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