The West Bank: 'Algeria in Our Midst’

David Ben-Gurion opposed conquering the West Bank, realizing the Palestinians would never flee. Today, we have returned to the beginning of the story.

Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat
A Palestinian burns tires during clashes with Israeli security forces in the village of Kafr Qaddum, near the northern city of Nablus, West Bank July 4, 2014.
A Palestinian burns tires during clashes with Israeli security forces in the village of Kafr Qaddum, near the northern city of Nablus, West Bank July 4, 2014.Credit: AFP
Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat

Where has Gaza disappeared to, damn it, just when we need it? After all, we have to find some target for our vengeful desires, which filled the warehouses during the three weeks that passed since the three Israeli youths were abducted and until their bodies were found. It was the finest hour of the extreme right, when the calls for revenge hovered over every shining hilltop. And so, when there is nowhere to direct our stores of anger and impulses toward revenge, and when there was no excuse to hit at Gaza, like in previous rounds, and after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced already from the very beginning that the Palestinian leadership condemns the abductions — the unavoidable explosion was set off from within. It is said that when the scorpion has no one to sting, it stings itself. The scorpion of the most atavistic instincts has started to sting its own body.

It is not only the messianic right. A day after the bodies of the Israeli teenagers were discovered, I counted over 15 pages in Yedioth Ahronoth that presented the horror from every possible angle, and I thought to myself: How can a normal Jew not go out — after such a stoking of emotions — to attack the first Arab who crosses his path? That is how almost all the media looked. Now these lords and ladies are rolling their eyes in light of the show of hatred that sprout from every corner of the Internet, but since times long gone these honorable people have acted to empower the sorrow, to inflame the emotions, and revenge is the daily routine of the official policy, starting with the “reprisal operations” of the 1950s and 1960s, through the “proper Zionist response” and “searing their consciousness,” through the distortion of Bialik’s poem “On the Slaughter,” which actually says in its beginning: “And cursed is the one who says: Take revenge!”

Now people want revenge and there is no one to supply it. This is different from the golden age of revenge, in those first days after the abduction of Gilad Shalit, when 400 Palestinians were killed.

The Arabs, by comparison, feel a terrible disappointment. On one hand, the entire country is shocked, justifiable so, because of the kidnapping of the youths and their murders. But the seven Arabs who were killed since then are nothing but air. And in the case of the shocking murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, the police also tried to hide the truth and blur the horror, and moreover mocked people’s intelligence when it said all motives were possible, including a feud between families! What a racist mentality, as if Jews filled with hatred do not carry out horrible crimes.

But nonetheless, it is impossible to ignore the outrageous revelations in the Arab street, when Jews were attacked just because of their ethnicity. It is forbidden for anger to turn people into racists. During a talk with young people, we spoke out against the Arab attacks in Jerusalem and Upper Nazareth; I said that not only is this behavior a stain on our struggle, but these actions are a sort of invitation to Jewish racists to step up their deviant acts.

Despite everything, there is also a positive result from all this. The right is facing a dead end. And if someone wants to compare the situation to the events of 2000, they are ignoring the central difference. In 2000, then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak convinced the world that he had done everything he could for peace. After a while the world learned that this was not correct. Today the world recognizes that Abbas has done everything — and this time the world’s perception is correct. That makes all the difference. And because of this the right is stewing in its own juices, and to my great sorrow, it is stewing the entire region along with it.

David Ben-Gurion, as is well known, never stopped thinking about conquering the West Bank. But it was actually after the 1956 war that he stopped demanding its conquest. Ben-Gurion saw that the Palestinians did not flee for their lives after the conquest of Gaza in 1956. Thus, also before the 1967 war he opposed the conquest of the West Bank, and after the war he demanded its return.

He warned of “Algeria in our midst.” Now we have returned to the beginning, and Ben-Gurion’s demand from 47 years ago must be carried out now, before it is too late.

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