It’s Also Our History

Here we are, looking at the history of the Palestinians, which it is forbidden by law for us to mention, and failing to understand that it is also our history.

My eyes filled with tears. The president of France was standing at the ceremony marking 70 years since the biggest roundup of Jews during World War II carried out on French soil and taking responsibility for it. It was France, in effect, that sent the 13,000 Jewish children, women and men to their deaths in the Auschwitz concentration camp at that time, he said. But his most significant words were: “The Holocaust is not the history of the Jewish people; it is history, our history.”

And here we are, looking at the history of the Palestinians, which it is forbidden by law for us to mention, and failing to understand that it is also our history. We don’t understand that the popular name for the law, the Nakba Law − the word, meaning “catastrophe,” used by Palestinians to describe the effect the establishment of the State of Israel had on them − gives their history a place also in our history. We don’t understand that cutting Palestinians off from water supplies, destroying their homes and villages, and repressing them in so many different ways for so many long years is also part of our history. All of these are part of our story, no less than they are part of the story of the Palestinians.

But perhaps we actually understand very well. Perhaps we are actually proud of what we’re doing. The government is now investing money in the building of hotels in the settlements. Hotels, for tourism. So that tourists can go there and be shown the wonderful settlement enterprise, the achievements in agriculture, the community, the beautiful red roofs, the newly established, best university in the world. A villa in the jungle, Switzerland in the Middle East. Come, dear tourists, and we will show you what we have achieved through separation and security in Hebron, the city of the Patriarchs, and in the West Bank in general; how effective the settlers’ use of violence is, and the backing of the army. We will teach you to deprive people of their lands, we will have a day of outdoor activities uprooting olive trees, and after that we’ll drink coffee with our Palestinian neighbors, with whom we have such excellent relations. Indeed, we have plenty to be proud of. Welcome to occupation tourism.

But the investment in building hotels is also another step in the process of sinking deeper and deeper into the territories, into the occupation. Just a moment ago, we set up a university there, and now hotels too? With every day that passes, we are investing more and more in the territories − in terms of people and energy, and especially money. Since 1992, when they started counting, Israel has invested NIS 29 billion in the settlements, and that doesn’t include expenditure on security, or the money that was invested between 1997 and 2003 when, for several reasons, they didn’t count. The counting was done not by social activists at Peace Now but by the Central Bureau of Statistics, at the request of the Finance Ministry, as the economic paper Calcalist revealed this week.

Prof. Dan Ariely gave a lecture this week at an event held by Peace Now. He said he was not an expert on peace but was merely wondering how his research about behavioral economics could be relevant to the conflict situation as it is. For example, what happens when a company spends $90 million developing a product and another $10 million has to be invested in order to complete it, and it then transpires that a competitor is just about to launch a similar product, only much better, that will kill the original company’s product?

After investing NIS 90 million in its own product, investing another $10 million to try to make it anyway seems logical, even though it’s clear that the loss will simply be greater.
“Predictably Irrational” is the name of Ariely’s first book. Here in Israel, the irrational is indeed completely predictable. It is intentional. The intention is hallucinatory, it is destructive and malicious. It is an intention about which we lie and over which we certainly don’t take responsibility. And we don’t understand that it’s not the nakba, but rather our own history that we are denying.