Brilliant piece by Joseph Massad, from Palestine Thinktank
The reason for the ongoing “violence” in Israel and Palestine is not on account of Israeli colonialism at all but rather a direct result of mistranslation. Joseph Massad provides an abridged lexicon of Zionist terminology
“Colonialism is peace; anti-colonialism is war.” This is the unalterable equation that successive Israeli governments insist must determine the basis of all current and future relations between Israeli Jews and the Palestinians. Indeed, the deployment of the rhetoric of peace between Palestinians and Israeli Jews since the 1970s has been contingent on whether the Palestinians would acquiesce in this formula or insist on resisting it. The Oslo Accords were in large measure a ratification of this formula by the Palestine Liberation Organisation. Nonetheless, Palestinian resistance, violent and non- violent, to understanding “colonialism as peace” never fully subsided, even as the Palestinian Authority insisted that it become the law of the land.
The deployment of the rhetoric of peace however was more than anything else a deployment of the rhetoric of the “peace process.” In his book about the peace process, William Quandt traces the history of this deployment:
“Sometime in the mid-1970s the term peace process began to be widely used to describe the American-led efforts to bring about a negotiated peace between Israel and its neighbors. The phrase stuck, and ever since it has been synonymous with the gradual, step-by-step approach to resolving one of the world’s most difficult conflicts. In the years since 1967 the emphasis in Washington has shifted from the spelling out of the ingredients of ‘peace’ to the ‘process’ of getting there… The United States has provided both a sense of direction and a mechanism. That, at its best, is what the peace process has been about. At worst, it has been little more than a slogan used to mask the marking of time.”
I disagree partly with Quandt’s conclusion, mostly because the “peace process” since 1993 has been a mask for nothing short of Israeli colonial settlement and attempts by the Palestinian people to resist it and by the Palestinian Authority to coexist with it.
As has become clear even to the staunchest believers in the peace rhetoric, the Oslo Accords have not only been the main mechanism by which Israel subcontracted its occupation of the Palestinian people to the Palestinian Authority but also the main instrument through which Israel maintained its colonial control of Palestinian lands. While the occupied territories had been subjected to a different set of military laws since 1967 that governed the Palestinians and their land, the Oslo Accords began to institute the principle of separation, or in South African lingo, Apartheid. It was Yitzhak Rabin, Israel’s former prime minister and the ethnic cleanser of the Palestinian population from the cities of Lydda and Ramleh in 1948, who would express Israel’s separation principle on 23 January 1995: “This path must lead to a separation, though not according to the borders prior to 1967. We want to reach a separation between us and them.” The separation or Apartheid principle will ultimately translate into Israel’s construction of the Apartheid Wall, which has already swallowed up more than 10 per cent of West Bank lands and will swallow more once it is completed. Let me remind you here that the South African Apartheid regime itself was not terribly comfortable with the term Apartheid, which means separateness in Afrikaans, and began to replace it since the 1970s with the term “separate development”.
But this Israeli separation and colonial appropriation of land was again articulated through the rhetoric of peace. Since the signing of the Oslo Accords, Israel has more than tripled its colonial settler population in the West Bank and more than doubled it across the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem. Israel continues to confiscate Palestinian lands for colonial purposes and suppresses all Palestinian resistance to its colonial efforts. In 1993, there were approximately 281,000 colonial settlers in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem (124,200 in the West Bank, 4,800 in Gaza, and 152,800 in Jerusalem). At the end of 2009, there were approximately 490,000 colonial settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. As of September 2009, there were 301,200 colonial settlers in the West Bank and 190,000 in East Jerusalem. Israeli leaders have maintained that their colonial settlement did not detract from Israel’s commitment to peace. On the contrary, Israel is clear that it was the Palestinian Authority who is to blame for the cessation of negotiations. Current Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is not only committed to “colonialism as peace”, he, like his predecessors, insists that the Palestinian Authority protests that Israeli colonial settlement must stop for negotiations to begin is nothing short of an imposition of “pre-conditions” for negotiations, which he cannot accept.
This Israeli position is hardly new. Israeli leaders have always insisted that Israeli colonialism is not only compatible with peace, but that the Palestinian leadership’s acquiescence in it will ensure peace, while it was Palestinian resistance to it that causes war and terrorism.
One of the most pressing arguments often made by Israeli leaders since 1948 is how they have always been committed to peace with the Palestinian people and their Arab neighbours only to be rebuffed time and again by them. Israeli leaders from David Ben-Gurion to Netanyahu have insisted that all the wars Israel fought were not of Israel’s choosing but imposed on it by Palestinian and Arab rejection of Israel’s right to colonise. While Israel is ready to fight all wars, they insist, its preference has always been for peace. Golda Meir had declared in 1969: “We have always said that in our war with the Arabs we had a secret weapon — no alternative.” This is not just a question of political propaganda, but also a reflection of Israel’s sincere commitment to “colonialism as peace.”
Political wisdom in Israel has it that Israeli Jews have prayed and worked for peace for the last 62 years only for their peaceful offers to be turned down by their Arab enemies. What Israelis mean by this is that they have prayed that they could continue to colonise Palestinian lands and also have peace at the same time, but instead they have had to deal with war, terrorism, and resistance to their “peaceful” colonial efforts. It is true that finally one Arab, Anwar El-Sadat, met Israel’s extended hand with a peace agreement in 1979, but he was unique in his efforts. It took King Hussein 15 years to follow suit under international pressure. Still even these peaceful agreements have not resulted in normalisation of relations with Arab states or of popular acceptance of Israel by the Arab peoples. The Palestinians while pretending to offer peace to Israel have been proven to be deceptive and not serious about peace at all, as they insist on resisting its colonial efforts. What is Israel to do in this belligerent and “tough” neighbourhood in which it lives? How can it deal with such bellicose people intent on destroying it when all it asks for is peace and security for its colonial settlement?
Just a few weeks ago President Shimon Peres insisted: “I want to say in the name of the state of Israel at large: We do not seek war… We are a nation that yearns for peace, but knows, and will always know, how to defend itself.” Even the much maligned Netanyahu also declared a few weeks ago: “We are a peace seeking nation who prays for peace… our one hand is extended in offering peace to our willing neighbours, while the other wields a sword to protect ourselves against those who seek to destroy us.”
In order to understand Israel’s commitment to peace, we need to understand what it means by that term and its commensurate companion, the term “security”. These are key concepts in the language of Zionism. Many of Israel’s detractors believe Israel is lying when it insists on peace and security. I will argue that these detractors are wrong. Israel is dead serious about its commitment to peace and is honest when it insists that war is something imposed on it by its enemies. The problem is one of translation. Israel’s enemies do not seem to understand the language of Zionism — and by that I do not mean the Hebrew language! I will translate from Zionism to English one more time: Colonialism is Peace, Anti-Colonialism is War. (more…)