Has Benjamin Netanyahu gone bananas? I don’t mean this as an aberration, like a politician who loses his marbles during a particular crisis. No, it was when I read the Israeli Prime Minister’s response to Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General, that I realised he just might be a bit insane. Ban referred to “the profound sense of alienation and despair driving some Palestinians… especially young people” since an increase in attacks on Israelis began last October.
What Ban was saying was the truth, that “Palestinian frustration is growing under the weight of a half-century of occupation and the paralysis of the peace process”. And he spoke of how “oppressed peoples have demonstrated throughout the ages, it is human nature to react to occupation…”
Now I grant that Ban, like most UN secretaries-general, has about as much political power in the world as the leadership of Fiji (and this is no disrespect to Fijians). But why on earth did the Prime Minister of Israel condemn Ban for encouraging “terror”?
You might think he was talking about the old Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But no. Prime Minister Netanyahu – ever more out of tune with the rest of the world, with the massive shift towards Iran by America, Europe and Russia – had it in for the diminutive Ban.
But then, of course, we have to remember that it was Netanyahu at the UN in New York who produced his ridiculous cartoon of a bomb with a large black fuse to show the world what would happen if sanctions were lifted on Tehran: we were all going to die. A number of Israeli writers – thank heavens the indefatigable Uri Avnery was among them – mocked this ludicrous performance. There was something cartoon-like about it all.
It wasn’t going to stop the Americans and the Russians and the EU, not least because if the Americans had maintained their sanctions, Europe would not have done so. But doesn’t Netanyahu himself now realise how enraged Europeans have become at his government’s treatment of the Palestinians? Did he not pay attention to the French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, last week when he said that France would “face our responsibilities by recognising the Palestinian state” if the peace process failed?
I don’t think there ever was much of a peace process (and certainly not when Tony Blair got his claws on it) because it was always going to be the occupied versus the occupiers, where everyone had to pretend that Palestinians and Israelis were on an equal level. Which was not – and is not – ever going to work.
A few words of history here. Israel conquered the West Bank of the Jordan in 1967. It built colonies on the land, which the West calls Israeli “settlements” – like the Western “settlements” in the American Wild West, which gave them an almost European flavour – and then found itself condemned by Washington and its allies for illegally building homes for foreigners (Israelis) on other people’s property. This is exactly what the Israeli government did, and what many Israelis have debated since, because it made Israel the “owner” of property outside its own UN-recognised borders – making Israel the only country still participating in a colonial war.
The Palestinians – the rightful owners of the land under Ottoman (and British) rule – have rightfully said that this is theft. It is. Lands owned by Palestinians have thus been taken by Israel for its own territory and its products – vegetables, and so on, illegally sold as the products of Israel to the EU – and when the EU has complained about this, it has iniquitously been called anti-Semitic. Thus are hatreds made.
I suspect that it was Ban’s comment about the Jewish colonisation of Arab land that the Israeli Prime Minister didn’t like. What he said was that “continued settlement activities are an affront to the Palestinian people and to the international community”, and I rather got his point. Because we know, just as Ban said, that people who are occupied do indeed resist occupation, which becomes “a potent incubator of hate and extremism”. Is that not how Iraqis reacted to us? And how Afghans react? And, indeed, how Palestinian Jews decided to act when they’d had enough of Britain in Palestine?
But in “Palestine” now (alas, the inverted commas are ever more necessary these days), there are an unfree people. And we know what happens under occupation. The people either resist, however murderously, or they leave. Netanyahu would probably be happy if they left because then he could colonise their land at an ever faster pace. But what if they decided to make the trek to Europe from the West Bank? We’ve already seen how Arabs and Muslims walked all the way to Austria and Germany. What if little boats set out from the midden of Gaza to join the armadas arriving off Greece or Italy?
There are dangers out in the Middle East which Europeans should be more aware of.
Do they, in fact, realise the truth but just don’t want to say so? And, for that matter, doesn’t the Israeli Prime Minister know the truth? Or has he gone bonkers?