I’ve spent my seven weeks in occupied Palestine, and now it’s time go home to my everyday reality in Toronto, Canada. Leaving feels strange, feels like I’m waking up – “back to reality”. But that’s wrong, what I’ve seen here is reality – and in the West Bank I think a few degrees more real than in the indefinitely self-reflexive and over-represented “West”. But to me, a liberal subject raised under the thick veil of publicities and public relations, the dusty real of the West Bank still remains a little beyond me, a little bit a dream. A dream which is not simply pleasant; the West Bank is not a good dream, but a daily nightmare or at best Kafka-esq absurdist routine of apartheid laws, corrupted police and local administration, and a political situation made too complicated by a situation which might be objectively without a reasonable direction in which people can aim. But there are good people in this situation, and I am now lucky enough to call some of them my friends. What astounds me most about these good people is their willingness to look at the situation with all eyes open and be prepared to commit all of themselves to finding the right decision, and also to acting on it.
But you can’t see any of this from the departure lounge. My computer, a macbook pro, fits in here in a way it doesn’t in the West Bank. Everything is clean, airy, well lit without being too bright. In fact, this airport unlike most in Europe does remind me of the Vancouver or Toronto airports. As I sit here, I try to lighten my mood, to think about how much I “love Israel”, to take on not only the narrative but the frame of body-mind which will carry me through security without too much trouble. Not to lie, so much as to take on a bundle of affects that will present the truth as something unconcerning.
But this way of thinking brings me back to the reality. The reality is I’ve developed my own perspectives on the conflict during my seven weeks here. The first perspective is: it’s not my place to have a position on how the conflict should be resolved. There is no need for North Americans to debate one-state versus two-state solutions; that is a decision for the Palestinians who struggle and die on the ground fighting against the Zionists. What there is a need for outside Palestine is to force our governments to stop supporting Israeli crimes, specifically the crimes of Zionist extremists who continue to expropriate Palestinian land by expanding settlements, which makes worse the conflict and re-enforces feelings of hatred between the communities.
Zionism was a political ideology which found its strength almost entirely, both within and outside the Jewish community, in reaction against the holocaust. It is an extremist and racist ideology because it advocates taking the land of one people to redress the crimes against another. It’s an unfortunate episode in world history, but it happened. The question is not whether Zionism and the establishment of the Zionist entity should have come to pass or not (although this may make a good discussion question for a seminar), but what continued role should Zionism have for the Jewish people, and what attitude should other nations take towards Israel’s Zionist ideology? The idea that the solution to anti-Jewish racism is the establishment of a strong Jewish state is tired, it is time for Jews and non-Jews to question whether Zionism is a bulwark against anti-semitism, whether it makes Jews any safer, and whether if it does make Jews safer, it makes them safer only at the expense of making another people’s existence more precarious.
Encouraging our western governments to stop supporting Zionism will not end the conflict in Palestine – there are historical grievances against the Israeli state which cannot easily be addressed, and the continued oppression of Palestinians inside and outside the ’48 borders of Israel only worsens the situation, weakens prospects for reconciliation between the communities. However, the fundamental mistake made here is for people to assert that it is the role of the Palestinians to reconcile with the Israelis – for Palestinians, Zionism was a crime against them, and reconciliation is probably impossible so long as Israel remains zionist and continues to deny the Nakba, and deny the refugees the ability to return to their villages. The end of Zionism is a precondition for a peaceful resolution of the conflict, but it is not sufficient condition.
Continuing to support the Zionists in Israel puts Palestinians in a precarious position – either they accept their own oppression, perhaps in the form of a “Palestinian state” on the ’67 borders – or they continue to wage unwinnable wars against Israel for “all the land”. Both of these are not solutions to the conflict – one is simply the surrender of Palestine in which Palestinians are forced to recognize the zionist entity, and by extension recognize that Jews born anywhere in the world have more of a right to live in their villages than they do. And the other is the ever ongoing military annihilation of Palestinians, who although might be very clever, and might be fighting against cowards, will always lose against such a military machine, which can always draw on the American army if need be.