It is time. It is time to talk about the failure of Israel.
I am not speaking of a singular or minor failure here and there. I am talking about the failure of the whole enterprise.
Reports are trickling out that the secret Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations are in trouble. This should come as no surprise. Israel doesn’t really want to negotiate, and the Palestinians have nothing to negotiate with.
But why do I say Israel is a failure? How could I say such a thing? Hasn’t she created a vibrant society in the middle of conflict, tension, and despair? Hasn’t she built institutions and industries that are to be envied? Hasn’t she established a first-world economy and civilization in a sea of third-world backwards peoples that wouldn’t know modernity if it slapped them in the face?
All of those things are true. But it doesn’t matter. Israel is still a failure.
Wearing fancy clothes, driving luxury cars, and having a fat wallet don’t necessarily mean that you’re more successful than everyone else around you. Those things don’t make you smarter. Look at Paris Hilton. They don’t make you kinder. Look at Rupert Murdoch. And they don’t even make you better looking. Look at Donald Trump… but not for too long.
So, what are the elements of Israel’s failure? Let’s break it down.
Israel has a bad relationship with every single one of her neighbors.
Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon all border Israel. And while peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan have been signed, they were done so with little public support and are, by definition, fragile. And we don’t even have to talk about Israel’s rapport with Syria and Lebanon. Syria is Israel’s go-to enemy, as she seeks every reason to demonize Syria and Syrians at every turn. Oh, and Israel illegally occupies 500 square miles of Syrian land in the Golan Heights. That’s 15 Manhattans. Then, when it comes to Lebanon, Israel, like clockwork, orchestrates a bombing campaign there every few years or so. If it’s time for the Olympics, Israel is probably bombing Lebanon.
Israel subjects 5 million people to a military occupation.
The illegal Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza has been in place since 1967. It is shameful, violent, and unlawful. It imperils not only those living under it, but also the entirety of the Israeli population. It treats Palestinians as subhuman, requiring them to travel through their own land as if they don’t belong. It consistently perpetrates unspeakable violence against its imprisoned and impoverished inhabitants, via both highly trained, heavily equipped soldiers and armed, unaccountable, ideological settlers. Moreover, the occupation is expensive, costing Israel something to the tune of $5 billion a year. Highly developed democratic nations don’t go around occupying populations that rival their own in number.
Israel cannot exist without violence.
Almost all the talk from Israeli politicians revolves around war and aggression. Almost none of it focuses on the ills of that bad habit. “If America doesn’t take out Iran, then we will! If America doesn’t take out Syria, then we will! If America doesn’t take out ‘The Real Housewives of New Jersey,’ then we will!”
Last week, Ariel Sharon was finally pronounced dead. To Palestinians, his image was that of a mass murderer. But I am not here to rehash Sharon’s legacy. But it is important to note that his people deemed him “indirectly responsible” for the massacre of 2500 Palestinians in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in 1982. (By the way, for those of you who don’t speak “Israeli,” I can tell you that “indirectly responsible” means “definitely 100% responsible.”) Those same people later awarded him with four ministries and eventually elected him prime minister from 2001-2006. Frankly, I am much less concerned with Sharon than I am with the society that knew exactly who he was and celebrated him nonetheless. Many say Israel is accustomed to war. Perhaps the truth is that she is addicted to it.
Israel is almost completely dependent on the United States.
According to Israeli news sources, US aid to Israel has totaled over $233 billion since 1949. This works out to almost $5 billion a year (remember the cost of the occupation above?). Aside from the financial aid, Israel depends on American political cover in the international community. Since 1972, America has vetoed at least 42 United Nations Security Council Resolutions critical of Israel. Among these were resolutions demanding Israel cease construction of settlements in east Jerusalem, confirming Israeli expropriation of land in east Jerusalem as invalid, urging Israel to abide by the Fourth Geneva Convention, condemning Israeli actions against civilians in southern Lebanon, calling on Israel to withdraw from all Palestinian territories, and 3 separate resolutions asking Israel to halt military operations in Gaza. With all this reliance on the United States, can we really call Israel a success?
Israel hasn’t achieved it most important and vital goal.
Since 1948, Israel has had one fundamental objective: To rid herself of the Palestinians. To her credit, she has tried, energetically, vigorously, forcefully, and robustly. But her efforts have borne no fruit. We exist today just as vociferously and enthusiastically as we ever have. It must be understood that by the nature of Israel’s ideology, the eradication of any sign of the Palestinians is crucial to her success. She wants us to be permanently out of commission. She does, however, want to keep the hummus and the hookahs.
Israel doesn’t know what else to do.
This is the most important element of Israel’s failure. War has failed. Expulsions have failed. Settlements have failed. Massacres have failed. It’s time for some new strategies. The only thing Israel hasn’t tried is collective democracy (not Jewish-only democracy) and the recognition of universal human rights. One wonders if she is capable of such a thing.
Last week, according to Haaretz, Netanyahu told his fellow party members that he is against evacuating settlements like Hebron and Beit El. He called them “important to the Jewish people.” Beit El houses about 6,000 mostly Orthodox settlers and sits adjacent to the twin cities of Ramallah and El-Bireh, which together contain about 80,000 Palestinians. The population of Hebron numbers about 250,000 Palestinians and 600 ideological Jewish settlers. Netanyahu is basically talking about keeping settlements that are outside the major settlement blocs but have military and ideological importance. This is the “same old same old,” and it has never worked before. Even the dumbest guy starts using different pickup lines after repeated rejection.
“He also said he has ‘no solution’ for how to prevent Israel from becoming a binational state while also ensuring that a Palestinian state won’t become a base for Iran or Al-Qaeda.” A couple of things are clear here. First, Netanyahu obviously views a binational state as a disaster. There is no surprise here, as he has been known to call us Palestinians a “demographic threat,” which, by the way Bibi, hurts our feelings. Second, he believes we crazy Palestinians would be open to either Iran or Al-Qaeda, which, by the way Bibi, are ideological opposites and hate each other. And we wouldn’t be open to either of them in any case. While we are usually welcoming, we now know that it is generally a bad idea to open our home to someone without knowing his true intentions. We learned that lesson 65 years ago.
Netanyahu also described his general position on us pesky natives. “There’s a problem that the Palestinians are there, and I have no intention of removing them. It’s impractical and inappropriate.” Inappropriate? Pretty callous. Bibi then described slavery as “impolite” and apartheid as “inconsiderate.”
Netanyahu concluded his meeting: “Currently, we have no solution.”
For the longest time, we Palestinians have been telling ourselves, “Look, how smart Israeli is! She plans a hundred years into the future!” Well, it turns out that we were all wrong. Israel only looks as far as the next Palestinian.
Israel is not a success in any real sense of the word. She is cruel, militaristic, aggressive, and needy. She deflects criticism and flouts international values. She even built a wall. She can currently be found banging her head against it.
* Amer Zahr is a Palestinian American comedian, writer, professor and speaker living in Dearborn, Michigan. He is also the editor of "The Civil Arab."