Israel’s War Against Palestine: Documenting the Military Occupation of Palestinian and Arab Lands

Gideon Levy: Israel can’t put occupation up for immoral referendum

28 November 2010

By Gideon Levy, Haaretz – 28 Nov 2010

Israeli democracy at its best: The entire people will decide on the next peace arrangement, but not on the question of settlements and annexation, and not on the question of wars

Gideon Levy

Gideon Levy

Israeli democracy at its best: The entire people will decide on the next peace arrangement, but not on the question of settlements and annexation, and not on the question of wars. Israeli trickery at its best: Legislators pass laws relating to the day an arrangement is forged whose point is to defer that day’s arrival for as long as possible. And Israeli morality at its best: A manifestly immoral question is formulated for a referendum, and insult is added to injury because only we Israelis, members of the chosen people, will decide on the fate of another people which has for generations lived under occupation, and we dare to call all this tomfoolery democracy. In fact, this is Israeli chutzpah at its worst.

The question to be addressed in a referendum is immoral. The continuation of the occupation is now subject to a ballot measure – as though such a question can conceivably be asked. Voters will be asked who is in favor of continued occupation, and who is against it.

Exactly as an agreement over stolen property forged in the criminal underworld would never be acceptable in a courtroom, so too is such a question about continuing an occupation entirely untenable.

Similarly, the thought that only we will decide whether Syrian residents of the Golan Heights and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip will receive the right of self determination and basic liberties is utterly preposterous, and it bears witness to the extent to which values of morality and justice have become warped and distorted in this country. The basic fact has long been forgotten, as though it never existed: At issue here is an illegitimate conquest that is not recognized by any state in the world.

Under such circumstances, Israelis do not have the right to discuss the future of this occupation. This elementary fact is perceived here as delusion because everything pertaining to international law is dismissed as delusion or anti-Semitism.

If a referendum is to be carried out, it should relate to the sole relevant question: one state or two?

These two legitimate possibilities should be on the referendum agenda: The granting of full civil liberties to the conquered population, or the end of the occupation. Do you really want a referendum? If so, it can pertain solely to this issue. Do you want democracy? If so, everyone needs to be asked, including Palestinians.

The problem is that these thoughts are light years away from Israeli thinking; they are considered out of bounds, and we have built our own imaginary world in which we are the only actors. The referendum supported by Benjamin Netanyahu and his government has been concocted for the sole purpose of throwing up more obstacles to block a peace arrangement, and to relieve a cowardly leadership of its duties.

The present government and its like-minded predecessors never staged referenda about settlement construction, which is a step no less fateful than territorial withdrawal; nor did they hold referenda about the annexation of the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem or the cessation of wars. None of these moves warranted referenda; but for current decisions the people’s consent is suddenly needed, apparently out of the hope that the people will block any concessions.

Meanwhile there is neither a peace arrangement nor a referendum, and the damage is mounting. On the other hand, the world is watching how Israel piles up ever increasing obstacles and difficulties, in order to preempt any peace agreement.

And why shouldn’t there be a referendum under any circumstance – even a scenario by which the Knesset rejects a proposed arrangement? The answer is that such a “referendum in any event” arrangement would encourage and promote the forging of an agreement.

Here’s the real question: What the hell do you all want, and where are we headed? Settlements will keep being built, the occupation will deepen and consolidate – so what?

How many Israelis could even give an answer to the question: What do you want to be here in another decade? In two decades? What do you think will hold here; will the status quo continue?

Does the prime minister have an answer to such questions? Veteran Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat recently described the situation this way: “I’ve met Israeli prime ministers who worried about Israeli security in another 300 years, and somehow I understood that, but a prime minister whose only worry is what is to be broadcast on the next news program is something I’ve never imagined.”

Even before the next news broadcast, the time should come for questions and referenda. Such a moment actually came long ago. But let’s at long last summon the courage and ask ourselves the serious, genuine questions.

All IOA commentaries by Gideon Levy

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