In Omar Barghouti’s recent New York Times piece , he once again mislead western audiences regarding his true intentions in seeking the dismantling of Israel by using nuanced language meant to deceive.
To start, he tried to make readers believe that the great Jewish leader Zeev Jabotinsky considered Zionists as colonizers, but that is a false interpretation of his views. Jabotinsky’s use of the term “colonization” must be taken into historical context. Jabotinsky’s essay, the “Iron Wall,” which Mr. Barghouti references, was written in 1923 when the term had a much different connotation than today. In fact, in that essay and its companion piece, “The Ethics of the Iron Wall,” Jabotinsky made it clear that the Jews’ return to their homeland was different from European colonization since it was a manifestation of national self-determination, which he acknowledged the Arabs living in that area enjoyed, as well.
Furthermore, for roughly 400 years before the end of World War I, all of the Levant was part of the Ottoman Empire, and there was no Palestine – just as there was no Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, or Jordan; all states created by the stroke of a pen after that war by the British and French. At the time of Jabotinsky’s writing referenced by Mr. Barghouti, the British Mandate of Palestine had just come into being three years earlier, with part of that mandate being to create a national homeland for the Jewish people, no different than the French establishing Lebanon to protect the Christians in the region. In the Levant alone, the Arabs secured the right to five different states while the Jews were seeking just one. Today, the world has 22 Arab countries, in over five million square miles of land with a total population of 423 million people, when there is only one Jewish state with a population of just eight million on just eight thousand square miles of land.
Mr. Barghouti then claims that Israel is an apartheid state, denigrating the true meaning of that term. With roughly 1.8 million Arab citizens of Israel, accounting for nearly 20% of the population, Israel has never practiced racial segregation; it is the only real democracy in the Middle East, where Arabs sit in the country’s Parliament and on its Supreme Court, and over 22% of the student body of the Technion, Israel’s version of MIT, are Arab students. Israel also has progressive laws when it comes to free speech, gender equality, and LGBTQ rights.
He quotes Joseph Levine when he discusses Palestinian self-determination but has denied that Jews have any right to self-determination of their own, claiming that only the Palestinians have “inalienable rights” to self-determination. Israeli Jews, who he refers to as a settler-colonial population, despite over 3,000 years of historical ties to the land, have only “acquired rights” to reside there. He could not be clearer when he states: “Definitely, most definitely we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine. No Palestinian, rational Palestinian, not a sell-out Palestinian, will ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine.” He considers “Palestine” to be comprised of today’s Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank.
When he talks about the Palestinian right of return, his view is as much an affront to securing a peace deal as the settler movement is, with both sides taking a maximalist view of the territory. He seeks to claim all of the land from the river to the sea as Palestinian when he states: “If the refugees were to return, you would not have a two-state solution, you’d have a Palestine next to a Palestine.” He even states, “There is no reason why it should not be renamed Palestine.” His talk of a one-state solution as a means to peace is just empty rhetoric when he states: “I am completely and categorically against bi-nationalism because it assumes that there are two nations with equal moral claims to the land.”
He speaks of coexistence, but the PACBI charter, which he helped to author, expressly rejects coexistence between Arabs and Jews and instead preaches only “co-resistance,” which even rejects “cooperating with the leftist Zionists [i.e.: Jews] who take part in demonstrations or call themselves peace activists. Those left Zionists do not care about the Palestinian rights.” Through the BDS movement’s anti-normalization policy, they seek to block any interaction between Palestinians and Jews.
The fact remains, despite his claim that if Arabs controlled the area, “collective cultural and religious rights (would be) respected and protected,” Jews were ethnically cleansed from the West Bank after 1948 war and were not allowed to pray at their holiest sites in the Old City of Jerusalem and Hebron, rights Arabs have always had when those sites have been under Jewish control.
True peace between the Israelis and Palestinians will only come once people like Mr. Barghouti realize that the State of Israel is a fact, just as Jabotinsky argued back in 1923.
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