Wednesday, September 29, 2021

The pathology of Zionist rejectionism

Israel, by stubbornly holding onto the West Bank, might only be setting itself up for another regional conflict – the dynamics of which would be different from past Arab-Israeli wars.

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In a show of unity against the continuing Zionist occupation and oppression, Palestinians from all walks of life went on a general strike (dubbed Karameh, the Arabic word for “dignity”) on May 18 which has not been seen since 1936 as part of the uprising under the then-British Mandatory Palestine.

The 1936 general strike led to the establishment of the Peel Commission which laid down the first idea for a partition. Jerusalem and the “central zone” of Palestine would come under a British-led international administration (at that time, the League of Nations). The entirety of the West Bank and southern Palestine (including Gaza) would fall under Jewish territory.

Much has been said about Arab rejectionism since then. But some context would provide clarity and appreciation of the (original) position of the Palestinian Arabs.

According to Shaul Bartal in “The Peel Commission Report of 1937 and the Origins of the Partition Concept” (Jewish Political Studies Review, 2017), the Arabs in the form of the Arab Higher Committee (AHC) rejected it and instead demanded a fully fledged (as in geographically) Arab nation – separate from what’s to become the then Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan – to reflect demographic realities. The argument in favour of an independent state of Palestine and rejection of a Jewish “national homeland” (as per the Balfour Declaration) was encapsulated in the book, “The Palestine Mandate, Invalid and Impracticable: A Contribution of Arguments and Documents towards the Solution of the Palestine Problem” (1936) by WF Boustany (a member of the Third Palestine Arab Delegation to London in 1923).

While there were already Jews living in Palestine from time immemorial together with the Judaised and non-Jewish communities, the last of the Jewish rebellion against Roman imperial rule resulted in the ever-decrease of the Jewish indigenous population through expulsion and immigration. By the time of the rise of Christianity, there was already an established Jewish diaspora. This together with the migration of the Ghassanid (i.e. pre-Islamic Arabs) from the third century onwards into Palestine. With the Christianisation of Palestine under Byzantine (Roman East) rule, Christian immigration from the rest of the empire further intensified.

Therefore, Jews who migrated to Palestine under the banner of Zionism were, to put it simply, immigrants (foreigners) – unlike their minority compatriots who could trace their lineage unbroken.

Furthermore, the Jewish (as in ethnic) origins of the immigrant settlers could be questioned on genetic grounds as argued in Israeli historian Shlomo Sands’ “The Invention of the Jewish People” (2009). Sand’s other book, “The Invention of the Land of Israel” (2012) demonstrates convincingly (even as from a neutral standpoint) that the biblical land of Israel (Erezt Yisrael) is not, historically and geographically, coterminous with the state of Israel (Medinat Yisrael).
In short, not only had the demographics in Palestine start to change by the time of the Christianisation of the Roman Empire, Arabisation – Christian (see Doron Bar’s “The Christianisation of Rural Palestine during Late Antiquity”, 2003 as published in the Journal of Ecclesiastical History) and Muslim – changed the social landscape.

Of course, being at the cross-roads of many of the civilisations of antiquity and bridge between cultures and regions and continents, the land of “Palestine” has seen waves and waves of migrations from all geographical directions.

The reality is that Palestinian acceptance of the two-state solution based on the 1949 Armistice Agreement – otherwise known as the Pre-1967 War/Green Line – coupled with the settlements in the West Bank and Netanyahu’s threatened annexation can only demonstrate to the world one thing.

And that’s Zionist rejectionism.

Only recently, the Palestinian ambassador Walid Abu Ali was quoted by The Star affirming that, “[Both parties] must return to the negotiating table on a two-state settlement based on the territorial lines before the 1967 war”.

So much for so-called Arab rejectionism.

Zionist rejectionism is also expressed in successive strategic bombings of Gaza by Israel – with the aim of destroying infrastructure so as to degrade and weaken the will of the Gazans to resist (punitive action).

In the aftermath of the latest cease-fire following yet another round of war crime, it’s incumbent upon the aggressor to take steps to end the cycle of massacre and destruction once for all by seriously working towards a two-state solution.

Concomitantly, the Tel Aviv regime must unilaterally withdraw and disengage from the West Bank in whole or at least in part leaving the rest of the settlements under Palestinian administration.

In the case of the latter, the plan could include the concept that the remaining settlements (that were not dismantled), particularly the more established and sophisticated ones that have become self-contained towns or cities in their own right, would be designated as special zones. These zones would come under the jurisdiction of the state of Palestine (Dawlat Filastin). Hence, the settlers living there would be “guests” and subject to the laws of the land and a special poll tax (levied per capita or on each person), in addition to conventional taxes (property assessment, income, corporate).

The idea of the lack of “strategic depth” of which Benjamin Netanyahu is perhaps the most famous proponent (see his book, “Durable Peace: Israel and its Place Among the Nations”, 2000) has been bandied around by Zionists as justification for settler expansionism into the West Bank.

Strategic depth is simply the “space” by which a country would need in order to successfully defend itself from an invasion.

But it’s a specious argument that lacks in-depth grounds.

Such is the pathology of Zionist rejectionism.

Firstly, the inclusion of the West Bank may add depth to the state of Israel but not strategically, especially in relation to air invasion. The distance from Jerusalem to Jericho near the border with Jordan is only 25.6km.

Fighter jets could easily swoop past West Bank to bomb urban centres inside Israel with no sweat. Unless, of course, Israel’s air defences and air force have the latest and most sophisticated technology to counter the threat which they do.

That’s to say, “strategic depth” is irrelevant to Israel’s defence in any aerial invasion.

Secondly, it presumes that a sovereign state of Palestine would be inherently hostile to Israel and would someday seize the moment to invade – with aim of finally realising a one-state solution, instead. Assuming that this argument is sound – which it isn’t – this would by default presuppose and imply Israeli military and intelligence failure.

Failure to detect signs of impending invasion. It would be highly unlikely given the close proximity of the two countries as well as the track record of Mossad and Shin Bet.

Failure to prepare in advance which would be highly unlikely given the track record of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), especially in terms of air superiority.

Failure to mobilise its population (both male and female) in the form of the mandatory national military service would be inconceivable.

In fact, in the event of a future Arab-Israeli conflict, the strategic depth would be immaterial because the likely route of invasion would probably come from the north.

Syria – with the backing of Iran and Russia – remains a formidable opponent, not least determined to rightfully regain the Golan Heights which it lost in the 1967-Six Day War and perhaps Turkey joining in too by air and sea in relation to Gaza (south). Iran is in the position to move armaments and troops into Syria. By extension, both are in a position to move (back) into Lebanon with the support of Hezbollah as a stabilising force in that country.

An invasion coming from southern Lebanon with the aim of encircling/enveloping the Golan Heights from the “rear” with the other pincer movement directly from Syria would shatter the IDF garrisons. At the same time, this giant double envelopment allows for a new buffer zone to be created between Lebanon and Israel – as bargaining chip for Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank.

Another intifada (uprising) in the West Bank and Gaza would add to the pressure on the Tel Aviv regime – perhaps weakening domestic political arrangements.

Basically, whether such scenario will materialise or not, Israel by stubbornly holding onto the West Bank might only be setting itself up for another regional conflict – the dynamics of which would be different from past Arab-Israeli wars.

In short, Zionist rejectionism should not be seen as a result of Zionist triumphalism.

It could well be the beginning of the end. As the saying goes, the rest is history.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of MalaysiaNow.

Jason Loh Seong Wei is head of social, law & human rights at independent think tank Emir Research.

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