Saturday, June 19, 2010

Bob Rae versus Libby Davies on Israel

Bob Rae has called upon Jack Layton to fire Libby Davies.  Indeed, it  seems that the NDP House Leader has crossed the line that separates personal opinion from party policy, since her criticism of Israels' long occupation "since 1948" appears to call into question the legitimacy of Israel's existence; and her call for a renewed intifada--what Rae decries as "calling for more violence, more suicide bombing, more death, more destruction" -- needs some explanation. But if there had been no Palestinian resistance, wouldn't elements in Israel and in the international community regard that as tacit acceptance of Israel's authority? What would the long-term implications of that be for the establishment of a viable, independent Palestine? There are some important issues of international history and law that need to be spelled out.

Bob should know that while it is wrong to compare Israel's occupation of the West Bank to the Nazi's treatment of the Jews, there is some plausible analogy between the desire for a Greater Israel and the way the Nazis treated Poles and other occupants of ancient Germania.(Hence "Lebensraum").

In other words, there was more to Nazism than just antisemitism. And while Israel's right to exist should be accepted, I can't help but think that that small clutch of victorious allies who called themselves the "United Nations" in 1947-48, and who acted out of guilt about not liberating the death camps sooner, and sympathy for fellow educated Europeans, should have done a better job of considering everyone's interests in Palestine--especially those of the Palestinians. In other words, it was not unreasonable for Arabs and Palestinians to consider the creation of Israel as a legacy of colonialism, and not as a straightforward instance of de-colonization. And their slowness to come to terms with Israel's existence should not be taken as an excuse for building settlements all over the West bank, or for annexing East Jerusalem.
It is also important to clarify what one means by "intifada". The first or "popular" intifada was an inspired and inspirational grass roots movement that took place in the occupied territories and was aimed at Israeli soldiers and settlers. It was also the only Palestinian resistance that actually worked, by strengthening the hands of moderates inside Israel (led by Yitzakh Rabin) and deservedly garnering support throughout the world. Then Rabin was assassinated (by a Jew who wanted a Greater Israel), Ariel Sharon made his provocative march around a Muslim shrine, and all hell broke loose. Unfortunately, the Palestinians' self-proclaimed leaders (esp. Hamas) took control of the protest, and the polarization between extremists on both sides took place. The Second Intifada is an entirely different beast. Before deciding to fire Libby Davies, my question to her would be: which intifada were you referring to?
What should Canada's role be in the Middle East? To support the Rabins, the Abbas's and the Jimmy Carters of this world. Israel has a right to its 1967 boundaries--one could fudge that a little by saying that it has a right to that amount of land it had in 1967. If Israel gives Palestine enough land to build a corridor between Palestine and Gaza, Palestine could in principle agree to give Israel enough land to allow it to keep about half of its existing West Bank settlements. That is the kind of specific two-state solution that makes sense. I think that Libby Davies can be brought around to that, and should say so. The only question is: can Stephen Harper and Bob Rae be brought around to that position, or are they too busy competing for the support of the Jewish community?

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