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Eretz or bust

December 8, 2017

A year or so ago a friend of mine posted one of those quizzes on Facebook. You know the type. Not the which Harry Potter/Game of Thrones character are you type. The other ones about geography. This particular one began with the claim that 90% of people could not correctly identify the capital cities of the twenty countries in the quiz. Knowing these quizzes are mostly made up for US citizens, most of whom probably couldn’t find those countries on a map and having a couple of spare minutes, I took the quiz, also knowing how smug I’d feel afterwards.


The black square should, of course, be Tel Aviv.

I scored 19/20. It was deliberate. Given the choice between Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa as the capital of Israel, I deliberately picked Tel Aviv, which was chosen as the capital of Israel when the country came into being seven decades ago. It is the city where all foreign embassies are based. End of, as far as I’m concerned. End of, as far as most countries are concerned.

Jerusalem, it was agreed all those decades ago, should exist as a corpus separatum, overseen by the international community in recognition of its importance to three major world religions. It was a good, well-intentioned plan, even if it was doomed to fail.

I know there is a centuries old tradition of countries changing their borders by military force if they don’t like said borders, but that was supposed to end after the second world war.

It was right and proper in the aftermath of the Holocaust for the Jewish people to have their own state. Absolutely right and proper. Yes, it was centuries since this part of the world had been Israel, but right was right.

Even as a young child I understood this. As a slightly older child I was pleased when the young Jewish state fought off an attack by its Arab neighbours. I was still very much at the good guys/bad guys (and nothing in between) stage. As far as I was concerned the Israelis were the good guys. End of.

Some years would pass before I began to wonder when the good guys had turned into the bad guys, before I began to understand the significance of all the settlements built on occupied Palestinian land.

Were Palestinians being rounded up and sent to concentration camps? No, of course not. But their post-1947 country was being shrunk into non-existence as was their ability to even call themselves a people.

Is this right and proper? No, it bloody well isn’t.

Many Israelis agree. They want a proper two-state solution – Israelis and Palestinians co-existing peacefully on the land of their ancestors. Failing that, they wasn’t to see full self-determination for the Palestinian people.

I shared the optimism of many in the 1990s when Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat signed the Oslo Accords. Countries (and companies) began investing in the Palestinian territories, believing the time really had come, that there would be stability in the region at long last.

Then Rabin was assassinated at a pro-peace rally by an ultranationalist gunman. A year later, another ultranationalist, Benjamin Netanyahu, became the prime minister and during his terms in office it’s been Eretz Yisrael or bust.

What does that mean? For ultranationalists it means that the Israel of today should have the same borders as those of biblical Israel. The Promised Land, bequeathed to the Jewish people by God.

Of course, this will never happen, because biblical Israel encompassed most of modern day Syria, half of modern day Iraq and sizeable chunks of Egypt and Saudi Arabia. (Click on the link if you want to see.) So, for the diehards who aren’t actually fruitcakes, Eretz Yisrael has been redefined. It now means all of pre-1947 Palestine with Jerusalem as its capital. Palestinians be damned. This is the Israeli birthright.

The rest of the world has never shared this enthusiasm for wiping Palestine off the map. That is why every foreign embassy is in Tel Aviv, the capital established with the country. As impossible as it seems these countries still hope that somehow one day there will be justice for the Palestinians.

And then this week that ignorant, arrogant narcissist, who lost the popular vote but nonetheless ended up in the White House, used his tiny hand to sign an explosive commitment to move the embassy of the United States from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Does Donald Fucking Trump have any idea what he’s just done? I’m not sure that he does, but even if he did, he clearly wouldn’t care. Obviously his (hopefully-soon-to-be-indicted) son-in-law knows exactly what this means for the ambitions of ultranationalist Israelis. It’s a big GO FOR IT sign. And Trump did promise the crazy fundamentalist Christians in his base that he would do this, because they honestly believe Jesus will not return until all of Palestine is occupied by the Jews.

Of all the promises this fuckwit has broken since January, why the hell did he have to keep this one?


From → Columns

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