The grumpy diplomats of the rogue state

22 July 2011

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The real reason for Israeli diplomats’ headaches.

(Claudia Gabriela Marques Vieira / Flickr)

The Israeli ambassador to Spain, Raphael Schutz, has just finished his term in Madrid. In an op-ed in Haaretz’s Hebrew edition he summarized what he termed as a very dismal stay and seemed genuinely relieved to leave.

This kind of complaint now seems to be the standard farewell letter of all Israeli ambassadors in Western Europe. Schutz was preceded by the Israeli ambassador to London, Ron Prosor, on his way to his new posting at the United Nations in New York, complaining very much in the same tone about his inability to speak in campuses in the United Kingdom and whining about the overall hostile atmosphere. Before him the ambassador in Dublin expressed similar relief when he ended his term in office in Ireland.

All three grumblers were pathetic but the last one from Spain topped them all. Like his colleagues in Dublin and in London he blamed his dismal time on local and ancient anti-Semitism. His two friends in the other capitals were very vague about the source of the new anti-Semitism as both in British and Irish history it is difficult to single out, after medieval times, a particular period of anti-Semitism.

But the ambassador in Madrid without any hesitation laid the blame for his trials and tribulations on the fifteenth century Spanish Inquisition. Thus the people of Spain (his article was entitled “Why the Spanish hate us”) are anti-Israeli because they are either unable to accept their responsibility for the Inquisition or they still endorse it by other means in our times.

This idea that young Spaniards should be moved by atrocities committed more than 500 years ago and not by criminal policies that take place today, or the notion that one could single out the Spanish Inquisition as sole explanation for the wide public support for the Palestinian cause in Spain, can only be articulated by desperate Israeli diplomats who have long ago lost the moral battle in Europe.

But this new complaint — and I am confident that there are more to come — exposes something far more important. The civil society struggle in support of Palestinian rights in key European countries has been successful. With few resources, sometimes dependent on the work of very small groups of committed individuals, and aided lately by its biggest asset — the present government of Israel - this campaign has indeed made life quite hellish for every Israeli diplomat in that part of the world.

So when we come and assess what is ahead of us, we who have been active in the West are entitled to a short moment of satisfaction at a job well done.

The three grumpy ambassadors are also right in sensing that not only has Israeli policy in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip come under attack, but also the very racist nature of the Jewish state has galvanized decent and conscientious citizens — many of them Jewish — around the campaign for peace and justice in Palestine.

Outside the realm of occupation and the daily reality of oppression all over Israel and Palestine, one can see more clearly that history’s greatest lesson will eventually reveal itself in Palestine as well: evil regimes do not survive forever and democracy, equality and peace will reach the Holy Land, as it will the rest of the Arab world.

But before this happens we have to extricate ourselves from the politicians’ grip on our lives. In particular we should not be misled by the power game of politicians. The move to declare Palestine, within 22 percent of its original being, as an independent state at the UN is a charade whether it succeeds or not.

A voluntary Palestinian appeal to the international community to recognize Palestine as a West Bank enclave and with a fraction of the Palestinian people in it, may intimidate a Likud-led Israeli government, but it does not constitute a defining moment in the struggle for the liberation of Palestine. It would either be a non-event or merely provide the Israelis a pretext for further annexation and dispossession.

This is another gambit in the power game politicians play which has led us nowhere. When Palestinians solve the issue of representation and the international community exposes Israel for what it is — namely the only racist country in the Middle East — then politics and reality can fuse again.

And slowly and surely we will be able to put back the pieces and create the jigsaw of reconciliation and truth. This must be based on the twofold recognition that a solution has to include all the Palestinians (in the occupied territories, in exile and inside Israel) and has to be based on the construction of a new regime for the whole land of historical Palestine, offering equality and prosperity for all the people who live there now or were expelled from it by force in the last 63 years of Israel’s existence.

The obvious discomfort the three diplomats felt and expressed is not due to any cold shoulder shown to them in local foreign ministries or governments. And therefore while many Europeans can make their lives miserable, their respective governments can still look the other way.

Whether it is financial desperation and external Israeli and American pressure that bought Greece’s collaboration against the Gaza Freedom Flotilla or it is the power of intimidation that silences even progressive newspapers like the Guardian in the West, Israel’s immunity is still granted despite its diplomats’ misery.

This is why we should ensure that not only Israeli ambassadors feel uncomfortable in European capitals, but also all those who support them or are too afraid to confront Israel and hold it to account.

Ilan Pappe is Professor of History and Director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies at the University of Exeter. His most recent book is Out of the Frame: The Struggle for Academic Freedom in Israel (Pluto Press, 2010).

Comments

1) How, specifically, would a UN resolution " provide the Israelis a pretext for further annexation and dispossession?"
2) Do you really think that Israel is the "only racist state in the Middle East?"

These claims, without qualification or explanation, retard the already slow crawl toward true Palestinian independence.

I don't disagree with the first claim, though I'm not sure how it would all play out.

The second claim, though, is asinine. One need only to look at Lebanon. Migrant workers are routinely raped & murdered in Lebanon, for example. Conditions are so bad there that Indonesia has banned its citizens from going there to work. Indeed, the *Palestinians* in Lebanon are systematically discriminated against *as a matter of law.* I have to believe that Mr. Pappe is aware of these two examples of racism in the so-called Middle East (of so many more). They are not buried in some journalistic or academic dustbin--they are widely reported on and commonly understood. The question, then, why would he ignore them?

Excellent article. Let me just add that Pappe's latest book is "The Forgotten Palestinians: A History of the Palestinians in Israel" by Yale University Press

@Trevor--> I think that what Pappe is saying is that Israel is the only place where racism is virtually institutionalized and constitutionalized. Lebanon is far from that.

I get what Pappe is saying, but it's wrong, and that kind of myopy is used against us all the time. I *truly* appreciate Pappe. His work is invaluable. But this idea is just not true. Lebanon *does* have official laws that discriminate against Palestinians in particular. Further, Palestinian refugees in other places (Iraq, for one) are among the most vulnerable people on the planet.

I'm not trying to equate these forms of discrimination to Israel's, just saying that someone like Pappe should know that spurious claims detract from the overall point of his argument.

It's about time that Israelis quit spouting anti-Semitism all the time. There is far more anti-Arab sentiments now. They should realize that the Israelis are acting wrongly.
But, because the USA continues to veto resolutions in the UN critical of Israel, even those with huge numbers of voting nations backing these resolutions, there is no chance for fairness and Israelis continue with arrogance.

http://ButterflyStorms.blog.ca

Pappe is good on so many points, and his opposition to the UN recognition of Palestine reinforces that even as nominal equals, the reality is that Israel will still have the upper hand.
The "racist state" remark is counterproductive, as many people will split hairs instead of bringing the game to Israel.

In response to the criticism that Lebanon also practices racism, as well as Israel, let it be understood that Lebanese and Palestinian people are racially the same. Modern Israel is composed of Russians, Poles, Czechs, and other Europeans whose bloodlines have been mixed with those of non-Jewish Europeans for at least 1,000 years despite the professed standard that Jewish communities always strongly discourage intermarriage with Non-Jews. Let us remember that the Hebrew Bible plainly states that Moses himself, who may be justifiably identified as the founder of the Jewish faith - the religion of law and covenant - was married to a non-Jewish woman, and the entire Bible is replete with such mixing. Israel's racism is indeed unique in the Middle East today. The most telling evidence is that, within Israel itself, even those Palestinian families that have been Jewish for 1,000 years are required to send their children to rundown, poorly supported and overcrowded Arab schools, rather than the beautiful and well-funded Jewish schools, with their small class sizes. This is indisguishable from the old law in the Southeastern USA of requiring black Christian parents to send their children to far worse "colored" schools, which were completely separate from the schools for white Christian children. It is morally the same. Thank you, Dr. Pappe.

Timothy Ray,
I see what you're saying--Palestinians and Lebanese are Arabs, therefore it's not racism if the Lebanese gov't discriminates against Palestinians. There is a little more to that story, though; not all Lebanese identify as Arabs. That's a long story, that I'll not belabor. Beyond that, though, I did also mention that Lebanon practices such severe racism against immigrant workers that at least one government, Indonesia or Malaysia (I believe) forbids it's citizens from traveling there.

Although it MAY be true that Indonesia has banned its people from goig there, I don;t think that's right. Recently an Indonesian woman was beheaded in Saudi Arabia without the Indonesian government havinf been informed. Indonesia consequently barred its citizens from going to work ther, so I think it's Saudi Arabia and not Lebanon. Yes, some Lebanese don't consider themselves Arabs, but think that's because they consider themselves Christians first and foremost or Lebanese. However, I still think, other labels notwithstanding, most Lebanese people do consider themselves to be Arab, but perhaps that is not their primary form of identification.

Let's be clear and honest: Israel is the only state in the world with apartheid laws, without international condemnation. Israel is the only state in the world maintaining barbarous military occupation since 45 years without interruption. Israel is the only colonial settler state expanding settlements on a daily basis since its creation, without international condemnation. Israel is the only state in the world, expelling indigenous people, and impelling jewish immigration on a daily basis.
Israel is the only "democratic" state in the world, killing, imprisoning, kidnapping children from the occupied people on a daily basis. Not to forget the middle age siege of Gaza. Israel is a barbarous state, to be condemned by anyone with the slightest consciousness of moral.

but then, why is it so? Why Israel can be rogue state within our western democracies, with help, cooperation, western gouvernments help - not to use the word, with it's french connotation COLLABORATION ?
There must be a reason why. The day you and I shall get the answer, it might be too late for Israel, because nobody can tell me whow such a regime, calling itself "democracy" can persist by it's Herrenmenschentum.
Eather Isreal changes and civilizes itself, with the palestinians, all of them, or there will be no place for it. Still, it's not too late for Israel. But, I wonder if there is enough sagesse left by sionist brainwashing of the whole society

Israel still does this because it can and is an arrogant state. It is protected and backed ..and that's the long and short of it..It is extremely unfortunate but it will continue to behave this way. As an old Zionist once said: "the old will die and the young will forget" then Israel will rewrite its history..