“We may forgive the Arabs for killing our children but we cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children”: this tweet was posted by the CRIF on May 15th, following the recent events in Gaza. Even though no one is sure Golda Meir really said these words, people will perhaps say one day in Israel: “We will never forgive Benjamin Netanyahu nor his government for having forced Israeli soldiers to shoot at Palestinians who wanted to force their way through security fences, even though they had supposedly been urged to do it by the Hamas.” Now, once we get over the shock of these events, it is time to look for those responsible for them.
The first ones liable for these events are the Israeli leaders who did not take into account the numerous alerts most agents of the Israeli security apparatus have continuously reported to them these last months. Their reports described the humanitarian crisis brewing in Gaza, and inflaming the situation: the economic and social crisis, even more deteriorated by the non payment of civil servants’ salaries by the Palestinian Authority, the power cuts (electric power being delivered by Israel) due to the refusal of the Palestinian government to pay it, the blockade maintained by Egypt and the partial blockade maintained by Israel over land and sea, could not but induce despair in a population comprised mainly of youth 40% of which are unemployed.
Moreover, by failing to reach an agreement following the Hudna (an extended ceasefire) proposed and transmitted by the Hamas, in exchange for the end of the blockade a few weeks ago through Egypt and Qatar, the Israeli government indirectly drove the Hamas to organize these “return marches” which, as it knew perfectly well, would endanger the Israeli population.The fact that the Hamas claimed fifty militants out of the sixty-two killed on May 14th is the proof, if we need any, of its involvement in the conduct of these demonstrations.
But the Israeli responsibility fot the deterioration of the situation does not clear the Hamas of its own responsibility. By choosing this suicidal policy, the Hamas may indeed point out that it managed to show its capacity to mobilize Palestinian masses, and to erase the images of the transfer of the American embassy to Jerusalem that took place the same day. Once again, Israel lost the war of images—which was the aim pursued by the Hamas. But as soon as the media pressure will relent, the issue of the conflict may unfortunately be put off indefinitely, especially since none of the actors likely to get involved in a dynamic diplomacy is really willing to do it. After all, these dead have only helped the Hamas to restore the image of the Hamas, weakened in the Palestinian street these last months.
However, two images of these events will remain: the image of these young Palestinians throwing stones with their slings while soldiers shoot at them, and the same evening, the image taken sixty kilometers away, of ten thousand Israelis celebrating in Tel Aviv the victory of the Eurovision Israeli candidate. Two images showing the gap between these two societies, and the indifference towards others prevailing today within the Israeli society.
The respective responsibilities or the main actors being now defined, we must concentrate today and identify the steps allowing to bring calm in the region and to open new prospects. The people in charge in the army and in the Israeli security services have claimed for a long time that a policy based only on force cannot replace a strategy to solve the conflict. They point out that the function of the army is to give the political leaders enough time to find a political solution. Unfortunately, Netanyahu did not make that choice, and he has not taken a single initiative regarding the Palestinians since the day he became Prime Minister, and since Trump’s election, he feels reinforced in this stalemate. The American decisions to denounce the Iran Nuclear Deal and to transfer to Jerusalem the embassy of the United States have raised feelings of euphoria within the Israeli right. The government has just approved the construction of 2500 housing units, the most part of which will be built in isolated settlements far from the green line—which will make even more complicated the feasability of the Two State Solution. These new housing units in the occupied territories are adding up to 14 454 units built since Trump’ election, three times more than during the previous eighteen months.
The Israeli right has been delivering for years now a speech inspiring fear based on external threats: Iranian bomb, Hamas, Hezbollah, BDS… That speech reinforces a process of rejection of the other (Palestinian or migrant) and of his deshumanization, allowing them to turn a blind eye to his suffering. But the Israeli right seeks mostly to maintain its hold on the population in order to stay in power. Besides, it is noteworthy to mention the cynicism with which the right explains that all criticism addressed to Israel in the West is only motivated by the hatred of Jews while it ignores the very real antisemitism expressed by its allies supporting its policy of colonization, such as American Christian fundamentalists—represented at the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem by the ministers John Hagee and Robert Jeffress, known fot their anti-Jewish statements—or the leaders of “illiberal” democracies developing in Central Europe—Orban’s Hungary, with attacks against George Soros, reviving all antisemitic clichés, or Kaczynski’s Poland, and the law voted in the Polish Parliament appealing to curb any allusion to any kind of Polish responsibility for the Shoah.
In a few days will open in France the France-Israel Year, consisting of dozens of cultural events and meetings in all the country. In spite of the cancelling of Prime Minister Edouard Philippe’s trip to Israel, Netanyahu will be in Paris early in June. And the supporters of the Palestinian cause, remobilized after the events in Gaza, start appealing to the boycot of these events. We already said we were opposed to the actions of BDS, since it remains the best ally of the Israeli right which uses it to justify its policy. Howerver, we may take advantage of this context, when Israel will be again the issue of the moment, to launch a double appeal.
Our first appeal is intended for the Israeli leaders, in order to remind them of the message in the JCall appeal: only the end of occupation and the creation of a Palestinian State will put an end to the conflict and will guarantee the future of Israel as a Jewish and democratic State. No promotion drive, no Eurovision victory will erase the images of the occupation and of a repression which could intensify even more when despair will drive thousands of Palestinians closer to the checkpoints between the West Bank and Israel in order to claim their State.
The second appeal is intended for President Macron, in order to ask him to have his government prepare a plan with the main European countries truly attached to Israel and its security, in case the ultimate deal the Trump Administration is currently preparing in Washington does fail—which will probably happen. This plan will have first and foremost to start by changing radically the situation in Gaza by calling for the return of the Palestinian Authority, for the end of the Israeli and Egyptian blockade, for the creation or a harbour, for the implementation of the neccessary security checks, for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the region with the international and Arab help. All proposals to that effect have been known, studied and assessed for a long time. Time has come to implement them. Time has come to initiate in the Middle East a new momentum that will bring hope to the Palestinian and Israeli populations.