Critics are Too Generous to Israel
By JONATHAN COOK
"A mistake too often made by those examining Israel's behaviour in the occupied territories -- or when analysing its treatment of Arabs in general, or interpreting its view of Iran -- is to assume that Israel is acting in good faith. Even its most trenchant critics can fall into this trap.
Such a reluctance to attribute bad faith was demonstrated this week by Israel's foremost human rights group, B'Tselem, when it published a report into the bombing by the Israeli air force of Gaza's power plant in late June. The horrifying consequences of this act of collective punishment -- a war crime, as B'Tselem rightly notes -- are clearly laid out in the report.
But why should we think Israel is acting in good faith, even if in bad temper, in destroying Gaza's power station? Why should we assume it was a hot-headed over-reaction rather than a coldly calculated deed?
In other words, why believe Israel is simply lashing out when it commits a war crime rather than committing it after careful advance planning? Is it not possible that such war crimes, rather than being spontaneous and random, are actually all pushing in the same direction?
The goals of both sets of policies, however, are the same: the erosion of Palestinian society's cohesiveness, the disruption of efforts at solidarity and resistance, and ultimately the slow drift of Palestinians away from vulnerable rural areas into the relative safety of urban centres -- and eventually, as the pressure continues to mount, on into neighbouring Arab states, such as Jordan and Egypt.
Why not assume that rather than wanting a dialogue, a real peace process and an eventual agreement with the Palestinians that might lead to Palestinian statehood, Israel wants an excuse to carry on with its four-decade occupation -- even if it has to reinvent it through sleights of hand like the disengagement and convergence plans?
In other words, why not consider for a moment that Israel's stated view of Hamas may be a self-serving charade, that the Israeli government has invested its energies in discrediting Hamas, and before it secular Palestinian leaders, because it has no interest in peace and never has done? Its goal is the maintenance of the occupation on the best terms it can find for itself.
On much the same grounds, we should treat equally sceptically another recent Israeli policy: the refusal by the Israeli Interior Ministry to renew the tourist visas of Palestinians with foreign passports, thereby forcing them to leave their homes and families inside the occupied territories. Many of these Palestinians, who were originally stripped by Israel of their residency rights in violation of international law, often when they left to work or study abroad, have been living on renewable three-month visas for years, even decades.
Palestinians with foreign passports are among the richest, best educated and possibly among the most willing to engage in dialogue with Israel. Many have large business investments in the occupied territories they wish to protect from further military confrontation, and most speak fluently the language of the international community -- English. In other words, they might have been a bridgehead to a peace process were Israel genuinely interested in one."