The next round of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict?

Aluf Benn writes in Haaretz that Israeli PM Netanyahu is getting ready for the “Third Intifada,” signaled by the Palestinan demonstrations on Nakba Day (Catastrophe Day: May 15, the day after Israeli Independence Day) that saw Palestinian demonstrators trying to cross the borders of Israel. According to Benn, Netanyahu believes that Israel has no partner in negotiations because of the recent unity agreement signed between Hamas and Fatah and that Israel faces an existential threat from Iran. So he has sought to unify Israeli opinion and offer flexibility on the Palestinian issue which he does not believe will be returned before going to meet with President Obama. The whole analysis not long and worth reading if you are interested in Palestinian-Israeli relations.

One of the more striking passages in Benn’s analysis was his description of the Nakba Day protests:

On Nakba Day this week, the Palestinians outflanked Israel in the public consciousness front. Instead of violent demonstrations in the territories, they emerged from refugee camps in Syria, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip and headed for Israel’s northern and southern border fences. They want to inculcate their narrative in Western public opinion: They are unarmed demonstrators who have come to demand justice and realize their right of return. No terror, no suicide bombers, only nonviolent protest against oppression and humiliation, like Mahatma Gandhi and the protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

The self-evident analogy to Zionist history are the illegal immigrants’ ships that broke the British regime in Palestine. On the operational level, the British could deal with the illegal immigration: They intercepted most of the ships on the high seas and brought their passengers to prison camps in Cyprus. But they could not cope with the superiority of consciousness of a beaten people, a third of whose number had been murdered in the Holocaust and whose survivors sought to return to their historical homeland. The Palestinians now want to do the same thing to Israel: They are marching toward the land of their fathers with flags and patriotic songs, and the Zionist enemy is driving them out with guns toward the horror of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Hat tip: Jeff Goldberg



  1. Other than their goal of eliminating Israel, planting the odd explosive, damaging barriers, and the usual rock throwing that is inconsequential in its ubiquity and light wounding of soldiers (the fireworks were the quiet kind and gas bombs don’t count because their aim is so poor and gas is so expensive)… um… other than all that, I think Benn is right — they have won a PR victory of a non-violent invasion slash protest.

    And Benn is eloquent in furthering that meme. If Gandhi were to invade a sovereign nation he was at war with and swore to destroy, that IS what I’d expect it to look like. It’s also clearly analogous to the Jews’ immigration after suffering the holocaust into non-sovereign territories previously declared for them. “Self-evident” is exactly the word I was looking for, thank you Benn.

    Bah, sarcasm leaves a bad taste in my mouth even as the mocking can roll off the tongue and seem apt. I feel kinda guilty about writing it, so be gentle. If only the truth really were self-evident. Still, it’s fascinating to see how narratives compete to define policy and history.

  2. You’re definitely right that the protests were not all nonviolent, although I think that some of them were and that the destruction of Israel was not the universal goal (from what I saw in the NYT article that you linked to, that was Bibi’s description).

    I don’t think that Benn is necessarily trying to further the Palestinian narrative, though. Haaretz is an Israeli paper, albeit one on the center left. And the Palestinians are people who have suffered displacement, but of course at a much lesser level than the Jews fleeing the Holocaust.

    Your line about Gandhi was great.

  3. I expect you are right that not every “protestor’s” goal is the destruction of Israel, but as I understand it, that is the overall attitude and official stance. “This is war,” as the 16 year old said. It’s incredibly silly but Israel is still begging for acknowledgement of its right to exist, much less meaningful actions, propaganda, school instruction, and private attitudes that reflect that. This is the fruit of decades of negotiation.

    Warped proportions are the foundation of moral confusion in this conflict. Maybe all conflicts. I don’t know what Benn is trying to accomplish in portraying Palestinians as doves. It just seems distorted. Goldberg seems to be similarly projecting in asserting the apartheid analogy apart from protection concerns, but at least he makes a fair overall point about the dangers of entanglement.

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