Watching Israel/Palestine Burn


IRRESPECTIVE OF WHICH SIDE of the conflict one stands, watching the latest tragedy unfold in Israel/Palestine is heart-breaking. Not the least distressing aspect of the renewed bloodshed is the antagonists’ reflexive defence of long held and deeply entrenched positions. On neither side is there the slightest evidence of new or original thinking. All we hear are the same slogans repeated over and over. But, if both sides insist on standing still, how can there be any movement?

This latest eruption of violence has, however, dramatically exposed the futility of the Palestinians’ uncompromising insistence on the so-called “Right of Return”. Ironically, it has been the actions of the Jews expelled from East Jerusalem in the Arab-Jewish war of 1948 that have revealed the sheer impracticality of this key Palestinian demand.

In demanding the return of the properties their parents and grandparents were forced to abandon in the face of the Jordanian Arab Legion’s successful defence of East Jerusalem in the year of the State of  Israel’s birth, Jewish litigants are demanding the eviction of Palestinian families who have lived in these properties for more than sixty years. Few on either side of this dispute would have been surprised to discover that their present occupants have not the slightest intention of abandoning them voluntarily. Indeed, it has been their resolute refusal to be dispossessed by the Israeli courts, and the mass Palestinian support their resistance has attracted, that set the scene for the latest confrontations.

It is unfortunate that among the Palestinian leadership there does not appear to be anyone with sufficient power to draw the obvious lesson. That the passion of the Palestinians threatened with eviction in East Jerusalem will be matched (if not exceeded) by the determination of the Israelis (and their descendants) who took control of the properties abandoned by Palestinians during the 1948 conflict, to stay exactly where they are.

To insist upon the Right of Return, is to insist upon the rolling back of history to 1948. Except, that simply amounts to demanding that the clock be wound back to a time when the State of Israel did not exist. In other words, the call for all those Palestinians uprooted by Israel’s birth (and their descendants) to be allowed to return to their houses, olive groves and farms, is a call for the dissolution of Israel itself.

If the rest of the world wants to know what a Palestinian attempt at dispossessing the Israeli people might look like, it has only to look at those anti-eviction protests in East Jerusalem, multiply them one-hundred-fold, and then imagine every Jewish protester armed to the teeth and wearing the uniform of the Israeli Defence Force, backed by artillery, tanks, helicopters, jets, and, ultimately, nuclear weapons.

There must be something in the water and the soil of the Holy Land that causes those who claim it for their own to lose all sense of strategic perspective. Today, it is the Palestinians who refuse to accept that against the State of Israel there can be no victory. Two thousand years ago, it was the Jewish people themselves. Or, more accurately, it was the nationalist extremists who refused to acknowledge the impossibility of extricating Judea from the Roman Empire. Again and again they rose in revolt. Again and again, the Romans crushed them in the most brutal and bloody fashion. Eventually, the day came when Rome decided that these stiff-necked Jews had rebelled once too often. They would have to go – but not before they witnessed the complete destruction of their temple and the re-naming of their country as “Syria Palaestina”.

Watching the desperate launchings of Palestinian rockets against Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and the instant and devastating retaliation of the Israeli Air Force, it is hard not to be reminded of the hard-line Jewish nationalists who took refuge in the great Herodian palace-cum-fortress of Masada. They, too, were magical thinkers, convinced that they could escape the wrath of Vespasian’s legions, who, far below, were patiently constructing the ramp that would carry their siege-engines up and over Masada’s walls – to victory.

TDB Recommends

Surely, there are some Palestinians who, looking at the entirely predictable consequences of their political and military leaders’ intransigence, recall with trepidation the awful historical precedents associated with refusals to accept that the occupiers of one’s homeland cannot be defeated?

More importantly, perhaps, are there none who recall that the Romans did not disperse all the Jewish inhabitants of Syria Palaestina? Some remained. Over the centuries what used to be called Judea was occupied by Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Mamelukes, Franks, Ottomans and the British: the Jews who remained saw them come – and go – until, at length, the Zionists made a great hole in history, and Israel stepped through it.

Holed, or not, History has lessons to teach both the victors and the vanquished about the virtues of patience, and the changes wrought by time.

An optimistic prophet might tell of a mighty Mediterranean port called Gaza City: the glittering prize of an enduring peace settlement between the Palestinian people and the State of Israel. Funded by Arab oil, protected by the United States and Europe, it would fast become a wonder of the twenty-first century world.

A pessimistic prophet might see the Al-Aqsa Mosque in flames and the Dome of the Rock in ruins. He might tell of Israel’s pitiless ethnic cleansing of the West Bank and the Great Jihad it inspired: of Arab and Turkish armies clashing with the IDF at Megiddo; of Pakistani rockets bearing nuclear warheads nearly all being blown out of the sky under Israel’s Iron Dome; and of Israeli jets, hot for vengeance, streaking eastward with their deadly nuclear payloads. He might speak of “The Samson Option” and the end of the world.

There are some who would not care – so long as the Israeli/Palestinian enemy was destroyed. And these are the most dangerous men and women ever to have set foot upon the rocks and stones of the land where David sang, and Jesus spoke, and Mohammed flew up to God. These enemies of compromise, these strangers to wisdom, would make of Israel/Palestine a radioactive desert – and call it peace.



  1. All I hear is resistance to the occupying power is futile – Red Indian, Aborigine, Maori hear the word of God of the white race nation of Five Eyes. For this God does not do justice.

    Holding to the right of return, post 1993 in peace talks, is consistent with Jewish settlement of the West Bank post 1977, is it not? So which intransigence is the greater obstacle to compromise? Sure Arafat could/should have gone for the 2000 deal if there was an add on – process whereby 1948 refugees could via Palestinian passports have non voting residency in Israel (via annual “blue card” ballot etc).

    Asserting equivalence to Arabs defending their homes in east Jerusalem (ffs Jewish nationalists are boasting of ethnic cleansing this area suburb by suburb, starting with Sheik Jarrah and planning an Orangeman like march through east Jerusalem) with Jews defending land they have taken from Arabs already is obnoxious.

    That is ethnic cleansing, and it’s no surprise the BN Trumpite crook government and its religious right allies facing prison, or loss of taxpayer funding, would launch attacks on the Mount to obstruct another government being formed under Lapid.

    • Chris your statement that neither side has moved is disingenuous.
      Israel has moved many times taking more and more land with boast that they will have all land to the sea. Look at the maps over the last 60 years and you can see who has moved. I wonder why you overlook this without comment.

      The recent flare up was because israel was moving to take more Palestinian living space and agricultural land. It is a genocide taking place.

      Your confused quoting of bits of history to support israel is alarming.
      There have been jews and Arabs living on the land side by side until the Arabs were forced from their villages in the Nakba.
      The jews coming in from many places mainly spoke Yiddish as they were from family lines in many parts of Europe as the DNA analysis shows clearly.
      A revived version of Hebrew was taught in israel at the kibbutz along with a revision of history .

      • And your point being? None of this comment makes any sense… Do you actually understand the point of this article at all? And no, I’m not going to educate you on it’s meaning, as I’m tired of wasting my time on people who can’t/won’t listen to anything but the noise in their heads… No assumptions here BTW, but the comments sections on this site are cluttered with a mixture of self serving ego wank, or irrelevant breast beating over what are, at best, side issues… Why insist on answering a big picture opinion with one piece of the puzzle as the totality of the situation? You do know how limited that is as a tool for elucidation, don’t you?

        • Stephan I assume you have followed the history of this event so laying out the details would take, as you must appreciate, much more space that a blogsite has.
          So assumptions are made as to a readers basic knowledge and if you want to make an ad hominem attack well that’s your choice.
          What is it that is unclear to you.

          • Of course you, John W, are still relevant. We are just making it even better so we’re levelling up again and will make the whole community obsolete unless they level up too. which they probably wont so will dominate for at least the next decade 😉

  2. All empires collapse. It’s just a matter of time and mechanism.

    The American Empire is in the process of collapsing as a consequence of energy depletion, environmental degradation, Ponzi finance and corruption within the political and financial core. That has profound consequences for the Israeli Empire, which is sponsored and supported (financially, culturally and militarily) by the collapsing American Empire. Indeed, without the massive inputs and support from the US, Israel would not have lasted as long as it has.

    One needs to be pragmatic about such matters because the entire human species has been on a path that leads to self-extermination (extinction) via outrageously high levels of consumption of fossil fuels and the commensurate emissions of carbon dioxide that are in the process of rendering the Earth uninhabitable. By around 2040. So the Israeli attempt to build an empire in the Middle East is futile, and has come far too late in the game.

    Of course, no government has any workable strategies for decoupling from the oil addiction that is ruining the planet -indeed most are firmly locked into denial about the whole thing and keep pretending we can continue on the current path, which is utterly absurd. But isn’t that what government is these days: a source of denial of reality and a source of absurdity?

    Needless to say, operating jet aircraft to deliver bombs or missiles, indeed merely constructing highly explosive devices- uses up yet more resources and generates yet more pollution, and brings forward the time when the Earth becomes largely or completely uninhabitable for humans.

    Squabbling over resources and using force to get them is what humans do. They’ve been doing it for at least 200,000 years. And now that population overshoot is meeting resource depletion head on, we must expect a lot more squabbling over resources and use of force to get them.

    But the Bible believers would tell you the Earth is only a little over 6,000 years old and people of a certain ethnicity have particular rights not accorded to others. Some would say it is ‘Gods plan’ to have a catastrophic confrontation in the Middle East that brings everything to a standstill via misery and death

    They may be right about that.

    However, I don’t believe the part about God making it all right again for believers.

    I believe humanity has already shown its true character (rapacious destroyers of the natural world) and will pay the price for constructing unsustainable living arrangements that can only be maintained in the short term via yet money-printing, yet more looting and polluting and yet more burning fossil fuels. .

    ‘Interesting times’ get more ‘interesting’ as each week passes.

    • 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:

      17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

      18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
      As you say time will tell although the changes happening around the world show that we will soon know.

  3. It seemed by politicians it would be impossible for East Timor to never have its own autonomy. Well it took a long time but it happened.

    I believe the whole area will be one state in my life time (20 years). And Palestinians will return to their homes. This does not mean the annihilation of the Jewish community, it means they will share the country, there will be democracy and Palestinians and Israeli’s will vote together and they will have a shared democracy.

    Much of this will come about because of the decline of the U.S. Israel only exists still because of the support of the U.S.

  4. Blaming the victims is what Trotter has done here as he has in previous posts on the Middle East.
    Trotter has previously even questioned that there were any “wrongs” done to Palestinians in 1948 and now he say Israel simply “took control of the properties abandoned by Palestinians during the 1948 conflict”
    Trotter believes that somehow the Palestinian people are the authors of theirr own misfortune.
    The world is moving on, albeit slowly, from the “might is right” world of Trotter.
    The solution is for all of us – Trotter included – to call out the racist, apartheid policies of the Israeli government and the unbridled brutality with which they attack any Palestinian resistance tio their racism – and insist that Israel abide by international law and United Nations resolutions and put in place sanctions till they do so. This is just as we – Trotter included – did in the 1970s and 1980s with regard to South Africa.

    • If you genuinely believe that the world is moving on from “might is right”, John, then your lack of realism in regard to Israel/Palestine is, at last, explained. Idealism has its place – but not in this part of the world. The last man to give it a serious try was the Israeli PM, Yitzhak Rabin, and he was assassinated by a fanatical Zionist.

      Might seldom rights conflict, but it is usually what it takes to end it.

      • That “might” might well be the quietly growing alliance comprising China, Syria, Russia Iran and Hezbollah.
        A lot changed in 2006 when Israel received a bloody nose at the hands of Hezbollah alone and a gut-punch from internal dissent.
        Right now, Hezbollah is estimated to be at least five times stronger, battle hardened from the Syria campaign and, according to Nasrallah (who doesn’t make empty threats), armed with missiles that can now reach Israeli cities in numbers sufficient to overwhelm the much vaunted “Iron Dome”.
        The IDF and the Israeli public can’t handle body bags and the Political situation there is decidedly dodgy, fragmented.
        You may well be correct about might Chris but there is a question mark over which “might” might prevail. History seems to bear out the old saying about asymmetric warfare – something about “the guerrillas lose….until they win”.

        • “On Wednesday, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov held a call with Mousa Abu Marzuk, a senior representative of Hamas, the de facto government in Gaza. During the talks, Marzuk warned of a worsening humanitarian situation in Eastern Jerusalem, as well as reported shelling of residential areas in Gaza.

          The foreign ministry in Moscow later issued a statement which “emphasized the importance of putting an immediate end to the violence, as well as the inadmissibility of attacks on civilians, regardless of their nationality and religion.” The diplomats added that this applied to both “strikes on civilian targets in Israeli and Palestinian territory.” Furthermore, they insisted that Israel must maintain “the status quo of Jerusalem’s sacred sites” and “immediately” stop all settlement activities in Palestinian areas.”

  5. It’s such a shame the Jews won’t let themselves be killed, eh, Chris? Israel will outlive us all.

  6. “On neither side is there the slightest evidence of new or original thinking.”
    Dear me Chris. Have you not heard of Miko Peled, B’tselem, Gush Shalom, Jewish Voice for Peace, Breaking the Silence, Khalid Mish’al and a host of Jewish and Palestinian groups who have proposed innovative, peaceful solutions?
    Perhaps you are also unaware that both International Law and the U.N. support the right of refugees evicted from their homes to be returned to their property and/or be compensated?
    Possibly you have not studied the History of the conflict in sufficient detail to learn that between 250,000 (Arab League estimate) and 400,000 (Rosemarie Esber PHD) civilians were forced from their homes at gunpoint before May 15 1948 when the Arab League moved to stabilise the area (with the tacit approval of the U.N.).
    It is always astonishing to me when otherwise well intentioned commentators fail to recognise that there is nothing special about this conflict. It is a common or garden struggle of an indigenous people against dispossession by an invading colonial power. – the ineradicable grievance of an ethnic group who, after being forcibly disarmed and weakened by the Zionist leaning Brits, were ethnically cleansed.
    Once these facts are fully grasped, it becomes very clear that Zionist Israel’s policy has and always will be designed to provoke the resistance so as to justify the killing of innocents in order to continue the dispossession and land theft. The rights and wrongs of this conflict are not the least confusing.

    “are there none who recall that the Romans did not disperse all the Jewish inhabitants of Syria Palaestina”
    The head of the Israeli Historical Society and former Dean of Humanities at Hebrew University, Professor Israel Bartal for one:
    “Although the myth of an exile from the Jewish homeland (Palestine) does exist in popular Israeli culture, it is negligible in serious Jewish historical discussions. Important groups in the Jewish national movement expressed reservations regarding this myth or denied it completely.”
    On Jewish ethnicity he had this to say:
    “The central book of the Zionist “Jerusalem School……”Toldot am yisrael” explains that the number of Jews in the Diaspora during the ancient period was as high as it was because of conversion, a phenomenon that “was widespread in the Jewish Diaspora in the late Second Temple period …. Many of the converts to Judaism came from the gentile population of Palestine, but an even greater number of converts could be found in the Jewish Diaspora communities in both the East and the West.””

    The implication of these indisputable facts is obvious.

    • An interesting response, certainly, if not an entirely convincing one.

      My comments about the intransigence of the antagonists was directed not at the mice you describe, but at the fighting cats – the Israeli state, the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas government of Gaza.

      • The inclusion of Khalid Mish’al was deliberate. This piece by him is from the Guardian when it was a reputable newspaper:
        No mouse he. Israel thought him important enough to attempt his assassination:
        Not sure what you find unconvincing but if it concerns the indigeneity of Palestinians, Mondoweiss had a good piece:
        …..which is underscored by Israeli geneticists:
        Dr. Ariella Oppenheim, a Jewish professor of genetics at Hebrew University in Israel, put it, Palestinians are: “descendants of a core population that lived in the area since prehistoric times”, albeit religiously first Christianized then largely Islamized, and all eventually culturally Arabized.”
        Regarding the ethnicity of European Jews, Israeli Geneticist Eran Elhaik concluded:
        “Our findings support the Khazarian hypothesis depicting a large Near Eastern–Caucasus ancestry along with Southern European, Middle Eastern, and Eastern European ancestries, in agreement with recent studies and oral and written traditions. We conclude that the genome of European Jews is a tapestry of ancient populations including Judaized Khazars, Greco–Roman Jews, Mesopotamian Jews, and Judeans and that their population structure was formed in the Caucasus and the banks of the Volga with roots stretching to Canaan and the banks of the Jordan.”

        These facts reflect common sense but have been largely obscured by decades of Zionist denial.

      • The internal cracks are beginning to show:
        “Veteran Israeli General Amos Yadlin, former commander of the IDF’s intelligence and a chief Israeli National Security analyst, described the Israeli reality in the most brutal terms in his commentary on Israeli N12:
        “The Israeli delusions are over. The Palestinian problem is Back. “

        Yadlin believes that Israel’s lack of leadership has led to strategic paralysis, in which Israel and Palestine have practically morphed into ‘one state’ and it has only two options to choose from: either to ‘stop being a Jewish State’ or to be ‘undemocratic’! According to Yadlin, the “Palestinians are engaged in a different discourse today than in the past. After the failure of their three main strategies – terrorism, internationalization of the conflict and reliance on the Arab world, the Palestinians have greatly strengthened the discourse of rights. If they cannot achieve their own state, they seek equal rights as citizens of the Greater State of Israel – with the long-term hope of an Arab majority in one state. In the meantime, they hope to exhaust Israel’s economic benefits and gain points in the campaign for Israel’s delegitimization.”

        • The Extremist followers of Kahane openly hold the expelling of killing of all non jews in the area of Israel and the expanded Israel is their aim. They are now a part of Israeli Govt which is becoming more extremist.
          To ignore this toxic core is to live in unreality.

      • Chris. My initial response seems to have been lost in dispatches (moderation on this site is haphazard at best) so let me ask what it is you find unconvincing about the above?
        As one who is trained in Historical method I will be more than happy to provide evidence to support all assertions made.
        My first reaction to your post is that the dismissal of the few examples I gave as “mice” is inappropriate.
        Miko Peled, for example, is Israeli royalty, the son of Matti Peled who, according to Wikipedia “reached the rank of Aluf (equivalent to general, air marshal, or admiral) in the IDF and was a member of the General Staff during the Six-Day War of 1967; a notable scholar who headed the Arabic Language and Literature Department of Tel Aviv University; a radical peace activist and a leading proponent of Israeli dialogue with the PLO and of complete withdrawal from the Occupied Territories in whose conquest he personally had a major role; and a member of the Knesset”
        Khalid Mish’al is a former leader of Hamas. In 1992, he became a founding member of Hamas’ politburo and became its chairman in 1992.
        B’Tselem was established in February 1989 by a large group of Israeli lawyers, doctors and academics with the support of a lobby of ten members of the Knesset.
        Gush Shalom is an Israeli peace activism group founded and led by former Irgun and Knesset member and journalist Uri Avnery who fought in the 1948 war.
        Members of the advisory board of U.S. based JVP include Tony Kushner, Sarah Schulman, Judith Butler, Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, and Wallace Shawn. A recent poll revealed that a majority of young U.S. Jews support their p.o.v.
        I do not think you should dismiss them in a cavalier manner similar to the currently not so popular Likud administration.

  7. Maybe the Chinese could solve this problem, quickly if they were to be invited to offer an opinion?

    Maybe Erdogan and Putin could also offer a few suggestions to resolve this?

    We might as well let them have a crack at this because the “West” doesn’t really want to resolve this tragedy that plays out daily and the UN Security Council say what?

  8. Chris thanks for a balanced view,very refreshing and much more constructive than others ranting on this subject on this blog site.

  9. And a big Kia ora to John Minto in this thread. Agree with your sentiments John.

    Amongst his omissions here, Chris neglects geo politics. Frankly, if US Imperialism ever turned off the money and arms tap, the Israeli Military and political machine would not see this year out.

    The Palestinian question is one of the most enduring and obscene unresolved political situations on the planet. I was so proud when old Aotearoa NZ lefties Mike Treen and Roger Fowler got involved with Kia Ora Gaza, which organisation joined several flotillas to deliver humanitarian supplies. Green MP Marama Davidson went too. The Israeli security forces regularly brutalise and have even killed people on those attempts. What heroes eh–the descendants of the holocaust engaging in fascist behaviour themselves.

    • My opinion is that there are few “jewish houlocaust” descendants involved.
      That frequently claimed event has been played upon for political gain for over 70 years.
      Its a new generation on the planet now.
      The reduction of the Irish population by 60% in a few months is not referred to and there are many other genocides.

  10. If we are waiting for the decline of America for Palestinian fortunes to change, how much of the Occupied Territories will remain free of Israeli settlements when the moment arrives? Will the Israelis not accelerate their efforts to change “facts on the ground” before this happens? Does the end of American supremacy just get replaced by a US-influenced body, like a still-scared-of-the-Russians NATO? Was America itself not a replacement/continuation of the previous British power in this region, playing the same game? And how much power can a veto-holding nation, like the US, still wield at the UN?

    Chris spoke of two prophets, one an optimist and the other a pessimist. Maybe there is a third prophet, a realist who can answer these questions. I think that prophet would tell us nothing will change in our lifetimes.

  11. Just a few points.
    1) It is not a ‘conflict’.
    it is the determination of very well-armed violent settler-colonialists, to rid the land of historic Palestine of its indigenous people, versus a people who are determined to remain.
    2) UN Resolution 194 states “refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.”
    If UN Resolutions don’t apply to the powerful and ruthless, then it is time to replace the UN .
    3) Re: ‘uncompromising insistence”.. It is the Zionists who want all..all the land, all the resources, including water.. ..with the Palestinians dead or gone away somewhere or stuck in isolated bantustans
    3) New Thinking..There is a movement led by Israeli and Palestinian humanitarians, calling for One Democratic State with equal rights for all. It is possible, And it is the only hope. You can learn about this in Jeff Halper’s Decolonizing Israel, Liberating Palestine.

Comments are closed.