Friday, June 8, 2007

Israel's lost 40 years

Los Angeles Times:

By Meir Shalev, MEIR SHALEV is the author of "A Pigeon and a Boy," to be published in the U.S. in October, and a columnist for the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot. This was translated from Hebrew by Evan Fallenberg.

Forty years have passed, and Israel has indeed choked. The country is busy dealing with one matter: the occupation — the territories, the Palestinians, terror, holy sites, the establishment and evacuation of settlements. Forty years have passed, and Israel has neglected everything that the Israel of 1948 wished to occupy itself with: education, research, welfare, health.

'Forty years' is not just some round number. It is a period with traditional meaning, a number through which God tends to emphasize his will. The flood continued for 40 days and 40 nights; Moses remained on Mt. Sinai for 40 days and 40 nights; the Jewish people wandered the desert for 40 years; Jesus sequestered himself there for 40 days. It seems to me that God is sick of religious figures and generals and politicians who claim to speak in his voice. He is taking advantage of this mathematical moment and letting everyone know that now is the time to settle up.

Forty years after that great victory, he is showing us that it is not only the Palestinians who are paying the price of occupation and settlement; the Israelis are as well.

Forty years, and Israel is forced to decide which is more important: the lives of its sons and daughters or the graves of its ancestors.

Forty years of an army whose main occupation has been manning roadblocks, detaining suspects, assassinating enemies and guarding settlements have brought us to the high level of arrogance and low level of capability that the Israeli Defense Forces displayed during last year's war in Lebanon.

Forty years of deceitful, villainous dealing in the occupied territories have caused corruption to seep into our own politics and society.

Forty years, and we must come to terms with the fact that Israel cannot cultivate democracy at home and apartheid in the backyard. ...

I was born during the War of Independence, which was foisted on us by our neighbors who refused to accept the partition of Palestine and thereby brought defeat and disaster upon themselves. I fought in the Six-Day War, which led Israelis to err in a similar fashion. Extremism, fanaticism, stupidity, being drunk with power, the bad mixture of politics and religion — all these have caused us to make unwise decisions.

The settlements continue to grow and expand; terror is getting stronger, hatreds deepening. But the principle introduced 60 years ago is as right now as it was then: partition. Two nations, two states. Israel must give up the land it took over in 1967. The Palestinians must relinquish lands they lost in 1948. But neither side has leaders with the courage and the ability and the preeminence to make big decisions.

In another year both Israel and I will turn 60. Neither of us is young anymore, but I am pleased to report that I look far better. Israel cannot hear anymore, doesn't see well, can't really grasp matters or understand clearly. Worst of all, Israel refuses to undergo the operation that would return it to good health.

No comments: