Friday 21 May 2021

Between The Motion, And The Act, Falls The Shadow.

The Politics Of Gesture: It must be exhilarating to stand shoulder to shoulder with your Green Party comrades on the streets of a New Zealand city, while all around you angry young men and women chant “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” So easy to get carried away beneath a forest of red, green, black and white Palestinian flags, your ears ringing with righteous indignation. Why not promise to table a motion seeking Palestinian statehood? What else could you do?

THE GREENS have failed to win parliamentary support for a motion supporting Palestinian statehood. Sponsored by the Greens’ foreign affairs spokesperson, Golriz Ghahraman, the motion reaffirmed “the right of Palestine to self-determination and statehood”, and called upon the government of New Zealand to “recognise the State of Palestine among our community of nations”. Both National and Act were quick to signal their opposition to recognising Palestine as a sovereign state. The right-wing parties’ objections abruptly ended Ghahraman’s initiative. Without securing the unanimous permission of the whole House, her motion could not even be introduced – let alone debated.

The Right’s veto was probably welcomed by the Labour Government. Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta hardly needs to be warned by her diplomatic staff at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade that the merest suggestion of New Zealand recognising Palestinian statehood would immediately pitch this country’s relationship with Israel into crisis.

Nor would such recognition be unanimously received by New Zealanders as either justified or wise. Sympathy for the Palestinian civilians caught up in the military exchanges between Hamas and the Israeli Defence Force may be universal, but it should not be construed as support for this country recognising Palestine as a sovereign state. Too many Kiwis have too many questions about what that would amount to in the only place that matters – on the ground – to simply wave Ghahraman’s proposition through the checkpoint of political scrutiny.

Not when so many people on Twitter have read Green MP Ricardo Menendez March’s tweet declaring “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” Not when so many television news viewers have seen Ghahraman, herself, protesting against “Israeli aggression” under placards and banners proclaiming exactly the same sentiments.

Surely, the Greens are aware of how Israelis interpret this Palestinian slogan? That if Palestine occupies all of the territory between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea, then the State of Israel must have ceased to exist.

Ghahraman cannot be so na├»ve as to believe that the so-called “Two State Solution” is about Israel and Palestine occupying the same territory! Not when Israel’s “occupation” of the West Bank of the Jordan River lies at the heart of the conflict. No, to assert that the sovereign state of Palestine will extend “from the river to the sea”, is to declare one’s support for driving the Jews into it.

This is not, of course, what Ghahraman is saying. Announcing her intention of tabling her statehood motion on the Greens’ website, she states: “The path forward from the latest bout of violence must be lasting peace, supported by the international community. Statehood as part of a two state solution would uphold and celebrate the inherent rights and dignity of Palestinians.”

Well, it might, but an awful lot of things would have to happen first.

For example, Hamas (still designated as a terrorist organisation by the New Zealand government) would have to recognise the State of Israel’s right to exist. Also, the roughly 600,000 Israeli settlers currently living on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem would have to abandon their illegal settlements and return to Israel. The Palestinian Authority, which, fearful of a Hamas victory, recently cancelled the elections which threatened to deliver just that, would have to re-establish democracy on the West Bank and Gaza. (The people of Gaza have not been permitted to cast a vote since they were incautious enough to elect Hamas in 2006.) Similarly, Israeli voters would have to summon up the courage to elect someone other than Benjamin Netanyahu as their prime minister. (Instead of voting over and over and over and over again to make such a transfer of power impossible.) And, last of all, American politicians would have to collectively decide to tell the all-powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) to find someone else to intimidate into backing the State of Israel – no matter what it does.

After making all those things happen, the Two State Solution will be a piece of cake!

Politics, politics, politics: it’s no more avoidable in Israel/Palestine than it is in New Zealand. The tragedy that is unfolding in Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank is not an accident, it is the culmination of a series of self-interested political moves undertaken by the most ruthless players on both sides of the conflict.

Netanyahu is fighting for his political life – and to stay out of jail. He is willing to do whatever it takes to win the support he needs to stay in office. If that means throwing red meat to the most extreme Zionist parties, then so be it. Raising the tensions between Jews and Arabs in the Holy City makes perfect sense if you’re desperate to prevent your political rivals from enlisting the support of Arab-Israeli parties in a government of national unity.

Likewise, if you are Hamas. Why wouldn’t you take advantage of the rage being stirred up by Netanyahu and his Zionist allies in East Jerusalem and around the Al Aksa Mosque? Why wouldn’t you demonstrate to the Palestinian people who the true defenders of the Motherland are? Especially in the wake of the Palestinian Authority, a body mired in corruption, calling off the scheduled elections. Get those rockets in the air. Bring down the wrath of Israel’s jets. Watch the body-count grow and grow – as it always does.

Suits Netanyahu. Suits Hamas. A government of national unity made up of Jews and Arabs, ready to at least think about peace, serves the interests of neither.

It must be exhilarating to stand shoulder to shoulder with your Green Party comrades on the streets of a New Zealand city, while all around you angry young men and women chant “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” So easy to get carried away beneath a forest of red, green, black and white Palestinian flags, your ears ringing with righteous indignation. Why not promise to table a motion seeking Palestinian statehood? What else could you do?

Well, you could listen to a couple of anthems. The first is called Palestine’s Freedom Song, written and recorded by a pair of young Palestinian sisters brim-full of courage and determination. This is what they sing:

We own this home
We own this land
From the river to the sea
Our motherland
We’ll set it free
We’ve got our stones
And the olive tree

The second is called Hatikvah (The Hope) and it really is an anthem – the national anthem of the State of Israel. This is what the Israelis sing:

Our hope is not yet lost,
The hope of two thousand years,
To be a free nation in our land,
The land of Zion and Jerusalem.

If Golriz Ghahraman, or anybody else, can think of a way to reconcile the irreconcilable aspirations expressed in these two anthems, then the world would love to hear it. But people of good will have been searching for a very long time – and nobody has found it yet.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Thursday, 20 May 2021.


PaulVD said...

Another thoughtful piece, Chris, realistic about both the genuine aspirations and heartbreak and the ruthless realpolitik on both sides.
But 'Israel’s “occupation” of the West Bank of the Jordan River lies at the heart of the conflict.' Really? So there was no conflict before 1967? That was when Israel got its retaliation in first for a gathering attack from its neighbours, ending up in possession of the West Bank, the Sinai, and the Golan Heights.
None of which it wanted at the time; it happily gave Sinai back to Egypt in exchange for peace, and would have given the West Bank back if there was anyone to give it to. But Jordan had had enough of the Palestinians, and accepted a peace deal in 1994 on condition that it never had to take them back.
Meantime, of course, the "Greater Israel" zealots were busy settling in the West Bank, creating "facts on the ground" that are going to bedevil any peace settlement for a very long time. So the West Bank has become the unsolvable current issue; but the heart of the conflict goes back much further. Its root has always been in the refusal to accept that Israel exists. I won't even say Israel's right to exist: whether one accepts that right or not, it is a fact that Israel exists. Denying this is like denying that Donald Trump lost the election; it is not a feasible starting point for any solution grounded in reality. But the Palestinian advocates are not big fans of reality.

John Hurley said...

What do you think of this Chris

“More recently he has taken to directly attacking Maori MPs, Rawiri Waititi​ and honourable Willie Jackson​, using blatantly racist rhetoric and is actively and deliberately stoking public fear in response to the He Puapua report,” the petition says.

In a statement, Synlait said it “takes these matters very seriously” and was conducting an investigation.

Like wow how dare he push back when there is only one correct position and how dare he criticise Willy after all Willy is 20% Polynesian (the poor bestride). Stuff was keen to point out/advertise that they had 3000 signatories (Action stations) compared to 30+ which made me think I shouldn't sign (momentarily).

John Hurley said...

The Maori Party started the petition to get him sacked and Stuff is egging them on

David George said...

Yes John, an interesting case. Surely Synlait can't sack the guy for his political views but looks like they are being put under a lot of pressure to do just that. One to watch.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"between the Sea and the Jordan there will only be Israeli sovereignty." Likud party platform, adopted by many of the right-wing parties in Israel.

"Decades before the Hamas rallying cry of a 'free Palestine from the river to the sea' came the 'Greater Israel' imagined and demanded by the first Zionists – and by today's Israeli political right"

Even if Hamas recognises Israel's right to exist, which it sort of has, you don't think that the Israelis would believe it? It's not in their interests to do so stop particularly when they want a "greater Israel" themselves. Perhaps the Israeli should recognise the right of the Palestinians to a state of their own first? Let's be charitable and say within the 1967 boundaries – the 1948 boundaries of course were overturned by Israel beginning at least a few days before it was declared a state, and according to some quite a long time before. Israel never had any intention of adopting or sticking to the 1948 boundaries. Something that is very rarely mentioned in the Western press.

A little better than your last effort, but still toeing the US/Israeli party line to a great extent.

Parroting Israeli talking points in the comments will now begin in 3...2...1.

Nick J said...

I wonder back to my youth when I watch Golriz and the youngsters of the Green crew demonstrating, demanding. I'd contend that they clearly know right from wrong, but lack the wisdom to provide working answers to complex problems which are rarely black or white. Palestine fits into this basket.

In my early student days I protested the SIS Bill, East Timor, all causes I knew absolutely nothing about except recieved wisdom from student radicals, mainly older and of definite dogma. Later I happily abused attendees to a National Party conference, Robs Mob, thinking that was OK. On that I look back in embarrassment and shame. Did I really know better? We were the generation who recieved all the benefits our grandparents and parents fought for, and then we in a fit of pique at their paternalism threw it all under the bus in 1984, allowing Douglas to wreck our society. How wise were we?

I'd got over a bout of Communism courtesy of revelations about Pol Pot, doubts about Mao and Solzenitsyns writings. At the time it never occurred to me that the problem was not with the leaders executing the dogma but with the dogma itself. Then along came the Springbok tour where I both protested and felt deprived that I couldn't watch the rugby. Maybe as an early twenty something I didn't know it all.

One event changed my interface to reality. Children. Now I had to roof, shelter, feed and cloth, real responsibilities. Suddenly I had to work hard in the capitalist economy to keep the family going, my ideas and gratification took a rear seat. Things took on reality based perspectives, compromises were made. Basically I grew up and learned to look at the world through the perspective of others.

And that is where I see Golriz and crew. They haven't earned the right to tell the world how it should look. Wisdom comes with age and responsibility. Being a cynic I now listen to youth as a check on my suppositions, to test them by.

Palestine fits into that basket. If I were to protest it would be for a cease fire, dialogue. Like Golriz and the youngsters I could ascribe blame aloud but age and experience tell me that that will help nobody. Wisdom tells me that only the mutual desire for peace from people of good will on both sides will sort this. It is in short supply.

John Hurley said...

2/2 Evidence presented to the UN of Arab Antisemitism


2/2 comes with a warning eg Arab commentator gushes over horrific Nazi footage of Jews in concentration camps

P.S There may be decent people in the Green Party but definitely bad actors AFCS.

Nick J said...

The buggers who need "cancelling" are those putting pressure on Synlait. What they in their rush to rectitude are asking is very much a fascist tactic. I dont care for the mans opinions, we have the right to pillory those opinions. We don't have any right to personal revenge.

CXH said...

Nick, I think you have described human development as it has been for generations. The youth decry the staidness of the elders, the elders despair for the future when the youth take over.

This allows changes to be made, but at a speed that are constructive rather than destructive. The youth get to push and demand, but mellow their desires as they grow.

However this has been overthrown. Social media has allowed the youth to combine and demand, MSM loves to promote it all as serious because they are struggling to survive. So to gain support from the younger generation the spread the word, not realising that they are in their death spiral. There time is over no matter how craven their support is, no matter how they dump fact for today's 'truth'.

Of course it could just be my own old man grumpyness coming out.

David George said...

Thanks GS, the problem is Hamas. What possible benefit can it be to the Palestinian people to be firing thousands of explosive (and expensive) rockets and missiles (however inaccurately) into the cities and towns of Israel? What's all that about? A publicity stunt? A struggle for dominance between Hamas and the PLO? Do the hundreds of dead mean anything more than sympathy pawns to the terrorists?
True there are certainly factions within Israel calling for a more aggressive response but that is far from a majority view.
Hamas (and their sponsor Iran) have made it clear, the overall objective is the destruction of Israel and the complete and final domination of the Middle East. This is Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar:

"Islamic and traditional views reject the notion of establishing an independent Palestinian state… In the past, there was no independent Palestinian state… This is a holy land. It is not the property of the Palestinians or the Arabs. This land is the property of all Muslims in all parts of the world… [Hence] our main goal is to establish a great Islamic state, be it pan-Arabic or pan-Islamic"
A well informed and balanced overview here:

The religious context, from both sides, is really nothing more than cover for the old "Blood and Soil" motivation; and we know where that can lead. We're increasingly hearing those motivations expressed here in New Zealand, just keep that in mind when you hear concepts like "Tino Rangatiratanga" being espoused - and by people who really should know better.

David George said...

Here's something different!
I just came across this, a brilliant attempt to understand the Israel/Palestine situation from a spiritual and psychological perspective and why it means so much.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

The problem is Hamas? No, the problem is Israel. But even if it were true, Israel created Hamas as a counterweight to the PLO, and now it's come back to bite them in the arse – irony much?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Got help us all, Jordan Peterson again showing his ignorance of everything outside his area of expertise.

sumsuch said...

I favour a 2 state solution as a way forward. A peaceful 'means' forward. The best and only 'end' can only be a true union. I believe it is 'possible'.

We always assumed Israel was an idealistic state when I was growing. Everything, 'but' really. The 'moral authority' lies with the Palestinians.

I'll continue to support them above all. Politics and idealism. The idealism of the pushers for the poor here and the politics of the government -- each required the other.

David George said...

GS, Jordan Peterson has dedicated his life to understanding the psychology of belief, motivated by his terrifying realisation that we were willing to destroy each other in a nuclear holocaust on the basis of belief. Why?
His extraordinary first book, Maps of Meaning - the architecture of belief is an attempt to understand the psychological, evolutionary, mythological and spiritual basis of belief. I don't know of anyone better equipped to offer us an understanding of conflict from those perspectives. Your cynicism does you no credit.

sumsuch said...

I often hear about Jordan Peterson, as a Leftie view him with suspicion out of hand. Haven't followed him, haven't heard a salient refutage. I'd like to hear a short discussion of the fellow by people I respect.

David George said...

I don't think the left/right delineation is useful in regard to JP, or that listening to others opinions on him is particularly helpful either. They tend to come with their own ideological baggage.

Here's a discussion, Russell Brand & Jordan Peterson: "Kindness VS Power"

Try that and reach your own conclusions.