By English Poet Paul Grenville from Norwich – July 2008
I shall visit Israel when the olive trees are in bloom
I shall visit Israel when Arabs can marry Jews
I shall visit Israel when fabrication of history has stopped
I shall visit Israel when Torah Jews are no longer beaten up in the streets of Jerusalem for reminding their fellows of the commands of Moses –
Thou shalt not steal, though shalt not kill, thou shalt not bear false witness
I shall visit Israel when the speaking of Arabic in certain neighbourhoods no longer causes heads to turn
I shall visit Israel when the learning of Arabic is mandatory in school
I shall visit Israel when Arab and Jewish children all go to the same schools
But will it still be Israel?
I shall visit Israel when the 7 million refugees’ descendants have a country they can call their own
I shall visit Israel when the invaders have left or those who remain have made peace with the invaded (not the other way about)
I shall visit Israel when West Bank settlers have gone and no longer shoot to kill the natives as a patriotic duty
I shall visit Israel when the shooting of children has stopped
I shall visit Israel when the spirit of Fanon has moved the peoples to rise and withdraw this dagger from the Arab breast
I shall visit Israel when the people of the Pale have fled to Europe as their colony collapses
I shall visit Israel when the hands of Generals and Rabbis are no longer choking the throat of Palestine
I shall visit Israel when the Wall has been torn down and all the other walls have gone
I shall visit Israel when the house demolitions have ceased
I shall visit Israel when to be born Palestinian is not a reason to be humiliated and spurned, hunted and spied upon
But will it still be Israel?
I shall visit Israel when Jews have stopped arriving from far away and calling it their land
I shall visit Israel when the expulsion of Palestinians have stopped
I shall visit Israel when Gaza is no longer the cruel laboratory experiment in slow genocide that it is today
I shall visit Israel when her planes have stopped bombing and strafing towns in Gaza and terrifying the people at night with sonic booms
I shall visit Israel when the Lebanon and Gaza have ceased to be testing ground for bodies blackened and deformed beyond recognition by new weapons
I shall visit Israel when Israel has ceased to invade her neighbours on the slightest of pretexts and cause devastation
I shall visit Israel when 11870 Palestinian prisoners and 51 Palestinian MPs have been released from jail and pardoned for acts or words of resistance
Against a state that for 60 years has been taking their country by force of arms, terror and the law of the powerful
I shall visit Israel when the routine practice of torture has stopped
But will it still be Israel?
I shall visit Israel when Lieberman has left the country
I shall visit Israel when the illegal villages have been made legal
I shall visit Israel when the Bedouin of the Negev are free to live as they wish
I shall visit Israel when Arab towns and villages have been granted the same status and funding as Jewish ones
I shall visit Israel when the land has been shared by all Semites
I shall visit Israel when the rich white Jews no longer freely water the lawns of their villas in Tel-Aviv,
Those on the West Bank have to buy their drinking water and the people of Gaza have nothing safe to drink at all
But will it still be Israel?
I shall visit Israel when the people of Gaza reach a great white city North of Jaffa, raise the flag and live there
I shall visit Israel when Al-Quds has become the capital
I shall visit Israel when the Jewish state has become an unhappy memory
I shall visit Israel when Nazi war crimes against the Jews are no longer the excuse for every imaginable cruelty in a land to which they came as uninvited guests and remained as conquerors…
I shall visit Israel when the name of Israel no longer causes fear and hatred of the Jews
Because Israel has vanished from the page of time
When these conditions prevail
I shall be happy to visit Palestine when the olive trees are in bloom
Note 1. A National Fantasy
The above piece is an amateur nationalist fantasy by an irreligious Englishman who speaks neither Arabic nor Hebrew. It is neither a prophecy nor a piece of political analysis, and any errors in it or the notes that accompany it are mine alone. Palestinian nationalism, isolated, divided internally and without local allies, has experienced nothing but defeats in since the Balfour Declaration of 1917. Yet it has not given up. The regional superpower of Israel, by far the largest economy in West Asia, is unlikely to face any serious challenge to its hegemony until the whole Middle East begins to break up in the series of tectonic shifts and revolutions that will result from the defeat of US imperialism in the region and the redrawing of national boundaries. At some point in the process I would expect the Israeli state, which is the outcome of a colonial settler project under the protection of the British military occupation of Palestine between the two world wars of the twentieth century, to crumble under the combined pressure of Arab demography and political revolution. We are a very long way from that point. A Hebrew speaking nation is likely to remain in Palestine, a province by then of a much larger Arab multinational state. There is only one power in the world that can achieve this outcome. I leave the reader to imagine what that power can be. It exists and it moves. I wish the Palestinian people well, and I wish the Hebrews well.
Note 2. Torah Jews and Israel
The essential Orthodox Jewish position is summarized as follows:
The people of Israel has existed for thousands of years, is characterized by adherence to the Torah, and whoever denies the Torah and the Faith is no longer part of the people of Israel.
In contrast, Zionism is a recent, century old secular phenomenon and substitutes a state with territory and an army for what Jews have called the “kingdom of the mind”.
The Jewish theological objection is that the only time that the people of Israel were permitted to have a state was two thousand years ago when the Glory of the Creator was upon them – when in the future the Glory of the Creator is again revealed (the Messiah), and the whole world will serve Him, then He Himself (without any human intervention) will grant Israel a kingdom founded on Divine Service.
Accordingly, in this view the Zionists are violating the Torah and are blasphemers. Indeed their conduct endangers the very people they claim to be saving.
Most religious Jews, however, support Zionism and Israel plays an important part in the life of UK Jews, with a small minority prepared to dissent from the consensus. The memory of the Nazi genocide is still used as a weapon of emotional terrorism to beat people into line.
Note 3. The People of the Pale
The Pale of Settlement was an area of Western Russia designated for Jewish settlement. The highest concentrations of European, or Ashkenazi (Ashkenaz = Germany) Jews came from the Pale and from Poland. Prior to 1948, 90% of immigration to Palestine (the “Old Yishuv”) consisted of European Jews. The Israeli political elite and business class is still largely Ashkenazi. Jews responded to racist oppression in 19 Century Russia and Eastern Europe in two ways: They formed the nationalist movement of Zionism (Moses Hess, a contemporary of Karl Marx, was possibly the first modern Zionist) and they joined the emergent internationalist workers’ movement for socialism. Since the Jews had no national territory, Zionism, which found its social roots among better off Jews (see trial and Error, the autobiography of Chaim Weizman, first President of Israel) allied itself from its inception with imperialism, racist conceptions of national identity and colonialism (see The Returns of Zionism, by Gabriel Piterburg, just published). At no point in its history could Zionism be described as a national liberation movement of the Jewish people. As the Israeli scholar Shlomo Zand points out in his new study, the Jewish people is an invention, as is the idea of a Jewish nation. Judaism is a religion, not a national identity. Anyone can join. The actor Sammy Davis Junior, a Black American convert to Judaism, had the right to emigrate to and settle in Israel, which fact alone makes a nonsense of the idea of a historic return of the Jews to their homeland in Palestine. When the Israeli state departs the historical stage, I hope that the Hebrew nation it leaves in its wake will have cast off the baggage both of Zionism and of Jewish identity.
Note 4. Israel and Education
From Human Rights Watch www.hrw.org
Nearly one in four of Israel’s 1.6 million schoolchildren are educated in a public school system wholly separate from the majority. The children in this parallel school system are Israeli citizens of Palestinian Arab origin. Their schools are a world apart in quality from the public schools serving Israel’s majority Jewish population. Often overcrowded and understaffed, poorly built, badly maintained or simply unavailable, schools for Palestinian Arab children offer fewer facilities and educational opportunities than are offered other Israeli children. This report is about Israel’s discrimination against its Palestinian Arab children in guaranteeing the right to education.
From their first day in kindergarten until they reach university, Palestinian Arab and Jewish children almost always attend separate schools. Palestinian Arab children are taught in Arabic, Jewish children in Hebrew. The two systems’ curricula are similar but not identical. For example, Hebrew is taught as a second language in Arab schools, while Jewish students are not required to study Arabic.
Note 5. Am I being extreme?
Statements made in the piece can be verified by referring to th Israeli Human Rights organization B’tselem at www.btselem.org, Amnesty International’s Report Forty Years of Occupation and the work of Israeli historians Benny Morris and Ilan Pappe. Ilan Pappe first used the term genocide to apply to the ongoing Israeli blockade of Gaza in an article published on the website electronic intifada on September 2nd, 2006.
As of June 2008, 466 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli military operations, including 75 children and 23 women. A further 1,740 Palestinians have been wounded. Dozens are permanently disabled. (Source: National and International Relations Department of the PLO, Ramallah). About two dozen Israelis also met their deaths at the hands of Palestinians in the first six months of 2008. In the western media we hear only about the latter. Israel is officially at peace – yet the war never stops.
Note 6. Genocide
The Nazi genocides involved gay people, Roma (gypsys), opponents of Nazism, the mentally subnormal and 5.1 million Jews (best estimate of Jewish casualties by Holocaust historian Raul Hilberg). Article 2 of the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defines genocide as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to member of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; and forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”
It can doubtless be argued that there is no evidence that the intent of the Israeli administration towards Gaza is genocidal. However the human results of the Israeli blockade of Gaza fit the definition of genocide agreed by the United Nations (see the UN Convention). Just as the Nazi genocides in Europe raised little international condemnation in time of war, so the slow, but relentless Gaza genocide in peacetime continues unchecked and raises no outcry at government level either from the United States or the EU Countries. The most vocal protests have been from Israelis and Palestinians themselves, and from the international movement supporting Palestinian liberation. It was an Israeli historian who first used the term genocide to apply to the Gaza strip, often described as the largest outdoor prison in the world, containing 1.5 million souls, many of them refugees from former Palestine, in an area 7 to 12 KM wide and 40 KM long. The population density for the Gaza strip is 4,118 persons per sq km, compared with a population density for the borough of Barnet of 3694 people per sq km.
The means of genocide in Gaza are threefold: 1) Destruction of the Gazan economy for example forbidding fishing off the Gazan coast, destruction of trade links with outside world, 2) The withholding of medical supplies, and in particular anesthetics, power and fuel by Israel leading to high levels of mortality (untreated giardia, cholera and dysentery are now rife in the Gaza strip) 3) Direct and continuous military intervention by the Israeli Defence Forces causing an atmosphere of fear, continuous stress and despair and high levels of civilian casualties including children. A British businessman and amateur photographer, Stuart Littlewood, has reported on recent evidence from a report the Gaza Ministry of Health that Israel has been testing thermobaric, or fuel-air weapons there. While thermobaric weapons obliterate everything living close to the explosion, bodies further away suffer chiefly from the concussion of the blast wave:
“Common features of all the victim’s bodies were lack of main wounds…All victims had serious internal edema and hemorrhage with loss of blood from all body orifices. All the bodies were covered with dark powder so to look black, but were not burnt. Clothes and hair were not damaged or burnt.” (Gaza Ministry of Health)
UN relief official Jan Egeland and Jan Eliasson, then foreign minister of Sweden, writing in Le Figaro described a people “living in a cage”, cut off by land, sea and air, with no reliable power and little water, tortured by hunger and disease and incessant attacks by Israeli troops and planes.
John Pilger: “When I was last in Gaza, Dr Khalid Dahlan, a psychiatrist, showed me the results of a remarkable survey. “The statistic I personally fin unbearable,” he said, “is that 99.4 per cent of the children we studied suffer trauma. Once you look at the rates of exposure to trauma you see why: 99.2 per cent of their homes were bombarded; 97.5 per cent were exposed to tear gas; 96.6 per cent witnessed shootings; 95.8 per cent witnessed bombardment and funerals; almost a quarter saw family members injured or killed.” Dahlan invited me to sit in on one of his clinics. There were 30 children, all of them traumatised. He gave each a pencil and paper and asked them to draw. They drew pictures of grotesque acts of terror and of women streaming tears.”
Gideon Levy and Amira Hass are reporters on the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. In November 2007, Levy described how the people of Gaza were beginning to starve to death: “There are thousands of wounded, disabled and shell-shocked people, unable to receive any treatment…The shadows of human beings roam the ruins…They only know the [Israeli army] will return and they know what this will mean for them: more imprisonment in their homes for weeks, more death and destruction in monstrous proportions.” Hass, who lived in Gaza, describes it as a prison that shames her people. She recalls how her mother, Hannah, was marched from a cattle-train to the Nazi concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen on a summer’s day in 1944. “[She] saw these German women looking at the prisoners, just looking,” she wrote. “This image became very formative in my upbringing, this despicable ‘looking from the side’.”