There’s good news and bad news on the Israeli-Palestinian justice front today.
The bad news is that neither 5 Broken Cameras, the Palestinian-Israeli documentary about nonviolent protests against Israeli land confiscation and daily life in the Palestinian village of Bilin in the West Bank, nor The Gatekeepers, the Israeli documentary in which former heads of Israel’s domestic intelligence service reflect on their experiences and slam Israeli governments for not making peace with the Palestinians, won an Academy Award.
The good news is that they were both nominated; many Americans learned of them for the first time; and many more Americans will now get to see them. (5 Broken Cameras is on Netflix.)
And the other good news: By the end of this week, Chuck Hagel is going to be confirmed as our next secretary of defense, despite being attacked by Senator Lindsey Graham for having once allegedly used the A-word in talking about the dystopian future of Israel-Palestine, if Israel doesn’t make peace with the Palestinians. This is a great victory for humanity, because if Chuck Hagel can allegedly speak plainly about the dystopian future of Israel-Palestine if there is no peace, then every American can do it. If such observations would become commonplace in the United States, then peace between Israel and Palestine would become much more likely.
Of course, if you’re in the in-crowd, then you know that many top former Israeli officials have used the A-word in talking about the dystopian future of Israel-Palestine if there is no peace agreement. But this is exactly why, by becoming our first secretary of defense to have allegedly used the A-word in talking about Israel’s future, Chuck Hagel will have done the Israeli people a great service. If folks in Washington allowed themselves to make the same criticisms of the Israeli government’s failure to make peace as Israeli politicians have routinely made, we could start to have a serious conversation about US policy. Whether he meant to or not, Chuck Hagel has opened a door. We can all walk through it.
Indeed, since Friday, 23,000 Americans have signed petitions circulated by Just Foreign Policy and Jewish Voice for Peace to Senator Lindsay Graham saying: It’s no foul to warn of Israel’s apartheid future if there is no peace: Prominent Israelis have done so.
This isn’t just a matter of calling names. In 2008, while campaigning for the presidency in Ohio, Barack Obama said:
“I think there is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt a unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel that you’re anti-Israel, and that can’t be the measure of our friendship with Israel. If we cannot have an honest dialogue about how do we achieve these goals, then we’re not going to make progress.”
The prominent Israelis who have warned of the apartheid future of Israel have something in common: They are not Likudniks. They’re Israeli leaders who want peace with the Palestinians. By pretending that Chuck Hagel isn’t pro-Israel enough to be US Secretary of Defense because he might have used the A-word, Lindsey Graham is saying that former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak isn’t pro-Israeli enough to be US Secretary of Defense. Isn’t that spectacularly absurd? There’s a saying for this in Arabic: aktar maliki min il malik. More royalist than the King.
And this is what is really at stake. The hysteria about using the A-word is coming from people like Lindsey Graham, people who say that “unless you adopt a unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel that you’re anti-Israel.” Isn’t that exactly what happened in Hagel’s confirmation hearing? Lindsey Graham doesn’t want to “make progress” towards peace. He wants to maintain the status quo in which Israel maintains control of the West Bank and expands Israeli settlements there, blocking Palestinian independence forever. He wants US policy to be subordinate to Likud policy. And this is why Lindsey Graham doesn’t want you to use the word “apartheid,” because that would call attention to the fact that the Lindsey Graham agenda for the West Bank necessarily implies keeping 2.5 million Palestinians in a permanent state of open incarceration, which is the antithesis of Jewish and democratic values.
So go ahead. Use the A-word. No-one can stop you now.