By Odeh Bisharat, Haaretz: To paraphrase the self-righteous comment by Golda Meir, one could say that the “Palestinians will never forgive Israel for forcing them to love Iran.” After all, Iran is controlled by a benighted dictatorship that oppresses its people and cuts them off from the world, and under anti-American and anti-Israeli slogans is trying to seize control of the entire region, for which it’s prepared to support other bloody regimes.
Nevertheless, the Palestinians are on the Iranian side, because faced with the Arab and international failure to stop Israel’s brutal treatment of them, only Iran is perceived as posing a challenge to Jerusalem. And then Israel is surprised that the Palestinians so hate the Jewish state and hasten to describe this with the worn-out mantra of “anti-Semitism.”
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Go explain to the family of a Palestinian administrative detainee whose son is wasting away in an Israeli prison without trial that Iran doesn’t uphold human rights. Go talk to a Palestinian shepherd whose flock is attacked by settlers about how the Iranian regime suppresses freedom of expression. Go whisper in the ear of a Palestinian living in the West Bank’s Area C who is coping with gradual ethnic cleansing that he should be demonstrating for women’s rights in Iran.
Israel’s contribution over the years to the anti-democratic trends among the Arab peoples is a moral stain. After all, the Arab reaction in all its manifestations – religious, nationalist and social fanaticism – exploited Israeli repression to the fullest to divert attention from the abuses against their own people.
I remember the late Shimon Peres, in a smug appearance on TV, explaining that the Israeli occupation is different from any other conquest in the region because of the democracy it is bringing to the occupied. There is no greater distortion of reality than this. Under the wings of the Israeli occupation the seeds of extremism have been sown and continue to be sown. It is Israel, with its occupation, expulsions and closures, that has actually given democracy a bad name.
Israel hasn’t brought any light to the people of the region, unless imprisonment without charges can be considered light, or the snipers that kill from hundreds of meters away. Every time there was a chance in one of these countries to replace a dictator with democratic forces, Israel tried to prevent it by supporting the dictators. And when the revolution took place anyway, the revolutionaries were less democratic and less tolerant toward their own people, and were suspicious of any Western democracy, primarily because Israel, the friend of the dictators, had positioned itself as the agent of Western democracy in the Middle East, or, as many people here say, “the only democracy in the Middle East.”
And now, instead of the Israeli leadership learning a lesson from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s life project, the cancellation of the Iran nuclear agreement, and the response by Iran (which has violated the agreement because of Netanyahu’s struggle and U.S. President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the whole business, which was simply a headache for him); instead of Netanyahu’s opponents – and his supporters – saying anything given this collapse, we only hear silence. As if 20 years hadn’t been wasted on incitement and intimidation, as if huge amounts of capital were not dissipated, as if no precious opportunities had been missed to pursue a different course, one of dialogue with the peoples of the region, including the Iranian people, many of whom did their part to reach the nuclear agreement, which was a victory for the Iranian moderates and a defeat of the hardliners there.
Meanwhile Netanyahu, who is responsible for this fiasco, is exploiting the situation and preparing himself for Stage 2, another 20 years of a Middle Eastern cold war. But this time there’s no Santa Obama with $38 billion. Today, during the Trump drought, even Netanyahu’s request for $12.5 million to arm the Palestinian security forces was refused; let Israel pay for it. Apparently only Trump can bring Israel back to the reality of the Middle East.
First published in Haaretz. Cartoon by Stephffart.
Odeh Bisharat is a writer and publicist in Haaretz.