Optimism of the Will

by Uri Avnery, Gush Shalom, February
6, 2016.

SO NOW we have
another anti-Semite. Mazal Tov (“good luck”) as we say in Hebrew.
His name is
Ban Ki-moon, and he is the Secretary General of the UN. In practice, the
highest international official, a kind of World Prime Minister.
He has dared
to criticize the Israeli government, as well as the Palestinian Authority, for
sabotaging the peace process, and thereby making Israeli-Palestinian peace
almost impossible. He emphasized that there is a world-wide consensus about the
“Two-state Solution” being the only possible one.
formulation sounded neutral, but Ban made it quite clear that almost the entire
fault lies with the Israeli side. Since the Palestinians are living under a
hostile occupation, there is not much they can do one way or the other.
Anyone blaming
Israel for anything is, of course, a blatant anti-Semite, the latest addition
to a long line, starting with Pharaoh, king of Egypt, a few thousand years ago.

I AM not
criticizing Ban, except for being too soft-spoken. Perhaps that is the Korean
style. If I had been – God forbid – in his place, my formulation would have
been a lot sharper.

Contrary to
appearances, there is no great difference between Ban and Bibi, as far as the
prognosis is concerned. A few weeks ago, Binyamin Netanyahu announced that we
shall “forever live by the sword” – a Biblical phrase going back to the
admonition of Avner, King Saul’s general, who cried out to King David’s general
Yoav “Shall the sword devour for ever?” (I always liked Avner and
adopted his name.)
But what is good
for a patriot like Netanyahu is not good for a Jew-hater like Ban. So to hell
with him.
have disliked Ban’s statement that the “Two State Solution” is now
the consensus of the entire world. The world except Netanyahu and his cohorts.
That was not
always so. Quite the contrary.
The Partition
Plan was first adopted by the British Royal Commission appointed after the 1936
Arab Revolt (called “the Events” by the Jews) in which many Arabs,
Jews and British soldiers died. In this plan the Jews were allotted only a
small part of Palestine, a narrow strip along the sea, but it was the first
time in modern history that a Jewish state was envisioned. The idea caused a
deep split in the Jewish community in Palestine (called the
“Yishuv”), but the outbreak of World War II put an end to the plan.
After the war
and the Holocaust, there was a world-wide search for a permanent solution. The
General Assembly of the new United Nations decided on the partition of Palestine
into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. The Jewish leadership formally
accepted this, but with the secret intention of enlarging the territory of
their state at the first opportunity.
opportunity came soon enough. The Arabs rejected partition and started a war,
in which we conquered much more territory and annexed it to our fledgling
With the end
of the war, by early 1949, the situation was thus: the enlarged Jewish state,
now called Israel, occupied 78% of the country, including West Jerusalem; the
Emir of Transjordan retained the West Bank of the Jordan with East Jerusalem
and changed his title to King of Jordan; the King of Egypt retained the Gaza
Palestine had
disappeared from the map.
discharged from the army (because of my wounds) I was convinced that this
situation would lead to permanent conflict. During the war I had seen many Arab
villages and towns, from which the inhabitants had fled or been evicted, and
was convinced that a Palestinian people existed – contrary to Israeli
assertions and worldwide opinion – and that there would never be peace if this
people was denied a national state of their own.
Still wearing
uniform, I looked for partners in an endeavor to spread this conviction. I
found a young Muslim Arab architect in Haifa and a young Druze sheikh. (The
Druze are Arabs who seceded from Islam and founded a new religion many
centuries ago).
The three of
us met several times in the apartment of the architect, but found no public
echo. Government policy and public opinion in Israel favored the status quo.
The existence of a Palestinian people was fervently denied, Jordan became de
facto an ally of Israel – as it had secretly been all along.
If someone had
taken an international public opinion poll in the early 1950s, I wonder if they
would have found a hundred people in the world who seriously favored  a Palestinian state. Some Arab states paid
lip service to the idea, but no one took it seriously.
My magazine,
Haolam Hazeh, and later the party I founded (which bore the same name) were the
only organizations in the world that carried on this struggle. Golda Meir
famously said that “There is no such thing as a Palestinian people”
(and less famously: “I am ready to mount the barricades to get Uri Avnery
out of the Knesset!”)
This total
rejection of the rights and the very existence of the Palestinian people was
further strengthened by the 1967 Six-day war, when Israel took possession of
what was left of Palestine. The ruling doctrine was the “Jordanian
Option” – the idea that if and when Israel would give back the West Bank
or parts of it, it would give them to King Hussein.
This consensus
extended from David Ben-Gurion to Levy Eshkol, from  Yitzhak Rabin to Shimon Peres. The idea
behind it was not only the inherited denial of the existence of the Palestinian
people, but also the hare-brained conviction that the king would give up
Jerusalem, since his capital was Amman. Only a total ignoramus could have
believed that the Hashemite king, a direct descendant of the Prophet, could
give the third-holiest city of Islam to infidels.
The pro-Soviet
Israeli Communist party was also for the Jordanian Option, causing me to joke
in the Knesset that it was probably the only Communist Monarchist party in the
world. This ended in 1969, when Leonid Brezhnev suddenly changed course and
accepted the “Two States for Two Peoples” formula. The Israeli
communists followed almost before the words were out of his mouth.
The Likud
party, of course, was never ready to give up even an inch of Eretz Israel.
Officially, it still claims the East bank of the Jordan River, too. Only a practiced
liar like Netanyahu could publicly proclaim to the world his acceptance of the
“Two-state Solution”. No Likud member took this seriously.    
So when the
world’s highest diplomat says that there is a world-wide consensus for the
Two-state Solution, I have the right to enjoy a moment of satisfaction.  And optimism.
IS the title of my memoirs, the second part of which just came out this week.
(Alas, only in Hebrew. Have not yet found publishers in other languages.)
When the first
part appeared, people thought the title was crazy. Now they say that it is
Today? When the Israeli peace camp is in deep despair? When home-grown fascism
is raising its head and the government is leading us towards national suicide?
I have tried
several times to explain where this irrational optimism comes from: genetic
roots, life experience, the knowledge that pessimists don’t do anything, that
it is the optimists who try to effect change.
To quote the
motto of Antonio Gramsci: “Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the
BAN IS not the
only anti-Semite who was unmasked lately. Another one is Laurent Fabius,
Foreign Minister of France.
How come?
Fabius has lately floated the idea of convening (in Paris, of course) an
international conference for Israeli-Palestinian peace. He declared in advance
that if this idea is not accepted, France will officially recognize the State
of Palestine, opening the gates of Europe for others to follow.  
This raises a
semantic question. In Zionist parlance, only a non-Jew can be an anti-Semite. A
Jew who says exactly the same is a “Jewish self-hater”.
Fabius belongs
to a Jewish family that has converted to Catholicism. Under Jewish religious
law (the Halakha) a Jew who has sinned remains a Jew. Converting is a sin. So
is Fabius a non-Jew and therefore an anti-Semite, or a Jewish sinner, a self-hater?
How, exactly,
should we curse him?