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State of Denial: Searching for Peace in Israel

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Posted on Feb 12, 2010
soldier and boy
Wikimedia Commons / Justin McIntosh

A Palestinian boy and an Israeli soldier regard each other at the Israeli West Bank barrier in this photo from August 2004.

By Robert Fisk

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in The Independent.

There are no armed guards on the gate of Number 17 Ben-Gurion Boulevard in Tel Aviv, just a tired, two-storey villa set back from the street and an open door that leads to a dark kitchen and a little room with a cot on the floor.

There are bricks over the window above the neat little bed – to protect its owner and his wife Paula from Egyptian bombs during the 1956 Israeli invasion of Sinai, and the 1967 war – but upstairs is the bejewelled centre of this little home, David Ben-Gurion’s library of 20,000 books. I pad through this den, scribbling in my notebook any clues to the mind of this most persuasive of Israeli leaders. Most of the books are in Hebrew – on religion, histories of the Zionist movement, research on Eretz Israel – but the creator of Israel and its first prime minister was also a linguist. There are Demosthenes and Homer in Greek, a three-volume history of the Hellenistic world, Julius Caesar in French, Duff Cooper’s life of Tallyrand, George Bernard Shaw’s complete works, a history of Vichy France, Henry Picker’s Hitler’s Table Talk (in English), Freud on psychology (in German), Guy Chapman’s The Dreyfus Case, histories of Israel (including his own), a series on Jewish Influences on Christian Reform Movements. Ben-Gurion learned Spanish so that he could read a new biography of Cervantes. He loved Spinoza.

Then there are the photographs. Ben-Gurion with de Gaulle, with Kennedy and with a sad and debilitated Churchill, in 1961. Ben-Gurion wanted to read Churchill’s almost forgotten essay on Moses; Churchill’s letter to him, enclosing a copy of Thoughts and Adventures, is a little classic. “I have re-read it,” Churchill wrote, “...and I would not particularly wish it to be remembered as one of my literary works.”

But it was the set of Ben-Gurion’s quotations that caught my eye: statements on the eternal morality of the State of Israel, messages from the great man – who physically was a very little man (I opened his bedroom cupboard and there were jackets and trousers of almost midget size) – in time of war. Here is Ben-Gurion, for example, during Israel’s War of Independence – the Palestinian Arab ‘Nakba’ – when he feared that Jewish forces would destroy Muslim holy places in Jerusalem, cabling on 15 July 1948. “Further to my previous order relating to the Old City – you should see to it that the special force to be appointed for guarding the Old City uses mercilessly machine-guns against any Jew, and especially any Jewish soldier, who will try to pillage or to desecrate any Christian or Moslim holy place.” In 1967, he was boasting of how, during the establishment of the state of Israel, “we did not damage any single mosque.” Yet he was already creating myths. The undamaged mosques, he wrote in the same statement, were found in villages “without a single Moslem, as all of them had already fled during the [British] Mandatory rule and before the declaration of the State…” Amid the detritus of Ben-Gurion’s life, his thick-framed spectacles, his Quink fountain pen ink (“permanent black”), the willow-pattern plates, the original 1951 Marc Chagall sketch of a rabbi with a harp, the old transistor radio in the shelter – we shall forget the elephant tusk from the president of Gabon – there are musings on the morality and nobility and purity of arms of Israel’s army. “The fate of Israel depends on two factors: her strength and her rectitude.” And again. “The State of Israel will not be tried by its riches, army or techniques, but by its moral image and human values.”


Square, Site wide
During the blood-soaked Israeli siege of Beirut in 1982, an event which marked the decline of that rectitude and moral image, a wonderful Doonesbury cartoon depicted a press conference in which an anonymous voice asked an Israeli spokesman: “What has become of the Israel we knew and loved?” And the immediate rejoinder to the questioner? “Come off it, Yasser!” For in a sense, the lugubrious Arafat did adhere to Ben-Gurion’s myth-making. In the end, he even signed up for peace with the state which had already taken 78 per cent of the land he called home. He was a super-terrorist who became a super-statesman and then – after refusing to submit at the final Camp David meeting – became a super-terrorist again.

The truth is that Israel has destroyed many mosques, that the original Palestinian Arab victims of the 1947-8 war did not all flee, as Ben-Gurion suggested; many, like the doomed men and women of the Deir Yassin massacre, were murdered in their villages. The Israeli army, to some of us who have watched it in action, is a rabble, little different from the Arab armies of the Middle East. The numbers of civilian dead in the Gaza war were as much an outrage as the Sabra and Chatila massacre of 1982 when Israeli soldiers watched – quite literally – as the Lebanese militia they had sent into the refugee camps eviscerated the Palestinian civilians inside. Foreign journalists continue to prattle on about the supposed purity of Israel’s soldiers.

“Israel has already proved itself the most restrained nation in history. It has set an all-time record for restraint,” one Robert Fulford waffled in the Canadian National Post in January last year, at the height of the Gaza slaughter, when even Tzipi Livni admitted Israel’s soldiers had been allowed to “go wild”. Israel’s own rightist correspondents still portray the outside world as a dark, malevolent planet in which every criticism of Israel emerges from endemic anti-semitism, in which Nazism did not die in the embers of Berlin in 1945. The Jerusalem Post bashes the drum of racism almost daily. “Berlin Holocaust studies professor slammed for defending Nazi mentor.” “Weisenthal slams Ukraine award to nationalist linked to Nazis.” “Dershowitz: Goldstone is a traitor to the Jewish people.”

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By call me roy, March 24, 2010 at 7:35 am Link to this comment

Say, are you a movie stars? Your terrorist sounding rhetoric sounds just like the bad guys in the Arnold Swartzennegger movie “True Lies.”  It’s almost verbatim.
Also, the famous author Joel Richardson breaks new ground with a devastating account of the possible connection between the Biblical Antichrist and the Islamic Mahdi. The Bible predicts that in the last days a charismatic leader will establish a global following in the name of peace. The Quran also predicts that a man will rise up to lead the nations, pledging to usher in an era of peace. The man in the Quran is called the Mahdi, or Islam’s savior. However, the man in the Bible is the Antichrist. Could it be possible that they are one and the same person? Richardson’s stunning research and analysis suggest that it is.
Hey dude, I would recommend that you put this on your reading list, it could open some eyes?

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By Inherit The Wind, February 19, 2010 at 9:47 pm Link to this comment


While I agree with you, I can assure that at TruthDig you are just p***ing into the wind.

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By sharonsj, February 16, 2010 at 11:10 am Link to this comment

I would like to see a comparable article on searching for peace in Arab/Muslim countries.  You won’t find much encouraging there either, nor do you find the mainstream media talking about the endemic civil violence.  Muslims are killing each other in greater numbers when not attacking non-Muslims.  Egyptian Muslims are attacking Christian Copts.  Muslim Palestinians are attacking Christian Palestinians, and so forth.  And they all have run out whatever Jews may still be left or, in the case of Iran, hold them hostage.

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By thebeerdoctor, February 15, 2010 at 5:21 am Link to this comment

Just a typographical error to note on the Feb1 14 post. The quote from Conrad is different rather than “dufferent”.

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By johannes, February 15, 2010 at 3:58 am Link to this comment

To, Inherit the wind,

We have all some times very bad feelings about our country, not the citizen, bud the politics.

You as an person can maintain a certain distance from the politics executed by the Israeli governement, and still love and defend your feelings,
fot your ” roots ” and nostalgie for the Israel of ” Rabin “.

Maby you have read it all ready, the book from ” Benjamin Freedman “.


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By Inherit The Wind, February 14, 2010 at 8:56 pm Link to this comment

johannes, February 14 at 9:32 pm #

The Jews I know, have an big problem, they love Israel, but hate his politics.


Johannes: This may be the single most perceptive and intelligent thing you’ve posted on Truthdig.  You’ve put in a nutshell my angst and frustration.  I think Israel is being run NOW by bad people, people as bad as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, people even worse than John Ashcroft.

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By johannes, February 14, 2010 at 5:46 pm Link to this comment

To Night gaunt,

If I was you, I should not be so very sure, about Israel this time, Iran has some secret on his sleeve.

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By johannes, February 14, 2010 at 5:32 pm Link to this comment

The Problem is to be found in the past, as usual, never integrated, the chosen tribu, like Hitler with the Aryans.

More apartheid politic as in South Africa, in its haydays.

Living from money Pumped by their brothers, in frienly countrys, on land stolen from their neighbours.

An very good friend, sayd the following words : The good Jews are in their hart always humanist and socialist, bad Jews do not excist, they are not Jewish but Zionist.

The Jews I know, have an big problem, they love Israel, but hate his politics.

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By Night-Gaunt, February 14, 2010 at 3:02 pm Link to this comment

No John Ellis the Iranians would be too busy, even if they cared, to do anything about Palestine as the last remnants vanished from sight. Not when Israel is the sole nuclear power in the area. You forget that don’t you? Because they are circumspect about it. They let their enemies and friends know they have them but don’t boast about it. The recent posturing by Iran is laughable if not so tragic. The Iranians are so afraid of nuclear attack and the constant attack on them but not Israel, even though it is Iran that is following the law and Israel, along with Pakistan and India who are USA allies and also not in the Non-proliferation Treaty are not subject to the same treatment are they? Ironic isn’t it? By not constantly mentioning the nuclear arsenal of Israel, people have this strange idea of the dynamics of the region. Like yourself John Ellis. That only if Iran arms itself with nukes, for protection, would start an arms race! Not Israel.

The USA would destroy their sub fleet and clear out any such attempts at “blockade” by any of the countries there. Iran is the only one who might be able to try but that is all. The scenario you give is full of holes based upon the wrong assumption that Israel is helpless as is the USA. Not going to happen that way. Of course expect that during this time our gov’t will fall and be replaced by an oligarch dictatorship of corporate theocrats & then you will see what a full empire is like. Very efficient when it is run by psychopaths and their adherents—-morality is such an impediment to control. To them command & compassion are a fool’s mixture.

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By Samson, February 14, 2010 at 9:58 am Link to this comment

Always remember that this initially became Israel’s “Holy Land” only after the Israelis marched in and slaughtered the Canaanites.

This has been going on for an awfully long time.

The sad part is that anyone would adopt the bloody ideas of these people, with all of their ‘eye for an eye’ ideas, as the basis for a religion.

The one thing Christians should always remember is that Jesus preached an end to all of this. He preached a message of ‘love thy brother’ and ‘love thy enemy’ as a direct opposition to this sort of thinking.

I’ve never understood why the Old Testament is even included in the Christian bible.

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By PatrickHenry, February 14, 2010 at 8:52 am Link to this comment

How much money does your state contribute to Israel and what else could we do with that money?

Very good interactive map.

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By thebeerdoctor, February 14, 2010 at 5:29 am Link to this comment

“They were conquerors, and for that you want only brute force—nothing to boast of, when you have it, since your strength is just an accident arising from the weakness of others. They grabbed what they could get for the sake of what was to be got. It was just robbery with violence, aggravated murder on a great scale, and men going at it blind—as is very proper for those who tackle a darkness. The conquest of the earth, which mostly means taking it away from those who have a dufferent complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves. is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much.”
JOSEPH CONRAD, Heart Of Darkness

Under the present world control, not looking into anything very much is paramount. Emotional mythology is very powerful alternative to rational thought.

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By ron_woodward, February 14, 2010 at 3:29 am Link to this comment

Expendable Citizens Should Unite in Common Cause
Citizens in the USA, Iran and Gaza have become expendable. In the US workers have been outsourced and the middle class has been denuded of net worth. An elite group of corporate communists administers government power through the military, the mass media and a set of legislative and judicial lackeys.
They have marginalized the people into a cadre of wage and debt slaves. They have expanded these evils worldwide through the monopolization of resources, by the distribution of toxic assets and by perpetual [preemptive] warfare. Many citizens are uncomfortable under the weight of a tyrant, but do nothing too conditioned by long years of oppression.
The Iranians sent their children to the west for education. Along with math and science, they absorbed heretical teachings on governance and philosophy. They took their learning to the streets many times defeated by brute force. As the US War on Terror proved, it is impossible to destroy a worthwhile idea with weapons.
Many in the Muslim World insist that Palestinians have been corrupted by the west [especially by proximity to Israel]. Their leaders begin hostilities indifferent to the casualties they bring.
We citizens realize our governments serve their interests and not ours. This process began when the first caveman conked his rival on the head to become the tribal leader. We cloud our vision with histories, personalities and commentary until we pound the active possibilities into the ground. The time horizons of 50+ years discussed are excuses for inaction. The first item on our agenda should be how we can survive for another 50 years.

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By Jack, February 13, 2010 at 9:14 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Is Illan Pappe right that Ben-Gurion went around to personally give the orders for Plan D orally to commanders in the field so that there would be no record that he did so? Was he really trying to create a public record that would absolve him of responsibility for the worst of the atrocities that he was actually ordering? Is Fisk too kind to Ben-Gurion’s memory?

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By Robert, February 13, 2010 at 8:06 pm Link to this comment

Zionism: A Fairy Tale That’s Become a Terrifying Nightmare

By Alan Hart

February 12, 2010

What is a Zionist today?

Short answer: One, not necessarily a Jew, who (to quote Balfour) supports the Zionist state of Israel “right or wrong” and who cannot or will not admit that a terrible wrong was done to the Palestinians by Zionism - a wrong that must be acknowledged and then corrected on terms acceptable to the Palestinians if there is ever to be peace and the countdown to catastrophe for all is to be stopped. The Arab word for the catastrophe of the original dispossession of the Palestinians is Nakba. In my view, Zionism’s Nakba denial is as obscene and as evil as denial of the Nazi holocaust.

One thing nobody can deny is the effectiveness of Zionism’s propaganda machine. Zionism’s spin doctors probably learned from the Nazis that the bigger the lies and the more frequently they are told, the more likely it is that they will be believed in the mainly Gentile, Judeo-Christian or Western world; and all the more so when the mainstream media is terrified of offending Zionism either too much or at all.

The biggest of all of Zionism’s propaganda lies is the one which asserts that Israel has lived in constant danger of annihilation, the “driving into the sea” of its Jews. As I document in detail in my book, Israel’s existence has never, ever, been in danger from any combination of Arab force. Not in 1948. Not in 1967. And not even in 1973. Zionism’s assertion to the contrary was the cover which allowed Israel to get away where it mattered most, in North America and Western Europe, with presenting its aggression (often state terrorism) as self-defense, and itself as the victim when actually it was, and is, the oppressor.

The companion propaganda lie is that Israel never had Arab partners for peace.


Click on link for the rest:

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By TAO Walker, February 13, 2010 at 4:24 pm Link to this comment

“The Arab-Israeli conflict….” is being CONducted for exactly the same purpose as every other such CONflict over the last ten thousand years or so.  It is to satisfy the CONstant blood-sacrifice demanded of ‘his’ worshipers by “the-one-god” WAR.  Wearing many masks and known by as many names, this disembodied retro-viral entity feeds-off the misery (in all its gradations from chronic low-grade fear to pain-wracked death, and its CONsequent grief) of the now billions of inmates trapped in the virtual world-o’-hurt called “civilization.”

Even the allamericangod “money” pays tribute to WAR, and “power,” that seductive chimera so many pretend to serve, is nothing-at-all without WAR’s support.  So let’s quit all the make-believe rationalizations for why homo domesticus is addicted to armed “CONflict,” and admit the plain truth:  Their ‘god’ is an AWFUL ‘god’!....and any old excuse for spilling blood in ‘his’ “name” will do.

The ‘toll’ taken by the tin ‘god’ Lizzie is chump-change, tame Sisters and Brothers….and guess who’re the chumps?


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By bozh, February 13, 2010 at 2:48 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Both the white ‘jews’ and christian lands my be uing the shemitc peoples with islamic, christian, and talmudic or mosheic cults.
Most white ‘jews’ [‘jews’ means an multiethnicity having no connection whatever with palestine or hebrews; including yehudim] are in diaspora; safe-rich-secure.

Actually ‘god’ cldn’t have ‘promised’ them a worst region to live in. It is devoid of lakes, rivers, minerals, game;surrounded with etern enemies.

It doesn’t augur well for dark-skinned shemites with mosheic cult that the ‘zionists’ [read please land robbers]have not yet established a state for ‘jews’ only nor an israel.
Israel is still borderless with no de jure recognition.
Now the question arises why is that so? Well,for one thing, palestina is not of any strategic value- only a political one.
So why recognize any israel? Nato/us need badly mayhem/disorder/‘terrorism’; thus avoidance of peace at any cost; especially, since costs to US/nato/israel are so little.
By avoiding peace in palestina, US/nato/isr was able to bring all arab fascists onside. So that was ‘great’ achievement for US/nato.

Palestinian leaderships are also strongly asocialistic just like israeli and US. So, birds of a feather eventually flock together.
Expect, tho, a one state solution in expalestina with white ‘jews’ leaving it in great numbers! When? Probably after total pacification of both afgh’n, syria, lebanon, iraq, and iran
more cld be said. tnx

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By Robert, February 12, 2010 at 7:37 pm Link to this comment

February 5 - 7, 2010

NYT’s Israel Editor’s Sticky Situation

Ethan Bronner’s Conflict With Impartiality


Breaking the silence

“Recently, the Israeli organization “Breaking the Silence” published 96 testimonies by female Israeli soldiers. They describe a pervasive pattern of violence, harassment, theft, and humiliation practiced by Israeli forces against Palestinian men, women, and children. Below are excerpts:

“We caught a five-year-old… the officers just picked him up, slapped him around and put him in the jeep. The kid was crying and the officer next to me said ‘don’t cry’ and started laughing at him. Finally the kid cracked a smile – and suddenly the officer gave him a punch in the stomach. Why? ‘Don’t laugh in my face’ he said.”

“’s boring, so we’d create some action. We’d get on the radio, and say they threw stones at us, then someone would be arrested… There was a policewoman, she was bored, so okay, she said they threw stones at her. They asked her who threw them. ‘I don’t know, two in grey shirts, I didn’t manage to see them.’ They catch two guys with grey shirts… beat them. Is it them? ‘No, I don’t think so.’ Okay, a whole incident, people get beaten up. Nothing happened that day.”

“...two of our soldiers put him [a Palestinian child] in a jeep, and two weeks later the kid was walking around with casts on both arms and legs…they talked about it in the unit quite a lot - about how they sat him down and put his hand on the chair and simply broke it right there on the chair.”

An officer described soldiers shooting to death a nine-year-old as he was trying to run away: “They shot in the air, as they say – shot in the air in the lungs…”

In their testimonies, these soldiers emphasize that mistreatment of Palestinian civilians is widespread, routine, and known to everyone. Both the Israeli and the Palestinian press have published excerpts.

Yet, New York Times Bureau Chief Ethan Bronner has so far failed to report this information about Israeli forces.

And his son has just joined up.


Click on link for the rest:

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By EJH, February 12, 2010 at 6:20 pm Link to this comment

Other commentators sometimes leave a reader with a
sense that there is hope for the Palestinians.  Fisk
does not do that.  Quite a downer, that Fisk.  Of
course, he is almost always right and, unfortunately, I
cannot see reason to doubt him on Palestine.

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By ofersince72, February 12, 2010 at 5:43 pm Link to this comment

Night Gauntlet,
You and I have way more agreements then we
do disagreements!!!!!!!!

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By Night-Gaunt, February 12, 2010 at 5:02 pm Link to this comment

From what he observes you know it won’t end well for the Palestinians. And if the leaders of Israel finally get their attack on Iran? Expect the last 10% of Palestine to just vanish as if it were never there. The fog of war can do just that. No ovens or showers either, just the muscle of military force to burn them out with extreme prejudice.

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