quotes from Edward Said's "The End of the Peace Process"

by Betsy posted Nov 03, 2006


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This book is helpful, not so much for its facts, but more for the way Edward Said deconstructs and analyzes the rhetoric that couches so much of the discourse on the Occupation.


p. 49
“Moreover, no one bothered to point out that Hamas’s quarrel with the “peace process” has from the beginning been advanced on nationalist, rarely on Islamic, principles.”

In all this, Israeli propaganda has achieved an important success.  It has made opposition to its policies (including the closures, and military operations) seem tantamount to opposing peace; it has convinced the world that it is striving for peace, although of course it wages war; it has elevated itself and its four million citizens to the central focal point of the Arab and Muslim world, which comprise two hundred million and one billion respectively; it has compelled the Palestinian leadership to believe that any unnecessary resistance on its part will upset Peres, and weaken his appeal to the electorate, as if the Israeli electorate were the only one that counted.

In five decades Israel has solidified its position as a peace-loving state surrounded by vicious enemies who want to exterminate the Jews. Israel never attacks; it “retaliates” in “self-defense.” Israel values human life; Israel is a Western country; Israel is necessary for the defense of Western values against fundamentalist, terrorist Islam.

Sponsored by the United States, the peace process [Oslo] was built callously upon the sufferings of a people whose society had been destroyed in 1948 by an incoming Jewish population claming biblical rights in Palestine.  Two thirds of the land’s inhabitants were driven from their homes.  In 1967 Israel occupied the rest of historic Palestine.  Yet Oslo neither ended Palestinian dispossession, nor genuinely alleviated the short-term miseries of an Israeli military occupation, during which the economy, infrastructure, human resources of the Palestinians had been programmatically damaged.  

In a typical piece of transparently illogical rhetoric one of them [pro-peace pro-U.S. Arab commentators] accused Arab intellectuals of not having a new enough stile of the kind of thought that is required to think about peace; even Palestinians, he says, think too much about the wrongs done them and not enough about the future.  As if one could separate the past from the future, particularly when one is dealing with an opponent whose main raison d’être is a realization of the Old Testament, which is nothing if not a style of thought rooted, indeed frozen, in the past.  

We must speak the truth to power.

It is important not to underestimate the damage that is being done, the violence to our lives that will ensue, the distortions and misery that result.

“But don’t you see how unjust it is to take land from farmers who have no defense against you?” I said, to which he replied, “It’s not their land really.  It belongs to the state of Israel.”  I recall saying to him that sixty years ago the same arguments were made against Jews in Germany, and now here were Jews using it against their victims, the Palestinians.  He moved away, unwilling to respond.

Ninety percent of the Western electorate still does not know that there is a Law of Return only for Jews, that Israel was built on the ruins of Palestinian society, and that only Jews (at the expense of the indigenous inhabitants) can benefit from the institutions of the state, especially so far as landowning is concerned.

It has taken six years of concessions to Israel to achieve partial independence of about 13 percent of the West Bank, minus security, water, air and border controls, which Israel still holds.  What possibility is there of a truly independent Palestinian entity under the present or even foreseeable circumstances?  None at all.  Israeli dreams are equally unimplementable, no matter how many roads, fences, checkpoints (including the most recent one in Bethlehem) and separations Barak and his advisers keep inventing.  Neither Palestinians nor Israelis can be made distant from the other.  In the area between Ramallah in the north and Bethlehem in the south 800,000 Israelis and Palestinians live on top of each other, and cannot be separated.  That is the truth.

So long as the fundamental reality is denied or avoided—that Israel exists as a Jewish state by virtue of its having supplanted the rights of all Palestinians with a “superior” Jewish right—there can neither be reconciliation nor true coexistence.

p.189  The predictable Amos Oz has demanded that we decide between peace and violence, as if Israel has already grounded its planes, dismantled Dimona, stopped bombing and occupying South Lebanon (two seventy-year-old Lebanese men were killed by Israeli planes at the time of the marketplace bombings: why is that not violence and terror?), and withdrawn all its troops out of the 97 percent of the West Bank it still controls, along with the military checkpoints that it has planted between every major Palestinian center.  […] How dare the egregious Netanyahu and his chorus of American minions demand that Islamic militants be summarily arrested, and Israeli security be guaranteed?  Who does he think he is addressing as his bonded servant, and by what standards of human decency does he dare assume that the hundreds of Palestinians murdered during the intifada, the victims of the Sabra and Shatila massacres—all of them directly the responsibility of Israel—are nothing compared to Israel’s “security” needs? Only a few weeks ago the Israeli justice system ruled unilaterally that victims of Israel’s military during the intifada were not entitled to pursue their claims against the state since it was a “war” situation.  Who do those people think they are, that they can make light of or ignore what they have done to us and still wrap themselves in the mantle of “the survivors”? Is there no term limit, is there no sense of respect for the victims’ victims, is there no boundary to what Israel can do while continuing to demand the privileges of the innocent?  

Terror bombing is terrible, and cannot be condoned.  But the bulldozers of forgetfulness and righteous arrogance are terrible also.  Israel’s constant demands for security conceal, I think, a deep insecurity about Israel’s “original sin,” the fact that there was always another people in Palestine, and that every village, kibbutz, settlement, city, and town had an Arab history also.  Dayan used to admit it publicly.  This generation of leaders hasn’t his honesty.  The worst are Israel’s lobby and the scads of pro-Israeli organizations in the United States who repeat the dreadful clichés and celebrate Israel without a trace of awareness that there is tragedy beneath every road, every act of military prowess, every settlement.  What sort of hypocrisy is it to rail against Islamic fundamentalism and to say nothing of Jewish fundamentalism that dehumanizes every non-Jew and relies on biblical promises that go back two millennia?

p. 319
I see no way of evading the fact that in 1948 one people displaced another, thereby committing a grave injustice.  The great virtue of reading Palestinian and Jewish history together not only gives the tragedy of the Holocaust and of what subsequently happened to the Palestinians their full force, but also reveals how in the course of interrelated Israeli and Palestinian life since 1948, one people, the Palestinians, has borne a disproportional share of the pain and loss.  

That the Palestinians have endured decades of dispossession and raw agonies rarely endured by other peoples—particularly because these agonies have either been ignored or denied, and even more poignantly, because the perpetrators of this tragedy are celebrated for social and political achievements that make no mention at all of where those achievements actually began—is of course the locus of “the Palestinian problem,” but it has been pushed very far down the agenda of negotiations until finally now, it has popped up to the surface.

The stranglehold on U.S. media perspectives maintained by the supporters of Israel has produced an astonishingly reductive view of reality. Consider the use of “defense” to describe Israeli tactics, when it has the Middle East’s only offensive air force, nuclear option and military-political apparatus totally supported by the world’s only superpower.  How can it be “defense” when for twenty-two years Israel has defied the international community by persisting in its various military occupations, bombing Arab capital cities at will, destroying civilian infrastructures and in Lebanon alone causing at least 20,000 deaths and uncounted thousands of wounded, ninety-five percent of them civilian? Or take the word “peace” and its cognate “peace process.” Israel has tried to force “peace” on subjugated leaderships in the Arab world, and at the same time has continued aggressive policies of colonization and annexation that have earned it opprobrium everywhere—except in the U.S. media, where its ethnic cleansing and systematic discrimination against non-Jews are either overlooked or justified cynically by exploiting Holocaust memories.

Worst of all are the U.S. media, cowed by the fearsome Israeli lobby, with commentators and anchors spinning distorted reports about “crossfire” and “Palestinian violence” that eliminate the fact that Israel is in military occupation and that Palestinians are fighting it, not “laying siege to Israel,” as Madeleine Albright put it.  While the United States celebrates the Serbian people’s victory over Milosevic, Clinton and his aides refuse to see the Palestinian insurgency as the same kind of struggle against injustice.