Tuesday, August 14, 2007


The word usually applies to a seat in a theatre, or a WC, such as on an airplane. It can be far more sinister, however, such as occupied France, occupied Tibet, or occupied Palestine.

Arthur Neslen has written an illuminating book called “Occupied Minds”. Mr. Neslen interviewed fifty Israelis, with determination to achieve a wide variety of perspectives. I think I know why he entitled his work as he did, since virtually none of those interviewed (with the possible exceptions of the anarchist and the Mossad agent), actually understood the root of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Some were able to criticize and even condemn what the Israeli Defense Force had become, acting as an occupation force, with the task of subjugating a population bent on freeing itself from occupation. Even the man whose family had moved to Safed (in the northern Galilee area of Israel) in the fifteenth century, and complained about Arab violence, used an occasion of violence (in 1929) which occurred twelve years after European Jews declared their intention not merely to move to Palestine but to take it over. The Balfour declaration in 1917 made that clear to Palestinians, and Ahad Haam criticized the colonial behavior of Jewish settlers fifteen years before Balfour. The Israeli couldn’t understand that an indigenous people didn’t want to be occupied or dispossessed.

An equally intriguing collection of essays is entitled “Wrestling with Zion”. Written by liberal American Jews they deal with their conflicts over Israel’s actions and policies. The essays make clear how conflicted American Jews can be over the actions and policies of the nation-state which claims to act on behalf of Jews the world over (rather than on behalf of all its citizens).

An observation made by one of the interviewed Jews in Seth Farber’s “Rabbis, Radicals and Peacemakers” is particularly illuminating. These are opponents of Israel, and one of them observed that a substantial portion of the American Jewish opposition to Israel is homosexual; Farber asked why that was so. The respondent answered that once one disenthralls oneself from one set of tribal lies (regarding homosexuality), it is much easier to disenthrall oneself regarding tribal myths about Israel.

Therein is the “key”, to disenthrall oneself from the myriad of tribal and cultural myths which dictate which truth and truths we can embrace. These constructs, “myths” (and the mass media which modifies them for other purposes) determine the parameters of thinkable thought, and what lies “outside the mainstream” is not even considered. This constitutes the truly “occupied mind” --in Israel or America.

Just imagine...

Imagine a President with the courage to insist that Israelis stop colonizing Palestinian territory? Dwight Eisenhower last imposed such constraints on Israel in 1956, withholding financial support until her army evacuated the Sinai. If not impeached by Congress, such a president could apply pressure for a peace treaty with both Palestinians and the surrounding Arab states (offered most recently in 2002). Return of Israel to its pre-1967 borders, evacuation of housing built (for Jews only) in the occupied territories, removal of housing restrictions in East Jerusalem, dismantling of the “Matrix of Control” (Jeff Halper’s phrase)? Even allowing Arabs to travel any road in the West Bank? Yes, and free access to the Old City by Israeli and Palestinian, Jew, Christian and Muslim?

It could mean the end of suicide bombers, for the humiliation leading to such desperate acts will have ended. It could mean the end of Israeli soldiers shooting children for playing too near a guard post. It could mean the return of humanity to an occupation force progressively losing its moral bearings. It could mean the end of the 50-70% unemployment rate in the Occupied Territories leading to despair and hatred. So many opportunities for healing, if no other option was available.

The First Intifada was largely non-violent, and the first Palestinian suicide bomber didn’t act until Dr. Bernard Goldstein had massacred Muslims at prayer in Hebron. America would be praised in every Arab and Muslim capital of the world, and enjoy the good will of virtually every nation of the world. The National Threat Advisory Level could go down to GREEN! Even Israel might be grateful, having been extracted from the endless cycle of attack and reprisal from which she seems unable to extricate herself. The best advocates for peace now say they need such an imposition from the outside, the state being unable to make it happen for itself.

Yes, those longing for a “Greater Israel” would be furious—more than when they were evicted from Gaza which created a “free fire” zone. But the large number of Israelis who sincerely want peace rather than empire, would embrace such an action. Some might feel their autonomy interfered with, but that autonomy has been secured with the virtual imprisonment (and humiliation) of the Palestinian population. Moreover, Israelis would enjoy even greater autonomy within truly secure borders.
Yes, hostile feelings would still be present amongst both Israelis and Palestinians. Yes, the refugee problem would still need to be negotiated. But many countries would help to provide incentives to settle those who wish to move, and Palestine could absorb some more. Israel would need to absorb some, actually accepting responsibility for creating the problem.

David Ben Gurion committed to a “Greater Israel” in 1956, whose limits would be those of the kingdoms of David and Solomon. Moshe Dayan and other Israeli leaders have subsequently espoused such an expansionist policy—those receiving less publicity even hoping for the borders listed in Genesis 15—from Turkey in the North to the Nile in the South, from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates. These ambitions condemn the Israeli people and the Palestinians, indeed the whole region, to perpetual conflict.

The alternative to a just peace is the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian population currently in process and the apartheid which currently exists (as stated by Israeli authors as well as Jimmy Carter), with perpetual enmity between Israel and her neighbors, and perpetual hatred of the United States (Israel’s patron and protector in the U.N.) whose weaponry now litters southern Lebanon and Gaza and whose Caterpillar militarized bulldozers are daily destroying the housing of Palestinians. Termination of the “occupation” would serve the interests of everyone committed to peace rather than to “Greater Israel”.

Why Klaatu?

Why Klaatu? Sci-fi buffs will recognize the name; he’s the principle character in an old 1951 movie entitled, “The Day the Earth Stood Still”. Its premise was that a distant society considered earth’s societies dangerous to the galactic communities, now that both interplanetary travel and nuclear holocaust were possible. This distant society sent Klaatu with a simple message: contain our violence or be destroyed.

The premise is, of course, both simple and absurd. No advanced community threatens another civilization with destruction. No advanced civilization destroys another people. An advanced civilization finds ways to advance life, to promote growth and maturity.

But Klaatu (played by Michael Rennie) did enjoy a unique vantage point—he could observe human behavior without ego, fear, tribal loyalty and hate. So, I hope to make observations and comments from that particular “lunatic fringe”. Of course, viewing without hate and without fear is not lunatic, but it does appear so from within the Cuckoo’s Nest. In so doing perhaps we can laugh at the absurdities, and maybe change some of them.