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US congressman seeks to justify Israel's claim to the land

January 23, 2014 at 7:34 am

War is incited by hatred. Unfortunately this reasoning has been applied erroneously to absolve Israel of any blame in its prolonged occupation of Palestine and ongoing human rights violations. In a recent interview, Texan Republican Congressman Louis Gohmert stated adamantly that Israel should not compromise the “right” to land and justified his stance by citing the Bible.

“One thing should be very clear,” he proclaimed. “Israel should never and will never buy peace by giving away land.” According to Gohmert, land concessions have backfired upon Israel in the past, leading to the areas being used as strategic sites to launch attacks against the occupying power. Biblical prophecies are occurring, reinforcing the Torah’s teaching that “the Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people”. Irrespective of belief, Gohmert adds, the “hand of God” is evident in the political and social processes regarding ownership of the land.

Conveniently disregarding the absence of any reference to citizenship in Biblical sources, as well as the recurring compromise in religious texts regarding land and compliance to God’s Will, nevertheless Gohmert’s references to these narratives are alleged to be proof of Jewish land ownership. Palestinians are relegated to oblivion, featuring only to justify the fear of Israel’s demise as a nation.

The concept of freedom contains no references to the illegal occupation. Israel is portrayed as a state that is constantly making concessions to Palestinians without obtaining any reconciliatory gesture in return. Israel, according to Gohmert, is manipulated into a difficult position by a culture of hatred nurtured by Palestinian leaders and reinforced through the education system. “Israel,” says Gohmert, “should start by urging the PLO to change its textbooks to stop teaching hatred of Jews and to stop naming streets and cities after terrorists who kill Israelis.”

Earlier this year, a study of textbooks used by Palestinian and Israeli children declared the content to be void of any dehumanising material. However, Israeli academic Nurit Peled Elhanan insists that Israeli children are taught to view Jewish society as superior and “aligning with universal values”, indicating that the illegal occupation is distorted to younger generations in order to sustain the Jewish state. As Israel consolidates its settler-colonial policies, indoctrination of the younger generation becomes imperative to maintain its oppressive rule over the Palestinians. In Israel’s war museum, Jewish children absorb the state’s culture of hatred while expressing happiness at violence against Arabs. In 2006, Israeli children were encouraged to write messages upon artillery shells fired subsequently into Lebanon.

Echoing Benjamin Netanyahu, Gohmert’s approach towards maintaining peace is misguided and simplistic. “If Israel lays down its weapons, there will be no Israel. If the Palestinians lay down their weapons there will be peace.” Far from a roadmap to peace, what this incongruous strategy indicates is Israel’s fear of dismantling the illegal state, as well as the need for it to preserve a culture of hatred by portraying Palestinian resistance to its military occupation as terrorism. It is hard to envisage peace if Palestinians lay down their arms. Rather, the Israeli occupation would interpret the gesture as a sign of submission and total abandonment by them of their right to their own land.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.