Renowned Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy wrote in his latest op-ed for the newspaper that, “A state that celebrates 50 years of occupation is a state whose sense of direction has been lost, its ability to distinguish good from evil impaired.”
Using typical, hard-hitting honesty, Israeli journalist Levy pulled no punches yet again as he argued that Israel must cloak itself in sorrow and weep over the fact that it is as corrupt and rotten as only an occupying country can be.
His theme was built around 1967, marked by what has come to be known as the Six-Day War. It is currently being celebrated in Israel on its golden jubilee year: in reality, it is 50 years since the greatest Jewish disaster since the Holocaust and 50 years since the greatest Palestinian disaster since the 1948 Nakba. According to Levy, for the Palestinians it is the jubilee of their second Nakba and for Israelis their first.
Clearly, it is a tale of two golden jubilees. Instead of celebrating the 50th anniversary of the “liberation” of the (occupied) territories, Levy suggests that Israel should remember it as a disaster. As much as it was a great disaster for the Palestinians — who remain trapped by its severe consequences — it was a fateful disaster for Jews in Israel.
What exactly is there to celebrate is the all-important question that he has asked. Is it fifty years of bloodshed, abuse, disinheritance and sadism? Is it the perpetual occupation? Is it the establishment of an apartheid regime? Is it the roadblocks? Is it the language of force?
These are questions intended to disturb, provoke and challenge notions of “victory”, “miracles” and “reunification”. Dubbed by Israeli propagandists as the mother of all jubilees and in sync with the regime’s extensive Hasbara programme, the internet is abuzz with promotional tours to join the celebrations.
The official Israeli narrative of its occupation and settlement policy is in sharp contrast to the legal situation. Whereas international law defines both the occupation and the Jewish settlements as illegal, Israel celebrates them and remains, bizarrely, in defiance of accepted conventions and civilised values.
One of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s senior cabinet members, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, symbolises this glaring disconnect between law and anarchy. At a recent meeting with ministry staff, she envisioned the jubilee celebration as a large permanent exhibition that would stress Israel’s connection to the West Bank, under the heading of “Coming home” or “Returning to the Jewish homeland”. Known as a hawk and an ardent opponent of Palestinian statehood, Hotovely expects her employees in the diplomatic corps — US-born Ambassador Arthur Lenk in South Africa and Australian-born Ambassador Mark Regev in London among them — to toe the line and follow orders. No doubt they will.
It requires spin and more spin to convince the world that the settlement enterprise is “moral, just and legitimate.” Such an effort conflicts with UN Security Council Resolution 2334 which declared settlements to have “no legal validity”; the minister’s command is that this must be countered.
Gideon Levy’s consternation can thus be understood as Israel’s jubilee “celebration” seeks to dismiss the notion of its presence being an occupation and instead champion its connection and claim to “Judea and Samaria”.
As debate hots up, plans are afoot to kick-off the official ceremony in the illegal settlement of Gush Etzion in the occupied West Bank. The extreme far-right Education Minister Naftali Bennett justified the enormous expense for this as a necessity to celebrate “Israel’s glorious victory in the Six Day War and the liberation of Judea and Samaria [the West Bank], the Golan Heights and the Jordan Valley.”
In understanding the tale of two jubilees against the background of Israel’s false euphoria, Palestinian journalist Ramzy Baroud recalls Palestine’s tragic anniversaries and makes a compelling case to re-articulate a unified discourse:
Existing now are several Palestinian depictions of the history of their struggle against Israel, while the truth is that there can only be one way of understanding the so-called conflict — one that starts with Zionist settlements in Palestine and British colonialism 100 years ago.
Controlling millions of people for 50 years, treading on their rights, attacking their dignity, imprisoning and torturing them, killing old and young men, women and children, withholding their lifeless bodies, dropping bombs on their homes, schools and hospitals; this list of Israeli violations appears endless. Surely, it cannot reasonably be a cause to celebrate.