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University of Haifa
Israel is a Criminal State, says/ Ilan Pappe
Ilan Pappe. Foreign Policy. Washington: Mar/Apr 2005. 
Document URL:

Copyright Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Mar/Apr 2005
Alternative history is always a risky business-or so we teach our students in history departments. However, it is a rewarding intellectual exercise as it reveals what the person engaged in such an endeavor thinks about certain topics; in this particular case, what Josef Joffe thinks about the right of Israel to exist and the irrelevance of the Palestinian tragedy.

In this limited space, I cannot tackle all the flawed historical assumptions Joffe makes in his article (I think his claim about the recent reversal of Israel's image is erroneous, as the state has been criticized continuously in most parts of the world), or explain the very different natures of the various criticisms directed at Israel. (Joffe lumps together Islamic militancy, liberal critique, and Marxist analysis in a rather paranoid claim that they all are ultimate manifestations of anti-Semitism; whereas, in reality, they are based on concern for the Palestinians rather than a negation of Israel as a state).

The principle weakness of Joffe's approach is that two utterly discrete questions have been obfuscated by a very passionate defense of Israel's right to exist. One has to distinguish between what would have happened had Israel not existed and the query of the state's legitimacy in light of its problematic past.

The first question should be viewed principally from the perspective of Israel's victims, the Palestinians. Had Israel not existed, then 750,000 Palestinians would not have become refugees. Five hundred Palestinian villages, 11 Palestinian towns, 94 percent of the cultivated land in Palestine, thousands of Palestinian businesses, and endless numbers of careers would have been saved. Under whatever political structure that would have evolved instead of Israel in Mandatory Palestine, the catastrophe that befell the Palestinian people in 1948-when they were ethnically cleansed by the Jewish state-would not have occurred.

Had Israel not existed, the lives of 50,000 Palestinians-my estimate of the number killed by Israel in its 57 years of existence-would have been spared. Two and a half million Palestinians would have been saved from one of the cruelest and most callous military occupations in the second half of the 20th century. A million Palestinian citizens in Israel would have been exempted from an apartheid system that has discriminated against them ever since the creation of the state. And, above all, the millions of Palestinian refugees could have come back home.

Moreover, Arab regimes could not have hidden behind the Palestine question as an excuse for neglecting their social and economic agendas; nor could they have excused authoritarianism and a lack of democracy by the need to rally-as panArabism dictates-around the cause of Palestine.

Had Israel not existed, the United States could have opened new avenues in its relationship with the Arab and Muslim worlds. True, the United States has its own agenda that is often in direct confrontation with these societies, but it needs urgently to engage in a dialogue based on mutual respect. This dialogue fails to emerge because Israel regards such a shift as an existential threat. Many people have already died because an understanding did not materialize, and many more will die if the current U.S. and Israeli agenda in the Middle East continues to fuse into a uniform anti-Arab and anti-Islamic strategy.

Much of the harm done by Israel cannot be repaired. But there is hope for the future based on a restitutional logic: repatriation of refugees, the end of Israeli occupation, and the creation of a unitary, secular democratic state over historical Palestine. Any other plan or development would lead to the further destruction of the Palestinians and the devolution of Israel into a pariah state.

Ilan Pappe is senior lecturer of political science at Haifa University in Israel.

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    1.  Had Israel not existed, individuals like Ilan Pappe
     From Prof. Dr. Ofer Ben-Amots, Sent in 19-04-2005
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