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Tel Aviv University
TAU Anat Matar Interview Part Three: "The inability of Israelis to recognize Palestinians as freedom fighters"


Dr. Anat Matar, Philosophy Department, Tel Aviv University. matar@post.tau.ac.il

Part One

Tel Aviv University


[TAU Philosophy] Anat Matar in an audio interview on Israel's political prisoners. Rebuttal of her comments incorporated

Tel Aviv University senior lecturer Anat Matar on Israel's political prisoners 
On July 21, 2011, CHUO 89.1 FM Ottawa The Train's Denis Rancourt interviewed senior lecturer of philosophy and political activist Anat Matar by phone from Israel. 
We explored "Who Profits" from the Israeli occupation of Palestine, Israel's grotesque system of political prisoners and their judicial treatments, and the origins of the societal pathology of Israel's Zionism.

Part Two

Tel Aviv University


Part Two: TAU Anat Matar in an audio interview on Israel's political prisoners. Rebuttal of her comments incorporated

Either Matar is confused or is trying to confuse the issue. To whom is she referring when she speaks of the political leaders who are also people who just protest, hand out leaflets, organize demonstrations? It is true that many Palestinians engage in legitimate civil protest like handing out leaflets; it is equally true that more than a thousand Israeli citizens have been killed by Palestinian terrorists in the last decade. The Israeli courts did not sentence Barghouti to life because he had handed out leaflets.

Anat Matar

Part Three

Matar continues with the political line of her discourse and speaks of the manner in which Israelis perceive the other side. “The Israeli population by and large doesn’t recognize the political case behind the Palestinian people, and “in a way, they treat all of the Palestinians as a general threat, because . . . they depoliticize their qualities.” The Palestinians have no power, she says, except possibly for a “symbol(ic) power.” This makes the anticipated declaration of statehood so important – their being recognized as a political movement by the UN! There are many reasons, she adds, for the inability of Israelis to recognize the Palestinians as freedom fighters. The most important may be the “whole problem of Zionism.” She doesn’t think she ever was a Zionist. Most of the Jews believe they are entitled to a Jewish state. They came from “all sorts of places. . . and [established] the state here all of a sudden in a way and by taking the land of the Palestinians, the originals, the Palestinian that have been here. And now establishing a sort of apartheid system. . .”

Regarding depoliticization of the Palestinians, it is not true that the Israelis have failed  to recognize the political cause that drives the Palestinian people; while some want to live side-by-side with Israel, others want to eliminate the state of Israel, and still others opt for  somewhere between the two.  Even today, most Israelis  support a two-state solution.

As Matar knows, the recognition and support for Palestinian political rights began in earnest in early 1990s:  The 1993 Oslo Peace Accord  effectively call for a Palestinian state. Matar also knows that the Accords gave Palestinians complete control of civil and military affairs in areas in which more than ninety five  percent of them in the West Bank;  after Israeli withdrawal  from Gaza in  2005, control of over the entire Gaza Strip was transferred as well.

What has bothered Israelis, as Matar knows, is that the Palestinian political movement, as she refers to it, has shown, time and again, that its vision of the region does not include a place for Israel, certainly not as a Jewish state. How, one wonders, can Matar view positively and expect Israelis to accept (as freedom fighters) a political movement that indiscriminately kills citizens of her country and a substantial segment of whose members denies her own people the right to what she seeks for the Palestinians?

As for her claim that the Zionists established the state “all of a sudden in a way and by taking the land of the Palestinians,” Matar is fudging the facts, and she knows it. Jews have had a presence in the land of Israel for two millennia  and, it is equally important to mention that no state ever replaced that of King David. Other states controlled and administered the area, but always as an outside power. Matar knows this. Jews have comprised the majority in Jerusalem since the waves of Jewish immigration began almost 150 years ago, at the time of the Ottoman Empire.  Matar knows this, making her argument "of all of a sudden" sound hollow.  As for "taking the land," this is highly disingenuous.   Under the Ottoman Empire control and Jewish ownership of land was minimal because of the formidable legal obstacles.  Under the British Mandate, initial land purchase by Jews were progressively limited by the increasingly restrictive White Papers.  

 As for the apartheid claim, it is devoid of any merit. Apartheid is a system of  government in which race determines a person’s political, legal, and social standing. This    is clearly not the case in the territories. Besides, as noted, some ninety five  percent of Palestinians have been governed by the semi-sovereign Palestinian Authority for almost two decades now. Matar knows all this.

As for the Israeli Arabs, they are guaranteed personal and political equality under the law; they participate in elections and hold elected positions; they attend universities together with other Israelis, are treated in the same hospitals as other Israelis, and so forth. This is not to say that discrimination against Israeli Arabs does not exist in certain areas, and better effort must be made to reduce it, if not eliminate it altogether.

Matar knows this. So why the claim? To support the call for sanctions against Israel similar to those that undermined white rule in South Africa? Likely.

Matar acknowledges there was anti-Semitism in the past and “there is anti-Semitism even now, in Arab states, in Europe and it’s something very dangerous.” What bothers her is using this anti-Semitism as an entitlement, or, as the interviewer put it, with her complete agreement, as an excuse for Israel’s behavior, even for killing to get a place – Israel. She says she and her kids were raised and educated on the belief that “we are entitled to our own place, even if it comes at the expense of the Palestinian population that was here and is still here . . . . We are entitled to our own national home.” The interviewer pushes the killing angle, the Israelis’ belief that “we can kill others to get something that we believe we deserve.” Matar is willing to along but not all the way: “It’s not that we are entitled to kill others, but we are entitled to take the land of others and this is what they do.”

As for the feeling of entitlement due to past and present anti-Semitism, we know of no statement by an Israeli leader, any Israeli leader, or Jewish leader from anywhere, for that matter, who, over the course of the past 70 years, expressed the belief that Jews were entitled to a state because of anti-Semitism and that Jews were entitled to take the land of others because of anti-Semitism and to obtain a state for themselves. Nor are we aware of any such sentiment being made in any official Israeli document or textbook.

It is true that, starting with Theodore Herzl, Zionist leaders expressed the idea that only a sovereign state can protect Jews from virulent forms of anti-Semitism. The tragedy of the Holocaust proved the soundness of this belief and, in part, influenced the United Nation’s 1947 decision to partition British Mandatory Palestine into two states, one of them Jewish. 

It was not the sense of Jewish entitlement to “take the land,” as she asserts, that motivated their actions, or, indeed, led to creation of the State of Israel. 



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