Bradley Burston is a long-time columnist with Haaretz. I’ve known Brad since our Berkeley days as students together going back 48 years. He is a thinker and astute writer and his moral and political clarity is second to none.
Brad was interviewed on January 20 on the Haaretz Weekly Podcast, and his observations are important for us all to hear.
He explained that in recent years every policy choice Israel has taken vis a vis the Palestinians is meant to foil future agreements or arrangements between them and make most people believe that nothing can change from the status quo of occupation and settlement expansion in the West Bank.
- “The occupation of the West Bank will kill Israel; not Iran, not BDS, not the media, not Hamas, not Hezbollah, and not leftist Israelis. The occupation is killing Israel now and it’s our fault (i.e. Israelis)”;
- “The occupation is killing Israeli democracy, diminishing international support of Israel, destroying ties between Jews in Israel and around the world, destroying Judaism itself, and destroying the lives and property of Palestinians”;
- Despite these negatives “Israelis are doing marvelous things for other people that benefit Israelis, Israel-Palestinian Arab citizens, and humanity as a whole.”
- “The purpose of the settlement enterprise is to create a permanent occupation, and the purpose of the occupation is to create permanent settlements.”
- “Current Israeli West Bank policy that rules over others that have no rights cannot persist in the 21st century. If all citizens of the state are given equal rights, as is customary in a democracy [assuming one state from the Jordan to the sea], the state will no longer be Jewish.”
The podcast host noted the prediction of Israeli historian Benny Morris who believes that within 30 to 50 years, if nothing changes and the trajectory of settlement on the West Bank continues, Israel will be a vastly diminished state, Jews will be a persecuted minority, and those who can afford to leave Israel will move to the United States. He asked for Brad’s reaction.
Brad responded: “Jewish historians are not futurists” and no one can know what will occur going forward. Other countries have suffered conflicts of immense proportions that could have destroyed those countries, but didn’t (e.g. the American Civil War, Germany and Japan after World War II, and Vietnam).
He concluded optimistically: A new generation of Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs may come to the conclusion that “our parents were idiots and we have to do something else.” Each side will need to embrace less maximalist positions, agree to share the land in some form of government or confederation, and come up with something more creative than we have now.
Is it already too late? Will a change of heart and perspective occur in the next 30-50 years?
We can’t know. In the meantime, we American Jews ought to support those groups in Israel that are fighting against the occupation.