Theater of Cruelty

Two about the tragedy of the Palestinians

Palestine. Israel's robbery, our betrayal
Forfatter: Odd Karsten Tveit
Forlag: Kagge Forlag (Norge)
ISRAEL / When the Knesset in 2018 passed the so-called nation-state law defining Israel as a Jewish state, it undermined the legitimacy of their own state's existence as a democracy. And here the Norwegian oil fund topped the list of 725 European financial institutions that have invested in 50 companies linked to the illegal settlements on the West Bank.



Palestina. Israels ran, vårt svikPalestine Hijacked. How Zionism Forged an Apartheid State from River to Sea
Author Thomas Suárez Olive
Branch Press, USA

In March 1949, a CIA report warned of the consequences of the world recognizing the new state of Israel de jure, without it being behind recognized borders and without any Arab recognition whatsoever. "The Middle East is almost certainly facing the prospect of deep and increasing unrest as a result of Israel, which may last decades," the report said almost prophetically.

Israel's first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, had proclaimed the new state on May 14, 1948, and the following spring the region had come through the first war, with the Israelis occupying 78 percent of the land that should have been divided in two states. The remaining 22 per cent had been occupied by Jordan and Egypt respectively, around 750.000 Palestinians had become refugees, and the matter was far from over. It is not entirely without reason that this war came to be called in Palestinian parlance al nakhba – the disaster.

The Zionists have used an almost Orwellian manipulation of words, where Zionist terror became Israeli self-defense and where illegal settlements became Jewish neighborhoods.

Thomas Suarez, who is actually a violinist and was associated with the Palestinian music conservatory in the West Bank, in his latest book takes a major stand against the usual narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a clash between two ethnic groups – Jewr and arabe. In his view, it is rather a case of a violent takeover of Palestine, carried out by a nationalist current, Zionism, which has seized the country through the use of terror without having a moral or legal right to this.

He argues that zionisters – in addition to the concrete physical actions – have used an almost Orwellian manipulation of words, where Zionist terror became Israeli self-defense and where illegal settlements became Jewish neighborhoods. In this great project, biblical Hebrew was taken as the basis of a modern language, along with the idea that it is a Jewish people – which Suárez considers to be a sound claim.

Photo: Truls Lie

Credible and well-argued

In this context, it is interesting to read Odd Karsten Tveit, who in his recently published book, Palestine. Israel's robbery, our betrayal# takes a similarly critical stance towards Israel and the entire Zionist project. Already in the title, he suggests that it concerns Israel's long-standing neglect of the Palestinians and gradual takeover of ever larger parts of the country.

He writes, so the angels sing.

Tveit is a man with great insight and an enormous base of experience, having spent a lifetime working as a journalist with the Middle East. He writes so that the angels sing. It is catchy and insightful, and above all, it is credible and well-argued.

The book, like Suárez, takes the big trip up through history, starting with the rise of Zionism in the 1880s and actually right up to the very latest present, i.e. now, when Benyamin Netanyahu is about to knock the bottom out of Israeli democracy. This in itself gives the book a very special strength, as here you can get the great historical insight to understand very current events.

Photo: Truls Lie

There is probably no doubt that certain Christian conservative groups and the strongly pro-Israel wing will get the coffee wrong when reading this book. Because it is a sharp criticism of Israel, which will certainly arouse debate, but no matter how you put it, it is based on a number of clear views, which are illustrated by good observations and own experiences from the field. He thus makes a part of the blindness that many Israelis have lived with throughout the ages. This is probably a well-known phenomenon in a conflict situation, and as an example he uses the affair from 1999, where the Israeli Supreme Court banned the interrogation methods that the Shin Bet security service had used for years against Palestinian detainees. It was defined as torture, and the case caused great international attention. In practice, writes Tveit, the Shin Bet continued as they usually did when they thought it was too good.

The example serves as an illuminating explanation of how successive Israeli leaders have justified the use of such methods as necessary, and it has largely been taken for good by the population. The rhetoric of the conflict, you could call it.

Photo: Truls Lie

A kind of Israeli fascism

Along the way in his great narrative, the author provides numerous examples of the injustices that have befallen the Palestinians. There is the bitter tale of the young Palestinian shepherd who was shot by Israeli soldiers during a confrontation in the mountains south of Hebron. The place has for many years been one of the absolute hotspots on the West Bank, and the shepherd was paralyzed throughout his body. He was reduced to a vegetable and was cared for by his family in the rock cave where they lived until he died from his bedsores. This is despairing reading that puts harsh words on a harsh everyday life.

Another of the book's great strengths is that it does not just depict a tragedy, but also a development. A large part is, sadly enough, a negative dynamic, i.e. an ongoing slide towards a deterioration, while the rest stands as a kind of perspective. He thus quotes the Israeli sociology professor Zeev Sternhell, who is probably one of the foremost interpreters of what can undoubtedly be called a kind of Israeli fascism. Sternhell, who died in 2020, believed that many of his countrymen only realized the evil when the Knesset in 2018 passed the so-called nation-state law, which defines Israel as a Jewish state. In Sternhell's interpretation, this law puts Jews ahead of Christians, Muslims and Druze citizens of Israel, thereby undermining the legitimacy of their own state's existence as a democracy.

Former Foreign Minister Barth Eide and Peres in Jerusalem. Photo: Truls Lie

In this connection, Tveit refers to Israeli politicians such as Miki Zohar and Bezalel Smotrich, who as little as Sternhell represent any kind of mainstream in today's Israel. One is a populist in the classic sense, while Smotrich is a radical settler and speaks more or less openly about ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, while a large majority of the Israeli electorate strongly distance themselves from him. It can therefore be debated how representative the two are.

The role of Norway

Tveit's gifted analysis of the role of changing Norwegian governments in this game is interesting reading.

The interrogation methods that the Shin Bet security service had used for years against Palestinian arrestees were defined as torture.

When Canadian lawyer Michael Lynk visited the region in 2016 in his role as special rapporteur for the UN Human Rights Council, he was initially refused entry by the Israeli authorities. And when he recorded his observations in the final report, he was also sharp in his criticism of the Israeli conduct in the occupied territories. What probably particularly caused a stir was that he took the word apartheid in his mouth.

Erna Solberg's government did not comment at all on the Israeli rejection of Lynk, but on the contrary gave a clear expression of wanting to expand cooperation with the Israelis.

Norwegian diplomacy in meetings, here in Ramallah. Photo: Truls Lie

"The wind has changed course between Israel and Norway", the newspaper The Jerusalem Post could thus write in a headline on 7 November 2016. Under a Norwegian flag, the deputy commander at the Israeli embassy in Oslo was interviewed by Dagbladet's journalist, who had come to visit . "We feel like a popular student in the class", said the diplomat. On the same day, Norway's ambassador in Tel Aviv emphasized that he would prioritize research, scientific development and cooperation with Israel in the energy sector, which would take place through the Oil Fund, among other things. Later it turned out, writes Tveit, that the Oil Fund topped the list of 725 European financial institutions that have invested in 50 companies linked to the illegal settlements on the West Bank.

Tveit or Suárez?

It is an important book written by Odd Karsten Tveit, and it cannot be emphasized clearly enough that it is both well-founded and credible in its harsh criticism of Israel.

It is therefore interesting to hold it up to Suárez's book, which in many ways has the same angle, but which appears as an emotional debate post. Both writers have their feelings with them, and there is nothing strange about that after the experiences they have been through, but Tveit understands much better how to keep the critical distance and the cool assessment.

There are many values ​​in Suárez's book, but it is unfortunately marred to a far too great degree by a lax handling of the sources and a lack of source criticism.

Certain Christian conservative groups and the strongly pro-Israel wing will get coffee in their throats when reading this book.

A good example is his description of the Iraqi Jews' departure from Iraq in the early 1950s. He describes it as "the expulsion of the Iraqi Jews" and gives the clear impression that it is something that was staged by the Zionists. It was Israelers, who initiated the pogroms against the Iraqi Jews, and these are trivialized in his formulation to the point of being almost comical. Here he has bought a well-known conspiracy theory, which not many professional historians will buy. It is correct that the Jewish populations came under tremendous pressure in many Arab countries as a result of Zionism and the founding of Israel in 1948. But as far as Iraq is concerned, it is a well-known fact that the Jews had a tense relationship with the state, when the nationalist al Murabba al Dhahabi movement in April 1941 coup d'état. The aim was to free themselves from British influence, but as an alternative, the new rulers began a close collaboration with Nazi Germany.

Of course, this detail does not change the fact that the Palestinians became victims of a catastrophe that they still live under in the form of occupation. It's an important story to tell, and it can't be told too often. But in that piece it just has to be added that Tveit masters the task a lot better than Suárez.


Hans Henrik Fafner
Hans Henrik Fafner
Fafner is a regular critic in Ny Tid. Residing in Tel Aviv.

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