Ilan Pappé, Chris Hedges – Israel cannot be a colonial power and a democracy

5 January 2024

On Israel’s end game in Gaza and the future of the Israeli apartheid state

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The following is a rushed transcript and may contain errors. A proofread version will be made available as soon as possible.

Chris Hedges:

The scholar, Yeshayahu Leibowitz, who Isaiah Berlin called the conscience of Israel, warned that, “If Israel did not separate church and state, it would give rise to a corrupt rabbinate that would warp Judaism into a fascistic cult. Religious nationalism is to religion what National Socialism was to socialism,” warned Leibowitz, who died in 1994. He understood that the blind veneration of the military, especially after the 1967 war that captured the West Bank in East Jerusalem was dangerous and would lead to the ultimate destruction of democracy. “Our situation will deteriorate to that of a second Vietnam, to a war and constant escalation without prospect of ultimate resolution,” he wrote.

He foresaw that, “The Arabs would be the working people and the Jews, the administrators, inspectors, officials and police, mainly secret police. A state ruling a hostile population of 1.5 million to 2 million foreigners would necessarily become a secret police state. With all that implies for education, free speech and democratic institutions. The corruption characteristic of every colonial regime would also prevail in the state of Israel. The administration would have to suppress Arab insurgency on the one hand and acquire Arab quiz links on the other. There is also good reason to fear that the Israeli Defense Force, which has been until now, a people’s army would, as a result of being transformed into an army of occupation to generate and its commanders who will have become military governors, will resemble their colleagues in other nations.” He warned that the rise of virulent racism would consume Israeli society. He knew that prolonged occupation of the Palestinians would spawn concentration camps for the occupied, and that in his words, “Israel would not deserve to exist and it will not be worthwhile to preserve it.”

The decision to obliterate Gaza has long been the dream of Israeli fanatics, heirs of the fascistic movement led by the extremist Meir Kahane, who was barred from running for office and whose Kach Party was outlawed in 1994 and declared a terrorist organization by Israel and the United States. These Jewish extremists who today make up the ruling coalition government are orchestrating the genocide in Gaza, where hundreds of Palestinians are being killed or wounded a day. They champion the iconography and language of their homegrown fascism. Jewish identity and Jewish nationalism are the Zionist versions of blood and soil. Jewish supremacy is sanctified by God as is the slaughter of the Palestinians who are compared to the biblical Amalekites massacred by the Israelites. Enemies, usually Muslims, slated for extinction are subhuman who embody evil. Violence and the threat of violence are the only forms of communication those outside the magic circle of Jewish nationalism understand. Millions of Muslims and Christians, including those with Israeli citizenship, are to be purged.

Joining me to discuss what the occupation of Palestine has done to Israeli society and what the results of the current murderous campaign in Gaza and the West Bank portends for Israel in the future is Ilan Pappe, Professor of History of the University of Exeter in Great Britain, who has described what Israel does to the Palestinians as incremental genocide. He has written numerous books including The Biggest Prison on Earth: A History of the Occupied Territories and The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, which his French publisher has ceased publishing despite a surge in sales since the October 7th attacks, part of the concerted campaign by Zionists and their supporters to discredit and censor narratives that are critical of Israel.

I’d like to begin with a look at post Israel, the Zionist project that begins in the 1920s, and see whether the project itself, even before the creation of the state of Israel had built within it the seeds of its own destruction.

Ilan Pappe:

Yes, I do think it did. And you are right in pointing to the 1920s because of course the Zionist movement existed before, but I think it’s in the mid-1920s when it started to purchase land and evict the people who were living on that land. And that happened around 1926. It became a settler colonial project and not just a project for salvaging Jews from anti-Semitism or a national cultural redefinition of Judaism as nationalism instead of as religion.

The moment that happened, it was very clear that it’s going to impose itself by force on an indigenous native population. And it was not just the classical settler colonial imposition of settlers from abroad imposing themselves on a native population, it also was kind of creating this idea that they can produce or establish a European state in the midst of the Arab world, very much like the white supremacists in South Africa. And there’s two facts, that you are trying to implement a project of displacement and replacement of an indigenous population and that you are trying to create a cultural political entity that would alienate the area it belongs to and the area would alienate you were sold, I think had been sold in the 1920s. And we can see the effect of this to our days, no doubt.

Chris Hedges:

And yet there was always a tension within the Zionist project. I, you may have known him too, I knew Abba Eban, Teddy Kollek. When I was in Israel, they outlawed Meir Kahane’s Kach Party. The people around Netanyahu now are of course the heirs to the Kach Party, later assassinated, this very right wing rabbi. And I want you to talk about that tension because it was there. I mean, Teddy Kollek when he was mayor of Jerusalem, when I was there, he was building sewer systems for… it was a different approach to colonization, or perhaps I have that wrong?

Ilan Pappe:

It was a different approach, but it remained colonization. If I’m a bit more abrupt about it, I would say that there was definitely an ideological stream within Zionism that believed that you could be a progressive colonizer or an enlightened colonizer. And yet from the colonized people’s point of view, even if you provided some benefits in economic terms, in infrastructural terms, the colonization was still there. And the colonization was translated not only in terms of whether you provide sewages for Jerusalem or not, but by the fact that Teddy Kollek as the mayor of Jerusalem oversaw the ethnic cleansing of quite a large number of Palestinians from East Jerusalem in order to make space for building new Jewish neighborhoods, which should rightly be called Jewish colonies or settlements.

So in the end of the day, the Zionist vision, even in its most liberal version, meant that the Palestinians at best, at best could be tolerated as individuals in limited spaces within Palestine. That would be determined according to the Israeli notions of national security. And at worst, they’re an obstacle that has to be removed. And as the time went by, most of the Israeli Jews said, “Why just be content with limiting their presence? Why not get rid of them altogether?”

Chris Hedges:

And yet these figures represented a secular strain of Zionism. And I want you to talk a little bit about Yeshayahu Leibowitz, who you knew, who I quoted it in the introduction, and he talks about this religious strain within Zionism where the land itself becomes sacred as particularly dangerous, I think he even uses the word fascistic. There is that split. And of course those of us, Abba Eban spoke better English than I did, Oxford educated, urbane. And so talk a little bit about that tension between secular and religious Zionism. And of course ultra orthodox religious Zionism has essentially proved triumphant.

Ilan Pappe:

Yes, I call this tension, which you rightly point to, the struggle between the state of Israel in the state of Judea. The state of Judea grows up among the national religious groups and becomes particularly potent after ’67 and it’s kind of headquarters, it’s habitat if you want, the settlements in the West Bank, and before that, even in the Gaza Strip. And they become a force to reckon with and they combine exactly what Leibowitz was talking about, and he saw it in the making. I mean I say it in hindsight, to his credit, he saw it and kind of predicted it happening, but now we have the benefit of time to see that he was absolutely right.

So that state of Judea, what you can call the settler state, is a combination of a messianic kind of Zionism combined with fundamentalist interpretation of Judaism, a wish to create a theocracy in which also secular Jews are the enemy, not just the Palestinians. And they become stronger. They used to be on the margins and we used to think that they are not really relevant, but now they are a central power in Israel. And against them stands the state of Israel. That is the kind of pre ’67 Israel that wanted to be a liberal democracy, a pluralist, secular, but is losing it in the struggle against the state of Judea.

But what is so interesting and frustrating about this struggle, it does not concern the Palestinians at all. As you probably know, and we forgot it because of the dramatic events that occurred after 7th of October, but until the 7th of October, we witnessed in Israel a kind of a mini civil war between those two states that I’m talking about, the state of Israel in the state of Judea when hundreds of thousand of secular Israelis demonstrated daily trying to defend the kind of Israel they want. But when Palestinian citizens of Israel ask them, “Can we join you? And can we also include a rejection of the occupation as part of our struggle for a better Israel?” They were chucked out of this movement of protest because it was not against the occupation, it’s not against the semi apartheid or full apartheid of Israel, depends where it is. It is what kind of an apartheid Israel should we have? A liberal democratic one for the Jews or a theocratic one for the Jews?

But unfortunately it does not evolve around the main issue, the most important issue that we started our conversation with, that can you impose yourself militarily and violently on millions of people against their will?

Chris Hedges:

I want to talk about 1948, this is the war of independence. All settler colonial projects are implanted by violence as was the one in the United States. The difference is that I think by 1600, over a 100-year period, 56 million indigenous inhabitants in North, Central and South America were obliterated through either diseases or violence so that by 1600 you only had about 10% of the original indigenous population was there. That wholesale extermination essentially allows a settler colonial project to survive because there’s physically no opposition. That’s not true in Israel. You have about 5.5 million Palestinians living under occupation, 9 million living in the diaspora. This from the establishment of the state of Israel is a huge problem for Israeli leaders. How are they going to cope? The demographic time bomb is real in terms of Arabs having larger families. You have huge flight, a kind of brain drain from Israel. I think there’s a million Israelis living in the United States. But let’s look at 1948, how they deal with a problem. And then we’ll go to 1967 when Israel occupies what is the remaining part of Palestine, the West Bank and Gaza.

Ilan Pappe:

Yes, as you rightly say, settler colonial projects have always these two dimension, geography and demography, or if you want space and population, you want the space without the population. And the more space you take, the more unwanted population you have. So the Zionist leadership exploited the end of the mandate, the circumstances that developed in the region and in the world three years after the Holocaust to implement a massive ethnic cleansing that left half of the Palestinian refugees and expelled half of the Palestinian population, destroyed half of the Palestinian villages, more than 500, and demolished most of the Palestinian towns.

So within the borders that were kind of established after 1948, that is Israel today without the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Israel was unable to fully complete the ethnic cleansing, but it had a relatively small Palestinian minority that did not endanger the demographic majority of the Jews. So you could even have a demographic state because you always knew that democracy and demography would go hand in hand. Although because of the paranoia of Ben-Gurion until 1966, although the Palestinians in Israel had the right to vote and to be elected, they were under a very harsh military rule as it is.

Now, it’s not surprising that David Ben-Gurion, the big architect of the ethnic cleansing of 1948, was trying to pressure the government of Israel. He was out of effective politics already in 1963, but he was trying after June ’67 to convince the Israeli government to get out of the West Bank, almost saying to them, “I was able to get rid of about 1 million Palestinians, and now you are incorporating even a larger number of Palestinian under your rule.” The kind of leadership that followed him, some of them were young generals during the ’48 war and some other politicians like Levy Eshkol and you mentioned also Abba Eban and Teddy Kollek, they decided there is no need for massive ethnic cleansing in order to keep the demography in such a way that it doesn’t endanger the Jewish democracy.

So what did they do? They decided to keep millions of people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip without the right to take part in the Israeli political system. When some people said to them, “Okay, that’s fine, but can you in return give the Palestinian the right to determine their future in a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip?” They didn’t accept that either. So they really believed that they could somehow contain the Palestinian national ambition and resistance within that idea of a West Bank and a Gaza Strip that is our enclave controlled by Israel, maybe with some autonomy for the Palestinian inside, and convince the world that this is the best solution and even call it a kind of a two-state solution. Of course, it had nothing to do with a two-state solution.

So historically speaking, it’s the same problem all the time, as you rightly say, Chris, it’s having the territory without the people, but because of circumstances and things that changed, ’48 is not ’67 and ’67 is not 2023, and because of that, the methods of maintaining this balance between territory and population changes. But the vision is the same one, and the purpose is the same one, and the failures are the same one. The massive expulsion didn’t work. The idea of keeping people without citizenship rights is not working, and even putting them under siege as we have seen on the 7th of October is not working. And whatever the Israelis have in mind for Gaza, I can assure you, without knowing how it would unfold, it’s going to be a huge failure, which unfortunately will have an incredible human cost, mainly for the Palestinians.

Chris Hedges:

Leibowitz really takes the 1967 war, which sees Israel seize the remaining land by Palestinians as the dividing point. He defines himself as a Zionist. He seems to argue that the pre 1967 borders known as the Green Line could work. But ’67 for him and the refusal on the part of the Israeli leadership to give up the occupation, or after ’67, moved back to the pre ’67 borders, really, he argues quite passionately is in many ways the death now of Israeli democracy, civil society. Can you explain that?

Ilan Pappe:

Yeah. Well, first of all, I would say that I think that as we started our conversation, the seeds for this end or implosion from within had been sold much earlier in the 1920s. But let’s go along with this thesis, although I think it was doomed to fail from the very beginning. But there’s no doubt that the occupation of 1967 accelerated these processes by which you had a legal system, a political system, and the culture system that justified a daily violation of the human rights and the civil rights of the Palestinians, at least inside Israel. In the pre ’67 Israel, there was an attempt all the time to improve the situation of the Palestinian citizens in Israel. And as we said, they had the right to vote, they had the right to be elected, and finally they even were allowed to create their own national parties and so on.

But at the same time, the direction in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip was going towards a different kind of a future, a long and never ending building of two mega prisons, one in the West Bank and one in the Gaza Strip maintained by at least hundreds of thousands of Israeli had to be daily involved in maintaining this mega prison of policing millions of people. And the idea, and I think that’s where Leibowitz, which was different from Kollek and Abba, even for instance, Leibowitz warned them that their sense that they might separate, there will be this democratic liberal pluralist Israel within the pre ’67 borders, and there will be something less admirable, less fortunate, but hopefully manageable beyond the Green Line, beyond the borders of Israel. And he warned rightly so that you will not be able to contain it, that it would spill over into Israel, and you will not have, in the end of the day, two entities, namely a liberal democratic Israel next to an occupied Palestine.

No, in the end of the day, you will have one apartheid system that may have varieties in the way it controls the lives of Palestinians, but in essence, as indeed Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International eventually understood recently, would have to be ruled through segregation, discrimination, and oppression. And it doesn’t matter whether we talk about Tel Aviv and Haifa or we talk about Nablus and Gaza, it became one organic country where the people who are Palestinians are subjected to a variety of legal regimes and military regimes that violate the basic civil and human rights.

Chris Hedges:

And I just want to say that Israeli Arabs, even though pre ’67 there were moves to incorporate them in the side, nevertheless did not serve in the army or the intelligence units. That’s correct, right?

Ilan Pappe:

Yeah, yeah.

Chris Hedges:

Yeah. So Leibowitz, it’s not just that the occupation for him is not sustainable, but it’s what it does, how it deforms Israeli society. And I wonder if you could speak to what happened. I’m especially interested in why you believe these Zionist fanatics and bigots and crypto-fascists, these people surrounding Netanyahu, why they became ascendant?

Ilan Pappe:

Well, I think that there are two crises here at work. One crisis is what you can call the Zionist left, this attempt to, if you want, to square the circle to somehow say to yourself, I can be both an occupier and a socialist or a liberal. This failed to work on so many levels. First of all, the Palestinians were not impressed by that. They understood, as I once put it, that when a Zionist has a boot on your face, it doesn’t matter whether he holds the Book of Marks or the Bible, what matters is the boot. And I think that’s one reason the Zionist left was not working. Secondly, there was a sense among the Israeli Jewish electorate that this is a deception actually. And there was something in it, they said, “You actually think like us, but you would’ve liked it to be nicer. You would’ve liked the world not to be fully aware of it. You don’t want to lose international legitimacy. It’s not because you have different moral approach, but you have a more functional approach to it.” And that did not convince the Jewish electorate.

So one crisis was this, what I call the failure to square the circle and take universal values and say that they can coexist with the values of colonialism and oppression. The second and no less important is the failure or the collapse of the idea that you can redefine Judaism as nationalism. There was an attempt to create a Jewish culture, a Jewish identity, which is secular, and it didn’t work. There are some successes. There is a Hebrew culture, no doubt. I myself dream in Hebrew. Hebrew is my mother tongue so I’m fully aware of the success of Zionism to create a Hebrew culture. But the Hebrew culture is not a substitute for Judaism. It creates a culture around language, but doesn’t have the power that a religious affiliation has.

And what happened was that while the religious Jews had a clear idea what Judaism is, Israeli Jews never knew what does it mean to be an Israeli Jew? As you probably know, in our idea, on our identity cards, our nationality is not Israeli. No, Israeli has an nationality identity that is an Israeli. In my idea, it’s written that my nationality is Jewish. And in the idea of my neighbor who is a Palestinian Israeli, it says that his nationality is Muslim, not Palestinian or Christian, which I mean, they try to impose this idea that they can play with religious identities and even impose it on Christians and Muslims. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t work. And I think anywhere you look at the world and attempt to create a state identity that is equivalent to a religious identity in the modern world is not working. It is not working.

And this crisis has led to the return to Judaism as a religion by many Israeli Jews, including the Arab Jews who were anyway more traditional. And then they asked themselves similar things that are happening in political Islam. Can we translate the Jewish scriptures into political documents of our day? Can we impose the imperatives of the religion on the public domain, on the state policy, both the domestic one and the foreign one? And for secular Israelis, this is something they cannot coexist with. But they don’t really have a very good answer. So what does it mean to be a Jew if it’s not to be a religious Jew? What is a secular Jew? What is a secular Muslim for that matter? Or secular Christian? And that’s a crisis that maybe also exists in other places, but there’s no, this pressure cooker that Israel is where these questions become vital and existential.

Chris Hedges:

When Thucydides talked about the expansion of the Athenian Empire, he wrote that, “The tyranny Athens imposed on others, it finally imposed on itself.” To what extent is the tyranny that Israel has imposed on occupied Palestinians now being imposed on itself?

Ilan Pappe:

Well, we had clear indications, especially… I mean, they were there before, but I think the 7th of October was a pretext for these tyranny to be directed towards freethinking Israeli citizens who are also Jewish by definition. We have a clear case of a history teacher in Petah Tikva who all he did, he shared with his students, pupils rather, some alternative views to the ones they hear in the Israeli media. And he was arrested for few days before he was released. Any attempt by Palestinian citizens of Israel or anti-Zionist Israeli citizens to express doubts or even say that you have to understand the context of the 7th of October is regarded by the police as incitement to terrorism. So inevitable, as any historian would know, this can never be contained towards one group of people, and eventually you use these powers against your own people, and it depends who is the one who uses the power.

There’s some very important critical sociologists in Israel, which I am not one of them, but they followed the way that the upper echelons of the Israeli Security Service, the upper echelons of the army, are now populated by what I call the state of Judea, namely settlers, national religious settlers are now occupying very important position. You have, of course, the ultimate example, and this is the terrorist from the Judea state, Ben-Gvir, as the Minister of Internal Security. So even at the top, you have someone who doesn’t hesitate to use the same means against free thinking Israelis, regardless of who they are, Jews or Arabs, as he wants to use them against the Palestinians. But he may be a bit of a joke even in the eyes of his own subordinates, but there are more serious people below him who supposedly are part of the civil service and are not politically elected, but they come from this ideological hotbed that sees people like myself, if you want, as dangerous as any Palestinian, and that is something that is now spreading in Israel.

Chris Hedges:

Let’s talk about October 7th, both the micro impact and as a historian, the macro impact?

Ilan Pappe:

Well, the micro impact is a bizarre, really and I’m trying to get my head around it, although I can begin to understand this. Let’s start with the Israeli Jewish society. There is this almost possible mixture of total disbelief in the ability of the Jewish state to defend you or even provide you with the most fundamental services. So it’s a total breakdown in the confidence of the state to provide for you, not only defend you because the military failed, but the way the state was not there after the 7th of October. I don’t know how much people are aware of it, but the state did not function for about two months in terms of providing social, economical… it was all done by the civil society. The government did not function at all in terms of helping people who were evicted from the north or the south.

So on the one hand, there is this breakdown in believing in the state. On the other hand, there is a total support for the genocidal policies in Gaza. It’s a contradiction, but one can understand where it comes from, and that’s one of the micro kind of impact you have, that you will have an even more intransigent, inflexible, theocratic, fanatic Israeli Jew society in the post 7 October Israel.

As for the Palestinians, I think some big questions would be asked also by the Palestinian national movement because it’s a big responsibility to stage an operation when you probably know beforehand what the Israeli reaction would be. It always reminds me of the two… I had a webinar with some people from Lebanon and we talked about it, and I think there are similarities. People say to me, “But Hamas was kind of building on the legacy of 2000 when Hezbollah bravely succeeded in pushing the Israeli army outside of Lebanon.” So there is an example of an Arab paramilitary group being a match to the might of the Israeli Army. But I said, “Yes, but there’s another legacy, that’s a legacy of 2006 when Hasan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, said, ‘Had I known that Israeli reaction to the abduction of three soldiers would be the destruction of Beirut, I would not have ordered that operation.’”

So he did talk with responsibility of when you strategize, you have responsibility also for your own people. It would be interesting to see in the micro level, first of all how the Palestinians are reacting to the Israeli retaliation, beyond of course their ability. And I think they were able to galvanize public opinion to show that however one condemns or doesn’t condemn the service of October, it does not weaken the basic growing solidarity with the Palestinians.

Now let’s talk about the macro. The macro is that Israel is not going to defeat the Hamas that easily, and is going to be stuck there. And in order even to maintain some sort of success, victory, they would have to stay there for years in direct occupation. And this could easily escalate into an uprising in the West Bank and attack from the north by Hezbollah, and who knows, even undercurrents in the Arab world that would change the Arab tolerance of Israel that we have seen so far. This can escalate to regional war. On the one hand, that’s the bleak scenario.

The more positive scenario in the macro one is that the civil society that is now very much pro-Palestinian and even supports boycott and divestments from Israel, may succeed in convincing some governments in the Global North, and definitely in the Global South, to move beyond actions of civil society into sanctions and pressure on Israel, and maybe have a total new perception about the need to pressure Israel to give up its supremacist policies, its oppression, and so on.

It’s too early to judge which of the two processes will unfold. They may even unfold in conjunction, namely, the more violent the region would become, the more willing maybe the international community would be willing to change its basic perceptions of what is the essence of the problem and what is the way out of it.

Chris Hedges:

But isn’t the key Washington? I mean Israel, along with the US, is already on this issue, they’re pariah states, as we saw with the vote in the UN. As long as there’s unconditional support from Washington, Israel can resist any kind of pressure, can’t they?

Ilan Pappe:

Well, that’s a very big question because I think that the Global South also has power. I taught in a Chinese university recently in September, and it was very clear that China, for instance, is still reluctant to be involved in the question of Palestine because as you know, Chinese foreign policy, contrary to the way it’s portrayed in America, is interested in economic gains more than anything else. And rightly so, Palestine is not an economic bonanza these days. So I don’t think they’re likely to be involved too much in it.

But I do think that there are other powers on the international map that could challenge the American hegemony on the question of Palestine, that’s one point. And secondly, yes, America is still a key, but something is happening in the American civil society. Israelis and pro-Israelis in America like to call it the rise of new anti-Semitism, which is a very superficial analysis of the fact that the younger generation of Americans, A, is much more knowledgeable than the previous generation what goes on in Palestine. B, is far more committed, some people would say naively, but they are more committed to moral dimension of foreign and security policies. And that includes large chunks of the young American Jewish community. So I’m not sure that also this determinist view of an American policy is the right approach, either. I do think there’s a chance of a different American policy as well.

But I do think Chris, probably the best way to do it is by saying there are two coalitions now when it comes to Palestine. One I call global Israel. Global Israel is still governments in the Global South, multinational corporation, military industries, security industries, communities of Christian Zionists and Jews who more or less continue to provide Israel immunity for almost everything it does, almost automatically, kind of a faith. And against that is global Palestine. And global Palestine is made of civil societies. Some governments in the Global South who are not only Palestinians, but they really believe that the struggle for justice in Palestine connects very well with their own struggles against injustice in their own societies. And this is the younger generation of the world.

And I think that this is a battle that goes beyond a Palestine, connects ecological issues, poverty issues, rights of minorities issues with Palestine, and therefore I don’t think the balance of power is just America versus the rest of the world. I think there are much more complex two global coalitions, which are relevant not only to Palestine, but I see the relevance mainly in the case of Palestine because I’m interested in it. But I’m sure they can be also exposed in other places of contention and where conflicts are still raging.

Chris Hedges:

Let’s close by looking at Gaza. First I want to talk about intent. The UN says that half of Gazans now face starvation. I was in Sarajevo during the war, that was 300 to 400 shells a day, four to five dead a day, about two dozen wounded a day. This is just by comparison, I don’t want to minimize what happened in Sarajevo, I still have nightmares about it. But that’s nothing compared to what’s happening in Gaza in terms of the level of bombing. What is the intent? Is the intent to create a humanitarian crisis of such extremity that the international community is forced to intervene and become a partner in ethnic cleansing? Well what? You know the mindset of the people around Netanyahu better than I do.

Ilan Pappe:

Well, first of all, I think that there was really here an inertia of revenge to begin with, rather than a very careful planning. And not everything should be attributed to clear and systematic planning. As the days went by, it was clear to at least one group within the policymakers who thought that the war gives a pretext to get rid of Gaza, a more systematic planning. So the end result, as far as they’re concerned, is the depopulation of the Gaza Strip from as many Palestinians as possible either to Egypt or to other parts of the world, because Gaza, if it’s not sustainable now, it wouldn’t even be less sustainable in the future. I think there is one component among the Israeli policy makers who believe that they have the power to do it.

There is a more, I don’t know, even call them more moderate, I’ll call them more pragmatic people like Benjamin Gantz, Gadi Eizenkot, also depends. I mean, they joined the government in the last moment from the opposition. I don’t know how influential they will be for the day after. But if they’re still influential on the day after, they would like to see… They have a certain end game in mind, which is to annex part of the Gaza Strip directly to Israel, which what will remain is a very small piece of land with a huge number of people living in it and hoping that someone else would run the domestic affairs of Gaza, whether it’s the PA or a multinational force.

However, they don’t think that it’s even possible to discuss the day after scenarios before they fulfill what they promised to the Israeli public, which is something they cannot fulfill. And that’s one of the reasons for the carnage that we are seeing, that they could have this victory photo, kind of triumphant photo that shows that the Hamas is nowhere to be seen in Gaza, or at least nowhere to be seen as a military force. I don’t think they can achieve it, but they still believe that they can.

And until that happens, they continue relentlessly doing it by the way, [by that, even endangering more the lives of the still 130 and so Israeli hostages still held by the Hamas in the Gaza Strip]. They claim that the two objectives of what they call the land maneuver is to destroy the Hamas as a military power and to salvage the hostages. It’s very clear from the way they’re acting, they have given up on the hostages, but they still believe they have the power to get this picture that they want, either a dead Sinwar or an expelled Sinwar, the scenario of Lebanon 1982 Arafat leaving to Tunis with the rest of the Palestinian leadership. These are the scenarios they have, and all the means seems to be justified in their eyes to achieve that.

Chris Hedges:

And you are arguing they won’t. So what happens when they don’t achieve that?

Ilan Pappe:

That’s what I meant before that what happens is that they are going to be stuck there for much longer than they think, involved in a gorilla warfare which is much longer than they think, endangering every day an escalation that could bring other factors as other actors into that conflict with dire consequences also for Israel itself. Can you imagine, Chris, what would’ve happened if in the 7th of October Hezbollah would’ve coordinated with the Hamas a similar attack on the north? Remember, the main military problem for Israel was that most of its army was in the West Bank helping to defend the settlers and helping them with their ethnic cleansing. So there was not enough soldiers in the North and not enough soldiers on the Gaza border to prevent a operation like the one the Hamas conducted. Imagine what would happen if the Hezbollah would’ve joined in, how Israel would’ve got out of that. And somehow this lesson is not being learned by the Israeli policymakers.

So I think that they are going to take Israel into a very dire future, even for the Israelis themselves, in terms of casualties, in terms of international isolation, in terms of economic crisis. And relying all the time on the American Congress, it’s not the best and most solid pillar in the world to build a future for a younger generation and tell them that they live in the best place the Jews could be in the world right now. They’re sort of digging their own hole here because they don’t want to see what the problem is and what price they have to pay if they really want to build a different future.

Chris Hedges:

Great. That was Ilon Pappe, professor of history at the University of Exeter in Great Britain, author of the Biggest Prison on Earth: The History of the Occupied Territories and the Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. I want to thank the Real News Network and its production team, Cameron Granadino, Adam Coley, David Hebden, and Kayla Rivara. You can find me at

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