Preferred Citation: Ron, James. Frontiers and Ghettos: State Violence in Serbia and Israel. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c2003 2003.



The extent to which Israeli commentators now speak of the West Bank and Gaza as "foreign" and "hostile" lands is quite remarkable.[11] Israeli discourse in the 1980s spoke of law-and-order, police-style enforcement in Palestine, but now the language has shifted to that of war and counterinsurgency. The region has been reconstructed, both discursively and in practice, as an object of war. In the immediate future, this is bound to produce Israeli escalation. Once Lebanon was viewed as an object of counterinsurgency, Israel pounded it with artillery, airplanes, and commandos, leading to tremendous destruction and loss of life. At the same time, however, Lebanon was never smoothly integrated into the Israeli zone of control, and Israel's Lebanon presence was never routinized to the same extent as in the West Bank and Gaza. Lebanon, moreover, was never perceived by Jewish Israelis as a natural extension of the Israeli state. Although Greater Israel proponents sporadically argued for a Lebanese colonization effort, they have never pursued it in a politically serious fashion. As a result, Israeli forces could eventually withdraw from Lebanon in the year 2000 virtually overnight without triggering a crippling internal political crisis.[12] Lebanon's "foreign" and "warlike" designation resulted in great suffering but also helped it escape colonization and full-scale subordination.

Until the 1990s, Israel's attempt to incorporate Palestine through policies of creeping annexation enormously complicated the notion of Israeli withdrawal. Jewish settlement activities were an important part of this process, but were not the only factor. Jewish youth groups organized field trips through Palestine, the West Bank and Gaza were included as parts of Israel on most maps, and Palestine was given Jewish biblical names—Judea and Samaria—to symbolize its status as part of Greater Israel. Some even began to believe the region was slated for permanent Israeli control and that the struggle for a Palestinian state would necessarily give way to struggles for Palestinian civil rights within Israel.

With this in mind, one of the most significant outcomes of the first Palestinian uprising was its ability to blunt this process of ideological and

physical incorporation. After the first Intifada, many Jewish Israelis discovered that the Green Line separating Israel proper from the West Bank and Gaza was a meaningful, if contested, boundary. The second uprising, which began in fall 2000 and is still ongoing, has intensified the externalization and defamiliarization of Palestine for Jewish Israelis. This book's findings suggest that the more Palestine is viewed by Israelis as a "foreign," external zone where war rather than policing is appropriate, the greater are Palestine's long-term prospects for escaping Israeli rule. Whether this happens before Palestinians are partially, or even fully, ethnically cleansed, however, is anyone's guess.

In this respect, the increased popular support for transfer among Israeli Jews in 2001 and 2002 is particularly noteworthy. Support for expulsions dipped in the 1990s, but has returned to near-record highs in recent years. In 1991, according to a Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies survey, 38 percent of Israeli Jews supported transfer for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, while 24 percent supported the same for Palestinians with Israeli citizenship. In 2002, by contrast, 46 percent supported transfer for the population of Palestine, with 31 percent in favor of similar measures for Israel's Palestinian citizens. The latter figure climbed to 60 percent when the survey question was worded in a more "roundabout" way.[13] As one leading liberal commentator suggested in spring 2002, "the spirit of expulsion" was increasingly "infiltrating public discourse" in Israel.[14] Other analysts disagreed with this assessment, however, noting the existence of polls suggesting that the Israeli public was moving in a more liberal direction overall, despite periodic tactical moves rightward at times of acute crisis.[15] One possible interpretation of these apparently contradictory findings is that Jewish Israelis are so deeply frustrated that they are desperate for a solution of any kind, including either transfer or a political solution.

The analysis advanced here suggests that one useful response to national exclusion is to work for a more inclusive definition of the "nation." That is, groups excluded from a dominant nationality—for example, Palestinians, Kosovo's ethnic Albanians, or Sandžak's Muslim Slavs—could focus their political energies on forcing their oppressors to grant them an equal footing through democratization, de-nationalization, or consociational constitutional agreements. Rather than tacitly acquiescing in efforts by Serbian or Jewish nationalists to define the "nation" in exclusionary ways, oppressed ghetto groups could mount movements for civil and political equality, as did blacks in the United States or South Africa. Sadly enough, however, few of the excluded populations

discussed in this book chose that path. In the Kosovo case, ethnic Albanians chose not to participate in Serbian elections during the 1990s, opting instead for efforts to create their own state. In 1999 this strategy finally paid off, but only after great sacrifices were made. Is it possible that some of this suffering could have been avoided had ethnic Albanians chosen to make their homes within Serbia and exercised their right to vote? Already partially incorporated into the state, ghetto residents can pursue legal, electoral, and public relations strategies to achieve real equality; frontier populations, by contrast, are far more vulnerable, as they must rely wholly on military means of defense.

Do Palestinians have similar options? Unlike ethnic Albanians, Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza have never been considered citizens of the state controlling their lives, even during their tacit incorporation into the Israeli state. As a result, they did not enjoy the same electoral opportunities as did ethnic Albanians and had fewer legal means to contest their exclusion. At the same time, however, Palestinian efforts remained uniformly focused on securing an independent, sovereign state in the West Bank and Gaza; they rarely considered the option of building upon the advantages offered by their quasi-inclusion within Israel. Although such efforts would have been enormously complex, they cannot have been more difficult or dangerous than the attempt now under way to create a viable and sovereign Palestinian state through diplomatic and military means. Indeed, for many Zionists, the notion of several million civil-rights-seeking Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza is far more threatening to the Jewish national agenda than an independent Palestinian state. Both Zionist hawks and doves are eager to maintain Israel's predominantly Jewish character, and most recognize that this requires ensuring a Jewish demographic majority. As Aryeh Naor, a former cabinet secretary, said in spring 2002, Israel's greatest nightmare is that "one day, there will appear a Palestinian Nelson Mandela in the West Bank who will demand ‘one man, one vote.’ That will be the end of Israel as a Jewish democracy."[16] Yet today it seems more unlikely than ever that Palestinians will seek inclusion within Israel, or that Israelis would ever entertain such an idea. Although a "one state" solution with a civil rights agenda might have been feasible in the late 1970s, long before the first Palestinian uprising, it does not seem to have any chance of attracting significant support from either Jewish left-wing figures or Palestinian political leaders. All that remains to hope for is a stable two-state solution, but it seems equally likely that the West Bank and Gaza will become a semi-permanent counterinsurgency frontier for

Israel, much like Lebanon was for some three decades. At the very worst, Israel's pro-transfer constituency may, at some point in the not-too-distant future, finally find an opportunity to promote a radical solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, ensuring their dream of a secure Jewish majority through ethnic cleansing.


Preferred Citation: Ron, James. Frontiers and Ghettos: State Violence in Serbia and Israel. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c2003 2003.