The Banality of Evil: Diverting the Palestinian Struggle

28 Mar

The Banality of Evil: Language Entrapment or Political Malevolence?


It seems a language game is being played. Or is it better understood as a political maneuver suffused with bad intentions?


Governments and international institutions with the wonders of modern information-gathering technology at their disposal continue to endorse the ‘two-state solution’ while civil society observers on all sides of the conflict mostly realize that as matters now stand Israel is adamant in its refusal to allow an independent Palestinian state to emerge and feels no pressure from the Trump White House to feel otherwise. Regardless of feelings, with an estimated 700,000 Israeli settlers living in unlawful settlements, the obstacles to creating the sort of Palestinian sovereign state that was supposed to emerge from Oslo diplomacy, the Arab Peace Initiative, and the Quartet Roadmap has long ago evaporated into thin air with hardly a whimper of outrage, or even disappointment, from even the Palestinian official representatives at the UN or the PLO directorate in Ramallah.


Daniel Pipes, always at the service of Zionist ambitions, has been beating the drums for an iron-fisted end game that resolves the conflict with the clarity of an acknowledged Israeli victory and a Palestinian defeat. As for the two-state solution, it is ironic that Pipes words ring truer than those that emanate from the capitals of the world, Speaking plainly, Pipes says “(t)he two-state solution, an absurdity at present (it means asking Israel to strengthen its mortal enemy) will make good sense after a Palestinian defeat.” One can only imagine the paltry reality of what Israeli ‘good sense’ will produce after a Palestinian surrender! But the question that interests me here is why Pipes can be clear eyed about a reality that the UN and inter-governmental discourse are unwilling to admit. Trump, forever the outlier, is so far forthright enough to refuse to endorse the two-state solution, thus breaking, at least implicitly, with the inter-governmental/UN consensus that other recent American presidents have all pledged to their utmost to implement. Of course, Trump’s defection is best explained as his docile readiness to take his marching orders from domestic Zionist maximalists who helped bankroll his campaign for the presidency.


On a recent visit to Israel for a meeting with Mahmoud Abbas, the German Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, reaffirmed the zombie international consensus as if was an alive political option, declaring that the new German government remains committed to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Such an assertion can be better understood if decoded—the German government has no intention of exerting any pressure on Israel to reach a political compromise, and he seems to be urging the Palestinian leadership to adopt a similar line.


At the UN the harshest criticisms of Israel continue to be its tendency to hamper progress toward a two-state solution, which would be notable if anyone in the know believed it to be a viable political option. For instance, in the important Security Council censure of Israeli settlement behavior (SC 2334. 23 December 2016) the Preamble wrote these words of explanation: “Expressing grave concern that continuing Israeli settlement activities are dangerously imperiling the viability of the two-state solution based on the 1967 lines.” “Dangerously imperiling,” as if the solution was not long since defunct. On what planet are these governmental representatives living? Or do these governments know better, but have secondary reasons for pretending differently?


In operative paragraph 3 of the General Assembly resolution (21 Deember 2017, A/ES-10/L.22) overwhelmingly condemning (128-9, with 35 abstentions) the provocative Trump move to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and to so relocate the American embassy, a similarly misleading assertion is made: the GA “Reiterates its call for reversal of the negative trends on the ground that are imperiling the two-state solution.” I would be rude enough to say, ‘wake up, world,’ the two-state solution is not in the peace picture any longer, and maybe never really was.


The new call for peace that has real potential political traction, and is increasingly endorsed throughout civil society is ‘End Apartheid,” superseding the earlier effort to achieve by direct action an outcome that could be converted into a de facto Palestinian state: ‘End the Occupation.” For several reasons, this emphasis on withdrawal from occupied Palestine was always insufficiently responsive to the full reality of Palestinian suffering and struggle. It failed to emphasize the long-term plight of Palestinian refugees and involuntary exiles, and omitted mention of the discriminatory and in many ways worsening daily reality of the Palestinian minority in Israel.


In some respects the most dismaying statement of all along these lines was issued by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) in their rebuke of Trump’s Jerusalem initiative that was just now disseminated with the evident approval of the Palestinian National Council:  “The IPU noted that the resolution undermines the legal and political status of a peaceful settlement between Israel and Palestine and any hopes for a two-state solution. The IPU stressed that it would continue to pursue its efforts to promote dialogue and peace between the two parties, Israel and Palestine, and in the Middle East region. What is distressing about such a statement is that it seems to suppose that Israel is in the slightest degree interested in participating in a dialogue on the conditions of peace if that means walking a path leading to the emergence of a Palestinian state. The minimum requirement for dialogue is some degree of mutuality, which has not existed on the Israeli side for some years, and to pretend that it does is a way of sidestepping the real challenge—do nothing but watch while Israel moves ahead with its unilateral end game or join the struggle to prevent a culminating Palestinian tragedy by moving out of the diplomatic shadows and into the political arena of coercive politics.

This is not the time for dialogue and displays of good will. That time has long passed. Now is the time for engagement, for pressure, for boycott, and for sanctions. When governments are serious about pursuing elusive goals, whether these are benevolent or not, they choose sanctions, coercive diplomacy, and leave the military option on the table. I am only too glad to leave the military option off the table, while insisting upon a post-diplomatic posture of militant nonviolence. The Palestinian people have suffered long enough! They should not be further enticed to rely on tactics of futility. Not only is silence in the face of evil and suffering unacceptable, so is passivity, and even more, false consciousness.

Finally, we should ponder why the civil society focus on the BDS Campaign is so much more attuned to the Palestinian ordeal than is this nonsesnsical inter-governmental and UN two-state discourse. My reference to Hannah Arendt’s influential, if controversial, treatment of the Eichmann trial, was not lacking in forethought. Governments, and the UN as a global network of governments, is not inclined to confront seriously the suffering of others unless vital national interests and geopolitical priorities of its principal members so decree. Here, considering that Israel has become a regional powerhouse, backed unconditionally by the United States, conditionally by the West as a whole, and now opportunistically even by most Arab governments, the geopolitical realities favor an international posture of hands, given deceptive twists by moralizing rhetoric, occasional slaps on the Israeli wrist, and a garland of illusions in the ritual form of pledging a meaningless allegiance to the continuing vitality of the two-state solution. We need to muster clarity of will to declare that affirming the two-state solution under present conditions is proof that the banality of evil lives on in our time.









9 Responses to “The Banality of Evil: Diverting the Palestinian Struggle”

  1. Gene Schulman March 29, 2018 at 12:03 pm #

    I am surprised that this excellent essay has not brought forth any comments. So let me be the first and say, yes there is certainly a lot of evil in the world today, especially where it concerns the Jewish State’s treatment of occupied Palestinians. But I would disagree that it is banal, regardless of Hannah Arendt’s idea of it.

    • Richard Falk March 29, 2018 at 11:36 pm #

      Gene: Thanks for this. The banality I was trying to address was the zombie-like insistence
      on acting as if the two-state solution was a viable option look after it has become clear
      that it is not, and probably never was. I agree totally that the treatment of Palestinians
      is anything but banal. Richard

  2. Beau Oolayforos March 30, 2018 at 5:43 pm #

    Dear Professor Falk,

    Never thought I’d see you & John Bolton agree on any thing, though his rationale for abandoning 2-state is the same as Trump’s, only more so.

    Let’s hope that Ms Arendt’s observation holds true in this case – who could be more banal than Bibi, or Bolton? All the visionaries, for peace and justice, are on the other side. There’s room for faith that the rotten structure of apartheid will crumble.

  3. ray032 March 31, 2018 at 6:01 am #

    Richard, living my 75th year, it is still an aspiration to be able to write as clearly, and logically as you do in this latest writing. It should be in the Washington Post and the New York Times. The best I can do is share it on my Face Book page for now.

    Looking at the unfolding Realities in the World Today, I have been posting this in the many relevant articles in The Washington Post and other news sites:

    We all see things through our different experiences in Life and education. I see the unfolding events in the world TODAY from this background-History in THE KANSAS CITY TIMES, September 13, 1976

    There are 30 months before the fate of the world will be sealed with EITHER Destruction OR the Universal Brotherhood of Man, ̈ he said. ̈The 30 month figure concerned a Treaty between Israel and Egypt. ̈

    NOTE: This does not say Armageddon happens in 30 months from the article.

    Not 29 or 31, but exactly 30 months later, in March 1979, history shows a Treaty between Israel and Egypt was signed, the Camp David Accord. History shows negotiations broke down on the 12th day and no Treaty was to be signed. Begin and Sadat were leaving.
    It was on the 13th Day, as in the date of the Article and the picture accompanying it, an unexpected window of opportunity appeared and opened the way for the Treaty to be signed.
    This signified the Universal Brotherhood part of the quote.

    The 1979 Iranian Revolution happened a month earlier, and with the
    Trump/Bolton/Pompeo Axis of War now in place, the destruction part in the 1976 newspaper record might be happening soon?

    “He came to town for the Republican National Convention and will stay until the election in November TO DO GOD’S BIDDING: To tell the world, from Kansas City, this country has been found wanting and its days are numbered […] He gestured toward a gleaming church dome. “The gold dome is the symbol of Babylon,” he said.” […] He wanted to bring to the Public’s attention an “idea being put out subtly and deceptively” by the government that we have to get prepared for a war with Russia.”

    Not many will recognize the 1st part of those words from ‘The Writing on the Wall’ in Daniel 5 of the Bible, recording the demise of Babylon/Iraq and the rise of Persia/Iran. It’s all happening NOW.

    It looks to me, politically, this World is opting for the Destruction part, sealing the Fate.

    • ray032 March 31, 2018 at 6:38 am #

      Richard, I mean what I say and here’s the computer generated acknowledgement from the OP-ED Dept sending this article to them for publication.

      The New York Times Re: The Banality of Evil: Diverting the Palestinian Struggle
      Thank you for contacting the opinion section at The New York Times and The International New York Times.

      I hope they contact you.

      • Richard Falk March 31, 2018 at 11:06 pm #


        I really appreciate your affirmative reading of my opinion piece. I suppose your instinct
        to seek mainstream outlets is worth following, despite my mainly discouraging experience in recent years.

        With warm greetings from Istanbul,


    • Richard Falk March 31, 2018 at 11:11 pm #

      I see the relevance of this biblical prophesy in the unfolding of current history,
      and can only hope & pray for an ill-deserved escape from the worst forms of reckoning.
      As you are in your 75th year, I am in my 87th, and still attempting to raise my voice
      above that of a whisper of discontent.

      Greetings, Richard

      • ray032 April 1, 2018 at 2:27 am #

        God give you the Life and Strength to continue raising your voice at 97, if the Destruction doesn’t overtake the World before then.

        In submitting your article for publication at the NYT, this was the only sentence of mine leading to it.

        The Truth and Lucidity in this latest writing from Professor Richard Falk, formerly the UN Special Rapporteur on Palestinian Rights under Israeli Occupation should be an Opinion piece in the NYT

        On the relevance of Biblical Prophecy, I was surprised when Haaretx sent me an email within 15 minutes of submitting my comment on Gideon Levy’s latest, ‘The Israel Massacre Forces’ informing me it was published.

        The shooting on the Gaza border shows once again that the killing of Palestinians is accepted in Israel more lightly than the killing of mosquitoes

        The Subject of my comment was : History Repeats Itself

        Son of man, they that inhabit those wastes of the land of Israel speak, saying, Abraham was one, and he inherited the land: but we are many; the land is given us for inheritance. Wherefore say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD; You eat with the blood, and lift up your eyes toward your idols, and shed blood: and shall you possess the land? You stand upon your sword, you work abomination, and you defile every one his neighbour’s wife: and shall you possess the land? You say thus to them, Thus says the Lord GOD; As I live, surely they that are in the wastes shall fall by the sword, and him that is in the open field will I give to the beasts to be devoured, and they that be in the forts and in the caves shall die of the pestilence. For I will lay the land most desolate, and the pomp of her strength shall cease; and the mountains of Israel shall be desolate, that none shall pass through. Then shall they know that I am the LORD, when I have laid the land most desolate because of all their abominations which they have committed.

        So far, it has 4 up votes and 4 down votes

        Zionists only like the ancient Bible verses that say the land is theirs, ignoring all the other conditions attached to experiencing the Blessings of ‘The Promised Land’ for ALL inhabitants.

  4. Beau Oolayforos April 2, 2018 at 3:46 pm #

    “Independence” now means, for the Israeli government, freedom from any accountability or even questioning, as in the deaths and maiming of unarmed Gazan demonstrators. News reports tell us that the Palestinians have since been quiet, as they tend to the wounded and bury the dead.

    Does this remind anyone else of the Holocaust stories about trainloads of Jewish and other prisoners, as they arrived at the death camps, screaming and howling in their misery, who would then be reduced to sobbing and whimpering with a few bursts of Nazi machine-gun fire, delivered into the sides of the railcars?

    Yet another example of what Susan Abulhawa has called ‘the dreadful irony’.

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