For other articles in this series 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11
This week, the organization Shurat HaDin is having a conference titled “Towards a New Law of War”. They don’t hide where their alliances lie, and on their online conference page (nostalgically illustrated with WWII British bombers) you can find their Western-supremacist and racist agenda stated loud and clear:
…exchange ideas regarding the development of armed conflict legal doctrine favorable to Western democracies engaged in conflict against nontraditional, non-democratic, non-state actors.
The Israeli Knesset is debating a bill proposed by David Rotem of the extreme right Yisrael Beiteinu party that would require all Israeli citizens to swear loyalty to Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state.” This bill is targeted at increasing pressure on the twenty percent of Israelis who are Palestinian citizens while forcing the ultra Orthodox Jewish minority who reject the legitimacy of any state not based on Jewish biblical law to accept Zionism. If passed in its proposed form, citizens unwilling to take the loyalty oath would be at risk of losing citizenship.
Increasingly, despite its early military and political successes, Israel cannot for long endure as a colonial project. It must choose between wars – and destruction – or transition to a state for all its peoples.
In order to firmly secure its existence – as firmly as that is possible for any state – a settler state has to overcome three challenges. It has to solve the native problem; break away from its mother country; and gain the recognition of neighboring states and peoples. It can be shown that Israel has not met any of these conditions.
Consider Israel’s native problem. In 1948, in the months before and after its creation, Israel appeared to have solved its native problem in one fell swoop. It had expelled 80 percent of the Palestinians from the territories it had conquered. In addition, with the rapid influx of Arab Jews, Palestinians were soon reduced to less than ten percent of Israel’s population.
So, had Israel licked its native problem for good? Not really.
The Palestinians inside Israel pushed back with a high natural rate of growth in their numbers. As a result, despite the continuing influx of Jewish immigrants, the Palestinian share in Israel’s population has grown to above 20 percent. Increasingly, Jews in Israel see Israeli Arabs as a threat to their Jewish state. Some are advocating a fresh round of ethnic cleansing. Others are calling for a new partition to exclude areas with Arab majorities.
The Palestinians expelled from Israel in 1948 did not go away either. Most of them set up camp in areas around Israel – the West Bank, Gaza, southern Lebanon and Jordan. In 1967, when Israel conquered Gaza and the West Bank, it could expel a much smaller fraction of the Palestinians from these territories. In consequence, with more than a million additional Palestinians under its control, Israeli had recreated its native problem.
Karen Armstrong is the author of the classic The History of God.
UCtelevision — 17 June 2010 — One of the world’s leading commentators on religious affairs, Karen Armstrong discusses the intersection of religion and secularism in contemporary life. She explores the ideas that Islam, Judaism and Christianity have in common and their effect on world events. Series: Walter H. Capps Center Series
Although my mother fled Nazi Germany, as a child, on a Kindertransport, with a few family valuables sewn into her clothing, and I was brought up on the myths and hagiography of the Zionist state, I, over time, came to recognize the folly of the whole colonialist enterprise — the folly of ethnic exclusion and expulsion, the inherent tragedy of nationalism based on the delusion of religious birthright. With much sorrow, I came to the sad realization that the dream of the State of Israel was based on European chauvinism and exceptionalism. This reckoning has been a difficult one for me to bear — the hardest awakening of my adult life.
My father was born on a Reservation in the American mid-west. His people, like the Palestinians, resisted invaders of European ancestry and were crushed. At present, both peoples remain exiled and caged in their native land.
The Jewish side of myself understands the historical traumas that gave rise to the yearning for a tribal Homeland. Atavistically, I suffer the Jewish state’s collective night terrors and reel in its daylight rationalizations for its brutalities. But the Native American in me knows the rage of those crushed by the heartless force of an invading people.
A nation is “a group of persons united by a common error about their ancestry and a common dislike of their neighbours.” Karl Deutsch.
“I don’t think books can change the world, but when the world begins to change, it searches for different books.” Shlomo Sand.
Our Assumptions About Israel
Here is what we in the West, to a varying extent, whether we are religious or not, assume about the Jews and Israel:
The Jews of the world, white, black and brown, are the sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Moses, after leading the Jews out of Egyptian enslavement, gave them laws. Emerging from the desert, the Jews conquered the promised land of Canaan, which became Judea and Israel, later the mighty kingdom of David and Solomon. In 70CE the Romans destroyed the temple at Jerusalem and drove the Jews from their land. A surviving Jewish remnant was expelled when Muslim-Arab conquerors colonised the country in the 7th Century. And so the Jews wandered the earth, the very embodiment of homelessness. But throughout their long exile, against all odds, the Jews kept themselves a pure, unmixed race. Finally they returned, after the Holocaust, to Palestine, “a land without a people for a people without a land.”
This story has been told again and again in our culture. Today we find bits of it in Mark Twain and Leon Uris, in Hollywood’s output and in church pulpits, and of course in the mainstream news media. American Christian Zionists – devotees of the Scofield Bible – swear by it, and swear to support Israel with all the power of their voting block until the Risen Christ declares the apocalypse.
This Memorial eve, culture in Israel took a turn to the right. Highly respected artist, Amir Bennayun, has written a song that can only described as messianic hateful state incitement and propaganda. Here it is in all its disgusting glory [lyrics below limited by my translation]:
Here’s Rachel Shabi putting paid to the Zionist ploy of passing off ethnic cleansing as ‘exchange of populations’.
Justice for Jews from Arab Countries (JJAC) thinks that Middle Eastern Jews and Palestinian refugees should somehow be offset against each other – the rights of one side counterbalancing the rights of the other. It’s a neat argument: Jews were forced to abandon material assets and leave Arab countries; Palestinians similarly fled or were expelled from their homes. Ergo, the region witnessed an exchange of populations and if Palestinian refugees are to be compensated by Israel, so too must the Jewish “refugees” from the Middle East, by the Arab nations that expelled them.
Nice try, but there are many reasons why this formula is all wrong. First off (as David Cesarani points out), it’s tasteless. There is no need for the fate of these two peoples, Middle Eastern Jews and Palestinians, to be so fused materialistically. Middle Eastern Jews may indeed have a claim to lost assets, but those genuinely seeking peace between Israel and its neighbours should know that this is not the way to pursue it.