Sunday, May 13, 2007

Israel: The Twisted Dream Turns 59

Ordinarily it is not necessary to belabor the point that apartheid leaves much to be desired as a social system, but when the topic is Israel, lunatic assertions are staple fare, so that the ongoing Bantustanization of Palestine is regularly proclaimed to be the product of the Middle East's sole democracy. War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength.

However one evaluates arguments about gas chambers and the Holocaust, the fact remains that Zionist efforts to remove the Palestinian Arabs from their land long predates Hitler's rise as a historical figure. In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson's King-Crane Commission reported back from the region that, "No British officer consulted by the Commissioners believed that the Zionist program could be carried out except by force of arms . . . only a greatly reduced Zionist program should be attempted . . . and then only very gradually initiated." The Commissioners called for a serious modification of existing plans for unlimited Jewish immigration culminating in Jewish statehood. Regarding Britain's 1917 Balfour Declaration, which had promised the Jews a home in Palestine, King and Crane wrote: "A national home is not equivalent to making Palestine into a Jewish state nor can the erection of such a Jewish state be accomplished without the gravest trespass upon civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities." At the time, "existing non-Jewish communities" were Christian and Muslim Arabs constituting 93% of Palestine's population.

During the course of the King-Crane Commission's inquiry, Jewish representatives had not concealed their ultimate hope of dispossessing the Arab inhabitants of Palestine by various forms of purchase, in spite of the fact that ninety percent of the latter were completely against surrendering their land to the Zionist project. "To subject the people so minded to unlimited Jewish immigration and to steady financial and social pressure to surrender the land would be a gross violation" of Wilsonian principle, the Commissioners wrote, "and of the people's rights, though it be kept within the forms of law." Leaving aside the dubious equation of Wilsonian principle with self-determination, it is safe to say that overriding a 93% indigenous majority with whatever forms of pressure can hardly be described as an exercise in democracy.

Sadly, the gross violation the Commissioners warned against occurred, and Israel was founded, but commentary in the U.S. has almost completely ignored the peculiar history behind the event. To wit: a largely irreligious people reclaimed land after an absence of two thousand years based on fantastical Biblical texts few of them believed in; Jehovah's carvings on a Tablet in the Bronze Age became the basis of Near East politics in the 20th Century; a "Jews-only" state bent on conquest and expansion was hailed as a model of democratic socialism with unique sensitivity to morality and human rights. Displaying amazing chutzpah, Zionist leaders embarked on an "in-gathering" of the Jewish Diaspora and plotted the exodus of Jews from lands they had lived in for centuries while intoning the words Hitler had used in carrying out the Holocaust: "You are not a German, you are a Jew - you are not a Frenchman, you are a Jew - you are not a Belgian, you are a Jew."

Reports that the Nazis lost WWII are greatly exaggerated.

The heart of the problem was and remains a serious and deliberate confusion of nationalism with religion. Organized Jewry, a staunch supporter of separation of Church and State outside the Holy Land, condoned their union in Israel, demanding the loyalty of Jews everywhere, whether or not they identified themselves as such. Diasporan Jews supported Israel out of religious duty, though they may or may not have been aware of what Zionist ideology actually entailed. Jewish identity became the basis of Israeli citizenship, with political debate naturally centering on the vexing question, "What is a Jew?" Since Jews, like most people, have a mixed ancestry, Jewish supremacist mythmakers buttressed weak territorial claims with appeals to historical continuity, blurring distinctions between Hebrew, Israelite, Judean, Jewish, and Judaism, while forestalling recognition that these were different people at different times in history with different ways of life. Neither the Jews nor these varied forebears ever constituted a race or even a distinctive pure ethnic grouping, and since Judaism had been of declining significance for most Jews for some time, it quickly became clear that Jewish identity was to be as arbitrary as it was convenient for Israel to have it. Not surprisingly, only Palestinians can't belong.

Inevitably, Israel's birth was traumatic. In November 1947, a Washington-dominated U.N. passed a resolution awarding over 56% of the land of Palestine to 650,000 Jews, who represented just a third of the population and owned some 6% of the land. Britain, its empire near collapse, began withdrawing from its colonies the following Spring when its mandate over Palestine expired. As the British pulled out, Zionist armies attacked Arab villages, driving out roughly three-quarters of a million Palestinians in the process of forging a Jewish state with a sizable Arab minority, the latter forced to choose between exile and perpetual discrimination.

The fundamental injustice in the new state was rooted in the divorce of citizenship from territoriality. Jews around the world had rights in the Jewish state, but there could be nothing like full human rights for non-Jews and only the most limited progress towards a just society. The Jewish National Fund purchased lands on behalf of the Jewish people, from which non-Jews were necessarily excluded. According to official Israeli figures 92% of the state's surface prior to June, 1967 was restricted to Jewish use - in perpetuity. Palestinians had no claim on the land they had tilled for centuries.

Israel acted to guarantee a permanent Jewish majority while establishing the exclusivist institutions that statist Zionism called for. A huge effort was made to attract the Jewish Diaspora to Israel, while expelling as many Arabs as possible. Jews were ceaselessly reminded of the dangers of anti-Semitism and the hopelessness of assimilation. At the same time, and long before Menachem Begin and the Likud bloc took power, Israel's Labor Party gradually incorporated a supranationalist "Greater Israel" movement into its program, preaching expulsion to the Arabs, fear to Diasporan Jews, and reflexively accusing anti-Zionist Gentiles of anti-Semitism.

The Zionist triumph placed a borderless Jewish island in a sea of angry Arabs. Expansionism and new frontiers were its by-products, and war was quite inevitable.

In the fifty-nine years since Israel came into existence as a Jewish state it has not only taken hold of the land but also the structure of opinion and commentary in the West, in such a way that the Palestinians have been quite literally obliterated as a people with any claim to rights or historical continuity. At the same time, the history of Israel that has produced this appalling result has likewise been obliterated, especially in the United States. It is nearly impossible to find mainstream commentary referring to Israel's assassinating leaders at will, bulldozing homes, closing schools, uprooting orchards, arresting, deporting, and torturing anyone posing a "threat" to "security" (read Jewish supremacy), and locking an entire people in a giant, outdoor cage. On the contrary. Everything is carefully filtered through the lens of "little Israel," victim of eternal anti-Semitism, in which Palestinians are congenital terrorists yearning to kill Jews, especially children. The fact that Israel introduced terrorism against civilians to the region, that it originated in conquest, that it has repeatedly invaded and occupied its neighbors, and was instrumental in instigating the blood-drenched disaster in Iraq, never rises to perceptibility in the U.S. media or in American political discourse. In the official optic Israel bears no responsibility for "Islamic terror," and is, in fact the victim of the peoples it occupies and kills.

Every media comment about Hamas or Hizbollah or Iran invokes a cartoon-like fantasy of total despotism, infantile rage, and savage violence, all targeted at "us," the good people who save Jews from gas chambers and otherwise pursue our charmingly harmless lives in a world devoid of illegitimate authority and oppression. Never is there the slightest hint that "militant Islam" caused us absolutely no harm until Washington backed Jewish supremacy over Arab lands, overthrew the democratically elected government of Iran (1953), planted permanent military bases near the holiest sites of Islam, and murdered hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children with economic sanctions. And all this was before the neo-cons engineered the invasion and dismemberment of Iraq.

Fifty-nine years on it is more than time to recognize that "little Israel" is a permanent disaster fully capable of ringing down the curtain on the entire human race. Racist, nuclear armed, violently delusional, it seeks in the name of "security" to destroy any and all resistance to Jewish domination. Though success on these terms is impossible, the attempt to succeed will surely yield unprecedented horrors.

If we let it.

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