by Leslie Bravery
Monday, July 16th, 2012
Political support for Israel makes use of ideologically sponsored myths and unjustifiable assumptions. The constant repetition of these assumptions by politicians and news media precludes debate and effectively exempts Israel from its obligations under international humanitarian law. The Zionist state’s use of the Holocaust to justify itself betrays both the memory of those who suffered and humanity’s hope that the necessary lessons will ever be learned.
The pervasive propaganda of powerful interests has infiltrated the thinking of Western Society to the extent that well-meaning people feel compelled to adopt a contorted form of even-handedness regarding the questions of Israel and political Zionism. Even-handedness can never be appropriate in the context of ethnic segregation and other gross violations of the Fourth Geneva convention. Use of the term anti-Semitism, often to silence Israel’s critics, refers solely to anti-Jewish bias and that in itself is anti-Semitic because such use deliberately excludes the majority of Semitic peoples. Semitic languages are spoken in much of the Middle East and the Horn of Africa. The most widely spoken of the Semitic languages today is Arabic; ancient Arabic and Hebrew were dialects of Canaanite Aramaic. Anti-Semitism is a European sickness and has long been directed against both Jews and Arabs. European colonialism fuelled contempt for Arabs and political Zionism proceeds from the same assumptions of Arab inferiority. An examination of the assumptions that lie behind the West’s attitude to Israel follows:
Assumption 1 – forced exodus: Following a Parliamentary trip to Israel and the Palestinian West Bank this year former New Zealand Prime Minister, Phil Goff, now Labour spokesperson on foreign affairs and trade, wrote an article entitled Chance for peace in Palestine should be grasped. At the start of his article Goff wrote “After centuries of persecution of Jews in the diaspora, culminating in the Nazi murder of six million Jews during the Second World War, their desire for a state of their own was understandable.” No reputable historian has found evidence to support the myth that the Romans forced the Jewish people into exile (the diaspora) from what is now known as the Middle East. The colonising of the indigenous Palestinian’s land, the destruction of villages and the removal of the inhabitants into refugee camps and exile upon the pretext of a supposed 2000-year-old historical event is unjustifiable and irrational. The Zionist plan to colonise other people’s lands came long before the Holocaust of course and the racist European colonial mentality, taken up by Zionism, in effect transferred the onus for the crimes of Nazism onto the Palestinian people.
Assumption 2 – The Six Day War; that the existence of Israel was at stake: The article stated “When Israel launched the six-day war in 1967 it did so in the belief that its existence was threatened by universally hostile neighbours whose aim was to destroy the state of Israel.” As with the so-called forced exodus, the historical assumption is not supported by the facts. First of all the Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin actually admitted in a speech to the National Defence College in 1982 that Israel’s war on Egypt in 1956 was a matter of choice. Begin said “In June 1967 we again had a choice. The Egyptian army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack . . . We did not do this for lack of an alternative. We could have gone on waiting. We could have sent the army home. Who knows if there would have been an attack against us? There is no proof of it.”
The Israeli people may have been told, as was indeed the rest of the world, that the Zionist State’s existence was threatened by Egypt, but the Israeli government knew better. So did the CIA. A CIA assessment on 23 May 1967 was presented to President Lyndon Johnson stating that Israel could “defend successfully against simultaneous Arab attacks on all fronts … or hold on any three fronts while mounting successfully a major offensive on the fourth.” A future Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, told Le Monde on 28 February 1968, “I do not think Nasser wanted war. The two divisions he sent to the Sinai would not have been sufficient to launch an offensive war. He knew it and we knew it.” http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2010/07/04/israels-attack-on-egypt-in-june-67-was-not-preemptive/ In the aftermath of Israel’s Six Day War and the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, ten additional UNWRA refugee camps were established to accommodate a new wave of displaced persons, both refugees and non-refugees. The Zionist project had completed one more stage.
Assumption 3 – Israel must be an ethnically pure state: The Chance for peace article repeated the ethnic balance arguments that are commonly expressed in support of Israel: “If Israel annexed the West Bank the Arab population in the wider Israel would soon approach that of the Jewish population with the Palestinian population growing faster.” The United Nations partition plan proposed an Israeli state on 55% of Mandate Palestine but Israel continues to expand (the Zionist State refuses to declare its borders) and Israeli control of 61% of the West Bank (Area ‘C’) enables settlements to continue to expand and build ethnically segregated Jewish-only roads to divide Palestinian land. Israel has illegally settled more than 500,000 Jewish Israelis in East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank in violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention which prohibits the transfer of an occupying power’s civilian population into occupied territory. Such actions have no moral or legal justification. Similarly Israel’s annexation Wall (ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice) that Israel calls a ‘separation barrier’ continues to divide Palestinian communities from each other and from their agriculture.
The article continues “The very essence of Israel is that it is a Jewish state. It could not remain so if it absorbed the Arab population, according them equal rights.” When it comes to discussing the nature and purpose of Israel, Goff echoes the Western practice of referring to the indigenous people as Arabs rather than Palestinians. But where in international law is it acceptable for any state to define itself as the state of one ethnic group above all others? He goes on to say, “Expelling non-Jews or creating an apartheid state where some citizens had lesser rights would be utterly unacceptable.” It certainly is unacceptable to most people but the West has stood by while Palestinian villages have been obliterated and millions of Palestinians have been consigned to refugee camps. A large number of United Nations reports reveal the ethnic discrimination that prevails in Israel, especially in annexed East Jerusalem.
Assumption 4 – What Israel requires is paramount: Phil Goff comments “A unified and secular state might in principle be a proper solution to this problem but Israel will not allow that to happen.” Israel will not allow that to happen! End of argument apparently. This is the ultimate give away of Western assumptions and thinking. The only sane solution is dismissed because Zionism objects. The fact that accommodating Israeli intransigence for over 60 years has been counter-productive is apparently not even worth debate. All hope therefore of an end to ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, their imprisonment without charge or trial, the destruction of their homes, night home invasions and abductions of children, the cessation of the deliberate uprooting of olive trees and attacks on fishing boats must be abandoned apparently because Israel will not allow that to happen! It is easy to understand why negotiations have been fruitless. Just as Israel’s continual settlement expansion represents bad faith in negotiating a peaceful outcome, so does unconditional Western support for Israel. This colossal injustice fuels instability. But Western politicians and the corporate news media seem addicted to the process. In a world with sane, intelligent leadership it would be unacceptable and the fact that it has been with us for over half a century is an indictment of generations of political leaders.
Assumption 5 – Israel and Zionism speak for all Jews: Phil Goff tells us “As I went through Yad Vashem, the Israeli holocaust museum, I shed a tear for the brutal inhumanity towards and suffering of the Jewish people.” How many visitors shed a tear for the ethnically cleansed Palestinian village of Deir Yassin? A group calling itself Righteous Jews (http://righteousjews.org/) that established itself in 2003 felt that it was a way for its members “to commemorate the memory of those Palestinians who have been, and continue to be depopulated, dispossessed, humiliated, tortured, and murdered in the name of political Zionism and its quest to create a Jewish state in the lands between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River.” Righteous Jews tells us that its founding was inspired by the website of the Holocaust museum at Yad Vashem, located on Mount Herzl on the land of the Palestinian village of Ein Karem, 1400 metres south of the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin. Yad Vashem lists the names of non-Jews who risked their lives, freedom, and safety in order to rescue one or several Jews from the threat of death or deportation to death camps. For many years this list was referred to as the list of ‘Righteous Gentiles’ the list is now called “Righteous Among the Nations’. According to Righteous Jews “Deir Yassin is as important a part of Jewish, as it is of Palestinian, history. Deir Yassin, coming in April 1948, just three years after the liberation of Auschwitz in January 1945, marks a Jewish transition from enslavement to empowerment and from abused to abuser. Can there ever have been such a remarkable shift, over such a short period, in the history of a people?”
“Deir Yassin signalled the ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinians leading to their eventual dispossession and exile and was just one example of a conscious and premeditated plan to destroy the Palestinians as a people in their own homeland. “ . . . since the establishment of the state of Israel, successive Israeli governments whether Labour or Likud, and whether by force as at Deir Yassin, or by chicanery as at Oslo and Camp David, have followed the same policy of oppressing and dispossessing Palestinians to make way for an exclusively Jewish state. Even now, when Israel could have peace and security for the asking, Israeli governments persist in their original intention of conquering the whole of Palestine for the use of the Jewish people alone. And all this was done, and is still being done, by Jews, for Jews and in the name of Jews.” http://www.righteousjews.org/article23.html The group lists, among the many people it calls ‘Our Initial List of Righteous Jews’, Albert Einstein, Amira Hass, Anna Baltzer, Antony Loewenstein, Gideon Levy, Hedy Epstein, Ilan Pappe, Jeff Halper, Jennifer Lowenstein, Lenni Brenner, Miko Peled, Norman Finkelstein, Richard Falk, Tanya Reinhart and Yehudi Menuhin. All have worked to expose the evils of the practise and ideology of political Zionism.
More than half the global Jewish population chooses not to live in Israel and at present many young Israelis consider Berlin to be a fashionable and cool place to hang out. The Zionist claim that only in an exclusively Jewish state could Jews live free from persecution is manifestly disproved – but at a terrible cost to both Jews and non-Jews.
Assumption 6 – It is only Palestinians that are violent: In any discussion of violence in the context of Israel and Palestine it is only ever Palestinian violence that is condemned. The term violence is used five times in Goff’s article but never with reference to Israel. Many people, in spite of the goodwill and humanity in their souls simply cannot see how far Zionist propaganda has entered their psyche. The final reference to violence in the article reads, “If the threat of violence against Jewish people is removed, Israel has little justification to continue its hard line against the Palestinians” is a good example of the thinking. There are two elements in this statement. The first is ‘violence’ and the second is ‘Jewish people’.
Taking the term ‘violence’ first, the Israeli Occupation, blockade, land theft, sabotage of the Gaza fishing industry, bulldozing of crops, imposition of ethnically segregated roads, relentless home invasions (often in the middle of the night – with the abductions of minors as young as 11 this year) is somewhat more than what one could call ‘hard line’. If the Palestinians were to inflict a fraction of such suffering upon Israel it would be reported in our news media with outrage and banner headlines and it would certainly be referred to as violence. But Israel has no intention of fostering non-violence. Most non-violent Palestinian protests are met with Israeli violence, usually in the form of rubber-coated bullets, tear gas and stun grenades and clubs and rifle butts. Sometime the Israeli Army uses live fire against protesters. But Western news media and politicians never refer to Israeli ‘violence’ even in the context of air raids in which homes are destroyed and children killed and maimed. The term violence is censored whenever the perpetrator is Israel.
The second element in the statement ‘Jewish people’ prompts the question why not use the name of the Occupying power, Israel? It is the belligerent Occupation perpetrated by the Israeli state that prompts armed Palestinian resistance. Undeniably, Zionism implicates Jewish people in Israeli violence because the ideology arrogantly claims to speak for all Jews. That is why so many Jewish people refute Zionist ideology, oppose Israeli violence and risk abuse and physical danger through their steadfast support for Palestinian human rights.
Assumption 7: That ‘negotiations’ and the Oslo Accords are the path to peace. Phil Goff wrote in his article that “The parameters of the solution have already been set out in the numerous initiatives taken over the last twenty years, including the Oslo Accords, the Arab Initiative and the renewal of the peace process at Annapolis in 2007. In return for a guarantee of peace and secure borders for Israel, the Palestinians must have a state which is economically and politically viable.” Note the omission – “In return for a guarantee of peace and secure borders for Israel” yet no mention of secure borders for Palestine! Indeed, one of Israel’s pre-conditions in the so-called negotiations with the Palestinians is that Palestine must remain defenceless (Israel terms it ‘demilitarised’) and with no Palestinian sovereignty over Palestinian air space or coastal waters. Which brings us to the nonsensical Oslo Accords that have served no purpose other than to enable Israel to buy time to annex more Palestinian land and resources. From 1916 to 1948 the Jewish National Fund (JNF) purchased 6% of Palestinian land near Jerusalem and from 1929 to 1947 30% of Palestine was lost due to registration regulations imposed by Britain and Zionist organisations. In 1947 the UN Partition plan cost the Palestinian people a further 55% of their land. In 1948 the Palestinian loss of homeland amounted to 70%. The Six Day War and interminable and fruitless so called negotiations have resulted in a total loss of at least 85% of Palestinian land. Palestinians have to live with the consequences of Israeli-imposed restrictions of access to land, annexation and settlement expansion. Over the past three years or so, that is since Prime Minister Netanyahu was elected, the Israeli population in the West Bank has grown by 18%.
Assumption 8 – ‘Final status issues’ take precedence over observance of international law and UN Resolutions. Reflecting orthodox Western attitudes towards Israel and the Palestinians, the article states simply, “Israeli justification of their harsh treatment of Palestinians and disproportionate reaction to Hamas missile strikes in the Gaza is that Palestinian militants pose a threat to the security of their people. Any form of terrorist action against civilians such as suicide bombers and rocket attacks deserves condemnation. There is no justification for the taking of innocent lives. Hamas must change its position and Iran must stop its support for violence by Hamas and the Hizbollah. Israel is right to condemn terrorism”. Note the language employed here: “harsh” treatment by Israel but “terrorist action against civilians” by Palestinians. The death toll of Palestinians compared with Israelis is about a hundred to one. Is it not state terrorism when children are killed in their homes by the Israeli air force? Harsh treatment?! Goff is absolutely right when he writes “There is no justification for the taking of innocent lives.” The article echoes the West’s view that “Hamas must change its position and Iran must stop its support for violence by Hamas and the Hizbollah”. Does that mean that Hamas was wrong in declaring its recognition of Israel’s 1967 frontier, basing proposals for open ended cease-fires based upon such recognition? “Iran must stop its support for violence”, says the article while there is no suggestion that the US must stop the arms supplies and diplomatic support that make Israeli violence so unstoppable. But then of course, Western politicians and news media never acknowledge that Israel is violent. For them, Israel only ever responds to violence. What initiated the violence? Was it Palestine that colonised Israel? Of course not.
Establishing peace with justice
To his credit, Phil Goff acknowledged in his article that Israeli settlements violate the Fourth Geneva Convention. He also writes, “The final status issues such as the status of East Jerusalem, right of return for refugees and water won’t be easy to resolve.” Zionism dictates that Jews born anywhere in the world may ‘return to Israel’ but rejects the UN sponsored right of ethnically-cleansed Palestinians to return to their homes and villages. The demand that a defenceless, belligerently occupied population (recognised as such in international law) must negotiate under duress with its oppressor is unprecedented. The outrage is even more egregious when the elected representatives of the victims are not even allowed to be party to such ‘negotiations’. As we have seen, the so-called peace process is in thrall to Israel’s ideological pre-conditions. Zionism is the last to survive of the 20th century state-sponsored ideologies of ethnic separation – it took a world war and the anti-apartheid movement to get rid of the others. The lessons of the Nazi Holocaust teach us that theories of ethnic ‘apartness’ lead to cruel acts of inhumanity, and pandering to Zionist demands can only compound that suffering and betray its victims. A rational solution, therefore, must be sought elsewhere.
Reference to the Fourth Geneva Convention points the way to one of two complementary pathways to a sustainable and harmonious solution. The first is the application of international law. The international community must require of Israel that it respect and abide by hard-won, established, international law, under threat of sanctions for non-compliance. The second, most essential element, referred to by Phil Goff, is what he called “People to people relationships”. Disappointingly, he also declared that these relationships “scarcely exist”. That is a measure of the influence of the assumptions that dominate the debate. Like so many other well-meaning people, many of our Parliamentarians seems to be unaware of the powerful grass roots relations that have formed both between Palestinians and Israelis and the wider Jewish and non-Jewish communities. It would come as a surprise therefore for many people to learn, for example, that there are courageous Israeli women who risk their liberty when they smuggle Palestinian women into Israel to enjoy a day at the seaside.
Both within Israel and beyond, organisations and individuals opposed to racial discrimination are working for change. Holocaust survivor, Hedy Epstein, who never saw her family again after they had managed to find a way out for her on a children’s transport to Britain. Actors, such as Miriam Margolyes and Warren Mitchell, comedian Alexei Sayle, Israeli Jazz musician Gilad Atzmon, are just a very few of large numbers of prominent individuals whose voices should be listened to.
In a letter to the Anglican Church Times welcoming a decision by the Church of England General Synod to support the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), the secretary of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) in Aberystwyth, Elizabeth Morley, wrote “I have friends both in the West Bank and in Israel who tell me how invaluable is the work they do. And I have friends in the UK who have been accompaniers. So you could say I am biased. I am also Jewish and if I wanted, I could make Aliyah. But I believe it would be wrong to do so because non-Jews have been ethnically cleansed from Palestine to make way for people like me who have no family connections on that land. My great-grandparents and other members of my family who did not survive the Holocaust would not want me to do that, I am sure.”
Then there are the countless organisations, among them:
Jewish Voice for Peace http://jewishvoiceforpeace.org/
The International Women’s Peace Service (IWPS) http://iwps.info/
Jews for Justice in the Middle East http://ifamericansknew.org/history/origin.html
Rabbis for Palestine http://www.rabbisforpalestine.org/
Neturei Karta rabbis http://www.nkusa.org/
ICAHD The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions http://www.icahd.org/
Gush Shalom http://www.gush-shalom.org/
Other women’s peace movements in Israel http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/peace-movements-in-israel
BDS – the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign http://www.bdsmovement.net/
Sharing the Land of Canaan
There are many views represented above but together they offer far greater hope for humanity than the sterile and meaningless so-called ‘peace process’ fostered by the great powers and Israel. Their voices cannot be ignored forever. The Palestinian author and activist, US citizen, Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh has written a book called Sharing the Land of Canaan http://www.qumsiyeh.org/sharingthelandofcanaan/. In the 1990s he worked for the rights of refugees and by 1999 had helped to collect 750,000 signatures for the Palestinian Right of Return. His experience and the positive results were an example to everyone of how action on the ground could change public perceptions. The book reminds us of how the people once coexisted with differing religious beliefs and how racism irrationally distorts our understanding. The question of Palestinian refugees makes notions of segregation/separation impossible. As Mazin points out “It is the basic and elemental right of Palestinians 11.5 million of us, 7 million of us are refugees or displaced people. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) provides a base for a real road map to a durable peace”. The book deals with the future of the the environment, water, other natural resources and the tourism industry. The geographical and economical realities argue strongly against separation and segregation.
The dominance of power politics, allied with outdated ideology, at fearful cost, has betrayed us all. Therefore it is not unreasonable to ask that other, more representative voices be listened to and the debate widened to give sustainable peace a chance based on the rational observance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international law.
Leslie Bravery – 16 July 2012