It is a truism that the conflict in the Middle East between the Israelis and the Palestinians has a long and deep history. This truism is false, as are most of the commonly accepted "facts" about this struggle.
These "facts" that so many Americans take for granted are the stock in trade of an incredibly successful propaganda campaign that has been carried out by the Zionist public relations machinery known in Israel by the Hebrew term "hasbara," and in the US as the Israel Lobby.
The truth is that Jews and Muslims, in Palestine and everywhere else in the Middle East, got along rather well for many hundreds of years. That is, until a large number of Jewish immigrants began showing up starting in the latter half of the 19th Century, thanks to an ideology known as Zionism. This ideology was rooted partly in the mytho-history of the Jewish people, but was more directly the result of a long standing pattern of European discrimination against Jews which you're probably well aware of
The original notion of Theodor Hertzl, considered the father of Zionism, was that the Jewish people would never be safe and secure until they had a nation-state of their own. The idea had broad appeal among Jews, and many others as well, although there were several practical objections, the greatest of which was that there was no longer any large tract of unclaimed land in the world.
There was serious discussion about acquiring a sufficiently large chunk of land in some country or other, somewhere. Various places, such as Argentina, Uganda, even Madagascar were considered. But the idea of a return to Palestine had already taken hold, mostly among Jews from Eastern Europe, where the situation for Jews was the harshest and most precarious. It was, after all, the land that the Jews historically came from, and was the principal locale of most of the tales from the Old Testament, containing all of the old stories and myths that had been handed down through the generations that were eventually collected into a book we call the Bible. And there was this saying in Yiddish, the language of the Central and Eastern European Jews, "next year in Jerusalem," which meant something like it has to get better than this.
Although this idea of settling the Jews in Palestine had lots of appeal, from all sides of the political spectrum, at least in Europe and the United States, there was still a serious problem. The land was already settled. People lived there, and had lived there from time out of mind. They weren't likely to take kindly to the idea of a bunch of foreigners suddenly showing up and taking over. How would you feel about it?
But from the perspective of the 19th Century European world, this was not an insuperable obstacle. After all, this was at the height of European colonization of Africa and much of the rest of the world, the great race for Empire, the time of the white man's burden, and the general view was that the Jews would have a "civilizing" influence on this historically troublesome area so close to Europe. And for many Europeans, it was also considered a convenient way to get rid of a lot of Jews
Well, the Palestiniians, who were a mixture of Muslims, Christians and Jews, primarily, had become a very accommodating and tolerant group over the centuries, and at first things went rather smoothly. But towards the turn of the century the trickle of immigrants had become a flood, and alarm bells started going off among the locals. It was at this point that the so-called "historical" antagonism actually began, only about a hundred years ago. And, under the circumstances, it was perfectly understandable. It was a bit like Reconstruction in the South after the Civil War, when a lot of Yankees, people like myself perhaps, moved South and started buying up everything and pushing their weight around. Well, the locals didn't take kindly to that either. Imagine, though, that it wasn't just a few thousand Yankees, but a hundred thousand, a million, and then you'll really get the idea.
By the time that the Nazi Party took over Germany in the early 1930's, there was a substantial Jewish population in Palestine, and there was considerable disagreement among the Zionists at the time about how to proceed from there. There were basically two camps. There were the cultural, or spiritual, Zionists, the majority, who tended to be well educated, liberal and idealistic, but most of them remained in Europe and had no intention of leaving, and most of those who did leave went to America, not Palestine. They were motivated by rather high-minded notions of a sort of Jewish renaissance taking place in the new land, a realization of the forward looking ideals and humanistic culture of the European Jewish elite, who were far more influenced by the European enlightenment traditions of tolerance and democracy than by any religious or ethnic exclusiveness.
Then there were those people who became known as the political Zionists. They were a distinct minority of the Zionists of that time, but they were all recent immigrants to Palestine, and they were determined to carve out a Jewish state, no matter what it took. They were not scrupulous about ways and means, and they had no intention whatsoever of sharing the land with their neighbors. Their intellectual leader was a fellow named Jabotinsky, and if you read his words, or, for that matter, any of the subsequent prime ministers of the State of Israel, starting with David Ben-Gurion all the way up to the current one, Mr. Olmert, you will realize that they had no illusions about what would be required to establish and maintain a Jewish state, nor do they now.
The cultural Zionists were in favor of what was called a bi-national state, one in which the cultural identity of the Jewish population would be somehow preserved and protected, but in a union with the indigenous population. But the political Zionists weren't having any of that. They knew what they had to do, which, as they saw it, was to get rid of the non-Jews, by whatever means were necessary. Nowadays, we refer to this policy as ethnic cleansing, and if it's extreme, comprehensive and violent enough, it is referred to as genocide. This has been the policy of the political Zionists from the git-go, and it has remained the policy of the State of Israel since it was established in 1948.
The name for this form of extreme nationalism, combined with a partnership between the government and the corporate elite, is Fascism. It was something that the political Zionists learned from the masters, an example of a curious psychological phenomenon in which the victim, in order to bear his suffering, becomes the very image of the victimizer. They learned their part well. The Third Reich lasted only 12 years; the Zionist state has been in existence 57 years, and counting.
Here's a little know fact. There is ample evidence that there was close collaboration between the Zionists in Palestine and the Nazi government which started in the 30's and continued well into the 2nd World War. The Zionists weren't squeamish about how they were going to populate their new state. So they made deals with the Nazis in order to get young, healthy Jews to emigrate. They admired one another, the Nazis and the Zionists - after all, they believed basically in the same things, and they had the same contempt for people they considered weaklings and sentimentalists, people we would call humanists and idealists.
One of the great hasbara talking points (Zionist propaganda if you've forgotten) is that the poor, little, weak embryonic Jewish state was attacked by hordes of Arabs as soon as the United Nations, in its wisdom, gave the go ahead in 1947. This is the great David vs. Goliath myth. In fact, the Jews were totally prepared for it, and had all the advantages of a technologically advanced, and extremely well-organized military force in place and ready. The Arabs never stood a chance, for reasons that are very well documented. It was a walkover, as have been all the wars between Israel and its neighbors.
One observer recently made an interesting analogy. He compared Israel to an organ transplant. From a medical point of view, aside from the surgery itself, which attempts to graft the foreign organ onto the host body, the most important task is to do everything possible to prevent the host from rejecting the transplant. One would expect, then, that if the Jews who colonized Palestine were a rational, sane bunch of people, they would have done all they could to make their presence acceptable to the people already living there. Instead, they did something that to a reasonable onlooker was totally insane. They made no such effort; rather, they violently rejected the host. The eventual outcome of such an operation could be nothing other than disastrous.
By the way, if you're really interested, everything I'm saying has been thoroughly researched by a number of writers and historians, many of them Israeli. You will find a good selection of such resources on my website. You will find that a large number of these writers, like myself, are Jewish. The Zionists claim to speak for "world Jewry," but if it weren't for the fear and hatred they have managed to instill in their own population, it's highly unlikely they would speak even for the majority of Israelis, who are, after all, just people, like you and me. They just want to live their lives, like everyone else, but they find themselves in a terrible bind, a state of perpetual conflict that serves the interests of no one, except perhaps a small elite of professional Zionists, both in Israel and in this country.
I was discussing all this recently with a friend of mine, who brought up the usual, predictable arguments in favor of the "special" case of the Jews as a rationale for supporting the State of Israel, no matter what unfortunately vile methods had to be used to maintain it. He was going on about how extraordinary the Jewish people are, the great contributions they've made to history, and so on and so forth. I certainly agreed with that part, but then I suggested a test for him.
I said, "name one Jew of world renown, someone highly respected, a writer, a scientist, a philosopher, an artist, a jurist, anyone who embodies that well-deserved reputation that many extraordinary Jews have earned over the centuries - name one, since 1948, who is a Zionist, who supports the State of Israel. Name one." And then I just looked at him. I said "I can name dozens who didn't, who don't, who are, or were before they died, anti-Zionists. Starting with Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, the great philosophers Martin Buber and Hannah Arendt, and so on." Well, he just looked at me, and then he said, "You know, I'll have to think about that." I challenge anyone in this audience to name one. Good luck.
All that I've said up till now has been by way of background, a very brief and perhaps superficial recap of recent history. In essence, a 19th Century anachronism, a European colonialist, arguably fascist, racist, apartheid state took root in the 20th Century in an extremely sensitive part of the world - as it happens, in the heart of the Islamic world. Until this happened, the world of Islam, in Arabic called the Umma, wasn't all that interested in the world outside. The muslims have for centuries been preoccupied with their own internecine warfare, primarily between the Sunnis and the Shi'a. That conflict, somewhat reminiscent of the feud between the Hatfields and the McKoys, is still being fought out, but in very recent years a sense of unity, of a shared identity, has arisen in the Umma, in direct response to the existence and actions of the State of Israel. It has given rise both to Islamism, a political ideology which is the mirror image of Zionism, and to Islamic fundamentalism, which prior to Israel's existence was a small, almost non-existent cult scattered here and there in the Islamic hinterlands.
The recent Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the second one, and the ensuing, surprisingly vigorous and tenacious response of Hizbullah, opened the eyes of many. The easy victories are over, it would seem, and the Israelis are getting nervous, as well they should. Hizbullah, a Lebanese Shi'ite organization, and Hamas, a Palestinian primarily Sunni outfit, fully cooperated with each other. This is a new development, and one that bodes ill for the Jewish state, which, like the United States in Vietnam, or in Iraq for that matter, has overwhelming conventional military superiority, but is ill-equipped to fight what is called a 4th generation war, against a determined, totally committed unconventional force fighting a foreign interloper for what it sees as national survival and freedom from a would-be conqueror.
So where does all this leave us? Well, it's a mess. Everybody knows that. Is there a way out? Here are the options that people have talked about. There are four of them. The first is simply a continuation of the current situation. Nobody wants that, aside from the arms manufacturers and suchlike, and the Christian Zionist whackos intent on bringing on the Rapture, so we'll dispense with that one.
That leaves three possibilities. Let's discuss the bi-national solution, the idea of two semi-autonomous provinces or cantons. This is sometimes referred to as the Belgian solution, because it's a handy example of a country consisting of two groups, with two different religions, ethnicity and languages. But the analogy breaks down when you look at it closely. For one thing, the Belgians were and are conveniently separated geographically. That is not the case in Israel/Palestine. If you look at a good map, you'll find that the two peoples, although there are large concentrations in certain areas, are inextricably mixed in much of the land. Moreover, most of the land currently settled by Jews is claimed, with considerable justification, by the Palestinians who were "cleansed" from those areas. Another consideration is the fact that the Israelis have created certain "facts on the ground" that make any coherent Palestinian entity impossible.
If I had the money, if I had any money, I'd buy a whole bunch of copies of an extraordinary book called "Obstacles to Peace: A Critical Tour of the Jerusalem/West Bank Interface." It was written by a fellow named Jeff Halper, a Jew from Minnesota who moved to Israel more than twenty years ago. He is a professor of anthropology at an Israeli university. Mr. Halper started an organization called ICAHD, the Israeli Committee Against Housing Demolitions. He and his friends, both Israelis and Palestinians, go in after the IDF, the Israeli Defence Force, or some gang of settler fanatics as often as not, have bulldozed a Palestinian home, something that happens all the time. They go in and rebuild it. Mr. Halper was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by the American Friends Service Committee, themselves recipients of the prize a few years back.
Jeff Halper, and his Palestinian co-author, have given us a demonstration of the old Chinese saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. Using mapping software, the book contains numerous exquisitely detailed maps of the West Bank. Anyone with half a brain who looks at those maps will understand why we one-staters say emphatically that a bi-national state, let alone the two-state solution, is just a fantasy, carefully perpetuated by the Israelis and the US government as a smokescreen, and by many Palestinians themselves as part of their unfortunate legacy from Yassir Arafat.
If you look at the maps, you'll see that the Israelis have built a pervasive and permanent infrastructure that looks remarkably like four large concentration camps. The network of roads, barbed wire, obstacles and so forth allow the Israelis to efficiently patrol and control the captive populations with no other way in or out except through Israeli roadblocks and transit points. And even within these Bantustans there are further networks of roads and roadblocks, so that the Palestinians can barely move about outside their local neighborhoods. Not only that, but the Israelis control all of the water and all the electricity generation, not to mention the arable land.
The Israelis have also built large, strategically placed urban settlements throughout the West Bank, which double as fortresses, just in case. And as a final, rather artistic touch, they allow the prison inmates to administer the prison, and at their own expense. Currently, the inmate administration is totally broke and helpless, thanks to the election victory of Hamas, as a result of which the subsistence handouts from the Europeans and Americans have been suspended, but that will soon be resolved. Otherwise, the Israelis will have no choice but to take responsibility for their captives, and that is one thing they are unlikely to do.
If, based on the reality that exists, one rejects the pleasant, but hallucinatory, visions of a bi-national state, or two states, what are we left with? The One State Solution. But it's not as simple as it sounds. What we have now is, after all, one state. It's an apartheid state, complete with Bantustans, just like the old South Africa, which is an interesting and very instructive case in point, but the fiction of its being merely a temporary occupation is carefully maintained. What is the purpose of that? Well, as we have already shown, the long-term Zionist policy has been one of cleansing "Greater Israel" of its unwanted Palestinian population. Given the constraints that exist in the modern world, which prevent the Israelis from simply removing the inhabitants by force, much as they would like to, the policy is, and always has been, to render the occupied territories uninhabitable - to make life there so miserable, so intolerable that the people will, sooner or later, have to leave of their own accord.
Left to their own devices the Israelis would probably get away with it. But the world is not going to ignore what goes on there. What happens in this little out of the way corner of the world is front page news, pretty much every day, everywhere. Not only the entire Islamic world, not to mention most of the 2nd and 3rd world countries, but much of the developed world isn't buying it anymore. And the spotlight is not going to go away.
The Israelis have had two things going for them. Otherwise, they would never have lasted so long. First, one indispensable Israeli ally, has been, surprisingly, the "terrorists." It is ironic that the Zionists pretty much invented Middle East terrorism. Just ask those who remember when they blew up the administrative headquarters of the British Mandate, the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. Or the terrified Palestinians who fled the Jewish paramilitaries in the early days, who numbered in the hundreds of thousands, and are now refugees and exiles both within and outside the borders.
Anyway, the Palestinians responded with terrorism of their own, which turned out to be a self-defeating tactic. It might frighten the hell out of the Israelis when someone blows up a bunch of people in Tel Aviv, but what the Israelis gain in worldwide sympathy far outweighs the seeming benefit of that. The Palestinians are slowly but surely beginning to learn that lesson. Suicide attacks have lessened enormously in Israel in recent times, and will likely continue to do so. This is especially so since the Hamas victory. It's very different when you're sitting in the seat of government than when you're a guerrilla organization operating underground. Islamic Jihad will no doubt continue to commit such obscenities from time to time, but they are a small and marginal group with little widespread support.
And the other ally, as we all know, is America, which has provided its whole-hearted support from the beginning, no matter which party has been in power. It is generally conceded that the State of Israel wouldn't last a month without US support. It would take a whole other talk to go into the whys and wherefores of how that came about, but let's just mention that the Israel lobby is held in awe by all the other lobbyists on Capitol Hill. You have to hand it to them; they're good - easily the most effective special interest group, dollar for dollar, that roams the hallways of Congress, or, for that matter, effectively controls the mass media.
But for how much longer is the question. It is beginning to dawn on even the dimmest minds in Congress and the Pentagon that the return on investment has been extremely disappointing. In fact, it's been a losing proposition from the beginning, although for a while there the Empire dreamers thought that the Israelis were doing their job as our little proxy in the Middle East, demonstrating the beneficent values of democracy while helping to ensure the continuing flow of Middle East oil. But ever since 1973, the year of the first oil embargo, this theory has looked more and more doubtful. Ever since, in fact, to many observers it has looked like the tail has been wagging the dog, getting Uncle Sam, at the other end of the leash, into deeper and deeper shit all the time.
Eventually, Americans are going to wake up, at least enough to start looking a little more closely at this dubious alliance, which is costing us thousands of lives in Afghanistan and Iraq, and considerable treasure. When this happens, and I think it is our job to see that it happens sooner than later, the fragile underpinnings of the Zionist state will begin to give way. It's always been on thin ice, and now it's just beginning to crack.
So what about the last option, the One State Solution? Well, it's obvious, isn't it? I have yet to talk with any well-informed, well-intentioned observer who doesn't concede that it would be the best solution. But the argument usually goes that it just can't happen, followed by a series of now all too familiar, but unconvincing reasons why that is so. I, and many others, believe the contrary, that it has to happen; there is no other way.
And what's wrong with it, for goodness sake? For starters, a democratic, secular pluralistic state is, and has been for a long time, the gold standard for modern nation-states. It is regarded, almost universally, as the preferred model. So why not there, between the river and the sea, as they say? The alternatives appear to be a never ending bloodbath that could easily turn into a worldwide conflict, or, the other possibility, an inexorable and excruciating process of ethnic cleansing that the world simply will not continue to tolerate.
And when one looks at the One State Solution carefully, one sees that most all of the seemingly intractable issues; the status of Jerusalem for example, just disappear with this scenario. And the Zionists get to settle anywhere they like in the Promised Land, fulfilling the sanest part of their nationalist racial dream. Even the Palestinian Right of Return becomes just another political issue to be worked out as one of the inevitable compromises that are the lifeblood of genuine democracies. And finally, Israel, or Palestine, or whatever it comes to be called, will take its place as a respected nation among the others, rather than a millstone around everyone's neck.
Rodney King asked, "Can't we all just get along?" Yes, we can, if we set our hearts and minds to the task. Let us not forget the real anniversary that happened on 9/11. I'm not talking about the Al Quaeda attacks, which, as terrible and bloody as they were, were the work, at least apparently, though the jury is still out, of a small bunch of fanatics on the run. In historic terms, given the numerous and horrendous acts of violence across recorded history, that was small potatoes. No, I'm speaking of the fact that it was the 100th anniversary of the launching of satyagraha, the great campaign of non-violent resistance inaugurated on that day, in South Africa, by Mohandes Gandhi, which eventually led to the independence of India from the British Empire, and later on, the civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King. That is an anniversary well worth remembering.
Sept 28, 2007