Israel and Racism:
Inseparable Allies or Myth?
M. Junaid Alam
The history of Israel and its repercussions for the surrounding Arab community have often been obfuscated. The purpose of debunking myths that surround this issue is not to deny Israel's right to exist; it is to cut down false notions about how it came into existence, as this features heavily into pro-Israeli expansionist thinking.
Displacement and Destruction
The Zionists claim that the entire region of ancient Israel is simply theirs for the taking because of a religious decree handed down by God to Moses himself. The land must be "redeemed" and "purified". The former head rabbi of Israel's army proclaimed in 1994 that "The command to settle the land of Israel is greater than all the commandments put together." But what of the people already inhabiting these lands? Here too, the Zionists claim that the land was actually empty.
Yet apparently, this was more than a denial of the objective fact that people inhabited the region, as horrible as that already was-it reflected a sense that the inhabiting population was simply irrelevant. Golda Meir, the Israeli PM of 1969 declared, "There was no such thing as a Palestinian people…It was not as though there was a Palestinian people considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist."
David Horowitz, a fierce right-winger, recently added, "The Arabs were largely nomads who had no distinctive language or culture separate from other Arabs…they had made no distinctive independent Palestinian state…" The logic here is perverse. Apparently, a people do not "exist" so long as they do not declare themselves members of a modern nation-state, wherever they may be. Since when does the lack of a national flag or a nationally-declared favorite fruit rob a people of the right to their land? Did the Jews, who had no specific homeland and no nation-state for some two thousand years, have no right to their existence or identity for this same absurd 'reason'? None of us would answer in the affirmative, but sadly the same cannot be said for the Zionist attitude towards the Palestinians.
The fact of the matter is that the people of historical Palestine did exist. Their roots are derived from the ancient Canaanite population and the Muslim and Christian Arab peoples who jointly conquered Palestine from Byzantium in 637 A.D. In 1897, 93% of the inhabitants were Palestinian Arabs: 88% Muslim and 10% Christian. When the UN implemented its plan in 1948 to partition the country into Jewish and Arab sections, it allotted an 800% increase in Jewish land(from 7% to 55%), 45% decrease of Palestinian land, and instructed 33% of Palestinians to live under the domination of the new settlers. Naturally, this situation engendered serious instability and anger, the outcome of which was war.
Since the Zionist line depends on the non-existence of an entire people, it became necessary to rectify this "minor" ideological error by trying to remove the inhabitants themselves. That the Zionists had conceived expansionist plans even before Israel's birth is undeniable. In 1938, Ben-Gurion announced: "The state will only be a stage in the realization of Zionism and its purpose is to prepare the grounds for our expansion." This was reinforced in 1940 by Joseph Weitz, a leading Zionist who wrote: "There is no room for both peoples together in this country…To transfer all [the Arabs]; not one village, not one tribe should be left". The infamous "Keonig Report" puts the icing on this rotten cake with a truly disgusting flavor: "We must use terror, assassination, intimidation, land confiscation, and the cutting of all social services to rid the Galilee of its Arab population." This was the true nature of Zionism; this was the face of racism. This was only the beginning.
In 1948, 800,000 Palestinian villagers were forcibly expelled from their homes. Horowitz tells us that the Palestinian Arabs willingly left their homes in anticipation of a victorious Arab assault with the intent to return. And once again, history begs to differ. For in reality, the exodus began after a civil war between the Jews and Palestinians alone, which preceded the larger Arab-Israeli war. The result of this important first conflict was predetermined by British support of the Jewish settlers. In the 1920s, they trained their militia, provided economic grants, paid them higher wages than they did the Arabs for equal work, and even used the settlers to suppress and ultimately crush the Arab independence movement throughout the 1930s. Thusly the Zionist victory of '48 was not a result of abstract heroism, but support from a major world power. And this "heroism" included a terror campaign against the native population.
On July 12th and 13th of 1948, Ben-Gurion ordered his forces to remove the 50,000 residents of Lydda and Ramle. The inhabitants were stripped of their land, property, and personal belongings. Forced to abandon their livelihood, many died in the 100-degree scorching heat. Those who did survive this atrocity lived on only to find themselves in a squalid refugee camp described by a Swedish UN mediator in these terms: "I have made the acquaintance of a great many refugee camps, but never have I seen a more ghastly sight than that which met my eyes here at Ramallah." Months later, he was murdered by a Zionist gang headed by future Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzak Shamir.
Various tactics were used by Zionist militia, including psychological warfare that included radio broadcasts and loudspeakers sounding false warnings about strange epidemics. The illustrious leader Ben-Gurion, who was to become Israel's first Prime Minister, had his own ideas when it came to expropriating natives. He wrote "Deprived of transportation, food, and raw materials, the urban communities underwent a process of disintegration, chaos and hunger." But the list of famous Israeli "all-stars" in the war does not end here. Menachem Begin, another future Prime Minister of Israel, was personally involved in the hideous massacre of the inhabitants of Deir Yassin on April 9th, 1948, where 254 people were "deliberately massacred in cold blood" according to the Red Cross. Add to this list the famous IDF military commander, Moshe Dayan, who said in 1969: "We came here to a country that was populated by Arabs and we are building here a Hebrew, Jewish state. Instead of Arab villages, Jewish villages are established…There is not a single [Jewish] settlement that was not established in the place of a former Arab village."
Here, in the words of the colonizers themselves, is a mere sampling of their criminal role in displacing the native people. The introductory narration to the film Braveheart announced that "History is written by those who have hanged heroes." Today, modern Zionists defend Israeli "heroes" by hanging history.
So let us continue to loosen the noose. In 1967, Israel had annexed east Jerusalem in defiance of UN resolutions; 6500 Palestinian families were forced out, their homes and mosques razed to the ground. A UN committee sent to assess the damage reported the destruction of 48 Palestinian villages in the Occupied Territories of Gaza and the West Bank, a 1974 committee reported almost 20,000 homes destroyed since 1967, and by 1992, 200 illegal Jewish settlements had been built on stolen Palestinian land there. Not an inch of this land is free from Israeli military incursions or outright domination today.
The Brutality of Israeli Occupation
On top of major land expropriations, the Israelis have enforced a draconian policy of dehumanization upon the Palestinians. It is not enough to loot and rob a people-they must be degraded, humiliated, and stripped of their dignity. They are, after all, in the words of leading Israeli figures, "two-legged vermin, cockroaches, beasts walking on two legs, grasshoppers, vipers, and crocodiles." They are, in one word, animals.
One method of brutalizing the Palestinian populace is through severe torture by the Israeli secret police, or Shin Bet. Palestinian prisoners, who can be detained on any charge or no charge at all, are usually blindfolded, verbally abused, and then beaten. Further torture is then applied, even to small children. In 1991, Israeli human rights group B'Tselem estimated that over 400 Palestinians received this kind of treatment every month. But of course, animals need to be subdued and controlled. They cannot be allowed to commit heinous crimes such as raising their flag or throwing stones against a militarized murder machine, acts for which they are often beaten and tortured. Stripped of any real legal rights under military occupation, the Palestinians are subject to Israel's mercy, of which there is seemingly little.
Prisoners in their own homeland, the Palestinians face the daily horrors of interminable checkpoints, blockades, and curfews. Amira Hass, writing for Israel's Haaretz Daily newspaper, once explained that "the lack of medical supplies, such as oxygen tanks, is a daily, desperate routine in hospitals. Cooking gas and fuel and even drinking water routinely run out. Suppliers have difficulties bringing food." Noting that militarily-enforced closures also prevent children from attending schools, farmers from tending to their land, or the sick and dying from receiving treatment, Hass adds: "When there are no journalists and diplomats around, the IDF's answer is that 'the complaints are not known to us'". What is equally "not known" to the Israeli military and its supporters is the concept of justice.
Israel's closure policy also exacts a heavy economic toll on the Palestinians. In December 2001, the UN special coordinator in the Territories reported the devastation wrought by Israel in the last 15 month period. His report mentioned "severe internal closures," leading to spiraling unemployment, the split of the Territories into 200 separate pieces, 17% decrease in real wages, and a doubling of unemployment-up to 50% overall. Another article in the Sunday Business Post reported that in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, 40% of all Palestinian children are born anemic, blind, or deaf. Unfortunately, the article did not mention the 100% moral blindness and deafness of the Israeli leadership responsible for their role in this tragedy. According to the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics, almost 50% of the population in the West Bank and over 80% in the Gaza Strip lived below the poverty line at this juncture.Only a few months prior, EU commissioner Chris Patten noted the lack of improvement in Palestinian living standards and urged Israel to "give them a stake in their own future." Israel, however, is far more at peace with burning them at the stake of grinding poverty.
Though the Palestinians live in a virtual prison, they cannot even sleep in its jail cells. Their homes are often reduced to rubble by massive bulldozers in order to pave the way for extremist Jewish settlers. A November 13, 2000 UN report states that since 1993, the settler population in the Territories "doubled to 200,000 and increased to 170,000 in East Jerusalem." This expansion also conjures up a network of roads accessible only to Jews, effectively hemming in the displaced Palestinians. The settlers even monopolize the precious water resources, using ten times as much as the Palestinians; a full 85% of the water supply has been diverted to the settlements and Israel itself.
And as the Palestinians lose their water supply to Israel, they also lose their lives to its military. Since the beginning of the original intifada in December 1987, up to the end of December 2001, 2,300 Palestinians had been killed, as had 650 Israelis. Since September 2000 alone, over 17,000 Palestinians have been injured. These numbers have grown rapidly since Bush's green light for Sharon's slaughters and suffocation, especially in Gaza. Moreover, the Israeli army possesses far more sophisticated and powerful weapons than the Palestinians, who have only a shabby police force, small arms, and stones for their defense. None of this can compare to the fighter jets, attack helicopters, and tanks which Israeli regularly brings to bear on the Palestinian populace.
The Denial Campaign
That the Palestinians have been extensively brutalized and mistreated under colonial rule is indisputable. It does not require a great degree of intellect to comprehend this basic fact; it requires only a truly deep-rooted kind of racism to deny it. Enter the Israeli leadership and their mainstream media friends.
Spearheading the Orwellian efforts of confusing the aggressor with the aggressed are the New York Times and BBC. Most incidents are referred to as "clashes" and "battles", as if there were two armies, and not an occupying army trying to suppress native inhabitants, present in the conflict. Attacks on illegal Jewish settlements constructed on stolen Palestinian land are labeled attacks on "Jewish neighborhoods". Havoc wrought by the Israeli army is deemed as "security" or "retaliation" measures. Assassinations of Palestinian activists, accompanied by the usual "collateral damage" are called "targeted killings."
The nonsense does not end here. One can cite at least a dozen different time frames in the past three years, but for our purpose the December '01-January '02 period should suffice to illustrate the point that the media simply dismisses Palestinian casualties as irrelevant. For instance, National Public Radio announced January 3, 2002 that "three weeks of relative quiet" persisted in the region. Although not one Israeli civilian had been killed in this period, 28 Palestinians, including 11 children, were killed by Israeli forces since December 13, 2001. The NPR-declared "relative quiet" shows only their absolute indifference to Palestinian deaths.
Another example of Israeli bravado that soon followed the "relative quiet" came January 10, 2002. A day after four Israeli soldiers were killed by Hamas bombers, Israel bravely launched a most daring assault-on an impoverished refugee camp. The UN Relief and Works agency said 45 homes were destroyed. The expropriated were re-expropriated. After having widened the plight of the Palestinian population in order to ease the suffering of his ego, Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer said "we must do everything to ease the suffering of the wider Palestinian population." Human rights group B'tselem found that 614 Palestinians were left homeless by the attack, and that 60 buildings were destroyed. They also noted that 84 families, consisting of 475 people, were in their homes. The International Committee of the Red Cross came up with similar numbers, finding 93 families, or about 600 people, made homeless by the demolitions.
The IDF commander General Ziv insisted that these figures were all part of another Palestinian conspiracy, and that only 21 empty homes were destroyed. Even his own colleagues did not swallow this lie. Nevertheless, no great chorus of denunciation emerged from any major American newspaper. Such voices are reserved only for Israeli deaths; as for the Palestinian losses, silence will do just fine.
Of course this propaganda machine is not acting independently. It takes its orders like a good soldier from the former IDF General, Ariel Sharon. He constantly attacks Arafat as a hideous monster of epic proportions, and the media is always more than accommodating in trumpeting the invective without comment. Sharon and his gang frequently decree that Arafat is "our bin Laden," showing that the Israeli PM has not only 'bin lyin', but 'bin learnin' the proper mantra of post-Sept. 11 as well. For while Sharon foams at the mouth with his angry rhetoric, commanding his overwhelmingly powerful military and propaganda forces, Arafat is holed up in Ramallah as IDF tanks stand outside with their barrels pointed at his office. The greatest irony here is that Sharon himself has been held "personally responsible" by his own government for the large-scale massacre of hundreds in a Lebanese refugee camp in 1982. Israeli society has punished him harshly: he is now Prime Minister of Israel.
But by far the best cover-up of the truth combined with contempt for the Palestinians lies in the idea that Arafat turned down an unbelievable peace deal offered by Barak two years ago. Far from offering Arafat over 90% of Gaza and the West Bank, the final map showed that Arafat would only receive "control" about 60% of both. Even worse, that 60% would remain subject to Israeli army interference and Jewish settlements. The settlers would get to keep the productive land whereas the Palestinians would receive the sand dunes. Not even one of the four million Palestinian refugees, descendants of those expelled by Israel in 1948, would be accommodated for. It seems that facts play the same role in mainstream "news" reporting as restraint does in the Israeli military: none.
Who Are the Real Anti-Semites?
There is one last, cleverly-disguised pro-Israeli position to refute-the one alleging anti-Semitism. It is impossible to raise the subject of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without also causing a great hue and cry in certain quarters that declare criticism of Israel as "anti-Semitic". But this is a baseless accusation. Leading Jewish figures such as Naom Chomsky, Norman Finklestein, Israel Shamir, and Amira Hass are all critics of Israel, but certainly not anti-Semites. Renowned human rights groups, such as Amnesty International, have also sharply criticized Israel for its utter failure to adhere to the norms of international law in the conflict.
But let us now see whether there is indeed latent racism within these accusations of anti-Semitism. For it is no less than David Horowitz, that great abolitionist who leads the effort to free "enslaved" American whites from their black "oppressors" by opposing affirmative action who also seeks to defend the "native" Israelis from the "occupying" Palestinian hordes with accusations of anti-Semitism. And with him follow a stream of supporters for Israel's racist occupation against a Semitic people-the Palestinians-who often level the accusation of "anti-Semitism". But putting all this aside, let us see what the leading original Zionists themselves thought of anti-Semitism.
The early Zionists did not hesitate to work with notorious anti-Semites of the era. Theodore Herzl, the founder of Zionism, collaborated with Count Von Plehve, a proud sponsor of Russia's worst anti-Jewish pogroms. Together with Weizmann, another leader of Zionism, Herz proudly compared his goal of creating a racially distinct colonizing state to that of South Africa. Commenting on Britain's main representative in South Africa, Herzl wrote, "Naturally there are big differences between Cecil Rhodes and my humble self, the personal ones very much in my disfavor, but the objective ones greatly in favor of our [Zionist] movement." In 1933, the Zionist Federation of Germany sent a letter of support to the Nazi party, later voting 240-43 against a resolution condemning Hitler. Nazi standouts such as Goebbels wrote high praises of Zionism and his party helped secure funds for its leaders.
This was not just a matter of working with the Nazi and anti-Semitic enemy for an ultimately greater goal; it was about adopting unethical tactics-one cannot work with such repulsive racists without being tainted by their nationalist-racist outlook. The words of Joachim Prinz, Zionist rabbi of the 1940s, attest to this: "A state built upon "the principle of the purity of the nation and race" can only be honored and respected by a Jew who declares his belonging to his own kind.(added emphasis)."
Zionist leaders even expressed their hatred for the heroic Jews who, instead of making all sorts of deals with the fascist and anti-Semitic forces, were actually fighting both. Herzl himself had offered to help the Tsar combat Eastern Europe's "noxious and subversive Anarcho-Bolshevik Jews", as he called them. Even during the Holocaust, calls for action and demonstrations in Britain and America were silenced by the influential Zionists. In fact, the latter group was working hard to prevent either country from accepting any significant amount of Jewish emigrants. Ben-Gurion himself warned against humanitarian efforts to save European Jewry from the Nazis because it involved emigration to places other than Palestine. So it seems that the modern Zionists have made a terrible mistake-for they have us confused with the "real" anti-Semites-their own ideological predecessors.
The balance sheet of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has now been wiped clear of the racist grime that earlier soiled it. The tragic events surrounding Israel's creation have been exposed; its methods of suppressing the Palestinian people, revealed; the denial of disparity between the two sides, discredited, and the accusation of anti-Semitism, shattered. What Palestinians see with blurred vision, if only for the tears flowing from their eyes at the destruction of their homes and lives, and what the media has been altogether blind to, we can see sharply and clearly in its full grotesque scope and breadth.
Still, larger tasks loom ahead for any pro-Palestinian Left worthy of its name. It is not enough to merely understand the situation. We must actively and publicly expose the horrors of Israeli occupation, and work to end America's unconditional financial, diplomatic, and military support for Israel's long-running campaign of destroying the Palestinians.
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