The notion of history to legitimise nation states is fallacious. The stability of national boundaries and even nations themselves is more often counted in decades than centuries so to delve back into history to justify national boundaries requires a selective reading of history at best. To be calling on history (or that other great chimera of nationalism, culture) to justify the nation’s existence suggests that it is failing in more proximate justifications such as the basic Hobbesian Pact of maintaining the welfare and security of its citizens. So the claims of statehood promulgated by both Israel and Palestine ring rather hollow while their populations live in perpetual fear.
I sometimes wonder what the victims of the holocaust would think of the atrocities being conducted by Israel today? Obviously in a group of millions there would be no one viewpoint. One of the perpetual failings of nationalism is the present individuals as homogenous, dehumanised groups, divided forever by simplistic dualities. But undoubtedly many victims of a dehumanised, racist system would see uncomfortable parallels with the collective punishment meted out on the people of Gaza where the death toll rises so persistently it is pointless to try and list it – but we have seen civilians being targeted by snipers, children shot on the beach, women beaten by troops, women and children killed in Shujai’iya, a hospital full of casualties coming under shell fire.
But the point is that we do not have to postulate the position of many Jewish people as many have vocally made the point themselves. Groups such as the Jewish Voice For Peace and Neturei Karta International (NKI) are becoming increasingly visible and vocal. In all the darkness and tragedy, this represents a beacon of hope – although the mainstream media quite outrageously persists in ignoring them and presenting the conflict in racial or religious terms rather than one of political position. Therefore it is vital that we do not fall into the trap of conflating a Zionist position with a unified Israeli position or even a unified Jewish position, any more than we conflate a Hamas position with a unified Palestinian position, a unified Arab position or unified Islamic position. Such unified positions do not exist. They are figments of nationalist, fundamentalist imagination that only go to fuel racism.
The problem is indeed political and pre-dates the establishment of Israel in 1948. Presented as an act of reparation for the hideous crimes perpetrated on the Jewish people, it was another piece of Imperialist geo-politics that used both the Jewish people and the Palestinian people as pawns. Furthermore, there is evidence that, the US continuously interfered in the government of both Israel and the Palestinian territories, being accused as early as 1948 as being responsible for the creation of a gangster state headed by an utterly unscrupulous set of leaders. In the 1980’s Israel and the US actively sought to promote Hamas to destabilise the secular Fateh and ultimately leading to the collapse of Palestinian Government of National Unity in 2007.
Certainly there was never a search for a peaceful solution. The village of Deir Yassin had signed a peace pact with the neighbouring Jewish settlement prior to the massacre of its people by Menachim Begin’s Irgun and Yitzhak Shamir’s Lehi. Begin went on to become the founder of Likud and both he and Shamir became Prime Ministers as part of Likud Governments. During World War Two Lehi had sought alliances with both Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy and declared that the Jewish state would be based upon National Bolshevism. NKI accuse Zionists of being complicit in the holocaust, “It is well known that the Zionist policy during the Holocaust was that only Jewish bloodshed on a massive scale could help them achieve their state after the war, as a gift from the guilt ridden and sympathetic victors. They provoked anti-Semitism and sabotaged rescue efforts, all for their political goal.” In 1980, Israel created the Lehi Ribbon as “award for activity in the struggle for the establishment of Israel.”
During 1948 over 13,000 Palestinians were killed and 400 Palestinian villages were destroyed. 750,000 people were displaced into refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza with limited resources. Professor Avi Shlaim, served in the Israeli military and supported the establishment of Israel along pre-1967 boundaries but condemned the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza strip as a Zionist colonial project which, “has been one of the most prolonged and brutal military occupations of modern times.” Furthermore, the deprivation in Gaza, “is not simply a case of economic under-development but a uniquely cruel case of deliberate de-development (that) turned the people of Gaza into a source of cheap labour and a captive market for Israeli goods.”
Many have compared the Palestinian situation with that of apartheid era South Africa, not least Nelson Mandela himself, who famously embraced Yasser Arafat, saying that their freedom would be incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians. Despite that Mandela had many Jewish comrades in both his life and the anti-apartheid movement, “In my experience I have found Jews to be more broadminded than most whites on issues of race and politics, perhaps because they themselves have historically been victims of prejudice.” But although Mandela the statesman spoke of the legitimacy of Zionism, his Jewish comrades did not. They remained critical of Israel’s active support of the apartheid regime and the South African Jewish Community’s support for Zionism. Mandela maintained that reconciliation between Israeli and Palestinian was the only path to a solution.
Unfortunately this has not been forthcoming. Member of the Knesset for the Zionist Jewish Home party, Ayelet Shaked has called the entire Palestinian people the enemy and advocated their complete destruction, including its elderly and its women, who might otherwise give birth to more “little snakes.” Moshe Feiglin Deputy Speaker of the Knesset and member of the Likud Party proposes giving one warning and then bombarding Gaza with the full force of the IDF. “All the military and infrastructural targets will be attacked with no consideration for ‘human shields’ or ‘environmental damage’… Gaza, it will become part of sovereign Israel and will be populated by Jews. This will also serve to ease the housing crisis in Israel.”
In the knowledge of the atrocities carried out within living memory against the Jewish people, one is reluctant to use the term fascism – but any other term for such sentiments fails to recognise them for what they are. Once again, it would be easy to fall for the line that such comments are representative of all Israelis or all Jews – but it would be totally wrong. In response to Shaked’s comments Mira Bar-Hillel wrote, “My father’s brother Shmuel and his young family also perished before I was born, taken in Holland, to where they had escaped from Berlin, to the same camp Anne Frank died in. I know what it is to have been helpless victims, living and dying under racist oppressors’ boots, and I know that today’s Israelis are no longer the victims but the perpetrators of the current crisis… Seeing these angelic faces of evil spouting such genocidal rhetoric, I pick up my Israeli passport and a box of matches. “Not in my name, people. Not in my name!”
I could go on listing quote and counter-quote but it is unnecessary. The point is made. There are no homogenous ethnic or religious groups. There are just individuals who have their own opinions and their own political views. In the light of the failure of the BBC and other mainstream news channels to report this most obvious and important fact, we need to keep repeating it ourselves. Perhaps then we can move away from the polarisation of nationalists and fundamentalists and instead look towards a time when people can live together as individuals within vibrant and supportive communities not pawns in pseudo-political, pseudo-religious wars which serve nothing so much as to keep the powerful in power while the rest of us fight amongst ourselves.