Israeli election makes it difficult to deny the character of Israel as a racist state

September 20, 2019

Mainstream Western newspapers would never brand Israel as a racist state, a reality which says more about the nature of Western newspapers than about the character of Israel. But occasionally newspapers in the West do make observations which reveal the racist character of Israel, if the observations are placed within the context of liberal democracy and are compared with what is formerly tolerable within such countries as the United States and Canada.

In a September 19 report on the Israeli election, The Wall Street Journal observed that “Mr. Netanyahu and other politicians have framed Arab-Israeli politicians as enemies who would undermine Israel’s…Jewish character.”

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While the statement may clearly reveal Netanyahu’s narrow racism, the broader racism of the Israeli state may not be immediately apparent. But it becomes evident if it is placed within the framework of US or Canadian politics. Imagine the parallel of white US politicians framing black US politicians as enemies who would undermine the United States’ white character, or of a Roman Catholic Canadian politician framing a Muslim politician as an enemy who would undermine Canada’s ‘commitment to Western (i.e., Christian) values.’

Formally, the United States is a state of all its citizens, not a state of white people. Formally, Canada is a state of all its citizens, not a state of the English or of Christians. In contrast, Israel is not a state of all its citizens, but one in which Jews have priority. Netanyahu makes no apologies for this, and nor do most Jewish Israelis.

Netanhyahu’s equivalent in the United States, namely, US politicians who would identify their ‘whiteness’ as a significant political category, brand black politicians as enemies, and seek to defend the ‘white character’ of the United States, would quite rightly be denounced as racists. They would almost certainly be open or covert members of the KKK, or open or covert admirers.

Likewise, the notion that the ‘white character’ of the United States must be preserved would be clearly recognized as a white supremacist concept and anyone who spoke of, or even hinted at ‘the white character’ of the United States as a normative idea would be justifiably censured as an intolerable racist whose views must be immediately renounced and corrected. Why then would the parallel view of the Jewish character of Israel as a normative concept, when expressed by Israelis or their supporters, not be denounced as racist?

The New York Times has often dismissed as unthinkable the prospect of Palestinian refugees exercising their right, under international law, to return to the homes from which they were driven or fled on what is now Israeli-controlled territory. The “refugees number in the millions, and their return,” explained David M. Halbfinger in a 2018 article, “would probably spell the end of Israel as a Jewish state.” In other words, Palestinians cannot be repatriated otherwise the ethnic character of Israel as a Jewish state will be undermined.

This is not unlike justifying an immigration policy that bars the entry of non-whites into the United States on the grounds that the influx of millions of dark-skinned people would threaten the United States as a white state, or bars Muslims in order to preserve ‘the Christian character’ of the country. Such a policy would be recognized as racist in the US or Canadian contexts, so why would the parallel policy in the Israeli context not be branded as racist as well?

The case is made stronger, if we acknowledge that the parallel is imperfect. Unlike prospective immigrants to the United States, the Palestinians are natives of the territory to which they seek entry, not aliens. They have a right to be there, and many of them are not there, because the founders of the Jewish state organized a program of demographic engineering to create an artificial Jewish majority (that is, to create a state with a Jewish character) by ethnically cleansing a large part of the Palestinian homeland. The current caretakers of the state preserve the outcome of the founders’ demographic aggression by denying the Palestinians’ their UN-mandated and UN-enjoined right of repatriation.

Hence, the Israeli policy of denying natives repatriation to their own land in order to preserve the ethnic character of Israel as a Jewish state is indefensible on multiple grounds.

  • It defines the natives (Palestinians) as aliens and the aliens (Jewish immigrants who carried out the ethnic cleansing and their descendants) as the natives.
  • It violates international law.
  • It preserves the outcome of a program of ethnic cleansing.
  • It is racist.

Calling out Israel as a racist state is countered by Israel and its supporters by the levelling of accusations of anti-Semitism against anyone who dares to proclaim the obvious. Indeed, in some circles, defining as racist the notion that Israel ought to have a Jewish character is defined as anti-Semitic. This exercise in casuistry rests on the logical error of equating Zionism with Judaism, so that criticism of Zionism becomes construed as criticism of Judaism and Jews.

But by this logic anyone who decried the racism of apartheid South Africa or white supremacist Rhodesia, or decries the KKK as white supremacist, is anti-white. And by the logic that undergirds the Zionism equals Judaism formula, all whites are supporters of the KKK and apartheid South Africa, so that anyone who denounces the KKK or racist South Africa denounces whites as a category.

Imagine a definition of anti-white racism as denial of the Afrikaners’ right to a white settler state in southern Africa on the stolen land of the natives. If you can imagine this, then you’ve imagined the growing practice of formally defining anti-Zionism as an element of anti-Semitism. Denial of the Afrikaners’ right to a white settler state in southern Africa on the stolen land of the natives is also the denial of apartheid South Africa’s right to exist, and is equivalent to denying Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state on the stolen land of Palestinians. To deplore racism while at the same time proclaiming Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state is to deplore racism except when it is exercised by Zionists. By what logic is the racism of Zionism uniquely exempted as an instance of racism? By no logic at all, and instead by:

  • The illogic that holds that because Jews were the victims of a crime of great enormity perpetrated, not only by the Nazis, but by their European collaborators, that the actions of a state claiming to talk in the name of the Jews are beyond reproach.
  • The politics of power by which the United States defends Israel and allows it a free hand because it collaborates in the defense and promotion of US economic and strategic interests in the petroleum-rich Middle East.
  • Calumniating as an anti-Semite anyone who insists that Zionism is a form of racism.

Pointing out that Israel is a racist state that does not have a right to exist as an ethnic state for the Jews, nor as a settler colonial state whose Jewish majority is a product of demographic engineering, is not anti-Jewish racism; on the contrary, denunciation of any kind of ethnic privilege is not inherently hostile to the ethnic communities that seek it. It is, instead, inherently inimical to the assignment of rights, obligations, and privileges on the basis of ethnic hierarchies; that is, it supports universal equality and freedom from racist oppression.

Political Zionism, the ideological basis of the Israeli state, originated in an attempt to find a solution to anti-Jewish racism through separation. The trouble is that it did so by mimicking nineteenth century European nationalism, with all its racist underpinnings, and rejecting the growing movement for universal equality, which saw the solution to racism, including that of an anti-Jewish stripe, in the building of non-ethnic states of equality for all, regardless of one’s race, religion, language, and ethnicity, as well as one’s sex or possession of property. Jews were an important part of the movement for universal equality, and remain so today.

Indeed, Michael Oren, formerly an Israeli ambassador to the United States, identifies the Jewish community in the United States as belonging to the latter tradition of universal equality in contrast to Israeli Jews, who have embraced the former, Jewish nationalist solution to anti-Jewish racism. The Jewish nationalist solution is an anti-Arab racist solution to anti-Jewish racism of European origin, or of getting out from beneath one’s own oppression by oppressing someone else. The idea is inherently supremacist in defining the welfare of Jews as superior to that of Palestinians so that the welfare of Palestinians can be sacrificed in the service of the welfare of Jews. In this view, Jews and Palestinians are not equal; instead, Jewish rights trump Palestinian rights.

“The American Jewish idea is fundamentally different from the Jewish Zionist idea,” Oren told The Wall Street Journal. “The American Jewish idea is that Judaism is a universal religion, that we are not a nation or a people, that our duty is to all of humanity, and that America is the promised land, and that the Land of Israel is not the promised land,” he said.

“That fundamental gap, he added, has prompted many Israeli right-wing politicians to essentially give up on liberal American Jews and focus on friendlier constituencies such as evangelicals.” Significantly, US evangelicals, including US secretary of state Mike Pompeo, embrace Christian Zionism, the idea that the ingathering of Jews to Israel fulfills a biblical prophesy. In their view, by supporting Israel as a state with a Jewish character—that is, by colluding in racism—they’re abiding by their deity’s will.

Zionism is largely misunderstood as an exclusively Jewish ideology, when it has always also been strongly a Christian ideology, whose principal supporters have been officials of imperial states who read their bibles. This was as true in the early twentieth century when such statesmen as Arthur Balfour in England and Woodrow Wilson in the United States found support for the fledgling political Zionist movement in their reading of the bible, as it is today. Last year, Pompeo told a reporter for The New York Times Magazine that the Bible “informs everything I do.” The reporter noticed an open Bible in his office, with a Swiss Army knife marking his place at the end of the book of Queen Esther.” In the bible’s telling of the tale, Queen Esther saved Jews from being massacred by Persia (Iran’s forerunner.)

At the same time, historically, the movement for universal equality attracted Jews at a rate far in excess of their numbers in the population. As Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi wrote, Jews who fought alongside non-Jews in the struggle against racism and for universal equality “refused to limit their concerns to their own tribe. Theirs was a grander, purer dream. Salvation not just for Jews, but for the whole of humanity, and that would eliminate the ills of the Jewish condition once and for all.”

On the one hand, a pure and grand vision, dating from the French Revolution, of Liberté, Equalité, Fraternité, and the universalist idea of a state of all its citizens; on the other, the particularist idea of the ethnic state for Jews, made possible by the demographic engineering of a Jewish majority, obtained by the expulsion of the natives and denial of their repatriation, and the exercise of a racist regime over the natives who weren’t dispossessed; in short, the idea of universal equality versus the conservative tradition of hierarchy, racism, colonialism, and religious bigotry. To criticize Israel and Zionism is not to hate Jews, but to deplore the conservative tradition of ethnic privilege, racism, and colonialism from which Israel sprang and which it continues to exemplify.

Israel’s Independence Day: Commemorating the dispossession of the natives and rise of the West’s outpost in the Middle East

Below is an excerpt from my new book, Israel, A Beachhead in the Middle East: From European Colony to US Power Projection Platform. The excerpt is from Chapter 3, titled Nakba. The book is available from Baraka Books.

May 14, 2019

By Stephen Gowans

On November 29, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly approved Resolution 181, calling for the partition of Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states, linked by an economic union, with Jerusalem set aside as an international territory outside the jurisdiction of either state. Palestine would be divided into eight parts. Three parts would constitute the Jewish state, while the Arab state would be comprised of three other parts, plus a fourth, Jaffa, which would be an Arab exclave within the territory of the Jewish state. Jerusalem—envisaged as a corpus separatum, or international city—was the eighth part.

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The Jewish population had grown rapidly from World War I under the stewardship of the British colonial administration from approximately 10 percent of the population to about one-third. Yet, while Jewish settlers remained in the minority and were outnumbered two to one by the indigenous Arabs, the resolution granted the Jewish state 56 percent of the Palestinians’ country, while the Arabs, with two-thirds of the population, were given only 42 percent. The balance, two percent, represented Jerusalem.

Some people continue to see the partition resolution—and its descendant, the two-state solution—as fair and practical, but it was neither of these things. Laying aside the inequitable apportionment of a greater territory for a Jewish state to a smaller Jewish population, there are larger issues to confront.

The first is the denial of Palestinian sovereignty. There is no question that the indigenous population was adamantly opposed to the expropriation of its land. While it made up the majority of Palestine’s inhabitants, its wishes were completely ignored by the United Nations. This was predictable. At the time the world body was dominated by First World powers steeped in the colonial tradition. Many of the countries that voted for the resolution were settler colonial states themselves: Britain, France and Belgium, and the British settler offshoots, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. There was no chance that a similar resolution would have passed from the 1960s onwards, when the balance of power in the United Nations General Assembly shifted from the First World to the Third World. Countries with colonial pasts unwaveringly considered Zionism a legitimate political ideology, while countries victimized by colonialism regarded it as a form of colonialism.

The second issue, following from the first, is that the partition resolution called for the creation of an unacceptable institution: a colonial settler state. Colonial settler states have been overcome one by one by determined resistance—in Algeria, Rhodesia, South Africa, and elsewhere—to the deserved applause of the majority of humanity. The demise of each settler colonial state is a sign post in the progress of humanity. The question of whether the Jewish state envisioned by the partition resolution, or Israel today, is a colonial settler state isn’t even controversial. Neither Theodore Herzl, the founder of political Zionism, David Ben-Gurion, the father of the state of Israel, nor Le’ev Jabotinsky, founder of revisionist Zionism, were in any doubt that a Jewish state built by settlers on the land of another people was unequivocally settler colonialism.

As to the practicality of Resolution 181, it is as indefensible as the partition plan’s alleged equity. A practical settlement to the conflict would have been one that all sides accepted. But neither side accepted the resolution. The indigenous population rejected it for the obvious reason that it denied them sovereignty over 56 percent of their territory and handed it to a minority population of recent immigrants. No people on earth would have accepted this proposal for themselves; why the Palestinians were expected to accept it, boggles the mind. Ben-Gurion accepted the resolution in words, but only as a tactical manoeuvre, recognizing that an embryo Jewish state could be incubated into the Land of Israel through military conquest. The Revisionists rejected the planned partition, because it fell short of fulfilling Zionist aspirations for a Jewish state in all of south Syria (the name by which Palestine and Jordan were known by the indigenous population.)

For the settlers, the demographics of the partition plan were all wrong. The Jewish state would contain 500,000 Jews but almost as many Arabs. There would be 440,000 Arabs living in the territory Resolution 181 envisioned for the Jewish state. Jews, then, would constitute only a bare majority. A bare majority could quickly become a minority, depending on immigration, and on the birth rates of the two communities. Moreover, how could 500,000 Jews rule almost as many Arabs, considering that the Arabs rejected Jewish rule? The plan was completely unworkable. The only way to create a viable Jewish state would be to engineer a radical reduction in the number of Arabs living within its frontiers while at the same time expanding its borders to absorb as many of the 10,000 Jewish settlers the resolution had assigned to the Arab state.

The resolution’s proclamation immediately touched off fighting between the native Arabs and the immigrant Jewish settlers. The settlers were determined to drive as many natives as possible out of the territory assigned by the UN to a Jewish state, while capturing territory assigned by the UN to an Arab state. When the dust settled, a Jewish state, named Israel, was proclaimed, comprising 78 percent of Palestinian territory, not the 56 percent envisaged by the resolution. Meanwhile, 700,000 Arab natives had been exiled from their homes and the settlers refused their repatriation, keen to protect the outcome of their demographic engineering.

Today, Israelis insist their state grew out of a UN resolution that Arabs rejected and Jewish settlers accepted. While the Arab natives certainly rejected the resolution, the settlers rejected most of it as well, accepting only one small part of it—the call for the creation of a Jewish state. They rejected all the other parts, including the call for the creation of an Arab state within specified borders; the prohibition against expropriating Arab land within the Jewish state; the designation of Jaffa as an Arab exclave; the creation of an international Jerusalem; and the creation of an economic union between two states.

British rule of Palestine came to an end on May 15, 1948. On May 14, Ben-Gurion proclaimed the State of Israel, sparking what has become known as the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. It was the first in a series of settler-native wars—armed conflicts between the army of the Jewish colonial settler state and various Arab armies and Arab irregulars.

The Arab belligerents in 1948—Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria—dispatched some 20,000 troops to help their compatriots resist settler efforts to transform Palestine into the Land of Israel. Only three of these states— Egypt, Jordan, and Iraq—had armies of consequence, and only one, Jordan, had an army that was prepared for war. All three states were British clients, governed by kings who served at the pleasure of London. All were armed by John Bull, and Jordan’s army was under the direct command of 21 British officers who took their orders from London. This was significant, since Britain favored the settlers, and could—and did—restrict the flow of weapons and ammunition to their client states. It’s not by accident that the core Arab armies did not intervene in Palestine until after British forces exited Palestine, even though settler forces began operations to drive the Arab natives out of Palestine five months earlier. When the British-controlled Arab armies did finally intervene, the settlers had largely ethnically-cleansed Palestine, and their entry into the affray was a near farce.

The Arab forces had no central command and no coordination. It has been remarked that one of the reasons five Arab armies were defeated by one Israeli army was because there were five Arab armies.

Worse, there were inter-Arab rivalries that further weakened the combined Arab forces. Jordan and Iraq, led by British-installed kings, brothers of the Hashemite dynasty, were eager to see the defeat of the Egyptian army of King Farouk. Farouk was a rival for influence in the Arab world, and the Hashemites desired his defeat. Jordan and Iraq, then, had no intention of doing anything to help their rival’s military forces.

On top of these problems, was the general weakness of the Arab armies. The Egyptian forces were under equipped and poorly led. They had no maps, no tents, and insufficient logistical support. Their officers were generally incompetent, having attained their rank through political connections. When orders were issued to soldiers in the field, they were often contradictory. The Iraqi army was even worse; it was sent into battle without ammunition.

Finally, there was betrayal. Abdullah, the king of Jordan, had secretly worked out an arrangement with the settlers to annex the West Bank to his kingdom. Glubb Pasha, the British officer who commanded Abdullah’s army, deliberately restrained his forces, ordering them not to enter territory assigned by the UN to a Jewish state, though Israeli forces had seized territory assigned to an Arab state.

It would have been difficult enough for the Arab armies to prevail under these trying circumstances, but the fact that they were outnumbered made victory all but impossible. Under-manned, lacking coordination, incompetently-led, ill-equipped, largely untrained, betrayed from within by Abdullah, and sabotaged by their British masters, 20,000 Arab soldiers were no match for the 60,000 unified and determined settlers under arms, many of whom were highly trained soldiers, having served in the British Army during the Second World War.

The Israelis have misnamed the First Settler-Native War as The War of Independence, as if it were a national liberation struggle of an oppressed people against a colonial power, Britain. On the contrary, it was a colonial war fought by Jewish settlers whose victory was aided in the background by the British. It was a war of dispossession, not a war of restitution.

The Two-State Proposal for Palestine: Neither Practical nor Morally Defensible

July 6, 2016

By Stephen Gowans

I wrote on July 4 in The Jewish Colonization of Palestine and the Recalcitrance of the Natives that United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 of 1947 was the first official two-state proposal. Actually, a decade earlier, in 1937, Britain’s Peel Commission recommended the partition of Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states. The commission’s report, and not Resolution 181, contained the first official two-state proposal. The Peel Commission plan was rejected by both sides, adumbrating the repudiation of Resolution 181 a decade later. A two-state proposal, then, has been around, in one form or another, for nearly 80 years, and in all those years, one side or both, has rejected it in practice, if not always in words.

Given the proposal’s uninspiring record of repeated repudiation, it beggars belief that two-state proponents should continue to think it has much of a chance of being accepted. The only conditions under which one can conceive of it being accepted by the Palestinians is if they become so ground down that they eventually capitulate and accept whatever crumbs are offered them; that is, if after decades as refugees, under Israeli military occupation, incarcerated in the open air prison of the Gaza Strip, or as third class Israeli citizens, they finally give up, and accept to live forever on their knees, though the chances of that happening seem vanishingly small. All the same, two-state proponents may welcome this unlikely outcome, and celebrate it, but what they would celebrate? Peace? Perhaps. But also the triumph of a grave injustice. And without justice, peace cannot last long.

The moral case against Jewish colonization of Palestine is formidable. The legitimacy of political authority is derived from the consent of the governed. Neither the British colonial authorities nor the Zionist state ever had the consent of the Palestinians. UN Resolution 181 (which is irrelevant anyway since it has never been implemented and was rejected by Jewish forces in 1947 and 1948 when they conquered territory beyond the limits the resolution proposed for a Jewish state) was rejected by the Palestinian majority whose lives would have been profoundly and unalterably affected by it.

As Tomis Kapitan pointed out (The Israeli-Palestine Conflict, 1997), the British had no right to give Palestine as a gift to anyone, and even if they did, London had pledged support for Arab independence throughout the Middle East to an established monarch (Sheriff Hussein of Mecca) before it issued the Balfour Declaration, whose pledge was made to an amorphous body, “the Jews”, lacking political form and juridical definition.

Moreover, Palestinians have a natural right to self government, independent of the promises, declarations, resolutions and preferences of the British, the United States, the United Nations, and the Diplomatic Quartet.

Hence, add to the moral concerns about the two-state proposal, the reality that its history shows it to have long been considered by one or both sides as undesirable, and the conclusion must be that it is untenable as a serious proposal, on moral grounds as well as on the practical grounds that its proponents quite mistakenly believe recommends it.

An alternative proposal that at least has the benefit of being just, morally defensible, and sensitive to the rights of indigenous people to self-determination, is a single, secular, democratic state, in which all citizens, Jews, Muslims, and Christians, are equal, and to which all Palestinian refugees are free to return.

The Jewish Colonization of Palestine and the Recalcitrance of the Natives

July 4, 2016

“It is easy for us who have never been victims of foreign conquest and are still living in our homes to vehemently denounce the violence of evicted Palestinians.” [1]

“Palestine is an occupied land stolen from its native people and time does not make it a property of the thief.” [2]

By Stephen Gowans

In 1939, Hitler ordered Poland to be depopulated and colonized by Germans. Poland had a substantial Jewish population. Less than 10 years later, in 1947 and 1948, Zionists—who, like Hitler, believed that Jews were a national collectivity, in addition to being a religious one, and that Jews ought to establish a homeland outside of Europe—ethnically cleansed Palestine, a former Ottoman territory, of a large part of its indigenous Palestinian population. The goal was to establish a Jewish state in Palestine to be colonized by Jewish settlers, mainly from Europe. The Zionists used terrorist methods to induce the Palestinian population to flee, and refused to allow them to return, turning nearly a million of them into refugees. The property of Palestinians who took flight and were barred from returning was taken over—that is, expropriated without compensation—by Jewish settlers.

LeilaIn May of 1948, Zionist forces proclaimed the formation of a Jewish state in the Palestinians’ country, a date Palestinians mark as the Nakba, or catastrophe. The Jewish state controlled 78 percent of Palestine. Many of the Palestinians whom Jewish terrorists had forced from their homes lived in refugee camps in the remaining 22 percent of their country. This was made up of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. In 1967, Zionist forces completed their military conquest of Palestine in toto, imposing military rule on parts of the Palestinians’ country they had failed to conquer in 1948. Since then, Israel has engaged in a process of creeping Judaization of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, building Jewish-only settlements, connecting them by Jewish-only roads, and denying building permits to Palestinians.

There has been much talk of a two-state solution. But what, exactly, are two states a solution to? The proffered answer is that they are a solution to the irreconcilable goals of Zionists, on the one hand, who seek Jewish colonization of all of Palestine, and Palestinians, on the other, who refuse to accept the colonization of their country. The proposed solution, which isn’t a solution at all, but for both parties an unacceptable compromise, is for the Zionists to accept that they can’t have all of Palestine and for the Palestinians to accept they can’t keep all of their country. If we cast this in terms of the German conquest of Poland, we can see that the compromise entailed in the two-state proposal is completely unacceptable. Imagine that in 1939 the international community had called for Germany and the Poles to accept a two-state “solution” by which Germany colonized part of Poland, and the Poles kept another part—a fraction—of their own country. No one would have accepted this, neither the Germans, who were bent on the military conquest of Poland to establish lebensraum—and had the military muscle to achieve their goal—nor the Poles who, quite rightly, would have rejected the proposal outright, as would anyone else in the same circumstances, except under extreme duress, or unless they shared the politics of the invader as, say Petain shared the Nazi’s virulent antipathy to communism and sympathy for the ancient regime, and so accepted a two-state solution for France.

The first two-state proposal was implied in the Balfour Declaration of November 2, 1917, in which one country, Britain, pledged that another country, the Palestinians’, would provide the territory for a Jewish homeland. That declaration, which opened the doors to Jewish immigration to Palestine, sparked decades of conflict between Jewish immigrants to Palestine, the Palestinians and the British colonial authorities, culminating in a major Palestinian insurrection from 1936 to 1939.

The first formal explicit two-state proposal was UN General Assembly Resolution 181 of November 29, 1947, formulated by the United Nations after the British threw the mess they had created into the laps of the new world body. The resolution did nothing to sort out the mess. It called for a Jewish state to be carved out of 56 percent of the Palestinians’ country, and for the Palestinians to content themselves with the minority share of their territory. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who lived in the territory that would come under the jurisdiction of the Jewish state would be forced to live under Jewish rule in their own country. The Zionists were disappointed, because they wanted all of Palestine, but went along anyway because they were being offered more than they had. The Palestinians, not surprisingly, rejected the proposal outright, which, anyone else in their place also would have done. This was hardly an auspicious beginning for a proposal that has since been dubbed a “solution.” How could it be a solution, when a major party to the proposed arrangement rejected it from the very beginning, and for obvious, and entirely justifiable, reasons?

The two-state proposal, then, (not a solution—the term solution is a deception to suggest the scheme is workable) was a bad scheme from the very beginning, and has become significantly worse since. With Zionist forces conquering even more of the Palestinians’ country than Resolution 181 foresaw for a Jewish state, two-state exponents now envisioned a Jewish state in the 78 percent of Palestine that Israel controlled, following the armistice which brought the open hostilities of the Arab-Israeli war to a halt. In other words, the armistice line, rather than the frontiers envisioned by the UN, would now form the boundaries of a Jewish state. This, of course, was favorable to the Zionists, who would have a state even larger than the one they were to receive under Resolution 181. But if Palestinians thought that relinquishing 56 percent of their country to Jewish colonizers was unacceptable, how could they possibly be expected to think that ceding 78 percent was acceptable? Poles would hardly think that ceding one percent of their territory to Germany would have been tolerable, let alone 57 percent. The idea that anyone would think they would accept the loss of 78 percent of their country to a colonizing invader would be considered an insult.

It gets worse. Since its 1967 military conquest of the remainder of the Palestinians’ country, Israel has built Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, connecting them by a reticulation of Jewish-only roads. Under the two-state proposal, Israel is expected to insist on including these Jewish “facts on the ground” in any negotiated arrangement, so that whatever state the Palestinians would be allowed to have, would be located on territory making up only a small fraction of their country, and the territory would be non-contiguous, divided by Jewish settlements, and criss-crossed by Jewish-only roads. Can proponents of the two-state proposal sincerely believe their scheme has the merits of pragmatism and achievability? It wasn’t pragmatic and achievable in its implicit form in 1917 under the Balfour Declaration, nor in 1947 in its explicit form in Resolution 181. What, then, makes two-state proponents think that their proposal is more pragmatic and achievable today, now that it asks Palestinians to accept an even smaller minority share of their country than the UN proposal would have given them?

The Palestinians have refused to capitulate to the colonization of their country. They will not to live on their knees. They are, accordingly, unremittingly censured by people who have never been colonized, and, to the contrary, are citizens of countries with histories of colonization, which either promised Palestine to the Jews in the first place, which they had no right to do, or participated in dividing up the Middle East into Mandates (thinly disguised colonial possessions) without the slightest regard for the wishes of the natives, or which today furnish the colonizers with the arms and diplomatic backing they require to carry out their project.

The major advocate of the two-state proposal, the Diplomatic Quartet, consisting of the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, and Russia, recently issued a report which takes the Palestinians to task for using violence to resist the Jewish colonization of the remaining parts of their country which Israel hasn’t annexed de jure. The Quartet accepts the violence Israel uses and has used to fit its yoke on the Palestinians, but condemns the violence of the Palestinians to throw off the yoke. The political violence of Nazi Germany in conquering Poland in order to colonize it is considered deplorable, and the Polish resistance to German military occupation is seen as heroic and praiseworthy, but the political violence of Zionist forces in conquering Palestine in order to colonize it is accepted, while the Palestinian resistance to Israeli military occupation is labelled as terrorism.

On July 1, two Jewish settlers were shot and killed, presumably by Palestinians aggrieved at the creeping Judaization of the West Bank. The settlers were attacked near Al-Khalil (also known by its Hebrew name, Hebron.) [3] This is territory Israel conquered in 1967, and has occupied since. International law prohibits colonization of occupied territory, and the slain settlers lived on the territory illegally. Had Germany colonized Poland, the killing of the Jewish settlers near Al-Khalil would have been tantamount to Polish insurgents (who the Germans would label terrorists) killing German settlers in their country.

But we can go further. Jews who live on territory conquered from the Palestinians prior to 1967 have settled on land from which Palestinians have been displaced by violence. If it would have been legitimate for Polish resistance fighters to attack German settlers on Polish territory, and is legitimate for Palestinian resistance fighters to attack settlers on Palestinian territory conquered since 1967, it is also legitimate for Palestinian resistance fighters to attack settlers on Palestinian territory conquered prior to 1967. The division of the conquest of Palestine along the armistice line of the Arab-Israeli War, marking territory on one side as legitimately conquered, and territory on the other as illegitimately occupied, is completely arbitrary. Zionists have no legitimate claim to any part of the Palestinians’ country, not the territory conquered before 1967, and not the territory conquered after; not up to the armistice line, and not beyond it.

In retaliation for the killing of the settlers, the occupation has locked down Al-Khalil and its surrounding area, and has ordered more occupation troops into the West Bank. [4]

They used to say palestinians fight like heroes now they say heroes fight like palestinians existence is resistanceOn the same day, the Quartet identified incorrectly that continued Palestinian violence (i.e., resistance) and Palestinian attacks on civilians (i.e., settlers, but not Israeli attacks on Palestinians) are among the major threats to achieving the Quartet’s favored two-state arrangement. [5] To the contrary, the major threat to achieving the two-state scheme is immanent in the scheme itself; the proposal is, for reasons already stated, completely impractical and unachievable, having arrived stillborn in the world in 1947, and has shown no signs of life in all the decades since despite simulated efforts to breathe life into the corpse.

Complaints were also made by the Quartet that Palestinians who use violence to resist occupation and colonization of their country are depicted as heroes in the Palestinian media and on social media, that streets, squares and schools have been named after them, and that Palestinian leaders have not condemned them. In other words, Palestinians must not recognize efforts to liberate their country as legitimate and praiseworthy, nor bestow the mantle of hero on fighters for national liberation. Instead, Palestinian insurgents are to be demonized as terrorists.

The report correctly identifies the causes of Palestinian political violence. These include the building of new Jewish settlements, the expansion of existing ones, the construction of Jewish-only roads and the denial of building permits to Palestinians; in other words, colonization. But it does not label colonization as the cause of Palestinian violence. Instead, it presents Jewish colonization and the recalcitrance of the natives as two independent phenomena, the “bad” behavior of both parties. We’re to believe that if only both parties would stop behaving badly, the “solution” of two states could be brought to fruition.

The boldness of the Zionist land grab in the West Bank would be staggering, were it not for the fact that Israel’s audacity in expanding its territory is well established. Area C comprises 60 percent of the West Bank. It is intended to make up the bulk of land for a future Palestinian state under the two-state proposal, yet Israel has seized over 70 percent of the area and has designated it as solely for Jewish use. The remaining 30 percent is effectively off-limits to Palestinians, since it requires building permits which Israeli military authorities almost never grant. [6]

There are 570,000 Jewish settlers living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, 370,000 in the former and 200,000 in the latter. Over 80,000 settlers live in isolated settlements deep inside the West Bank. The number of settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has doubled since 1993, when the process of building a Palestinian state in a very small part of the Palestinians’ country was supposed to have begun in earnest. [7]

The Quartet report notes that Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank “raises legitimate questions about Israel’s long-term intentions,” and that these questions are buttressed “by the statements of some government ministers to the effect that the establishment of a Palestinian state will never be allowed.” It also refers to the current situation as “a one-state reality of perpetual occupation and conflict.” [8]

It’s difficult to deny that the Quartet is colluding in the Zionist project of Judaizing all of Palestine.

First, its demand that Palestinians abandon all resistance amounts to a call for Palestinian capitulation. The only force which has ever successfully opposed colonialism is the recalcitrance of the natives, and people have the right to resist the colonization of their country and to fight for its liberation. To deny them that right would be to accept colonialism as legitimate.

Second, while the Quartet identifies settlement activity as the cause of Palestinian violence, it doesn’t label it as a cause, and treats the cause (colonization) and effect (Palestinian resistance) as equal. Hence, Israel is called upon to stop settlement activity and the Palestinians are called upon to abandon resistance to it. But if settlement activity is wrong, and should cease, how can resistance to it also be wrong? Saeb Erekat, the PLO secretary general, quite rightly complained that the report tries to “equalize the responsibilities between a people under occupation and a foreign military occupier.” [9] We might also ask, if settlement activity is wrong, shouldn’t it not only be brought to an end, but reversed and undone? The Quartet didn’t call upon Israel to dismantle its settlements or end its military occupation. And the key members of the Quartet haven’t issued a UN Security Council resolution ordering Israel to undertake these actions, though, in principle, a resolution to this effect could be easily arranged were officials in Washington, London, Paris and Brussels so motivated.

Third, on the very same day Israel began meting out collective punishment to Palestinian residents of Al-Khalil for the crime of resistance, the New York Times reminded us who Israel’s principal arms supplier and military patron is. According to the newspaper, Washington has signalled that it is prepared to “substantially sweeten” a 10-year military aid package for Israel, already valued at $30 billion. The new deal would include a pledge to fund missile defense systems in Israel. This would further weaken the pressure Palestinians can bring to bear on Israel through rocket attacks, ensuring that Israel has even less incentive to discontinue its creeping Judaization of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and colonization of the rest of the Palestinian’s country. [10]

The White House wants the Israelis to use the aid to buy exclusively from US weapons providers, rather than spending some of it on Israeli arms manufacturers. Since 1980, “Israel has been permitted to spend about a quarter of the military aid it receives outside the United States.” It has used this provision to subsidize the development of a domestic arms industry, which is now one of the top 10 arms exporters in the world, competing with US arms makers. No other recipient of US military aid is permitted to make arms purchases outside the United States. [11]

US military aid is a mechanism for the upward redistribution of wealth from ordinary US citizens, who generate the bulk of tax revenue, to the high-level executives and shareholders of major US weapons manufacturers. Israel uses this transfer of wealth from Joe and Jane Average American to buy US arms to enforce and expand its colonization of the Palestinians’ country.

Washington, then, is completely complicit in the Jewish colonization of Palestine. Its complicity is evidenced in its expropriating part of the emoluments of US citizens to furnish Israel with the means of enforcing its oppression of the Palestinians, in its unquestioning diplomatic support of Tel Aviv, and in its refusal to use its economic, diplomatic and political leverage to facilitate Palestinian efforts to liberate their country from the Zionist yoke. Washington’s formal commitment to the two-state proposal is a ruse, a delaying tactic under the cover of which Israel can carry its modern-day colonization scheme through to its logical conclusion, namely, the total Judaization of the Palestinians’ country.

As for the two-state solution, well, it is not a solution at all. It is, to the contrary, the very problem it deceptively promises to resolve. The problem—the root cause of decades of violence in Palestine since the Balfour Declaration was promulgated in 1917, is the idea that an alien state can be implanted in the Palestinians’ country, whether as a single state encompassing Palestine in its entirety from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River, or alongside a separate Palestinian state constituted on only a fraction of the Palestinians’ land. The two-state “solution”, then, is only a particular form of the problem, namely a settler state enveloping some part—and in all cases, two-state proposals have called for it to envelop the major part—of the Palestinians’ country. The solution to the problem is not two states, but a single, secular, democratic state, in which all citizens, Jews, Muslims, and Christians, are equal, and to which all Palestinian refugees are free to return.

1. John Glubb. Forward to George Hajjar, Leila Khaled: The Autobiography of a Revolutionary. Hodder and Stoughton, 1973.

2. Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah. Quoted in “We are required to stay firm,” Syria Times, July 2, 2016.

3. Diaa Hadis and Somini Sengupta, “Israel imposes restrictions on Palestinians in West Bank after attacks,” The New York Times, July 1, 2016.

4. Hadis and Sengupta.

5. “Diplomatic Quarter release report on advancing two-state solution to Israel-Palestine conflict,” UN News Centre, July 1, 2016.

6. Barak Ravid, “Quartet releases report on impasse in Israeli-Palestinian peace: ‘Two-state solution in danger,” Haaretz, July 1, 2016.

7. Ravid.

8. Hadis and Sengupta.

9. Hadis and Sengupta.

10. Julie Hirschfeld Davis, “U.S. offers to increase military aid to Israel,” The New York Times, July 1, 2016.

11. Hirschfeld Davis.

Visible and Invisible Victims

September 26, 2015

By Stephen Gowans

Why is it that this photograph of a young Syrian refugee who drown in flight from the war in Syria has been made an iconic image…

Syrian refugee

…while this similar photograph of a young Palestinian killed by the Israeli military while playing on a Gaza beach has not?

gaza-dead-child-on-beach

Which isn’t to say that one tragedy is more worthy of attention than the other, but that’s just the point. One has been made more worthy than the other.

Why?

The answer, I think, has much to do with how politics pervades the mass media and uses it to draw attention to some events and not others.

Why has a media spotlight been shone on the pitiable plight of refugees, now, and not earlier? Syrians have been displaced in countless numbers by the jihadist rampage through their country for more than four years. For four years their plight has been largely invisible.

What of refugees fleeing the chaos created by the war on Libya—essentially a marriage of NATO air forces with al-Qaeda foot soldiers to oust a resource nationalist, Muammar Gaddafi, whom US oil companies could no longer abide?

Why has little attention been paid to the exodus of refugees from the ongoing tumult in Afghanistan, and Iraq?

And the little boy slaughtered on a Gaza beach: He too is forgotten, if he was ever really noticed in the first place.

Could the invisibility of these victims have something to do with reality that they were victimized by the United States, by NATO, by Israel, the supposed “good guys”?

And could the visibility of the drowned little Syrian refugee boy, on a beach, serve a political purpose—to blame the tragedy of the Syrian war on the supposed “bad guy”, Bashar al-Assad, a man the West wants to step aside from his job as president of Syria, because he, like Gaddafi, is a nationalist, and the United States doesn’t like nationalists?

Meanwhile, Saudi King Salman, not a nationalist, is illegally bombing, invading, and blockading his neighbor Yemen (with the assistance of the United States.) The United States likes Salman. Journalist Glen Greenwald recently wrote that “Saudi Arabia executed more than 100 people already this year, mostly by beheading (a rate of 1 execution every two days), and not only is it serially flogging dissidents, but it is reaching new levels of tyrannical depravity as it is about to behead and then crucify the 21-year-old son of a prominent regime critic, Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, who was convicted at the age of 17 of engaging in demonstrations against the government.”

Earlier, Saudi Arabia invaded neighboring Bahrain to violently repress protesters demanding a parliamentary democracy. They used Canadian-supplied light armored vehicles. The Canadian government has organized the sale of more light armored vehicles to the Saudi royal dictatorship. This is all pretty much invisible.

A US official explains that “The countries that cooperate with us get at least a free pass. Whereas other countries that don’t cooperate, we ream them as best we can.” That goes a long way toward explaining visibility and invisibility. A free pass, the reward for cooperation, is a cloak of invisibility.

If the image of a drowned Syrian refugee is being used in an attempt to blame the tragedy of the Syrian war on the supposed “bad guy”, Bashar al-Assad, that too, would be another feat of deflection, of concealing the crimes of the West, namely, that the chaos of Syria that ultimately led to the death of a little child on a beach (and the death of numberless others in far more gruesome ways), is as much as the chaos of Afghanistan, of Iraq, and of Libya, a product of decisions taken by the United States and its allies to impose their wills, their politics, their militaries, their economics, their religions, and their proxies, on other peoples’ countries.

The United States has trained and equipped almost 10,000 rebels and sent them into Syria to foment chaos, misery, and terror, part of a covert CIA program. Its allies have showered fanatical Islamist militants with money, weapons and training, to destabilize Syria, to force a political settlement that would see the current government in Syria step down, to make way for one that is willing to cooperate with the United States politically, militarily and economically.

Two little boys lying dead on beaches killed by governments that present themselves as the “good guys.” Neither are.

West’s Inaction on Gaza Underscores Bankruptcy of Doctrine of Humanitarian Intervention

By Stephen Gowans

After 26 days of Israeli aggression against the 1.8 million people of the Gaza Strip, the right-to-protect (R2P) advocates are conspicuously silent. Israeli occupation forces have slaughtered 1,669 Palestinians, possibly as many as 1,405 of them civilians, according to the United Nations, and 363 of them children. [1] The aggressor state has destroyed civilian infrastructure including Gaza’s lone power plant, disrupting power needed to run machinery to desalinate drinking water and pump human waste. Sewage, along with blood, runs in the streets.

There are no plans for the ‘international community’ to intervene in Gaza to protect civilians. R2P has always been a cover for imperialist conquest, a way to organize regime change—almost invariably to foster a free-trade, free-market, free enterprise economy friendly to investor interests–behind lofty humanitarian goals. It’s not needed for use against Israel. Israel is already a member in good standing of the US imperium. Indeed, it is one of its principal props.

Accordingly, intervention on behalf of Palestinians won’t be happening. Humanitarian intervention is carried out selectively, never against brutish regimes in Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, or Kiev (whose army, assisted by neo-fascist paramilitaries, is shelling Russian-speaking Ukrainians in the country’s east.) These are all US allies, and US allies get R2P exemptions.

The doctrine of humanitarian intervention is a cover for assaults on states that Washington designates it enemies. Intervention doesn’t depend on whether a country’s government tramples human rights, or threatens its own citizens, or practices terrorism, or eschews liberal democracy, or violates international law. It depends on whether rulers are willing to allow their country to become fully integrated into the US-led global economy and bow to the international dictatorship of the United States.

If US foreign policy was really inspired by lofty principles, Washington could hardly count Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, South Korea and Egypt as key allies. All of these countries’ governments exhibit severe shortcomings in the protection of civil and political liberties. Egypt is effectively a military dictatorship and Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are absolutist states. If Washington cared one whit about international law and states that practice terrorism, it could hardly continue to send Israel $3 billion every year in military and economic aid. Indeed, it would have to address its own foreign policy shortcomings, from regularly trampling on international law to protecting anti-Cuban terrorists to carrying out terrorist bombing and missile strikes around the globe.

The West could intervene to stop the Israeli massacre in Palestine. To begin, Washington could cancel military and economic aid to Tel Aviv. Western governments could stop providing Israel with diplomatic cover. But none of this is happening.

Instead, Washington has done the opposite, intervening on Israel’s side, not against it, by replenishing the store of munitions Israel forces have used to destroy homes, mosques, hospitals and people in Gaza. According to The Wall Street Journal, the Pentagon is allowing Israel to tap an ammunition stockpile to replace the 120 mm tanks rounds and 40 mm illumination rounds it has used to carry out a massacre in Gaza. [2] Behind the slaughter in Gaza stands a complicit Washington.

Of course, Washington might perversely argue that this is an R2P project of another sort—protecting Israeli civilians. But Israeli civilians don’t appear to be in much danger. Not a single Israeli civilian died from rocket or mortar fire from Gaza from the November 2012 ceasefire until Israel renewed its assault on Gaza last month. Three Israeli civilians have died from rocket fire since—one-fifth of one percent of the total civilian casualties of Operation Protective Edge. For every Israeli civilian killed, 467 Palestinian non-combatants have been effaced by Israeli forces.

As to the tunnels that have been invoked, along with rocket fire, to justify the slaughter, not one Israeli civilian has been killed by Palestinian resistance fighters using subterranean pathways into Israel. Indeed, it’s unlikely the tunnels are aimed at civilians at all. According to a senior Israeli intelligence official cited by The Times of Israel, Palestinian resistance fighters “aim primarily to abduct soldiers and not to penetrate into civilian communities along the border with Gaza. “

“The central objective is to kidnap a soldier,” the intelligence official said, “to replicate the success of Gilad Shalit,” the Israeli solider abducted by Palestinian resistance fighters to bargain for the release of Palestinian political prisoners incarcerated in Israeli dungeons.

In fact, “of the nine cross-border tunnels detected, none actually stretches into the grounds of a civilian community.” Referring to one of these tunnels, the intelligence source said: “They could have gone 500 meters more, into the kibbutz. Why didn’t they do that?” [3]

If Israel had a genuine interest in protecting its citizens from Palestinian rocket fire, it would never have broken its ceasefire with Hamas, blockaded Gaza to collectively punish Palestinians for electing Hamas in 2006 elections, continued its illegal occupation of the West Bank and effective occupation of Gaza, or continued to illegally expand Jewish settlements on the tiny fraction of historic Palestine Zionists forces haven’t already gobbled up.

Former Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren said: “It’s very difficult to feel compassion for the other when you have rockets aimed at your family.” [4] It’s also very difficult to feel compassion for the other when he has stolen your land, made you a refugee, and is in his seventh decade of waging a colonial war of aggression against yourself, your family, your neighbors, and your people.

1. Nicholas Casey and Joshua Mitnick, “Gaza truce in tatters, Obama blames Hamas”, The Wall Street Journal, August 1, 2014; “90 Palestinians killed, dozens injured on 26th day of Israeli Aggression on Gaza”, WAFA, August 2, 2014; ”Ban ‘shocked’ at collapse of Gaza ceasefire, urges maximum restraint by all parties,” UN News Centre. August 1, 2014.

2. Jay Solomon, Joshua Mitnick, and William Mauldin, “Israel-Hamas, agree to 3-day cease-fire”, The Wall Street Journal, July 31, 2014.

3. Aaron J. Klien and Mitch Ginsburg, “Could Israeli soldiers, not civilians, be the target of the attack tunnels?” The Times of Israel, July 29, 2014.

4. Jodi Rudoren, “In Gaza, epithets are fired and euphemisms give shelter,” The New York Times, July 20, 2014.