Israel and World Jewry

By Evan Jones

Source

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The Covid-19 pandemic hits the world. Undeterred, the Israeli forces of Occupation (including the settlers) escalate the rampage and the outrages. Murders, harassment and arrests, home demolitions, destruction and/or theft of virus aid equipment and food and brutalizing of aid workers, Gaza crop poisoning on a grand scale, West Bank crop destruction, etc. Spitting on Palestinians is now de rigueur. Business as usual. Sadism on a grand scale. Whence the motivation? And the collective psychological reward? The Jewish God is a militant deity.

Israel is a pariah state. It is an apartheid state in its construction, [1] from its inception as an ethnocracy, not one for which the label ‘apartheid’ is merely a dangerous prospect on the horizon with a completely colonized West Bank.

How does Israel survive as such, given that apartheid South Africa has disappeared into history. It survives essentially because of support from the institutionalized structures of establishment world Jewry. Period.

Don’t talk Christian Zionists, as they are a side issue, crazies succoured to dilute the central causal lineage.

The US umbrella is tangibly of enormous importance. But behind the White House compliance is the Zionist lobby, from Truman onwards (albeit with occasional wobbles). The Zionist lobby owns Congress; those members they don’t own they simply extrude (starting with William Fulbright in 1974, Paul Findley, Pete McCloskey, Cynthia McKinney, etc.). The massive role of the US in supporting Israel is a product of institutionalized American Jewry – now centred on the peak body AIPAC.[2] The argument that US support of Israel is an instrumental means of projecting US power in the Middle East is diversionary; the posited hierarchy of master and proxy won’t wash. Cui bono?

The Zionist lobby only recently destroyed what was left of the integrity of the British Labour Party, installing a functionary at its head. The British state is Zionist-occupied territory; ditto that of France, Germany (hobbled by the Jewish holocaust), Canada and Australia.

Israel, as a racist state, is engaged in criminality sui generis. It was a guaranteed outcome known from the start. Theodore Herzl noted (1896): ‘An infiltration [of Jewish migrants to Palestine] is bound to end badly. It continues to the inevitable moment when the native population feels itself threatened … Immigration is consequently futile unless based on an assured supremacy’. Violence was implicit in Zionism from the outset.[3]

The native population felt itself threatened immediately, but the Zionist movement found solace and then salvation in the arrival of World War, the Balfour Declaration and subsequently the British Mandate over Palestine. Until the Zionists could muster the firepower to create its ‘promised land’ unilaterally by terrorism. That firepower was acquired from British training en masse, just prior to World War II (to quell the Arab rebellion) and during the War itself.

As David Hirst notes, regarding the massacres and bombings by Jewish forces in response to the MacDonald White Paper of May 1939: [4]

‘The ideological roots of ‘gun Zionism reach back to Theodor Herzl himself. It was inevitable, as he foresaw, that armed force would eventually come into its own as the principal instrument of a movement which, in its earlier and weaker phase, could only rely on the protection of an imperial sponsor. That phase was now drawing to a close.’

Israeli criminality must be sheeted home to the personnel within the institutions of the Israeli state – politicians, the military and intelligence services, the judiciary, etc. They are crimes of individuals, groupings, institutionalized, the personnel being uniformly Jewish.

Isn’t this criminality bad for world Jewry and what it means to be Jewish? Apparently not. Establishment Jewish institutions, with one voice, sign up for Israel’s crimes. More, support of Israel is their raison d’être – all while simultaneously shedding crocodile tears about anti-Semitism. The global Jewish community, whether Jewish individuals like it or not, is implicated in Israeli criminality by the dominant Jewish organizations who claim to speak for national Jewish communities.

The Wikipedia entry of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC), clearly sanctioned by its subject, notes: ‘The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, represents the interests of the Australian Jewish community to …’. Here’s a representative conflation of the interests of the state of Israel and of a national Jewish community in its entirety.

John Lyons was Middle East correspondent for The Australian newspaper during 2009-15. His Balcony Over Jerusalem [5] is notable for the attention paid to the lobby. Like all budding Middle East correspondents, Lyons was inevitably the subject of attempted seduction and, failing that, subsequently the subject of escalating attacks for his endeavour to fulfil his role as independent reporter. A senior Israeli military officer observed to Lyons: ‘The Israel lobby in Australia is the most powerful lobby in the world in terms of impact it has within its own country’.

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The nation-based lobby works to ensure that its own government (whichever Party is in power) remains complacent, acquiescent, if not blood red in support. It also works tirelessly to control the information flow. Because Israel stinks, disinformation (lies, counter-narratives, fairy stories) and censorship have to be an integral part of the lobby’s activities. Lyons recounts how, in particular, AIJAC’s Colin Rubenstein constantly pressured senior management at The Australian to close down his reporting. (Senior management of the Murdoch-owned paper supported Lyons, in spite of the attempted scuttling by a middle level editor).

The other major Australian media chain, Fairfax (now Nine Entertainment), owner of the major Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra dailies, has faced the same pressure. Ditto the publicly-owned television stations ABC & SBS. Fairfax/Nine has persistently caved in, granting privileged access to the opinion and letters pages to pro-Israel apologists. An ex-Fairfax journalist, friend, confirms that the pressure of the lobby on management was relentless and intolerable.

In early January, in the Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne Age we have Rubenstein glorifying the assassination of Qasem Soleimani as ‘arch-terrorist’, presiding over a claimed multi-tentacled terrorist expansionist reach of Iran in the Middle East, destabilising everything in its wake. Rubenstein even has Iran behind the assassination of Lebanon’s Rafiq Hariri in 2005. Surprisingly, the online comments editor allowed multiple responses from ‘woke’ readers to Rubenstein as an Israel front man, whereas editors scrupulously deny such feedback in the print version of the newspaper. In the same issue of the papers we have an AIPAC flunkey claiming on cue that the essential issue behind US-Iran escalating tension is ‘the pressing need to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons’, bizarrely accusing Iran of undermining the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal.

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Rubenstein was in the Herald again in late January, claiming that plenipotentiary Jared Kushner’s ‘Middle East Peace Plan (sic)’, in the formulation of which no Palestinian authorities were invited, is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Thus are Australians fed the regular odious drip, very rarely opposed in print, of the innate necessity and justice of Israel’s criminality.

Rather than the association between Israel and its global Jewish community support being severed as the daily brutality of the Israeli forces of Occupation accumulates, the association has recently been reinforced. The notable vehicle for this reinforcement has been the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and its ‘working definition’ of anti-Semitism. The Definition skirts over ‘Holocaust Remembrance’ but pays majority attention to the treatment of Israel.

Thus we find that rational criticism, driven by conventional humanitarian principles, of Israel’s criminality is labelled anti-Semitic. More, IHRA personnel and Jewish organizations flog this definition, pressuring, pressuring national governments into submission to accept the definition and to act as repressive agents against free-thinking citizens of those countries.

And to those who object? The issue is concisely contained in a recent skirmish in faraway New Zealand. The brief report on stuff.nz deserves quoting at length. It turns out that the Wellington Jewish Council had requested New Zealand’s capital city to adopt the IHRA’s definition of anti-Semitism. But the Wellington Progressive Synagogue objected, claiming that the definition ‘had the potential to conflate antisemitism with anti-Zionism (opposition to the state of Israel), as it had already done overseas’. Too kind – not ‘potential’, as the point of the definition is precisely to conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism.

Said Progressive Synagogue spokespersons: ‘Its new effect is to regulate the speech of people like ourselves: law-abiding non-Zionists who call for the unexceptional application of law and human rights in Israel/Palestine; Jews and non-Jews alike’. Quite.

The NZ Jewish Council responded that ‘the IHRA definition explicitly stated criticism of Israel could not be regarded as antisemitic’. A dishonest retort. The text includes the sentence ‘… criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic’. But this is transparently a ruse to deflect from the substance of the definition’s text for which the sentence is an aberration. And the meaning of ‘similar to that levelled against any other country’? Criticisms of Israel are aimed precisely at structures and practices that set it apart from other countries, including some countries that are utterly on the nose. The IHRA mob mean – we will be the arbiters of what is acceptable criticism. But, in truth, what is ‘acceptable’ criticism is an empty set.

But here’s the clincher. The Jewish Council continues: ‘The writers of the opinion piece were “fringe” and did not have a mandate to speak on behalf of the Jewish community – unlike the Jewish Council’.

‘Fringe’? ‘Mandate’? This is it in a nutshell. If you don’t support Israel 100 per cent, you aren’t a real Jew. And on what basis does the Jewish Council’s presumed ‘mandate’ rest?

Michelle Weinroth, author and member of Independent Jewish Voices Canada, nails the fraud and duplicity behind the IHRA push:

‘If the IHRA definition turns a blind eye to the veritable culprits of heinous racism, it nonetheless targets the anti-racist defenders of Palestinian human rights, many of whom are conscientious Jews. … it masquerades as an innocuous, educational, and preventative measure while acting as a penal code that aggresses the advocates of human rights, silencing them with veiled threats. … At its heart sits a false equation between the state of Israel and Jews more generally.’

A false equation between Israel and Jews ‘more generally’. Here’s another one. Recently brought to light, an earlier tussle took place in September 1991 when Israel demanded a $10 billion loan guarantee, which President George H Bush viewed as a means of undermining the forthcoming Madrid peace conference (Blankfort, fn.2). Bush Sr threatened to deny Israel the loan guarantees if the large contingent of migrants from the Soviet Union were to be directed into West Bank settlements. Philip Weiss reports:

‘The Israel lobby group the American Jewish Committee (AJC) decided to support the Israeli government against the White House in 1991 over illegal Israeli settlements on the West Bank, even though many officials at the organization privately backed the president. The AJC reasoned that a leading Jewish organization in Washington had a “primary responsibility” to stand up for Israel because the country represents the “collective will” of the Jewish people, an AJC official says.’

Israel represents the collective will of the Jewish people? Were ‘the Jewish people’ consulted?

One of the more remarkable attempts to associate Israel with the ‘collective will’ of the Jewish people, via the conflation of anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, is a statement by one Robert Wistrich to the UN Commission on Human Rights, published on 10 September 2004.[6] Wistrich’s parents’ lives were blighted by anti-Semitism, and his subsequent stellar academic career was devoted to this very subject. Yet this statement is a wretched mishmash, devoid of logic and history, and conveniently oblivious to Israeli criminality. And this during the Prime Ministership of noted humanist Ariel Sharon. Wistrich claims:

‘Much of the mobilizing power of “anti-Zionism” derives from its link to the Palestinian cause. Since the 1960s, the [Palestine Liberation Organization] has worked hard to totally delegitimize Zionism and the policy has largely succeeded: this anti-Zionism involves a total negation of Jewish nationhood and legitimate Jewish sovereignty in Eretz Israel …’

Legitimate sovereignty in Eretz Israel? Sure. Wistrich’s tribalism has overridden his rigorous academic training. Curious, there are no Jewish dissenters in his grab bag of mad dog anti-Semites in a pragmatic coalition all aimed at the destruction of Israel.

Wistrich couldn’t really avoid this elephant in the room, so he grabbed the bull by the horns in a 2014 issue of Commentary (preaching to the converted). [7] Well-known Jewish intellectuals who don’t toe the Party line are accused of having been mentally and morally captured by infantile Marxism, etc., and/or anti-Americanism, their left-wing blinkered obsessions then finding its next object of abuse post-Vietnam in Israel. Noam Chomsky, Richard Falk, Howard Zinn (‘Hatred for America, the West, and Israel thrives beneath the cloak of human rights and social justice’), Eric Hobsbawm, Shlomo Sand, Ilan Pappé – all are excoriated for their sins.

In particular, Wistrich couldn’t have ignored Shlomo Sand, whose cannon volleys in The Invention of the Jewish People (2009) and The Invention of the Land of Israel (2012) blasted Wistrich’s self-assured self-righteousness to shreds. Wistrich dismisses Sand (‘his pseudoscientific delegitimization of Israel’) as merely having ‘revived long-discredited theories – such as Arthur Koestler’s deranged notion that Ashkenazi Jews sprang from Khazars who converted in the 10th century C.E.’. Wistrich ignored that Sand, in genuine scholarly fashion, put Koestler’s The Thirteenth Tribe (1976) into context with a considerable literature on the same theme.

The rhetoric of these contemptible lefties, claims Wistrich, ‘divorced from historical truth and geopolitical reality, negates any possibility of reform or redress concerning genuine grievances’. Genuine grievances? A chink in the armour? How could there be grievances against Israel that were genuine (the ‘empty set’ again), and who would decide? Evidently not the Palestinian victims or their Jewish sympathizers.

We have a comparable affair when French elder statesman Robert Badinter addressed UNESCO in December 2016,[8] appropriating Holocaust remembrance to plug Israel as synonymous with Jewry per se. Badinter played the same card as Wistrich:

‘What is certain is that in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, anti-Semitism has once again spread widely under the name of anti-Zionism. We must have the lucidity to recognize that under this label that refers to Zionism, it is indeed the Jews, and Jews everywhere, who are targeted. And I would say that anti-Zionism under the surface is nothing but the contemporary expression of anti-Semitism, namely, hatred of the Jews.’

The ‘not in my name’ communities, declining to join wholeheartedly the cause of Israel über alles, have been written out of the story. Einstein, Freud, Arendt, camp survivors like Hajo Meyer; individual authors, bloggers and/or activists; non-compliant Jewish organizations; Israeli human rights organizations; etc. It’s the Spinoza syndrome – ignored if too famous; otherwise excommunicated because ‘self-hating’ Jews, ‘fringe’ elements, etc.

When Hannah Arendt published Eichmann in Jerusalem,[9] highlighting the bureaucrat over the monster, even her fame didn’t save her from damnation. Daniel Maier-Katkin highlights the ongoing character assassination and its character:[10]

‘[A] campaign against the memory of Hannah Arendt continues, and the ideology that rationalizes and justifies ad hominem attacks and menacing gestures against Jews who dare to criticize Israel persists. As Rabbi [Michael] Lerner and Justice [Richard] Goldstone have learned, a Jew who fears that Israel is on a path that leads to destruction, or who is skeptical of a “divine mission to possess the land,” or concerned about the legality or morality of unrelenting military strategies to secure regional domination, will be attacked as self-hating and anti-Semitic.

‘To hate oneself is ipso facto pathological, and this, it is asserted, leads to irrational hatred of Israel, which is seen as the embodiment of the Jewish people. Thus, defenders of Israeli policies aim to exclude Jewish critics from public discourse by defining them as crazy persons, driven to anti-Semitism by self-loathing. In this way Lerner’s criticism of Israel, or Goldstone’s, or Arendt’s is dismissed as arising from psychological or spiritual disturbance rather than reasoned argument or an ethical posture. Calumny, an old-fashioned blend of slander, distortion, and innuendo, has been a recurring instrument of intimidation in post-Holocaust Jewish politics.’

In sum, Israeli state and settler criminality persist because it is supported uniformly by dominant national Jewish bodies, with de facto support and/or passivity from sections of the Jewish population. This instutionalized structure never fails to claim that it acts for Jewry in its entirety. Dissidents from the demand for unqualified support are cast aside from the tribe.

Is it not then possible, indeed probable, that some cool-headed people will reason that it is appropriate to become an anti-Semite? A stance rooted not in a time-worn shibboleth, but on the seeming support of the vast majority of world Jewry for Israeli criminality and inhumanity? Ersatz anti-Semitism (criticism of Israel), manufactured by the Zionist lobby as cover-up, thus potentially fosters substantive anti-Semitism. The real thing.

The Canadian (Jewish) philosopher Michael Neumann earlier nailed the implications:[11]

‘Inflating the meaning of ‘anti-Semitism’ to include anything politically damaging to Israel is a double-edged sword. … The more things get to count as anti-Semitic, the less awful anti-Semitism is going to sound. …

‘Since we are obliged to oppose the settlements, we are obliged to be anti-Semitic. Through definitional inflation, some form of anti-Semitism becomes morally obligatory. It gets worse if anti-Zionism is labelled anti-Semitic… The more anti-Semitism expands to include opposition to Israeli policies, the better it looks.

‘Given the crimes to be laid at the feet of Zionism, there is another simple syllogism: anti-Zionism is a moral obligation, so, if anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism, anti-Semitism is a moral obligation.’

The ‘not in my name’ communities, in their myriad dimensions and considerable expenditure of energy, have made not a jot of difference to Israel’s project. Why?

Gideon Levy, long-time Haaretz journalist providing a window into Israel’s soul, has honed in on the denial, conscious amongst its leaders, subliminal amongst the bulk of the populace, that accompanies Israel’s ongoing criminality. And behind it? Here is Levy in March 2018 (he said the same in an Australian lecture tour in November 2017):

‘There are three core values of Israeli culture that enforce the totalitarian discourse.

‘The first value: we are the chosen people. Secular and religious will claim it. Even if they don’t admit it they feel it. If we are the chosen people, who are you to tell us what to do. The second very deeply rooted value: we are the victims, not only the biggest victims, but the only victims around…. I don’t recall one occupation in which the occupier present himself as the victim. Not only the victim– the only victim….

‘There is a third very deep rooted value. This is the very deep belief again everyone will deny it but if you scratch under the skin of almost any Israeli you will find it there, the Palestinians are not equal human beings like us. They don’t love their children like us. They don’t love life like us. They were born to kill, they are cruel, they are sadists, they have no values, no manners… This is very, very deep rooted in Israeli society. And maybe that’s the key issue. As long as this continues, nothing will move. We are so much better than them, so much more developed than them, more human than them.’

One of Sydney’s Jewish schools, Moriah College, has as its ‘core values’ (not atypical):

‘We strive to foster critical thought, cultural interests, tolerance, social responsibility and self-discipline. … Moriah not only aspires to achieve excellence in academic standards, but maintains and promotes among its students an awareness of and a feeling for Jewish traditions and ethics, an understanding of and a positive commitment to Orthodox Judaism and identification with and love for Israel.’

Critical thought, tolerance, social responsibility, and identification with and love for Israel? Take your pick. You can’t have both.

 

 

‘Israeli’ Demolishing of Palestinian Houses Policy of Ethnic Cleansing

By Staff, Fars News Agency

Political activist Jeff Halper said the Zionist entity aims at taking more Palestinian lands by driving them out of their territory or confine the remaining people in a relatively small area.

Halper told Fars News Agency that ‘Israel’ extends the notorious separation wall “as long and as high as ‘Israel’ needs to define its demographic borders and the cantos in which the Palestinians will be confined”.

Halper is a co-founder of The People Yes! Network [TPYN] and the former Director of the ‘Israeli’ Committee against House Demolitions [ICAHD].

In response to a questions regarding the ‘Israeli’ demolition of Palestinians’ homes, he said: “The ‘Israeli’ policy of home demolitions goes back to the Nakba in 1948, when it systematically demolished more than 530 entire villages, towns and urban areas, some 52,000 homes. Some other 55,000 have been demolished in the occupied Palestinian Territory since 1967, plus thousands more within ‘Israel’ until today.”

He went on to say that “it is a policy of ethnic cleansing, designed to drive as many Palestinians out of the country or to confine those that stay to small enclaves on 15% of the country.”

Halper further explained that ‘Israel’ will not demolish homes in those enclaves [Areas A & B, Gaza except in military attacks] and the enclaves of East al-Quds and ‘Israel’ since it needs them to house the population in concentrated areas.

He stressed that all kinds of demolitions are war crimes since they violate the Fourth Geneva Convention that protects a civilian population living under occupation.

“The act itself was not unusual. ‘Israeli’ demolition of Palestinian homes is a routine, almost daily occurrence. What set it apart was the scale, the impunity, and the political implications,” he added.

‘Israel’ Advanced Plans for 22,000 Settler Units in West Bank in 3 Years

Vegan Washing: How Israel Uses Veganism to Gloss Over Palestinian Oppression

By Alan Macleod

Source

Most of us are now aware that we constantly receive micro-targeted advertisements in our social media feeds based on our interests, location or habits. Those in the vegan community are no exception.

However, an increasing number of  promoted posts targeted at vegans on apps like Facebook or Twitter are clearly Israeli Defense Force (IDF) propaganda. Most of these are videos discussing, in English, how accommodating to the plant-based lifestyle the IDF is and how easy it is to be a vegan soldier.

Israel, its government tells us, is a vegan paradise of tolerance and open-mindedness, where its soldiers can serve their country according to their ethical principles, eating vegan food and wearing clothes free from leather, wool, or other animal products. There are now around 10,000 vegan soldiers in the IDF, and that figure is quickly rising. Meanwhile, Tel Aviv markets itself to foreigners as the “vegan capital of the world”.

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The perfect place to be vegan doesn’t exi-

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Apartheid Isn’t Vegan

There is a fundamental contradiction between veganism and apartheid. Veganism at its core is an ideology of radical compassion for and non-violence towards all sentient beings. As vegan website Live Kindly explains, it means “to live in a way which shows appreciation to our humanity, our home and those who share it with us.” It should go without saying that this is completely incompatible with successive Israeli governments going back to 1948 and Israel’s commitment to being a Jewish supremacist state. Thus, in Israel, a country that cares about animals more than its indigenous human population, you can be vegan, but you can’t support Palestinian rights.

Nevertheless, Israel continues to use the fact that thousands of its soldiers abscond from animal products as proof that it is a forward-thinking, progressive nation. Mainstream and corporate media have, unsurprisingly, parroted this assertion. The BBC, for instance, tells the story of an IDF soldier, Daniella Yoeli, so moral that “had the army not been able to provide conditions that had harmed no living creatures, she might not have enlisted in a combat unit where she would not have been able to provide her own food.” Unexplored in the article was whether or not Palestinian humans qualified as human beings to her.

More alarming, however, is how many vegetarian and vegan outlets have swallowed the bait as well. Veg News reports how Israeli soldiers march to war in leather-free boots and have plentiful plant-based ration optionsLive Kindly noted how the IDF’s deputy chief of staff is a vegetarian and how it recently appointed its first vegan officer. Meanwhile, PETA went so far as to advise the Swiss Army to “take a leaf out of the Israel Defense Forces’ book”. But especially troubling is that none of the articles even mentioned any criticism of the IDF, the government, or their actions, effectively amplifying Israeli propaganda worldwide.

Israel Vegans

With a host of celebrity advocates, including Tobey Maguire, Emily Deschanel and Zac Efron, veganism is growing exponentially across the West. Noting that a quarter of 25-34 year old Americans are vegetarian or stricter, The Economist labeled 2019 the “year of the vegan.” Yet uncritical regurgitation of IDF press releases subtly presents the Middle East region as liberal, forward-thinking Israelis vs. backward, close-minded Arab Muslims.

This framing is particularly misleading for a number of reasons. Firstly, much of the most commonly celebrated Israeli vegan food (falafel, hummus, baba ghanoush, stuffed vine leaves) is simply the appropriated cuisine of the local peoples Israel displaced during its creation. Secondly, the great irony is that the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development statistics show that Israelis actually consume the most poultry per capita in the world, with 80% of the population eating it every day. As a whole, Israelis eat over 200 pounds of meat every year, more than even the famously carnivorous Americans.

Furthermore, as the Palestinian Animal League notes, while 3% of Israeli Jews are vegan, the number of their Palestinian Israeli counterparts is twice as high. Therefore, the narrative begins to disintegrate upon even modest inspection.

From Vegan Washing to Pink Washing

In a similar fashion, Israel presents itself as a haven of acceptance for the LGBT community in a region of intolerance. After winning the event in 2018, the country received the right to host the Eurovision Song Contest, a continent-wide celebration of flamboyantly gay music and culture (despite not being a European nation).

The Israeli government saw the country’s victory as a huge diplomatic triumph, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declaring winning performer Netta Barzilai as its “best ambassador.” Barzilai flew back home to perform at a government-sponsored victory celebration. The same day the IDF slaughtered at least 58 Palestinians. There was a considerable amount of pushback to the idea of Israel hosting the competition this year, with some acts refusing to perform. Nevertheless, the show went ahead as planned in Tel Aviv, another coup for the government.

While Israel is indeed a land that is both comparatively tolerant of LGBT people and accommodating to vegans, the general progressiveness that implies does not extend to the realm of politics, where the country continues to lurch ever more rightward to the point where even its former Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, has warned that the country is “infected” with fascism and the government must be stopped. Thus, in the Jewish-only state, female bulldozer drivers can destroy Palestinian villages, vegan tank commanders can run over wheelchair-bound children, and transgender pilots can bomb wedding receptions. The trick the IDF is trying to play is to get as much of the world to concentrate on its (limited) liberal inclusivity and ignore its near-genocidal military policy. And it appears to be working.

What It Means to be Israeli: Reflections on Identity From an Israeli Peace Activist

By Miko Peled
Source

SÃO PAULO — (Opinion) To clarify the conditions of Israeli society and Israeli attitudes towards peace and justice, it is important to identify what it means to be “Israeli.” That was the premise of a recent speech I gave at a conference titled “Oslo at 25 – An Elusive Peace,” recently held at the University of São Paulo in Brazil.

My role was to speak about “initiatives from within Israeli society in favor of peace and justice for the region.” The conference included a wide array of speakers from around the world, all experts on the different aspects of the Middle East. I was asked to speak on one of the panels along with Dr. Azzam Tamimi, Afif Safia, and Professor Alvaro Vasconcelos. The panel was chaired by Professor Arlene Clemesha of the University of São Paulo.

What is Israeli Identity?

In my book, The General’s Son, Journey of an Israeli in Palestine, I try to describe what an Israeli is and Palestine is, and I do this through the journey of an Israeli in Palestine. Palestine being a small country, no journey within it can be very long. However, the journey of an Israeli into Palestine is that of one who ventures out of the safe sphere of the privileged occupier, where the roads are well paved and the water flows freely, to that of the occupied, the oppressed, the “other,” where reality is vastly different.

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Zionists will argue that it was in fact anti-Semitism that brought about the need for the creation of a new identity for Jewish people, the Israeli identity, which is aggressive and bold. But was this really an improvement in the conditions of Jewish people? Members of the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community feel very differently.

While some argue that the Holocaust and the anti-Semitism prevalent in Europe throughout the centuries are the justification for the existence of the state of Israel, the fact is that most Jewish people who escaped anti-Semitism sought refuge elsewhere. Only a small fraction of Israelis today have family members who survived the Holocaust.

In a conversation I had with Rabbi Dovid Feldman from New York, I mentioned to him that as Israelis we look down at the rather pale, frail appearance of the Ultra-Orthodox community. “You have no idea how hard we work to maintain this look,” he replied. He went on to say that the Zionist version of a “strong” Jew is antithetical to Judaism.

More than one member of this community has told me, “Israel is no place for a Jew.” In a conversation with Rabbi Elhanan Beck, who moved from Jerusalem to London, Beck told me:

I’ve lived in the U.K. for 36 years and, even with my obvious Jewish look (long beard and traditional clothes), I have never experienced anti-Semitism. Furthermore, neither I or my children have ever seen a soldier; I do not know what a British soldier looks like. In Jerusalem, children see soldiers and guns all around them. So how is Israel a safer or better place for Jews?”

No ethnic or religious identity

There is an unproven claim — more of a myth — that all Jewish people today are descendants of the children of Israel or the ancient Hebrews who lived in Palestine several thousand years ago. Even though this story is perpetuated, the fact is that not a single Jewish person alive today can trace their ancestry to the ancient Hebrews, nor can they show where their ancestral home or land was located, nor do they possess as much as a key to that home. So Israelis are not natives of the land.

In addition to that, Jewish people are ethnically different from one another. The ethnic differences between Yemeni Jews and Polish Jews are evident in every aspect of their existence. Those non-Europeans who ended up in Israel faced very different realities owing to the racist tendencies that were prevalent among the ruling Israelis of European descent. Even today, when racism is less obvious, the ethnic and cultural differences are still obvious.

Whether or not Israelis, who are by and large a secular society, are really Jewish is another question. According to the strict interpretation of Jewish law — which completely and without compromise rejects secularism and Zionism — the so-called Jewish identity of the Israeli people is put in question: Jewish law prohibits Jews from sovereignty in the Holy Land, and sovereignty in the Holy Land is what Israelis are all about. Furthermore, if one does not follow Jewish law, the meaning of one’s Jewish identity is in question.

It, therefore, can come as no surprise that growing up as an Israeli one learns to hate Arabs and to hate orthodox non-Zionist Jews. A great number of the larger Orthodox communities, as in the state of  New York, for example, are survivors of the Holocaust and are strictly anti-Zionist. Clearly, Israelis cannot identify with them.

So if Israelis are not natives of the land on which they live, and their Jewish identity is in question, who are they?

A New Creation

“Israeli-ness” is a new creation, a new political and social entity that in many ways is similar to the white society in South Africa and the Americas. Israeli society was built on a racist, settler-colonial ideology, and it too is guilty of genocide and the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous population.

Zionism, the ideological foundation of Israel and of “Israeli-ness,” is incompatible with justice and equality with the indigenous people of Palestine — and therefore is incompatible with what we might see as Peace. Zionist ideological claims to the “Land of Israel” are absolute and, as has been made clear over seven decades of Zionist control of Palestine, will not compromise.

What few attempts Israel has made to negotiate “peace” with the Palestinians should be viewed as tactics to serve the larger strategy of controlling the land, the people and the resources. The Oslo Agreement is no different from the massacres of Deir Yassin or Kfar Kassem that were intended to create a mass exodus of Palestinians and allow for more land to be taken by the Zionist state. Oslo was no different from the Israeli massacres in the refugee camps in Sabra and Shatila in Lebanon, or the recurring attacks on Gaza, or any other attacks on Palestinians that are in fact too many to count.

In a recent interview, I was asked whether it is fair to say that one should not blame the Israeli people but rather the government. Had the state of Israel not been a democracy for Jews, that claim would have some truth to it. But the Israeli governments represent Israeli society. Israelis live in a democracy, they vote in high numbers and they’ve elected and re-elected leaders who have executed brutal attacks against the Palestinian people over the past seven decades.

Israeli attitudes towards peace and justice can be clearly viewed by observing the policies that consecutive Israeli governments have executed towards Palestinians. Ongoing violence and injustice with no end in sight, until such a day that Zionism and its racist ideology are brought down and replaced by an inclusive democracy that provides complete equal rights to all who live between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

 

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