Endangered and dangerous Israel, endangering Jews

What effect on Jews elsewhere from manifestly wrong or immoral actions of the state?

Image Credit: AP Photo/Manu Fernandez

Today’s siege of Gaza is the latest iteration of a more than century-long  effort to instill a controlling fear of, and “respect” for, Jews in the non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine. 

In the 20th century, the growing Zionist community in Palestine was, in the main, garrisons of settlers alienated from their neighbors, economically, socially, and linguistically.  With the creation of the state and the Nakba (the exile of three-quarters of non-Jewish Palestinians from the new state), those Arabs were simply not missed from Israeli lives.

In this century, military attacks upon Gaza, populated mostly by refugees from the Jewish state, became simply “mowing the lawn.”

It is becoming horribly clear that a new strategy is being contemplated—destruction of Gaza as a place 2-plus millions can live, with the intention that they leave. 

The bizarre and unnatural relations between Jewish immigrants and Palestinians in the last 125 years of the modern Zionist movement has led to this point.

Hadassah founder Henrietta Szold, in a 1915 article about Zionist settlements in Palestine, reported formation of a “self-constituted and self-governed company of Jewish youths, revolver-armed, most of them known for zeal and ebullient enthusiasm… 

“Ha-Shomer [“The Guardian,” succeeded by the Haganah armed force in 1920] has raised the dignity of the Jew in the eyes of his Arab neighbors.”

She explained the necessity of an armed cadre to the settlement enterprise: “The company is made of the material needed for the pioneer bands that are to prepare outlying regions through occupancy by themselves for permanent settlement and cultivation by others.”

It should be noted that Israeli “settlements” historically have been explicitly for the purpose of taking, holding, and “Judaizing” Palestine.

Over a century of Zionist conquest of Palestine leads up to Hamas’ attacks on Jewish settlements adjacent to the constricted Palestinian refuge of Gaza, and the Israeli state’s response.

Intimidation of the “natives” is the leitmotif  through the modern Zionist settlement of Palestine. 

From Vladimir Jobotinski’s “Iron Wall” to former PM Ehud Olmert’s depiction of Israel as a “villa in the jungle” (and championing the strategy of “the landlord has gone crazy”) the focus has been bullets and steel as the solution to taking and holding a Jewish homeland in Palestine – and creation of Palestinians as an exiled and inconvenient people.

Israel’s UN representative exhibits a resolute refusal to consider context, reacting with fury to the UN Secretary General saying the Hamas raid “did not occur in a vacuum.” 

The barbarity of a slave revolt or a colonial uprising justifies the suppression to which it reacts. Slave revolts and colonial uprisings are often vicious, horrific. This justifies the idea that “those people” obviously do not deserve self rule, are in an important way not as human as the dominating polity. 

Allan Brownfeld, of the historic anti-Zionist American Council for Judaism, wrote in a letter to the Washington Post, on the occasion of intensifying Jewish settler attacks on Arab communities in the West Bank,

Israel calls itself a “Jewish state,” but  there is nothing “Jewish” about mistreating people because they are of a different religion or ethnic group.  Indeed, Zionism has, it seems, turned its back on  the universal Jewish moral tradition which Jewish critics of Zionism such as Albert Einstein, Judah Magnes, Martin Buber and Hannah Arendt warned that it would. 

Jewish night raids of the 1930s and 1940s, Mandate-era terrorism, and 1947-48  Jewish militia and Haganah ethnic cleansing are in a trajectory to today’s semi-official Jewish settler rampages against Arab communities in the West Bank—reminiscent of pogroms of old where tsarist officials were complicit with the pogromists—and the mad bombing of the Gaza Strip.

America’s relationship with Israel has been enmeshed with domestic politics and the compromised position of the “official” American Jewish organizations.

American Jewish Committee chairman Jacob Blaustein repeatedly habituated United States policy makers in the 1950s to the premise that “the more the Arabs are kow-towed to, the more intransigent they get and the further removed is peace.”

Conversely, in conferences with American officials, he told them that tendencies to extremism in the Israeli government and body politic would be weakened by American support. Arms, money, and US advocacy in the United Nations would make Israel more conciliatory to her neighbors.

He warned that U.S. condemnation of Israeli aggression, or injustices to Palestinians, would “weaken” reasonable Israeli factions, provoking more likely Israeli military action, and thus complicate peace-making.

In U.S. defense policy, partnership with the Israeli state has become axiomatic, providing fulsome American support, turning a blind eye to the parallel dispossession of Palestinians with the Israeli achievement of “Jewish” sovereignty, allying with the manifest injustice.

The Huffington Post on Oct. 19 reported U.S. State Department staff are preparing a “dissent cable” on American absolute support for Israel’s attacks on Gaza, following the resignation of one official, publicly announcing he “could not morally support the U.S.’s moves to supply Israel’s war effort.”

Israel’s conduct seems to be stimulating open hostility to Jews around the world, as local targets for anger at Gaza’s agony. 

The call from Israel when Jews abroad are in danger is, Come home to Israel, where you belong and will be safe from violence inflicted because you are Jewish.

It is now less credible to think of Israel as a safe place for Jews as Jews, in an ironic twist. And the more extreme measures Israel wreaks on Gaza for Israel’s safety, the more imperiled by association Jews outside Israel will be.

The strangulation of the two-million-plus population of Gaza will be an ultimate expression of the militant Jewish nationalist assertion of control, watched in real time by the world.

I feel sickened writing at this moment—it’s not going to get any better, for Palestinians, Israelis, or diaspora Jews who are going to find their world changed. We’re coming to some sort of ending of what’s been an endless grind of Palestinian loss.

Israel’s pretension of invincibility from consequences of the Nakba and imposed partition of Palestine, etc., has been broken.

In crisis, the Zionist state in Palestine—“temporarily” evacuating 125,000 Israelis from its periphery territories, making a massive military reserve call-up, with multiplying war fronts (West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, missiles from Yemen)—will surface two questions that concerned American Jewish leaders as the reality of a sovereign “Jewish” state neared reality:

What effect on the status of diaspora Jews if the state is defeated?

What effect on Jews elsewhere from manifestly wrong or immoral actions of that state?


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