The ‘Western’ Racist Roots of Israeli Apartheid

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Palestinian phoenix 4510c

Joe Biden supports a two-state solution to the ‘Palestine problem’. Well, first of all, it never was a Palestine problem. It was a  zionist problem, leading to the colonization and takeover of Palestine by a settler minority. 

Second, the two-state solution is a chimera. Israel is not interested and by supporting a two-state solution that is a delusion,  Biden is actually supporting the continuation of a policy of no solution. In fact, his bogus two-state solution is no more than a mask drawn over the face of his real policy, of continuing lavish support for Israel whatever it does. The one issue Biden does have to face is the Israeli threat to attack Iran if he dares to take the US back into the nuclear agreement breached by Trump. We have to wait to see how he works this out.   

By themselves, the Palestinians have never counted for less in the strategic and political calculations of the zionists. They are treated as a defeated people who should have surrendered long ago and true, the zionists have never been stronger at the material level,  the Palestinians never weaker. 

Only the Palestinians have the right to decide what to do next in the current calamitous situation, but friends can make suggestions and an obvious one would be the need to reconstitute themselves as a national community, building tactical and strategic consensus, before going any further.

In the absence of a two-state solution, the pendulum swings back to one state, either one  Jewish national state or one state for all.  This second aspiration takes the issue back to the 1960s and the one secular state advanced at that time by the PLO.

This soon foundered on the reef of zionist ideology, which from the beginning was based on a Jewish state established over all of Palestine.  That was the whole point of taking the land in the first place: it was a delusion to think the zionists would ever accept anything less than a Jewish state.  Israel’s extended dissembling over the past two decades has merely enabled what was intended,  its colonization of east Jerusalem and the West Bank to reach the point of what many believe to be irreversibility.   

Irreversibility has no meaning in history, of course. The examples are too numerous even to bother proving the point but apparent irreversibility manifested in the 600,000 settlers occupying East Jerusalem and the West Bank has led many Palestinians back to the idea of  one state for all across all of Palestine. 

The pooling of resources in one state with equal rights for Jews, Muslims and Christians (and anyone else) is an attractive and sensible option, of course,  even with all the immense practical difficulties that such an idea entails, beginning with acceptance of the right to return of Palestinians (and their heirs) to the places they came from,  taken over by Jewish settlers in 1948/9 as illegally as the settlers living in east Jerusalem or the West Bank since 1967.

However, even if all this could be sorted out theoretically (and a new name devised for this shared land),  the Jews of today’s Israel do not want it any more than their forebears did.   

For secular Jews living in pre-1967 Israel/occupied Palestine,  the ‘right’ of Israel to exist as a Jewish state is the rock of their collective existence:   for religious Jews living in the territories taken in 1967,  God’s mandate and not Israel’s ‘right’ to exist explains their position but the two positions dovetail in the belief of the necessity of a Jewish state, across all if not most of Palestine.

Just as there were a handful of brave Afrikaaners who fought white settler apartheid, so there have always been Jews who challenge zionist racism:  Judah Magnes and the small circle around him in the 1920s-40s who believed in a binational state,  Uri Avnery and the peaceniks in the 1960s and 1970s and currently,  the scholar Ilan Pappe and the journalists Amira Hass and Gideon Levy.  They expose the lies of the state and the endorsement of its crimes by the people but they represent a tiny minority, allowing the state and the people to shrug them off. 

The similarities between apartheid South Africa and apartheid Israel should not blind people into thinking that the outcome will be the same, that one day,  like the white settlers in South Africa,  the zionists will voluntarily see the error of their ways and change course. 

As far as we can see ahead, this would be another delusion. By 1990 the small white minority of South Africa had declined to about 13 percent of the total population.  Apart from the numbers, the apartheid regime was isolated internationally, with sanctions being imposed that spelled economic ruin: ultimately it had no choice but to give in to what was manifestly inevitable.    

By comparison, while the demographics continue to change against them all the time,  Jews still constitute about 50 percent of the population of Palestine between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. They still have sufficient numbers as well as the armed might for Israel to be able to put down any Palestinian challenge from inside.   

Furthermore,  there is little effective pressure on Israel from the ‘western’ world to change its ways.   BDS has damaged Israel,  but at the cost of a counter-reaction which has resulted in  Israel being given additional protection by the passage of anti-BDS measures by state legislatures across the US and by parliaments in Canada,  Britain, France and Germany.  The gains have been heavily offset by the cost.

The cash flow from the US continues undiminished,  and neither the UN as a collective body or any of its member governments seeks to restrain Israel in any serious way. Not only that,  but they give their fervent support to the charge of anti-semitism which Israel continues to use unscrupulously to destroy those who stand against its racism, the most recent high profile scalp being Jeremy Corbyn’s.

In such an environment of international indulgence,  with only notional marginal interest at home in a genuine one-state settlement, the Israeli government sees no need to change course.  It knows it can do virtually whatever it wants  without the ‘international community’ stepping forward to stand in its way.  Not even the killing of children on the West Bank or in Gaza have been sufficient to push it into making Israel pay for the consequences of its actions.   

Holocaust guilt helps to explain indulgence of Israel but so does the racism of the ‘west,’  past and present,  as manifested yet again by the recent slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent people in Middle Eastern lands.

Far from generating absolute horror at such crimes,  these deaths count for little in the ‘western’ homeland.  Black lives in the US, Canada, or Australia might matter but black or brown lives destroyed in Iraq,  Syria,  Libya, Yemen,  Palestine and numerous other places count for very little in these same countries.

The deaths of 3000 people on 9/11 were widely described as a turning point.  By comparison, no episode of the mass killing of people of color has ever been described as a turning point in history. 

These deaths have little impact in the countries where they are decided:  the faces are faceless, the names nameless,  the features featureless,  the deaths not counted,  no more than an estimate if someone asks.    

There is no turning point for these victims of racist wars:  their world will continue to turn the same way it always has done.  Their deaths do not register because they are not exceptional  – as the deaths on 9/11 were –  but only the normal continuation of what has been going on for centuries in Latin America,  Africa, the Middle East and South-east Asia, with no end in sight even now, and one does not sit up and take notice of the normal.  

The ending of these lives of unequal value at the hands of ‘western’ armies is ignored or quickly forgotten:  no-one in the ‘western’ homeland is ever held responsible, not the politicians launching the wars,  not the pilots firing the missiles, and not the media giving encouragement on the home front.

These two complementary forms of racism, zionist apartheid  on one hand and deeply imprinted  ‘western’ racism on the other,  have been fundamental to the success of Zionism from the beginning. 

With support continuing from the US at all levels,  and with the ‘international community’ reluctant to intervene,  it would be a delusion to think that Israel will one day voluntarily accept a genuine one-state settlement.  The great bulk of Jewish Israelis do not want it and the state will fight it tooth and claw if it ever becomes a serious threat (an extremely remote prospect at the moment).   

There are no signs that sufficient momentum can be developed to compel Israel to accept such a solution.  BDS is effective but only up to a certain point.  The ‘international community’ is not interested in challenging Israel in any meaningful way.  Arab governments never genuinely committed to the Palestine cause in the first place are now coming out of hiding and signing agreements with the enemy who never was. 

To see where any prospect of breaking this deadlock might lie, one has to look at the regional strategic situation as seen through Israeli eyes. The dominant feature in military circles is alarm, born not just of Israel’s failure to intimidate its enemies but the fact that they are stronger now than they were a decade ago. 

The exception is Syria, which has withstood the most determined attempt ever made to destroy an Arab government, has had to pay a terrible price in the loss of life and destruction of its towns and cities and is still battling armed takfiri groups in different parts of the country. It has to concentrate on its own recovery: there is not much else it can do at the moment but its strategic allies, Iran and Hizbullah, remain a standing cause of active preparation for war in Israel.

Inside their homeland, the Palestinians can be killed, bullied and beaten, and otherwise oppressed by a suffocating network of pseudo-legal ‘laws’ but Israel has no such control beyond Palestine’s borders. This external dimension of the Palestinian question –  as an Arab question, historically, politically, culturally, and geographically; as a Muslim question, with the enormous weight that this signifies; and as a human rights question that resonates around the world – has always represented the greatest threat to the zionist state,  as by themselves the Palestinians would never have been capable of overcoming the vast power wielded against them after 1918. 

Resistance to Israel by Iran and Hizbullah arises from the centrality of Palestine in Arab and Muslim consciousness.  They have paid heavily for their commitment but they have not backed off because,  to put it as it is understood in Iran and by Hizbullah, the cause is sacred. Their resistance is deeply principled,  something the ‘western’ homeland cannot allow itself to understand if Israel is to be defended,  but as much as they are demeaned and abused in the ‘western’ homeland as ‘terrorists’  it is they who have human rights and international law on their side,  not Israel.  

In this external form, from beyond Palestine’s borders, the Palestinian phoenix rises again from the ashes of its suffering to haunt its enemy.  An idea can be much harder to crush than a people, because it has to be countermanded by ideas and Israel has none in its armoury, at least not any good ones. 

In the event of another regional war, unfortunately, a probability more than a possibility, on the basis of all past experience, Iran and Hizbullah have the missile capacity to damage Israel well beyond anything it has ever experienced.

Only the trauma of such an experience is likely to push Israel in the direction of one state for everyone living in the land of Palestine,  with the doors of return opened to the refugees. This is clearly the common-sense solution, the humane solution, but it is not one that Israel is likely to embrace voluntarily.

*(Top image credit: Carlos Lattuf/ Twitter/ Mondoweiss)  

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