Sunday, July 30, 2006

Israel’s Racism


Copyright © 2006 by Mark Gabrish Conlan for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • All rights reserved

Once upon a time Jews were among the world’s principal victims of racism. For centuries the Jews of Europe were locked in ghettos, forbidden employment in most businesses or trades, and routinely murdered, and their property destroyed, in state-sanctioned pogroms. Vicious lies were spread about them to justify these policies, from the myth that Jews sought to have sex with non-Jews to spread STD’s to the infamous “blood libel” that Jewish rituals required the sacrifice of Christian babies. Eventually, in the 1940’s, a major world power, Germany, sought to exterminate all the Jews in the world — and, at least in Europe, they came all too close to succeeding.

But that, as the saying goes, is so-o-o-o-o 20th century. Today it is the Jews — at least the ones currently running the so-called “Jewish state” of Israel and their faithful supporters and apologists in the U.S. — who are perpetrating and facilitating these kinds of racist abuses against Israel’s Palestinian and Arab neighbors. It is Jews who are locking Arabs into virtual ghettos where they can’t sustain themselves economically, making them pass through humiliating checkpoints on a daily basis, revoking their right to work without notice, sometimes leaving their sick to die by barring ambulances from traveling to hospitals, and often — as now — physically attacking and killing them with rockets, bombs, tanks and bulldozers. They haven’t built killing centers to murder the Palestinians en masse — at least not yet — but the Jews who run Israel have done everything else to the Palestinians that the Nazis did to the Jews.

The turnabout from Jews as victims to Jews as perpetrators really began in 1895, when an international Jewish congress founded the Zionist movement to set up a Jewish-run state in historical Palestine. For 50 years, with a few exceptions (like the British government’s Balfour Declaration in 1917), the rest of the world treated Zionism as the madness it was, an arrogant attempt by one group of people to displace another group from a country the Jews hadn’t lived in for nearly 2,000 years. That changed with the end of World War II, when the victorious Allies — genuinely surprised by the scope and extent of the Holocaust and rightly feeling guilty at having done so little to stop it while it was in progress — were guilt-tripped into giving Zionist militias the “right” to conquer 78 percent of Palestine and use it to establish Israel. The formation of Israel was a perfect example of the proverbial second wrong that doesn’t make a right.

The Zionists took the land that is now Israel from its Palestinian and Arab occupants with the same no-holds-barred fury and viciousness their forebears had used in stealing the same piece of real estate from the Philistines and Canaanites 5,000 years earlier. They launched endless artillery attacks and acts of terrorism to drive the Palestinians from their homes and force them into exile, often into squalid “temporary” refugee camps where many of their descendants live to this day. Indeed, one of the leading Jewish terrorists of the late 1940’s, Menachem Begin, became prime minister of Israel 30 years later.

The 22 percent of historic Palestine that hadn’t been conquered by Jews in the late 1940’s fell to them in the Six-Day War of 1967. Israel took vast swaths of land from the Arab states it had defeated — Jordan, Syria and Egypt — and in the West Bank and Gaza (formerly parts of Jordan and Egypt, respectively), Israel launched an ambitious program of settlement-building that steadily continued under both “liberal” and “conservative” Israeli governments. Israel’s aim was the same as the Nazis’ had been: to create Lebensraum (“living space”) for the Jews to occupy permanently, driving out or exterminating the previous occupants — and, like the Nazis, the Jews justified these actions by making racist claims of superiority over the people they were displacing.

Yes, Israel later gave back some of the land they conquered in 1967 — but only when U.S. presidents like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton pressured them into it by reminding them that the U.S., which gives more foreign aid to Israel than any other country, essentially keeps Israel afloat economically. But until former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon announced his sham “withdrawal” from Gaza in 2005, they held on to all of Palestine and continued to move in Jewish settlers. The “withdrawal” from Gaza was part of Sharon’s plan to “solve” the Israeli-Palestinian crisis by annexing virtually all of the West Bank, leaving the Palestinians a non-viable rump “state” in Gaza and bits of the West Bank where few or no Jews had settled. The idea was to create a greater Israel that would still have a Jewish majority — and prevent the Palestinians from someday taking over Israel the way the Blacks took over South Africa: by demanding inclusion in the political process and voting themselves in and the Jews out.

The current crisis in Israel, Lebanon and Gaza can’t be understood except as part of Israel’s ongoing quest for domination of the entire region — and the racist prejudices that underlie it. It began in late June when a small band of terrorists affiliated with Hamas, the ruling political party in what there is of a Palestinian state, staged a minor cross-border raid into Israel, killed two soldiers and kidnapped a third. Israel’s response showed that, despite their pretense of having “withdrawn” from Gaza, they still considered themselves boss: they sent in troops, tanks and bombers, burned the headquarters of the Palestinian government and arrested its ministers.

While more rational people called Israel’s response wildly disproportionate, Israel’s apologists made clear their real racist agenda. In a column in the July 6 Los Angeles Times, Alan Kaufman said that Israel’s critics didn’t realize that, “in Israel, the loss by death or abduction of a single soldier is an utterly devastating national event.” Like New Republic publisher Martin Peretz, who had justified a previous Israeli atrocity by saying Israel needed to show the Arab world that “Jewish blood does not come cheap,” Kaufman’s statement revealed the racism at the root of Israel and the entire Zionist project. “Jewish blood,” “Jewish lives,” the justification of killing hundreds or even thousands of Palestinians or other Arabs over the death or abduction of one Jew: it’s a weirdly reversed version of the Nazis’ monstrous ideology in which the Jews have put themselves where Hitler put the so-called “Aryans” — on top as a “master race.”

As in Gaza, so in Lebanon: Israel’s attack on a country they supposedly “withdrew” from six years earlier was prompted by the kidnapping of two Jewish soldiers, and at press time had been so asymmetrical that Lebanon’s death toll was 234 — almost all of them civilians — while Israel had lost just 34 people, 19 of them active-duty servicemembers and therefore legitimate targets in Lebanon’s war of self-defense. While the U.S. media generally gave an account of these events heavily slanted in Israel’s favor (radical Israelis frequently say that their own country’s media are freer to criticize Israel’s policies than ours are), bits of the truth have leaked through — notably a CNN report that many Lebanese believe Israel’s attack on their country is the first step towards conquering it, driving out its Arab Muslim and Christian inhabitants and resettling it with Jews. What’s more, they think that once Israel conquers Lebanon they will turn north and do the same thing to Syria.

Far-fetched? Not when you realize Israel has done the exact same thing at least twice before, in 1948 and 1967. It’s become clear from Israel’s history and policies — pursued with equal fervor and determination under “liberal” Labor, “conservative” Likud and now “moderate” Kadima governments alike — that the United Nations General Assembly had it right in the 1970’s when it proclaimed that Zionism was racism. Israel’s apologists like to say that the reason the Middle East is still in crisis is because groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, and the states that sponsor them — Syria and Iran, respectively — have never reconciled themselves to Israel’s “right to exist.” Why should they? Every square inch of Israel was taken at gunpoint from its Palestinian and other Arab inhabitants — and as long as Israel continues to justify both its existence and its policies on the racist lies of Zionism, its neighbors will have every right in the world to fight to gain their land back.