Well before the recent murderous Israeli attacks on Gaza, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Northern Command leader Gadi Eisenkot stated that "We will wield disproportionate power against every village from which shots are fired on Israel, and cause immense damage and destruction. From our perspective, these are military bases…This isn’t a suggestion. This is a plan that has already been authorized." ("IDF plans to use disproportionate force in next war," by Amos Harel, Haaretz, October 5, 2008). The same report stated that Colonel (Res.) Gabriel Siboni authored a report through Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies backing Eisenkot’s statements stating that the answer to rocket and missile threats from Syria, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip is "a disproportionate strike at the heart of the enemy’s weak spot, in which efforts to hurt launch capability are secondary…." Ephraim Halevy, the former head of the Mossad intelligence service, wrote in the Israeli press that the government “could have stopped the rocket attacks long ago by lifting its siege of Gaza. But Israel has a broader interest –” to ensure that it is the Fatah party .. and not Hamas that is politically dominant in the Palestinian territories. If Israel’s goal were to remove the threat of rockets from the residents of southern Israel, opening the border crossings would have ensured such quiet for a generation. But the real objectives of the operation include preserving Fatah’s status as the sole sovereign in the Palestinian Authority. That Israel broke the cease fire in Gaza with the same aims is now a well established fact even agreed by the Israeli spokespersons.
These things are all sidelined on the eve of Israeli elections and the Israeli political landscape is poised to finally fulfill its destiny of fascism. Israelis will (like Germans under Hitler) continue to be lulled into supporting the unthinkable. It is instructive here to pause and examine the Zionist political structure that makes this possible. While strands of Zionism included things like religious and cultural Zionism (ala Judas Magnus, Martin Buber and Hannah Arendt), the programs articulated by the World Zionist Congress held in West Jerusalem in 1966 remain the dominant form. This program aims to strengthen the “Jewish state”, strengthen “Jewish connections” to Zionism, strengthen “Jewish education” and thus cohesiveness around the political program. Its agenda does not leave much to the imagination and the programs that emanate from the tribal mission and goals of Zionism become very clear. These include strengthening “Jewish” institutions to defend “Jewish” values/interests (here I put Jewish in quotations because many Jews and others would take issue with the Zionist mantra that Zionism represents Jews or Jewish interests). Such a program tries to appear liberal to the outside world but any rational person and Jewish Zionists themselves know what it entailed and will continue to demand. To sustain a Jewish state requires an endless effort to fend off the majority of the population in that area who are not Jewish. The inevitable result was that of the 10 million Palestinians in the world over 7 million are refugees or displaced people, others live in concentration camps, and many are subjected to endless wars (since natives in history never simply fade away on their own).
The difference between strands of political Zionism has always been not about the need or importance of having a powerful and secure Jewish state on someone else’s land and now about how to build a modern sate that complies with International law. The differences centered on how to create and maintain the Jewish state despite the rights of indigenous people and in the face of their expected resistance. It was about what tactics and what procedures ensure colonization success with maximum benefit for the Zionist movement at minimum expense. The difference between Ben Gurion and Vladimir Jabotisnky was not over the goal (a secure powerful Jewish state) but over tactics. Ben Gurion believed in maintaining strong Western support (the British and later the US) by couching language in internationally acceptable discourses and trying to handle the natives with a mixture of methods (violence, trickery, buying them off etc). Jabotinsky believed in hard power only; an “iron wall to which the natives have no answer”.
In today’s discourses, the soft racism of Ben Gurion has become a minority (Israeli Labor Party) while the more blunt racism of Jabotinsky ascended to make up the majority powers (Likud, Kadima, Israel Beitano). That the latter block of fascist parties now dominates Israeli politics is a sad commentary not just on the depravity of the Zionist discourse but the fact that the world allowed it to get so far. The whole sale slaughter in Gaza using US weapons and protection and European government acquiescence is now a textbook an example of the trashing of International law in favor of brute power politics.
Some may say, the Palestinians could have helped stem the move towards fascist parties if they were more accommodating. But that statement has to be dissected more carefully. Haven’t Palestinian leadership already compromised enough by agreeing to cede 78% of Palestine, limiting its demands top only 22% of historic Palestine (West Bank and Gaza)? Why would the victims be expected to accommodate every whim and desire of their tormentors? Would Palestinians be actually better off under the rule of Labor than Likud? We do know that Labor built just as many settlements when it was in power as Likud and Labor is the one which developed Israel’s weapons of mass destructions and used some of them (e.g. white Phosphorous). Labor was actually able to accomplish far more ethnic destruction than the so called “right wing” ever could (just look at the hundreds of thousands of refugees created between 1948-1950 and in 1967). Labor’s ability to lull the international community to sleep by talk of “peace” (while acting completely opposite) is legendary. Labor and supposed moderates managed to break the blockade and lack of diplomatic recognition without having to comply with even one of the 60+ UN Security Council resolutions that Israel is violating.
Of course a rational examination of history would clearly show that (as many South African leaders stated) that Israel is indeed worse than apartheid South Africa. Lamenting the dismal reality on the ground and in Israeli political discourse is instructive in other ways. Since Israel has never declared its borders, let us look at Israel’s attempts to deal with its neighbors in the past 30 years:
1). Israel’s deal with Egypt in 1978/79 neutralized a large Arab country while partially complying with International law (withdrawing from the Sinai while limiting Egyptian sovereignity there) has accomplished more for Israel than all its wars including massive US aid and other economic benefits. Yet, the average Egyptian saw worse conditions while the regime of the dictatorship was strengthened. Overall, Egyptian society suffered a significant setback in its struggle for democracy and human rights (not to mention economic development). Divisions between Egypt and other Arab countries were created and fanned from which we still suffer today (see how Egypt collaborated with Israel and oppressed the dissent within Egypt). The cold peace that is kept only by US support of a ruthless dictator is a testament to how such a deal was not fair or balanced (to take into account Israeli and Egyptian PUBLIC needs).
2). Israel’s deal with PLO also accomplished much for Israel (breaking the isolation by establishing diplomatic relations with 30+ new countries, economic boom, the freedom to colonize more of the West Bank) while using the language of autonomy to get the prisoners to simply pick-up their own garbage and pay for their own society relieving the occupation from its responsibilities under the 4th Geneva Conventions. Between 1993-2000 Israel’s economy boomed and settler population in the West Bank doubled (from 200,000 to more than 400,000). Meanwhile Palestinian economy suffered massive losses (unemployment went from 20% to over 45%) and the Palestinian body politics was severly damaged (with creation of different Palestinian populations, different agendas, different expectations etc). Divisions ensued.
3). Under fire of Hizballah, Israel got out of South Lebanon unilaterally (and essentially defeated) in 1999 but kept the Sheba farms and a few Lebanese prisoners. Hizballah was succeeded in 2006 to secure release of prisoners and Israel’s unconditional withdrawal and now Israel is talking about relinquishing the Sheba farms.
4). Under fire from Hamas, Israel vacated the Gaza strip unilaterally in hope of strengthening its grip on the West Bank but it merely strengthened Hamas. While the move succeeded in its other goals of fostering stronger divisions among Palestinians, it also strengthened Hamas and increased the likelihood of further militarization of the resistance to occupation (the increasing sophistication and reach of Hamas rockets are but one of the outcomes of this policy). While many Israelis recognize the failure of achieving Israeli goals in either 2000 or 2008, this is not resolved yet. But if I was a betting person, I would bet that Hamas has grown in popularity and that funding will be flowing to that organization thanks to Israeli massacres of Gazans and other plunders of an occupation army bereft of ideas.
The contrasts between 1/2 and 3/4 lead many observers to conclude that violent resistance works to achieve results while negotiations only bring humiliating conditions that just set the stage for conflict. The third way of justice was never tried. Israeli leaders continue to speak of the management of the “demographic problem”: Palestinian Christians and Muslims who remain have higher birth rates than Jews who come to live in Palestine/Israel. Different political parties come up with different solutions ranging from the South Africa model under apartheid (create for them their own state or Zululand, “us here them there”) to demanding a loyalty oath to the “Jewish state” and expel those who disagree (it is like demanding blacks in South Africa give a loyalty oath to “White South Africa”).
The only thing that could change that dynamic and go beyond the choice of either violent resistance or humiliating agreements is if Israeli leaders would finally be compelled to respect International law and treat the Palestinians with justice. This would be the only thing that would pull the rug from under the extremists. The International movement for boycotts, divestments and sanctions provides a significant pathway that combined with steadfast resistance to destruction by the natives would be sufficient to achieve change for the better here. I already feel the winds of change coming. Each human being can play a role to speed it along and the faster it comes the more lives are saved.