This paper examines in brief the escalation of racism and apartheid within the State of Israel in certain sectors, along with the rise of internal opposition to this escalation. It analyses the growing resistance among Israeli army combat veterans against Israel’s illegal presence in the Occupied Territories, and also discusses the expanding awareness of Israel’s system of apartheid around the world. Of relevance in this regard is the mounting tide of scholarly and academic research dismantling the foundations of the ideology of Zionism, originating not from outside the State of Israel, but from leading intellectuals and journalists within Israel. An effort is made to capture some of the essential features of this growing body of knowledge. Also briefly investigated is the ideological base of Israel’s apartheid system é Zionism é and the utmost necessity of moving beyond Zionism to attain a meaningful, workable and just peace in the Middle East. This move, it is argued, is thoroughly in conformity with the original ethic of Orthodox Judaism.
The repression of the Palestinian people under Israeli occupation continues to reach ever more unprecedented heights. It has now been confirmed that the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) studies the methods used by the Nazis in their genocidal treatment of the Jews é culminating to the German Holocaust é in formulating policies regarding the treatment of Palestinians. The respected Israeli daily, Ha’aretz, reported in January this year that: “In order to prepare properly for the next campaign, one of the Israeli officers in the territories said not long ago, it’s justified and in fact essential to learn from every possible sourceé
“If the mission will be to seize a densely populated refugee camp, or take over the casbah in Nablus, and if the commander’s obligation is to try to execute the mission without casualties on either side, then he must first analyze and internalize the lessons of earlier battles – even, however shocking it may sound, even how the German army fought in the Warsaw ghetto.
“The officer indeed succeeded in shocking others, not least because he is not alone in taking this approach. Many of his comrades agree that in order to save Israelis now, it is right to make use of knowledge that originated in that terrible war, whose victims were their kin.”
These appalling revelations clarify that the Israeli regime é or more specifically the Israeli military regime in the Occupied Territories – is now undergoing what might be described as a process of Nazification. A system of apartheid, in which the Palestinian people are excluded, repressed, marginalized, and in the final analysis utterly subjugated to the ruthlessness and brutality of Israeli occupation, is being consolidated through the IDF’s adoption of the same policies and values as that of the Nazis.
Indeed, the specific example of the Warsaw ghetto is revealing. It indicates the model from which Israeli apartheid derives its racist practices against the Palestinian people, and highlights the ongoing reality faced by Palestinian men, women and children – locked into their barren bantustans, barricaded by endless Israeli military checkpoints, facing socio-economic strangulation and doomed to socio-political annihilation. What we see here is the IDF’s effort to create a network of Palestinian ghettos, a patchwork of Warsaw-style concentration camps. It also indicates all too clearly the direction to which the Israeli military regime is looking, in its aim to consolidate its presence and control over the Occupied Territories.
Although Ha’aretz reported that many IDF officers support the need to study Nazi practices in formulating IDF policies, it is also true that the Nazification of Israeli policy in the Occupied Territories is being met with increasing resistance from Israelis themselves. And not merely from Israeli civilians, but from veterans of the Israeli army. Towards the end of January, the Washington Post reported that: “More than 60 Israeli army reservists, half officers and all of them combat veterans, have publicly refused to continue serving in the West Bank and Gaza Strip on the grounds that Israeli occupation forces there are abusing and humiliating Palestiniansé
“‘We will no longer fight beyond the Green Line for the purpose of occupying, deporting, destroying, blockading, killing, starving and humiliating an entire people’, declared the petition signed by the reservists and published in Israel’s best-selling daily newspaper, Yedioth Ahronothé What makes the current case unusual is that so many combat reservists, both soldiers and officers, have come forward publicly at one time.”
Israeli men do three years of compulsory military service, and then do reserve duty for about a month every year, until the age of 40. One of the Israeli combat veterans, IDF Lieutenant David Zonshein, explained his reasons for the growing movement against Israeli occupation: “We all have limits. You can be the best officer, always be firsté and suddenly you are asked to do things that should not be asked of you – to shoot people, to stop ambulances, to destroy houses in which you don’t know if there are people living.” Ram Rahat, a former combat soldier who refused to serve during Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982, further stated that the current refusals mirror patterns that emerged in previous conflicts:
“This says that people who have gone through [army reserve duty] a couple of times, going through the territories and seeing the reality of what’s going on there, are starting to get fed up with it. It’s exactly what happened in the first intifada as well. As more and more people did reserve duty and came back for their second and third tours, there were more and more cases of refusal.”
Another signatory to the petition asserted: “We were raised to be officers with values and they have turned us into combatants who deal in bloodshed and war crimes.” Noting his comments, the BBC reported that: “Terrible things, he said, had become routine.” IDF Lieutenant Ishai Sagi described how while serving in the West Bank he was ordered to open fire at Palestinians who picked up stones to throw at occupying IDF troops. “There were no specifics about whether [the person] was a child, a woman or an elderly man. And there were no specifics as to where to shoot [the person]é
“I don’t think that what the Israeli Defence Forces do in the territories contributes in any way to defending Israel itself… Everything that we do in there é all the horrors, all the tearing down of houses and trees, all the roadblocks, everything é is just for one purpose, the settlers, who I believe are illegally there. So I believe that the [orders] that I got were illegal and I won”t do them again.”
The full text of the petition signed by the Israeli army reservists gives us a deep and authoritative insight into the conditions that Palestinians must endure under Israel’s illegal occupation. It is reproduced in full below:
We, reserve combat officers and soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces,
who were raised upon the principles of Zionism, sacrifice and giving to the people of Israel and to the State of Israel, who have always served in the front lines, and who were the first to carry out any mission, light or heavy, in order to protect the State of Israel and strengthen it.
We, combat officers and soldiers who have served the State of Israel for long weeks every year, in spite of the dear cost to our personal lives, have been on reserve duty all over the Occupied Territories, and were issued commands and directives that had nothing to do with the security of our country, and that had the sole purpose of perpetuating our control over the Palestinian people. We, whose eyes have seen the bloody toll this Occupation exacts from both sides.
We, who sensed how the commands issued to us in the Territories, destroy all the values we had absorbed while growing up in this country.
We, who understand now that the price of Occupation is the loss of IDF’s human character and the corruption of the entire Israeli society.
We, who know that the Territories are not Israel, and that all settlements are bound to be evacuated in the end.
We hereby declare that we shall not continue to fight this War of the Settlements. We shall not continue to fight beyond the 1967 borders in order to dominate, expel, starve and humiliate an entire people.
We hereby declare that we shall not continue to fight this War of the Settlements. We shall not continue to fight beyond the 1967 borders in order to dominate, expel, starve and humiliate an entire people.
We hereby declare that we shall continue serving in the Israel Defense Forces in any mission that serves Israel’s defense.The missions of occupation and oppression do not serve this purpose é and we shall take no part in them.
Noteworthy is the testimony by these IDF soldiers that “commands and directives” received by them “had nothing to with the security of” Israel and “had the sole purpose of perpetuating our control over the Palestinian people.” Also worth noting is the admission that “the price of Occupation” is the loss of “human character”, and thereby “the corruption of the entire Israeli society.” And finally, we should note again the fact that the Zionist State is occupying the Territories “in order to dominate, expel, starve and humiliate an entire people.” It is these “missions of occupation and oppression” é rather than genuine defence and security é that the IDF reservists are opting out of. They refuse to follow the example of those high-ranking IDF officers who are studying Nazi policies in the Warsaw ghetto to consolidate Israeli occupation. They refuse to be party to the Nazification of Israeli policy. And as such they are true sons and heroes of Judaism.
In fact, these courageous soldiers are protesting, whether they know it or not, against a long-standing system of racism, discrimination and apartheid. Indeed, apartheid is alive and well in Israel. How else can one describe the brutality of Israel’s military occupation and marginalisation of over 3 million Palestinians, controlled by checkpoints, travel permits, and locked away from ‘whites-only’ areas é all of which were trademarks of apartheid in South Africa? And how else can one interpret the widespread sentiments expressed by Yusuf Samir, a reporter for the Israeli Arabic service?
“The Palestinians are animals. They are less than human. They are savage beasts. Israel is a land of love. People in Israel love one another. But the Palestinians do not love. They hate. They should be destroyed. We should put fire to them. We should take back Beit Jala, Bethlehem, take back all the land and get rid of them.”
The grim reality of Israeli apartheid is no longer deniable by any informed honest observer. At the United Nations World Conference Against Racism, the NGO Forum concluded that Israel is, indeed, a “racist apartheid state”. As CNN reported on these developments:
“A human rights forum running parallel to the U.N. World Conference on Racismé branded Israel a ‘racist apartheid state’ guilty of ‘war crimes, acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing’. The declaration [was] adopted by a majority of the 3,000 delegates from 44 regions to the World Conference’s Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) forum – a broad-based summit of groups from around the world involved in human rights issues.”
Moreover, this conclusion was supported by the vast majority of South African NGOs at the Conference, who of course are best informed as to the reality of apartheid, having fought against it in their own country years ago. Ian Williams, a journalist based at the United Nations, reports that: “Interestingly, and not much remarked upon in the American press, was the source of much of the anti-Israel sentiment, which was South African NGOsé
“The South Africans have never forgotten what most Americans never learned, that Israel was the apartheid regime’s main accomplice, in sanctions busting, in arms supplies, in joint training, and even in the production of the ‘white’ atomic bomb. Armed with this practical demonstration of the nature of Israel’s policies, the South Africans had no cognitive difficulty in recognizing the occupied territories as a series of bantustans, and Israeli government policies toward the Palestinians as a form of apartheid. How else to describe policies that circumscribe land ownership for the indigenous Arabs, or deny them the rights that settlers enjoy?”
A declaration of conscience titled, ‘Not in My Name’, published in a South African newspaper in Johannesburg, December 2001, supports this. Written by two Jewish heroes of South Africa’s liberation struggle against the white government’s apartheid system, and signed by 220 South African Jews, the document asserts that there are undeniable parallels between Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories and the South African apartheid system. It is this apartheid occupation that is the fundamental cause of the growing violence in the Middle East. Comparing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to the oppression of South Africa’s black majority under apartheid, anti-apartheid activists Ronnie Kasrils and Max Ozinsky write in their declaration that: “It becomes difficult, particularly from a South African perspective, not to draw parallels with the oppression experienced by Palestinians under the hand of Israel and the oppression experienced in South Africa under apartheid rule.” Many black South Africans recognise that the grueling impoverishment, overcrowded living conditions, brutal military repression and mass demonisation as terrorists faced by the Palestinian people in contrast to white Israelis, is similar to their own fortunes under apartheid. Indeed, they resented the fact that Israel supported South African apartheid even in the face of the sanctions eventually imposed by many Western countries against the white-minority government.
The leading Israeli scholar Dr. Uri Davis, Chairman of the Association for the Defence of Human Rights in Israel (Al-Beit) has written one of the most important and authoritative studies of the apartheid system under the Zionist regime. In his internationally acclaimed book on the subject, Israel: An Apartheid State, Davis é who is Honorary Research Fellow at both the University of Durham’s Institute for Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies and the University of Exeter’s Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies é records that: “The legal regulation of apartheid in Israel is structured in terms that are very different from the structures of legal apartheid in the Republic of South Africa. Nevertheless, apartheid in Israel is an overarching legal reality that determines the quality of everyday life and the circumstances of living for all the inhabitants of the state of Israelé
“The official and hegemonic ideological value system of the Republic of South Africa is apartheid, and the key legal distinction in South African apartheid legislation is between ‘white’ versus ‘coloured’, ‘Indian’ and ‘black’. The official hegemonic ideological value system in the state of Israel is between ‘Jew’ versus ‘non-Jew’. The introduction of this key distinction into the foundation of Israeli law is, however, accomplished as part of a two-tier structure. It is this two tier structure which has preserved the veil over Israeli apartheid legislation for almost four decades.
“The first tier, the level at which the key distinction between ‘Jew’ and ‘non-Jew’ is rendered openly and explicitly, is in the Constitutions and Articles of Association of all the institutions of the Zionist movement and, in the first instance, the World Zionist Organization, the Jewish Agency for the Land of Israel, and the Jewish National Fundé
“The second tier is the level at which this key distinction between ‘Jew’ and ‘non-Jew’, as institutionalized in the Constitutions and Articles of Association of all the executive bodies of the World Zionist Organization, is incorporated into the body of the laws of the state of Israelé It is through this mechanism that an all-encompassing apartheid system could be legislated by the Israeli Knesset without resorting to explicit and frequent mention of ‘Jew’ and ‘non-Jew’é
“Thus, for example, the World Zionist Organization-Jewish Agency Status Law (1952) makes the World Zionist Organization responsible for the ‘settlement projects in the state’ (section 3), but makes no overt reference to Jewish settlement. It is necessary to know that the WZO-JA is constitutionally restricted to promoting ‘agricultural colonization based on Jewish labour’ and that for the WZO-JA, ‘it shall be deemed to be a matter of principle that Jewish labour shall be employed’, in order to begin to appreciate how the Israeli mechanism of legal duplicity has allowed the legislation of an all-encompassing apartheid system to be covered in seemingly non-discriminatory legal terms.”
The example cited by Davis above is only one out of innumerable such instances documented extensively in his study. As an Israeli, Davis is not alone in his observations. Although it is largely taboo to discuss the apartheid nature of the Israeli regime within the West, within Israel itself there is a growing movement recognising that Zionism as it currently stands means apartheid. In October 2001, one of Israel’s leading newspapers, Ha’aretz, described the philosophy apparently held by a number of high-ranking Likud politicians: “In the Land of Israel, there is room only for one nation é the Jewish people.” Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze’evi, later assassinated, openly admitted that this was, indeed, the general sentiment among many of his colleagues. Commenting, Ha’aretz observes that: “Those who have learned to live with a protracted occupation, with the denial of political rights to three million human beings and with apartheid looming over the horizon, found it convenient to have someone like Ze’evi with his ‘transfer’ notion to their right on Israel’s political spectrum.” Describing Sharon’s multi-stage plan for a so-called Palestinian state é actually amounting to the consolidation of Israeli apartheid é the newspaper records that:
“The first stage would be the creation of a state that would consist of cantons, would be surrounded by Jewish settlements, would not have any real sovereignty and would not exercise any control over the location of its external borders or over its airspace. The second stage would be implemented 20 years later: If Israel is pleased with their behavior, it will offer the Palestinians a state that would be contained within the enclaves left to them by the Jewish settlers. However, unless a miracle happens, this proposal will be presented to the Palestinian people by a Jewish minority that will, by that time, have lost both its democratic base and its moral one.”
Ze’evi, hardly a staunch supporter of Palestinian rights, had been well aware that the apartheid character of these proposals was neither democratic, moral, nor acceptable to the Palestinian people toiling under an increasingly brutal Israeli occupation. Which was why he offered the notion of ‘transfer’ as a potential solution: the expulsion of Palestinians from the so-called ‘Land of Israel’.
“Shortly before he was assassinated, Ze’evi submitted his letter of resignation from the government. The reason for his decision was his understanding that, for the ‘program’ offered by Sharon (as well as those proposed by former U.S. president Bill Clinton and former prime minister Ehud Barak), there is simply no partner available. Ze’evi also knew that the Israeli establishment is not prepared to pay the price of peace, because that price includes far-reaching concessions over Jerusalem and over the Palestinian refugees. Although he was an extreme nationalist, Ze’evi was a responsible politician who refused to bury his head in the sand and to rely on the progress of time or on the messiah. The transfer idea is dead and has left Israelis with the old choice – a small Land of Israel that is Jewish and democratic, or a large Land of Israel that is Palestinian and has an apartheid-style regime.”
The fact is that the Zionist project of establishing a largely Jewish-only state which institutionalises racial discrimination against non-Jewish Palestinians and Arabs, with the Palestinian people permanently and territorially separated off from the Jewish State, confined to their barren network of Warsaw-style ghettos, is as unworkable and unsustainable as its South African apartheid ancestor. A movement towards reconciliation that is devoid of ideological myths based on ethnic superiority is therefore essential. In this respect, Swedish journalist and political analyst, Dr. Goran Rosenburg, observes of the Israel-Palestine apartheid dichotomy that: “The historical and psychological need for territorial separation cannot conceal the fact that such a separation can only be temporary, symbolic and illusoryé
“As Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs cannot (and will not) be territorially separated within Israel proper, neither can they effectively be so within the larger area of Israel-Palestine. The future of both states thus depends on their ability to overcome ethnically based institutions and reinvent themselves as truly pluralistic societies with open and transparent borders. It is also hard to imagine a future Israel-Palestine not developing common institutions and close cooperation in a number of political and economic areas.”
It is worth quoting from Rosenburg’s insightful analysis more copiously, particularly since he dissects the harsh reality of the policies and plans of the former and current Israeli Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon with great skill:
“The short and erratic rule of Ehud Barak, the breakdown of the Oslo process and the electoral landslide of Ariel Sharon may serve as a case in point. These events have seemingly given new credence to the old idea that Israel can ‘unilaterally’ separate itself from its Palestinian neighbors, secure for itself the ‘safe’ borders it needs, build for itself an impenetrable fence of security, and go it alone. This was in fact the ultimate vision of Ehud Barak, which in fact is very similar to the vision of Ariel Sharon, which in fact is the vision of an Israeli State with as many Jews as possible – and as few Palestinians.
“It is true that Ehud Barak seemed more prepared than Ariel Sharon to exchange land for ‘an end to the conflict’, but it is also true that he endeavored to expand and strengthen the Jewish settlements on occupied land, in order to make the ‘Jewish’ territory larger. It is true that Ehud Barak seemed more prepared to accept a Palestinian mini-State (including certain quarters of Jerusalem), but it is also true that he never envisaged the Palestinian State as an equal partner in the region, or the border between them as open and transparent. He entertained in fact far-reaching plans to build an advanced high-tech fence along the future borderline in order to separate effectively the two populations from each other. It is true that Ehud Barak strove for an Israel that would be both Jewish and democratic, but it is also true that he did not utter a word of regret when Israeli police in September 2000 shot and killed thirteen of his own (non-Jewish) co-citizens. It is also true that in Ehud Barak’s vision of Israel the Palestinians remain a problem, not necessarily because they are a threat to State’s security, but because they are a threat to its ‘Jewishness’. It is for this reason also true that Ehud Barak did not lift a finger to deal with what the former Israeli chief of the security police, Ami Ayalon, has characterized as ‘Jewish democracy with apartheid’.”
Rosenburg thus quite accurately points out that the difference between Barak and Sharon is largely with respect to their means rather than their goals:
“Barak wanted to rule over as few Palestinians as possible by separating the Jewish society from a future Palestinian. Separation was more important to him than continued occupation. The Jews of Israel would no longer be burdened with the necessity to suppress another people, having to worry about its political ambitions and birth rates, having to suffer from the conscientious conflict between democracy and Jewishness.”
Yet for Ariel Sharon, “Jewish territory” is all important é far more important than democracy. And thus “colonization [is] more important than separation.” In the extreme version of Sharon’s ideology, ‘transfer’ é or more correctly ethnic cleansing – of the Palestinian population remains a very real option. But it is only an option in an “ideological mainstream” – to which Sharon currently claims to belong – that advocates “continued Jewish-Israeli rule over the Palestinian population” as “a necessary and sufficient condition for the survival of the Jewish state.” The Israeli economy, for instance, is in dire straits, and giving up a cheap suppressed Palestinian labour force by ethnically cleansing the entire indigenous population would only aggravate this state of affairs. Hence, the survival of Israel depends on the maintenance of Israel’s apartheid occupation without the mass ‘transfer’ of the whole populace. These grim alternatives of, firstly, consolidation of Israeli control of Palestinian land and people, and secondly, of forcible expulsion of the Palestinian people for unhindered Israeli control of land, have been met within Israel with increasing repulsion. Many are asking: If this is what Zionism means, then Zionism should be abolished.
As Rosenburg points out, “internal pressure for an Israeli civic order based on individual rights rather than on collective identity is mounting” within the Zionist entity. One prominent manifestation of this, little known outside Israel, is the emerging and ongoing academic debate around “post-Zionism”. Numerous Israeli historians, academics and intellectuals have been “hammering away at the tenets of Zionist founding mythology. Israel is thus facing the continuous weakening of its ideological foundations and the growing need to reformulate basic tenets of its polity.”
Ironically, non-Israelis who do the same are routinely labeled ‘anti-Semites’. Yet obviously the same label is rather hard to apply to prominent Jewish-Israeli scholars who are certainly not short on academic credentials and expertise. These advocates of ‘post-Zionism’ agree that the idea of a “Jewish (only) state” is inherently racist and that Israel should be a state for all its citizens. By their own definition, post-Zionists believe that the Zionist enterprise has lacked moral validity since its conception and, therefore, must be undermined. Zionism, they assert, is a colonialist and racist ideology that resulted in another people’s land being stolen by force, and by culminating in their ongoing oppression. In this sense, they are calling for the end of the apartheid ‘Israel’ that we know now, and for the emergence of a new state that is inclusive of Jews and Arabs equally, without institutionalising the domination of either.
In this sense, the sons and heroes of Judaism who are refusing to participate in the IDF’s brutalisation of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories are part of a growing movement within Israel for the end of the Zionist project as it has so far unfolded, and for an evolution of the conditions within the region resulting in justice for all. Indeed, the Nazification of Israeli policy admitted to recently by IDF officers, and confirmed in the dissent of IDF reservists, is not a new phenomenon, but an integral product of the Zionist project. In the 1940s, the prominent Jewish scholar Professor Judas Magnes, President of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem since 1926, declared that:
“The new Jewish voice speaks with the voice of guns… This is the new Torah of the land of Israel. The world has been shackled by the madness of physical force. May Heaven guard us from shackling Judaism and the people of Israel to this madness. It is pagan Judaism that has conquered a great part of the powerful diaspora. During the time of romantic Zionism, we thought that Zion must be redeemed with honesty. All the Jews of America bear the responsibility of this mistake, this mutation … even those who are not in agreement with the actions of the pagan leadership but stand idly by. The anesthesia of the moral sense leads to its atrophy.”
Early expressions of the post-Zionist movement admitting this fact appeared in Israeli academic circles after the 1967 war. The study edited by Arie Bober, The Other Israel: The Radical Case Against Zionism, documented the facist tendencies of the State of Israel in the early 1970s:
“A Fascist-chauvinist mood is growing in Israel, following the classic patterns which are not necessarily characteristic of any particular nation. Expressions like ‘the supremacy of the nation’, ‘the sanctity of our historic values’, ‘the cradle or our ancient culture’, ‘the eternity of war and the sanctity of blood’, have gained wide currency. They are emphasized in print and in speeches, on radio and television, in the press and in schools, in the Army and in youth movements. There is also a growing clamour for ‘strong leadership’; and a ‘strong leader’ as well as for preserving ‘national unity’. At the same time there is an increase in administrative and police repression against Israel’s Arab citizens. Hundreds and thousands of Israeli Arabs are subject to restriction of freedom of movement, house arrest, detention without trial, searches and harassment and are denied the legal right to organize themselves.”
Around the same time one prominent Israeli academic, the late Yesha’yahu Leibovitch, Professor of Chemistry, Physiology, and the History and Philosophy of Science at Hebrew University, made frequent reference to the “Judeo-Nazi” character of the State of Israel. Leibovitch was an expert on the great Jewish scholar Maimonides, and a believing and practicing Orthodox Jew. In coining this phrase, he was attempting to describe the aggressive nationalism promulgated by Israeli Zionism, which he saw to be an illegitimate Nazi-like deviation from authentic Judaism, yet nevertheless embroidered with Jewish religious symbolism. Indeed, he went so far as to argue that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and the Israeli Arabs was a form of “Nazification”. Accordingly, by oppressing the Palestinians in the illegal occupation of their land, the Israeli State and its soldiers amount to “Judeo-Nazis”. He even predicted that Israel would eventually establish “concentration camps” in the Occupied Territories, a prediction that is now a well documented reality. In a detailed examination of the fundamental problems of Israeli Zionism, Professor Leibovitch notes that: “Our system is rotten at the core.” “The misfortune”, he concludes, “comes from the fact that everything is articulated around the problem of the nation and the state. If the state and the nation are held to be an end in themselves”, as in Israel’s Zionist ideology, “then ‘Judaism’ is rejected since the State of Israel is the most important. Nationalism is the essence of the destruction of mankind.” The result anyhow for the State of Israel has been its unfettered militarisation, and thus its freedom to brutalise: “The State of Israel is not a state which possesses an army, but an army which possesses a state.” Professor Leibovitch’s harsh criticisms of Israel should not be taken lightly. In 1992, he received, but turned down, Israel’s highest honour – the Israel Prize.
Other Jewish-Israeli academics have copiously documented these harsh realities. In a study published by Indiana University, Israeli journalist Boas Evron finds that the entire Zionist enterprise is based on the fabricated premise of a historic connection between the Jewish people and the land of Palestine. Numerous Israeli historians have corroborated Evron’s findings. Among them are prominent figures such as Professor of History at Bar-Ilan University Michael J. Cohen, scholar and editorialist Simha Flapan who was also an active figure in Israeli Labour party politics in 1948, Lecturer in Political Science at Haifa University Dr. Uri Bar-Joseph, and Ilan Pappé who is Professor of Political Science at Haifa University and academic head of the Institute for Peace Research (Givat Haviva).
These historians rely on declassified Israeli archives to reconstruct the stories of horror that led to current conflict. For example, Israeli historian Benny Morris, Professor of History at Ben-Gurion University, records how during the inception of the Zionist State, Israel forcibly expelled Arabs from their houses during the 1948 war. Through the use and threat of massacres, Zionist forces deliberately encouraged the Palestinian populace to flee. Between April and December 1948, Zionists destroyed Arab villages to replace them with new Jewish settlements, the aim being to prevent their return. Israeli historian Avi Shlaim, Professor of International Relations at St. Anthony’s College, Oxford, records that King Abdullah of Jordan reached an agreement with Golda Meir – head of the political section of the Jewish Agency – November 1947, to destroy the possibility of the emergence of a viable and independent Palestinian state in the West Bank. According to the terms of the agreement, Israel and Jordan were to annex parts of the land allocated to the Palestinians in order to secure this aim. The implications have been summarised by Israeli sociologist Dr. Uri Ram. Ram – who is Senior Lecturer at the New School for Social Research in New York, Lecturer in Behaviour Sciences at Ben-Gurion University and a Researcher at the Hubert H. Humphrey Center for Social Research, concludes that the Zionist project is ultimately a form of colonialism. Ram thus points out that in the same manner that the British have no legitimate claim to India, neither do the Jewish people have a legitimate claim to Palestine é unless it is admitted that colonialism is a legitimate enterprise.
Proponents of Zionism have largely failed to counter the expanding pages of documentation, much of which is based on declassified internal Israeli documents and other such material, supporting the research of these leading Israeli scholars. As admitted by Meyrav Wurmsaw, Executive Director of the Middle East Media & Research Institute (MEMRI), “as Israelis increasingly question the moral validity of their national enterprise, new ideas in the public debate justifying the continued existence of the Jewish state are strikingly absent.”
While post-Zionism has been characterised by many commentators as a new development in the ideological history of the Jewish people in the Holy Land, in fact post-Zionism is entirely the opposite. Post-Zionism represents, in effect at least, an ideological return to the original ethic and values of Judaism – which is staunchly anti-Zionist – as expressed by Jewish leaders around the world in opposition to the rise of Zionist ideology in the late 1800s and early1900s.
As noted by the Neturei Karta International Orthodox Jewish Community: “The movement which has today become known as Zionism and is incarnated (although not limited to) the state of Israel is, at root, a denial of the spiritual essence of Jewish people-hood and of G-d’s Providence over the affairs of mené
“It should in no way be confused with the just described millennia-old love of the Holy Land and yearning for Divine redemption. Prior to the late nineteenth century the retaking of the Land by force was unheard of and would inevitably have been shunned. It was born of the frustrations of non-believing Jews such as Theodore Herzlé
“After the establishment of the state in 1948 there were those Orthodox Jews who believed that, ex post facto, participation in Israeli politics was a necessary evil in order to protect the interests of Judaism. This position is associated with the worldwide organization, Agudath Israel.
“Others shunned participation in any form, even refusing the state’s many financial benefits. They argued that participation implied recognition and was, therefore, forbidden. However, the espousers of both positions had for decades opposed the creation of the state and saw it as inherently evil. (Interestingly enough, it was in the Holy Land itself and especially in Jerusalem, where small numbers of pious Jews had lived throughout the ages, that opposition to Zionism was particularly fierce. Ironically, it is these Jews, perhaps because their families had lived in virtual peace with the Arabs prior to the late nineteenth century when settlers with political aspirations first arrived in the Holy Land, who have led the war against Zionism.) Sadly, there were a tiny number of observant Jews who enthusiastically welcomed the Zionist movement.”
The opposition to Zionism from Torah leaders was initially almost universal. Indeed, many Orthodox Jewish authorities who are not normally associated with anti-Zionism were in reality leading opponents of this political programme. These authorities rejected Zionism as a heresy without genuine basis within Judaism, and in conflict with the teachings of the Torah. In 1892 Rabbi Isaac Meyer Wise, at that time the most representative Jewish personality in America, denounced the Zionist project as entirely antithetical to the spirit and letter of Judaic teachings in a Montreal conference:
“We totally disapprove of the initiative aiming at the creation of a Jewish State. Attempts of this type highlight an erroneous conception of the mission of Israel … that the Jewish Prophets were the first to proclaim … It aims at a Messianic time when men recognize belonging to one great community for the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth.”
Rabbi Shalom Dov Ber Schneerson of Lubavitch (1866-1920), a universally revered Hasidic leader, wrote as follows in response to the Zionist ideology:
“Not via our desire did we leave the Land of Israel and not via our power will we come back to the Land of Israel. Our Father, Our King sent us out into exile and He will redeem us. And He will gather us from the four corners of the earth and lead us upright with the Messiah, the righteous redeemer to the Holy Landé Behold, even if these men [the Zionists] were to be perfect with G-d and His Torah and even would it be possible to conceive of them achieving their goal, we must not listen to them in this area to redeem ourselves with our own strength. Are we not forbidden to ‘force the end’ [even] by excessive prayer? And certainly by force and physical means? In other words we are forbidden to leave exile by force. And this means [force] will not result in our redemption and the salvation of our souls.”
Rabbi Chaim Soloveichik of Brisk (1853-1918), the founder of the ‘yeshiva approach to Talmudic study,’ specifically described Zionism as an anti-Jewish movement: “The Zionists do not make Jews heretics in order to have a state, they want a state in order to make Jews into heretics!” He also commented that: “The Jewish people have suffered many [spiritual] plagues – the Sadducees, Karaites, Hellenisers, Shabbatai Zvi, Enlightenment, Reform and many others. But the strongest of them all is Zionism.” His son, Rabbi Velvel Soloveichik (1886-1960) elaborated that this was because Zionism had “attacked the center point of Judaism.” It is also worth noting the views of Germany’s reknowned Orthodox Jewish authority, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch. In response to the writings of an early advocate of Zionism, he commented that:
“He has written to me more than three or four times and sent me his writings and books in order to convince me to support his plans… In the end he has accused me of wanting to delay the redemption. I have requested that he leave me alone on this matter for that which he considers a great mitzvah [good deed] is to me no small aveivah [sin].”
Rabbi Hirsch elsewhere noted that:
“During the reign of Hadrian when the uprising led by Bar Kochba proved a disastrous error, it became essential that the Jewish people be reminded for all times of an important, essential fact, namely that (the people of) Israel must never again attempt to restore its national independence by its own power; it was to entrust its future as a nation solely to Divine Providenceé This close connection with states everywhere is not at all in contradiction to the spirit of Judaism, for the independent national life of Israel was never the essence or purpose of our existence as a nation but a means of fulfilling our spiritual missioné Land and soil were never Israel’s bond of union… For this [Messianic] future which is promised to us in the glorious predictions of the inspired prophets as a goal of the Galus [exile], we hope and pray, but actively to accelerate its coming is prohibited to us.”
We should also note Rabbi Hirsch’s authoritative reminder recorded in the Washington Post that: “Zionism wants to define the Jewish people as a national entityé which is a heresy.”
It is clear that these views were not minority opinions. On the contrary, as the American newsmagazine Salon reports, the majority of Rabbinical authorities in the Orthodox Jewish community rejected Zionism. The leading Zionist theoretician Theodore Herzl only managed to win over certain members of Orthodox Jewry through bribery and the offer of power:
“When the resolutely secular Theodore Herzl more than a century ago began seeking allies in his plan for a Jewish homeland, he found precious few in religious circles, because conventional Orthodox theology held that Jews could only return to Zion when the Messiah arrived. Herzl managed to attract a more nationalistic and modernistic strain of the Orthodox, known as the Mizrachi, or religious Zionists, in part by promising them autonomy over religious life in Palestine.”
Having thus secured their allegiance, Israeli Prime Minister Ben-Gurion established an official ‘Orthodox’ rabbinate in an attempt to lend Zionism religious legitimacy. In this manner, he hoped to succeed in buying off the anti-Zionist opposition:
“After the founding of Israel in 1948, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion raised the informal arrangement to the echelon of law. The Orthodox rabbinate received monopoly control over conversion, marriage and burial rites; yeshiva students enjoyed exemption from military service, otherwise the very essence of Zionist commitment. The nascent Jewish state consciously appropriated religious imagery – using a term for the synagogue, knesset, as the name for the parliament; choosing the seven-armed candelabrum of the Second Temple as a national symbol. In part, Ben-Gurion was practicing classic machine politics, buying off the opposition. In part, he was banking on the secular, socialist certainty that organized religion was a relic bound to die off.”
Herzl himself admitted that his political doctrines had no religious basis in Judaism, commenting that: “I do not obey a religious impulse.” He also confessed that he had no particular interest in the ‘Holy Land’, and that his principal reason for choosing Palestine as a national home for the Jewish community was due to the opposition to his ideas from his Jewish friends. He referred to the “Mighty Legend” of the ancient Palestinian homeland as a “rallying cry of irresistible power,” capable of convincing and attracting Jewish opponents. Consequently, he asserted that: “The Jewish Question is for me neither a social question nor a religious questioné it is a national question.” Thus, in his letter to British colonial trafficker Cecil Rhodes, he described Zionism as a “political program.”
Before the First World War then, while many religious Jews supported what might be termed ‘spiritual Zionism’ – which sees Palestine as the cultural center of Judaism – they nevertheless rejected political Zionism, which advocated the necessity of establishing a State in Palestine exclusively for the Jewish people, as a heresy. At this time, Zionism was opposed by practically every Orthodox Jewish Rabbinical authority in Europe. These authorities denounced political Zionism as a vile heresy, and pointed out that according to explicit Torah teachings only the Messiah can resurrect the Kingdom of Israel on the basis of good deeds and spiritual elevation. Thus, only until the twentieth century did some Orthodox Jews adopt political Zionism after persistent efforts, including acts of bribery, from Zionist leaders. These leading Zionist theoreticians such as Herzl and Maz Nordau, it is worth noting, were not versed in the teachings of Judaism and indeed openly admitted to not believing in Judaism. Accordingly, they were unperturbed by religious objections to Zionism.
Just as these historical facts are largely ignored in conventional discussions of the development of Zionism, so too is the ongoing opposition to Zionism among world Jewry, particularly American Jewry. A recent advert by the weighty institutions Neturei Karta and the Central Rabbinical Congress of the U.S. and Canada in the New York Times refers to “hundreds and thousands” of Orthodox Jewish supporters of the anti-Zionist movement both in America and Israel. They affirm that the U.S. media “make it look like all Jewry and their rabbis are Zionists, but this is false propaganda. The most important rabbis, and the majority of religious Jewry are opposed to Zionism, but their voice is not heard because of Zionist control of the American news media.” It is only “relentless Zionist pressure” that has resulted in the “stifling” of the vast opposition to Zionism within the Jewish community. “The rabbis who have stood fast against the onslaught of Zionism are not consulted by the press, they have no public relations departments to give out news releases, they do not have the pompous commentators of the airwaves or the partisan editorial writers at their disposal.” Such observations would no doubt be labeled anti-Semitic if originated from non-Jews. Yet the fact that these anti-Zionist Orthodox Jewish institutions have for almost three decades been publishing material in both English and Hebrew, including through adverts in leading American newspapers to the silence of most of the media, only serves to support their original contention that the U.S. and Western media is indeed largely biased towards supporters of Zionism, despite the mass opposition to Zionism within the Orthodox Jewish community.
It may be reasonably argued then that Israeli Zionism and Orthodox Judaism are certainly not necessarily complementary, and furthermore that they are somewhat contradictory. Therefore, the growing internal intellectual rebellion against the ideology of Zionism as officially espoused and practiced by the State of Israel, a rebellion that has been described by commentators as ‘post-Zionism’, may in fact be seen as the beginning of a return to the anti-Zionist ethic that is already contained within the original teachings and values of Orthodox Judaism. The post-Zionist movement is, indeed, far closer to the actual teachings of Orthodox Judaism as contained in the Torah, than the Zionist movement. The pioneers of anti/post-Zionism, who courageously defy the oppressive and brutal values of Israeli apartheid and occupation é values that spring from the State’s heretical Zionist ideology of the ethnic supremacy of a single race in an exclusively Jewish homeland – are thus the true heroes of the original spirit of Judaism.
The world outside Israel is barely aware of the growing anti/post-Zionist movement being spearheaded within Israel itself by prominent members of the academic and military establishment, a movement that é despite some propagandist and fallacious attempts é has largely resisted refutation and rebuttal even within Israel. The world is also barely aware of the growing anti-Zionist movement spearheaded by members of the Orthodox Jewish community.
The sons and heroes of Judaism, who are increasingly emerging and confronting the unsavoury realities of the Zionist enterprise and its apartheid ramifications, must be lauded for their courage. Their research, analysis and vision for the future must be increasingly publicised.
This is because it is a moral necessity that a legitimate government in the Holy Land be informed by a new spiritual ethic based on dialogue, justice, equality, and participation for all. And that means that the two primary products of the Middle East conflict, which have derived from war, injustice, discrimination and repression, must be brought to an end: Israel as an occupying apartheid state along with the illegitimate and unpopular ‘Palestinian Authority’. And maybe then a new government that caters for both Jews and Arabs can be born.