Before The Birth: Israel’s most fervent supporters set their clocks ticking in Biblical times. They cite the kingdoms of David and Solomon as proof that, in the words of the Exodus movie’s theme-song: “This land is mine.” The majority of Israel’s backers, however, start their clocks in 1933 – the year Adolf Hitler and his Nazis took over Germany – setting in motion the dreadful sequence of events that culminated in the horrors of the Holocaust.
IN ANY DISCUSSION about the morality of Israel’s conduct, the most important question is: “When did you start your clock?” Meaning? In assessing the ethics of the Israeli state, exactly when, historically-speaking, do you begin?
Many critics of Israel start their clocks in 1948, the year of Israel’s birth. Others prefer 1917 – the year in which Lord Balfour, the British Foreign Secretary, declared his government in favour of establishing a “national home” for the Jewish people in what was then the Ottoman province of Palestine. A few even start their clocks in 1897, when Theodore Herzl’s international Zionist movement held its first conference in Basle, Switzerland.
Israel’s most fervent supporters, by contrast, generally prefer to start much further back. Setting their clocks ticking in Biblical times, they cite the kingdoms of David and Solomon as proof that, in the words of the Exodus movie’s theme-song: “This land is mine.” The majority of Israel’s backers, however, start their clocks in 1933 – the year Adolf Hitler and his Nazis took over Germany – setting in motion the dreadful sequence of events that culminated in the horrors of the Holocaust.
Setting the clock ticking in 1933 makes perfect sense. What happened in Germany, and then throughout Europe, between 1933 and 1945, provided incontrovertible proof of the Zionists’ contention that Jews could never be safe in other peoples’ countries. Those who had argued that the national laws emancipating and conferring citizenship upon European Jewry offered sufficient protection against the continent’s endemic antisemitism had been proved tragically mistaken. In a world shocked and stunned by the Nazi death-camps, the argument that only under the protection of their own nation-state could the Jews of the world be safe resonated strongly.
For Israel’s critics, however, the year 1948 offers the most telling evidence of the moral deficiency built into the Israeli state. 1948 was a year of Jewish outrages and massacres: of terrible crimes committed against the Arab population of Palestine by armed Jewish terrorists. The purpose of these attacks was to facilitate what would later be called “ethnic cleansing”. A viable “State of Israel” required the expulsion and dispossession of as many Palestinian Arabs as possible. 1948, the year of the Palestinian “Nakba” (Catastrophe), is thus presented as the source from which flows all the other wrongs committed by Israel over the subsequent 70 years.
The Nakba (Catastrophe) - Palestinian Arabs driven from Israel, 1948.
What Israel’s critics fail to acknowledge about the years immediately following the end of World War II, however, is that, throughout Europe, the displacement of millions of human-beings – most of them ethnic Germans – had been sanctioned and facilitated by the victorious allies.
Ethnic cleansing did not begin in Yugoslavia in the 1990s, it began in the newly liberated countries of Eastern Europe in the 1940s. The victorious powers had witnessed the malign consequences of leaving large ethnic minorities in the midst of other people’s countries. They remembered the trouble caused by the Sudeten Germans. How Hitler’s Germany had exploited their nationalist grievances to break up Czechoslovakia in the late-1930s. Accordingly, it became the official policy of the Allies to eliminate ethnic German enclaves completely from Eastern Europe. Whole communities: families who had lived in Poland, Hungary, Romania and Russia for centuries; were ruthlessly uprooted and “repatriated” to Germany.
Few objected to this brutal exercise. In the minds of most people living in the war’s aftermath, Germany and the Germans had it coming. To secure a peaceful future “inconvenient” communities simply had to be moved on. What strikes us, at the remove of 75 years, as a deeply immoral policy, struck the people of the immediate post-war world as a tough but fair solution. After all, they had just spent 6 years proving the proposition that when reason and persuasion fail, and all-out war becomes the only option, then the over-riding priority is to do whatever is necessary to end it – as quickly as possible.
This was the moral environment in which the State of Israel took shape and was declared. Starting your clock in 1948, as if everything that happened in the preceding 15 years had no bearing on the behaviour of those determined to establish a secure national home for the Jewish people, is not a strategy with high prospects of success. The grim shadow of 1933, and all that followed, will always obscure the foundational sins – if sins they be – of the Israeli state.
For as long as the vast and unprecedented immorality of the Holocaust weighs upon the conscience of the World, the unethical conduct of the Israeli state will continue to be, if not forgiven, then unresisted.
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Thursday, 5 December 2019.
Times have moved on Chris. Israel is a beacon of democracy in a region beset by civil wars and extremism. Many Sunni Moslems now regard Israel as a bulwark against expansionist Shia Iran. Indeed Saudi Arabia is believed to be cooperating with Israel on intelligence and military matters. The Palestinians have blown their chances of a two state solution in the past and have been largely abandoned by their former Arab sponsors.Their own style of self-government under the likes of Hamas is characterized by corruption and summary executions. But the European and New Zealand Left it seems remain fixated on the Palestinian "cause". Could it be because they cling to the same anti-Semitic myths depicting money-lenders with hooked noses and world dominance by the Rothschilds that have fouled the British Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn? Or maybe it is simply because Jewish people have made and continue to make a disproportionate contribution to Western culture and the sciences both of which the Left despises and disparages at every opportunity.
Even if there had been brutal ethnic cleansing after World War II, that doesn't necessarily make it moral. Governments don't do morals. And at least most of the people who were ethnically cleansed were not left stateless as the Palestinians are. And if we look at it practically, the stateless Palestinians are a running sore, they're not going to go away, and they are one of the reasons why Israel is turning into an authoritarian right wing state. A far cry from the dreams of the kibbutzniks.
The main problem of course is that it's still going on. And like brexit – no one seems to have thought it through. I wonder what Israeli politicians think Israel is going to be like in 50 or 100 years? Interesting question that nobody seems to give a shit about at the moment.
You can't just leave millions of people in limbo, no matter what the justification for it. Until Palestinians are given the state of their own, there will be constant warfare. It's not going to go away even when they get estate, but it will almost certainly lessen in intensity. If it doesn't happen, Israel is simply creating its own prison camp.
Odysseus wandering off the path again. You need a guide through the world so you don't fall into the Slough of Despond.
Emotive and trite fallacies do not make reasoned discussion.
"Could it be because they cling to the same anti-Semitic myths depicting money-lenders with hooked noses and world dominance by the Rothschilds that have fouled the British Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn?" You appear to be able to think up 101 ways of not facing the facts about the Palestinian people.
The Palestinians have blown their chances of a two state solution in the past and have been largely abandoned by their former Arab sponsors.
The Palestinians have refused to accept on both occasions the kind of 'solution' that the Israelis themselves stated frankly that put to them, Israel would have refused them also. In effect the Palestinians were made offers they couldn't accept.
Actually that is not quite true. On one occasion the Palestinians came dangerously close to accepting a bad deal. Israel made damned sure to 'up the ante', to sabotage the deal, and ensure its failure.
It is not Palestinian intransigence that has kibished the 'two-nation' deal, but Israel's. israel has no intention - never has had any intention - of accepting a 'two-nation' deal. The Israeli version of 'lebensraum' - the 'settlements and ongoing destruction of Palestinian homes and farms - is sufficient proof of that. Israel's version of 'wry looks' is the deliberate targeting of children protesters, of independent journalists and humanitarian aid workers in the 'return home' demonstrations - that's if you insist on something more. But let's not end there: how about the theft and fencing of stolen goods that is the Golan Heights? How about the financing, arming and training of ISIS terrorists, now well and truly in the public domain?
In my view, the 'two-nation' solution is a dead duck - road kill long since vanished in the rear-view mirror of history. The only solution that remains now in the Middle East is the final abolition of Israel as an independent, responsible nation state. It is neither independent - wholly reliant upon the US and the West for its very existence; nor is it responsible, as its behaviour attests anent Palestine, Gaza, Lebanon and Syria (not to mention Iran).
"Final Abolition" is pretty much as deeply an anti-Semitic synonym as you can get. No wonder the writer of the post does not use their own name.
In any event who is going to do this? The principal lesson the Israeli people absorbed after the holocaust is that they must never again be vulnerable to such an existential danger. Hence the possession of nuclear weapons and the protective fence. Israel has pretty much ensured that its sovereignty is inviolate. And with attitudes like those of Archduke Piccolo, you can easily see why.
A nation state has to be able to last over the course of centuries, and given the Jewish memory extends over thousands of year, Israel is not going to overly influenced by short term events. It is now 52 years sine the 1967 War, when the West Bank and Gaza were invaded.
Is it likely there will be a peace settlement in the next 10 or 15 years?
There was time in the 1990's when peace was possible. Gaza had a port, and airport and a thriving economy. But once Hamas took over in Gaza that all disappeared. Instead there has been constant conflict ever since. Israel is obviously strong enough to secure its borders, and has a disproportionate level of power. Why Hamas continues the attacks is baffling to me. They can't succeed.
If Hamas wants what Gaza had in the 1990's then they have to also adopt similar strategies to that of the PLO in the early 1990's. That is is one of the reasons why so many Arab nations have given up on Hamas. The inflexibility of Hamas has led to ruin.
"If Hamas wants what Gaza had in the 1990's then they have to also adopt similar strategies to that of the PLO in the early 1990's. That is is one of the reasons why so many Arab nations have given up on Hamas. The inflexibility of Hamas has led to ruin."
Says the man who claims that Afghanistan and Iraq are "stable".
Israel has never negotiated in good faith. The PLO almost accepted at terrible agreement in the 1990s, but then Israel changed the goalposts to make it even worse so they wouldn't. Netanyahu was caught on tape boasting about how he sabotaged peace talks. That's on that there interweb thing Wayne. Israelis don't want a two state solution. The only way to force a two state solution is to continue asymmetric warfare with them until they get tired of it. This could take some time. After all it took the Brits considerable time to come to terms with the IRA, and the Vietnam war lasted a considerable amount of time as well. I think this will take longer given that the Israelis are paranoid – not necessarily without reason, but it still doesn't help.
The creation of the state of Israel in the Middle East was essentially a mistake. It would have been more just carve out a bit of Germany or Austria. But no, we had to plunk them down in the Middle East, because some of some idiotic religious beliefs, and they've turned it into one of the most unstable regions in the world.
It would be helpful if Wayne Mapp would outline an agreement that he believes both Israel and the Palestinians would possibly accept. The only one I can see that Israel would be likely to agree to would be for all Palestinians to leave the whole of original Palestine, half of Lebanon and a third of Syria and fuck off. That might also be an outcome that Wayne would approve but I don't think many Palestinians would.
Israel's nukes are pretty much a hara kari solution for when victory is impossible so no one else can live here either. Their enemies are far to close to home for nukes to be used in realistic defence.
D J S
Wayne says "Final Abolition" is pretty much as deeply an anti-Semitic synonym as you can get....
I'd suggest Wayne that you conflate anti Semtism with anti Zionism. Despite the brilliance of Israeli propaganda to get the world thinking that they are one and the same THEY ARE NOT.
No wonder the writer of the post does not use their own name. That Wayne is a deeply disturbing comment. Are you saying that if you say something anti Zionist that there will be repercussions?
My objection was to the specific words that were being used, being "only solution" and "final elimination". Those words were being deliberately chosen and effectively replicate the Nazi formula. The use of these words is very different to say a comparison to apartheid South Africa. Not that I agree that Israel is. But such a comparison is not obviously anti-semetic. It might be anti Israel but that is a different thing.
As for not using an actual name, well obviously a large number of people on the internet use puesdonoms, I was simply making a rhetorical point. That no-one using such anti-semetic language would want to use their own name.
I've recently returned from Israel and can assure all above that it’s just as a diverse, multicultural, cosmopolitan democratic, rule of law, successful country as NZ.
For those who think it could have been anywhere, it should be re-named Israel III to remind them, it isn’t new! There have been two others there... You hear little of those, and their fates. It is relevant, as it is to all people.
It has a lot of immigration, including from Palestinians too now I read. Thousands. Does this tell you something?
I think the only hope for Palestinians from here is to form their own state within Israel in a federation. Perhaps closely affiliated with Jordan too. As an evolution, so over time, this could work I believe. So many in the ME just want economic growth, security and peace, for them and their family. As we all do. So Israel can provide that, alone in that area, currently. The only thing not to like about it is there are not several 'Israels'!
In many places up and down the country, like Haifa half the population are Arab Israelis of several faiths or sects and as a visitor I could not usually tell who from who. These places are peaceful and as here, well functioning modern societies.
I recommend all of the above writers go see for yourself. And you can go to the West Bank & East Jerusalem as well and discuss your views, preconceptions and prejudices with the folk there.. And in the rest of show. It is easy to get around, and safe.
And so I haven't even mentioned the war. And those wars there since 1948. All won by the side attacked (as in WWII). That repeated mistake is what has lost the Palestinians a neighbouring thriving state (backed wrong side in WWII too). When you choose war and lose, you lose that, as with an all or nothing policy why would Israel risk another armed hostile neighbour bent on its total destruction? And guess what? ... Voila! Hamas' Gaza on cue provides living real time (reality) conformation.
Israel is strong and prosperous. It can, does and will defend itself for sure. So for the first time in more than 2,000 years Jewish people have a place where they are unlikely to be attacked by the state, or by their fellow citizens. They are just like us. They are us.
I fully celebrate that!
"I've recently returned from Israel and can assure all above that it’s just as a diverse, multicultural, cosmopolitan democratic, rule of law, successful country as NZ."
1.Why are Palestinians forbidden from leasing about 80% of Israel's land?
2. Why can Palestinians who live in Jerusalem loose residency rights?
3. Why are Palestinian citizens of Israel forbidden to unite their families when their spouse lives in the occupied territories?
4. Why are Palestinians forbidden to commemorate Nakba – the day when close to a million of were expelled from their homes and villages?
5. Why is Arabic not an official language?
6. Why are there separate yet unequal education systems?
7. Why is it illegal to call for a boycott of Israel? Didn't notice all you free speech advocates getting your knickers in a twist about that.
I could go Charles but it's obvious you have no idea what a democracy is.
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