As Israel’s democratic posture becomes more questioned, its mystique becomes more exaggerated. To prove the validity of its actions, Israel’s supporters focus on three components of Israel’s drive to an accomplished nation:
The significance of the Zionist mission,
Israel as a Jewish state, and
Israel not being responsible for the Palestinian displaced persons.
All of these issues, which had roles in establishing the Israel state, are expressed with sweeping generalities, devoid of specifics and facts. Obfuscation, lack of clarity and an assumption that what is being related is correct often characterize discussions of these issues. No questions asked and nothing to explain.
Evidence contradicts the narratives that Israel’s supporters work diligently to create. Deconstructing the spurious Israeli narratives is an essential before constructing a base for Middle East peace.
The Zionist Mission
The Zionists portray themselves as a vanguard of Jewish thought and aspiration, leading the masses of Jewish people to freedom and fulfilling the promises denied to them by an adversarial world. History contradicts these portrayals, especially that of Zionism as a mass movement by the Jewish people. Zionist philosophy had little appeal to the Jewish people in the late 19th century.
The first Zionist Congress (1887) was to have taken place in Munich, Germany. However, due to considerable opposition by the local community leadership, both Orthodox and Reform, it was decided to transfer the proceedings to Basle, Switzerland.
Reform Judaism in a series of proclamations, which culminated in the 1885 Pittsburgh Conference, rejected the Zionist program (Note: Overturned in 1999 by contemporary Reform Judaism):
“We consider ourselves no longer a nation, but a religious community; and we therefore expect neither a return to Palestine, nor a sacrificial worship under the sons of Aaron, nor the restoration of any of the laws concerning a Jewish state.”
The 19th century emancipation movements liberated West and Middle European Jews and permitted them to integrate into European society.
“Jews emerged as writers of secular literature, enriching English, French, and German literature with novels, short stories, poems, and essays. In Britain, Benjamin Disraeli, who converted to Christianity, wrote popular novels before becoming prime minister. Heinrich Heine, who converted to Christianity in order to earn a law degree in Germany, became one of the best-loved German poets.”
The Zionist agenda evidently preferred Disraeli to remain Jewish and not become Britain’s Prime Minister. Jews rejected this agenda, which they perceived as prompting nations to question the loyalty of their Jewish citizens, as serving to impede their advances, and as reinforcing a race-baiting theory that Jews engaged in international conspiracies. Anti-Zionist Rabbis insisted: “Zion exists everywhere but in Zion.”
Examine the Russian Jews. They had significantly more problems than other European Jews. Nevertheless, they didn’t consider Zionism as a relief for their difficulties. Between 1881 and 1914, 2.5 million Jews migrated from Russia—1.7 million to America, 500,000 to Western Europe, and almost 300,000 to other nations. Until 1914, only a mere 30,000 – 50,000 Russian Jews followed the Zionist call to Palestine and 15,000 of them eventually returned to Russia.
So, if not for Zionism, how did the Israel state arrive and swell into millions of inhabitants?
By 1914, Zionism had become a stagnant adventure. Somehow, and in some way, someone took advantage of the Allies victory in World War I to promote the Balfour Declaration, which approved “a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine.” The League of Nations’ certification of the British mandate in Palestine prevented the formation of a national Palestinian governing body and many English speaking European Jews came to work in the British administration Fly below the cloud of propaganda and rhetoric and the principal result of the original Zionist agenda is easily observed: People of uncertain circumstance (not dedicated Zionists) and favored by the Zionists have been transferred from their countries to a new land, while people of more certain circumstances and not favored by the Zionists have been displaced from their lands. The less favored have become refugees and, in many cases, been reduced to poverty.
The Jews who immigrated to Israel immediately after 1948 arrived for mainly economic and political reasons and not to fulfill a Zionist mission. Israel even claims the massive number of immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East (Mizrahi) did not arrive voluntarily, but were forced out of their homes. Zionism has not persuaded a great number of Jews to leave their western nations, not deterred them from greatly participating in their nations’ economic and social gains and not prevented them from integrating themselves into their nations’ cultures. The Economist (Jan. 11, 2007) mentions that only 17% of American Jews regard themselves as pro-Zionist and only 57% say that “caring about Israel is a very important part of being Jewish.”
In the last decades, Russians from the former Soviet Union, most of whom preferred to migrate to the United States, have been the principal immigrants to Israel. Many of them are dubious Jews or lost their Jewish roots during the Communist era. Orthodox Jews, who came for religious reasons and not to join their secular compatriots in common pursuits, are the fastest growing segment of the Israeli Jewish population. Where they settle, the secular Jews tend to leave. More aligned with Rabbis preaching mystical nineteenth century philosophies, these orthodox Jews isolate themselves from their fellow Israelis and from worldwide Jewry.
The dubious Zionists created a dubious Jewish state.
The Jewish State
By what authority did Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proclaim, “The Palestinians must recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people,” and “Jerusalem is the united capital of the State of Israel and the Jewish people?”
The Jewish people don’t have a central authority and no referendum of its 15 millions has been taken. PM Netanyahu might not care, but many Jews fear that their fellow citizens might one day ask: “You have a country, what are you doing here?” or suggest that Jews are more loyal to a foreign nation and are working for that nation.
It is difficult to characterize Israel as a Jewish nation. Avraham Burg, former Knesset speaker and former head of the Jewish Agency has been quoted as saying, “to define the State of Israel as a Jewish state is the key to its end.” The term ‘Jewish nation’ has never been adequately defined and there is nothing exceptional in Israel that identifies a specific Jewish morality, culture or Judaic atmosphere
The cool and breezy manner in which the Israelis express the words ‘Jewish state’ intends to create a comfortable feeling; nothing hostile towards anyone, just a satisfactory note to Jewish citizens. Cause for alarm is abundant. Israel has no written constitution. Its laws discriminate against its minorities and separate its citizens.
(1) The entire Jewish population left Nazareth many years ago and established a new Nazareth. The new Nazareth receives substantial benefits from the government and has grown prosperous and modern. The old Arab Nazareth remains old.
(2) In Haifa, the Arab population lives by the sea. The Jewish population lives in the hills.
(3) Few Palestinians have been able to rent housing or buy property in West Jerusalem.
(4) In Acre, immigrant Jews are able to acquire property but are not allowed to sell the property to Arab citizens.
(5) Tel Aviv has contiguous populations but not mixed populations.
(6) Few, if any Arabs, have been able to purchase government sponsored housing.
(7) The separation of populations results in the separation of activities, recreation centers, schools and education.
(8) Although some Arabs are able to obtain college scholarships, the large majority of college scholarships require previous military duty. Since Arabs are not allowed to serve in the Israeli army, few Arabs can obtain college scholarships.
(9) Arabs don’t obtain many housing loans.
(10) The state of Israel owns more than 90 percent of the land. Non-Jewish citizens cannot, except in rare occasions, purchase land.
(11) Whenever the Israeli army wants to construct a military base, Arab property is expropriated for the endeavor.
(12) Since marriages are performed by a rabbi, a Jew cannot marry a non-Jew within the boundaries of Israel.
Separation of ethnicities is most apparent in how Israel and most of the world differ in regarding nationality. It’s not just separation. It’s a de facto apartheid, which the words ‘Jewish state’ will tend to reinforce.
All Americans have both United States citizenship and nationality. Israelis have Israel citizenship, but don’t have an Israel nationality. Israel’s citizens have either Jewish, Arab, Druze, Samaritan, Circassian, Kara’ite or foreign nationality. Jewish nationals already have overwhelming preference in the Israeli state, Defining Israel as a Jewish state seems ominous; only an attempt to give some meaning to the preference, and reinforce it to an extent that being non-Jewish means you might as well leave
Add to the dangerous mix of laws, which favor the favored nationals, the declarations of Israel’s leaders. According to the Jewish Daily Forward (March 18, 2009): “Foreign Secretary Avigdor Lieberman was elected to the Knesset on a platform that would require a loyalty oath as a condition of Israeli citizenship. He has suggested transferring Israeli-Arab population centers to the control of a future Palestinian state.”
Israel today is a nation whose people have conditions, problems, purposes and values that are different from Jews around the world. The Israeli characteristics aren’t derivatives of a three thousand year-old part urban and part tribal society – but are associated with a specific 21st century industrial society. The specifics create an Israeli identity that is not aligned with the identities of Jews in other nations. Israel is attempting to make all Jews into good Israelis and redefine the meaning of being Jewish. This includes being agreeable to Fundamentalist Christianity, which is not agreeable to world Jewry, but is Israel’s best friend. Israel is strengthening a fervent antagonist of Jewish and progressive peoples.
Recall the conclusion of the King-Crane commission, which was appointed by President Wilson in 1919:
…a national home for the Jewish people is not equivalent to making Palestine into a Jewish State; nor can the erection of such a Jewish State be accomplished without the gravest trespass upon the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine. The fact came out repeatedly in the Commission’s conference with Jewish representatives that the Zionists looked forward to a practically complete dispossession of the present non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine, by various forms of purchase.
In view of all these considerations, and with a deep sense of sympathy for the Jewish cause, the Commissioners feel bound to recommend that only a greatly reduced Zionist program be attempted by the Peace Conference, and even that, only very gradually initiated. This would have to mean that Jewish immigration should be definitely limited, and that the project for making Palestine distinctly a Jewish commonwealth should be given up.
Israelis also make it seem that the route to the ‘Jewish state’ was a natural progression; disregarding their roles in creating the Palestinian displaced persons and the evictions of almost one million Palestinians from their lands.
The Displaced Persons
Israel did not permit Palestinians who left or were evicted during the 1948 and 1967 conflagrations to return to their homes and lands. Assets, businesses, property and household items were confiscated and the owners were not reimbursed. Israeli historian Benny Morris summarized the evictions well:
I feel sympathy for the Palestinian people, which truly underwent a hard tragedy. I feel sympathy for the refugees themselves. But if the desire to establish a Jewish state here is legitimate, there was no other choice. It was impossible to leave a large fifth column in the country. From the moment the Yishuv was attacked by the Palestinians and afterward by the Arab states, there was no choice but to expel the Palestinian population. To uproot it in the course of war.
Benny Morris used the correct phrase: “… if the desire to establish a Jewish state here is legitimate…” It was not legitimate. The choice was not between “having a Jewish state and not dispossessing the Palestinians.” The choice was between “not having the expanded state that Israel gained” and “dispossessing the Palestinians.” Almost all the evicted Palestinians were in the territory granted to the Palestinians. Not since the days of American expansionism has a group of individuals (Israel was not even a declared nation when the confiscations began nor had Arab armies attacked at that time.) invaded another land, seized the territory and cleared the area of the indigenous people.
Can anyone believe that Israel is not directly responsible for the Palestinian exodus? Did these people voluntarily decide to leave their homes, face starvation, have entire families commit suicide because of their desperation and then be willing to sit quietly in refugee camps? Are these verified reports of forced removals, terrorizing killings and destruction of more than 400 Palestinian villages only stories? Why were the villages destroyed? Why weren’t the villagers allowed to return? Why were vacant homes instantly occupied? In Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo and elsewhere, the western nations were firm in demanding prompt return of refugees and fought to achieve that demand. In other situations, refugees had been created, but wanton property and asset seizures were not a rule. In Palestine, Israel seized all properties and assets and allowed newly arrived foreigners to occupy vacant homes. No precedent for these illegal operations exists in the post World War II western civilized world. We have perpetrators telling victims; “Look it’s over, let’s forget it. You want restitution; it isn’t going to happen.”
Israel has revealed its nature; a nation built on actions normally termed war crimes by world institutions; a nation that does not follow international law; and a nation that does not heed United Nations Resolutions. Distracting and deceiving the world community with contrived and fallacious narratives permits Israel to continue its illegal maneuvers. Setting the record straight will straighten the road to Middle East peace.