Israel Can’t Win a War against Itself

If the sign of a healthy, living organism is its ability to develop and mature in harmony with its surroundings, then Israel must be declared dead, or at least terminally moribund.

Its politicians, generals and armies of hasbarats regurgitate the same tired boilerplate to justify Israel’s strangulation of Palestine, and are still obsessed with sabotaging discussion of the Holocaust® and the dispossession of Palestinians in 1947–1948 that led to the creation of the Zionist entity.

In 1997, I wrote a column called “Israel can’t hide from its history forever,” and in the intervening 13 years Israel has shown no signs of moral or political growth, much less the ability to outrun its past. In fact, it is plumbing ever-greater depths of depravity to prevent the world from discussing why Israel continues to deprive Palestinians of the basic necessities of life, humiliate them, murder their children, and steal their land.

Like the grotesque picture of Dorian Gray locked away in the attic, Israel gets uglier with each act of cruelty, and no amount of canned hasbara or phony “anti-Semitism” conferences can make it look pretty. What Israel was and what it did in 1948 is being revealed in what Israel is and is now doing. The reason Israel can’t hide from its history is that it has stagnated and history has caught up with it.

The murderous excesses of Cast Lead and the piratical assault on the international aid flotilla have rightly appalled the civilized world, even alienating growing numbers of Jews and Jewish groups. Inside and outside Israel, Jews are taking the lead in condemning Israel’s brutality, and joining the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement. The delicious irony now is the greatest existential threat to Israel comes not from Hamas, Hizbullah, Iran or the mythical “al-Qa‘ida,” but from Jews.

As welcome as this development is, it is rather slow in coming since Israel has been committing war crimes against Arabs over its entire history, and for the most part the world has let Israel get away with murder. Dr. Ilan Pappé, a Jewish professor at Tel Aviv university who fled to England after receiving death threats for his defence of Palestinians, said that although some Zionists are willing to criticize Israel’s post-1967 expansionism, the period 1882-1967 is still off limits.

As Israel persecutes these honourable Jews, especially academics like Drs. Pappé and Norman Finkelstein, the very concept of Israel as a “Jewish State” becomes exposed as a moral and political absurdity, and this invites further questioning of the image of Israel as the po’ l’il Jewish state as the perpetual victim of aggression.

The Mouth that Bored
The desperate bleating of the zionist
Cartoon by Carlos Latuff

As history catches up with Israel, its “self-defence” propaganda also becomes risible and disgusting. The most recent act of fraud involves the complicity of hasbarats at the BBC, whose show Panorama glorified the Israeli military and spread disinformation that the aid ship Mavi Marmara represented a military threat. The fact that this odious fraud comes out so long after the event destroys any pretense to credibility and betrays a pathetic desperation.

Similarly desperate is the president of Tel Aviv University’s craven decision to review the syllabi for several sociology courses. According to Ha’aretz, The Institute for Zionist Strategies (!?) alleged that a “post-Zionist” bias was creeping into the departments. The institute defines post-Zionism as “the pretense to undermine the foundations of the Zionist ethos and an affinity with the radical leftist stream,” but since Zionism has no ethos, and since “radical leftist stream” is gratuitous name-calling, this must be seen as yet another attempt to keep Israel’s real history hidden.

Hasbara is fundamentally non-cognitive because it is not meant to communicate meaningful information or relate to any specific event. Hasbara is analogous to a cant that is intoned by religious mystics. Hasbarats and government hasbaratchiks chant the same generic slogans, invoke the same generic stereotypes, and recite the same generic falsifications all in the name of buttressing a pseudo-reality of their own making. Hasbarats do not expect understanding; they demand belief, and so what they regurgitate for public consumption does not qualify as language in any meaningful sense of the word.

A good example of this is the thoroughly stupid behaviour of Israel’s president Shimon Peres during his recent visit to London. In an obvious response to British Prime Minister David Cameron’s July 27 equation of the experience of Palestinians in the blockaded Gaza Strip to that of a prison camp, Peres uttered this fusillade of folly:

“[The British] abstained in the [pro-Zionist] 1947 UN partition resolution… They maintained an arms embargo against us in the 1950s… They had a defense treaty with Jordan, they always worked against us…They think the Palestinians are the underdog… Even though this is irrational.” (Note that Peres makes no direct reference to Cameron’s comment.)

The definition of “irrational” is an Israeli president whinging about events 60 to 70 years old like a paranoid Don Quixote. What did he hope to accomplish? In the end, even Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Romain, spiritual leader of Maidenhead Synagogue, had to speak out against Peres’s stupidity: “It is a sweeping statement that is far too one-sided… The tolerance and pluralism here make Britain one of the best countries in the world in which to live.”

The more Israel fights the same war against the same invisible enemy, the more its history catches up to it. In my 1997 article I wrote that if myths are used to prop up ideologies and false histories, they will sooner or later tear a country apart. It seems I have been proven right.

Greg Felton is an investigative journalist specializing in the Middle East, Canadian politics, the media, and language. He holds a Master's Degree in political science from the University of British Columbia and speaks French, Russian, and Mandarin. He is author of The Host and The Parasite: How Israel's Fifth Column Consumed America. Read other articles by Greg, or visit Greg's website.

6 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. hayate said on August 19th, 2010 at 9:45am #

    “The delicious irony now is the greatest existential threat to Israel comes not from Hamas, Hizbullah, Iran or the mythical “al-Qa‘ida,” but from Jews.”

    I wouldn’t be to reliant upon that:

    Gilad Atzmon: British Jews Support Israeli War Crimes

    DateThursday, July 15, 2010 at 10:41PM

    The Jewish community in Britain seems to be over the moon. A survey that was published a few days ago suggests that British Jews are nothing but ‘peace lovers’. The Guardian was also quick to report that 77% of “British Jews favour a ‘two-state solution’ in Israel”.

    In practice, this actually means that at least 77% of British Jews believe that millions of dispossessed Palestinians should continue to dwell in refugee camps and never be allowed to their homes, cities, and villages. I am actually far from impressed with British Jewry’s inclination towards peace.

    Professor Dan McGowan pointed out recently that Israel and Palestine are in fact “one country with one water system, one electrical grid, one monetary system, one telephone system and one postal system. It is already one state, although half the population has lesser rights or none at all.” Bearing McGowan’s insight, I wonder what drives 77% of British Jews? Why don’t they really welcome Palestinian people to return to their land and enjoy exactly the same civil rights British Jews celebrate in the UK?

    But a further question must be raised here. What is it that qualifies British Jews or any other Diaspora Jews to interfere or engage so closely with the fate of millions of Palestinians?

    As it happens the Survey provides us with more devastating news. At the time we were devastated to find out that 94% of the Israelis supported the IDF’s murderous tactics at the time of Operation Cast Lead. As this new survey clearly reveals, the lack of ethics in British Jewry is far more concerning. Eighteen months after the massacre in Gaza and a year after the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict found Israel guilty of numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity, nearly three quarters (72%) of British Jews agreed that Israel’s action in Gaza in 2008 and 2009 was “a legitimate act of self-defence”. I believe that in practice this means that 7 out of 10 British Jews support Israeli war crimes and somehow dismiss the finding of a UN Fact Finding Mission. This is pretty scary.

    The study, which was carried out by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, (JPR) found that Jews in Britain strongly identify with Israel, with nine out of 10 having visited the country. JPR’s executive director, Jonathan Boyd, said: “Fundamentally, we found that most Jews feel a strong sense of connection to Israel, and for many it forms an important, and even central part of their Jewish identity.”

    For many years I have argued that within the Jewish secular discourse there is no ideological or spiritual dichotomy between the Israeli, the Jew and the Zionist. It is probably impossible to determine where the Zionist ends and the Jew starts. And yet, the notion that in Britain there is a minority community, the overwhelming majority of whom, support war crimes is pretty shocking, especially considering the devastating fact that every political party in this country is bankrolled by different shades of the ‘Friends of Israel.’

    In comparison I wonder how the British public would react if they find out that 72% of the Muslim community supported the killings in Mumbai, 7/7 or 9/11. I guess that we all know the answer.

    From what I’ve seen on Jewish anti-zionist websites that I’ve looked at/engaged on recently, I’m not very hopeful.

  2. Ismail Zayid said on August 19th, 2010 at 9:53am #

    Greg Felton records eloquently the history of zionist crimes against the Palestinian people, since its inception and to this day. Shimon Peres accuses, in his perfidious statement, the British of denying support for Israel. Surely, we all know that it is the British government’s policy, voiced by Arthur Balfour in his infamous and preposterous Declaration, and effected by their Mandatory government in Palestine, that brought about the creation of the zionist state and the resultant ethnic cleansing and dispossession of the Palestinian people from their homeland. The BBC and other Western media are continuing the falsification of history and the facts on the ground.

    The zionist depiction of legitimate criticism of Israeli oppressive policies as anti-semitism, is another form of preposterous hasbara.

  3. Greg Felton said on August 19th, 2010 at 5:12pm #

    Notwithstanding Gilad Atzon’s article, I stand by my statement:
    “The delicious irony now is the greatest existential threat to Israel comes not from Hamas, Hizbullah, Iran or the mythical “al-Qa‘ida,” but from Jews.”

    Jewish opposition is growing rapidly and it calls into question the very need for Israel, whereas any non-Jewish opposition can be co-opted to justify its existence.

    Second, Jews like Greta Berlin are in the forefront of major protests and humanitarian relief efforts.

    Finally, I would ‘t take surveys very seriously. The Lobby, wherever it is, coerces Jews into supporting Israel, and we don’t know the nature of the polling questions.

  4. hayate said on August 19th, 2010 at 8:08pm #

    Greg Felton

    I actually don’t disagree with you, I’m just wary because of past experiences, like 10 years of of them, which have made me somewhat cynical about the motives involved sometimes. Jewish opposition to zionism is rising and becoming more visible. It’s a very welcome change. I believe Jewish people can affect the public perception more radically than non-Jews, simply because in the pr realm, there is a lot less the zionists can attack them with without looking like total fools.

  5. teafoe2 said on August 20th, 2010 at 3:35pm #

    Why BDS?
    Israel has repeatedly violated the Geneva Conventions, defied over seventy UN resolutions, and ignored rulings of the International Court of Justice. The man-made humanitarian crisis in Gaza was explained by Dov Weissglass, a former public face for the Sharon government, as an idea “to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger”. During the 22-day attack on Gaza that started in December 2008, hospitals, mosques and schools were bombed and roughly 1300 Palestinians lost their lives. When international civil society sends humanitarian aid ships to Gaza, they are attacked by commando forces. Palestinian land and water is confiscated to make room for illegal settlements; homes, farms and orchards are demolished. People are immobilized and harassed by a web of checkpoints, walls, settler-only roads and closures. Palestinian political leaders are being subjected to targeted assassinations and extrajudicial detentions.

    There is a way to describe all of these atrocities with only one word: Occupation. It seems clear that something has to be done. But what?

    How do you challenge and alter the violent behavior of one of the worlds largest military powers, a perpetual human rights violator who shows no respect for international courts or the UN? How do you end an occupation that has been going on for over forty years, that every day reaps new victims? How do you create a peaceful solution in the region, justice and equality, and a more hopeful future for Palestinians and Israelis alike?

    All forms of international intervention and peace-making have until now failed to convince or force the state of Israel to comply with humanitarian law, to respect fundamental human rights and to end its occupation and oppression of the people of Palestine. What has not been tried before is the strategy of boycott, divestment and sanctions – BDS for short. This is what the Palestinian civil society has called for, and from this call, a global movement has slowly been gaining momentum and is just about to hit it big.

    So what is BDS, and how could it change things for the better?

    The idea is to send a powerful, non-violent message to Israel that we are bearing witness to the ongoing atrocities, and that what is happening today in Gaza and in the West Bank is unacceptable. The aim is not to reject, but to bring about change. To embrace this strategy is, like the friend of a drug addict, to stop enabling the abuse.

    In the US, and in regard to Palestine and Israel, silence is unfortunately complicity. Every year, the city of Olympia alone forks over an estimated $940,000 to Israel, the majority of which is used to buy US made weaponry to be used against Palestinians. The US as a whole spends around $3 billion a year on Israel (links). The occupation would not exist as it does today if it wasn’t for the money that your employer sends to Israel through federal taxes, paycheck by paycheck.

    Governments, particularly here in the US, and international institutions, have failed to bring justice to Palestinians. It is now up to us, the civil society, the activists, the artists, the local business owners, the people on the street, the working mothers, the retired, the religious, the atheists: We need to stop enabling the abuse.

    Naomi Klein has written that “the reason the BDS strategy should be tried against Israel is practical: in a country so small and trade-dependent, it could actually work.” In the face of oppression in South Africa, university students, labor unions, and churches used their economic agency to apply pressure on the Apartheid regime demanding that it renounce its discriminatory practices and replace them with a policy of “one man, one vote.” The same could happen in Palestine and Israel.

    So why BDS? It is non-violent, it is accessible to everyone and it has proven successful in the past. Let’s get to work!
    Divestment from apartheid South Africa was fought by ordinary people at the grassroots. Faith-based leaders informed their followers, union members pressured their companies’ stockholders and consumers questioned their store owners. If apartheid ended, so can the occupation, but the moral force and international pressure will have to be just as determined.

    Desmond Tutu
    a.. gro.sdbaipmylonull@tcatnoc
    (360) 918 8665

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  6. kalidas said on August 23rd, 2010 at 4:49pm #

    I quit holding my breath forty years ago.