The Gentile me believes this question needs to be addressed because there is a very real danger that the rising, global tide of anti-Israelism, which is being provoked by Israel’s terrifying arrogance of power and sickening self-righteousness, will be transformed into anti-Semitism unless two things happen.
The notion that anti-Israelism could be transformed into anti-Semitism is not new. In his book Israel’s Fateful Hour, published in 1986, Yehoshafat Harkabi, Israel’s longest serving Director of Military Intelligence, gave this warning:
“Israel is the criterion according to which all Jews will tend to be judged. Israel as a Jewish state is an example of the Jewish character, which finds free and concentrated expression within it. Anti-Semitism has deep and historical roots. Nevertheless, any flaw in Israeli conduct, which initially is cited as anti-Israelism, is likely to be transformed into empirical proof of the validity of anti-Semitism. It would be a tragic irony if the Jewish state, which was intended to solve the problem of anti-Semitism, was to become a factor in the rise of anti-Semitism. Israelis must be aware that the price of their misconduct is paid not only by them but also Jews throughout the world.”
The fact that (pre-1967) Israel is a Zionist not a Jewish state – how could it be a Jewish state when a quarter of its citizens are Muslims (mainly) and Christians? – in no way diminishes Harkabi’s message.
He was, in fact, treading a quite well worn path. Prior to the obscenity of the Nazi holocaust, and as I document in my book Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews, most Jews, eminent American and British Jews especially, were opposed to Zionism’s enterprise in Palestine. They believed it to be morally wrong. They feared it would lead to unending conflict with the Arab and wider Muslim world. But most of all they feared that if Zionism was allowed by the major powers to have its way, it would one day provoke anti-Semitism.
Today, in my opinion, it can be said that Zionism wants and needs anti-Semitism in order to justify anything and everything its monster child does.
So what are the two things that must happen if anti-Israelism is not to be transformed into anti-Semitism (assuming as I do that the Zionist state is not going to change course in the direction of peace)?
One is that the mainly Gentile citizens of the Western world among whom most Jews live become aware of the difference between Judaism and Zionism, and thus why it is wrong to blame all Jews everywhere for the crimes of the hardest core Zionist few in Israel. The difference can be simply stated. Like mainstream Christianity and mainstream Islam, mainstream Judaism has at its core a set of moral values and ethical principles. Zionism, which created a state for some Jews in the Arab heartland mainly by ethnic cleansing and terrorism, is without moral values and ethical principles. Its driving ideology, conditioned by Jewish experience of persecution on-and-off down the centuries, is that might is right. Mainstream Judaism and Zionism are, in fact, total opposites. (In April one of the anti-Zionist Jews I most admire, Nazi holocaust survivor Dr. Hajo Meyer, is giving a talk in Luxembourg with the title How Israel betrayed all the human values of Judaism).
In the paragraph above I insist on the term “few” in Israel being to blame because the truth is that most Israeli Jews have been brainwashed by their leaders. (As the headline over an article by Gideon Levy for Ha-aretz put it on 5 February, Israelis should be afraid of their leaders, not Iran). Most Israeli Jews are, for example, totally unaware that the vast majority of Palestinians and most Arabs everywhere have been ready for many years for peace on terms which any rational government in Israel would have accepted with relief.
The other thing that must happen if anti-Israelism is not to be transformed into anti-Semitism stems from the fact, perhaps I should say overwhelming probability, that no American president is ever going to be free to use the leverage he has to oblige the Zionist state to be serious about peace because of the Zionist lobby’s control of policy for Israel-Palestine in Congress.
So as things are Israel is a nuclear-armed monster beyond control. (From recently de-classified documents we now know that in a memorandum dated 19 July 1969, Henry Kissinger, then national security adviser, warned President Nixon that the Israelis “are probably more likely than any other country to actually use their nuclear weapons.” And as I mentioned in my post of 30 January with the headline Is Israel on the road to “self-destruction”?, Golda Meir said in an interview I did with her for the BBC’s Panorama programme when she was prime minster that in a doomsday situation Israel “would be prepared to take the region and the world down with it.”)
On reflection it seems to me that whether or not anti-Israelism is transformed into anti-Semitism will depend not only on the Westerners among whom most Jews live understanding why it is wrong to blame all Jews everywhere for the crimes of the few, but also on what the Jews of the world, European and American Jews especially (I mean the majority of them), do from here on.
In my view they have two options.
OPTION 1 is to stay silent which, at this moment in time, is still the preferred option of most European and American Jews.
That said it has to be acknowledged that recent years have seen an increase in the number of Jewish groups which are critical of Israel’s polices and, in some cases, have even endorsed the call of Palestinian civil society for a campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law and Palestinian rights. But the voices these groups represent are those of only a minority of Jews.
On the debit side of this particular balance sheet is also the fact that by limiting their campaigns to calls for an end to Israel’s occupation to make the space for a two-state solution, most if not all of the “progressive” (critical of Israel) Jewish groups are demonstrating that they are out of touch with or don’t want to recognise the reality on the ground in Israel-Palestine. The reality is that Israel’s still on-going consolidation of its occupation of the West Bank has made a two-solution impossible. It is not yet formally buried but it is dead.
My own understanding of why began with a private conversation I had with Shimon Peres in early 1980. At the time he was the leader of Israel’s main opposition Labour party and seemed to be well placed to win Israel’s next election and deny Menachem Begin and his Likud party a second term in office – an outcome for which President Carter was praying. After learning that Carter had said behind closed doors that institutional diplomacy could not solve the Palestine problem because of the Zionist lobby’s control of Congress and that what was needed was some informal and unofficial diplomacy, my purpose was to invite Peres to participate in a secret and exploratory dialogue with PLO chairman Arafat with me as the linkman. The idea was that if we could use the 18 months or so before Israel’s next election to get agreement in principle on the way to the two-state solution to which Arafat’s PLO was by then committed, Peres and Arafat could begin to do the business for real when Peres became prime minister. (I was aware that a two-state solution would not provide the Palestinians with full justice, but at the time I shared the hope of those, including Arafat, who believed it was not impossible that within a generation or two the peace of a two-state solution could open the door to One State for all by mutual agreement, thus allowing all Palestinians who wanted to return to do so).
Peres welcomed the idea of an exploratory dialogue with Arafat with me as the linkman, but at a point in our conversation before I went off to Beirut to secure Arafat’s agreement to participate, he, Peres, said, “I fear it is already too late.”
I asked him why.
He replied: “Every day sees new bricks on new settlements. Begin knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s stuffing the West Bank with settlers to create the conditions for a Jewish civil war because he knows that no Israeli prime minister is going down in history as the one who gave the order to the Jewish army to shoot Jews (in order to end the occupation).” Pause. “I’m not.”
Question: If it was too late in 1980 when they were only about 70,000 illegal Jewish settlers on the West Bank, how much more too late is it today when the number of illegal Jewish settlers is in excess of 500,000 and rising, and the political influence of Israel’s religious fanatics and other bigots is growing?
In the words of an old English cliché, Jewish groups which are critical of Israeli policy but limit their effort to calling for an end to Israeli occupation are flogging a dead horse.
My considered Gentile take on why most Jews are silent on the matter of Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians and denial of their rights is in my book. For this post I’ll make only two brief points.
One is that deep down, if only in their sub-consciousness, most Jews fear (in large part because they are conditioned by Zionism to fear) that there will one day be another great turning against them. Holocaust II. So they perceive Israel as their refuge of last resort, and they tell themselves they must say nothing, do nothing, that could undermine Israel and put their insurance policy at risk.
The other, no doubt related, is that private discussion about publicly criticising Israel or not can and does tear Jewish families as well as communities apart. So for the sake of at least the appearance of Jewish unity it’s best not to discuss the matter.
The problem with Jewish silence is that it’s not the way to refute and demolish a charge or assertion of complicity in Zionism’s crimes. So continued silence by the majority of European and American Jews is most likely to assist the transformation of anti-Israelism into anti-Semitism.
OPTION 2 is for the Jews of the world to distance themselves from the Zionist state.
A most explicit statement of this as a possible option was made in October 2001 by Dr. David Goldberg, the prominent, widely respected, liberal London rabbi and author of a popular introduction to Judaism, The Jewish People, Their History and Their Religion. He dared to say, in public, “It may be time for Judaism and Zionism to go their separate ways.”
Eight years on the late Tony Judt, a professor of history at New York University and director of the Remarque Institute, put some flesh on that bone. British-born of a Jewish mother whose parents emigrated from Russia and a Belgian father who was descended from a line of Lithuanian rabbis, Judt started out as an enthusiastic Zionist. He helped to promote the migration of British Jews to Israel, and during the 1967 war he worked as a driver and translator for the IDF. But after that war, his belief in the Zionist enterprise began to unravel. “I went with the idealistic fantasy of creating a socialist, communitarian country through work, but I started to see that this view was remarkably unconscious of the people who had been kicked out of the country and were suffering in refugee camps to make this fantasy possible.”
In an article for the Financial Times on 7 December 2009, Judt wrote this:
“If the Jews of Europe and North America took their distance from Israel, as many have begun to do, the assertion that Israel was ‘their’ state would take on an absurd air. Over time, even Washington might come to see the futility of attaching American foreign policy to the delusions of one small Middle Eastern state. This, I believe, is the best thing that could possibly happen to Israel itself. It would be obliged to acknowledge its limits. It would have to make other friends, preferably among its neighbors.”
For the sake of discussion there’s a case for saying that an Israel that was obliged by European and America Jews to acknowledge its limits might also be an Israel in which many Israeli Jews were prepared to open their minds to the wise words of one of their own – Avraham Burg. Between 1999 and 2003 he was the speaker of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. By the end of his term in that office he was a leading advocate of the idea that Israel and a viable Palestinian state could coexist in peace. In August 2003 he wrote a most remarkable essay which was published in its original Hebrew by Yediot Aharonot and subsequently newspapers in Europe and America.
His lead point was that Israel had to “shed its illusions” and choose between “racist oppression and democracy.” The Jewish people, he wrote, “did not survive for two millennia in order to pioneer new weaponry, computer security programmes or anti-missile missiles. We were supposed to be a light unto nations. In this we have failed.”
And the following is what Burg had to say about Israel’s need to change course and the choices:
Here is what the prime minister should say to his people: the time for illusions is over. The time for decisions has arrived. We love the entire land of our forefathers and in some other time we would have wanted to live here alone. But that will not happen. The Arabs, too, have dreams and needs.
Between the Jordan and the Mediterranean there is no longer a clear Jewish majority. And so, fellow citizens, it is not possible to keep the whole thing without paying a price. We cannot keep a Palestinian majority under an Israeli boot and at the same time think ourselves the only democracy in the Middle East. There cannot be democracy without equal rights for all who live here, Arab as well as Jew. We cannot keep the territories and preserve a Jewish majority in the world’s only Jewish state – not by means that are humane and moral and Jewish.
Do you want the greater land of Israel? No problem. Abandon democracy. Let’s institute an efficient system of racial separation here, with prison camps and detention villages.
Do you want a Jewish majority? No problem. Either put the Arabs on railway cars, buses, camels and donkeys and expel them en masse – or separate ourselves from them absolutely, without tricks and gimmicks. There is no middle path. We must remove all the settlements – all of them – and draw an internationally recognised border between the Jewish national home and the Palestinian national home. The Jewish law of return will apply only within our national home, and their right of return will apply only within the borders of the Palestinian state.
“Do you want democracy? No problem. Either abandon the greater land of Israel, to the last settlement and outpost, or give full citizenship and voting rights to everyone, including Arabs. The result, of course, will be that those who did not want a Palestinian state alongside us will have one in our midst, via the ballot box. (Here, I note, Burg was being less than explicit about the consequences of Greater Israel giving full citizenship and voting rights to everyone. At the point not too far into the future when the Palestinian Arabs outnumbered the Jews of Greater Israel, Zionism would be voted out of existence. Palestine would effectively be de-Zionized, opening the door to One State for all).
The prime minister should present the choices forthrightly: Jewish racism or democracy. Settlements or hope for both peoples. False visions of barbed wire and suicide bombers or a recognised international border between two states and a shared capital in Jerusalem.
In my view Judt’s assumption that Israel “would” be obliged to acknowledge its limits if the Jews of Europe and America took their distance from it is questionable. Why? It’s rational, based on reason, and Israel’s deluded leaders are beyond reason. They are never going to shed their illusions and present the choices for Israel’s Jews in the terms outlined by Burg.
But the main argument for European and American Jews distancing themselves from the Zionist state and its policies is self-interest. By demonstrating that they were not complicit in Zionism’s crimes, they would be playing their necessary part in preventing anti-Israelism from being transformed into anti-Semitism.
But even if self-interest (in the context above) is the direction in which most European and American Jews might move, events on the ground suggest to me that the time left for them to decide whether or not to actually distance themselves from Israel is running out. And here is my brief summary of why.
Given their determination to keep for all time much if not all of the occupied West Bank (despite what they sometimes say to the contrary for propaganda purposes), Israel’s leaders have got to find a way to defuse the ticking, demographic time-bomb of occupation (the coming of the day when the Palestinians will outnumber the Jews of Greater Israel).
The evidence of the past 44 years is that Israel’s leaders believed they could do it in one of two ways.
One was by making life hell for the occupied Palestinians in the hope that very many of them would either give up their struggle in despair and accept crumbs from Zionism’s table – a few disconnected Bantustans which they could call a state if they wished; or, better still, abandon their homeland and seek new lives elsewhere. Neither of those two things happened or are going to happen.
The other was having in place a compliant, puppet, Palestinian leadership which could be bullied and bribed, with American assistance, into forcing its people to accept crumbs from Zionism’s table. It might be that Israel’s leaders still hope they can make this scenario work with Palestinian “President” Abbas or his successor, but it won’t work.
And that will leave them, Israel’s leaders, with only one way of defusing the demographic time-bomb of occupation – creating a pretext to drive the Palestinians off the West Bank and into Jordan, Syria or wherever. The final ethnic cleansing of Palestine.
I think that will be Zionism’s final solution to its Palestine problem. I also think that such an event will guarantee that the rising, global tide of anti-Israelism is transformed into anti-Semitism, meaning, as Harkabi warned, that Jews throughout the world will pay the price of Israel’s “misconduct”.
I’ll end by re-asking my headline question and giving it an explicit answer.
Is Holocaust II (shorthand for another great turning against the Jews) inevitable? Yes unless the Jews of Europe and America distance themselves from the Zionist monster before it’s too late to do so.