We all live in Israel now
I have had less difficulty admitting to naiveté about the politics of the Middle East since I realized how few people would count as well-informed. Plus, the realization, as Madrid recently discovered, and as I have elsewhere proposed, that 'we all live in Israel now', means that the Middle East has become a branch of local politics. UK petrol £4 a gallon. It matters. Today's entry here is a result of giving some further attention to how this could be.
A friend who has made several tv documentaries about Israel told me, perhaps as a warning hint, that whatever the Palestinian/Israeli conflict needs, it is not, as he put it, 'more words'.
And yet.... for this inquiry into cultures of dominance, there is something about the Middle East that exposes the dynamics of what is supposed to 'natural' and 'inevitable' about human nature. So that we can see how we do ourselves, see past the words to how we bystand, or collude with, offensive and damaging political arrangements.
And so it was that today, while looking on the web for something else, I came upon a site that surprised me. Jews against Zionism. Could this be? You can read it for yourself but an executive summary of the overall argument of the site sheds interesting light on the kinds of worldview that orbit around Zionism.
I hadn't understood that there was a version of Jewish faith that, as the site emphasises, following the biblical expulsion of the Jews in 60AD from the 'Holy Land', argued strenuously, with biblical support, for assimilation of Jewish communities in whatever country they find themselves.
The Holy Land was given to the Jewish people on the condition that they observe the Torah and its commandments. When they failed to do this, their sovereignty over the land was taken from them, and they went into exile. From that time, we are prohibited by the Torah with a very grave prohibition to establish a Jewish independent sovereignty in the Holy Land or anywhere throughout the world. Rather, we are obligated to be loyal to the nations under whose protection we dwell.
This Torah strand of Jewish faith, at least as expounded here, looks like a clear recipe for subordination. It looks as if it might account, at least to my relatively uninformed eye, for the apparent docility and lack of active resistance of many European Jews to the Nazi pogroms of the recent century and perhaps earlier one too.
By contrast despite the injunctions of the Jewish teachings, Zionism, the political wing of the Jewish faith (think Provisional IRA and Irish Catholicism?) appears, in both origins and continuing history, to be at home with the use of force and coercion.
This tends to challenge my take on Zionism as a classic exponent of domination, might it have been equivalent to the IRA? A necessary, if appalling, way of bringing an oppressed people out of subjugation? I don't know. Maybe someone will offer clarification here.
What does seem increasingly clear is that Zionism, as it took to itself and became entranced by the myth of a 'return to the homeland' was, and continues to be, as ruthlessly uncaring of the rights and well-being of indigenous population of Palestine as other colonizers, such as the Britain, France, Belgium, Spain, and the US. Did I miss anyone?
Israeli History: take 2
A substantial group of Israeli scholars have opened the book on the official rewrite of Israeli history taught in Israeli schools. Their account, read a very helpful summary of it here, pays more attention to the 'hidden transcript' as James C. Scott calls it, of the oppressed Palestinians.
What seems to emerge from this is that Zionism mimics the Great Game of the European imperial nations, reproducing, in a Zionist secularization of the Jewish faith, many of their least humanly caring traits. In particular their devotion to colonization, militarism, nationalism, enemy-making and racism.
So if we look in horror at the cruelties of the Israeli state cultures of dominance, where did they learn it? Stand up the UK?
Israeli History: take 3 'Cruel Zionism'
In 'The Jews of Iraq', Naeim Giladi, an Iraqi imprisoned in Abu Ghraib in 1947 and sentenced to hang as a Zionist smuggler of Iraqi Jews out of Iraq into Israel-to-be, has written a very different, first hand account of Zionist history on the ground.
Giladi was profoundly disillusioned with the Israel he eventually reached.
"I write about what the first prime minister of Israel called "cruel Zionism." His text details the discrimination that Giladi, an Iraqi Arab Zionist activist suffered when he reached Israel. But as he saw first hand, the Palestinians were being hurt much, much more.
"... through the Jewish Agency, I was advised to go to al-Mejdil (later renamed Ashkelon), an Arab town about 9 miles from Gaza, very close to the Mediterranean. The Israeli government planned to turn it into a farmers´ city, so my farm background would be an asset there.
When I reported to the Labor Office in al-Mejdil, they saw that I could read and write Arabic and Hebrew and they said that I could find a good-paying job with the Military Governor´s office. The Arabs in what was now Israel were under the authority of these Military Governors. A clerk handed me a bunch of forms in Arabic and Hebrew. Now it dawned on me. Before Israel could establish its farmers´ city, it had to rid al-Mejdil of its indigenous Palestinians. The forms were petitions to the United Nations Inspectors asking for transfer out of Israel to Gaza, which was under Egyptian control.
I read over the petition. In signing, the Palestinian would be saying that he was of sound mind and body and was making the request for transfer free of pressure or duress. Of course, there was no way that they would leave without being pressured to do so. These families had been there hundreds of years, as farmers, primitive artisans, weavers. The Military Governor prohibited them from pursuing their livelihoods, just penned them up until they lost hope of resuming their normal lives. That´s when they signed to leave. I was there and heard their grief. "Our hearts are in pain when we look at the orange trees that we planted with our own hands. Please let us go, let us give water to those trees. God will not be pleased with us if we leave His trees untended." I asked the Military Governor to give them relief, but he said, "No, we want them to leave."
"I could no longer be part of this oppression and I left. Those Palestinians who didn´t sign up for transfers were taken by forcejust put in trucks and dumped in Gaza. About four thousand people were driven from al-Mejdil in one way or another. The few who remained were collaborators with the Israeli authorities."
"I was disillusioned at what I found in the Promised Land, disillusioned personally, disillusioned at the institutionalized racism, disillusioned at what I was beginning to learn about Zionism´s cruelties. The principal interest Israel had in Jews from Islamic countries was as a supply of cheap labor, especially for the farm work that was beneath the urbanized Eastern European Jews. Ben Gurion needed the "Oriental" Jews to farm the thousands of acres of land left by Palestinians who were driven out by Israeli forces in 1948."
Where did the Zionist leaders learn this domineering ruthlessness? An important part of Giladi's account deals not only with the origins of Israel, but also of contemporary events in Iraq, not least the ruthless use of force of British colonial rule, being reproduced in Iraq, 50 years later, by the UK and US administrations.
So what does all this tell an inquiry into cultures of domination? Here is a preliminary review.
Faced with taking account of the gross victimizations of Torah spirituality, which across centuries had lived peacefully within, or alongside many very different communities, Zionism appears to jump to one of the opposite psychological poles, from victimization, persecution.*
The necessary beneficial alternative, for nations as for persons (the US is a ripe current example) is to examine how much of the hostility directed towards us is justified, self-created, due to how we do ourselves. But I hear you say, isn't this blaming the victim? No, what I want to point to is the need for previously victimized populations such as the Jewish community to realize that, if they choose to be client-state masters of shock and awe, as Israel has done, that this is to take to their hearts, adopt, and reproduce, the inhuman cultures of dominance that have been so damaging to women, jews, roma, homosexuals, trade unionists and communists, to speak only of Europe in the last century.
Israel continues to reap the whirlwind of this profound political (and psychological) error. It generates for Israelis, as night follows day, a 'shadow' of suicide bombings and war crimes, and the onset of pariah status. And provides a living model, were one to be needed, of how a people can piss away, as both the US and Israel have done in my adult lifetime, the goodwill of half the world.
* This tendency along with 'rescuing', is a well-known psychological notion first outlined by Stephen Karpman, a teacher of Transactional Analysis. Here is an accessible account by Lynne Forrest of how it plays out.