Palestine Update 278
Read this interview with Norman Finkelstein on the far-right and its politics in Israel and a piercing article on the non-existent democracy in Israel
The far-right love affair with Israel
– Excerpts from an interview with Norman Finkelstein
Norman Gary Finkelstein, American political scientist, activist, professor, and author was interviewed on his views of the Israeli Right and its portends for addressing the end of Israel’s apartheid occupation. Finklestein started by identifying a “strange fetishization of Israel by the ‘alt-right’ because of its brutality to the Palestinians”. In addressing the question: `‘Why are all these alt-right leaders so attracted to Israel?’… He said [it’s] because they don’t see the Israelis as Jewish. And that’s true. They see them as white übermenschen – like the alt-right everywhere – the ‘white supermen’.
“A nation of murderers”
He then went on to speak in strong terms about the considerable complicity of the Israeli population with the occupation and human rights abuses of Palestinians. He said: Israel is a nation of murderers. Now, why do I say that? Because at some level, Israel… is a very egalitarian society – everybody serves in the army. Everyone serves. You know, there are the marginal exceptions, which I’m sure you know, but it’s a citizen army. Now, this citizen army has periodically been involved in massacres of civilian populations – whether in Gaza every 2-3 years, or in Lebanon every 5-10 years. And it’s been involved now for over a half-century in this occupation to dispossess and dehumanize the indigenous population.
Detailing human rights violations that Israeli routinely commits: You take the case of the last UN report on Gaza …this seemingly endless list of Palestinian children, medics, journalists, and disabled people who are being targeted by the snipers – doing absolutely nothing. Some of them are just sitting under a tree 300 meters from… the so-called fence, being murdered.
“The two-state solution is dead”
Asked about the prospect of a settlement of the Israel/Palestine question in the near future, Finkelstein was not optimistic. He said that, for the moment, solidarity activists should focus on pressuring for the lifting of the blockade of Gaza. He stressed: There’s no political prospect of two state, one state, no state, ten states. It’s not on the drawing board now… There’s a horrific, illegal, immoral, inhumane blockade of Gaza. We have to focus on what’s possible. I think lifting the blockade of Gaza is a possibility.
For Finkelstein, there are now a series of impediments to reaching a two-state solution: The game-changers have been: the open Saudi alliance now with Israel; the fact that there’s been a succession of humanitarian crises in the Middle East which have overshadowed the Palestinian question; the fact that there’s a completely corrupt, collaborationist leadership among the Palestinians, which is incapable of inspiring any sacrifice by Palestinians or inspiring people abroad; and there has been the fact that the struggle has died in the West Bank. There has not even been any political mobilization in the West Bank in support of Gaza. It’s nothing. There is no resistance anymore. And as a result of all of those factors, the two-state solution is dead.
Critical importance of 2020 US elections
Asked about Donald Trump’s influence on the situation, he made clear that it depends a great deal on the outcome of the 2020 election: If [Trump] loses, he’ll be seen as a kind of eccentric aberration. And all of his decisions – to recognize Israeli control over the Golan, to recognize Jerusalem [as Israel’s capital] – will all be forgotten as part of this kind of lunatic phase in American politics… If he wins in 2020, yes, there’s a possibility it’ll stick – his decisions. But as of now, I don’t attach much importance to them.
He stressed, on the other hand, that a Bernie Sanders victory in 2020 (and/or a Jeremy Corbyn victory at some point in the UK) would be a game-changer. He said: It would infinitely strengthen the two-state settlement. Because Corbyn and Bernie have been very firm on two points. Palestinians have rights; those rights have to be respected, and they have to also actually be implemented. But number two, it has to be done within the framework of two states. I mean, Bernie and Jeremy have been very clear about that.
“The only rational future”
On the prospect of a one-state solution to the conflict, he remains skeptical. He said: I don’t see any political basis for it. Can you show me one country in the world that supports it? Can you show me one representative political institution that supports it? Can you show me one legal institution that supports it? Can you show me one major human rights organization that supports it? Can you show me, incidentally, one leftist political party that supports it? Of one-state advocates he said: These are posers… and fantasists. It’s nothing to do with politics… Is there at this point in time any likelihood that the consensus is going to radically shift in the near future or foreseeable future? I don’t see evidence of it… Politics is not like a baby shaking a rattle: ‘This is what I want’. Politics is what you desire, for sure. It’s aspirational. But it’s always constrained by what’s possible at the given moment; what’s the most you can extract from the given moment that will bring you closer to the future that you aspire to?
Finkelstein concluded by affirming that he doesn’t support the system of nation-states at all, but that this is not on the cards at this point in history: So I don’t support two states. Actually, I don’t support one state. I support no states. That’s the future to which I aspire. I think it’s the only rational future. You can’t solve any of the problems confronting humanity today, beginning with climate change, within the framework of… nation states… But I also recognize that, within the current moment, we can’t extract anything that doesn’t function within the world of nation states. And we have to accept that, even though we recognize, as an ultimate solution, that nation states have to go.
Why Israel cannot be called a democratic state (Excerpts)
The last Israeli elections were seen in the Western press and some Western politicians as confirmation that Israel is becoming less democratic, and more racist and chauvinistic. This we are told is undermining Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state”. The New York Times reported: “To the left, Israeli democracy is on the defensive. To the ethno nationalist right, which succeeded last year in enshrining Israel’s self-definition as the nation-state of the Jews in a basic law, it is in need of an adjustment.” The general celebratory line that Israel has been able to balance its two important ideals and core principles – namely, that it is “a Jewish and a democratic state” – has some now lamenting that this alleged balance has been offset by a right-wing tilt.
Commitment to ethnic cleansing
The major fact that such a depiction deliberately ignores is that “democracy” in Israel was established for Israeli Jews after the Zionists expelled 90 percent of the Palestinian population when Israel was founded in 1948, making themselves a majority overnight in the ethnically cleansed country. They opted for liberal democratic governance for the colonial Jewish majority, while instituting a legal apartheid system for the Palestinians they could not expel, including dozens of racist laws. This commitment to ethnic cleansing and Jewish supremacist rule has been an ideological cornerstone of the Zionist movement since its inception.
Theodor Herzl, the father of Zionism, cautioned against any democratic commitments and advised that “an infiltration [of Jews into Palestine] is bound to end in disaster. It continues till the inevitable moment when the native population feels itself threatened, and forces the [existing] government to stop further influx of Jews. Immigration is consequently futile unless based on an assured supremacy.” The so-called formula of a ‘Jewish and democratic state’ … was always based on arithmetic of Jewish supremacy and ethnic cleansing. The Jewish colonists, should “try to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it any employment in our country …”The removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly. Let the owners of immovable property believe that they are cheating us, selling us things for more than they are worth. But we are not going to sell them anything back.” Jewish colonies multiplied, and so did Palestinian expulsions.
Zionists’ fear of universal democracy, and their commitment to ethnic cleansing, was so strong that after the First World War, when the British – concerned with overextending themselves – wanted to ask the US to assume part of the responsibility for Palestine, they opposed it categorically. The World Zionist Organization (WZO) objected vehemently to US involvement: “Democracy in America too commonly means majority rule without regards to diversity of types or stages of civilization or differences of quality … The numerical majority in Palestine today is Arab, not Jewish. Qualitatively, it is a simple fact that the Jews are now predominant in Palestine, and given proper conditions they will be predominant quantitatively also in a generation or two,” the WZO stated. “But if the crude arithmetical conception of democracy were to be applied now or at some early stage in the future to Palestinian conditions, the majority that would rule would be the Arab majority, and the task of establishing and developing a great Jewish Palestine would be infinitely more difficult.”
Herzl’s foundational fear of democracy was adopted by his Zionist followers. On the right, the founder of Revisionist Zionism, Vladimir Jabotinsky, argued in 1923: “Any native people … will not voluntarily allow not only a new master, but even a new partner. And so it is for the Arabs.” Jabotinsky noted. “Compromisers in our midst attempt to convince us that the Arabs are some kind of fools who can be tricked … [and] who will abandon their birth right to Palestine for cultural and economic gains. I flatly reject this assessment of the Palestinian Arabs.” In the 1920s and 1930s, Zionists strategized plans for the ethnic cleansing (what they termed “transfer”) of Palestinians. Concurring with Jabotinsky, David Ben-Gurion, the Labor Zionist leader of the colonial settlers, declared in June 1938: “I support compulsory transfer. I do not see anything immoral in it.”
Enemies of Palestinians
Chaim Weizmann, head of the WZO, entertained in 1941 plans to expel one million Palestinians to Iraq and replace them with five million Polish and other European Jewish colonists. His argument: Palestinians’ “laziness and primitivism turn a flourishing garden into a desert. Give me the land occupied by a million Arabs, and I will easily settle five times that number of Jews on it.” The so-called formula of a “Jewish and democratic state”, which so many of Israel’s apologists fear may now be in peril, was always based on an arithmetic of Jewish supremacy and ethnic cleansing – not unlike the white supremacist liberal democracies established after ethnic cleansing in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. That majority continues to resist ethnic cleansing and Jewish supremacist rule, which Israel’s supporters and the enemies of Palestinians celebrate as “a Jewish and democratic state”.
*Joseph Massad is Professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia University in New