Roots of hatred in Zionist ideology
The recent triumph of extreme right-wing elements in the Israeli elections is not an accident, but is the logical outcome of a century of hatred in Zionist ideology, argues Salim Nazzal*
In 1939 Europe turned a blind eye to the rise of Nazism. The British prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, believed that a policy of appeasement would work with Hitler. It did not. Hitler attacked Poland, giving the world a costly lesson -- a policy of appeasement does not work with fascism. The outcome is well known: Europe was ruined, and around 50 million people lost their lives. Yet, thanks to the Norwegian "home front" resistance, Hitler was deprived of the material needed to manufacture the nuclear bomb. Had he acquired enough material to do so, the history of humanity might have been dramatically different to what we know today.
The fact that Hitler was democratically elected by the German people did not legitimate his policy of mass murder; in the same way the Israeli election of fascists and war criminals should not legitimate the Zionists' policy of mass murder. However, if Hitler is the starkest example of a fascist politician brought to power by a democratic electoral system, the recent Israeli election is another more recent example of an election that brought another known fascist, Avigdor Lieberman, widely viewed as the Israeli duplicate of contemporary European fascists like Jörg Haider or Jean Marie Le Pen, to power.
The evidence is the programme of Lieberman's party, Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel is our Home), and his hateful threats to ethnically cleanse the Palestinians who comprise 20 per cent of Israel's population. To make the picture clearer, imagine that the Norwegian government decided to ethnically cleanse the Lapp minority from the country, or to demand a written oath of loyalty from each individual Lapp. Imagine that the British government demanded that each Northern Irish citizen sign a pledge of loyalty. Who could believe that this could happen now in the 21st century? Furthermore, who would not find it shocking that Jews should be demanding a vow of loyalty in the 21st century, which is the equivalent in significance to enforcing the wearing of the Star of David in Nazi Germany in the middle of the 20th century?
The rise of fascism in Zionist culture is, as I shall explain, an aspect of Zionist culture that has been entrenched in it from its earliest establishment; the recent Israeli election (in February 2009) has only made it more visible to public opinion. For years Zionists have used the phrase "Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East" as an ideological weapon to demonise the Arabs and to justify its crimes. Today, after the war on Gaza that showed the world the ugly face of Zionism, the rise of Israeli fascism is yet more evidence that Zionism and racism, as the UN declared in 1975, are twins; the recent elections in Israel showed us that Zionism and fascism are synonyms.
Yet, I must note that there is a major difference between the Nazi and the Zionist fascist, though this difference does not lie in the culture of hate, which is the basis of both, but rather in the fact that the Zionist fascist has nuclear capability, and enough of it, according to military analysts, to destroy a large percentage of the human population globally. This fact has unsurprisingly raised serious concerns both in the Middle East and around the world.
Even prior to his election, knowing the great support he already had among new generations of Israelis who had been instilled for years with the culture of hate, the Moldavian fascist Avigdor Lieberman, brought to Israel in 1978, told the media that they must get used to the idea of him as the next Israeli defence minister. What does it mean when the majority in a society elects ultra-right wing and fascist parties to power? It can mean many things, but it is definitely not a healthy sign, and it shows a society for which the logic of "might is right" has become synonymous with its very existence.
A recent psychological study could explain the reasons behind the rise of the far right and war criminals to positions of power in the state of Israel. The research was conducted by Daniel Bar-Tal, who, according to the Haaretz newspaper, is one of the world's leading political psychologists, and Rafi Nets-Zehngut, a doctoral student. It found that "Israeli Jews' consciousness is characterized by a sense of victimization, a siege mentality, blind patriotism, belligerence, self-righteousness, dehumanization of the Palestinians and insensitivity to their suffering" ( Haaretz, 30 January 2009).
It seems that many in the Arab world did not initially take Lieberman's threats to nuke Gaza and his promises to conduct a policy of "transfer" against the 1.5 million Palestinians with Israeli citizenship seriously. Now, however, it would be politically naïve to ignore his threats. Arab observers who I have talked with recently believe that the ascent of fascists to leadership positions in Israel will sooner or later create an arms race in the Middle East and probably put pressure on Arab countries to develop weapons of mass destruction to defend themselves, especially given Lieberman's repeated threats to use atomic bombs on Gaza. Indeed, if Lieberman proposed to nuke Gaza in response to its resistance fighters' use of rockets less powerful than the fireworks used to celebrate New Year's Eve, what might he be capable of doing in a wider regional conflict?
THE SITUATION that we have now reached is unprecedented in modern history. The fear that a group of terrorists might acquire access to weapons of mass destruction has become a reality, and the danger is very real indeed. A group of ultra-far-right extremists which has, for years, presented the illusion of being the "permanently oppressed", now represents an existential threat to the Middle East and the whole world. Lieberman has made it clear on more than one occasion that he will strike Iran. Binyamin Netanyahu, who has been appointed to form the next Israeli government, is no less willing than Lieberman to hit Iran. The result of any such strike would be to destabilise the whole region, causing a state of complete chaos unlike anything ever seen before.
According to some Arab observers, if any such war were to take place it would very probably extend to Syria, Lebanon and Palestine, drowning the region in a sea of blood. Those who support this assumption base their view on the fact that the state of Israel has lost its deterrent capacity in terms of its traditional weaponry. This means, in their view, that Israel would be much more likely to use weapons of mass destruction in future wars.
It is essential, therefore, at this time to send a clear message to the Norwegian, French, British and American governments, who made the grave mistake of aiding Israel in its nuclear arms build-up, asking them to assume responsibility and to move quickly to impose the implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution issued in 1981, which Israel has never honoured because it would put Israel's weapons of mass destruction under international surveillance.
The present situation naturally also poses the question of how to understand the sociopolitical conditions that have allowed this far-right ideology to appear at this time, bearing in mind that sociological factors are complicated phenomena, not born overnight, and that they are part of a dynamic process that accumulates over time. This will be my point of departure in digging for the roots of fascism in Zionist thinking.
M.J. Rosenberg, the Israeli Policy Forum's director of policy analysis, has observed that the state of Israel has been moving to the right for years. Thirty years after its establishment, it elected a right-wing party to power in the 1977 elections. ( Los Angeles Times, 11 February 2009). Rosenberg gives no account, however, of how he would explain the rise of this far-right phenomenon, which reached its peak in the fact that Lieberman's fascist party has now become the country's second largest far-right-wing party, bearing in mind that the Kadima Party is just an offshoot of the right-wing Likud Party.
According to one Palestinian expert in Israeli affairs, crime levels within Israeli society have increased dramatically in recent years because soldiers who regularly murder Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have become acclimatised to solving everyday problems through the use of violence. It is unlikely that a soldier capable of murdering a Palestinian child without any feelings of guilt will behave in a civilised way with his own family. Violence goes back to its perpetrator, changing his character and, to a large extent, the society's character. This has made violence a predominant ideology in Israeli society, the very foundations of which were built on practising violence against native Palestinians. Indeed, Israel's continued existence as a state in the Middle East has become largely dependent on using violence against Palestinians.
Therefore, I argue that the Israeli elections which brought the ultra-right-wing war criminals and fascists to power reflect a serious crisis in a society where the culture of violence, force and war has become one of its most obvious behavioural traits, and where the whole culture has been based on glorifying military and militaristic values at the expense of civil values of tolerance, peace and understanding. In pursuing this argument, let me first contest the thesis that adopts the oppression theory to justify the rise of Zionism, which I view as the "legislative mother" of the fascist phenomenon in the state of Israel. I refute the oppression theory on the basis that other communities have not suffered less than the Jews, yet they have not developed any form of ideology similar to Zionism.
There are numerous examples to sustain this hypothesis. The native peoples of the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, millions of whom were murdered and ill treated for centuries, have not developed any form of ideology comparable to Zionism. The Africans were treated as subhuman, bound in chains and thrown into the European slave ships with zero regard for their humanity. Indeed, this was only the beginning of their long suffering, yet nobody has ever heard of "African Zionism".
We can compare the reaction of both communities to oppression. The founding father of Zionism, Theodor Herzl, responded by internalising the culture of hatred that laid the groundwork of Zionist culture, planning to colonise Palestine, to uproot its people and to build a military base in the Middle East that has now ended up as a quasi-fascist state. The African response, on the other hand, as formulated by Martin Luther King, was to assert that Africans, after centuries of oppression, must dream of freedom and justice and a day to come when "little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers".
The differences between the two ideologies are clear to everybody with a minimum of commonsense: The political fruit of Martin Luther King and the African-American struggle for justice has resulted in the election of Barack Obama as president of the United States and his discourse of change. The political fruit of Herzl and his Zionist discourse, meanwhile, has resulted in the election of the fascist leader Avigdor Lieberman and his agenda of ethnically cleansing Palestinians. It must be stated, however, that in the course of creating Zionism not all European Jews embraced it; there was a liberal trend ( Haskalah ), for example, that never fused Judaism with nationalism.
Those following the Haskalah school of thought pressed for integration and believed that the emancipation of European Jews could be achieved only through struggling alongside other democratic forces in Europe for justice and equality for all citizens; in other words the Haskalah approach lay in the struggle for integration with the majority. This trend wanted to close the physical and psychological Jewish ghettos and reach out towards wider, more inclusive perspectives.
Zionism represented the exact opposite; it wanted Jews to retain a culture of ghettoisation, but with the difference that the ghettos would be moved from Europe to the Middle East and would acquire a form of legitimacy by making Judaism a nationality rather than simply a faith. The two main sources from which Zionism benefited were the settler movement in the so-called New World and the racist theories of the 19th century.
THE ZIONIST RESPONSE to the culture of anti- Semitism, therefore, lay in identifying itself with the basis of that very culture through developing an ideology of hatred towards others and a culture of verbally and physically terrorising anybody who disagreed with it. Zionists view themselves as the sole possessors of absolute truth; their interpretation of Jewish history has been sanctified to an extent such that nobody may challenge their version of events. Their interpretation of Palestinian history must be accepted, they insist, as the only truth.
They assert, for instance, that they returned to Palestine after 2,000 years, as if this were a short trip from London to Paris, as if Palestinian history were frozen until they "came back", and as if Palestinians could be expected to welcome them with roses. This has made of Zionist thinking a Machiavellian mindset par excellence, a total fusion of myth and reality on the one hand, and a total separation between politics and morality on the other. They wanted to steal Palestinian lands, and they wanted to murder Palestinians, but they become hysterical at the slightest criticism. In this way Zionism defends itself against its critics with racist-based charges of anti-Semitism, purely because Zionists reserve for themselves the right to hide behind theories that blame all others for "unimaginable eternal Jewish suffering".
The sharpest example of this lies in the Zionist response to the concept of anti-Semitism. The natural response of the oppressed to discrimination should be to develop a strong stance against all sorts of racism and discrimination. That is what was witnessed with the experience of the ANC in South Africa, which, after the collapse of the white apartheid regime, focussed on the concept of opposing discrimination and promoting tolerance; this is the response that one expects from those who have themselves been oppressed. The word tolerance, however, is one that is rarely found in Zionist literature, no surprise when one considers that the whole ideology is based on murder, theft and oppression and that its literature has been created to justify and rationalise such a creed.
In reality, the Zionists have adopted the fascist culture of hate, replacing the Nazis' ideology that demonised all Jews with an ideology that demonises all others; in other word, it is a culture that has become "anti-other", "anti-non-Zionist" or "anti-others who disagree". The benefit of this is clear; it puts the blame on the entire world for the oft-cited "eternal Jewish suffering".
Numerous phrases in Zionist literature like "the world left us to die", "the world did nothing for us", "never again", and similar expressions help to support my argument that the Zionists have responded to anti-Semitic ideology by replacing it with an "anti- others" philosophy. In other words, Zionists have replaced the culture of hate with a mirror form of hate; this, Zionist hatred, however, was not directed against the repressive European regimes that tyrannised Jews, but rather was directed against the entire world in a generalised way. The most obvious implementation of the Zionist "anti-others" ideology is in the case of Palestinians. In Palestine, Zionists used the so-called "eternal guilt of the West" and Europe's "eternal sin" towards the Jews effectively to pressurise Europe into supporting their oppression of Palestinians and silence the critical voices raised against Israeli occupation.
The clearest expression of this "eternal sin of Europeans towards Jews" has been in the accusations of anti-Semitism made against anyone who criticises Israel, to the extent that even those individuals who generally support Israel, like former US president Jimmy Carter, who has nevertheless criticised it for its racist policies, has not escaped this allegation. In this context, the "anti-others" concept has been one of the principal constituents of the construction of Zionist theory, as has been seen in the Zionist literature of the past century. It must be noted that the "anti- others" concept carries the same fictional ideas within it as the fictional notion of the "anti-Semite", the anti-Semite blaming all Jews for the world's problems and the "anti-others" blaming all others for Jewish suffering.
The Zionist representation of Jewish history in Europe has never wanted to dig down far enough to understand the development of the anti-Semitic phenomenon, being selective instead and wanting to argue that this oppression has taken place in all times and all nations, which of course does not match the historical facts. Such assumptions are no more than the products of selective thinking and the fantasy theories of a conspiracy-theorist mindset, and they have no roots in the real world. It is obvious that Zionists are fond of a theory of the constant victimisation of Jews and its affinity and linkage with the "world- phobia" that is the basis of the "anti-others" mindset. This, for them, has become a form of insurance against criticism, especially after the colonisation of Palestine. The reality which Zionists never like to hear is that their anti-Nazi rhetoric and literature were never an honest position towards Nazi culture, but rather were a means of legitimating the violence of Zionist ideology.
The alternative to this culture of hate is a culture that is in accord with human rights and human decency. This is exactly what has happened in South Africa, whose people suffered centuries of discrimination; the alternative offered by the ANC was to promote a tolerant and inclusive culture in post- apartheid South Africa. Africans have been subjected to every form of historical oppression, yet they did not develop an ideology of "African Zionism" in response. Zionism, on the other hand, did not develop as an emancipation movement to liberate Jews from oppression as its literature claims it did; rather, it followed almost in the same footsteps as those fascist ideologies it professed to oppose. The Zionist disease has even affected many of the world's Jews, in particular American Jews who traditionally have supported left-wing movements in American society. Today, American Jews form the financial and propaganda basis of support for the state of Israel.
If Zionists were sincere in their opposition to Nazi culture, how would it be possible for them morally to justify the destruction of Palestine at the hands of those who claim to be the Nazis' victims? How could they justify deeds that inflicted and continue to inflict enormous pain on the Palestinians? The Zionists' frankly sickening "fifth-floor fire" analogy, which suggests that a man fleeing a fire on the fifth floor can be forgiven for accidentally or "unintentionally" killing someone on the first floor by landing on them when he leaps over the balcony to escape the flames, is easily refuted. For the acknowledged historical reality is that the Zionists deliberately aimed to colonise Palestine. They planned it, knowing that Palestinians would oppose it (see David Ben-Gurion's memoirs, and those of Jabotinsky and others) and knowing that they would be resisted.
They cooperated with the imperialist powers of the time to invade Palestine, and they acquired arms specifically to kill Palestinians. If all this is an "unintentional accident", I wonder how we should define an "intentional" deed! The Holocaust and Jewish suffering in Europe have been used not as a lesson in teaching them to fight the culture of hate, but rather as a useful benefit to justify a near- identical hateful ideology.
The problem, of course, has nothing to do with Palestinians as Palestinians. The Zionists would have used exactly the same murderous policy had they created the state of Israel in Uganda, which Herzl also suggested as a Jewish homeland. Zionists have defined Palestinians as enemies only because they view them as obstacles to the Zionist project. The Zionist psyche could not or would not see that the Palestinian people love their homes and families and that they value their hopes, feelings and dreams like every community on earth. Indeed, the Zionists did not even want to be part of the Middle East region culturally; as Ben-Gurion put it, "we shall not become Arabs any more than the Americans became red Indians." They did not want to integrate into their original societies, and they did not seek to integrate into Palestinian society because integration would mean returning to the Palestinians the rights that they had taken by force.
Instead, they saw the Palestinian natives as obstacles to be removed in the same way as road builders demolish rocks standing in their way. The few left-wing Zionist voices calling for a democratic state in Palestine were quickly lost amid the violence of mainstream Zionist thinking.
Israel Zangwill, one of Herzl's earliest and strongest supporters, for example, observed that Jerusalem was twice as heavily populated as the United States. The solution to this in his view was to use the sword against the native Palestinians. The paradox of this was that Zangwill invented the biggest lie in modern history, namely that Palestine was "a land without a people for a people without a land." The Zionists knew almost nothing about Palestinian culture, and I believe that they did not even want to know anything about it because that knowledge might have disturbed their worldview, which had rewritten past and future history to follow their hateful ideology. Having already decided to displace and kill, there was no need to discover anything about their future victims, apart from any knowledge which might aid them in occupation.
This has been the path of Zionism, an ideology founded on war, occupation and oppression and on deception and falsification. Zionism turned Palestine, a country which should be a country of peace, into a centre for spreading a culture of hate against Palestinians, against Arabs, against Muslims, against anti-Zionist Christians and against anti-Zionist Jews and against everybody and anybody who asks Zionists to look in the mirror and see the true, ugly face of their ideology. It has turned beautiful Palestine into a centre that spreads poison between the US and the Islamic world, between Europe and Arabs, between Arabs and Iranians, between Arabs and Arabs, and even between Palestinians and other Palestinians.
The emergence of ultra-fascist tendencies in the state of Israel is the natural consequence of a century of building a culture of hate towards the other. It is not at all a sudden phenomenon that has landed as if by parachute, but rather it is the logical outcome of a poisonous culture transplanted into Palestine. Today, the political map of Israel strongly indicates the disappearance of the left wing and of the rational voices that seek to find a just and peaceful solution. This has given the world a strong indication of the dark direction in which the Middle East is heading.
* The writer is a Palestinian-Norwegian historian of the Middle East who has written extensively on social and political issues in the region.