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Straight Talk About Zionism: What Jewish Nationalism Means

By Mark Weber
April 14, 2009

(An audio recording of this article, narrated by the author,

is posted here for listening or downloading)

It’s important to understand Zionism, not just because it’s an influential ideology and a

powerful social-political movement, but also because there’s a lot of ignorance,

confusion and deliberate misinformation about it.

 

If you look up the word “Zionism” in a standard American dictionary, what you’ll find is

likely to be inaccurate, or at least misleading. For example, a popular and supposedly

authoritative American dictionary in my office defines Zionism as “A movement formerly

for reestablishing, now for supporting, the Jewish national state of Israel.” / 1 This

definition, which is typical of American reference works, is more than just misleading. It’s deceitful.

 

The founder of the modern Zionist movement was a Jewish writer named Theodor Herzl.

In the 1890s he was living in Paris, where he was a journalist for a major newspaper in Vienna.

He was deeply troubled by the widespread anti-Semitism, or anti-Jewish sentiment, in

France at the time. He thought a lot about the pattern of tension, distrust and conflict between

Jews and non-Jews that had persisted through the centuries, and he

hit upon what he believed is a solution to this age-old problem.

 

Herzl laid out his views in a book, written in German, entitled The Jewish State (Der Judenstaat).

Published in 1896, this work is the manifesto or basic document of the Zionist movement.

A year and a half later, Herzl convened the firstinternational Zionist conference. Fifty one

years later, when the “State of Israel” was solemnly proclaimed at a meeting in Tel Aviv,

above the speakers’ podium at the conference was, appropriately, a large portrait of Herzl.

 

In his book Herzl explained that regardless of where they live, or their citizenship, Jews

constitute not merely a religious community, but a nationality, a people. He used the German

word, Volk. Wherever large numbers of Jews live among non-Jews, he said, conflict is not

only likely, it’s inevitable. He wrote: "The Jewish question exists wherever Jews live in

noticeable numbers. Where it does not exist, it is brought in by arriving Jews ... I believe

I understand anti-Semitism, which is a very complex phenomenon.

I consider this development as a Jew, without hate or fear." / 2

 

In his public and private writings, Herzl explained that anti-Semitism is not an aberration,

but rather a natural response by non-Jews to alien Jewish behavior and attitudes. Anti-Jewish

sentiment, he said, is not due to ignorance or bigotry, as so many have claimed. Instead, he

concluded, the ancient and seemingly intractable conflict between Jews and non-Jews is

entirely understandable, because Jews are a distinct and separate people, with interests

that are different from, and which often conflict with, the interests of the people among whom they live.

 

A prime source of modern anti-Jewish sentiment, Herzl believed, was the so-called “emancipation”

of Jews in the 18th and 19th centuries, which brought them from the confined life of the ghetto

into modern urban society and direct economic competition with non-Jews in the middle classes.

Anti-Semitism, Herzl wrote, is “an understandable reaction to Jewish defects.”

In his diary he wrote: “I find the anti-Semites are fully within their rights.” / 3

 

Herzl maintained that Jews must stop pretending – both to themselves and to non-Jews – that

they are like everyone else, and instead must frankly acknowledge that they are a distinct and

separate people, with distinct and separate goals and interests. The only workable long-term

solution, he said, is for Jews to recognize reality and live, finally, as a “normal” people in a

separate state of their own. In a memo to the Tsar of Russia, Herzl

wrote that Zionism is the “final solution of the Jewish question.” / 4

 

Over the years many other Jewish leaders have affirmed Herzl’s outlook. Louis Brandeis, a

US Supreme Court justice and a leading American Zionist, said: “Let us all recognize that

we Jews are a distinctive nationality of which every Jew, whatever his

country, his station or shade of belief, is necessarily a member.” / 5

 

Stephen S. Wise, president of the American Jewish Congress and of the World Jewish

Congress, told a rally in New York in June 1938: "I am not an American citizen of the Jewish

faith. I am a Jew ... Hitler was right in one thing. He calls the Jewish people a race,

and we are a race." / 6

 

Israel’s first president, Chaim Weizmann, wrote in his memoirs: “Whenever the quantity

of Jews in any country reaches the saturation point, that country reacts against them ...

[This] reaction ... cannot be looked upon as anti-Semitism in the ordinary or vulgar sense

of that word; it is a universal social and economic concomitant of Jewish immigration,

and we cannot shake it off.” / 7

 

In keeping with the Zionist worldview, Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon told a meeting of

American Jews in Jerusalem in July 2004 that all Jews around the world should relocate

to Israel as soon as possible. And because anti-Semitism was especially widespread in

France, he added, Jews in that country should immediately move to Israel. French officials

quickly, and predictably, responded by rejecting Sharon’s remarks as “unacceptable.” / 8

 

But imagine if the leaders of France, the United States, and other countries were to

respond to those remarks by Sharon, and similar ones by other Zionists, by expressing

agreement. Imagine if an American president were to respond by saying: “You’re right,

Mr. Sharon. We agree with you. We agree that Jews do not belong in the United States.

In fact, we are ready to show our support for what you say by doing everything we

can to promote and encourage all Jews to leave our country and move to Israel.”

 

That would be the logical and honest attitude of non-Jewish political leaders who say that

they support Israel and Zionism. But the political leaders of the United States,

France, Britain, and other such countries today are neither honest nor consistent.

 

During the 1930s, one European government that was honest and consistent in its

attitude on this issue was the government of Third Reich Germany. Jewish Zionists and

German National Socialists shared similar views about how best to handle what Herzl

called “the Jewish question.” They agreed that Jews and Germans were distinctly different

nationalities, and that Jews did not belong in Europe, but rather in the so-called "Jewish homeland”

in Palestine.

 

On the basis of their shared views, Germans and Jews worked together for what each

community believed was in its own best national interest. The Hitler government vigorously

supported Zionism and Jewish emigration to Palestine from 1933 until 1940-41, when the

Second World War prevented further extensive collaboration. / 9 (During the war years

attitudes hardened, and policy shifted drastically. The German policy of collaboration

with Zionists and support for Jewish emigration to Palestine gave way to a harsh “final solution” policy.)

 

During the 1930s, the central SS newspaper, Das Schwarze Korps, repeatedly proclaimed

its support for Zionism. An article published in 1935, for example, told readers: / 10

 

“The recognition of Jewry as a racial community based on blood and not on religion leads

the German government to guarantee without reservation the racial separateness of this

community. The government finds itself in complete agreement with the great spiritual

movement within Jewry, the so-called Zionism, with its recognition of the solidarity of Jewry

around the world, and its rejection of all assimilationist notions. On this basis, Germany

undertakes measures that will surely play a significant role in the

future in the handling of the Jewish problem around the world.”

 

In late 1933, a leading German shipping line began direct passenger service

from Hamburg to Haifa, Palestine, providing "strictly kosher food” on board.

 

In September 1935, the German government enacted the “Nuremberg Laws," which

prohibited marriages and sexual relations between Jews and Germans and, in effect,

proclaimed the country’s Jews an alien minority group. / 11 A few days after the Nuremberg

Laws were enacted, the main German Zionist newspaper, the Jüdische Rundschau,

editorially welcomed the new measures. It explained to readers: / 12

 

“Germany ... is meeting the demands of the World Zionist Congress when it declares

the Jews now living in Germany to be a national minority. Once the Jews have been

stamped a national minority it is again possible to establish normal relations between the

German nation and Jewry. The new laws give the Jewish minority in Germany its own

cultural life, its own national life. In future it will be able to shape its own schools, its

own theater, and its own sports associations. In short, it can create its own future in all

aspects of national life ...”

 

During the 1930s, Zionist groups, working together with Third Reich authorities, organized

a network of some forty camps and agricultural centers throughout Germany

where prospective settlers were trained for their new lives in Palestine.

 

The centerpiece of German-Zionist cooperation during the Hitler era was the Transfer Agreement,

a pact that enabled tens of thousands of German Jews to migrate to Palestine with their wealth.

The Agreement, also known as the Ha’avara – Hebrew for "transfer" – was concluded in

August 1933 following talks between German officials and an official of the

Jewish Agency, the Palestine center of the World Zionist Organization. / 13

 

Between 1933 and 1941, some 60,000 German Jews emigrated to Palestine through the

Ha'avara and other German-Zionist arrangements, or about ten percent of Germany's 1933

Jewish population. Some Ha'avara emigrants transferred considerable personal wealth from

Germany to Palestine. As Jewish historian Edwin Black has noted: "Many of these people,

especially in the late 1930s, were allowed to transfer actual replicas of their

homes and factories – indeed rough replicas of their very existence." / 14

 

The Transfer Agreement was the most far-reaching example of cooperation between Hitler's

Germany and international Zionism. Through this pact, Hitler's Third Reich did more than any

other government during the 1930s to support the Zionist movement and Jewish development in Palestine.

 

The essence of Zionism, or Jewish nationalism, is that Jews everywhere – regardless of where

they live, regardless of their religious outlook, and regardless of their citizenship – are members

of the Jewish “people” or “nation,” to whom all Jews owe a primary loyalty and allegiance.

 

The overwhelming majority of Jews in the United States today identify with and support Israel,

and are affiliated with Zionist groups and organizations. Every significant Jewish group or

association in the United States, and every prominent Jewish American political or community

leader supports Israel and Zionism, in most cases fervently so. With very few exceptions,

even American Jews who are critical of some of Israel’s more embarrassing policies nonetheless

express support for Israel and the nationalist ideology upon which the Zionist state is based.

 

 

A Zionist Jew, by definition, owes his primary loyalty to the Jewish community and to Israel.

Zionism is not compatible with patriotism to any country or entity other than Israel and the world

Jewish community. That’s why it’s difficult to accept as sincere or honest the pious assurances

of Jewish leaders in the United States that American Jews are just as loyal to the US as everyone else.

 

In the United States, nearly every prominent political leader – Jewish and non-Jewish,

Democrat and Republican – ardently supports Israel and the Jewish nationalist ideology

upon which it is based. In Washington, political leaders of both major parties insist on US

support for Israel as an ethnically Jewish state. They fervently support, and eagerly seek

the favor of, influential Jewish-Zionist groups, such as the American Israel

Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

 

Everyone – whether Jewish or non-Jewish – who claims to support Israel should, if he

is honest and consistent, endorse the view of Israeli prime minister Sharon, and other

Zionist leaders, and support the migration of Jews everywhere to Israel. But of course that’s

not what happens.

 

With regard to Zionism and Israel, the attitude and policies of nearly all American political

leaders, Jewish and non-Jewish, is characterized by hypocrisy and deceit. To put it another

way, Zionist Jews and their non-Jewish supporters embrace a blatant double standard.

Jewish-Zionist organizations, along with their non-Jewish allies, support one social-political

ideology for Israel and the world Jewish community, and a completely different one for the

United States and other non-Jewish countries. They insist that ethnic nationalism is evil and

bad for non-Jews, while at the same time they vigorously support ethnic nationalism –

that is, Zionism – for Jews.

 

They insist that Israel is and must be a Jewish nationalist state, with a privileged status for

its Jewish population, including immigration laws that discriminate against non-Jews. At the

same time, Jewish-Zionist groups and leaders, and the non-Jews who support them, insist

that in the United States, Britain, France, Germany and other countries, there

must be no privileged status for anyone based on race, ethnicity or religion.

 

Our political leaders tell us that American Jews should be encouraged to think of themselves

as a distinct national group with an identity and community interests separate from those

of other Americans. At the same time American politicians insist that Zionist Jews be given

all rights as full and equal US citizens. On the basis of this double standard, Jews often

enjoy what amounts to a privileged status in American political and cultural life.

 

Americans are led to believe that Zionism is a benign outlook of altruistic and righteous support

for a so-called Jewish homeland. In fact, Zionism is an ideology and movement of ethnically-based

Jewish nationalism that reinforces the identity and self-image of Jews as a distinct and separate

community with interests different from those of non-Jews, and which strengthens the already

powerful world Jewish community.

 

 

Notes

  1. New World Dictionary of the American Language, Second College Edition (1978?), p. 1654.
  2. Th. Herzl, Der Judenstaat. ( http://de.wikisource.org/wiki/Der_Judenstaat/Einleitung / http://www.zionismus.info/judenstaat/02.htm )
    Also quoted in: M. Weber, “Zionism and the Third Reich,” The Journal of Historical Review, July-August 1993, p. 29. ( http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v13/v13n4p29_Weber.html )
  3. Kevin MacDonald, Separation and Its Discontents (Praeger,1998), pp. 45, 48.
  4. Memo of Nov. 22, 1899. R. Patai, ed., The Complete Diaries of Theodor Herzl (New York: 1960), Vol. 3, p. 888.
  5. Louis D. Brandeis, “The Jewish Problem and How to Solve It.” Speech of April 25, 1915. ( http://www.pbs.org/wnet/supremecourt/personality/sources_document11.html / http://www.law.louisville.edu/library/collections/brandeis/node/234 )
  6. “Dr. Wise Urges Jews to Declare Selves as Such,” New York Herald Tribune, June 13, 1938, p. 12.
  7. Chaim Weizmann, Trial and Error (1949), p. 90. Quoted in: Albert S. Lindemann, The Jew Accused (1991), p. 277.
  8. “French Jews Must `Move to Israel’,” BBC News, July 18, 2004 ( http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3904943.stm )
    See also: “Sharon Urges Jews to Go to Israel,” BBC News, Nov. 17, 2003. ( http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3275979.stm )
  9. M. Weber, “Zionism and the Third Reich,” The Journal of Historical Review, July-August 1993 (Vol. 13, No. 4), pp. 29-37.
    http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v13/v13n4p29_Weber.html )
  10. Das Schwarze Korps, Sept. 26, 1935. Quoted in: Francis R. Nicosia, The Third Reich and the Palestine Question (Univ. of Texas, 1985), p. 56-57.
  11. These days the Nuremberg Laws are routinely portrayed as imposing outrageous and inhumane discrimination against Jews. But to put this in perspective, it’s worth mentioning two points. First: the Nuremberg Laws ban on marriage between Jews and non-Jews is consistent with the law in Israel today, where such marriages are not permitted, as well as with the prohibition on such marriages as laid out in the Hebrew scriptures. (See, for example: Numbers 25: 6-8; Deuteronomy 7:3; Ezra 9: 12; 10: 10-11; Nehemiah 10: 30; 13: 25.)
      Second, in 1935 less than one percent of the population of Germany was Jewish, which meant that the Nuremberg laws ban on marriage between Jews and non-Jews was irrelevant for the vast majority of the country’s population. By contrast, in the United States during the 1930s, most of the American states had laws in place that prohibited marriage between people of different races. Because the portion of the American population that was racially non-majority was much larger than in Germany, the US racial laws impacted a much larger portion of the US population at the time than the Nuremberg laws affected the German population.
  12. Jüdische Rundschau, Sept. 17, 1935. Quoted in: Y. Arad, and others, Documents on the Holocaust (Jerusalem: 1981), pp. 82-83.
  13. W. Feilchenfeld, “Ha’avara,” New Encyclopedia of Zionism and Israel (Herzl Press, 1994), pp. 535-536; M. Weber, “Zionism and the Third Reich,” The Journal of Historical Review, July-August 1993, pp. 33-34.
  14. Edwin Black, The Transfer Agreement (1984), p. 379.
 
 
 
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Zionism as Racist Ideology

 
 

During a presentation on the Palestinian-Israeli situation in 2001, an American-Israeli acquaintance of ours began with

a typical attack on the Palestinians. Taking the overused line that “Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity,”

he asserted snidely that, if only the Palestinians had had any decency and not been so all-fired interested in pushing

the Jews into the sea in 1948, they would have accepted the UN partition of Palestine. Those Palestinians who became

refugees would instead have remained peacefully in their homes, and the state of Palestine could in the year 2001 be

celebrating the 53rd anniversary of its independence. Everything could have been sweetness and light, he contended,

but here the Palestinians were, then a year into a deadly intifada, still stateless, still hostile, and still trying, he claimed,

to push the Jews into the sea.

 

It was a common line but with a new and intriguing twist: what if the Palestinians had accepted partition; would they

in fact have lived in a state at peace since 1948? It was enough to make the audience stop and think. But later in the

talk, the speaker tripped himself up by claiming, in a tone of deep alarm, that Palestinian insistence on the right of return

for Palestinian refugees displaced when Israel was created would spell the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state.

He did not realize the inherent contradiction in his two assertions (until we later pointed it out to him, with no little glee).

You cannot have it both ways, we told him: you cannot claim that, if Palestinians had not left the areas that became

Israel in 1948, they would now be living peaceably, some inside and some alongside a Jewish-majority state, and then

also claim that, if they returned now, Israel would lose its Jewish majority and its essential identity as a Jewish state.*

 

This exchange, and the massive propaganda effort by and on behalf of Israel to demonstrate the threat to Israel’s

Jewish character posed by the Palestinians’ right of return, actually reveal the dirty little secret of Zionism. In its drive

to establish and maintain a state in which Jews are always the majority, Zionism absolutely required that Palestinians,

as non-Jews, be made to leave in 1948 and never be allowed to return. The dirty little secret is that this is blatant racism.

 

But didn’t we finish with that old Zionism-is-racism issue over a decade ago, when in 1991 the UN repealed a 1975

General Assembly resolution that defined Zionism as “a form of racism or racial discrimination”? Hadn’t we

Americans always rejected this resolution as odious anti-Semitism, and didn’t we, under the aegis of the first Bush

administration, finally prevail on the rest of the world community to agree that it was not

only inaccurate but downright evil to label Zionism as racist? Why bring it up again, now?

 

The UN General Assembly based its 1975 anti-Zionist resolution on the UN’s own definition of racial discrimination,

adopted in 1965. According to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination,

racial discrimination is “any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national

or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an

equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field

of public life.” As a definition of racism and racial discrimination, this statement is unassailable and, if one is honest about

what Zionism is and what it signifies, the statement is an accurate definition of Zionism. But in 1975, in the

political atmosphere prevailing at the time, putting forth such a definition was utterly self-defeating.

 

So would a formal resolution be in today’s political atmosphere. But enough has changed over the last decade or more

that talk about Zionism as a system that either is inherently racist or at least fosters racism is increasingly possible and

increasingly necessary. Despite the vehement knee-jerk opposition to any such discussion throughout the United States,

serious scholars elsewhere and serious Israelis have begun increasingly to examine Zionism critically, and there is much

greater receptivity to the notion that no real peace will be forged in Palestine-Israel unless the bases of Zionism are examined

and in some way altered. It is for this reason that honestly labeling Zionism as a racist political philosophy is so necessary:

unless the world’s, and particularly the United States’, blind support for Israel as an exclusivist Jewish state is undermined,

unless the blind acceptance of Zionism as a noble ideology is undermined, and unless it is recognized that Israel’s drive to

maintain dominion over the occupied Palestinian territories is motivated by an exclusivist, racist ideology, no one will

ever gain the political strength or the political will necessary to force Israel to relinquish territory and permit e

stablishment of a truly sovereign and independent Palestinian state in a part of Palestine.

 

Recognizing Zionism’s Racism

 

A racist ideology need not always manifest itself as such, and, if the circumstances are right, it need not always actually

practice racism to maintain itself. For decades after its creation, the circumstances were right for Israel. If one forgot, as

most people did, the fact that 750,000 Palestinians (non-Jews) had left their homeland under duress, thus making room

for a Jewish-majority state, everyone could accept Israel as a genuine democracy, even to a certain extent for that small

minority of Palestinians who had remained after 1948. That minority was not large enough to threaten Israel’s Jewish majority;

it faced considerable discrimination, but because Israeli Arabs could vote, this discrimination was viewed not as institutional,

state-mandated racism but as the kind of discrimination, deplorable but not institutionalized, faced by blacks in the United States.

The occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, with their two million (soon to become more than three million)

Palestinian inhabitants, was seen to be temporary, its end awaiting only the Arabs’ readiness to accept Israel’s existence.

 

In these “right” circumstances, the issue of racism rarely arose, and the UN’s labeling of Israel’s fundamental ideology

as racist came across to Americans and most westerners as nasty and vindictive. Outside the third world, Israel had come

to be regarded as the perpetual innocent, not aggressive, certainly not racist, and desirous of nothing more than a peace

agreement that would allow it to mind its own business inside its original borders in a democratic state. By the time the

Zionism-is-racism resolution was rescinded in 1991, even the PLO had officially recognized Israel’s right to exist in peace

inside its 1967 borders, with its Jewish majority uncontested. In fact, this very acceptance of Israel by its princip

al adversary played no small part in facilitating the U.S. effort to garner support for overturning the resolution. (The fact of U.S.

global dominance in the wake of the first Gulf war and the collapse of the Soviet Union earlier in 1991, and the atmosphere

of optimism about prospects for peace created by the Madrid peace conference in October also played a significant part in

winning over a majority of the UN when the Zionism resolution was brought to a vote of the General Assembly in December.)

 

Realities are very different today, and a recognition of Zionism’s racist bases, as well as an understanding of the racist

policies being played out in the occupied territories are essential if there is to be any hope at all of achieving a peaceful, just,

and stable resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The egg of Palestine has been permanently scrambled, and it is

now increasingly the case that, as Zionism is recognized as the driving force in the occupied territories as well as inside

Israel proper, pre-1967 Israel can no longer be considered in isolation. It can no longer be allowed simply to go its own

way as a Jewish-majority state, a state in which the circumstances are “right” for ignoring Zionism’s fundamental racism.

 

As Israel increasingly inserts itself into the occupied territories, and as Israeli settlers, Israeli settlements, and Israeli-only

roads proliferate and a state infrastructure benefiting only Jews takes over more and more territory, it becomes no

longer possible to ignore the racist underpinnings of the Zionist ideology that directs this enterprise. It is no longer possible

today to wink at the permanence of Zionism’s thrust beyond Israel’s pre-1967 borders. It is now clear that Israel’s control

over the occupied territories is, and has all along been intended to be, a drive to assert exclusive Jewish control, taming

the Palestinians into submission and squeezing them into ever smaller, more disconnected segments of land or, failing

that, forcing them to leave Palestine altogether. It is totally obvious to anyone who spends time on the ground in Palestine-Israel

that the animating force behind the policies of the present and all past Israeli governments in Israel and in the occupied

West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem has always been a determination to assure the predominance of Jews over Palestinians.

Such policies can only be described as racist, and we should stop trying any longer to avoid the word.

 

When you are on the ground in Palestine, you can see Zionism physically imprinted on the landscape. Not only can you

see that there are settlements, built on land confiscated from Palestinians, where Palestinians may not live. Not only can

you see roads in the occupied territories, again built on land taken from Palestinians, where Palestinians may not drive.

Not only can you observe that water in the occupied territories is allocated, by Israeli governmental authorities, so

inequitably that Israeli settlers are allocated five times the amount per capita as are Palestinians and, in periods of drought,

Palestinians stand in line for drinking water while Israeli settlements enjoy lush gardens and swimming pools. Not only

can you stand and watch as Israeli bulldozers flatten Palestinian olive groves and other agricultural land, destroy Palestinian

wells, and demolish Palestinian homes to make way for the separation wall that Israel is constructing across the length

and breadth of the West Bank. The wall fences off Palestinians from Israelis, supposedly to provide greater security for

Israelis but in fact in order to cage Palestinians, to define a border for Israel that will exclude a maximum number of Palestinians.

 

But, if this is not enough to demonstrate the inherent racism of Israel’s occupation, you can also drive through Palestinian

towns and Palestinian neighborhoods in and near Jerusalem and see what is perhaps the most cruelly racist policy in

Zionism’s arsenal: house demolitions, the preeminent symbol of Zionism’s drive to maintain Jewish predominance.

Virtually every street has a house or houses reduced to rubble, one floor pancaked onto another or simply a pile of

broken concrete bulldozed into an incoherent heap. Jeff Halper, founder and head of the non-governmental Israeli

Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), an anthropologist and scholar of the occupation, has observed that

Zionist and Israeli leaders going back 80 years have all conveyed what he calls “The Message” to Palestinians. The

Message, Halper says, is “Submit. Only when you abandon your dreams for an independent state of your own, and

accept that Palestine has become the Land of Israel, will we relent [i.e., stop attacking Palestinians].” The deeper meaning

of The Message, as carried by the bulldozers so ubiquitous in targeted Palestinian neighborhoods today, is that “You

[Palestinians] do not belong here. We uprooted you from your homes in 1948and now we will uproot you from all

of the Land of Israel.”

 

In the end, Halper says, the advance of Zionism has been a process of displacement, and house demolitions have

been “at the center of the Israeli struggle against the Palestinians” since 1948. Halper enumerates a steady history of

destruction: in the first six years of Israel’s existence, it systematically razed 418 Palestinian villages inside Israel,

fully 85 percent of the villages existing before 1948; since the occupation began in 1967, Israel has demolished 11,000

Palestinian homes. More homes are now being demolished in the path of Israel’s “separation wall.”

It is estimated that more than 4,000 homes have been destroyed in the last two years alone.

 

The vast majority of these house demolitions, 95 percent, have nothing whatever to do with fighting terrorism, but are

designed specifically to displace non-Jews and assure the advance of Zionism. In Jerusalem, from the beginning of

the occupation of the eastern sector of the city in 1967, Israeli authorities have designed zoning plans specifically to

prevent the growth of the Palestinian population. Maintaining the “Jewish character” of the city at the level existing in

1967 (71 percent Jewish, 29 percent Palestinian) required that Israel draw zoning boundaries to prevent Palestinian

expansion beyond existing neighborhoods, expropriate Palestinian-owned lands, confiscate the Jerusalem residency

permits of any Palestinian who cannot prove that Jerusalem is his “center of life,” limit city services to Palestinian areas

limit development in Palestinian neighborhoods, refuse to issue residential building permits to Palestinians, and

demolish Palestinian homes that are built without permits. None of these strictures is imposed on Jews. According to

ICAHD, the housing shortage in Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem is approximately 25,000 units, and 2,000 demolition

orders are pending.

 

Halper has written that the human suffering involved in the destruction of a family home is incalculable. A home

“is one’s symbolic center, the site of one’s most intimate personal life and an expression of one’s status. It is a refuge,

it is the physical representation of the family,maintainingcontinuity on one’s ancestral land.” Land expropriation is

“an attack on one’s very being and identity.” Zionist governments, past and present, have understood this well, although

not with the compassion or empathy that Halper conveys, and this attack on the “very being and identity”

of non-Jews has been precisely the animating force behind Zionism.

 

Zionism’s racism has, of course, been fundamental to Israel itself since its establishment in 1948. The Israeli government

pursues policies against its own Bedouin minority very similar to its actions in the occupied territories. The Bedouin population

has been forcibly relocated and squeezed into small areas in the Negev, again with the intent of forcing an exodus, and half

of the 140,000 Bedouin in the Negev live in villages that the Israeli government does not recognize and does not provide

services for. Every Bedouin home in an unrecognized village is slated for demolition; all homes, and the very presence of

Bedouin in them, are officially illegal.

 

The problem of the Bedouins’ unrecognized villages is only the partial evidence of a racist policy that has prevailed

since Israel’s foundation. After Zionist/Israeli leaders assured that the non-Jews (i.e., the Palestinians) making up the

majority of Palestine’s population (a two-thirds majority at the time) departed the scene in 1948, Israeli governments

institutionalized favoritism toward Jews by law. As a Zionist state, Israel has always identified itself as the state of the

Jews: as a state not of its Jewish and Palestinian citizens, but of all Jews everywhere in the world. The institutions of

state guarantee the rights of and provide benefits for Jews. The Law of Return gives automatic citizenship to Jews from

anywhere in the world, but to no other people. Some 92 percent of the land of Israel is state land, held by the Jewish

National Fund “in trust” for the Jewish people; Palestinians may not purchase this land, even though most of it was

Palestinian land before 1948, and in most instances they may not even lease the land. Both the Jewish National Fund,

which deals with land acquisition and development, and the Jewish Agency, which deals primarily with Jewish immigration

and immigrant absorption, have existed since before the state’s establishment and now perform

their duties specifically for Jews under an officialmandate from the Israeli government.

 

Creating Enemies

 

Although few dare to give the reality of house demolitions and state institutions favoring Jews the label of racism,

the phenomenon this reality describes is unmistakably racist. There is no other term for a process by which one

people can achieve the essence of its political philosophy only by suppressing another people, by which one people

guarantees its perpetual numerical superiority and its overwhelming predominance over another people through a

deliberate process of repression and dispossession of those people. From the beginning, Zionism has been based on

the supremacy of the Jewish people, whether this predominance was to be exercised in a full-fledged state or in some

other kind of political entity, and Zionism could never have survived or certainly thrived in Palestine without ridding that

land of most of its native population. The early Zionists themselves knew this (as did the Palestinians), even if naïve

Americans have never quite gotten it. Theodore Herzl, father of Zionism, talked from the beginning of “spiriting” the

native Palestinians out and across the border; discussion of “transfer” was common among the Zionist leadership in

Palestine in the 1930s; talk of transfer is common today.

 

There has been a logical progression to the development of Zionism, leading inevitably to general acceptance of the

sense that, because Jewish needs are paramount, Jews themselves are paramount. Zionism grew out of the sense that

Jews needed a refuge from persecution, which led in turn to the belief that the refuge could be truly secure only if

Jews guaranteed their own safety, which meant that the refuge must be exclusively or at least overwhelmingly Jewish,

which meant in turn that Jews and their demands were superior, taking precedence over any other interests within

that refuge. The mindset that in U.S. public discourse tends to view the Palestinian-Israeli conflict from a perspective

almost exclusively focused on Israel arises out of this progression of Zionist thinking. By the very nature of a mindset,

virtually no one examines the assumptions on which the Zionist mindset is based, and few recognize the racist base

on which it rests.

 

Israeli governments through the decades have never been so innocent. Many officials in the current right-wing government

are blatantly racist. Israel’s outspoken education minister, Limor Livnat, spelled out the extreme right-wing defense of

Zionism a year ago, when the government proposed to legalize the right of Jewish communities in Israel to exclude non-Jews.

Livnat justified Israel’s racism as a matter of Jewish self-preservation. “We’re involved here,” she said in a radio interview,

“in a struggle for the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jews, as opposed tothose who want to force us to

be a state of all its citizens.” Israel is not “just another state like all the other states,” she protested.

“We are not just a state of all its citizens.”

 

Livnat cautioned that Israel must be very watchful lest it find in another few years that the Galilee and the Negev, two

areas inside Israel with large Arab populations, are “filled with Arab communities.” To emphasize the point, she reiterated

that Israel’s “special purpose is our character as a Jewish state, our desire to preserve a Jewish community and Jewish

majority hereso that it does not become a state of all its citizens.” Livnat was speaking of Jewish self-preservation not in

terms of saving the Jews or Israel from a territorial threat of military invasion by a marauding neighbor state,

but in terms of preserving Jews from the mere existence of another people within spitting distance.

 

Most Zionists of a more moderate stripe might shudder at the explicitness of Livnat’s message and deny that Zionism is

really like this. But in fact this properly defines the racism that necessarily underlies Zionism. Most centrist and leftist

Zionists deny the reality of Zionism’s racism by trying to portray Zionism as a democratic system and manufacturing enemies

in order to be able to sustain the inherent contradiction and hide or excuse the racism behind Zionism’s drive for predominance.

 

Indeed, the most pernicious aspect of a political philosophy like Zionism that masquerades as democratic is that it requires

an enemy in order to survive and, where an enemy does not already exist, it requires that one be created. In order to justify

racist repression and dispossession, particularly in a system purporting to be democratic, those being repressed and displaced

must be portrayed as murderous and predatory. And in order to keep its own population in line, to prevent a humane people

from objecting to their own government’s repressive policies, it requires that fear be instilled in the population: fear of “the other,”

fear of the terrorist, fear of the Jew-hater. The Jews of Israel must always be made to believe that they are the preyed-upon.

This justifies having forced these enemies to leave, it justifies discriminating against those who remained,

it justifies denying democratic rights to those who later came under Israel’s control in the occupied territories.

 

Needing an enemy has meant that Zionism has from the beginning had to create myths about Palestinians, painting

Palestinians and all Arabs as immutably hostile and intransigent. Thus the myth that in 1948 Palestinians left Palestine

so that Arab armies could throw the Jews into the sea; thus the continuing myth that Palestinians remain determined

to destroy Israel. Needing an enemy means that Zionism, as one veteran Israeli peace activist recently put it, has removed

the Palestinians from history. Thus the myths that there is no such thing as a Palestinian, or that Palestinians all immigrated

in modern times from other Arab countries, or that Jordan is Palestine and Palestinians should find their state there.

 

Needing an enemy means that Zionism has had to make its negotiating partner into a terrorist. It means that, for its

own preservation, Zionism has had to devise a need to ignore its partner/enemy or expel him or assassinate him. It

means that Zionism has had to reject any conciliatory effort by the Palestinians and portray them as “never missing an

opportunity to miss an opportunity” to make peace. This includes in particular rejecting that most conciliatory gesture,

the PLO’s decision in 1988 to recognize Israel’s existence, relinquish Palestinian claims to the three-quarters

of Palestine lying inside Israel’s pre-1967 borders, and even recognize Israel’s “right” to exist there.

 

Needing an enemy means, ultimately, that Zionism had to create the myth of the “generous offer” at the Camp David

summit in July 2000. It was Zionist racism that painted the Palestinians as hopelessly intransigent for refusing Israel’s

supposedly generous offer, actually an impossible offer that would have maintained Zionism’s hold on the occupied

territories and left the Palestinians with a disconnected, indefensible, non-viable state. Then, when the intifada

erupted (after Palestinian demonstrators threw stones at Israeli police and the police responded by shooting several

demonstrators to death), it was Zionist racism speaking when Israel put out the line that it was under siege and in a

battle for its very survival with Palestinians intent on destroying it. When a few months later the issue of Palestinian

refugees and their “right of return” arose publicly, it was Zionist racism speaking when Israel and its defenders, ignoring

the several ways in which Palestinian negotiators signaled their readiness to compromise this demand, propagated the

view that this too was intended as a way to destroy Israel, by flooding it with non-Jews and destroying its Jewish character.

 

The Zionist Dilemma

 

The supposed threat from “the other” is the eternal refuge of the majority of Israelis and Israeli supporters in the United States.

The common line is that “We Israelis and friends of Israel long for peace, we support Israeli withdrawal from the

West Bank and Gaza, we have always supported giving the Palestinians self-government. But ‘they’ hate us, they

want to destroy Israel. Wasn’t this obvious when Arafat turned his back on Israel’s generous offer? Wasn’t this obvious

when Arafat started the intifada? Wasn’t this obvious when Arafat demanded that the Palestinians be given the right of

return, which would destroy Israel as a Jewish state? We have already made concession after concession. How can

we give them any further concessions when they would only fight for more and more until Israel is gone?” This line

relieves Israel of any responsibility to make concessions or move toward serious negotiations; it relieves Israelis of

any need to treat Palestinians as equals; it relieves Israelis and their defenders of any need to think; it justifies racism, while

calling it something else.

 

Increasing numbers of Israelis themselves (some of whom have long been non-Zionists, some of whom are only now

beginning to see the problem with Zionism) are recognizing the inherent racism of their nation’s raison d’etre. During

the years of the peace process, and indeed for the last decade and a half since the PLO formally recognized Israel’s

existence, the Israeli left could ignore the problems of Zionism while pursuing efforts to promote the establishment of

an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza that would coexist with Israel. Zionism continued to be

more or less a non-issue: Israel could organize itself in any way it chose inside its own borders,

and the Palestinian state could fulfill Palestinian national aspirations inside its new borders.

 

Few of those nettlesome issues surrounding Zionism, such as how much democracy Zionism can allow to non-Jews

without destroying its reason for being, would arise in a two-state situation. The issue of Zionism’s responsibility for the

Palestinians’ dispossession could also be put aside. As Haim Hanegbi, a non-Zionist Israeli who recently went back

to the fold of single-state binationalism (and who is a long-time cohort of Uri Avnery in the Gush Shalom movement),

said in a recent interview with the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, the promise of mutual recognition offered by the Oslo

peace process mesmerized him and others in the peace movement and so “in the mid-1990s I had second thoughts

about my traditional [binational] approach. I didn’t think it was my task to go to Ramallah and present the Palestinians

with the list of Zionist wrongs and tell them not to forget what our fathers did to their fathers.”

Nor were the Palestinians themselves reminding Zionists of these wrongs at the time.

 

As new wrongs in the occupied territories increasingly recall old wrongs from half a century ago, however, and as Zionism

finds that it cannot cope with end-of-conflict demands like the Palestinians’ insistence that Israel accept their right of

return by acknowledging its role in their dispossession, more and more Israelis are coming to accept the reality that

Zionism can never escape its past. It is becoming increasingly clear to many Israelis that Israel has absorbed so much

of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem into itself that the Jewish and the Palestinian peoples can never be

separated fairly. The separation wall, says Hanegbi, “is the great despairing solution of the Jewish-Zionist society.

It is the last desperate act of those who cannot confront the Palestinian issue. Of those who are compelled to push

the Palestinian issue out of their lives and out of their consciousness.” For Hanegbi, born in Palestine before 1948,

Palestinians “were always part of my landscape,” and without them, “this is a barren country, a disabled country.”

 

Old-line Zionist Meron Benvenisti, who has also moved to support for binationalism, used almost identical metaphors

in a Ha’aretz interview run alongside Hanegbi’s. Also Palestine-born and a contemporary of Hanegbi, Benvenisti believes

“this is a country in which there were always Arabs. This is a country in which the Arabs are the landscape,

the natives.I don’t see myself living here without them. In my eyes, without Arabs this is a barren land.”

 

Both men discuss the evolution of their thinking over the decades, and both describe a period in which, after the triumph

of Zionism, they unthinkingly accepted its dispossession of the Palestinians. Each man describes the Palestinians simply

disappearing when he was an adolescent (“They just sort of evaporated,” says Hanegbi), and Benvenisti recalls a long

period in which the Palestinian “tragedy simply did not penetrate my consciousness.” But both speak in very un-Zionist

terms of equality. Benvenisti touches on the crux of the Zionist dilemma. “This is where I am different from my friends in

the left,” he says, “because I am truly a native son of immigrants, who is drawn to the Arab culture and the Arabic language

because it is here. It is the land.Whereas the right, certainly, but the left too hates Arabs. The Arabs bother them;

they complicate things. The subject generates moral questions and that generates cultural unease.”

 

Hanegbi goes farther. “I am not a psychologist,” he says, “but I think that everyone who lives with the contradictions of

Zionism condemns himself to protracted madness. It’s impossible to live like this. It’s impossible to live with such a tremendous

wrong. It’s impossible to live with such conflicting moral criteria. When I see not only the settlements and the occupation

and the suppression, but now also the insane wall that the Israelis are trying to hide behind, I have to conclude that there

is something very deep here in our attitude to the indigenous people of this land that drives us out of our minds.”

 

While some thoughtful Israelis like these men struggle with philosophical questions of existence and identity and the

collective Jewish conscience, few American defenders of Israel seem troubled by such deep issues. Racism is often

banal. Most of those who practice it, and most of those who support Israel as a Zionist state, would be horrified to be

accused of racism, because their racist practices have become commonplace. They do not even think about what

they do. We recently encountered a typical American supporter of Israel who would have argued vigorously if we

had accused her of racism. During a presentation we were giving to a class, this (non-Jewish) woman rose to ask a

question that went roughly like this: “I want to ask about the failure of the other Arabs to take care of the Palestinians.

I must say I sympathize with Israel because Israel simply wants to have a secure state, but the other Arabs have

refused to take the Palestinians in, and so they sit in camps and their hostility toward Israel just festers.”

 

This is an extremely common American, and Israeli, perception, the idea being that if the Arab states would only

absorb the Palestinians so that they became Lebanese or Syrians or Jordanians, they would forget about being Palestinian,

forget that Israel had displaced and dispossessed them, and forget about “wanting to destroy Israel.” Israel would

then be able simply to go about its own business and live in peace, as it so desperately wants to do. This woman’s

assumption was that it is acceptable for Israel to have established itself as a Jewish state at the expense of (i.e., after

the ethnic cleansing of) the land’s non-Jewish inhabitants, that any Palestinian objection to this reality is illegitimate,

and that all subsequent animosity toward Israel is ultimately the fault of neighboring Arab states who failed to smother

the Palestinians’ resistance by anesthetizing them to their plight and erasing their identity and their collective

memory of Palestine.

 

When later in the class the subject arose of Israel ending the occupation, this same woman spoke up to object that,

if Israel did give up control over the West Bank and Gaza, it would be economically disadvantaged, at least in the

agricultural sector. “Wouldn’t this leave Israel as just a desert?” she wondered. Apart from the fact that the answer

is a clear “no” (Israel’s agricultural capability inside its 1967 borders is quite high, and most of Israel is not desert), the

woman’s question was again based on the automatic assumption that Israel’s interests take precedence over those

of anyone else and that, in order to enhance its own agricultural economy (or, presumably, for any other

perceived gain), Israel has the right to conquer and take permanent possession of another people’s land.

 

The notion that the Jewish/Zionist state of Israel has a greater right to possess the land, or a greater right to security, or

a greater right to a thriving economy, than the people who are native to that land is extremely racist, but this woman would

probably object strenuously to having it pointed out that this is a Jewish supremacist viewpoint identical to past justifications

for white South Africa’s apartheid regime and to the rationale for all European colonial (racist) systems that exploited the

human and natural resources of Africa, the Middle East, and Asia over the centuries for the sole benefit of the colonizers.

Racism must necessarily be blind to its own immorality; the burden of conscience is otherwise too great.

This is the banality of evil.

 

(Unconsciously, of course, many Americans also seem to believe that the shameful policies of the U.S. government

toward Native Americans somehow make it acceptable for the government of Israel to pursue equally shameful

policies toward the Palestinians. The U.S. needs to face its racist policies head on as much as it needs to confront the racism

of its foremost partner, Israel.)

 

This woman’s view is so very typical, something you hear constantly in casual conversation and casual encounters at

social occasions, that it hardly seems significant. But this very banality is precisely the evil of it; what is evil is the

very fact that it is “hardly significant” that Zionism by its nature is racist and that this reality goes unnoticed by decent

people who count themselves defenders of Israel. The universal acceptability of a system that is at heart racist but

proclaims itself to be benign, even noble, and the license this acceptability gives Israel to oppress another people,

are striking testimony to the selectivity of the human conscience and its general disinterest

in human questions of justice and human rights except when these are politically useful.

 

Countering the Counter-Arguments

 

To put some perspective on this issue, a few clarifying questions must be addressed. Many opponents of the occupation

would argue that, although Israel’s policies in the occupied territories are racist in practice, they are an abuse of Zionism

and that racism is not inherent in it. This seems to be the position of several prominent commentators who have

recently denounced Israel severely for what it does in the West Bank and Gaza but fail to recognize the racism in

what Israel did upon its establishment in 1948. In a recent bitter denunciation of Zionist policies today, Avraham Burg,

a former Knesset speaker, lamented that Zionism had become corrupted by ruling as an occupier over another people,

and he longed for the days of Israel’s youth when “our national destiny” was “as a light unto the nations and a society

of peace, justice and equality.” These are nice words, and it is heartening to hear credible mainstream Israelis so clearly

denouncing the occupation, but Burg’s assumption that before the occupation Zionism followed “a just path” and always

had “an ethical leadership” ignores the unjust and unethical policy of ethnic cleansing that allowed Israel to become a so-called

Jewish democracy in the first place.

 

Acknowledging the racist underpinnings of an ideology so long held up as the embodiment of justice and ethics

appears to be impossible for many of the most intellectual of Israelis and Israeli defenders. Many who strongly oppose

Israel’s policies in the occupied territories still, despite their opposition, go through considerable contortions to “prove”

that Israel itself is not racist. Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of the Jewish magazine Tikkun and a long-time opponent

of the occupation, rejects the notion that Zionism is racist on the narrow grounds that Jewishness is only a religious

identity and that Israel welcomes Jews of all races and ethnicities and therefore cannot be called racist. But this confuses

the point. Preference toward a particular religion, which is the only aspect of racism that Lerner has addressed

and which he acknowledges occurs in Israel, is no more acceptable than preference on ethnic grounds.

 

But most important, racism has to do primarily with those discriminated against, not with those who do the discriminating.

Using Lerner’s reasoning, apartheid South Africa might also not be considered racist because it welcomed whites

of all ethnicities. But its inherent evil lay in the fact that its very openness to whites discriminated against blacks.

Discrimination against any people on the basis of “race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin” is the major characteristic

of racism as the UN defines it. Discrimination against Palestinians and other non-Jews, simply because they are not Jews,

is the basis on which Israel constitutes itself. Lerner seems to believe that, because the Palestinian citizens of Israel

have the vote and are represented in the Knesset, there is no racial or ethnic discrimination in Israel. But, apart from

skipping over the institutional racism that keeps Palestinian Israelis in perpetual second-class citizenship, this

argument ignores the more essential reality that Israel reached its present ethnic balance, the point at which it could

comfortably allow Palestinians to vote without endangering its Jewish character, only because in 1948

three-quarters of a million Palestinians were forced to leave what became the Jewish state of Israel.

 

More questions need to be addressed. Is every Israeli or every Jew a racist? Most assuredly not, as the examples of

Jeff Halper, Haim Hanegbi, Meron Benvenisti, and many others like them strikingly illustrate. Is every Zionist a racist?

Probably not, if one accepts ignorance as an exonerating factor. No doubt the vast majority of Israelis, most very

good-hearted people, are not consciously racist but “go along” unquestioningly, having been born into or moved to an

apparently democratic state and never examined the issue closely, and having bought into the line fed them by every

Israeli government from the beginning, that Palestinians and other Arabs are enemies and that whatever

actions Israel takes against Palestinians are necessary to guarantee the personal security of Israelis.

 

Is it anti-Semitic to say that Zionism is a racist system? Certainly not. Political criticism is not ethnic or religious hatred.

Stating a reality about a government’s political system or its political conduct says nothing about the qualities of its

citizens or its friends. Racism is not a part of the genetic makeup of Jews, any more than it was a part of the genetic

makeup of Germans when Hitler ran a racist regime. Nor do Zionism’s claim to speak for all Jews everywhere and

Israel’s claim to be the state of all Jews everywhere make all Jews Zionists. Zionism did not ask for or receive the consent

of universal Jewry to speak in its name; therefore labeling Zionism as racist does not label all Jews and cannot be called anti-Semitic.

 

Why It Matters

 

Are there other racist systems, and are there governing systems and political philosophies, racist or not, that are worse

than Zionism? Of course, but this fact does not relieve Zionism of culpability. (Racism obviously exists in the United States

and in times past was pervasive throughout the country, but, unlike Israel, the U.S. is not a racist governing system,

based on racist foundations and depending for its raison d’etre on a racist philosophy.) Many defenders of Israel

(Michael Lerner and columnist Thomas Friedman come to mind) contend that when Israel is “singled out” for criticism

not also leveled at oppressive regimes elsewhere, the attackers are exhibiting a special hatred for Jews. Anyone who

does not also criticize Saddam Hussein or Kim Jong Il or Bashar al-Assad for atrocities far greater than Israel’s, they

charge, is showing that he is less concerned to uphold absolute values than to tear down Israel because it is Jewish.

But this charge ignores several factors that demand criticism of Zionist racism. First, because the U.S. government

supports Zionism and its racist policy on a continuing basis and props up Zionism’s military machine with massive

amounts of military aid, it is wholly appropriate for Americans (indeed, it is incumbent on Americans) to call greater

attention to Zionism’s racism than, for instance, to North Korea’s appalling cruelties. The United States

does not assist in North Korea’s atrocities, but it does underwrite Zionism’s brutality.

 

There is also a strong moral reason for denouncing Zionism as racist. Zionism advertises itself, and actually congratulates

itself, as a uniquely moral system that stands as a “light unto the nations,” putting itself forward as in a real sense the very

embodiment of the values Americans hold dear. Many Zionist friends of Israel would have us believe that Zionism is us,

and in many ways it is: most Americans, seeing Israelis as “like us,” have grown up with the notion that Israel is a noble

enterprise and that the ideology that spawned it is of the highest moral order. Substantial numbers of Americans, non-Jews

as well as Jews, feel an emotional and psychological bond with Israel and Zionism that goes far beyond the ties to any

other foreign ally. One scholar, describing the U.S.-Israeli tie, refers to Israel as part of the “being” of the United States.

Precisely because of the intimacy of the relationship, it is imperative that Zionism’s hypocrisy be exposed, that Americans

not give aid and comfort to, or even remain associated with, a morally repugnant system that uses racism to exalt one

people over all others while masquerading as something better than it is. The United States can

remain supportive of Israel as a nation without any longer associating itself with Israel’s racism.

 

Finally, there are critical practical reasons for acknowledging Zionism’s racism and enunciating a U.S. policy clearly

opposed to racism everywhere and to the repressive Israeli policies that arise from Zionist racism. Now more than at

any time since the United States positioned itself as an enthusiastic supporter of Zionism, U.S. endorsement, and indeed

facilitation, of Israel’s racist policies put this country at great risk for terrorism on a massive scale. Terrorism arises,

not as President Bush would have us believe from “hatred of our liberties,” but from hatred of our oppressive, killing

policies throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds, and in a major way from our support for Israel’s severe oppression

of the Palestinians. Terrorism is never acceptable, but it is explainable, and it is usually avoidable.

Supporting the oppression of Palestinians that arises from Israel’s racism only encourages terrorism.

 

It is time to begin openly expressing revulsion at the racism against Palestinians that the United States has been

supporting for decades. It is time to sound an alarm about the near irreversibility of Israel’s absorption of the occupied

territories into Israel, about the fact that this arises from a fundamentally racist ideology, about the fact that this racism

is leading to the ethnicide of an entire nation of people, and about the fact that it is very likely to produce horrific terrorist

retaliation against the U.S. because of its unquestioning support. Many who are intimately familiar with the situation on

the ground are already sounding an alarm, usually without using the word racism but using other inflammatory terms.

Israeli commentator Ran HaCohen recently observed that “Israel’s atrocities have now intensified to an extent unimaginable

in previous decades.” Land confiscation, curfew, the “gradual pushing of Palestinians from areas designated for Jews”

have accompanied the occupation all along, he wrote, but the level of oppression now

“is quite another story.[This is] an eliminationist policy on the verge of genocide.”

 

The Foundation for Middle East Peace, a Washington-based institution that has tracked Israeli settlement-building

for decades, came to much the same conclusion, although using less attention-getting language, in its most recent

bimonthly newsletter. Israel, it wrote, is “undertaking massive, unprecedented efforts beyond the construction of

new settlement housing, which proceeds apace, to put the question of its control of these areas beyond the reach of

diplomacy.” Israel’s actions, particularly the “relentless” increase in territorial control, the foundation concluded, have

“compromised not only the prospect for genuine Palestinian independence but also, in ways

not seen in Israel’s 36-year occupation, the very sustainability of everyday Palestinian life.”

 

It signals a remarkable change when Israeli commentators and normally staid foundations begin using terms like

“unprecedented,” “unimaginable in previous decades,” “in ways not seen in Israel’s 36-year occupation,” even words

like “eliminationist” and “genocide.” While the Bush administration, every Democratic presidential candidate (including,

to some degree, even the most progressive), Congress, and the mainstream U.S. media blithely ignore the extent of

the destruction in Palestine, more and more voices outside the United States and outside the mainstream in the U.S.

are finally coming to recognize that Israel is squeezing the life out of the Palestinian nation.

Those who see this reality should begin to expose not only the reality but the racism that is at its root.

 

Some very thoughtful Israelis, including Haim Hanegbi, Meron Benvenisti, and activists like Jeff Halper, have

come to the conclusion that Israel has absorbed so much of the occupied territories that a separate, truly independent

Palestinian state can never be established in the West Bank and Gaza. They now regard a binational solution as the

only way. In theory, this would mean an end to Zionism (and Zionist racism) by allowing the Jewish and the Palestinian

peoples to form a single secular state in all of Palestine in which they live together in equality and democracy, in which

neither people is superior, in which neither people identifies itself by its nationality or its religion but

rather simply by its citizenship. Impossible? Idealized? Pie-in-the-sky? Probably so but maybe not.

 

Other Israeli and Jewish activists and thinkers, such as Israel’s Uri Avnery and CounterPunch contributor Michael Neumann,

have cogently challenged the wisdom and the realism of trying to pursue binationalism at the present time. But it is

striking that their arguments center on what will best assure a decent outcome for Palestinians. In fact, what is most

heartening about the newly emerging debate over the one- versus the two-state solution is the fact that intelligent,

compassionate people have at long last been able to move beyond addressing Jewish victimhood and how best to

assure a future for Jews, to begin debating how best to assure a future for both the Palestinian and the Jewish people.

Progressives in the U.S., both supporters and opponents of present U.S. policies toward Israel, should encourage similar

debate in this country. If this requires loudly attacking AIPAC and its intemperate charges of anti-Semitism, so be it.

 

We recently had occasion to raise the notion of Israeli racism, using the actual hated word, at a gathering of about 25 or 30

(mostly) progressive (mostly) Jews, and came away with two conclusions: 1) it is a hard concept to bring people to face,

but 2) we were not run out of the room and, after the initial shock of hearing the word racist used in connection with Zionism,

most people in the room, with only a few exceptions, took the idea aboard. Many specifically thanked us for what we

had said. One man, raised as a Jew and now a Muslim, came up to us afterward to say that he thinks Zionism is nationalis

rather than racist (to which we argued that nationalism was the motivation but racism is the resulting reality), but he

acknowledged, with apparent approbation, that referring to racism had a certain shock effect. Shock effect is precisely

what we wanted. The United States’ complacent support for everything Israel does will not be altered without shock.

 

When a powerful state kills hundreds of civilians from another ethnic group; confiscates their land; builds vast housing

complexes on that land for the exclusive use of its own nationals; builds roads on that land for the exclusive use of its

own nationals; prevents expansion of the other people’s neighborhoods and towns; demolishes on a massive scale

houses belonging to the other people, in order either to prevent that people’s population growth, to induce them “voluntarily”

to leave their land altogether, or to provide “security” for its own nationals; imprisons the other people in their own land

behind checkpoints, roadblocks, ditches, razor wire, electronic fences, and concrete walls; squeezes the other people

into ever smaller, disconnected segments of land; cripples the productive capability of the other people by destroying

or separating them from their agricultural land, destroying or confiscating their wells, preventing their industrial expansion,

and destroying their businesses; imprisons the leadership of the other people and threatens to expel or assassinate that

leadership; destroys the security forces and the governing infrastructure of the other people; destroys an entire population’s

census records, land registry records, and school records; vandalizes the cultural headquarters and the houses of worship

of the other people by urinating, defecating, and drawing graffiti on cultural and religious artifacts and symbols ­ when

one people does these things to another, a logical person can draw only one conclusion: the powerful state

is attempting to destroy the other people, to push them into the sea, to ethnically cleanse them.

 

These kinds of atrocities, and particularly the scale of the repression, did not spring full-blown out of some terrorist

provocations by Palestinians. These atrocities grew out of a political philosophy that says

whatever advances the interests of Jews is acceptable as policy. This is a racist philosophy.

 

What Israel is doing to the Palestinians is not genocide, it is not a holocaust, but it is, unmistakably, ethnicide. It is,

unmistakably, racism. Israel worries constantly, and its American friends worry, about the destruction of Israel. We are

all made to think always about the existential threat to Israel, to the Jewish people. But the nation in imminent danger

of elimination today is not Israel but the Palestinians. Such a policy of national destruction must not be allowed to stand.

 

—–

 

* Assuming, according to the scenario put forth by our Israeli-American friend, that Palestinians had accepted the

UN-mandated establishment of a Jewish state in 1948, that no war had ensued, and that no Palestinians had left Palestine,

Israel would today encompass only the 55 percent of Palestine allocated to it by the UN partition resolution, not the 78

percent it possessed after successfully prosecuting the 1948 war. It would have no sovereignty over Jerusalem, which

was designated by the UN as a separate international entity not under the sovereignty of any nation. Its 5.4 million

Jews (assuming the same magnitude of Jewish immigration and natural increase) would be sharing the state with

approximately five million Palestinians (assuming the same nine-fold rate of growth among the 560,000 Palestinians

who inhabited the area designated for the Jewish state as has occurred in the Palestinian population that actually

remained in Israel in 1948). Needless to say, this small, severely overcrowded, binational state

would not be the comfortable little Jewish democracy that our friend seems to have envisioned.

 

Bill Christison joined the CIA in 1950, and served on the analysis side of the Agency for 28 years. From the early

1970s he served as National Intelligence Officer (principal adviser to the Director of Central Intelligence on certain areas)

for, at various times, Southeast Asia, South Asia and Africa. Before he retired in 1979

he was Director of the CIA’s Office of Regional and Political Analysis, a 250-person unit.

 

Kathleen Christison also worked in the CIA, retiring in 1979. Since then she has been mainly preoccupied

by the issue of Palestine. She is the author of Perceptions of Palestine and The Wound of Dispossession.