‘It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist.’
-Israeli prime minister Golda Meir, speaking in the UK in 1969
‘One nation solemnly promised to a second nation the country of a third.’
‘In each attack, a decisive blow should be struck resulting in the destruction of homes and the expulsion of the population.’
-David Ben Gurion, head of the Jewish Agency, speaking in 1948 of the Jews’ campaign of ethnic cleansing of Palestinians
‘I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly-wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place.’
-Winston Churchill giving evidence to the Royal Commission on Palestine, 1937
In 2010, the celebrated political scientist John J. Mearsheimer predicted that Israel could become ‘an apartheid state’ along the lines of the former South Africa, with an Arab population denied full democratic and political rights. His argument rested in part on demographic trends among the Jewish and Arab Israeli inhabitants of the former Palestine.
He was excoriated. Mearsheimer’s thesis, outlined in a speech at Rhode Island’s Brown University, caused an immediate furore in which varied pro-Israeli organizations decried his analysis and cast aspersions on his motivations. The speech followed a book the professor had co-authored with fellow scholar Stephen Walt. Published in 2007, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy clearly set out the degree to which the State Department sang from Israel’s song sheet. A piece based on the book was rejected by The Atlantic, and was in the end published in the London Review of Books. The book itself argued that ongoing United States policies towards Israel, heavily skewed in favour of the Jewish settlers, are counterproductive to Israel and the U.S. both. Mearsheimer and Walt, realist-school international relations academics, recognized the grave implications of the population dynamics in Israel. In fact, the Zionist movement has always had a singular aim: replacing Arabs with Jews in Palestine. After all, doing so in Uganda, as the British proposed at one point, was not going to cut the mustard.
Writing about Palestine and the Eastern Mediterranean in general is a fraught business. Mearsheimer and his co-author were of sufficient academic stature to weather the storm of criticism heaped on what was in fact a well-argued and deeply researched thesis. Yet the storm had its usual and intended effect in discouraging public debate about what were in fact quite simple and even empirically quantifiable facts.
More than a decade later, we have this extraordinary statement from Hagain El-Ad, director of the independent, non-partisan Israeli rights organization B’Tselem: ‘Israel is not a democracy that has a temporary occupation attached to it. It is one regime between the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, and we must look at the full picture and see it for what it is: apartheid.’ Mearsheimer and Walt were not far off the mark.
There is nothing anti-Semitic about criticizing the policies of Israel and its founders. Commentary and analysis should be received as intended, as a contribution to dialectic. If it is not, too bad.
Many of the regional power plays Israel has made since its inception have been illegal in international law. The country was founded on the same policies towards its native population that the German Wehrmacht utilized in the Ukraine in 1941 and 42. Burn native villages or raze them to the ground with explosives. Expel survivors or let them die on cold winter hillsides, displaced from their ancestral homes. Massacre some of them, pour encourager les autres. The comparison is appropriate because although Zionist immigration to Palestine was years-long and not an invasion, the methodologies bear comparison.
Pleas of innocence, obfuscation, denials, and vicious vilification of critics have kept the Israelis safe from coherent criticism in the West for decades. Their plan, to replace and marginalize the local population, has also been going for decades. Guilt-tripping the West has been one of Israel’s primary foreign policy tools. Israelis may try to shout down critics who say this, but they do not themselves deny it.
The notion of a fresh-minted modern-day homeland for the Jews, was concocted out of thin air by no less a personage than Napoleon Bonaparte. Yet in the end, it was realized by Zionists through a mixture of deft manipulation of anti-Semitic tropes, personal relationships with key players, ruthless cunning, pitiless execution of a long-term plan, wartime expediency, and, finally, the liberal application of violence.
Arriving in Accra in 1799, Napoleon offered Palestine to the many Jews resident in the Ottoman Empire at that time, if they rose up in revolt against their Istanbul overlords. His attempts to reanimate the Roman imperial project around the Mediterranean littoral were kyboshed by the British Navy, and nothing came of it. Yet, the concept of a Jewish homeland took root. In 1882, the first Jewish settlement was established in Palestine. The avowedly Zionist encampment of Rishon Le Zion, bankrolled to the tune of 14m French francs by Baron Edmond de Rothschild, pioneered the principle that holds to this day: simply move in any way you can, throw out the locals, settle, and create a fait accomplis. Rishon is now Israel’s fourth biggest conurbation.
The deadly letter
So the Balfour Declaration, more properly called ‘Letter’ (It was addressed to Britain’s most illustrious Jewish citizen, Baron Lionel Walter Rothschild), was not ex-nihilo. Balfour had been recruited to the cause by the clever Zionism advocate Chaim Weizmann. Yet by the time he penned his letter, Zionism had been a ‘cause’ for many years, and Weizmann was pushing at an open door. Indeed, historian Avi Shlaim contends that Balfour was a walk-on player in the game. He says that David Lloyd George, the British prime minister of the day, was a sucker for the myth that the Jewish diaspora had the power to affect world history. This may not have been mere ignorance or prejudice; the help of the Rothschilds in the Napoleonic War, which may well have been crucial, was certainly not forgotten by the British establishment.
The letter, dated November 2, 1917, was more than a clever Foreign Office ruse to secure Jewish support in the war effort after the disaster of Gallipoli had scotched a key plank of British grand strategy. It represented in large part the success of Weizmann’s pro-Zionist hearts-and-minds campaign, waged in the salons of the British establishment. Yet a Jewish state in Palestine also made more likely a key British foreign policy goal: the potential for control over the Mediterranean entrance to the Suez Canal. And with a superlative flourish, it poked the French in their second-rate imperial eye.
It was a classic of understated ambiguity, which declared solemnly that ‘nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.’ Sounds great, but neither national nor political rights are mentioned, and the ‘communities’ are nameless. Noting this makes the letter sound oddly specific.
What of Winston?
Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, was an enthusiast for the scheme, which would secure the Royal Navy’s access to his beloved India. Churchill, whose well-documented white supremacist views considered the Jews well above the despised Arabs in his racial hierarchy, would have had no compunction in dispossessing the ‘natives’ (see his own words above).
The Jewish lobby’s realpolitik was and remains ruthlessly efficient: butter the big boy on the block for all you’re worth, and don’t come away without a win. No methods are off the table. Once it was clear that the United States would adopt Britain’s imperial status, Jewish politicians straightway arrived in Washington, with Golda Meir claiming in New York in 1948 that poor Eretz Israel, newly minted and like a baby, was ‘outgunned and outnumbered’ by its Arab neighbours. Her comments were untrue; playing the victim card was already part of Israel’s foreign policy patter.
Those Arab neighbours, lackadaisically assuming that they could just walk in and reoccupy Palestine, yet also with a wary eye on Jordanian expansionism, sent a mere 24,000 troops into Israel in the 1948 conflict. Eretz Israel had three times as many, and they were highly trained and motivated as well as superbly equipped. By that time, in late 1948, much of the damage had been done in any case. Cities such as Accra (now Acre) designated for the Arab zone in the partition had already been reduced, their Arab populations expelled. The farmland east of the Gaza Strip, meant to be part of the Palestinian sector, was seized. This denied the Strip its food sustainability.
Statement of intent
Just in case anyone was not yet cognizant of Zionist methodology and intentions, their Stern Gang murdered Swedish UN mediator Folke Bernadotte in cold blood as he was being driven to the airport in September 1948. Since by now the U.S. was fully on Israel’s side, the in-built Western Bloc majority at the UN assembly (finagled by U.S. State Department magus Cordell Hull) could be used to ram through resolutions accepting a wholly unjust and indeed illegal status quo. Since then, the U.S. has consistently used its veto in the U.N. Security Council to prevent U.N. condemnation of criminal activity in Palestine.
No one can doubt the suffering of the Jews in history. Disciplined, abstemious, and culturally tight-knit, they’ve always been an easy ‘other’ to ‘other’. They’ve been a prime target for letting off violent communal steam because no one, no nation or ally, has had their back. They’ve also been serially expropriated by princes, kings, and doges desperate for quick cash.
Why should they deserve a homeland more than the Kurds, though? Homogeneous religious practice was never a singularly sufficient precondition for nationhood, not even for Woodrow Wilson. These days, in its efforts to change its demographic destiny, Israel is a haven for any tangentially Jewish personage, including a slew of Russian mobster-oligarchs, who admire the polity’s robust attitude towards extradition requests.
So let’s not swallow the hypocritical rhetoric of the Anti-Defamation League and their ilk. It is not ‘defamation’ to say that Jewish people in Palestine have for a century been premeditatedly responsible for massacres, forced evictions, ethnic cleansing, and racist brutality. Even today, their policy remains the same: ‘more land, fewer Arabs’ It has never been any different, not since the 19th Century. The creep of settlement, the burning and uprooting of the olive groves, the theft of fertile and watered valleys, all continue to this day. Palestinian men are forced at gunpoint to strip to their underpants in the middle of the street. Humiliation as public policy.
And what to say of the Palestinians? One researcher familiar with the archives concluded: ‘Before 1948 we were incapable of facing reality. Today, we are just inept.’ Corruption and graft are rampant in Palestinian territories. The big shots, those who control the levers of government and grant permits, wallow in the normatively tasteless Arabic way: stupid Versailles furniture, golden chandeliers, million-dollar weddings for their daughters. The rest, whether in the PLO-controlled West Bank or the Hamas-administered Gaza Strip, are mired in poverty and struggle.
Known as Al-Nakba, or The Catastrophe, the 1948 campaign by the 40,000-strong Jewish forces saw 548 Palestinian villages razed, 750,000 Arabs driven from their land, and Jewish settlers and troops in effective control of 56 per cent of Palestine. More than half the original Palestinian population were uprooted. Jewish mista’arvim, undercover operatives disguised as Arabs, had abused Palestinian villagers’ deep cultural tradition of hospitality to map the villages, assess their resources, and identify weak points for attack. In some cases Jewish troops massacred dozens of innocents when they eventually did storm them. Israeli historians have found evidence that the Haganah publicly executed selected children from towns and villages, knowing that this outrage would guarantee an exodus of horror-struck families.
Today, The Catastrophe continues. With the U.S. in its pocket, Israel has carte blanche in the region. 6,000,000 Palestinians remain refugees. 2,000,000 live in refugee camps in substandard conditions. The region remains off-kilter to this day. The sheer enormity of the injustices over the decades foments radicalization across the world. Smart, successful Israel had all the best bits of Palestine from the start. Good on them for making the most of that, and for their opportunism during the Trump administration (the removal of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem surprised even the most cynical observers). However, in their decision that all means justify their one end, they became guilty of the same crimes of which they themselves had been the victims.
It is deeply troubling that a state borne of such inhumanity can skip down its primrose path, without a shred of remorse. Quite the opposite, in fact. Unchecked by international legal constraints, prominent Israelis boast of their murderous exploits. Yitzhak Shamir, former prime minister of Israel, headed the Stern Gang at the time of the Bernadotte murder. His memoirs do not stint on the details.
Reviewing the history, a number of these small details reveal an enormous amount. For example, the Haganah (The Defence) fighting force assembled in the 1930s and 40s as the precursor to the Israeli army was at one point trained by none other than Orde Wingate, the British weirdo who was a favourite of Churchill. Wingate went on to achieve some renown in the Burma theatre of the Second World War. It’s historical fact that Wingate was the beloved mentor of Moshe Dayan, the Israeli general with an eyepatch that made him resemble an anorexic bald pirate.
Another notable point to make is that Zionist operatives never felt the need to be discreet about their past motivations or activities. David Ben Gurion, revered as one of the fathers of the Jewish state, told Palestinian negotiator Musa Al-Alami ‘We have a big presence on the ground and the British cannot say no to us.’ He thus summed up the Zionist methodology of immigration + manipulation of opinion. The quotations at the top of this piece further attest to Zionist frankness.
The British, too, ‘leaned in’ to the Zionist cause, if you need a euphemism for ‘enthusiastically collaborated with’. They set the tone for later Israeli policies by demolishing homes belonging to suspected Palestinian fighters and deploying routine brutality on the Arab population, even killing the former mayor of Jerusalem in 1932. He was beaten to death in Jaffa at a demonstration. In the U.S.A., David Ben Gurion’s efforts secured weapons manufacturing machinery that guaranteed Israel’s immediate future. Truman had been brought on side with ease.
We should ignore Israeli cries of anti-Semitism when examining the history with a steady eye. Israel is guilty of many outrages and crimes against humanity. No reasoned observer doubts this. The story should not be forgotten. Reparations need to be made to the Palestinian people, who despite Meir’s denials, did in fact exist. They still exist today. Some have waited 70 years to go home.
Yet the outlook is bleak. As we posted recently in relation to the Western Sahara, the process of dividing the opposition continues, and in cunning ways. It was begun early by John Bagot Glubb, the British general in charge of the Jordanian army in 1948, who cut a deal with the new Israeli state to accept the status quo in the West Bank, while the Jordanian army would keep out of the conflict. It continues: deals with the Saudis, Moroccan recognition (unconscionable a few decades ago when an Israeli visa in your passport would prevent your disembarkation at Tangiers), and past deals with the Egyptians have doomed any robust, coordinated international response.
And still, the Palestinians suffer grievously. And still, Israel does not admit the criminal depredations inflicted on innocent villagers and townsfolk. In this tragic history, one shocking fact documented by Israeli historians cuts through the rhetoric. Killing children in cold blood was a justifiable means to the end of extending the embryonic Israeli state. No justice can come of such injustice. I would argue that reparations are long overdue.