Israel’s relationship with South Africa must be an enormous embarrassment.
The Israeli government had aligned itself strongly with the old Apartheid regime, supplied the white supremacists with arms and identified strongly with them in their struggle, as can be seen from Shimon Peres’ letter (below) to the South African Minister of Information back in 1974 (click to see it full size).
Israel never welcomed the transition to South African democracy, most obviously because their new President was openly critical of the Palestinian occupation. Even so, as Uri Avnery points out below, Israel’s failure to make serious representation at Mandela’s funeral has taken the Jewish state to a new low in terms of its international isolation!
by Uri Avnery
CAN A country boycott itself? That may sound like a silly question. It is not.
At the memorial service for Nelson Mandela, the “Giant of History” as Barack Obama called him, Israel was not represented by any of its leaders.
The only dignitary who agreed to go was the speaker of the Knesset, Yuli Edelstein, a nice person, an immigrant from the Soviet Union and a settler, who is so anonymous that most Israelis would not recognize him. (“His own father would have trouble recognizing him in the street,” somebody joked.)
Why? The President of the State, Shimon Peres, caught a malady that prevented him from going, but which did not prevent him from making a speech and receiving visitors on the same day. Well, there are all kinds of mysterious microbes.
The Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, had an even stranger reason. The journey, he claimed, was too expensive, what with all the accompanying security people and so on.
Not so long ago, Netanyahu caused a scandal when it transpired that for his journey to Margaret Thatcher’s funeral, a five hour flight, he had a special double bed installed in the El Al plane at great expense. He and his much maligned wife, Sara’le, did not want to provoke another scandal so soon. Who’s Mandela, after all?
ALTOGETHER IT was an undignified show of personal cowardice by both Peres and Netanyahu.
What were they afraid of?
Well, they could have been booed. Recently, many details of the Israeli-South African relationship have come to light. Apartheid South Africa, which was boycotted by the entire world, was the main customer of the Israeli military industry. It was a perfect match: Israel had a lot of weapon systems but no money to produce them, South Africa had lots of money but no one who would supply it with weapons.
So Israel sold Mandela’s jailers everything it could, from combat aircraft to military electronics, and shared with it its nuclear knowledge. Peres himself was deeply involved.
The relationship was not merely commercial. Israeli officers and officials met with their South African counterparts, visits were exchanged, personal friendship fostered. While Israel never endorsed apartheid, our government certainly did not reject it.
Still, our leaders should have been there, together with the leaders of the whole world. Mandela was the Great Forgiver, and he forgave Israel, too. When the master of ceremonies in the stadium mistakenly announced that Peres and Netanyahu had arrived, just a few boos were heard. Far less than the boos for the current South African president.
In Israel, only one voice was openly raised against Mandela. Shlomo Avineri, a respected professor and former Director General of the Foreign Office, criticized him for having a “blind spot” – for taking the Palestinian side against Israel. He also mentioned that another moral authority, Mahatma Gandhi, had the same “blind spot”.
Strange. Two moral giants and the same blind spot? How could that be, one wonders.
THE BOYCOTT movement against Israel is slowly gaining ground. It takes three main forms (and several in between).
The most focused form is the boycott of the products of the settlements, which was started by Gush Shalom 15 years ago. It is active now in many countries.
A more stringent form is the boycott of all institutes and corporations that are dealing with the settlements. This is now the official policy of the European Union. Just this week, Holland broke off relations with the monopolistic Israeli Water Corporation, Mekorot, which plays a part in the policy that deprives Palestinians of essential water supplies and transfers them to the settlements.
The third form is total: the boycott of everything and everyone Israeli (Including myself). This is also slowly advancing in many countries.
The Israeli government has now joined this form. By its voluntary no-representation or under-representation at the Mandela ceremony, it has declared that Israel is a pariah state. Strange.
LAST WEEK I wrote that if the Americans find a solution to Israel’s security concerns in the West Bank, other concerns would take their place. I did not expect that it would happen so quickly.
Binyamin Netanyahu declared this week that stationing Israeli troops in the Jordan Valley, as proposed by John Kerry, is not enough. Not by far.
Israel cannot give up the West Bank as long as Iran has nuclear capabilities, he declared. What’s the connection, one might well ask. Well, it’s obvious. A strong Iran will foster terrorism and threaten Israel in many other ways. So Israel must remain strong, and that includes holding on to the West Bank. Stands to reason.
So if Iran gives up all its nuclear capabilities, will that be enough? Not by a long shot. Iran must completely change its “genocidal” policies vis-à-vis Israel, it must stop all threats and utterances against us, it must adopt a friendly attitude towards us. However, Netanyahu did stop short of demanding that the Iranian leaders join the World Zionist Organization.
Before this happens, Israel cannot possibly make peace with the Palestinians. Sorry, Mister Kerry.
IN THE last article I also ridiculed the Allon Plan and other pretexts advanced by our rightists for holding on to the rich agricultural land of the Jordan Valley.
A friend of mine countered that indeed all the old reasons have become obsolete. The terrible danger of the combined might of Iraq, Syria and Jordan attacking us from the east does not exist anymore. But –
But the valley guardians are now advancing a new danger. If Israel gives back the West Bank without holding on to the Jordan Valley and the border crossings on the river, other terrible things will happen.
The day after the Palestinians take possession of the river crossing, missiles will be smuggled in. Missiles will rain down on Ben-Gurion international airport, the gateway to Israel, located just a few kilometers from the border. Tel Aviv, 25 km from the border, will be threatened, as will the Dimona nuclear installation.
Haven’t we seen this all before? When Israel voluntarily evacuated the whole Gaza Strip, didn’t the rockets start to rain down on the South of Israel?
We cannot possibly rely on the Palestinians. They hate us and will continue to fight us. If Mahmoud Abbas tries to stop it, he will be toppled. Hamas or worse, al-Qaeda, will come to power and unleash a terrorist campaign. Life in Israel will turn into hell.
Therefore it is evident that Israel must control the border between the Palestinian state and the Arab world, and especially the border crossings. As Netanyahu says over and over again, Israel cannot and will not entrust its security to others. Especially not to the Palestinians.
WELL, FIRST of all the Gaza Strip analogy does not hold. Ariel Sharon evacuated the Gaza settlements without any agreement or even consultation with the Palestinian Authority, which was still ruling the Strip at that time. Instead of an orderly transfer to the Palestinian security forces, he left behind a power vacuum which was later filled by Hamas.
Sharon also upheld the land and sea blockade that turned the Strip practically into a huge open-air prison.
In the West Bank there exists now a strong Palestinian government and robust security forces, trained by the Americans. A peace agreement will strengthen them immensely.
Abbas does not object to a foreign military presence throughout the West Bank, including the Jordan Valley. On the contrary, he asks for it. He has proposed an international force, under American command. He just objects to the presence of the Israeli army – a situation that would amount to another kind of occupation.
BUT THE main point is something else, something that goes right to the root of the conflict.
Netanyahu’s arguments presuppose that there will be no peace, not now, not ever. The putative peace agreement – which Israelis call the “permanent status agreement” – will just open another phase of the generations-old war.
This is the main obstacle. Israelis – almost all Israelis – cannot imagine a situation of peace. Neither they, nor their parents and grandparents, have ever experienced a day of peace in this country. Peace is something like the coming of the Messiah, something that has to be wished for, prayed for, but is never really expected to happen.
But peace does not mean, to paraphrase Carl von Clausewitz, the continuation of war by other means. It does not mean a truce or even an armistice.
Peace means living side by side. Peace means reconciliation, a genuine willingness to understand the other side, the readiness to get over old grievances, the slow growth of a new relationship, economic, social, personal.
To endure, peace must satisfy all parties. It requires a situation which all sides can live with, because it fulfills their basic aspirations.
Is this possible? Knowing the other side as well as most, I answer with utmost assurance: Yes, indeed. But it is not an automatic process. One has to work for it, invest in it, wage peace as one wages war.
Nelson Mandela did. That’s why the entire world attended his funeral. That’s, perhaps, why our leaders chose to be absent.
God bless Marius Benson.
In the middle of all the frantic dialogue about Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program, he is the only one who had the courage to ask the obvious question: “what about Israel’s nuclear stockpile?” It’s a question that is simply never raised in polite society!
I assume that everybody does see the elephant in the room but that they simply choose to ignore it. No one has ever raised serious questions about the validity of the photographic evidence shared by Mordechai Vanunu back in 1986, showing that Israel has one of the largest nuclear stockpiles in the world, yet everyone in the West has to play this charade, acting as if none of these weapons exist!
The transcript below is from Marius Benon’s ABC interview with the Israeli government’s chief spin-doctor in Australia, Mark Regev. You can hear the full interview here.
Benson asks Regev bluntly and repeatedly whether Israel has nuclear weapons and each time Regev tries to deflect the question with the standard line “we will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the region”.
This is simply a lie, of course, unless Regev is including Pakistan in his ‘region’ or is engaging in some similar act of wordplay. Either way, it is a cynical way of avoiding the obvious paradox of the Israeli government’s war-mongering. Why on earth would Israel be concerned about an attack from Iran when we all know that Israel has such an enormous nuclear defense arsenal that no country in the world would consider attacking it!
I don’t really understand why we put up with these sorts of shenanigans. Regev lies. We know he lies. He knows we know he is lying, and yet he continues to lie, and so eventually we stop asking the question, smile and shake hands and continue on as if the lie were the truth. There’s something deeply disturbing about this pattern.
Marius Benson: Mark Regev, can I ask you a question that some put in this context, which is, how can Israel demand that other countries, like Iran, in the Middle East, not have the prospect of any nuclear weapon when Israel itself has such a large nuclear arsenal?
Mark Regev: Well first of all there’s been no change in the long-standing Israeli position not to be the first country to introduce nuclear weapons into the region.
Marius Benson: But you have nuclear weapons.
Mark Regev: No, we say specifically we will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons to the region. But more specifically I would say in answer to your question it is Iran which says Israel must be destroyed, not the other way around. It’s Iran that calls Israel a cancer that must be removed. It’s Iran which says Israel must be obliterated off the map.
Marius Benson: But back on the question of nuclear weapons, can I just clarify? When you say Israel’s position is you won’t be the first to introduce them, you have, what, 200-plus nuclear weapons now?
Mark Regev: No, no and I would say the following if you would allow me. The problem in the Middle East is not those countries that up till now have not joined the NPT, the Non Proliferation Treaty. The problem is exactly the opposite. It’s those countries that have joined the NPT and have cheated and lied. And there’s a whole group of them…
Marius Benson: Yeah, but…on the nuclear weapons issue, are you saying Israel doesn’t have nuclear weapons?
Mark Regev: I’m answering your question, you’re just not letting me finish the sentences.
Marius Benson: No, no, I like to directly get an answer to that – are you saying Israel does not have nuclear weapons?
Mark Regev: I’m saying Israel believes the 4 to1 talks about extending the NPT in the Middle East; one has to have an NPT that works. And you have in the Middle East four countries that signed the NPTand have cheated and the NPT has not been worth the paper it has been printed on.
Marius Benson: Sure but there’s only one country in the Middle East which is generally known to have nuclear weapons. That’s Israel.
MR: Israel has said – and I’ll say it again – we will not be the first country in the Middle East to introduce nuclear weapons into the region. But if you’ll allow me to complete the point. It’s not just Gadaffi’s Libya that cheated on the NPT, it’s Assad’s Syria, it’s Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and now the Iranians. How can anyone come to Israel and say Israel should join the NPT when you have in the region the failure of this treaty. When you have consistent behaviour by Israel’s enemies who’ve signed the NPT and then it’s clear to everyone have broken it, have violated the agreement.
Marius Benson: Mark Regev thank you very much
Mark Regev: My pleasure sir.
This is a press release from ‘Progressive Christian Voice’ (Australia). Yes, there is an alternative Australian Christian perspective to that offered by the ‘Australian Christian Lobby’ (ACL).
I find it frankly refreshing to see the church speaking out on the situation in Palestine and not being restricted to issues of family and sexuality.
A Progressive Christian Voice Urges the Australian Government to Abandon its Support for the Illegal Israeli settlements in the Palestinian Occupied Territories.
Australian media reported on Monday, 25 November, 2013, that Australia’s newly elected government, without any public discussion of its policy, was “giving tacit approval to controversial activities including the expansion of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories”. 
According to The Jerusalem Post  the Australian ambassador to Israel, David Sharma said that Canberra does not want to single out Israel for condemnation in international forums. As regards the aspect of singling out of Israel, international forums have been prepared to condemn other countries such as Syria, North Korea.
As regards any singling out of Israel, what is singular about Israel is that no country in the current international community has continued the military occupation of foreign territory for 46 years.
Australian media reports noted, “many within the international community regard the expansion of Israeli settlements as an act of hostility towards Palestinians, hampering the likelihood of peace”. 
As a letter writer in The Sydney Morning Herald  noted, there is a contradiction in the Australian government’s position. That government asserts that it supports a two state solution. Yet it tacitly condones settlement construction which threatens to destroy any hope of the establishment of a Palestinian state.
During a speech at the United Nations Security Council’s Open Debate on the Middle East on the 16 October, 2012, the U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Susan Rice emphasized that the U.S. “does not accept the legitimacy of Israeli settlement activity, and will continue to oppose any efforts to legalize outposts.” 
A Progressive Christian Voice (Australia) Inc believes that Australia’s action, therefore, raises a number of valid questions:
1.Which of the two contradictory policies noted above does the Australian government actually endorse – a two state solution or support for illegal Jewish settlements? The Australian Foreign Minister, Julia Bishop, has stated hat “the (Australian) government’s concern (was that) Middle East resolutions should be balanced”. How does the government, then, balance these two contradictory positions?
2.What values influences the Australian government to give tacit approval for the building of more illegal settlements on Palestinian territory?
3. Does the Australian government oppose the American government’s view when the latter contends that continued settlement activity is illegal?
1. Jonathan Swan, “Abbott shifts UN position to back Israeli setllements” The Sydney Morning Herald, Monday, November 25, 2013, p.9.
2. Herb Keinon, “Australia says it won’t mechanically vote against settlements in UN” The Jerusalem Post 11/25/2013.
3. SMH, Tuesday, November 26, 2013, p.16.
4. The Jewish Week – New York 10/16/12 _____________________________________________________________________________________
For more information contact either:
Rev’d Dr Peter Catt – President of A Progressive Christian Voice (Australia) Inc (Email: pcatt AT stjohnscathedral.com….au) or
Rev’d Dr Ray Barraclough – Secretary of A Progressive Christian Voice (Australia) Inc at (Email: dorray AT westnet.com….au)
It appears that the Abbot government has slyly changed Australia’s policy regarding Israel-Palestine without making any mention of it to the Australian public!
Two weeks ago Australia abstained from voting on two resolutions at the UN General Assembly – one condemning the expansion of Jewish settlements and another calling for the Geneva Convention to apply in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Just in case there was any doubt about the new position, yesterday Australia voted “NO” to a resolution declaring 2014 the ”International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People”.
If you read the details contained in the resolution (below) there is nothing in them that is remotely anti-Israel. Even so, the usual culprits objected:
- Israel, the United States and Canada (the big three)
- Micronesia, Marshall Islands and Palau (the three US protectorates) and …
This effectively reverses the stance of the previous Australian government. Former Foreign Affairs Minister, Bob Carr, was right in calling this a “shame”. Julia Bishop had the gaul to refer to the new policy as more “balanced”!
From a purely mathematical point of view – 110 votes in favour and only 7 against – I suppose Australia is contributing to more balance, in a sense, until you realise that the rest of the world has good reason to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people. They are victims of the longest military occupation in human history!
I personally cannot reconcile how the new Australian Prime Minister can openly call himself a Christian and yet taken such an inhuman stance on both refugees and the suffering people of Palestine. Perhaps I’m missing something?
UN Declares 2014 As International Year Of Solidarity With Palestinians
The resolution called for all efforts to promote the realisation of the inalienable rights of Palestinians including their right to self-determination, support the Middle East peace process for the achievement of a two-state solution and the just resolution of all final status issues, and to mobilise international support for and assistance to Palestinians.
The resolution also affirmed the general assembly’s support for the Middle East peace process on the basis of relevant UN resolutions, the terms of reference of the Madrid Conference, including the principle of land for peace, the Arab Peace Initiative adopted by the Council of the League of Arab States and a permanent two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Among others things, it welcomed the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations on July 29 aimed at resolving all core final status issues and concluding a final peace agreement within the agreed time frame of nine months.
This is a powerful and brutal analysis of the current state of the State of Israel. Hedges pulls no punches. His starting point – that Israel has been “poisoned by the psychosis of permanent war” and “morally bankrupted by the sanctification of victimhood” says it all! The rest is just commentary.
Having said that, the article is intended primarily as a review of Max Blumenthal’s new book, “Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel” – a book that is evidently equally blunt and brutal in its assessment of the Jewish state.
I have nothing but admiration for both of these men – Hedges and Blumenthal. They risk intimidation and ostracism by speaking out so frankly about the crisis in Israel. Most media outlets prefer to look the other way.
There are no guarantees that prophetic voices like Hedges and Blumenthal are going to bring about significant change, but we can be assured that if no one speaks out, nothing will change.
Imploding the Myth of Israel
By Chris Hedges
Israel has been poisoned by the psychosis of permanent war. It has been morally bankrupted by the sanctification of victimhood, which it uses to justify an occupation that rivals the brutality and racism of apartheid South Africa. Its democracy—which was always exclusively for Jews—has been hijacked by extremists who are pushing the country toward fascism. Many of Israel’s most enlightened and educated citizens—1 million of them—have left the country. Its most courageous human rights campaigners, intellectuals and journalists—Israeli and Palestinian—are subject to constant state surveillance, arbitrary arrests and government-run smear campaigns. Its educational system, starting in primary school, has become an indoctrination machine for the military. And the greed and corruption of its venal political and economic elite have created vast income disparities, a mirror of the decay within America’s democracy.
And yet, the hard truths about Israel remain largely unspoken. Liberal supporters of Israel decry its excesses. They wring their hands over the tragic necessity of airstrikes on Gaza or Lebanon or the demolition of Palestinian homes. They assure us that they respect human rights and want peace. But they react in inchoate fury when the reality of Israel is held up before them. This reality implodes the myth of the Jewish state. It exposes the cynicism of a state whose real goal is, and always has been, the transfer, forced immigration or utter subjugation and impoverishment of Palestinians inside Israel and the occupied territories. Reality shatters the fiction of a peace process. Reality lays bear the fact that Israel routinely has used deadly force against unarmed civilians, including children, to steal half the land on the West Bank and crowd forcibly displaced Palestinians into squalid, militarized ghettos while turning their land and homes over to Jewish settlers. Reality exposes the new racial laws adopted by Israel as those once advocated by the fanatic racist Meir Kahane. Reality unveils the Saharonim detention camp in the Negev Desert, the largest detention center in the world. Reality mocks the lie of open, democratic debate, including in the country’s parliament, the Knesset, where racist diatribes and physical threats, often enshrined into law, are used to silence and criminalize the few who attempt to promote a civil society. Liberal Jewish critics inside and outside Israel, however, desperately need the myth, not only to fetishize Israel but also to fetishize themselves. Strike at the myth and you unleash a savage vitriol, which in its fury exposes the self-adulation and latent racism that lie at the core of modern Zionism.
There are very few intellectuals or writers who have the tenacity and courage to confront this reality. This is what makes Max Blumenthal’s “Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel” one of the most fearless and honest books ever written about Israel. Blumenthal burrows deep into the dark heart of Israel. The American journalist binds himself to the beleaguered and shunned activists, radical journalists and human rights campaigners who are the conscience of the nation, as well as Palestinian families in the West Bank struggling in vain to hold back Israel’s ceaseless theft of their land. Blumenthal, in chapter after chapter, methodically rips down the facade. And what he exposes, in the end, is a corpse.
I spent seven years in the Middle East as a correspondent, including months in Gaza and the West Bank. I lived for two years in Jerusalem. Many of the closest friends I made during my two decades overseas are Israeli. Most of them are among the Israeli outcasts that Blumenthal writes about, men and women whose innate decency and courage he honors throughout his book. They are those who, unlike the Israeli leadership and a population inculcated with racial hatred, sincerely want to end occupation, restore the rule of law and banish an ideology that creates moral hierarchies with Arabs hovering at the level of animal as Jews—especially Jews of European descent—are elevated to the status of demigods. It is a measure of Blumenthal’s astuteness as a reporter that he viewed Israel through the eyes of these outcasts, as well as the Palestinians, and stood with them as they were arrested, tear-gassed and fired upon by Israeli soldiers. There is no other honest way to tell the story about Israel. And this is a very honest book.
“Goliath” is made up of numerous vignettes, some only a few pages long, that methodically build a picture of Israel, like pieces fit into a puzzle. It is in the details that Israel’s reality is exposed. The Israeli army, Blumenthal points out in his first chapter, “To the Slaughter,” employs a mathematical formula to limit outside food deliveries to Gaza to keep the caloric levels of the 1.5 million Palestinians trapped inside its open air prison just above starvation; a government official later denied that he had joked in a meeting that the practice is “like an appointment with a dietician.” The saturation, 22-day bombing of Gaza that began on Dec. 27, 2008, led by 60 F-16 fighter jets, instantly killed 240 Palestinians, including scores of children. Israel’s leading liberal intellectuals, including the writers Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua and David Grossman, blithely supported the wholesale murder of Palestinian civilians. And while Israelis blocked reporters from entering the coastal Gaza Strip—forcing them to watch distant explosions from Israel’s Parash Hill, which some reporters nicknamed “the Hill of Shame”—the army and air force carried out atrocity after atrocity, day after day, crimes that were uncovered only after the attack was over and the press blockade lifted. This massive aerial and ground assault against a defenseless civilian population that is surrounded by the Israeli army, a population without an organized military, air force, air defenses, navy, heavy artillery or mechanized units, caused barely a ripple of protest inside Israel from the left or the right. It was part of the ongoing business of slaughtering the other.
“Unarmed civilians were torn to pieces with flechette darts sprayed from tank shells,” Blumenthal writes. “Several other children covered in burns from white phosphorous chemical weapon rounds were taken to hospitals; a few were found dead with bizarre wounds after being hit with experimental Dense Inert Metal Explosive (DIME) bombs designed to dissolve into the body and rapidly erode internal soft tissue. A group of women were shot to death while waving a white flag; another family was destroyed by a missile while eating lunch; and Israeli soldiers killed Ibrahim Awajah, an eight-year-old child. His mother, Wafaa, told the documentary filmmaker Jen Marlowe that soldiers used his corpse for target practice. Numerous crimes like these were documented across the Gaza Strip.”
By the end of the assault, with 1,400 dead, nearly all civilians, Gaza lay in ruins. The Israeli air force purposely targeted Gaza’s infrastructure, including power plants, to reduce Gaza to a vast, overcrowded, dysfunctional slum. Israel, Blumenthal notes, destroyed “80 percent of all arable farmland in the coastal strip, bombing the strip’s largest flour mill, leveling seven concrete factories, shelling a major cheese factory, and shooting up a chicken farm, killing thirty-one thousand chickens.”
“Twelve [years old] and up, you are allowed to shoot. That’s what they tell us,” an Israeli sniper told Haaretz correspondent Amira Hass in 2004 at the height of the Second Intifada, Blumenthal writes. “This is according to what the IDF [Israel Defense Force] says to its soldiers. I do not know if this is what the IDF says to the media,” the sniper was quoted as saying.
The 2008 murderous rampage is not, as Blumenthal understands, an anomaly. It is the overt policy of the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who advocates “a system of open apartheid.” Israel, as Blumenthal points out, has not lifted its state of emergency since its foundation. It has detained at least 750,000 Palestinians, including 10,000 women, in its prisons since 1967. It currently holds more than 4,500 political prisoners, including more than 200 children and 322 people jailed without charges, Blumenthal writes, including those it has labeled “administrative detainees.” Israel has a staggering 99.74 percent conviction rate for these so-called security prisoners, a figure that any totalitarian state would envy.
Blumenthal cites a survey of Jewish Israeli attitudes on the Gaza bombing, known as Operation Cast Lead. The survey, by Daniel Bar-Tal, a political psychologist from Tel Aviv University, concluded that the public’s “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.” Bar-Tal tells Blumenthal “these attitudes are the product of indoctrination.” And Blumenthal sets out to chronicle the poison of this indoctrination and what it has spawned in Israeli society.
The racist narrative, once the domain of the far right and now the domain of the Israeli government and the mainstream, demonizes Palestinians and Arabs, as well as all non-Jews. Non-Jews, according to this propaganda, will forever seek the annihilation of the Jewish people. The Holocaust, in which Israeli victimhood is sanctified, is seamlessly conflated with Palestinian and Arab resistance to occupation. The state flies more than 25 percent of Israeli 11th-graders to Poland to tour Auschwitz and other Nazi extermination camps a year before they start army service. They are told that the goal of Arabs, along with the rest of the non-Jewish world, is another Auschwitz. And the only thing standing between Israelis and a death camp is the Israeli army. Israeli high schools show films such as “Sleeping With the Enemy” to warn students about dating non-Jews, especially Arabs. Racist books such as “Torat Ha’Melech,” or “The King’s Torah,” are given to soldiers seeking rabbinical guidance on the rules of engagement. Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira and Rabbi Yosef Elitzur, the authors of the 230-page book, inform soldiers that non-Jews are “uncompassionate by nature” and may have to be killed in order to “curb their evil inclinations.” “If we kill a gentile who has violated one of the seven commandments [of Noah] … there is nothing wrong with the murder,” Shapira and Elitzur write. The rabbis claim that under Jewish law “there is justification for killing babies if it is clear that they will grow up to harm us, and in such a situation they may be harmed deliberately, and not only during combat with adults.”
These narratives of hatred make any act of deadly force by the Israeli army permissible, from the shooting of Palestinian children to the 2010 killing by Israeli commandos of nine unarmed activists on the Turkish boat the Mavi Marmara. The activists were part of a flotilla of six boats bringing humanitarian supplies to Gaza. The Israeli propaganda machine claimed that the small flotilla was a covert terror convoy. Never mind that the Mavi Marmara was in international waters when it was attacked. Never mind that no one on the boat, or any of the five other boats, was armed. Never mind that the boats were thoroughly searched before they left for Gaza. The Israeli lie was trumpeted while every camera, video and tape recorder, computer and cellphone of the activists on board was seized and destroyed—or in a few cases sold by Israeli soldiers when they got back to Israel—while those on the boats were towed to an Israeli port and detained in isolation. The ceaseless stoking of fear and racial hatred—given full vent by the Israeli government and media in the days after the Mavi Marmara incident—has served to empower racist political demagogues such as Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman, a camp follower of Meir Kahane. It has also effectively snuffed out Israel’s old left-wing Zionist establishment.
“In Israel you have three systems of laws,” the Israeli Arab politician Ahmed Tibi observes in the Blumenthal book. “One is democracy for 80 percent of the population. It is democracy for Jews. I call it an ethnocracy or you could call it a Judocracy. The second is racial discrimination for 20 percent of the population, the Israeli Arabs. The third is apartheid for the population in the West Bank and Gaza. This includes two sets of governments, one for the Palestinians and one for the settlers. Inside Israel there is not yet apartheid but we are being pushed there with … new laws.”
As Blumenthal documents, even Israeli Jews no longer live in a democracy. The mounting state repression against human rights advocates, journalists and dissidents has reached the proportions of U.S. Homeland Security. The overtly racist cant of the political elite and the masses—“Death to Arabs” is a popular chant at Israeli soccer matches—has emboldened mobs and vigilantes, including thugs from right-wing youth groups such as Im Tirtzu, to carry out indiscriminate acts of vandalism and violence against dissidents, Palestinians, Israeli Arabs and the hapless African immigrants who live crammed into the slums of Tel Aviv. Israel has pushed through a series of discriminatory laws against non-Jews that eerily resemble the racist Nuremberg Laws that disenfranchised Jews in Nazi Germany. The Communities Acceptance Law, for example, permits “small, exclusively Jewish towns planted across Israel’s Galilee region to formally reject applicants for residency on the grounds of ‘suitability to the community’s fundamental outlook.’ ” And all who denounce the steady march of Israel toward fascism—including Jewish academics—are attacked in organized campaigns as being insufficiently Zionist. They are branded as terrorists or collaborators with terrorists. As a headline in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz read: “The settlers are the real government of Israel.”
“Woody [a law school graduate from New York] became my initial liaison to Tel Aviv’s radical left, introducing me to a loose-knit band of a few hundred anarchists, disillusioned ex-soldiers, disaffected children of ultra-Zionists, queers, academics, and generally idealistic and disillusioned young people who came of age during the Second Intifada when the liberal Zionist ‘peace camp’ closed ranks with the militaristic right wing,” Blumenthal writes. “This tiny band of social deviants comprised the only grouping of people I met who sincerely embraced multiculturalism and who took concrete action against the discriminatory foundations of their country’s political apparatus. Right-wingers and many Jewish Israelis who considered themselves part of the social mainstream referred to members of the radical left as smolinim, which simply means ‘leftists,’ but the word carried a deeply insulting connotation of an unacceptable caste, an Other. As branded social outcasts, inflexible in their principles, disdainful of ordinary politics, and brazen in their racial liberalism they resembled nothing so much as the pre-Civil War abolitionists.”
The late Amnon Dankner, the former editor of Maariv, one of Israel’s major newspapers, Blumenthal notes, denounced “neo-Nazi expressions in the Knesset” and “entire parties whose tenor and tone arouse feelings of horror and terrifying memories.” David Landau, the former editor-in-chief of Haaretz, has called on Israelis to boycott the Knesset “to stand against the wave of fascism that has engulfed the Zionist project.” And Uri Avnery, a left-wing politician and journalist, says: “Israel’s very existence is threatened by fascism.”
The disillusionment among idealistic young immigrants to Israel dots the book. As one example, Canadian David Sheen is recorded as saying that everything he had known about Israel and Palestinians was, in Blumenthal’s words, “a fantasy cultivated through years of heavy indoctrination.” But perhaps what is saddest is that Israel has, and has always had, within its population intellectuals, including the great scholar Yeshayahu Leibowitz, who sought to save Israel from itself.
Leibowitz, whom Isaiah Berlin called “the conscience of Israel,” warned that if Israel did not separate church and state it would give rise to a corrupt rabbinate that would warp Judaism into a fascistic cult.
“Religious nationalism is to religion what National Socialism was to socialism,” said Leibowitz, who died in 1994. He understood that the blind veneration of the military, especially after the 1967 war that captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem, was dangerous and would lead to the ultimate destruction of the Jewish state and any hope of democracy. “Our situation will deteriorate to that of a second Vietnam, to a war in constant escalation without prospect of ultimate resolution.” He foresaw that “the Arabs would be the working people and the Jews the administrators, inspectors, officials, and police—mainly secret police. A state ruling a hostile population of 1.5 million to 2 million foreigners would necessarily become a secret-police state, with all that this implies for education, free speech and democratic institutions. The corruption characteristic of every colonial regime would also prevail in the State of Israel. The administration would have to suppress Arab insurgency on the one hand and acquire Arab Quislings on the other. There is also good reason to fear that the Israel Defense Force, which has been until now a people’s army, would, as a result of being transformed into an army of occupation, degenerate, and its commanders, who will have become military governors, resemble their colleagues in other nations.” He warned that the rise of a virulent racism would consume Israeli society. He knew that prolonged occupation of the Palestinians would spawn “concentration camps” for the occupied and that, in his words, “Israel would not deserve to exist, and it will not be worthwhile to preserve it.”
But few, then or now, cared to listen. This is why Blumenthal’s new book is so important.
Chris Hedges, whose column is published Mondays on Truthdig, has previously spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years.