The harrowing newspaper and TV images of death and destruction in Gaza have gone from bad to worse these past few days as the Israeli war machine, fuelled and funded by the West, continues without mercy. While the number of innocents killed heads towards 2,000 there’s been another spike, and that is in the rise of anti-Semitic attacks around the world.
It’s true that every time Israel flexes its military muscles there is a backlash on Jewish communities as some thugs see it as an excuse to target them while others confuse the evils of political Zionism with the religion of Judaism. We should all remember that not all Jews are Zionists and not all Zionists are Jews.
Furthermore, it now emerges that not all those who would describe themselves as traditional Zionists can identify with the distorted and extremist version on display today in Israel. In fact, many are distancing themselves from what is being done by Tel Aviv in their name, including New York Times columnist Roger Cohen who, as a dyed-in-the-wool Zionist, is appalled with the actions of the Israeli state.
“What I cannot accept, however,” wrote Cohen, “is the perversion of Zionism that has seen the inexorable growth of a Messianic Israeli nationalism claiming all the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River; that has, for almost a half-century now, produced the systematic oppression of another people in the West Bank; that has led to the steady expansion of Israeli settlements on the very West Bank land of any Palestinian state; that isolates moderate Palestinians like Salam Fayyad in the name of divide-and-rule; that pursues policies that will make it impossible to remain a Jewish and democratic state; that seeks tactical advantage rather than the strategic breakthrough of a two-state peace; that blockades Gaza with 1.8 million people locked in its prison and is then surprised by the periodic eruptions of the inmates; and that responds disproportionately to attack in a way that kills hundreds of children. This, as a Zionist, I cannot accept.” Heavy stuff.
A perfect illustration of the type of skewed Zionism he talked about appeared in an online blog just the other day. I did a double take as the Times of Israel article justified the actions in Gaza with the headline: “When Genocide is Permissible“.
After I highlighted the story on the social networks pointing out what newspapers were publishing in Israel the offending article was withdrawn, an apology was inserted and blogger Yochanan Gordon was sacked. In his blog Gordon had lambasted the UN, US, UK and others for not understanding Israel’s special needs before he then launched an attack on the coverage of the BBC for its lack of support and understanding of Israel! This, at a time when research about BBC coverage concludes the exact opposite.
In summing up, Gordon wrote: “I will conclude with a question for all the humanitarians out there. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu clearly stated at the outset of this incursion that his objective is to restore a sustainable quiet for the citizens of Israel. We have already established that it is the responsibility of every government to ensure the safety and security of its people. If political leaders and military experts determine that the only way to achieve its goal of sustaining quiet is through genocide is it then permissible to achieve those responsible goals?”
Arguably the most damning indictment served on Israel was delivered by Zionist Henry Siegman, the former leader of the American Jewish Congress, who was interviewed on the global TV show Democracy Now. During the interview he admitted that the hundreds of deaths of innocents in Gaza forced him to question the purpose and end of Zionism. He articulated what many so-called Zionists fear to say but are obviously thinking: “The kind of slaughter that is taking place there – when one thinks that this is what is necessary for Israel to survive? That the Zionist dream is based on the slaughter – repeated slaughter of innocents on a scale that we’re watching these days on television – that is really a profound, profound crisis, and should be a profound crisis in the thinking of all of us who are committed to the establishment of the state and to its success. That leads one virtually to a whole rethinking of this historical phenomenon.”
If you have time to watch the whole interview please do, because he also gives a robust defence of Palestinian resistance, drawing parallels with the Jewish experience. “What if the situation were reversed,” asks Siegman, “and the Jewish population were locked into, were told, ‘Here, you have less than 2 per cent of Palestine, so now behave. No more resistance. And let us deal with the rest’? Is there any Jew who would have said this is a reasonable proposition, that we cease our resistance, we cease our effort to establish a Jewish state, at least on one-half of Palestine, which is authorised by the UN?” Nobody would agree to that, he insisted. They would, he continued, say this is absurd. “So the expectations that Palestinians – and I’m speaking now about the resistance as a concept; I’m not talking about rockets, whether they were justified or not. They’re not. I think that sending rockets that are going to kill civilians is a crime. But for Palestinians to try, in any way they can, to end this state of affairs – and to expect of them to end their struggle and just focus on less than 2 per cent to build a country is absurd. That is part of – that’s propaganda, but it’s not a discussion of either politics or morality.”
Siegman criticised Israel’s leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s claims of Palestinian incitement to violence by pointing out that Israeli terrorist leaders went on to become prime ministers, notably Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, of the Irgun and Stern Gang terrorist groups respectively. He also noted that the 1948 Nakba is a living memory for Palestinians fighting for sovereignty.
The social networks are buzzing with commentaries on Gaza with the overwhelming support going towards the Palestinians. It seems that while the Zionists hold the Palestinians under military occupation, and Washington and London under political occupation, the likes of Twitter and Facebook have become the voices of the people.
There is a wonderful image which is now going viral posted by Jewish woman Barbi Rashid which can’t fail to make one smile in such challenging times. But there’s a particularly sad one which was brought to my attention by the very brilliant film-maker Max Blumenthal, who obviously fears for the safety of a young Israeli soldier turned whistle-blower. Israel might like to promote itself as a democracy but the ugly face of Zionism is now making it difficult for those living in Israel to express an opinion different to that of the Netanyahu government and its rabid supporters.
While US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron have been gagged by Tel Aviv, and the Arab world remains largely incapable and unwilling to intervene, it is ironic that the Zionist project may soon begin to crumble at the hands of some of the pillars of the Israeli State.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.