By any reasonable assessment, any state which treats international laws and conventions with contempt, flouts them with increasing regularity and maintains a brutal military occupation into the bargain has to fit into the rogue category. Israel is one such state.
Even before it declared its “independence” in 1948, the militias which were the forerunners of the Israeli army committed massacres of civilians and other terrorist atrocities. These included attacks on British forces, the assassination of a British minister, Lord Moyne, and the blowing up of the headquarters of the British Mandate authorities in Jerusalem’s King David Hotel; 91 people were killed and 45 were wounded in the attack.
All of this is brushed under the carpet by politicians in Westminster who flock to be “Friends of Israel”; it really is quite astonishing, for Israel has never been a “Friend of Britain” nor, it is possibly fair to say, a friend of anywhere else. The state exists for itself; acts in its own interests at all times, regardless of the consequences for anyone else; and insists on its own exceptionalism. That it is allowed to act with impunity and get away — quite literally — with murder suggests that its “friends” in places like Westminster and, especially, Washington agree that Israel is different to other states.
Indeed it is. As my colleague Nasim Ahmed pointed out in May 2015, “Israel is unique for its doctrinal adherence to a state ideology…” That ideology is Zionism, a pernicious mix of racism and nationalism which quite shamefully depends on anti-Semitism to achieve its own objective of a “Jewish State”. “History,” Ahmed added, “is littered with examples of the horrors that follow when states become instruments for ideological advancement, especially one that is rooted in ethnicity and religion.” Millions of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation, suffering under its siege of the Gaza Strip and displaced in neighbouring countries will attest to the truth of that statement.
Israel claims to be a democracy, but reserves full citizenship rights for members of one particular ethnic group, the Jews; its 1.7 million Arab citizens have less than full rights and are discriminated against in law, custom and practice. Despite this, it is touted regularly as “the only democracy in the Middle East” by Western politicians and media alike. They are blind to the fact that democracy requires more than elections to be worthy of the name, and that they themselves apply double standards whenever free and fair elections throw up winners that the West doesn’t like. Hence the blind eye to Egypt’s 2013 military coup to oust President Mohamed Morsi and participation in the isolation and siege of the elected Hamas–led government in Palestine post-2006. The siege of Gaza, by the way, is the only example that I can think of — and I am open to correction — whereby the victims of an illegal and immoral military occupation are being besieged while the occupiers are not only supported but also rewarded for their action with billions of dollars of military aid and favourable trade agreements.
What hold does Israel have on the West which allows it to act like a favourite but spoilt brat within the family of nations? “How,” asks Israeli author Jeff Halper, “does Israel get away with it?” His book “War against the people” (Pluto Press, 2015) attempts to answer the question. “Without an Occupation,” he explains, “Israel would have neither the drive nor the conditions by which to develop, deploy, test and export world-class weaponry and models of control…” The Occupation, believes Halper, is not a burden for Israel, but a “resource” which allows it to test its weapons on living human beings and then export them as “field-tested” to countries around the world. This is also explored vividly by Yotam Feldman in his film “The Lab”; the eponymous laboratory is, quite literally, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, especially Gaza, and their inhabitants.
In short, Israel is a key part of the world’s military-industrial complex, which benefits its economy to the tune of around $8 billion every year. Foreign armies queue up to buy Israel’s ever more ingenious ways to kill people. Halper calls this “security politics”, which is crucial for “global pacification” as governments seek to subdue their growing populations. Israel, it appears, has cornered the niche market for “weapons, security systems, models of population control and tactics without which it would be unable to compete in the international arms and security markets.” It is this, Halper points out, which gives Israel “an international status among the global hegemons it would not have otherwise.”
So the next time that you hear a “Friend of Israel” claim that Israel has a “right to exist”; “is the only democracy in the region”; and “shares our values”, just remember the real reason why it can strut on the world stage and punch way above its weight in the way that it can wag the dog of Western politics at will. Its massive military arsenal — including nuclear weapons — is not there for defensive purposes; it is on show for arms buyers from around the world, and the Palestinians under occupation — in the occupied territories as well as Israel itself — are the guinea pigs upon whom these weapons and systems are tested.
Israel is a rogue state; it acts outside the norms, laws and conventions to which other states are expected to adhere (or face sanctions, invasion and war if they don’t). We need to call out its supporters in the West for backing its criminal activity which is on show daily across the occupied territories. If Israel wants to be treated as a normal state, it should begin to act like one. Until then, it deserves to be isolated and boycotted, as do the Western companies which benefit from its occupation of Palestine. A full Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign is the very least that we can do.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.