“The weak crumble, are slaughtered and are erased from history while the strong, for good or for ill, survive. The strong are respected, and alliances are made with the strong, and in the end peace is made with the strong.” Strong words, but not, as you might think, from a dictator like Adolf Hitler, for example. They are from a speech made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the renaming ceremony of the Shimon Peres Negev Nuclear Research Centre in Dimona. They were then posted on his official Twitter account.
The birth of the “State of Israel” was laborious and bloody. Jewish terrorists, including future Prime Ministers Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, killed hundreds of British soldiers and Arab civilians, and even attempted to attack the British mainland. Israel was founded on terrorism and has been built upon military action ever since: war against its Arab neighbours during the “war of independence”, known as the Nakba by Palestinians, from November 1947 to July 1949; reprisal operations in the 1950s and 1960s; the tripartite attack on Suez in October 1956; the Six-Day War of June 1967; the War of Attrition, 1967–1970; the Yom Kippur/Ramadan War, October 1973; the 1982 Lebanon War/Invasion; the South Lebanon conflict, 1985–2000; the 2006 Lebanon War. Israel has also conducted three major military offensives against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, in December 2008 to January 2009; November 2012 and July–August 2014. There have been two Palestinian uprisings: the First Intifada from 1987 to 1993 and the Second Intifada from 2000 to 2005. In June 1981, Israeli bombers attacked Al-Tuwaythah Nuclear Research Facility outside the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. In 2007, the air force struck the Kubar facility near Deir Al-Zor in eastern Syria.
A sense of alienation and insecurity made Israel build one of the most advanced military forces in the world and seek out the latest weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear bombs. Although Israeli officials have never confirmed the nuclear weapons programme, it is a poorly kept secret. All of this would have never been possible without Western, especially American, support. According to The Marker, the US has provided Israel with $233.7 billion in aid, after adjusting for inflation, since 1948. Military aid alone accounts for $135m from 1946 to 2017, excluding missile defence funding.
America has put at Israel’s disposal weapons worth billions of dollars stored at its base in the Negev Desert under what is known as War Reserve Stockpile Ammunition-Israel, or WRSA-I. Washington authorised the Israelis to use this during the 2006 war against Lebanon, and later against the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2014. During the 1973 war, the US rushed more than 100 F-4 Phantom II jets to Israel, as well as tanks, artillery and thousands of tons of ammunition. All of this military might, though, has failed to make Israel feel secure.
Israel was created as a European outpost, and projects itself as part of the Western world. Its football team, for example, plays in European competitions, and it participates in the Eurovision Song Contest. It works hard on “proving” its “Jewish” roots, even though most of its population have roots in Eastern Europe, not the Middle East.
It was a challenge for European Jewish settlers who were told that they were heading for a “land without a people for a people without a land” only to find that “their” land was filled with Palestinian Christians and Muslims and, yes, Jews too. They have had to fight the indigenous people for every metre of land to create the “Jewish Nation State”.
As part of their “Israelisation”, most adopted new names when they arrived in Palestine-Israel. Thus, for example, David Grün became David Ben-Gurion; Moshe Shertok became Moshe Sharett; Golda Mabovich became Golda Meir; Icchak Jaziernicki became Yitzhak Shamir; and Szymon Perski became Shimon Peres. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was born in Israel, but his father came from Poland, where he was known as Benzion Mileikowsky.
On a mundane level, Israel has even appropriated Palestinian food, such as falafel, hummus and kubbeh, and passed them off as Israeli dishes. Palestinian embroidery and music have also been taken over and labelled Israeli.
Place names too have been “Israelised”, so the Noble Sanctuary of Al-Aqsa is marketed as “the Temple Mount” and towns and villages, streets. Hills and other geographical features have been given Hebrew names as part of Israel’s Judaisation of Palestine.
The usurpation of another people’s land has been justified by the claim that the land was “promised” by God to the “Chosen People”. This is ironic, given that most Israelis apparently self-identify as atheists. Many Zionists — Zionism is the political ideology underpinning Israel — claim that the Palestinians were nomadic Arabs who could, they argue, simply move somewhere else. This denies thousands of years of Palestinian culture and obvious fixed presence on the landscape. It is also immoral, argue Israelis and their apologists, to deny Jewish survivors of European pogroms and the Nazi Holocaust a land of their own.
In what might be called a typical “white man’s burden” discourse, Zionists have proclaimed that they brought prosperity and development to the region and that the Israel Defence Forces is the most moral army in the world. As such, the Palestinians have to accept whatever Israel offers them out of the goodness of its heart because they do not own or deserve anything in the first place. In a literary sense, they are the modern Prospero chosen to be cast into the heart of the Middle East, not to identify and integrate with the land and indigenous people, but to lead and enslave them.
Politically, Israel is moving ever more to the right and self-isolation. As we can see from Netanyahu’s words, no weapon, regardless of how destructive and powerful it is, has managed to make his country feel safe. The most persistent question in Israel itself, 70 years after its creation on someone else’s land, is how long will the state exist. The Palestinians know that this is their land, and so have no need to ask such a question of themselves, regardless of which political system governs or oppresses them. It is clear, therefore, that it needs much more than a name change to become indigenous to the land that one occupies. Israel’s quest for security has failed.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.