A long-term strategic aim of the Zionist movement has been to foment sectarianism in Palestine and the wider region. It’s a classic trick out of the imperialist playbook: divide and rule.
This has, of course, been successful to some extent. The false division of the region into “Arab versus Jew” was an important achievement of Zionism’s settler-colonial movement. The reality, though, is that in Palestine, as in other countries in the Arab world, Arabic-speaking Jews lived mostly in peace among their Muslim and Christian neighbours, until the rise of the Zionist movement.
Zionism has always been a racist, settler-colonial movement which relies on the support of western white supremacism for it to succeed (and, indeed, anti-Semitism). The German Zionist movement, for example, was an almost total failure in persuading German Jews to leave their home country and move to Palestine as Zionist settlers. This record of failure was reversed when the Zionist movement in Germany began receiving state backing. It actually collaborated with Hitler’s Nazi regime in the 1930s.
Following the Nazi takeover in 1933, the viciously anti-Semitic German government made Jewish emigration one of its top priorities. At first, this was not done by forced deportations, which came later. The physical destruction of Europe’s Jews in the Nazi death camps during the Holocaust began in 1941.
It is a well-attested (though sometimes taboo) historical fact that in the 1930s the Zionist movement teamed up with the Nazi government to give Germany’s Jewish population a series of incentives to leave Germany for Palestine. The most well-known of these incentives was the Transfer, or Haavara, Agreement. Under this deal, German Jews agreeing to leave their country could recoup a portion of their financial assets in the form of proceeds from the sale of German manufactured goods, but only after they had reached Palestine.
But it went further than the Transfer deal. Dozens of retraining or “re-education” centres were set up all over Germany, to prepare the participants for their new lives as settlers in Palestine. These centres were run by the youth wing of the German Zionist Federation and were also kept under close Nazi observation by the notoriously anti-Semitic Schutzstaffel, the SS.
Zionist propaganda (permitted and even encouraged by the Nazis) had it that German Jews were not really German, but were only Jews who happened to live in Germany. This chimed very well with poisonously anti-Semitic Nazi propaganda. Systematically, the Nazis stripped all Jews of their rights, pushing them to leave Germany. Right up to the eve of the Second World War, Nazi efforts to remove German Jews from Germany and send them to Palestine continued with the active collusion of Zionist groups. The SS was even involved in some efforts to smuggle Jews from Europe into Palestine under the noses of the British Mandate occupation authorities.
The Nazis’ anti-Semitic Nuremberg laws of 1935 persecuted and disenfranchised German Jews in numerous ways. Under Article 4 of the laws, though, the only flag that Jews were allowed to fly was “the Jewish colours”; the same flag later became the national flag of Israel.
Another source of white supremacism that Zionism relied upon for financial, logistical and political support was that which underpinned the British Empire. For 31 years, beginning in 1917, Britain occupied Palestine militarily, in defiance of the will of its indigenous population, who wanted a democratic, non-sectarian state. Even before it had successfully invaded Palestine during World War One, the British Empire had already made a political decision to hand Palestine over to the Zionist movement.
The British government’s infamous Balfour Declaration of 1917 decreed that Palestine would become a “national home for the Jewish people”, despite the fact the only a tiny minority of that country’s people at the time were Jews. The overwhelming majority of the indigenous people were Arabic-speaking Muslims and Christians.
The British Empire made its decision partly for reasons of religious fanaticism – Christian Zionism – and partly for the usual geopolitical reasons in the interests of the empire. Palestine was considered an important global crossroads, part of Britain’s lines of communication and supply to its imperial possessions in India.
Of course, the empire’s support for the Zionist movement ebbed and flowed over the years, with the Zionist militias launching open warfare against Britain in the run-up to 1948 and the creation of the state of Israel in Palestine. This was part of their war against the native Palestinian population.
Nevertheless, the essential reality of history is that the British Empire basically handed Palestine over to the Zionist movement at the expense of the indigenous population. As Lord Arthur Balfour himself privately admitted in 1919: “In Palestine, we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country… The four great powers are committed to Zionism, and Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long tradition, in present needs, in future hopes of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land.”
Such flagrant racism was typical of the British Empire. And it shows why Hitler never had a problem with overseas territories under Britain’s control. Instead, he tried to persuade the British government to accept mutually beneficial “spheres of influence”, before attempting to impose them when Britain refused to accept German domination in continental Europe.
The Zionist movement nowadays, of course, relies primarily on the support of the American empire. The latest sign that this is also predicated on white supremacism is shown by the open and flagrant love-in between Israel and US President Donald Trump, despite his open racism, including anti-Semitism, as well as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s courting of far-right governments in Europe and beyond. Zionism and the Zionist state of Israel rely on white supremacism.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.