The Israeli government is in the news again. Benjamin Netanyahu, the current prime minister of the jewish state, is angry at the Obama administration. Before christmas, the US government refused to veto a UN resolution which condemned the continuing building of jewish settlements in the occupied territories. In addition to that, US Secretary of State John Kerry gave a long speech outlining a peace strategy for the long and complicated conflict, which did not seem to be in line with what Bibi and his government had planned.
Netanyahu accused Kerry’s speech to be ‘skewed against Israel’ and called the UN resolution ‘hostile and imbalanced’. He even went so far to call it a declaration of war. As a reaction, the Israeli government summoned the US ambassador for a complained on Sunday, christmas day. But if you think the US got a particularly harsh treatment, think again. Others did not just get a complaint. Israel temporarily limited diplomatic ties to 12 of the 14 countries who voted in favour of the UN resolution.
One wonders what exactly was in the resolution and Kerry’s speech that provoked such a seemingly hysterical reaction. Astoundingly the answer is, not much really. The UN resolution, which is not even binding, simply reminds Israel that it is breaking international law with its support for the settlements in the occupied territories. According to the geneva convention, which Israel has signed, it is illegal for a state to transfer its own citizens into territories that were conquered in a war. This is not new, it has been international law since 1949.
The outrage over John Kerry’s speech is even more bizarre. Kerry simply emphasised his support for a two state solution to the conflict, in which there would be a Palestinian state next to a Jewish one. Again, this is everything but new. In fact, it has so far been the official position of the Israeli government that it is committed to such a solution. So one wonders, why is the Israeli government so angry at a proposal, that has essentially been at the heart of peace negotiations for decades?
The only plausible answer is that Bibi and his followers are not working towards creating a Palestinian state. Critiques of Israel have long pointed out that the behaviour of the government does not match its commitment towards a two state peace solution. But these critiques have, for the most part, been attacked as conspiracy theorists, often with the additional label of being anti-semites.
However, the reaction of Netanyahu to the Obama administration makes it very clear now that these critiques were right all along. Israel has long given up on the idea of giving the Palestinians a state of their own. The real plan seems to be to create a Greater Israel from the Mediterranean to the Jordan river. The settlements are there to create facts on the ground, so that there is no land left on which Palestinians could form a state.
With this, zionism, which is just a word for Jewish nationalism, is following the typical path of most nationalist movements. Time and time again, throughout history, we have seen these movements using force to expend or at least ethnically cleans territories in favour of their favoured people, suppressing and banishing unwanted ethnicities in the process. So it should be no surprise that zionism behaves like so many of its sister movements all over the planet. Nationalism proves once again to be an inherently statist and illiberal ideology.
But it looks to me like the Israeli government is overplaying its cards by aiming for a Greater Israel. There are still millions of Palestinians living in these territories. The plan of the government seems to be to make their lives as miserable as possible so that they will hopefully leave ‘voluntarily’. This however does not seem to work very well. Where would millions of these people go anyway? There are still millions of Palestinians in refugees camps who were banished during the so called Israeli war of independence. And that was almost 70 years ago. Realistically, the Palestinians in the occupied territories will not go anywhere. But if they are staying where they are, then what is the Israeli government trying to achieve? What is the end game here? Let us have a look at the options.
The worst option is to commit an outright genocide on the Palestinian population. Technically this would be no problem. The Palestinians at this point are essentially completely crushed and defenceless. And Israel has one of the strongest militaries in the world. But a genocide would obviously strip away any kind of legitimacy that Israel pretends to have. It hopefully also won’t go down easily with the majority of Israelis.
A more realistic option is to create an apartheid state, in which only Jews enjoy the full rights of citizens. This has essentially been the de facto reality in the occupied territories for decades anyway. Jewish settlers enjoy the full rights of Israeli citizens, while Palestinians live under military law. The difference is that, if a Palestinian state is off the agenda, then Palestinians will only have one other option left, which is to demand full citizenship. And history tells us that once this narrative is pushed, it will eventually succeed.
Which brings us to the last option, and most likely longterm outcome, which is a multi-ethnic state. It would mean that Israel stops being jewish. What is not to like? There are plenty of good example of such states. Israel essentially just joins the western world, which, for good reasons but with some drawbacks, since WW2 has moved away from ethnic nationalism towards multiculturalism.
Under normal circumstances there would indeed not be a problem. But nothing is normal in the middle east. These two ethnic groups clearly do not get along very well. It would take a long time to forget all the hardship of the past few decades. And on neither side I see a lot of willingness to play soft ball. Opinions within Israel seem to more and more turn to hardcore nationalism and racism. Liberal voices, pointing out the craziness of current policies, still exists, but they seem to shrink by the day. And on the Palestinian side you have lots of groups that are very open about their desire to finish what the Nazis started. Neither side has a strong Mandela like leadership figure in place that could lead a peaceful transition.
But the Jews would have a bigger problem in this multicultural solution. The Palestinians would outnumber them, which in a democracy means that they would be in charge. Given the hostilities, this would be really dangerous for the jewish population. It is this fact in particular that makes the behaviour of the Israeli government hard to understand. In the long run, their best chance of surviving this crazy statist zionist project is to do everything to create a Palestinian state and move away from explicitly calling Israel jewish. In other words, it is in their own interest to start fighting nationalism.
Unfortunately, as always in wars, statist radicals seem to be the big winners. The extreme nationalists have taken over politics in Israel and steering the ship towards an inevitable disaster. Israel will most likely go down the way of South Africa, but with a more violent ending.
At this point the question may be asked, why would anyone in England care about this. Israel is a far away country and it is just one of many screwed up conflicts, heading for a violent endgame. So why single it out. True, best advise, as always in these kind of conflicts is to stay out of the madhouse. If two groups cannot help but fight each other over some stupid ideologies, let them do it. But don’t get involved and therefore spread the conflict further and further.
The problem is that our governments have decided that Israel is an ally that deserves our help. And my greatest fear is that they will drag us right into this violent endgame. We are already the target of a lot of hate for our government’s support of this state. The sad reality is that Kerry had to wait until the end of the Obama administration in order to make a very moderate speech. That is how deeply the US government is already involved in the conflict.
This policy of support needs to end. There is nothing to win from it. In fact, the support of the US government is strengthening the hard-liners in Israel. They feel that, with such a big brother holding their hands, not much bad can happen to them anyway. It makes it difficult for them to see that they are heading for a disaster. There is almost no chance that this conflict will find a good ending. A real solution would need a correct analysis first. But such an analysis would entail an admittance that the statist zionist project was a mistake from the start.
Instead of reverting to nationalism as the solution for their very real security problems in Europe, Jews should have supported liberalism and fight nationalism. By embracing nationalism with the zionist project, they were trying to fix a problem, which was european nationalism, within the system that caused it. Since World War 2, Europe has more and more moved away from nationalism with great results. At the same time that Europe has given up on nationalism, the Middle East started to embrace it. And that has a lot to do with zionism.
A Palestinian nationalism was unimaginable before Israel. There simply was no group of people called Palestinians that would define themselves as a nation. This is the same with the Jewish nation. Prior to European nationalism, Judaism was a religion and not a nation. Now, both Jews and Palestinians have started to see themselves and nations. Interestingly, Palestinians, like Jews, have chosen religion, to be an essential part of this new nationalism. Previously, islamism was not a big problem in that particular part of the Arab world. A large number of Palestinians were christians and they got along with the jews, who always were present, just fine. Nationalism breads more nationalism which breads more violent conflicts. There can be no peace within this ideology. The only solution is to overcome it.