Israel Hasn’t Changed – It’s Merely Become More Honest
It’s unusual when I post an article by an open Zionist from the Jewish Chronicle (4.11.11.) but I was sent this today by a friend and am happy to make an exception in this case.
The description by Freedland of the centre of Hebron is widely known. A city of nearly 200,000 with a bustling market which I can still remember visiting has been reduced to a ghost. Roads that Palestinians cannot walk down. Like the Warsaw Ghetto the front doors of houses that open up onto the forbidden Aryan, sorry Israeli, side are sealed in. Colour coded maps depict where Palestinians cannot walk, their cars cannot go and where they cannot live. It doesn’t take much imagination to realise that this kind of Apartheid is taken straight from the Nuremberg Laws, which classified Germans into Aryans and non-Aryan.
As Jonathan Freedland noted, without comment, the ‘vile’ slogan of ‘Death to the Arab’s is painted on the empty houses and shops. If Freedland had taken a step backwards and engaged his brain he might have asked where this slogan came from (hint - 'Death to the Jews was a favourite of anti-Semites in Europe). If Freedland had not averted his eyes, he might have caught the odd slogan urging ‘Gas the Arabs’ or ‘Arabs to the ovens’ and even he, I suspect might have worked out where that one came from.
But Freedland, whose position as one of the key Guardian leader writers ensures that papers faces two ways like a latter-day Janus, begins with a heavy dose of hypocrisy, praising to that appalling PR organisation Bicom, whose tentacles were covered in shit as a result of their ill-fated liaison with Liam Fox and his war mongering fellows. That Freedland is incapable of asking why this organisation works so closely with war mongers, why it bribes and flatters its way across the globe, working in secrecy as Israel’s propagandist arm in Britain, and believes its ‘big tent’ approach in Manchester is worthy of anything other than burning down, says everything. The fact is that Freedland wants to have his cake and eat it.
He praises Netanyahu’s hasbara organisation, he has no problems with it, and then he wonders why they say nothing about Hebron. Clearly when it comes to Zionism Freedland’s brain stops engaging.
It is said that hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue but it seems to me in this case that it is a question of the self-proclaimed virtuous who are paying the tribute. As Freedland knows very well, Israel has not changed in any fundamental way. Israel under the Labour Zionists that Jonathan just loves, was just as brutal and racist as Lieberman and Netanyahu. But they were more savvy, more media wise, they spoke the language of the times, they even called each other ‘chaver’ (comrade) and extolled the virtues of their Kibbutzim - collective colonialism which refused membership to the Arabs whose land they settled.
It was Mapai, the Israeli Labour Party, that put the religious Zionists in power from the first election to the Knesset in 1949 when they chose to ally with the National Religious Party rather than the ‘left’ Zionists of Mapam, who had obtained the second highest number of seats. If there was one thing that Mapai, then seeking to build an alliance with the USA did not want, and that was accusations of being seen as soft on communism.
It was Israeli Labour, Mapam included, that presided over the military rule of Israel’s Arabs, seen as a 5th column, for 18 years, until 1966, just as it was the Zionist ‘trade union’ Histadrut that barred Arabs from even joining until 1959 and until 1966 retained the name ‘the General Federation of Hebrew Labour in the Land of Israel’.
It was Israeli Labour that put in place the institutional tie up between the Jewish National Fund, whose constitution bars Arabs from leasing or renting its land (together with the Israeli Lands Authority it administers 93% of Israeli land). It was Israeli Labour and Histadrut that barred Arabs from ‘security’ industries, i.e. from the best paid jobs and confined them to manual labour.
It was Israeli Labour that established the policy of Judification in the Galilee and established a system of having ‘unrecognised’ Arab villages, some 50% of all Arab villages. What is being played out today with the ethnic cleansing of the Bedouin in the Negev was the policy of Israeli Labour. Indeed it was David Ben Gurion who laid especial emphasis on the colonisation of the Negev and under his Administration thousands of Bedouin were expelled to Jordan and Egypt.
And it wasn’t Likud who pioneered the settlements. It was Israeli Labour under the Allon plan (named after Defence Minister Yigal Allon of the militarist Ahdut Ha’avodah party, many of whose founders such Yitzhak Tabenkin would become members of the settler party Tehiya in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Netanyahu’s opposition to a Palestinian state is based on the Zionist principle that the Arabs have no more right to Hebron and Nablus than they do to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The purpose of Zionism is colonisation of the land of Palestine – the British Mandate territories from the Mediterranean to the River Jordan.
The differences between Herut (Likud) – the Revisionist Zionists - and Israeli Labour were never more than semantic. There was no principle involved. Both wanted a Jewish state in which the Arabs could only be a tolerated minority. It was Labour not Likud which expelled ¾ million Arabs in 1948. It was Labour that deprived the refugees of the right of return and dreamt up the lie that they had left voluntarily.
Today there is barely a Labour Party left in Israel. It split down the middle less than a year ago, with its leader Ehud Barak, and former leader Amir Peretz, choosing to remain in their positions in Netanyahu’s cabinet in ‘The Independence’ party (they are certainly original in their names).
So Jonathan Freedland and fellow liberals have a simple choice. They can either abandon their attachment to democratic and liberal values at home, (albeit that the Guardian/Observer has moved to the right over the years) or support them in Israel too. But if they want to support democratic liberal values in Israel they have to come to terms with the fact that a state based on part of its citizens, which grants privileges to the Jewish part of its population is an inherently racist and yes apartheid state. In other words the ‘Jewish’ nature of Israel is not cultural or even religious, it implies practical political and economic benefit to a section of its population. That is the choice Freedland and others have to make. There is no middle way and if Jonathan wishes to stick with Bicom them he has no cause to complain about the fact that Israel no longer even pretend to be a liberal society.