By William James Martin
In pondering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict I have found that very few people actually have a basic understanding of the conflict nor could they define it in even rough approximating terms.
Thus one sometines hears that it is all about Arab/Palestinian ‘terrorism’ and suicide bombings and the ultimate goal of the terrorists-Palestinians is to ‘push all the Jews into the sea, dead or alive” and that their motives are those of anti-Semitism and hatred of Jews. Those who hold this view see the conflict as one of the survival of the Jewish state amid a sea of irrational hatred.
That is the view of the Zionists, and the one they would like for the world to accept.
One also hears that the conflict is a religious one between Jews and Arabs and that it has been continuous for ‘thousands of years’.
Neither is correct.
The first Palestinian suicide bombing occurred in 1994, 40 days after the massacre by the Brooklyn native Baruch Goldstein of 29 praying Muslims at the Al Ibrahim Mosque in Hebron. The ’67 War and the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip was 25 years old at that time. Thus an entire generation of Palestinians had grown to maturity knowing nothing but occupation before the first suicide bomber struck.
The phrase, “push all the Jews into the sea, dead or alive”, can be traced to a 1961 speech to the Knesset delivered by Prime Minister David Ben Gurion. This apparently was the first use of this phrase by a significant political personality, and thus, for all intents and purposes, the phrase has a Jewish and not an Arab origin. The propagation of this emotional phrase throughout the Israeli-Palestinian debate has its source the Israeli Prime Minister himself. (See 'Who is Pushing Whom into the Sea'?)
The view that the conflict is religious and that it has been ongoing for thousands of years is inaccurate. For approximately 2000 years Jews and Arabs enjoyed a harmonious relation, and for four hundred years up until World War I, as citizens of the Ottoman empire with equal rights. Indeed, Jews enjoyed high government position within the Ottoman Empire.
Change occurred in 1896 with the publication of Theodore Herzl’s book, The Jewish State, in which Herzl propounded the idea of inevitability, immutability, permanence, and omnipresence of anti-Semitism and argued that the only solution was a separate state for Jews.
Herzl’s understanding of the inevitability of anti-Semitism was possibly self fulfilling, for rather that opposing anti-Semitism in the first half of the 20th century, the Zionists found common cause with Hitler, Eichmann and the Nazis and used anti-Semitism and Nazism as a means of achieving their end which was the establishment of a Jewish state. The two reactionary movements shared the view that German Jews were living there as a ‘foreign race’ and that the racial divide was essential to maintain. (Historian Lenny Brenner has written three excellent books on the Zionists-Nazi collaboration.) The Zionist’s use of Nazism involved, among other things, the blocking of avenues of escape to other countries of Europe’s Jews and diverting them to Palestine, even as the death trains began to roll in Europe. The rise of Nazism and Hitler to power was never, or almost never, opposed by the Zionist prior to the establishment of Israel.
History might have been very different had the Zionists component of Jewry opposed Nazism and there might never have been a Holocaust. And there might never have been a state of Israel, as many of the Zionists well understood.
Lenni Brenner puts it:
… of all of the active Jewish opponents of the boycott idea [of Nazi Germany], the most important was the world Zionists Organization (WZO). It not only bought German wares; it sold them, and even sought out new customers for Hitler and his industrialist backers.
The WZO saw Hitler’s victory in much the same way as its German affiliate, the ZVfD [the German Zionist Organization]: not primarily as a defeat for all Jewry, but as positive proof of the bankruptcy of assimilation and liberalism.’ [Brenner, Zionism in the Age of Dictators]
Zionist collaboration with the Nazis, as well as with the Fascists and Mussolini is a deep and extensive topic and must be abandoned here.
Though a region of Argentina as well as Ethiopia were considered by Herzl, Palestine was the site for which there was the greatest consensus. Of the indigenous Palestinians, of which there were about a million at the time living in Palestine, he said:
“[We shall] spirit the penniless population across the frontier by denying it employment. Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly.”
Thus the concept of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine by Zionism was introduced.
It is not rocket science. If you want to create a state exclusively of European Jews in the heart of the Middle East, you must first get rid of the Arabs.
Herzl went on the found the World Zionists Organization, whose intent was to establish a Jewish state in Palestine and to make itself into proto-government from which the actual state government would seamlessly emerge upon the establishment of the Jewish state.
Though the world seems not to understand the intent of the Zionist program, there was no misunderstanding among the Zionists themselves.
In his 1923 book, The Iron Wall, Vladimir Jabotinsky, founder to the “Revisionists” wing of Zionism, wrote:
"There can be no discussion of voluntary reconciliation between the Arabs, not now and not in the foreseeable future. All well-meaning people, with the exception of those blind from birth, understood long ago the complete impossibility of arriving at a voluntary agreement with the Arabs of Palestine for the transformation of Palestine from an Arab country to a country with a Jewish majority.
"Any native people view their country as their national home, of which they will be the complete masters. They will never voluntarily allow a new master. So it is for the Arabs. Compromisers among us try to convince us that the Arabs are some kind of fools who can be tricked with hidden formulations of our basic goals. I flatly refuse to accept this view of the Palestinian Arabs.
"The Palestinians will struggle in this way until there is hardly a spark of hope....it matters not what kind of words we use to explain our colonization. Colonization has its own integral and inescapable meaning understood by every Jew and every Arab. Colonization has only one goal. This is in the nature of things. To change that nature is impossible. It has been necessary to carry on colonization against the will of the Palestinian Arabs and the same conditions exist now.
"A voluntary agreement is inconceivable. All colonization, even the most restricted, must continue in defiance of the will of the native population. Therefore, it can continue and develop only under the shield of force which comprises an Iron Wall which the local population can never break through. This is our Arab policy. To formulate it any other way would be hypocrisy.
“Whether through the Balfour Declaration or the Mandate, external force is a necessity for the establishing in the country conditions of rule and defense through which the local population, regardless of what it wishes, will be deprived of the possibility of impeding our colonization, administratively or physically. Force must play its role – with strength and without indulgence. In this, there are no meaningful differences between our militarists and our vegetarians. One prefers an Iron Wall of Jewish bayonets; the other an Iron Wall of English bayonets.
“If you wish to colonize a land in which people are already living, you must provide a garrison for that land,… . Or else? Or else, give up your colonization, for without an armed force which will render physically impossible any attempt to destroy or prevent this colonization, colonization is impossible. Zionism is a colonization adventure and there fore it stands or it falls by the question of armed force. It is important to speak Hebrew but, unfortunately, it is even more important to be able to shoot – or else I am through with playing at colonization.
"To the hackneyed reproach that this point is unethical, I answer – absolutely untrue. This is our ethic. There is no other ethic. As long as there is the faintest spark of hope for the Arabs to impede us, they will not sell these hopes – not for any sweet words not for any tasty morsel. Because this (the Palestinians) is not a rabble but a people, a living people. And no people makes such enormous concessions on such fateful questions, except when there is no hope left, until we have removed every opening visible in the Iron Wall."
The ‘Revisionists’ advocated the revision of the British Mandate for Palestine to include the east bank of the Jordan, now the state of Jordan, as well as the west bank, the Jordan River forming the eastern boundary of the mandate at that time. The ‘Revisionist’ transformed over time into the present day Lukud party, the right wing party of Menachem Begin, who regarded Zabotinsky as his model and philosophical father, of Yitzchak Shamir, who became the leader of the Revisionists at the time of Zabotinsky’s death, of Ariel Sharon, and of Benjamin Netanyahu.
Thus in 1937, Ben Gurion stated:
“The compulsory transfer of Arabs from the valleys of the proposed Jewish state could give us something which we never had, even when we stood on our own feet during the days of the First and Second Temple.”
And in a letter to his son, also in 1937, he stated:
“We must expel the Arabs and take their places and if we have to use force, to guarantee our own right to settle in those places then we have force at our disposal.”
And in early 1948 Ben Gurion wrote in his War Diary,
"During the assault we must be ready to strike the decisive blow; that is, either to destroy the towns or expel its inhabitants so our people can replace them."
And in February 1948, Ben Gurion told Yoseph Weitz, director of the settlement of the Jewish National Fund and head of the official Transfer Committee of 1948:
“The war will give us land. The concept of 'ours' and 'not ours' are peace concepts, only, in war they lose their whole meaning.”
And in 1940, Joseph Weitz, who was head of land purchasing for the World Jewish Organization, and head of one of several ‘transfer committees’ (committees to study ways of transferring the Arabs from Palestine) wrote:
“Between ourselves it must be clear that here is no room for both peoples together in this country. We shall not achieve our goal if the Arabs are in this country. There is no other way than to transfer the Arabs from here to neighboring countries – all of them. Not one village, not one tribe, should be left.”
And in 1983, Raphael Eytan, then chief of staff of the Israeli Defence Forces, said,
“We declare openly that the Arabs have no right to settle on even one centimeter of Eretz Israel …Force is all they do or ever will understand. We shall use the ultimate force until the Palestinians come crawling to us on all fours….When we have settled the land, all the Arab will be able to do will be to scurry around like drugged cockroaches in a bottle.”
Exactly why the indigenous people of Palestine do not have right to live on the land of their and their ancestors births, or why the colonial European Jews have this right, Mr. Eytan is silent.
And in 2002. Moshe Yaalon, chief of staff of the Israeli Defense Force, said,
“The Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people.”
Between the time that Israel declared itself a state in May of 1948 and the summer of 2005, Israel killed 50,000 Palestinians, according to Israeli Historian Ilan Pappe. And since October of 2000, Israel has killed 6348 Palestinians, according to the web site, “If American Knew”. The latter figure averages to about 2 Palestinians killed per day by Israel (1.932, by my calculation.)
One thing is certain: Israel is not the victim, as it is constantly screaming, but the victimizer.
What then is the conflict all about? What is the theme that runs through the entire history of Zionism?
It is about the ongoing program of Zionism to destroy the Palestinians as a people and to assume possession of their ancestral land.
There are Zionists who would settle for a two state solution and a withdrawal of the Israel presence to the 1967 borders allowing a mini-Palestinian state on the remaining 22% of Palestine. But the reality on the ground is that Israel has expanded beyond the point of retreat with 300,000 settlers in the West Bank, 183,000 in East Jerusalem, as of this writing, with 200 or more settlements in the West Bank some twice the size of Manhattan containing their own, schools, universities, shopping malls and the billions of dollars of invested infrastructure, both private and public, and a segregated, for-Jews-only, highway system, 300 miles long, cutting up the West Bank with Palestinians imprisoned between these disjoint concrete and asphalt barriers.
But whatever the views of these moderate Zionists, who call for contraction to the ’67 borders, the dynamics of Israel is and has always been expansion. The centrifugal forces pushing the expansion are multivaried and complicated. They are religious, they are military, they are for want of security, they are from want of power for its own sake, but they are persistent and they have an entire century of momentum and a century of Zionism on the move.
What the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is all about then is the destruction of the Palestinian people and their evacuation and the complete takeover of Palestine to the Jordan River by the Jewish state. And what hangs win the balance is whether or not the Palestinians will be destroyed and eliminated as a people with a distinct culture and history and with an attachment to the land of their birth and their parent’s and ancestor’s births.
- William James Martin teaches in the Department of Mathematics at the University of New Orleans. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: [email protected].