The Root of the Mid-East Conflict and the Reason Our Government Supports Israel’s Government
Here are the notes I used for my talk June 23, 2010 at the Watertown, Massachusetts, public library, hosted by Massachusetts Residents for International Human Rights, which is extending the work (see SDP Press Statement (pdf)) of the Somerville Divestment Project to towns throughout Massachusetts.
A. Virtually every American politician, Jewish or not, supports the Israeli government virtually unconditionally. On his recent trip to Israel, Vice President Biden referred to Israel as “his home.” Secretary of State Clinton in her March 22 speech to AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) said, “We are committed to Israel and its security.” Whenever there is a UN resolution critical of Israel, our government vetoes it. When Judge Richard Goldstone, a pro-Israel South African Jewish judge who headed a UN fact-finding commission concluded from a thorough investigation of the Israeli attack on Gaza 18 months ago that Israel and Hamas had both committed “war crimes and breaches of humanitarian law, which may amount to crimes against humanity” the U.S. House of Representatives condemned the report as “irredeemably biased and unworthy of further consideration or legitimacy” and President Obama dismissed it as ‘one-sided and flawed.” But no American politician has ever identified a false statement in the report.
B. According to a Congressional Research Report for Congress, “Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II. Since 1985, the United States has provided nearly $3 billion in grants annually to Israel. Almost all U.S. bilateral aid to Israel is in the form of military assistance. In the past, Israel also had received significant economic assistance. Strong congressional support for Israel has resulted in Israel’s receiving benefits not available to other countries. For example, Israel can use some U.S. military assistance both for research and development in the United States and for military purchases from Israeli manufacturers. In addition, all U.S. foreign assistance earmarked for Israel is delivered in the first 30 days of the fiscal year. Most other recipients normally receive aid in installments. Congress also appropriates funds for joint U.S.-Israeli missile defense programs.”
C. Why are all U.S. politicians and mainstream media so pro-Israel?
i. The pro-establishment explanation goes like this: Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, it is the only haven for the survivors of the Holocaust, it is surrounded by anti-Semitic enemies who want to drive the Jews into the sea, and the reason all American politicians support Israel even though they may disagree about everything else is because only a nasty anti-Semitic bigot would not support Israel.
ii. You may not have ever heard the anti-establishment explanation. It goes like this: The Israeli government has the virtual unconditional support of all American politicians because they are all beholden to the American billionaire upper class. The upper class uses Israel to strengthen their control over ordinary Americans. It works like this. Israel unjustly attacks Palestinians in ways I will discuss shortly. This makes the Palestinians angry, some of them even violent. The American media then tell Americans that we must defend Israel and that Arabs and Muslims all hate Israel and America because they are hate-filled anti-Semitic terrorists. An Orwellian “war on terror” mentality is created. Then our leaders tell us, “You need to obey us because no matter how much we enrich the upper class at your expense, we are, after all, the only ones protecting you from the real enemy—Muslim terrorists. Now please take off your shoes at the airport and, by the way, we’re tapping your phone—national security, you understand.”
iii. Which explanation is right? You be the judge. But to make an informed decision one needs to understand what is the root of the conflict in the Middle East.
D. The root of the conflict is the establishment, by Jews calling themselves Zionists, of a Jewish state—Israel--in 78% of Palestine in 1948. To establish this state, Zionist leaders ethnically cleansed it of non-Jews, by which I mean they forcibly removed at least 750,000 of the approximately 900,000 non-Jews—Palestinians—from their villages inside the new Jewish state between 1947 and 1949. They removed them simply because they were not Jewish. Zionist leaders confiscated the land and all movable property of these Palestinians. The Israeli government continues to this day to deny these refugees their right to return to their country (i.e. inside Israel) and their right to receive compensation for the land and other property that the state of Israel stole from them—the same rights that the German government and the entire world does not dare deny to Jews who suffered at the hands of the Nazis. The Palestinian refugees and their descendants, many who are living in refugee camps in places like Lebanon and Gaza, now number at least 4 million. 75% of the people in Gaza are refugees, many of whom still have the keys to their former houses inside Israel.
Zionists claim that no refugees were violently forced to flee, that they all did so voluntarily, and that they thereby forfeited their right of return. The “voluntariness” of the flight of the refugees is factually untrue, as even Israeli (including pro-Zionist) historians (such as Ilan Pappe and the notoriously pro-Zionist Benny Morris) have documented. But Zionists who use this argument to justify denying the Palestinian refugees’ right of return would never dare suggest that, by exactly the same reasoning, an American Jew who voluntarily travels to Europe for vacation, or who emigrates to Israel, thereby forfeits his right to return to the United States. This selective application of their “logic” reveals the utter racism of anybody using this argument to justify denying Palestinians’ right of return. The argument is inherently racist regardless of whether the Palestinians left voluntarily or were, as was the case, driven out with violence.
The Palestine/Israel conflict is framed in our mass media as a conflict between peace-desiring Jews and hate-filled anti-Semitic Arabs, but that is wrong; it is a conflict between those who support inequality—specifically Israeli governmental discrimination against people simply because they are not Jewish—and those who support equality.
The notion that the current conflict is just a continuation of centuries of hatred between Arabs and Jews is just plain historically untrue. Before Zionist Jews began immigrating to and colonizing Palestine at the end of the 19th century with the aim of turning it into an exclusively Jewish state, relations between Muslims and Jews in that part of the world were, in comparison with Europe, very peaceful and harmonious. Jews expelled from Spain in 1492, for example, fled to the Muslim Ottoman Empire where they were welcomed and prospered.
Yes, the Palestinian so-called leader—Amin el Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, was a reactionary nationalist who allied with Hitler against Britain, but this hardly proves that the conflict is between anti-Semitic Arabs and Jews, as two facts alone demonstrate:
Fact #1. One of the Zionist militias itself—the National Military Organization (“Stern Gang”)—sought an alliance with Hitler in 1941, sending a document to the Nazis that said:
“The NMO [the [Zionist] National Military Organization], which is well-acquainted with the goodwill of the German Reich government and its authorities towards Zionist activity inside Germany and towards Zionist emigration plans, is of the opinion that:
1. Common interests could exist between the establishment of a New Order in Europe in conformity with the German concept, and the true national aspirations of the Jewish people as they are embodied by the NMO.
2. Cooperation between the new Germany and a renewed volkish-national Hebrium would be possible and
3. The establishment of the historical Jewish state on a national and totalitarian basis, and bound by a treaty with the German Reich, would be in the interest of a maintained and strengthened future German position of power in the Near East.”
Fact #2. The British Foreign Office, not Palestinians, installed Amin el Husseini as the Mufti of Jerusalem in 1921 precisely because he was so reactionary. The majority of Palestine Arabs never took part in this decision, nor were they even allowed to vote in elections at this time.
The Palestinian’s unelected so-called leader was pro-Nazi, but the Germans’ unelected leader was Adolph Hitler, himself. We don’t say that the German people are therefore all anti-Semites who should be evicted from most of Germany to make it a Jewish State, so why should we demand it of the Palestinian people, whom nobody accuses of being responsible for the Holocaust?
Many Jews who oppose inequality everywhere else, who opposed South Africa’s apartheid and the Jim Crow laws that existed in the American South for example, and who would never support a White State or a Black State or a Christian State or a Muslim State or an Aryan State, nonetheless make an exception for a Jewish State. If there is time later, I will discuss their reasons for making this exception, and why these reasons are based on false beliefs.
But let’s start by looking at what a Jewish State actually means.
E. A Jewish state is:
i. A state of the “Jewish people” and not a state of all its citizens
a. A state in which the sovereign authority is the Jewish people [Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel], and not all of its citizens (as is the case with normal states.).
b. A state in which (according to section 7A(1) of the Basic law of Israel: "A candidates' list shall not participate in elections to the Knesset if among its goals or deeds, either expressly or impliedly, are one of the following: (1) The negation of the existence of the State of Israel as the State of the Jewish People.…"
c. A state based on both de jure and de facto discrimination against non-Jews:
o Israel’s Law of Return allows any Jew to automatically immigrate to Israel, but Palestinian refugees who were driven out of Israel are not allowed to return.
o Israel’s State Education Law says the purpose of elementary education for all citizens, including non-Jewish citizens, is to teach “the values of Jewish culture” and “loyalty to the State and the Jewish people”. The law does not recognize any other religion or culture.
o Every resident over 16 years old must carry an identification card that indicates whether Jewish or not (only Jews have their birth date as a Hebrew calendar date.)
o Only Jews (and a tiny Druze minority) are drafted into the military, but many important state welfare and housing benefits are only for those who served in the military or orthodox Jews who are exempted from such service.
o Palestinian Israelis have been ghettoized in small sections of Israel. Israel controls the land and permits for building on it. While Jewish neighborhoods grow unchecked, segregated Palestinian communities have not been allowed to expand. No new Arab areas have been created while hundreds of Jewish areas have been.
o Arab families living in houses built without permits (which are seldom granted to Arabs) are deprived of basic services by the state such as water and electricity, and face eviction and demolition.
o The Absentee Property Law of 1950 categorizes any Arab who never left what is now Israel but who, at any time between November 29, 1947 and 1950, left their own village (typically to seek safety in a neighboring village during the fighting) and who went to “a place in Palestine held at the time by forces which fought to prevent the establishment of the State of Israel” as a “present absentee.” Present absentees remain such forever, and their homes and property remain in the possession of the Custodian of Absentee Property, who puts the property at the disposal of Jews. There are about 250,000 present absentees.
o Laws in Israel discriminate against non-Jews in ways designed to make the discrimination less obvious than South African apartheid laws. For example, the Specified Goods Tax and Luxury Tax Law authorizes the Minister of Finance to designate classes of persons for favorable treatment when they bring goods into Israel after residence abroad. Under this authorization, the minister issued the Purchase Tax Order (Exemption), which called for a lower import duty to be collected from a returning national than from a returning resident. The order defined ‘returning national’ to include only a person who, ‘if the person were not an Israeli national the Law of Return would apply to him.’ Thus, only a Jewish citizen of Israel is a returning national. An Arab citizen of Israel is a returning resident and pays a higher customs duty. By making eligibility under the Law of Return the criterion, the minister used an explicitly ethnic basis of distinction without using the word “Jew” at all. This is typical of many Israeli laws and regulations.
ii. A Jewish state is a state whose population must always be at least 80% Jewish.
a. As early as the end of the 19th century, Zionist leaders knew that Palestine was not “a land without a people for a people without a land” as Zionist propaganda for ordinary Jews claimed. A 19th century Zionist conference in Vienna sent a couple of rabbis to Palestine and instructed them to, “Let us know if this is a suitable place for a Jewish state.” The rabbis went, they had a look, and they sent back this message to Vienna: they said, “The bride is beautiful, but she is married to another man.”
b. Israeli historian, Ilan Pappe's, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, page 48 of the hardcover edition, provides the following quotation from a speech by David Ben-Gurion (later Israel's first prime minister) given on December 3, 1947 in front of senior members of his Mapai party (the Eretz Israel Workers Party), in which he said (referring to the UN partition resolution): "There are 40% non-Jews in the areas allocated to the Jewish state. This composition is not a solid basis for a Jewish state. And we have to face this new reality with all of its severity and distinctness. Such a demographic balance questions our ability to maintain Jewish sovereignty...Only a state with at least 80% Jews is a viable and stable state."
c. Before Israel declared itself an independent state in 1948 only 38% of its population was Jewish.
d. Zionist militias in 1947-9 violently expelled 75% of the non-Jews (Palestinians) from the 78% of Palestine that is now called Israel.
e. Benny Morris, in a famous interview with Ha’aretz newspaper, discusses how David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, deliberately "transferred" the Arab population out of Israel's new borders:
BM: "Of course. Ben-Gurion was a transferist. He understood that there could be
no Jewish state with a large and hostile Arab minority in its midst. There would
be no such state. It would not be able to exist."
Ha'aretz: "I don't hear you condemning him."
BM: "Ben-Gurion was right. If he had not done what he did, a state would not have come into being. That has to be clear. It is impossible to evade it. Without the uprooting of the Palestinians, a Jewish state would not have arisen here."
o This uprooting of the Palestinians is a crime against humanity under international law.
o Forcible expulsion of people from their country because they are the wrong ethnicity is ethnic cleansing.
f. All the land and other property of the expelled Palestinians was confiscated by the Zionists and never returned or paid for.
o The UN Conciliation Commission estimated that about 80% of the land in what is now Israel is property formerly owned by Palestinians that was confiscated by Jewish organizations like the Jewish Agency. Palestinians are forbidden by Israeli law from owning it. The (Jewish) Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs describes the Jewish Agency as “a quasi-public, voluntary institution sharing many, often overlapping functional jurisdictions with government.” Of all the land in Israel that may be legally sold, 67% of it may not legally be sold to non-Jews, but can be sold to Jews.
iii. The Jewish state considers a fifth of its population who are not Jewish to be a problem.
a. Israel’s Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, advocates redrawing Israel’s vaguely defined border to include Jews living outside the current border and to exclude most of its non-Jewish citizens who live inside the current border.
iv. The Jewish state was conceived as a state of the conquerors of the native peoples:
a. Theodor Herzl, the founder of the modern Zionist movement, in his 1897 book, The Jewish State, wrote: “Will people say, again, that our enterprise is hopeless, because even if we obtained the land with supremacy over it, [only] the [economically] poor [Jews] would go with us? It is precisely the poorest whom we need at first. Only the desperate make good conquerors” [pg. 155].
v. Is Israel a democracy? True, Israeli politicians are elected. True, non-Jewish citizens of Israel can vote and even hold office, like the Palestinian, Azmi Bishara, who was a member of the Knesset but then was charged with treason and is now a fugitive, because he advocated that Israel be a state of all its citizens, not a state of the Jewish people. But here’s the elephant in the living room: more than 4 million people who, were it not for Zionist ethnic cleansing, would live inside Israel and vote in Israeli elections, cannot vote in those elections or even live in Israel. In a democracy the people choose the government. But in Israel, the government chooses the people—the Jewish people. Holding an election, after you’ve driven almost all of the “wrong” people out of the country, does not a democracy make!
F. Why do lots of ordinary Jews support Zionist inequality?
i. They believe (because they have been taught so for centuries by Jewish leaders) a racist stereotype about all non-Jews (i.e. Gentiles): that Gentiles are all, for some mysterious irrational and timeless reason, innately anti-Semitic, even if only covertly. Note that this is a racist (against Gentiles) stereotype, one of the last such racial stereotypes that some supposedly sophisticated people still believe. For Jews to be safe in an anti-Semitic world, many Jews believe, there must be an exclusively Jewish state armed to the teeth and willing to do whatever it takes to exist, be it ethnic cleansing and all of the barbarity that requires, or even making credible threats to wage thermonuclear war. Instead of seeking to end the specific injustices that sometimes lead to anti-Semitism, and thereby abolish anti-Semitism, Zionists have no intention of ending anti-Semitism; they only use its existence to justify their exclusively Jewish State. Thus:
a. Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism in 1897 wrote in his book, The Jewish State:
“Anti-Semitism increases day by day and hour by hour among the nations; indeed it is bound to increase, because the causes of its growth continue to exist and cannot be removed.”
“The nations in whose midst Jews live are all either covertly or openly Anti-Semitic.”
“…the longer Anti-Semitism lies in abeyance the more fiercely will it break out.”
b. In fact there is nothing mysterious, innate or permanent about anti-Semitism.
The anti-Semitism of European peasants in past centuries arose because of their anger at being oppressed as virtual slaves by a small upper class of aristocrats who employed rich Jews to do the dirty work of exploiting the peasants. Even the poorest Jews (none of whom were peasants) were far better off than the peasants; they lived in towns and they were employed by rich Jews as tailors etc. Their contact with peasants was minimal and often adversarial economically. Jews lived as self-governing communities, apart from the peasants. There is nothing mysterious about why anti-Jewish feelings developed among peasants and when violence broke out in the worst pogrom prior to the Holocaust—the Chmielnicki pogroms of 1648, in what was then Poland and now the Ukraine, peasants attacked the Christian upper class and clergy even more ferociously than they attacked Jews. The way to end this source of anti-Semitism is to end class inequality.
Kings and Queens used Jews in pre-modern times as merchants and money-lenders, but when it was convenient (e.g. Spain and England) they ordered the Jews to leave and confiscated their wealth. Nothing mysterious there either. Ending class inequality would eliminate this source of anti-Jewish violence as well.
Zionist leaders portray Palestinian anger at Zionism as irrational, mysterious, timeless anti-Semitism, rather than rational and justifiable anger at ethnic cleansing and inequality. It is just a false explanation.
ii. Wealthy Jews for a long time have taught ordinary Jews to fear gentiles because this makes it easier for them to control ordinary Jews. The Jewish upper class of billionaires in Israel wants ordinary Jews to fear Palestinians for the same reason. It is only by keeping ordinary Jews more frightened of Palestinians than of the Israeli upper class that the Israeli upper class can get away with enriching themselves at the expense of the Jewish population of Israel. The Jewish upper class attack on Israeli Jews was described by The Jewish Forward.
a. In 2006 it wrote: "Israel’s growing population of retirees has been reduced to a state of profound economic insecurity in recent years, as self-styled economic reformers have hollowed out the Jewish state’s time-honored system of care for the elderly. Pensions have been frozen. Social security payments, known in Israel as national insurance, have been relentlessly whittled away — cut by 35% in a single decade. Health care and prescription drug coverage have been slashed, along with funds for senior housing and assisted living. It’s part of a deliberate move by Jerusalem policy-makers to modernize Israel’s economy, by which they mean to remodel it along American lines. Determined to bury the socialist ethos of Israel’s founders, successive governments since the mid-1980s have slashed income supports and welfare payments even as they’ve privatized and deregulated industries, opened capital markets to international competition and reduced workers’ job security (they call it “liberalizing labor laws”). Over the past three years, under the economic leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu, the reforms have been ramped up to a revolution."
iii. What about the suicide bombers and the rockets that Hamas aims at Jewish civilians? The fact that some Palestinians wrongly target violence against Israeli Jewish non-combatants is no excuse for the immoral ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. It is no more an excuse than was the Nat Turner slave rebellion in 1831 in our country that wrongly killed 40 innocent white children an excuse that justified slavery. No injustice is excused by the wrong things its victims may do in their effort to stop it.
iv. Furthermore, if Israel granted Palestinians their right of return and compensation, the conflict would end, and any remaining Palestinian individuals who still committed violence against Israeli non-combatant civilians would be considered—by Palestinians—to be a criminal who should be arrested and tried for a crime. It is only the ethnic cleansing that creates any substantial Palestinian support for violence against Jewish non-combatants.
G. What does the OTHER SIDE want—the side that wants equality, not inequality?
i. We want the right of Palestinian refugees (more than 4 million) to return to their homes and villages inside of Israel and be compensated for property that Zionists stole from them.
a. Just as Jews are allowed to return to Germany and have been compensated for property that the Nazis stole from them. Not only the Jews who fled from the Nazis but also their children born outside of Germany are allowed by Germany to return to Germany and receive compensation for what was stolen by the Nazis from their parents. Refugees have a right of return under international law, and the children of refugees born elsewhere are legally refugees as well, as acknowledged by the United Nations specifically for the Palestinian case.
b. The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights says (Article 13(2)): “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.”
c. The right of the refugees to return is the #1 issue for most Palestinians. An opinion poll of Palestinians reports: “Right of Return Not Negotiable, Say Palestinians July 01, 2008 (Angus Reid Global Monitor) - The vast majority of people in the West Bank and Gaza would reject giving up the so-called right of return, according to a poll by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion. 89.8 per cent of respondents are not willing to compromise the right to re-occupy their land in Israel in exchange for the creation of a Palestinian state and a peace agreement.” [full article is at http://www.angus-reid.com/polls/view/31128/right_of_return_not_negotiable_say_palestinians ].
d. The “two state solution” is no solution at all because it is based on the premise that the Palestinian refugees will continue to be denied their individual human right to return to their country and be compensated for what was stolen from them, and this is the central grievance in the conflict.
Some say it would be a just solution if Israel paid reparations to the Palestinians and THEN denied them their right of return. It would not. Jews have the right to return to Germany and would rightfully declare it a travesty of justice if they were denied that right—reparations or no reparations. Who in this room would agree that if red-headed fanatics declared Massachusetts a “Red State” and drove all the rest out, it would make it ok if they paid reparations?
The premise of the “two state solution” is the racist principle that Palestinians are so anti-Semitic that Jews shouldn’t have to live with them as equals. Nothing good can come from this racist premise.
e. Is the right of return and compensation for stolen property practical? Economically speaking, yes. In 4.5 years a fund receiving most (not all!) of the income of the 18 wealthiest Israeli families could offer every Jewish Israeli who lives on stolen land a million U.S. dollars that they would be required to use either to buy their home from the rightful Palestinian owner (if the rightful owner agrees to sell) or buy another home so they could return the stolen one but not end up homeless.
f. What about politically speaking? Still yes. Most of those buying a new home would have to buy a newly constructed one, creating construction jobs and an economic boon that would benefit both Jews and Palestinians. Who would object? A few fanatical Zionists and the 18 wealthiest Israeli families is all. Most Israeli Jews would probably support such a solution, just as most (69%!) of South Africa’s whites, who were notoriously pro-apartheid until then, voted to abolish apartheid in 1992 when their leader, de Klerk, realizing that South African apartheid was condemned by the whole world, gave whites a green light to end it. When Israeli leaders are convinced that the world will ostracize Zionist Israel even more than it ostracized Apartheid South Africa, there will be an Israeli “de Klerk” and Israeli Jews, with a sigh of relief, will welcome the end of Zionism. This is why Americans must force our government to stop supporting Israel’s Zionist government.
ii. We want equality under the law for Jews and non-Jews.
iii. We want the abolition of states that are based on inequality such as ethnic cleansing.
a. Israel is such a state, just as was the slave-based Confederacy, the Master Race Aryan Third Reich, and the apartheid-based White South African state. Such states have no right to exist.
b. Abolishing a state based on inequality means abolishing inequality under the law; it does not mean denying anybody the right to live in the state: whites, for example, still live in South Africa after the apartheid state was abolished.
II. What does the U.S. mass media say is the root of the conflict? They never mention the ethnic cleansing. The blame the conflict exclusively on:
A. Arab/Muslim anti-Semitism
B. Irrational hatred of “our freedoms”
C. Disagreement over where to draw the border between Israel and a “Palestinian state” (“A fight between two peoples over one land”)
III. Why does the mass media cover up the truth?
A. The mass media studiously avoid explaining to the American public that ethnic cleansing is the root of the Palestine/Israel conflict.
B. By covering up the truth, they make the lie--that the cause of the conflict is irrational hateful anti-Semitism—more credible because it is the only explanation for the conflict allowed in the public discourse.
C. The American billionaire upper class controls Americans with Orwellian wars of social control. They are dramatically increasing economic inequality in the U.S. and reducing our liberties. To get away with that, what do they need? They need Americans to be more frightened of a foreign boogieman than of their real enemy—the American upper class. The American and Israeli upper class both use the “Arab boogieman” to control their own people.
D. When the Communist enemy vanished, Americans looked forward finally to a ‘peace dividend.’ America’s upper class needed a new enemy to justify the huge military industrial complex and the postponement of the peace dividend, and they decided to make the new enemy Arab/Muslim terrorism.
E. Palestinian anger at Israel, without the true reason for that anger being known, makes for a perfect boogieman to persuade Americans that they are surrounded by hate filled terrorists and that we must therefore obey our leaders who are waging a war on terror to protect us from that diabolical enemy.
F. Israel’s ethnic cleansing is necessary to produce the Palestinian anger. This is why the American billionaire ruling class, and all of the politicians beholden to it, supports Israel’s government virtually unconditionally. They support it as a means of controlling us.
IV. How should decent people respond to the Middle-East conflict? We should support equality, not Zionist ethnic cleansing. Equality is the way to make a better world for ordinary people from Watertown to Ramallah to Tel Aviv, and it is the only way to end racist ideologies such as anti-Semitism and Zionism. Let your fellow citizens of Watertown know that you oppose Zionism by voting Yes on the ballot question that calls for our government to support the right of all people, including non-Jewish Palestinian citizens of Israel, to live free from laws that give more rights to people of one religion than another.