Bibi Netanyahu has been making strange mouth noises again. With the certainty of one who has lost all terrestrial contact with reality, Bibi is convinced the Holocaust idea was whispered into Hitler’s ears by the Muslim cleric Amin al-Husseini. Plumbing deeper the depths of unreason, he went on to say he wants full control over West Bank, till things eventually stabilise — a time frame so generously elastic in Israel’s favour he may well declare the new Kingdom of David. But that’s Netanyahu, the kind of man who breaks into your house in the middle of the night, seizes your property, throws you to the streets, and then graciously offers you some space in the back quarters of your own house on the mildly insane condition that you respect the ‘stability’ of his happy existence.
But as with Bibi’s mental health, Zionism itself is in crisis. In the late 19th century, with the horror of Jewish persecution in most of Europe, the economic backing of an ascendant Jewish merchant class, the ground support of a rabbinical clergy hungry for relevance in its post-enlightenment irrelevancy — there it all was, the narrative, the backing, the divine mandate; an oil tanker that awaited the Zionist spark. The man to light the match stick was Theodore Herzl: a man without a religion, for a religion without a land. In an 1895 diary entry, Herzl wrote: “We shall endeavour to expel the poor population across the border unnoticed, procuring employment for it in the transit countries, but denying it any employment in our country.” He later added: “The process of expropriation and removal of poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly.”
Luck was on his side. In 1916, a war-weary Britain fighting the central powers needed America and Russia on its side. In this backdrop, a little money and political influence of some powerful Jews was most welcome. And so, the colonialists courted the Zionists. In 1918, this became official in the Balfour declaration. The Arabs protested, but Lord Balfour had this to say: “In Palestine we do not even propose to consult the inhabitants of the country … Zionism has its roots in ancient tradition, in immediate needs and in hopes for the future that are much more important than the desires and prejudices of 700,000 Arabs who presently inhabit Palestine.” The First World War ended with the British prevailing over the Ottoman Turks and Palestinian land falling under the British Mandate. This is when the Jews started entering Palestine, mostly through land purchase. In the 1930s, almost a quarter of a million Jews had entered Arab lands, sparking the Arab revolt (1936-1939). Some 5,000 Palestinian Arabs died at the hands of Jewish militias. For perspective: from eight per cent in 1917, the Jewish population expanded to 30 per cent by 1947, though the Jews still owned less than 10 per cent of Palestinian land. Matters were escalated to the UN and Arab hopes were high. The UN gave its verdict: the most senseless partition plan in the history of partition plans. Palestinian territory was to be split up, and Jews who owned 10 per cent of the land were handed 55 per cent of the territory, a sad day for Palestinians and the rules of arithmetic. Fighting ensued. Roughly 700,000 Palestinians fled their lands. For them, this was the day of the Nakba (catastrophe). For Israelis, it was a day of great celebration. Bitter and betrayed, the Arab armies attacked Israel — and lost. Israel went on to own 78 per cent of Palestinian land (Armistice lines, 1949). In 1967, the Arab countries attacked again — and lost again. This time Sinai, Golan Heights, West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, all went to Israel. The rest is history.
Here is the standard Israeli defence: burnt, shunned and persecuted across Europe in previous centuries, what were they to do? Murderous anti-Semitism made necessary a Jewish state, and what better place than Judea and Samaria. Besides, Muslims and Jews had existed in harmony during the Ottoman years. Yet the world still disapproves and reserves for Israel the ugliest double standards? The British and French cut the world up like deranged meat cleavers, the world remained silent. The Americans spoke the language of bombs, the world gently listened. The Muslims conquered India and demanded Pakistan, the world eagerly accepted. But come the question of Israel, and the world disapproves? That same world that stood still and watched as smoke rose from Auschwitz; when six million humans died and humanity with them. And what to say of the Arabs? When Egypt took over Gaza, the world turned away. When Jordan took over West Bank, the world yawned. When Israel proposed a return to Armistice borders, land swaps and end to settlements, Arafat declined. When Israel withdrew from Gaza, Gaza elected Hamas. The same Hamas which is more anti-Israel than it is pro-Palestine, and declares in its charter — its charter — the destruction of Israel as we know it.
Intifadas, Aliyahs, failed peace accords and death — this is the grotesque plotline of this Israel-Palestine narrative. What is clear is that things cannot carry on like this. Israel is five-feet deep already; it must stop digging. The erection of giant walls snaking through the West Bank, the expanding settlements, the inhuman blockade of Gaza and the disproportionate use of force (80 per cent civilian deaths is not ‘collateral damage’, it is genocide); no, this is not survival for security, this is an arrogant contempt for international law of a country stuck to the wrong side of history. If things remain the same, America will ultimately be forced to withdraw from Israel all its support, and things could well go the way of the South African apartheid regime which tumbled down the precipice the moment America released its grip.
The truth for the Zionists is this: Israel’s ceaseless border expansion is making a two-state solution increasingly impossible, and this means Israel is surviving on borrowed time. With the return of Palestinian refugees, this could mean either a Jewish apartheid state (where a Jewish minority rules an Arab majority), which the world will not accept; or a democratic secular state (according to Israel’s own declaration of independence) and that would mean, by simple demographics, the end of Zionism.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 13th, 2015.