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The Case Against Israel

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    The Case Against Israel The Core of Zionism By MICHAEL NEUMANN January 26, 2006 http://www.counterpunch.org/ Editors Note: This month CounterPunch Books
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 7, 2006
      The Case Against Israel

      The Core of Zionism
      January 26, 2006

      Editors' Note: This month CounterPunch Books publishes Michael
      Neumann's The Case Against Israel, a bracing and tightly argued
      counterblast to the nonsense peddled by Alan Dershowitz in The Case
      For Israel. What follows is Neumann's core thesis. We strongly
      encourage CounterPunchers to order this book, either through this site
      or you can Call Becky Grant or Deva Wheeler at 800-840-3683 or email
      us. AC/JSC.

      What matters for an understanding of the Israel/Palestine conflict is
      what the expression 'a Jewish state' would mean to any reasonable
      person. What, in particular, could the Palestinians reasonably expect
      when they heard that such a state was to be established in Palestine?

      The state itself--the human community--is, everywhere in the world, an
      absolute dictator bound neither by morality nor by law. Even in the
      most impeccable democracy, there are ways to institute anything humans
      can do to one another. Frequently, as in the case of the democratic
      Weimar Republic of Germany, just invoking emergency legislation is
      quite enough to open the gates of hell.

      For the Zionists to demand a state, any state, was therefore no small
      thing for anyone--like the Palestinians--falling within its proposed
      boundaries. But what the Zionists demanded was a Jewish state. Whether
      this was racism is not of any immediate concern. For one thing, to say
      that something is racist is not, for many people, immediately to say
      that it is unjustified: there are those, for instance, who accept
      affirmative action as 'reverse' racism yet still defend it. For
      another, the project might have begun as racist yet outgrown its
      racism by instituting sufficient protections for non-Jews. Or it might
      not have outgrown it altogether, but exhibited a form of racism that,
      though reprehensible, was not particularly virulent. It, therefore,
      does not seem particularly fruitful to examine whether Zionism was racism.

      When a state is described in relation to the territory it controls,
      its ethnic character is open. The French state is not necessarily a
      state for some ethnic group called Frenchmen, just as the Belgian or
      Yugoslav or Jamaican state weren't states for ethnic groups of that
      name. But a Catholic state would be a state run by Catholics; a black
      state would be a state run by blacks; a heterosexual state would be
      run by heterosexuals. This could hardly be clearer: what would be
      Catholic or black or heterosexual about a state not run by at least
      some members of those groups?

      When, as in the post-World-War-I era, the ideology of
      self-determination added to the picture, the expectation develops
      further. Now it is that ethnic states would be run not just by members
      of their ethnic groups, but in some sense by those ethnic groups
      themselves. At the very least, such states would be governed in the
      name of those group members in the area. This would amount to
      something more than a formality. Thus, an Armenian state would be not
      simply have Armenian rulers. These rulers would truly govern in the
      name of Armenians. They would not just claim to act for their Armenian
      subjects or citizens, but would genuinely rule on their behalf, that
      is, for their benefit. The Armenian inhabitants might--and from
      Wilson's standpoint, would--be governed democratically, by themselves.
      If not, one would hope and expect that they would be governed for
      themselves, or for, in the interests of, Armenians as a whole.

      A Jewish state would, therefore, be a state run by and for Jews. In
      such a state, Jews would be sovereign. The state would be run in their

      For non-Jews to expect as much was and is, therefore, entirely
      reasonable. Only a consistent, ongoing, highly public campaign to
      explain that this was certainly not going to happen would be
      sufficient to dispel this expectation. Nothing remotely like that
      occurred. So, it is worth reviewing what living under Jewish
      sovereignty must mean.

      It means that Jews have a monopoly on violence in the areas they
      control. The perceived legitimacy of this monopoly need go no further
      than a settled expectation familiar to Star Trek fans: resistance is
      futile. A Jewish state is simply a state where Jews are firmly in
      control and where that much is recognized. Within its borders, Jews
      hold the power of life and death over Jews and non-Jews alike. That is
      the true meaning of the Zionist project.

      If that's what the project is and was, there are a lot of things it
      wasn't. The Jews who came to Palestine as individuals and in small
      groups had various motives. But the overall direction of the Zionist
      movement, the ultimate goal to which all these individuals and groups
      would be directed and the one which it would in fact achieve, is
      something else again. Most accounts of the settlement do not focus on
      this ultimate purpose, and are therefore misleading. The Zionists and
      their camp followers did not come simply to settle. They did not come
      simply to 'find a homeland', certainly not in the sense that Flanders
      is the homeland of the Flemish, or Lappland of the Lapps. They did not
      come simply to 'make a life in Palestine'. They did not come simply to
      find a refuge from persecution. They did not come to 'redeem a
      people'. All this could have been done elsewhere, as was pointed out
      at the time, and much of it was being done elsewhere by individual
      Jewish immigrants to America and other countries. The Zionists, and
      therefore all who settled under their auspices, came to found a
      sovereign Jewish state.

      In this state, however tolerant, however easygoing, however joyful,
      however liberal, Jews would always have the final say, on everything.
      Affairs would be run in the interests of whatever its rulers or
      inhabitants considered the interests of the Jewish people. Within that
      state, the final decision on how much force was to be used to advance
      those interests was entirely in the hands of its Jewish occupants.
      This does not have to mean that non-Jews had no representation, no say
      at all. It does not mean that non-Jews had no civil rights, or that
      their human rights would necessarily be violated. But it does mean
      that--since it is the essence of a Zionist state to be Jewish, run by
      and for Jews--things would always be arranged so that sovereignty
      remained in Jewish hands. This might be by law or it might be by
      political manipulation; it might be de jure or de facto. So it would
      be for Jews alone to decide whether non-Jews had civil rights, whether
      their human rights would be honored, indeed whether they would live or
      die. The purpose of establishing a sovereign Jewish state may or may
      not have been domination; that doesn't matter. That would certainly be
      the effect of its establishment.

      What then of the claims that Zionism wasn't necessarily the demand for
      a sovereign Jewish state? Certainly, there were people who called
      themselves Zionists and who demanded something else, though what it
      was always remained obscure. There was talk of a state; its mechanisms
      never clearly defined. There was talk of a homeland guaranteed by
      international powers, or simply a homeland. It would be correct to say
      that not all Jewish settlers demanded a Jewish state, and that some of
      these settlers considered themselves Zionists. It would be incorrect
      to say that the Zionist project or enterprise was anything less than
      an attempt to establish a Jewish State.

      In the first place, we have seen that a Jewish state was the objective
      of the Zionist leadership and the mainstream Zionist movement. Second,
      by the time 'nonexclusive' Zionism had become visible, in the 1920s,
      its notions of cooperation with the Palestinians had already become
      unworkable. Too much blood had been shed: the 1921 Jaffa riots had
      taken 200 Jewish and 120 Palestinian lives, followed in 1929 by the
      killing of 207 Jews and 181 Palestinians in Hebron. A contemporary
      Jewish comment on the first serious anti-Jewish riots, in 1920,
      already asserts that in Palestine there was a general understanding
      that Zionism would mean a Jewish state, and that this understanding
      ushered in bloodshed:

      "...we all know how the [Balfour] Declaration was interpreted at the
      time of its publication, and how much exaggeration many of our workers
      and writers have tried to introduce into it from that day to this. The
      Jewish people listened, and believed that the end of the galush
      [exile] had indeed come, and that in a short time there would be a
      'Jewish state.' The Arab people too... listened, and believed that the
      Jews were coming to expropriate its land and do with it what they
      liked. All this inevitably led to friction and bitterness on both
      sides, and contributed to the state of things which was revealed in
      all its ugliness in the events at Jerusalem last April [1920]. " (Ahad
      Ja'Am [Asher Ginzberg], "After the Balfour Declaration", 1920,
      reprinted in Gary Smith, ed., Zionism: The Dream and the Reality,
      London 1974.)

      The British showed as little capacity or indeed inclination to curb
      the ethnic violence as they were to show in India and many other
      possessions. I know of no case in which cooperation between ethnic
      communities followed anytime soon on massacres of this scale. Third,
      even most 'nonexclusive' Zionists were not distinguished by an
      explicit renunciation of a Jewish state, but rather by a commitment to
      partition Palestine rather than go for the whole thing. By then, the
      Palestinians correctly saw that the main tendency of Zionism was to
      create a Jewish state in Palestine, the intentions of a tiny
      nonexclusive minority with nebulous plans for some implausibly
      cooperative two-people government had no point of contact with the
      political realities.

      This is probably why the 'nonexclusives' remained, in the words of
      Norman Finkelstein, "numerically weak and politically marginal."

      Michael Neumann is a professor of philosophy at Trent University in
      Ontario, Canada. Professor Neumann's views are not to be taken as
      those of his university. His book What's Left: Radical Politics and
      the Radical Psyche has just been republished by Broadview Press. He
      contributed the essay, "What is Anti-Semitism", to CounterPunch's
      book, The Politics of Anti-Semitism. This essay is excerpted from
      Neumann's new book, The Case Against Israel. He can be reached at:
      mneumann @ trentu.ca.



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