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Jonathan Cook: Israel’s dead end

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    Israel s dead end Jonathan Cook http://www.ror1state.org/drupal/?q=en/node/85 This paper was presented in the 2008 Haifa Conference – for the right of return
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 5, 2008
      Israel's dead end
      Jonathan Cook

      This paper was presented in the 2008 Haifa Conference – for the
      right of return and the democratic secular state in Palestine.


      Historically, the principles of separation and transfer have been
      both antagonistic and complementary in Zionist thinking, reflected
      in competing and reinforcing visions of Israel-Palestine's future as
      either an ethnically cleansed state (Ben Gurion) or as an apartheid
      state (Jabotinsky). Since Oslo, however, the proponents of
      separation, most notably Ehud Barak and the Labor party, have
      confidently incorporated transfer by stealth into their ostensible
      programme of unilateral separation. Today, ethnic cleansing is being
      carried out in Gaza under the cover of Sharon's policy of
      disengagement and in the West Bank behind the mammoth wall. But can
      a programme of ethnic cleansing be successfully masked this way?

      Israel's dead end

      In 1895, Theodor Herzl, Zionism's chief prophet, confided in his
      diary that he did not favour sharing Palestine with the natives.
      Better, he wrote, to "try to spirit the penniless [Palestinian]
      population across the border by denying it any employment in our own
      country... Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the
      poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly."

      He was proposing a programme of Palestinian emigration enforced
      through a policy of strict separation between Jewish immigrants and
      the indigenous population. In simple terms, he hoped that, once
      Zionist organisations had bought up large areas of Palestine and
      owned the main sectors of the economy, Palestinians could be made to
      leave by denying them rights to work the land or labour in the
      Jewish-run economy. His vision was one of transfer, or ethnic
      cleansing, through ethnic separation.

      Herzl was suggesting that two possible Zionist solutions to the
      problem of a Palestinian majority living in Palestine -- separation
      and transfer -- were not necessarily alternatives but rather could
      be mutually reinforcing. Not only that: he believed, if they were
      used together, the process of ethnic cleansing could be made to
      appear voluntary, the choice of the victims. It may be that this was
      both his most enduring legacy and his major innovation to settler

      In recent years, with the Palestinian population under Israeli rule
      about to reach parity with the Jewish population, the threat of a
      Palestinian majority has loomed large again for the Zionists. Not
      surprisingly, debates about which of these two Zionist solutions to
      pursue, separation or transfer, have resurfaced.

      Today these solutions are ostensibly promoted by two ideological
      camps loosely associated with Israel's centre-left (Labour and
      Kadima) and right (Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu). The modern political
      arguments between them turn on differing visions of the nature of a
      Jewish state originally put forward by Labour and Revisionist

      To make sense of current political debates, and events, taking place
      inside Israel and in the West Bank and Gaza, let us first examine
      the history of these two principles in Zionist thinking.

      During the early waves of Jewish immigration to Palestine, the
      dominant Labour Zionist movement and its leader David Ben Gurion
      advanced policies much in line with Herzl's goal. In particular,
      they promoted the twin principles of "Redemption of the Land"
      and "Hebrew Labour", which took as their premise the idea that Jews
      needed to separate themselves from the native population in working
      the land and employing only other Jews. By being entirely self-
      reliant in Palestine, Jews could both "cure" themselves of their
      tainted Diaspora natures and deprive the Palestinians of the
      opportunity to subsist in their own homeland.

      At the forefront of this drive was the Zionist trade union
      federation, the Histadrut, which denied membership to Palestinians
      and, for many years after the establishment of the Jewish state,
      even to the remnants of the Palestinian population who became
      Israeli citizens.

      But if separation was the official policy of Labour Zionism, behind
      the scenes Ben Gurion and his officials increasingly appreciated
      that it would not be enough in itself to achieve their goal of a
      pure ethnic state. Land sales remained low, at about six per cent of
      the territory, and the Jewish-owned parts of the economy relied on
      cheap Palestinian labour.

      Instead, the Labour Zionists secretly began working on a programme
      of ethnic cleansing. After 1937 and Britain's Peel Report proposing
      partition of Palestine, Ben Gurion was more open about transfer,
      recognising that a Jewish state would be impossible unless most of
      the indigenous population was cleared from within its borders.

      Israel's new historians have acknowledged Ben Gurion's commitment to
      transfer. As Benny Morris notes, for example, Ben Gurion "understood
      that there could be no Jewish state with a large and hostile Arab
      minority in its midst". The Israeli leadership therefore developed a
      plan for ethnic cleansing under cover of war, compiling detailed
      dossiers on the communities that needed to be driven out and then
      passing on the order, in Plan Dalet, to commanders in the field.
      During the 1948 war the new state of Israel was emptied of at least
      80 per cent of its indigenous population.

      In physically expelling the Palestinian population, Ben Gurion
      responded to the political opportunities of the day and recalibrated
      the Labour Zionism of Herzl. In particular he achieved the goal of
      displacement desired by Herzl while also largely persuading the
      world through a campaign of propaganda that the exodus of the
      refugees was mostly voluntary. In one of the most enduring Zionist
      myths, convincingly rebutted by modern historians, we are still told
      that the refugees left because they were told to do so by the Arab

      The other camp, the Revisionists, had a far more ambivalent attitude
      to the native Palestinian population. Paradoxically, given their
      uncompromising claim to a Greater Israel embracing both banks of the
      Jordan River (thereby including not only Palestine but also the
      modern state of Jordan), they were more prepared than the Labour
      Zionists to allow natives to remain where they were.

      Vladimir Jabotinsky, the leader of Revisionism, observed in 1938 --
      possibly in a rebuff to Ben Gurion's espousal of transfer --
      that, "it must be hateful for any Jew to think that the rebirth of a
      Jewish state should ever be linked with such an odious suggestion as
      the removal of non-Jewish citizens". The Revisionists, it seems,
      were resigned to the fact that the enlarged territory they desired
      would inevitably include a majority of Arabs. They were therefore
      less concerned with removing the natives than finding a way to make
      them accept Jewish rule.

      In 1923, Jabotinsky formulated his answer, one that implicitly
      included the notion of separation but not necessarily transfer:
      an "iron wall" of unremitting force to cow the natives into
      submission. In his words, the agreement of the Palestinians to their
      subjugation could be reached only "through the iron wall, that is to
      say, the establishment in Palestine of a force that will in no way
      be influenced by Arab pressure".

      An enthusiast of British imperial rule, Jabotinsky envisioned the
      future Jewish state in simple colonial terms, as a European elite
      ruling over the native population.

      Inside Revisionism, however, there was a shift from the idea of
      separation to transfer that mirrored developments inside Labour
      Zionism. This change was perhaps more opportunistic than
      ideological, and was particularly apparent as the Revisionists
      sensed Ben Gurion's success in forging a Jewish state through

      One of Jabotinsky disciples, Menachem Begin, who would later become
      a Likud prime minister, was leader in 1948 of the Irgun militia that
      committed one of the worst atrocities of the war. He led his
      fighters into the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin where they
      massacred over 100 inhabitants, including women and children.
      Savage enough though these events were, Begin and his followers
      consciously inflated the death toll to more than 250 through the
      pages of The New York Times. Their goal was to spread terror among
      the wider Palestinian population and encourage them to flee. He
      happily noted later: "Arabs throughout the country, induced to
      believe wild tales of 'Irgun butchery', were seized with limitless
      panic and started to flee for their lives. This mass flight soon
      developed into a maddened, uncontrollable stampede."

      Subsequently, other prominent figures on the right openly espoused
      ethnic cleansing, including the late General Rehavam Zeevi, whose
      Moledet Party campaigned in elections under the symbol of the Hebrew
      character "tet", for transfer. His successor, Benny Elon, a settler
      leader and rabbi, adopted a similar platform: "Only population
      transfer can bring peace".

      The intensity of the separation versus transfer debate subsided
      after 1948 and the ethnic cleansing campaign that removed most of
      the native Palestinian population from the Jewish state. The
      Palestinian minority left behind -- a fifth of the population but a
      group, it was widely assumed, that would soon be swamped by Jewish
      immigration -- was seen as an irritation but not yet as a threat. It
      was placed under a military government for nearly two decades, a
      system designed to enforce separation between Palestinians and Jews
      inside Israel. Such separation -- in education, employment and
      residence -- exists to this day, even if in a less extreme form.
      The separation-transfer debate was chiefly revived by Israel's war
      on the West Bank and Gaza in 1967. With Israel's erasure of the
      Green Line, and the effective erosion of the distinction between
      Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories, the problem of
      a Palestinian majority again loomed large for the Zionists.

      Cabinet debates from 1967 show the quandary faced by the government.
      Almost alone, Moshe Dayan favoured annexation of both the newly
      captured territories and the Palestinian population there. Others
      believed that such a move would be seen as transparently colonialist
      and rapidly degenerate into an apartheid system of Jewish citizens
      and Palestinian non-citizens. In their minds, Jabotinsky's solution
      of an iron wall was no longer viable.

      But equally, in a more media-saturated era, which at least paid lip-
      service to human rights, the government could see no way to expel
      the Palestinian population and annex the land, as Ben Gurion had
      done earlier. Also possibly, they could see no way of persuading the
      world that such expulsions should be characterised as voluntary.
      Israel therefore declined to move decisively in either direction,
      neither fully carrying out a transfer programme nor enforcing strict
      separation. Instead it opted for an apartheid model that
      accommodated Dayan's suggestion of a "creeping annexation" of the
      occupied territories that he rightly believed would go largely
      unnoticed by the West.

      The separation embodied in South African apartheid differed from
      Herzl's notion of separation in one important respect: in apartheid,
      the "other" population was a necessary, even if much abused,
      component of the political arrangement. As the exiled Palestinian
      thinker Azmi Bishara has noted, in South Africa "racial segregation
      was not absolute. It took place within a framework of political
      unity. The racist regime saw blacks as part of the system, an
      ingredient of the whole. The whites created a racist hierarchy
      within the unity."

      In other words, the self-reliance, or unilateralism, implicit in
      Herzl's concept of separation was ignored for many years of Israel's
      occupation. The Palestinian labour force was exploited by Israel
      just as black workers were by South Africa. This view of the
      Palestinians was formalised in the Oslo Accords, which were
      predicated on the kind of separation needed to create a captive
      labour force.

      However, Yitzhak Rabin's version of apartheid embodied by the Oslo
      process, and Binyamin Netanyahu's opposition in upholding
      Jabotinsky's vision of Greater Israel, both deviated from Herzl's
      model of transfer through separation. This is largely why both
      political currents have been subsumed within the recent but more
      powerful trend towards "unilateral separation".

      Not surprisingly, the policy of "unilateral separation" emerged from
      among the Labour Zionists, advocated primarily by Ehud Barak.
      However, it was soon adopted by many members of Likud also.

      Ultimately its success derived from the conversion to its cause of
      Greater Israel's arch-exponent, Ariel Sharon. He realised the chief
      manifestations of unilateral separation, the West Bank wall and the
      Gaza disengagement, as well as breaking up Israel's right wing to
      create a new consensus party, Kadima.

      In the new consensus, the transfer of Palestinians could be achieved
      through imposed and absolute separation -- just as Herzl had once
      hoped. After the Gaza disengagement, the next stage was promoted by
      Sharon's successor, Ehud Olmert. His plan for convergence, limited
      withdrawals from the West Bank in which most settlers would remain
      in place, has been dropped, though its infrastructure -- the
      annexation wall -- continues to be built.

      But how will modern Zionists convert unilateral separation into
      transfer? How will Herzl's original vision of ethnic cleansing
      enforced through strict ethnic separation be realised in today's

      The current siege of Gaza offers the template. After disengagement,
      Israel has been able to cut off at will Gazans' access to aid, food,
      fuel and humanitarian services. Normality has been further eroded by
      sonic booms, random Israeli air attacks, and repeated small-scale
      invasions that have inflicted a large toll of casualties,
      particularly among civilians.

      Gaza's imprisonment has stopped being a metaphor and become a daily
      reality. In fact, Gaza's condition is far worse than imprisonment:
      prisoners, even of war, expect to have their humanity respected and
      to be properly sheltered, cared for, fed and clothed. Gazans can no
      longer rely on these staples of life.

      The ultimate goal of this extreme form of separation is patently
      clear: transfer. By depriving Palestinians of the basic conditions
      of a normal life, it is assumed that they will eventually choose to
      leave in what can once again be sold to the world as a voluntary
      exodus. And if Palestinians choose to abandon their homeland, then
      in Zionist thinking they have forfeited their right to it -- just as
      earlier generations of Zionists believed the Palestinian refugees
      had done by supposedly fleeing during the 1948 and 1967 wars.
      Is this process of transfer inevitable? I think not. The success of
      a modern policy of "transfer through separation" faces severe

      First, it depends on continuing US global hegemony and blind support
      for Israel. Such support is likely to be undermined by current
      American misadventures in the Middle East, and a gradual shift in
      the balance of power to China, Russia and India.

      Second, it requires a Zionist worldview that departs starkly not
      only from international law but also from the values upheld by most
      societies and ideologies. The nature of Zionist ambitions is likely
      to be ever harder to conceal, as is evident from the tide of opinion
      polls showing that Western publics, if not their governments,
      believe Israel to be one of the biggest threats to world peace.

      And third, it assumes that the Palestinians will remain passive
      during their slow eradication. The historical evidence most
      certainly shows that they will not.

      Jonathan Cook is a British journalist and writer based in Nazareth.
      His is the author of three books, Blood and Religion: The Unmasking
      of the Jewish and Democratic State (Pluto Press, 2006); Israel and
      the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the
      Middle East, which was recently released by Pluto; and Disappearing
      Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair, which is published
      later this year by Zed Books.



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