In the last month, according to Combatants For Peace, there were over 100 attacks by Jewish settlers in the occupied territories against Palestinians — and these attacks occurred in just over 10 days. These settlers, who are rarely brought to account by the Israeli state, and in fact receive support in both tacit and proactive forms, poisoned olive groves, terrorized shepherds, and brutally assaulted activists.
Five days ago, a young boy named Ahmad was killed by the IDF — the 55th child killed this year. Two weeks ago a 15 year old Autistic Palestinian teen was shot to death by the IDF while apparently catching a ride home with a 26 year old Palestinian man. Although the IDF originally claimed he drove his car at them, he was subsequently released for lack of evidence against him, suggesting that there was no reason for her death — although fatal ammunition is not the only way to react to vehicular assault in any case.
As I write this 5 Palestinians have been killed by the IDF in the last 24 hours. Last Friday, An IDF soldier was filmed attacking a left-wing activist in the West Bank city of Hebron. Another soldier can be heard telling one of the activists that “Ben-Gvir is going to bring order, you’ve had it,” in reference to the Kahanist lawmaker who has been named National Security Minister in the recently elected government.
Kahanism, the doctrine propounded by the late Meir Kahane, states that Israel should be a state in which only Jews have voting rights, and others may live as “resident strangers” with no political rights or be forcibly expelled. Previously banned in Israel as a racist doctrine, it is now making its way into the halls of government.
The brutality of the state’s relationship with Palestinians is at this point getting hard to believe, or even describe. School are demolished, journalists shot, children imprisoned and killed, torture routinely used, and Palestinian prisoners treated with a shocking inhumanity- as in the case of a schizophrenic Palestinian prisoner who was incarcerated at age 14 and is currently being kept in solitary confinement with the assent of the court. The sheer evil of such a decision is hard to put into words, other than to straightforwardly describe it as it is: evil.
For comic relief, I suppose one could turn to the recent case of a Palestinian resident in Gaza who won 13 million dollars in an Israeli lottery. That’s Gaza — you know, the area defenders of Israeli government policy are always saying is no longer part of Israel or under its control, despite Israel controlling its borders, airspace, sea-access, imports/exports, electricity and resources, and keeping a census of every Palestinian resident? Anyway, Israel just ruled the Palestinian owes 30% of his winnings in taxes- to Israel!
But I digress. “What is happening?” is the question I began with. How did all of this come to be?
Some will say that the originally benevolent dream of Zionism has degenerated under pressure from warfare with Palestinians and the Arab world. I argue here that this view romanticizes the realities of early Zionism and the settlement of Palestine, and does not take responsibility for what has been done dating back to the 1890s in the name of Jewish survival, and more recently in the name of Judaism.
I will concede that the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967 began a new and more horrible deterioration in the relationship between Jews and Palestinian Arabs, as Orthodox Rabbinical thinker Yeshayahu Leibowitz warned us would happen. He presciently said, at the time of the occupations establishment, that “A state ruling a hostile population of 1.5 to 2 million foreigners would necessarily become a secret-police state, with all that this implies for education, free speech and democratic institutions. The corruption characteristic of every colonial regime would also prevail in the State of Israel. The administration would suppress Arab insurgency on the one hand and acquire Arab Quislings on the other. There is also good reason to fear that the Israel Defense Forces, which has been until now a people’s army, would, as a result of being transformed into an army of occupation, degenerate, and its commanders, who will have become military governors, resemble their colleagues in other nations.”
Here is my view: Statist Zionism, from its early to current form- is arguably a betrayal — even a rejection — of Judaism, and it has long been on a trajectory towards Jewish supremacy and a quagmire of militarism, nationalism, and fascism. What is happening now is the fruit of a rotten tree, and saving Israel as a Jewish vision would require a radical revision of the country as a multi-ethnic, truly democratic state that gave Palestinians full human and political rights, one very much like the binational state envisioned by Martin Buber decades ago.
If you’d like to join me on a journey to delve more deeply into these issues, please read my articles: