“If there are other inhabitants there, they must be transferred to some other place. We must take over the land. We have a greater and nobler ideal than preserving several hundred thousands of Arab fellahin.”
Menahem Ussishkin, chair of Jewish National Fund, 1930.
There is a lot of discussion about Zionism at the moment: how to define it, what it means to be anti-Zionist and whether that equates to antisemitism, and so on. But there has been a notable, and instructive, absence in these debates: an understanding of what Zionism has meant for Palestinians. Read more
Earlier this month, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that any nuclear agreement reached between the P5+1 group and Tehran must include “unambiguous Iranian recognition of Israel’s right to exist”.
President Barack Obama repudiated such a demand as “a fundamental misjudgement”, but that did not dissuade Israel’s allies on Capitol Hill from backing Mr Netanyahu.
There are parallels here with Mr Netanyahu’s insistence that the Palestinians must recognise Israel as a “Jewish state” in any potential peace deal.
This demand to recognise Israel’s “right to exist” is much more, however, than a negotiations spoiler: it is intended to police the boundaries of acceptable debate, to conceal certain parts of the past and present – and to narrow the options open to Palestinians and Israeli Jews for the future. Read more
There was outrage last week when the University of Southampton cancelled a forthcoming conference on Israel and international law, ostensibly on the grounds of “health and safety”.
The university had been under pressure from pro-Israel advocacy groups, and organisers have begun legal efforts against what they see as a concession to outside interference and bullying. The story of the campaign to shut down the conference should not, however, distract from why Israel’s supporters found the topics scheduled for discussion so objectionable. Read more
After six Jewish Israelis were arrested on suspicion of the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, a 17-year-old Palestinian kidnapped and burnt to death on July 2, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned those responsible and stated that his government does not distinguish between Palestinian and Jewish “terror”.
Let’s leave aside for now the fact that there are no bulldozers heading to the homes of the Jewish suspects; or the fact that the Israeli soldiers who shoot dead Palestinian teenagers in West Bank towns and refugee camps – including in just the last few weeks – are applauded for their “courageous” actions. Read more
With the results of Israel’s election in (though the exact final breakdown is still unknown), one message has dominated: ‘Dead heat!’ The Knesset is being presented as split down the middle between ‘right-wing’ and ‘centre-left’ blocs, as discussions take place about how a coalition government will be formed.
But there is another way of looking at it: for Palestinians, the Israeli electorate has returned a parliament that is 90-10 in favour of ethnocracy. Read more
With Israeli elections just around the corner, Prime Minister Netanyahu is expected to retain his position at the head of a coalition government. Tzipi Livni, former foreign minister and now head of her own party, has been one of the most vocal critics of Netanyahu during the campaign, even if that hasn’t translated into success in the polls. Read more
Israel’s idea of ‘two states’ is based on expulsion of Arabs, so the Jewish character of its country is not threatened.
The slogan “two states for two peoples” has long been used by those who support the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Ironically, however, such a framework risks cementing Israeli apartheid and Jewish privilege, evoking the same sorts of arguments put forward by defenders of South Africa’s historical regime of systematic discrimination. Read more
The Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM) is one of the key Israel advocacy groups in the UK. In the last week BICOM has published a series of essays on ‘Israel’s democratic futures’ (if that’s a question, the answer is ‘here’s hoping’). BICOM’s worry, as its chief Lorna Fitzsimons wrote in her introduction, is that “a notion is spreading in the West that Israel is fast becoming an illiberal ethno-democracy”. Read more
On October 10, an overwhelming majority of the Israeli cabinet approved a proposed amendment to the country’s Citizenship Law, which if made into law would require any non-Jew seeking citizenship to swear his loyalty to Israel as a ‘Jewish and democratic’ state. This latest move, while headline grabbing in its own right, is reflective of a wider phenomenon within Israel today, in which the Jewish identity of the state has become central not only to negotiations with the PLO but also to relations with Israel’s Palestinian minority. Read more
The refrain from Israeli politicians and the country’s allies and apologists is familiar: There can be no peace deal until the Palestinians “recognize” Israel as “a Jewish state.” While this can sound reasonable to the casual listener in the West, this demand actually points to critical flaws in the “peace process” and the way in which the international community approaches the Palestine/Israel question.
This is because such a demand, and understanding why it is so unacceptable to Palestinians, means going back to 1948 – when hundreds of Palestinian towns and villages were destroyed, their inhabitants forbidden from returning by the new Jewish state — and throwing the spotlight on two groups of Palestinians that the so-called peace process has ignored or marginalized: the refugees of ‘48 (and their descendants) and the Palestinian minority that’s left inside Israel. The unpleasant reality is that Israel as “a Jewish state” means the permanent exile and dispossession of the former, and the colonial control of the latter. Read more