For decades, Israeli politicians have systematically violated the human rights of the Palestinians with virtually no repercussions. When confronted about these violations by the community of nations, Israel plays the Holocaust card to try and shame its critics into silence; and it often works. Former Israeli minister, Shulamit Aloni, admitted this tactic in a 2002 interview for Democracy Now. Given the scale of Israel’s recent assault on Gaza, including the bombing of a residential building that also held the offices of Al-Jazeera and the Associated Press, that hand may finally have been over-played.
Twenty-five years ago, Noam Chomsky wrote that Israel acts with impunity given the unwavering support provided by the US government. Eleven years ago, Hitch pondered why American politicians ‘acquiesce so wretchedly . . . at the hands of a virtual client state.’ It seems things have finally gone too far for some Americans. Recently the New York Times writes that many American Democratic senators are wary of continuing to give Israel a pass for its heavy-handed claims of self-defense. The article quotes the president of an Israeli lobby group, J Street, stating that Americans turning a blind eye ‘essentially amounts to international immunity to Israel.’
What is baffling, to this writer anyway, is that after many centuries of anti-Semitism and maltreatment of Jews in various lands, Israeli politicians currently in charge apparently learned absolutely nothing. Indeed, the Twitter feeds of two Jewish Washington Post correspondents are constantly updated with the latest Israeli abuses and the disgust of these reporters at what is being done to the Palestinians.
Gershom Gorenberg, another Post contributor, details the theistic rot at the heart of Israeli politics in his 2011 book, The Unmaking of Israel. Gorenberg makes several interesting points, such as the fact that denial of the right of return for Palestinians was decided in a cabinet meeting in 1948, and IDF expulsions of Palestinian villagers subsequently accelerated. Gorenberg also alludes to the biblical injunction of Deuteronomy 10:19 (You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt), noting that the ‘most basic Jewish aspiration should be to do better’ but which the state of Israel wholeheartedly ignores in its zealotry to annex the entirety of the ‘Promised Land.’
Two other significant points relate to Gorenberg’s mention of the 1948 cabinet decision. One, the founder of the World Jewish Congress, Nahum Goldmann, captured the words of Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, in The Jewish Paradox: ‘If I was an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. . . . They only see one thing: we have come here and stolen their country.’ Second, Israeli propaganda, entirely ignoring these two preceding inconvenient facts, simply wipes its hands of the entire refugee crisis (emphasis added): ‘Israel does not bear responsibility for the creation or the perpetuation of the Palestinian refugee problem.’
The Jewish fanaticism which fuels these human rights abuses, is, unsurprisingly and simultaneously ironic, biblically based; so much for morals deriving from the Bible. In 1980, Bar-Ilan University rabbi, Israel Hess, published an articled titled Genocide: A Commandment of the Torah, which he based on the passage in Deuteronomy 25:17–19 which justifies the slaughter of the Amaleks. Aloni commented on this twice, once in 2003 when she noted that children in religious schools were taught to associate the Palestinians with the Amaleks, and again in 2014 when she recalled Hess’s essay writing that it was ‘no coincidence that in the settlements the Palestinians are called ‘Amalek’, and the intention is obvious.’
The illegal settlements further fuel the discord, as orthodox Jews who feel entitled to the entire land of Israel because some ancient fictitious text says so, evict Palestinians from their lands in the West Bank in the ongoing game of territorial encroachment. Netanyahu, the current PM who is embroiled in his own scandal-ridden administration, not only allows these illegal settlements to go unchallenged, but he encourages their continued creation.
The zealotry which prompted a rabbi to call for the extermination of the Palestinians only thirty-five years after the Holocaust and inspires orthodox Jews to build illegal settlements, mixed with the party line that Israel is not responsible for the refugee crisis despite the documented facts otherwise, does not add up to a state acting in good faith to rectify a humanitarian injustice but one that seeks to perpetuate it. These are not the actions of a state committed to peace and human rights, but one pandering to its hardcore religious right — surely, a recipe for disaster.
It is time Israel grew up and started acting like a mature and responsible member of the international community. If not, they will only continue to foster hatred and unrest among the Palestinians — which is decidedly not in their long-term security interests — and they will become increasingly isolated pariahs on the global stage. And they will have no one to blame but themselves. Not that they will accept the blame, but rather just issue more propaganda pointing the finger at others for the bed they find themselves lying in.
In short, it is time for biblical fictions to stop directing Israeli government policy and encouraging orthodox Jews to annex more land because some book claims a non-existent god gave it to them almost 4000 years ago — especially since archaeologists have proven Jewish culture had not yet emerged at that time. If not, as Gorenberg so aptly named his book, the world will witness the unmaking of Israel. The Palestinians deserve to be treated humanely and fairly, and world governments need to stop enabling Israeli abuses in some misplaced attempt to atone for anti-Semitic repressions of past centuries. The Palestinians should never have been forced to pay the piper for what was done to European Jews, and it is time the rest of the world recognized this uncomfortable truth and compel Israel to the peace table.