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Which Israel do you support?

Yuval Halperin,

Few times in my life I visited Europe, and I am only dimly aware of your realities. However, lately Europe came to be frequently mentioned in Israel in a single connection: anti-Semitism.

The Israeli press is gleefully telling that finally fear of anti-Semitism penetrated the hearts of people in the European countries, France especially, and that a few undertakings were already in the making to fight the disease.

Never was an ethnic, national or a religious minority that wasn't racially persecuted. All who hold the values of equality and democracy dear must stand against with all their might against any expressions of hate directed at one's ethnicity.

But, participating in such fight against my own government, I fear that the Israeli government and its officials exploit the anti-Semitic menace in order to relieve themselves of any opposition and criticism and to blur the distinguishing line between racial hatred of Jews, be them wherever they are, and legitimate opposition to occupation or Zionism.

To explain my claim I will shortly clarify the notions of "Jew" and "Zionist".

For hundreds of years now the Jews have been living as an ethno-religious minority in the Christian and Islamic countries. For many generations they suffered from discrimination, humiliation and persecution. The Jew was persecuted because of his ancestry and beliefs long before the African, Asian and American peoples suffered the same fate at the hands of their colonial overlords.

It is not surprising, then, to discover that Jewish-born people took a major part in the avant-garde fight against nationalism and racism, and for Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite. The names of Carl Marx, Rosa Luxemburg, Danny "the red" and many others are enough to mention.

Zionism was one of the expressions of the disappointment by these principles, or, to be exact, by their implementation during history. Its beginnings can be dated to the mid-19th century, and it appeared on the stage of history as a fully designed ideology and movement at the first Zionist congress in Basel in 1897. The underlying presumption of Zionism was that democratic principles never succeeded in blocking Jew-hatred and incitement against Jews, therefore the Jews must choose a particular solution instead of a universal one. This meant aspiring for an establishment of a Jewish state in a land where such state existed before, to which all Jews in the world will be drawn. In order to fulfill this goal, claimed the Zionists, it is permissible to cooperate with any power accepting it, regardless of its own motives or its other beliefs and influences.

Therefore, Theodore Hertzl, the founder of the World Zionist Congress, advised German Kaiser Wilhelm III to support Zionism, for it might have driven away many Jews from the radical and republican movements across his kingdom.

Zionism's first opponents were, naturally, Jews, since the Zionist movement was active only among Jews, and only they were qualified to step under its banner.

Most of the Jews in the world today aren't Zionist either, although the emissaries sent by the Israeli government try as best as they can to blur the distinction between "Jew" and "Zionist", being helped by the fact that non-Zionist Jews neither stress nor proudly display their Judaism.

However, soon another force came to oppose Zionism - the emerging Palestinian nation. The land which the Zionist movement dreamt of turning into a haven for the Jews of the world never was forsaken. Ancient agricultural communities who dwelt here developed gradually a national identity during the 19th century [the translator adds: not quite true, it happened in the 20th century, along with other Arab nationalisms]. In order to become majority in this country the Zionists acted not differently from any other colonial movement: removing the "natives" dunam by dunam and importing colonizers ("olim", in our language) to the cleared lands. There was no difference whatsoever between the various currents ("labor Zionism", "liberal Zionism", "religious Zionism") with regards to this issue. The "labor Zionist" movements were busying themselves mainly with expelling the Arab workers from the lands acquired by the Zionists and employing Jewish workers instead. Members of "Poalei Tzion" and "Akhdut haavoda" organizations used to uproot saplings planted by Arab laborers in the villages and to beguile Arab peddlers in towns. Imagine yourselves; this is what I was taught in school about "socialism".

The eviction policy was not ceased at the establishment of the state of Israel. On the contrary: the power conquered by the Zionists made it possible for them to implement it with greater force. Since the establishment of the state (1948) a big Arab minority existed within its borders (I will not go now into the story of the transfer of the most of the Palestinian population during the 1948 war). Nowadays approximately one million Arabs live in sovereign Israel, who constitute about 20 per cent of the general population. Despite this, not a single new Arab settlement was built during the 56 years of Israel's existence, although the Arab population grew by five in these decades. The Palestinians are forced to squat within the limits of the settlements they lived in at the emergence of the state, since any free piece of land is reserved for Jewish settlement. Slogans like "Judaisation of Galilee" are deemed to be encompassed by bounds of consensus in Israel. Only the parties that abandoned Zionist ideology oppose them. This is only one example that conveys the situation of the Palestinians citizens in Israel. They are not simply "second-class" citizens; they are an obstacle, a problem. Israel is defined as the "state of the Jewish people", meaning it belongs to the Jews in the whole world and not to non-Jews living in it. The conception of the nation in Israel is quite like the one proposed by the far right in Europe: ethnic nationality instead of a territorial one.

The territories conquered in June 1967 were always treated by Israel like ordinary colonies. Their inhabitants did not claim and were not given Israeli citizenship, but Israel imposed martial rule on them and built Jewish settlements ("hitnakhaluyot") among them, whose dwellers are granted full citizens' rights. A classical colonial reality developed in the occupied territories: colonizers on this side and "natives" on the other.

It is not surprising, then, to find Israeli government's best friends among the leaders of the far right. Jean Marie le Pen described current-day Israel as a model for imitation in an interview given to an Israeli newspaper, and added: "Now you understand what we passed through during the war in Algeria". The Italian Gianfranco Pini never tires to commend and glorify Israel and the Danish rightwing party served the participants in its congress with Israeli wines, to mark solidarity. And lest we forget George Bush, one of the most rightist presidents in the history of United States, who fully backs up any action taken by Sharon, even if it constitutes a war crime.

The European fascist camp was and remains anti-Semitic, however, now it prefers to target Arabs instead of Jews. The Israeli government and its press representatives concur with this anti-Semitic line, not only towards Semitic Arabs inside Israel and under its occupation, but also towards the Semitic Arabs of Europe. Whoever listens to a Hebrew news program that deals with European matters may presume he occasionally stumbled upon a radio station run by the National Front.

The claims uttered there identify Europe's main problem as the "Muslim danger". The "invaders" from the third world supposedly threaten the peace enjoyed by the handsome white Europeans and endanger their culture; therefore the governments must take firm steps to dispose of this problem.

The fact that any time may the extreme right "remember" its true treatment of Jews is passed over by the Israeli government. It barely squeaked against the blatantly anti-Semitic movie "The passion of Christ", since it was endorsed by the Evangelists, the most radical and reactionary religious sect in the United States, that wishes the third temple to be established upon the Temple Mount, so that the Muslims of the world would brandish their swords against Israel, thus enabling Jesus to descend from heaven, save it and heal the Jews of their 2000-year blindness.

But anyone who dares to criticize Israeli policy or Zionism to the point is refuted by the weapon of anti-Semitism. The IDF murders blameless civilians? An anti-Semite. The settlements are illegal? An anti-Semite. The separation barrier contravenes international law? An anti-Semite. Zionism bears the marks of colonialism? An anti-Semite.

This propaganda penetrates first and foremost the minds of the Israelis, then the minds of Jews outside Israel, and finally the minds of peace supporters and opponents of racism in general, who hesitate to mutter the truth about all these things.

I am glad to see around me dozens of solidarity activists of the ISM movement (many of them Jews), who left their home and country to come and help Palestinians and Israelis in their fight against racism and occupation. However, European governments are stricken by panic the moment they sense they "irritated" Ariel Sharon or Shaul Mofaz. The slightest word of criticism is inevitably followed by a long line of apologies and flatteries. Real sanctions on Israel, which enjoys perhaps the strongest relations with European countries among the nations, are not to be mentioned. In the 60-ies de Gaulle imposed weapons embargo upon Israel. During the first Intifada (1987-1993) many agreements in cultural and scientific spheres between Israel and Europe were suspended. And now - Sharon hears only compliments, but returns here grumbling: "anti-Semitism". The Middle East always was a crucial point of fate-deciding occurrences during the human history. What happened in the Middle East deeply influenced the whole world. The land of Israel, or Palestine, however we name it, stands at the heart of the Middle East. Any person in the world, be he Jew or Muslim or other, must consider the happenings in the Middle East, especially in Israel-Palestine.

The decision he must take is not "for Israel" or "against Israel"; rather, which Israel he supports - is it occupying, settling and racist Israel, or democratic, patriotic and peace-seeking Israel, that evacuates the occupied territories and cancels within its borders all forms of discrimination stemming from the Zionist ideology.

The writer is a "Civil Forum" activist, working for full democratization of Israel,

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