I do not want the peace that passeth understanding. I wantthe understanding which bringeth peace.
– Helen Keller
I have been writing about the Middle East since I was a twelve-year-old. That is when I authored my first speech on Israel. I remember it was a speech about the Balfour Declaration. At the time, my classmates (or teacher for that matter) had no idea of what the heck I was talking about.
That was thirty-five years ago and many people still have no inkling about what I write or speak about. Yet it is only through actively expressing a personal narrative and then moving into analysis that real understanding can come to the forefront. There is no single Palestinian narrative since we are a group dispersed throughout the world. I was born in Chicago and presently still live in America. Much of my thinking is influenced by my Western education.
Anybody who tries to understand the Middle East is met with a dual problem of not quite understanding any Palestinian narrative and often misunderstanding the analysis because one narrative has dominated the discourse so much that it has colored perceptions. The Israeli experience and narrative is much more familiar with readers. Of this I am quite sure.
I write the above words to hopefully inoculate you a bit. I am not an anti-Semite, as many of those who oppose my view-point would like to paint me. What I am is a person who believes that principle and justice do not depend upon one’s race, religion or ethnicity. This is a particularly American construct.
Nationality in the US is not dependent upon one’s religion. Our country is a nation of its citizens, regardless of one’s religion. America is not a "Christian nation", a "white nation", or "Anglo-Saxon nation" – but instead is a nation where Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hispanics, African- Americans, Irish-Americans, etc. all have constitutionally guaranteed rights.
These rights are not based upon any of the criteria of ethno-national or religious designations. Ethno-nationalism grew as a philosophy in the late 19th Century. Ideologies sprouted in the forms of "Fascism", "Apartheid" and the roots of race-based Nazism were found in German nationalism. Jewish nationalism, also called Zionism was also birthed in within this milieu.
How many readers actually know that modern Zionism as an ideology shares the same historical roots as fascism? From doing this many years, I know the answer is "few." I suggest that most Zionists themselves do not quite understand this fact either. Just as Nazism was initially a strange blend of liberal socialist ideas (The Nationalist Socialist Party… remember) with hard right-wing blood and soil nationalism, Zionism has a similarly strange mix.
Zionists, like Nazis, represent the full breadth of the political spectrum. The only thing that unites Zionists is their belief that the defining characteristic of Israel MUST be based upon some sort of demographic characteristic. German nationalism was also so dependent upon demographic traits.
In Nazi Germany, the result was ethnic cleansing of Jews BECAUSE they did not fit the racial profile of the new national ideology. Many Zionists inside Israel are calling for ethnic cleansing because Palestinians do not fit the racial definition that fits into a "Jewish" nation. A Jewish nation can survive only as long as there is a Jewish majority.
What does it take to insure a Jewish majority? Is ethnic cleansing a possibility today?
The first wave of ethnic cleansing occurred at the inception of Israel where more than 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly "relocated". Relocation is not new. The Nazis "relocated" Jews to maintain their demographic "purity." The underlying driving force that moved both Nazis and animated Zionist policies in 1948 was to create a nation with certain demographic parameters.
Apartheid policies in South Africa were aimed at maintaining the definition of South Africa as a "white" state. Everyone universally recognizes that Nazi Germany was inherently racist. The Nazi regime was a racist regime before they embarked upon a policy of liquidation. Germany and South Africa were innately racist BECAUSE of the way they defined themselves. The policies of racism stemmed from their ideology and self definition.
Rabbi Benjamin Hecht has said, "How we act is dependant on how we wish to define ourselves." Zionism or "Jewish nationalism" can never be benign as liberal Zionists have liked to think.
It is impossible to square the circle and maintain an innocuous, gentle system whereby one’s national character is defined by religion, race, ethnicity or even gender for that matter. This was true with Apartheid and Nazi Germany and it is no less true with Israel.
This is why I am certain that Israel simply will not survive as a "Jewish" nation.
Liberal Zionism has tried to ignore the contradictions of racial, religious or ethnic definitions. But as the on-the-ground demographics change, meaning the Palestinianpopulation increases as a percentage, the contradictions increase. The incompatibility between ethno-national designations and humanism is causing all Zionists to choose.
One choice is the road of Apartheid and the continued Nazification of Israel itself. These are indeed strong words. Israel is guilty of implementing policies of collective punishment, extra-judicial executions (without trials), legalized torture, the creation of Bantustans, the ghetto-ization of entire villages all point to the "Nazification" of Israel.
There is another road. This involves another choice, the road that America eventually chose for itself. One nation with citizenship, privileges and responsibilities granted without racial, religious or ethnic preference.
One person-one vote.
This is not a racist anti-Semitic solution. It is the only solution based upon humanistic principles. This is a solution that says that any Muslim, Christian or Jew shall live in the Holy Land together without privilege or penalty. Is there a better solution for the region where all three religions claim holy?
Israel will not survive as presently constituted. It is the last vestige of 19th century ethno-national ideology and there is no place for race-based privilege in the 21st century.
As Helen Keller suggested in the quotation that introduced this essay, only true understanding can bring true peace.