Perhaps the little red book was right after all. Was colonialism really a paper tiger?
When you think about it, the only peoples whom Europe’s colonists succeeded in replacing were hunter-gatherer societies é and even that was more by sheer weight of numbers than superior might. White skin replaced brown only in the near-empty spaces of North America and Australia. Latin America’s sedentary farmers were assimilated, not replaced. In Africa and Asia, the colonial heyday lasted only a few generations. And even with nearly four centuries to do the job, the Afrikaners failed to create a white country. China, India, Southeast Asia é all have seen the white man’s back. At the end of the day, it’s the Asians and Africans who have colonized London and Paris…
On this reading, the late European colonization of Palestine is doomed to be a brief chapter in history, too. After fifty-three years, only one-seventh the lifespan of the South African settlements, it is still an experiment in crisis.
True, the Israeli colonists may have a couple advantages. One, they believe, or profess to, that they are returning to their original land. But the power of conviction in defending one’s homeland, back to the wall, is stronger with the Pals. The Israelis have their real roots in Europe, and many of them do have the choice to reside abroad. The right of return of the Palestinians is immutable in international law, whereas the law on the Jewish right of return is itself a violation of all the conventions on civil rights. As for the DNA record, Israeli scientists have looked hard, but their evidence only shows a few modern Jews have significant Hebrew ancestry.
Israel’s second trump is a need for a special land because of centuries of persecution. But this idea does not stand up to careful analysis, which shows that the long-term trend has been for assimilation of the Jews. Zionism was by no means a result of the Holocaust, but preceded it and was even a major factor in bringing it about. If Zionism were really a question of a “land for a people without one”, the Jews could easily have colonized some sparsely populated land. The uplands of Kenya and Uganda were the model for that phrase, which was only later misapplied to Palestine. Herzl himself was quite willing to settle in Africa, but to attract enough settlers, the movement needed the religious symbolism of the Holy Land. So a colony in Palestine was always a luxury, a souvenir, not a necessity!
Israel has played heavily on emotional propaganda in linking the Jewish state and the Holocaust. But if the Jews really had felt the need for a state, they would have been glad to colonize free lands, like most other Europeans. That aroused little interest, because they were already getting comfortably assimilated in better climes. Further, there is ample evidence (collected by Brenner) that hard-line Zionists were accomplices in the Holocaust, which they needed in order to defeat the moderate assimilationists for leadership of world Jewry.
Zionism is an arsonist who has collected the fire insurance money é not to mention the family life insurance.
Against these two dubious advantages, Israeli colonialism faces enormous real disadvantages.
First, this was a colony born after the age of colonialism, after the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal, after the establishment of the United Nations, and subject to its resolutions. No other colonial venture was so constrained.
Second, the expelled people and their immediate descendants are still alive, detailed records of their property exist, their expulsion is a matter of living memory, they are registered refugees. Even if there are any minor instances of densely settled countries that were colonized, it has never been managed by transferring out the original peoples.
Third, there is social evolution. Human rights are taking precedence over sovereign rights, and the International Court of Justice is setting up. The trend is to exposing past crimes, to stricter concepts of racial equality and legal liability, and to generous claims for reparations. Paradoxically, with their own attempt to manufacture legitimacy out of the Holocaust, the Zionists set very exacting standards for retribution. The boomerang is on the wing.
The Holocaust did not create for its victims any right to compensation from Palestine or its people. Two wrongs don’t make a right, and damages must be collected from the guilty parties, not by attacking innocent bystanders. As the Holocaust recedes further into the past while current Israeli war crimes accumulate, the emotional polarization will weaken and change direction.
At the break of the 21st century, any racial-religious, militaristic-expansionist, repressive apartheid regime has to be seen as an anachronism, a freak and an abomination.
The creation of Israel was called by Netanyahu “a miracle of this century, or any century”. Indeed. But there is a persistent problem with miracles: important details are usually left out of the story. To produce rabbits regularly, you need a hutch, not a hat. Or as the Arabs say, A thief is a king only until he is caught.
And as we say, the millstone of the law grinds slowly, but fine.
So to the quandary of Israel under the reign of terrorists Barak and Sharon. Israeli policy is always to drive a very hard bargain, to punish the Palestinians to modify their behavior and so on. The trouble is that there is no bargain there. You can’t keep driving the price down when it is already less than nothing. You can’t torture information out of a prisoner who simply doesn’t know. Israel thinks it has bargaining chips, that it is a matter of how to capitalize on them. But it doesn’t have anything. It is all stolen property. Sheer armed robbery. No bargain, no sale. Don’t collect, go straight to jail.
Concretely, along the familiar lines of the negotiations, for example: Israel will “give” “independence” (de facto dependence) to a Palestinian “territory” (scattered concentration camps) in return for a “cessation of violence” and a renunciation of the right of return. Of course all the offers are non-starters, if only because international law specifically stipulates that the right of return can not be renounced by any government. It belongs inviolably to each individual, even those not yet born. So either the Israelis are confused, or they are being clever to gain more time and settle more of Palestine.
Yet the more they settle, the more the two-state solution is unthinkable, and the clearer is the writing on the wall, tracing the fate of the failed colonialist: Emancipation is inevitable. There is no other exit.
Since the Palestinians could not give up the right of return even if they wanted to, Israel has only two choices:
Concede the Palestinians an independent state now, in the 1967 borders, and face the return issue later é when it will result in a merger, or
Accept them as citizens of one Palestine, and face the return issue now, along with the other civil obligations.
What she does is to refuse to face the choice, vacillating between pouting and tantrums.
In either case, neither the Palestinians nor their right of return are going away. It is that simple. We all have to grow up and face the light of day. Sooner or later, Israel will have to give up the fond dream of a guaranteed Jewish – majority state, and become a pluralistic democracy.
This dream was, in any case, based on a misconception – that Jews and Gentiles cannot live together.
How wonderful to wake up!
Lenni Brenner, in “Zionism in the Age of the Dictators – A Reappraisal”, http://www.marxists.de/middleast/brenner/index.htm . Ch. 24, “For $2 million they could have all the Jews in Western Europe and the Balkans”. Ch. 25, conclusion: “the working philosophy of the World Zionist Organization throughout the entire Nazi era: the sanctification of the betrayal of the many in the interest of a selected immigration to Palestine.”
Minor miracles are still at work: Israel has elected these two prime ministers in spite of their records as cold-blooded killers. But I don’t believe they will match the exploit of Menachem Begin. Author of the biggest terror killing in the history of Palestine, the King David Hotel massacre of the British diplomatic corps é he lived to get a Nobel Peace Prize… This footnote may seem redundant to most readers. It is. Many people can’t write the name of the Prophet Mohammed without adding the blessing, Peace Be Upon Him. I find it hard to write the name of Sharon without calling down his crimes upon his head.
Mr. John-Paul Leonard is a free-lance writer and a regular contributor to Media Monitors Network (MMN)