The silence from Israeli politicians over settler attacks on the Zionist state’s armed forces is but one aspect of profound historic developments that Israel and its founding ideology now face. Israel justifies its massive armed forces and nuclear WMD capability as essential to its survival in a hostile world. Illegal settlers are held to be the most in need of military protection and yet a video shows the Hilltop Youth attacking Israeli troops near the illegal West Bank Baladim outpost in the Benjamin Regional Council. One fanatical settler and activist, Eliraz Fein, commented on Facebook in support of the July 2015 settler arson attack in the West Bank Palestinian village of Douma, where the home of the Dawabsha family was set ablaze, killing the parents and their infant son. A December 2015 hate wedding video shows right-wing activists stabbing a photo of the infant Ali Dawabsha. An al-Monitor article asks: “How can these settlers feel confident enough to continue attacking soldiers, when all of the relevant authorities know exactly where they can be found and exactly how violent they can be?” The truth is that there is a growing impatience with what is being seen as intolerable delay in the full realisation of the Zionist project in Palestine. Settlements are an essential component of Israel’s territorial expansion plan and, with them, the extreme implications of the Zionist ideology itself are emerging.
Israel’s failed US ad-campaign
The Israeli ideology asserts that only in a Jewish state built upon Palestinian land will Jewish people be safe. Yet, in the United States, the unconditional supporter and most massive benefactor of Israel, the message seems to be falling flat. In 2017, the Israeli Government released a number of advertisements attempting to show that Jewish Americans could never feel at home in the United States. Given the Israeli obsession with demography, the ad-campaign failed dismally. In 2014, Israel’s Finance Minister at the time, Yair Lapid, called Israelis who moved to Berlin “anti-Zionists.” It is certainly not good for the Zionist image that Berlin has become so fashionable a place for Israelis to live. And, as The Times of Israel has noted, “Whether the Israeli Government likes it or not, the Israeli-American diaspora is real, growing and leaving its mark on the United States.” The newspaper also reports that some 300,000 Jews in America were either born in Israel or are the offspring of Israeli parents. According to Ben Sales, the Israeli Embassy in the US told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) that there were close to a million Israelis living in America. In July 2017, the Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel claimed that the vast majority of American Jews had never set foot in Israel. At a public meeting, Rabbi David Lau said that the biggest issue facing US Jews was “. . . intermarriage and apathy about the Jewish state.”
The Reut Institute and Zionist backlash
In 2010, the Jerusalem-based Reut Institute published a strategy which outlined the ways it said the Israeli Government should “sabotage” and “attack” the BDS movement and other expressions of solidarity with Palestinians. The group worked to have this campaign led by Israeli spy agencies and lobby groups. Since then, the amount of money and resources the Israeli Government and its supporters have poured into attacking BDS has skyrocketed. A dedicated government department – the Ministry of Strategic Affairs led by Gilad Erdan – is now devoted to the task. Of course what never comes into focus from Zionist sources is the mounting Jewish repudiation of Zionism and support for BDS in Israel and around the world. Last year Israel’s Anti-Defamation League (ADL) joined forces with the Reut Institute to combat the BDS movement and opposition to Zionism. Nevertheless, the founder and president of the Institute, Gidi Grinstein, acknowledged that “there is no silver bullet against the BDS movement.” At the ‘Ambassadors Against BDS’ conference in New York last March, Grinstein said that “in 2016 our community probably invested 20 times . . . more resources in dealing with this problem compared to what we invested in 2010.” Yet, despite these tens of millions of dollars spent combating BDS, Grinstein asked: “Why are we not winning?”
Grinstein still believes that “Israel must remain true to its ethos and mission of being the nation state of the entire Jewish people.” Almost 70 years since Israel made its unilateral Declaration of Independence, Grinstein acknowledges that there is an “absence of a comprehensive agenda for Israel-Diaspora relations that emanates from the vision of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.” He complains that Israeli children still know much less about Diaspora legacy than Diaspora kids know about Zionism. What Grinstein cannot recognise is that the Zionist ideology does not, and cannot, speak or act for the Jewish people as a whole.
The Reut strategy attempts to isolate the Palestine solidarity activists who support BDS from those that it chooses to accept as ‘legitimately’ critical of Israel. The Jewish Labour Movement – a pro-Israel group within the UK’s main opposition party – presented a lecture in April on “left anti-Semitism, the Middle East and the Labour Party,” during which Jewish anti-Zionist Jackie Walker was vilified and told she should be expelled from the Labour Party. The release of an under-cover Al-Jazeera video, The Lobby, revealed the malevolence and personal spite that drives the pro-Israel Zionists and, along with their lack of rational argument, it is easy to see why their campaign has been such a dismal failure. This failure must be especially galling for the Zionists, considering the silence of the news media concerning Israel’s human rights abuses and the unquestioning, mindless loyalty to Israel on the part of so many British politicians.
Truth is winning over propaganda
A confidential report by Israel lobby groups was leaked and published on-line on 28 April this year. It conceded that the Israel lobby has failed to counter the evidence presented by the Palestine solidarity movement, despite a vast increase in expenditure to that end. The Lobby report acknowledges that there is no rational answer to what they themselves admit are “appealing and sophisticated” arguments. The anti-Semitism slur has been over-worked and it no longer carries the degree of ‘Inquisition’ dread it once could muster.
Subterfuge and lies
In addition to anti-Semitism smears, the report attempts to tie the Palestine solidarity movement to Iran and “terrorism.” The Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs is deeply involved in the report. Sima Vaknin-Gil, Director General of Israel’s Strategic Affairs Ministry, is quoted as saying: “I am glad to see that we share a very similar point of view regarding the challenge and desired strategy.” The bloodshed and turmoil in the Middle East, in which Israel and the United States are deeply embedded, serves Israel both strategically on the ground and as a diversion from its human rights violations in Palestine and Syria. A chilling report on the anti-Iran policy developing in the US is particularly revealing. Echoing George W. Bush, US President Trump suggested on a visit to Saudi Arabia in May, that the conflict between the US and Iran was a “battle between good and evil”. This ominous evocation of the words of the former president, spoken before the totally illegal 2003 US war of destruction in Iraq, seems to forebode another planned aggression. It is Iran, Trump claims, that “spreads destruction and chaos” in the region. The day before these words were spoken, Iran had re-elected a moderate president. The US, on the other hand, has pledged to sell arms to the value of US$110 billion to Saudi Arabia, the author of such grievous destruction and chaos in Yemen. In the meantime, Israel seeks to consolidate and even expand its territorial gains in Syria. Israeli aircraft have been striking military targets in the war-torn country in order to prevent action by Syrian armed forces to defend against further Israeli advances.
The discredited US ‘battle between good and evil’ propaganda is designed to cover up the lack of morality and legal justification for the US anti-Iran stand. The United States Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, had admitted before the US House Foreign Affairs Committee that the Trump Administration is seeking regime change in Iran. With no evidence to back up the assertion, John Bolton, former US Ambassador to the United Nations, condemned the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) writing recently that the JCPOA nuclear deal with Iran “remains palpably harmful to American national interests”. Trump agrees with that assessment and Bolton is urging Trump to make withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal the Administration’s “highest priority”.
Meanwhile, Israel continues to urge allied pressure on Iran. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Zionist obsession with Iran has led to his embarrassment. In March this year, he gave a video address to Jewish children on the holiday of Purim. In it, the Israeli PM read from the Book of Esther. He told his audience: “In Persia, they wanted to kill us but it didn’t work, today, too, Persians are trying to destroy us, but today, too, it will not work.” In utter disregard for the truth, Netanyahu slandered a whole nation. The Book of Esther tells us of the plot by Haman, the Prime Minister of the Persian Empire, to annihilate the Jews that was thwarted by Mordecai and Esther. Haman was hanged. The term Purim – comes from the Persian ‘Pur’. Also in March, Netanyahu tried to tell the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, that: “Today there is an attempt and the continuation of Persia, Iran, to destroy the Jewish state.” Putin responded by suggesting that they discuss actual up-to-date problems in the region.
After acknowledging that the anti-BDS laws pushed by Israel and its lobby “raised concerns regarding their possible violation of free speech”, the Israel lobby groups’ report notes that “US Jewry is undergoing its deepest-ever identity crisis, in which the future role of Israel in Jewish identity looms large.” It predicts a “decrease in mainstream Jewish activism for Israel” and says that “increased Jewish anti-Israel activism” is already evident. Given Israel’s constant violations of human rights, racism and cruelty, what did the Zionists expect? The truth terrifies them. Netanyahu abruptly cancelled a meeting with Germany’s Foreign Minister, Sigmar Gabriel, one of Israel’s closest allies and arms suppliers, because Gabriel planned also to meet with two human rights groups: B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence. As Ali Abunimah puts it: “. . . it is readily apparent that Zionist intellectuals have no compelling answer to arguments that there can be no such thing as a ‘Jewish and democratic state’ without massive and ongoing violations of the basic rights of millions of Palestinians, especially refugees who are barred from returning to their homes solely because they are not Jews.”
Why prolong the agony?
If ever there is to be a humane and just ending to the tragedy unfolding in historic Palestine there has to be agreement as to what constitutes justice and human rights in the context of Israel/Palestine. Can there ever be consensus? There is a precedent for international agreement and a coming together of humanity. With the defeat and passing of Nazism at the end of the Second World War, humanity united and resolved that never again should ideology, imperialism and nationalist ambition be allowed to trample upon human rights. World leaders co-operated and out of bitter experience and recognised need emerged the UN Charter and the Fourth Geneva Convention. The world came together then and united upon humanitarian principles, so why not now? What happened? Why is the Middle East soaked in blood? And why is the international armaments industry thriving amid unprecedented global poverty and suffering?
Public awareness and the demand for justice are growing
Some seventy years on and world leaders pursue their ambitions, regardless of international law. But civil society is ahead of them and is demanding change. The recent passing of UNSC Resolution 2334 was one step, but only one, in the right direction. Where there is lack of enforcement, the lawless commit crimes as and when they please. The thing about justice is that everyone understands what it is and nobody can rationally justify an injustice. At a demonstration in London, two women stood side-by-side displaying placards that described the effect of Zionism upon their lives. One of the placards read:
“I am a Palestinian born in Jerusalem, exiled in 1967. Palestine is my homeland. I cannot return there.”
The other stated:
“I am a British Jew born in Lancashire. Israel/Palestine is not my homeland but under Israel’s laws of ‘return’ I can settle there.”
That is so simple – but world leaders make no attempt to require Israel to cease denying the Palestinian people their UN-recognised right of return.
Elizabeth Morley, Secretary of the Aberystwyth Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), has written:
“Is it not ironic that millions of Jews from all around the world are invited to claim Israeli citizenship, even if they end up, not in Israel, but in an illegal settlement on Palestinian land? They can do this simply because of their religion. With my Jewish heritage I too could claim Israeli citizenship. How ridiculous is that! Although I have a good life here in the UK I could go over there and make use of the privileges that are denied to the Palestinians whose land I would be occupying. I might even be given the house and possessions of a Palestinian family freshly displaced from East Jerusalem. And all the time the Palestinian refugees, turfed out to make room for me and millions like me, are mouldering in refugee camps.”
These women are speaking truth, not just to the street but to our leaders. The growing popular awareness of Zionist inhumanity is depressing Israel’s supporters around the world. In an interview with Dan Goldberg in 2014, published in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, David Zwartz, a former president of the New Zealand Jewish Council, described the outlook for the Jewish community in New Zealand as “qualified gloom”. Zwartz, a recipient of the World Zionist Organisation’s Jerusalem Prize, said that, “Politically things are good for Jews but communally we are struggling.” He said, then, that “Zionism has been out of fashion for 10-15 years.” The “gloom” that some of Israel’s supporters appear to feel might evaporate if they were to look beyond Zionism to the more positive view of a shared humanity. There are plenty of wonderful and courageous examples of commitment to justice and international law demonstrated by members of the wider world Jewish community. Indeed it is already happening.
On Saturday, 29 July 2017, the Palestinian community in New Zealand, in co-operation with the Aotearoa Palestine Solidarity Network, organised a solidarity demonstration in the centre of the city of Auckland in front of a large number of passers-by in support of Palestinian resistance to Israel’s violations around the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Dozens of participants expressed their solidarity and called on human rights organisations and the Arab community to stop the repeated Israeli attacks and illegal settlement. A small group of Zionists standing on the sidelines will have heard a passionate and inspirational speech by Avigail Allan from the Jewish anti-Occupation group Dayenu. Let us hope that at least some will have been given cause to re-think their loyalty to Zionism.
Miko Peled, the son of an Israeli general and the grandson of a signatory to Israel’s Declaration of Independence is bringing a lawsuit in the United States against US weapons sales to Israel. In a TV interview, he tells of the horrifying indifference to the suffering in Palestine:
“Two million people in Gaza without water, without electricity in this horrifying heat. Nobody cares, nobody talks about it. Palestinian children and youth being shot almost daily by Israeli soldiers. Nobody says a word, it’s nothing.”
Peled describes the Israeli Army practice of opening fire on non-violent protesters in the West Bank and launching tear gas canisters into people’s homes:
“Children being targeted, it’s nothing, it’s normal. Nobody bothers to think there’s anything wrong with it any more. When I stand up and I talk to . . . I face the soldiers, I face the officers, they look at me like I’m out of my mind, why am I even bothering? This is how things are in this country.”
Miko Peled says that the Balfour Declaration began a 100-year process in which “the Palestinians have been the victims of dispossession of forced exile, of genocide . . . under a brutal apartheid regime.” He recommends that the British Parliament begin a process of retracting the Balfour Declaration and doing everything they can to help the Palestinians. “They’re sending forces to Iraq and Afghanistan . . .”
The West certainly has a duty to end Israel’s blockade of Gaza and to allow the Palestinian people the water, medicine, shelter and liberty they so desperately need. Peled notes that the demands of the BDS movement, so vilified by the Zionists, are actually quite benign:
“. . . ending the occupation, which the whole world agrees upon; allowing the refugees to return to their homes, again it’s already been enshrined in international law and United Nations Resolutions; and equal rights for Palestinians with Israelis. What could be more benign than that?”
Israel’s defiance earns Brownlee’s respect
A request in early May this year to Bill English from Dr Vacy Vlazna, Co-ordinator of Justice for Palestine Matters, requesting that New Zealand end diplomatic relations with Israel and that Foreign Affairs Minister Gerry Brownlee be sacked, was finally answered by Brownlee himself on 7 August.
The Foreign Affairs Minister wrote in his reply to Dr Vlazna: “We stand by Resolution 2334 but respect Israel’s right to oppose it.”
How can Brownlee stand by the Resolution and, at the same time, absolve Israel? Does the Minister actually understand the evidence against Israel contained in UNSCR 2334? New Zealand sponsored the Resolution and no votes were cast against it. Does he speak for the National Government in his support for Israel.
Does Brownlee understand that the Security Council Resolution refers to Israel as “the Occupying Power” while reminding it of “its legal obligations and responsibilities under the Fourth Geneva Convention”? The Resolution declares that Israeli war crimes, such as annexation of Palestinian land, denial of the Palestinian people’s right to freedom of movement and destruction of their homes have “no legal validity”. Israel is reminded that its actions constitute “a flagrant violation under international law” as well as being “in violation of international humanitarian law and relevant resolutions.”
What prompts our Foreign Minister to disregard both the letter and the spirit of the Resolution 2334 in unilaterally determining that Israel has, what he terms a “right” to “oppose”, and therefore continue to violate, the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention?
Why does Brownlee put friendly co-operation with a belligerent Occupying power before support for international law and human rights?
What does Gerry Brownlee believe was the purpose of the passing of UNSCR 2334?
The Minister also wrote: “At the same time, New Zealand wants a constructive relationship with Israel. I am pleased that Israel has decided to restore full diplomatic ties with New Zealand. The Israeli Ambassador’s return will enable us to further strengthen the friendly links which exist between our two countries.”
Our Foreign Affairs Minister’s observations are made as if Resolution 2334 was some sort of embarrassing error that had best be disregarded. He claims to stand by it, yet expresses no interest in promoting respect for its demands and he certainly shows little regard for the generations of Palestinians who have suffered under Israeli military dictatorship.
How can we contribute to world peace and stability while continuing to reward Israel? Brownlee must be reminded that the government’s duty is to promote respect and compliance with UNSC Resolution 2334 and if Israel refuses then it must face Sanctions. Israel must be brought to account.
It’s our duty
It is time to bring our politicians to account. Our task is to raise awareness and that means putting an end to news media silence and the lack of debate among our politicians. They should be bombarded every day that Israel blindfolds and abducts Palestinian children from their homes in the middle of the night, whenever Palestinian children suffer horrific burns and other injuries at the hands of Israeli forces, every time Palestinian homes are destroyed, crops bulldozed and wells and irrigation systems destroyed. Our news media should be giving these atrocities the headline treatment they merit and our politicians must demand UN sanctions against Israel, especially with regard to the enforcing of UNSCR Resolution 2334. Silence is shameful.