In an investigation into the history of Israel’s founders, The General’s Son, the author, Miko Peled, born in Jerusalem and a human rights activist, reveals the ugly truth of Zionism’s beginning and purpose. He tells us that Theodor Hertzl, the founder of Zionism, claimed that the only real Jews are secular and Zionist. According to Hertzl, Jews are a nation because, as he put it, “our enemies made us one without our consent; distress binds us together.” On the other side of the argument, as far back as the Ninth Century, Rabbi Sa’adiya Ga’on observed in his book, Beliefs and Opinions, that Jews — are a nation only by virtue of their religious laws.
Hertzl, who considered himself and other Zionists as secular and “enlightened”, thought of religious Jews as “a lower class of people” and blamed them for hatred against all Jews. He lamented that his higher class of Jew was unjustly forced to suffer, along with those who, as he saw it, deserved to be shunned. Vladimir Jabotinsky, the father of what is now the Israeli Likud Party, wrote a eulogy to Hertzl, using an insulting term with which to refer to religious Jews and ‘Hebrew’ to describe what he considered to be their superiors. He states quite clearly that the Hebrew ought to know how to command. As Miko Peled notes, the Zionist state was created “for the secular European Jew, who wants more than anything to be European.” He also notes that “when the victims of Zionism finally have their day in court, the world will see just how cruel and racist the early Zionists really were.”
April 9 marked the 73rd anniversary of the Dayr Yasin Massacre when Zionist forces, Lehi and Irgun, invaded and took control of the Palestinian village of Dayr Yasin. What followed was one of the worst of the ethnic cleansing Nakba massacres. Survivors were forced out of their homes to become refugees and, to this day, the Zionist regime continues to deny their right of return. Two Jewish neighbourhoods, Kfar Shaul and Har Nof, now stand over the site of the village.
Israel’s pro-Zionist UK ally
In a tatement by the Rt Hon James Cleverly MP at the Security Council briefing on the Middle East Peace Process on 23 June 2020, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Minister admitted that Palestinians were suffering from “settlement expansion, increases in demolitions, seizures and a worsening of settler violence” but described these violations of international humanitarian law merely as “counterproductive activities.” However, he condemned Palestinian Resistance to Israel’s, destructive blockade of Gaza, as a threat to “Israel’s security.” He continued: “Let me be clear: the UK is committed to Israeli security. We condemn all forms of incitement and anti-Semitism wholeheartedly.” Nowhere in the statement does the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Minister mention any commitment to Palestinian security.
In his speech, James Cleverly note that Palestinian militants have fired rockets and launched incendiary devices from Gaza. What he fails to acknowledge is the enormous disparity of scale between the numbers of Israeli attacks on the one hand and Palestinian Resistance to them on the other. In the first three months of this year, for example, there were three ceasefire violations by the Palestinian Resistance in response to 295 attacks on Gaza by Israel. That is 98 Israeli attacks for every Palestinian retaliation. The first Palestinian missile-firing came on 19 January, after 91 attacks by Israeli forces, including two incursions into Gaza and invasions of its airspace. Palestinian fishing boats and agriculture came under almost daily attack. Both the Palestinian missiles were unguided and caused no deaths or injuries.
The first of the three Palestinian violations was also in January when Israeli forces encountered armed Palestinian resistance after making a seven hour incursion into an area east of al-Farahin, where they began laying waste to Palestinian land. Later, just after 11pm on 19 January, Israeli forces, positioned behind the Green Line, shelled an area east of the al-Maghazi refugee camp, wounding one person and damaging several homes. In his speech, Cleverly describes Palestinian Resistance as “terrorism and ‘anti-Semitic’ incitement.” The power imbalance and timing outlined above can leave no doubt about the true source of incitement.
Israel and the International Criminal Court
On 8 April, Israel responded to a notification by the International Criminal Court (ICC), sent on 9 March, concerning plans to investigate “possible war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories”. Israel, which had from the outset chosen not to be a party to the Rome Statute that created the ICC, replied by refusing even to recognise the Court’s jurisdiction with regard to the investigation. The ICC has, however, determined that it does have jurisdiction regarding Israeli military Occupation and control over the Palestinian territories of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. One of the guiding ICC principles, embodied in the Charter of the United Nations, is that “all States shall refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations”. Even though Palestinian statehood may be denied by Israel, the right of the Palestinian people to “territorial integrity” and “political independence” is enshrined in the “Purposes of the United Nations”.
The language used by the ICC regarding “possible war crimes” is moderate and diplomatic. In reality, the world knows that Israel commits war crimes every day. James Cleverly’s speech to the Security Council, referred to above, is just one example of this. But although political leaders allied to Israel cannot deny its atrocities, they can and do, underplay them. New Zealand’s Five Eyes allies, in particular, habitually divert attention away from Israel by labelling Palestinian Resistance as ‘incitement’.
The security of Palestinians is constantly violated, with no respect even for children. In just the first three months of this year, 230 Palestinian children have been abducted by Israeli troops and police. Many of them, under interrogation, suffered not only verbal abuse but also violence that, in some cases, amounted to torture. On 2 April, Israeli troops, firing stun grenades and tear gas canisters in the Bab al-Zawiya area, beat up 13-year-old Mu’taz al-Zarrou and hospitalised him with severe injuries – without doubt that is state terrorism.
Israel seizes more Palestinian property in Jerusalem
At 2am on 8 April, Israeli police accompanied more than 100 Occupation settlers in raids on the Silwan neighbourhood in East Jerusalem, raising Israeli flags upon and seizing possession of 15 Palestinian family homes and land. The aim of these and other seizures is to establish a Jewish majority in Jerusalem’s Old City and other neighbourhoods. While the Israeli Occupation refuses to allow Palestinians to build or restore buildings in Silwan, settlers are often enabled to do so. Hundreds more Palestinian-owned houses, in different areas of Silwan but mainly in Batn al-Hawa, Wadi Hilweh and al-Bustan, are under threat of demolition by the Israeli Occupation. The invaders believe that only Jews have the right to live there and, while the might of the Israeli military gives them a singular advantage, criticism of Israel is still condemned as ‘anti-Semitic‘!
Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) believes that: “Facebook is set to make a decision very soon on whether to reinterpret some uses of the word ‘Zionist’ as anti-Semitic hate-speech under its Community Standards. We hope that, in the wake of our public campaign, driven by over fifty international movement partners, Facebook will decide against this dangerous policy change — one that would further prevent Palestinians from connecting with the world and sharing their experiences, and silence those of us organising to hold the Israeli government accountable. But we have to keep the pressure high.” JVP asks us to send an email now to decision-makers at Facebook to remind them: our communities are paying attention and ready to organise collectively in the face of a decision!
Shun Zionism’s anti-Semitism misnomer
The New Zealand Human Rights Commission is considering the possibility of adopting the IHRA definition of ‘anti-Semitism‘ but the term ‘anti-Semitism’ does itself require scrutiny. Even to condemn violations of international law, such as those exemplified in UN Security Council Resolution 2334, appears to invite accusations of ‘anti-Semitism’. The term is too often employed to imply that it is hatred towards Jews alone that drives opposition to Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians. The problem for political Zionism is that many Jews, from all walks of life, are among the most outspoken and rational critics of the ideology. Therefore it is reasonable to conclude, as does the Encyclopaedia Britannica, that the expression ‘anti-Semitic‘ is a misnomer. Sadly, the term is now so widely accepted that even opponents of Zionism use it in everyday language. But there is now a growing movement to dismantle ‘anti-Semitism‘, as the US-based Jewish Voice for Peace has proposed.
An article, evaluating the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism (JDA), written by Marilyn Garson and published on 9 April by Sh’ma Koleinu – Alternative Jewish Voices (NZ), points to the vagueness and contradictions of the IHRA-WDA definition and reminds us also that “even the authors of the IHRA-WDA have protested” against “the use to which their working document has been put.” In her article, Marilyn Garson disagrees with the IHRA-WDA assertion that criticism of Zionism and Israel is ‘anti-Semitic’ “since it places the ideology of Zionism in the protected space of religion.” As the Alternative Jewish Voices (NZ) article says, “these unaccountable accusations distort the public understanding of antisemitism.” Accordingly, Sh’ma Koleinu asks “government, institutions and authorities to consider both definitions side by side” should they find themselves pressured to adopt the IHRA-WDA definition of ‘antisemitism’. Justice and human rights would be well served by the Human Rights Commission if it were to adopt a fresh and independent view of the subject with willingness to examine the matter more deeply. Zionism’s success in controlling the term ‘anti-Semitic’ has led even those who resolutely condemn Zionist inhumanity to quietly accept the term as legitimate. Granted, it is now universal in usage – but that ought not to mean it must never be challenged or scrutinised.
New Zealand has been exporting military equipment to Israel and continues to also import military equipment manufactured by Elbit Systems Limited, Israel’s largest weapons manufacturer. The company has been involved in grave breaches of international law that have been condemned by the International Court of Justice. Its contribution to military assaults targeting civilians have been documented by Human Rights Watch. Elbit even markets its drones as “battle tested”. Research by the Norwegian Government has revealed the extent of the company’s involvement in Israel’s annexation Wall. The Wall, that encroaches upon West Bank Palestinian land, has been condemned by the ICC as a serious breach of international law. A 10 April Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa press release, notes that even though the New Zealand Superfund has stopped investing in Elbit Systems because of its involvement in violations of international law, our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nanaia Mahuta, is conforming with official advice “not to speak out about Israeli human rights abuses against Palestinians”.
In December 2016, New Zealand voted in favour of UN Security Council Resolution 2334 that condemns Israeli Occupation settlements as having no legal validity because they constitute “a flagrant violation under international law”. Having formally recognised Israel’s criminal behaviour, it would appear that we are still prepared to abandon its Palestinian victims. This policy is, of course, in step with that of the UK, whose Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Minister, while not denying its war crimes, proceeds unashamedly to defend Israel and belittle its victims. In January, the acting US Envoy to the UN, Richard Mills, told the Security Council that the US would restore aid to Palestinians via UNRWA. But so that there could be no suggestion of holding Israel responsible, the Envoy took care to declare: “I must be clear, the US will maintain its steadfast support for Israel”.
However, the crimes committed by political Zionism have been exposed to such an extent now that, sooner or later, Israel will be made answerable. In the United States, by far Israel’s most dedicated ally, the Zionist Jewish National Fund (JNF) has suffered an unprecedented defeat in a Federal Court. At the end of March, a federal judge dismissed as “to say the least, not persuasive” a lawsuit filed by the JNF and others against the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR). USCPR, one of the oldest and largest Palestine solidarity organisations in the United States, is a coalition of hundreds of groups working for freedom, justice and equality. This case exemplifies defence efforts by the Center for Constitutional Rights in support of activists, academics and organisations facing legal challenges to their advocacy for Palestinian human rights.
Unite for justice
All four of New Zealand’s Five Eyes partners repeatedly declare their commitment to ‘Israel‘s security‘ but take care never to directly admit the same right for the Palestinian people. New Zealand should detach itself from the policies of ‘allies’ and ‘partners’ who show no determination to bring Israel to account. We should join the global, multi-cultural unity of movements that are demanding an end to Israel’s violations of international law. Zionism’s success in suppressing free speech is waning but we still have a long way to go. Whatever the Human Rights Commission determines in this matter, it is obliged to respect human rights and international law, especially the right to freedom of expression.