A MUST READ: The grand Zionist façade

Assertions without substance, prejudice without apology, violence without regret; these are the foundations of the Zionist dream of Israel, writes Shahid Alam*

On 12 January, The New York Times carried an article by David Brooks on Jews and Israel. It so caught my eye that I decided to bring it to my class on the economic history of the Middle East. I sent my students the link to the article and asked them to read it carefully and come to class prepared to discuss and dissect its contents.

My students recalled various parts of the New York Times article, but no one explained its substance. They recalled David Brooks’ focus on the singular intellectual achievements of American Jews, the enviable record of Israeli Jews as innovators and entrepreneurs, the mobility of Israel’s new class of innovators, etc. One student even spoke of what was not in the article or in the history of Jews — centuries of Jewish “struggle” to create a Jewish state in Palestine.

But they offered no insights on Brooks’ motivation.

Why had he decided to brag about Jewish achievements, a temptation normally eschewed by urbane Jews? In my previous class, while discussing Edward Said’s critique of Orientalism, I had discussed how knowledge is suborned by power, how it is perverted by tribalism, and how Western writers crafted their writings about the Middle East to serve the interests of colonial powers. Not surprisingly, this critique had not yet sunk in.

I coaxed my students, asking them directly to explore if David Brooks had an axe (or more than one) to grind. Was there an elephant in the room they had missed? What was the subtext of the op-ed?

At last, one student moved in the direction of the missing elephant. David Brooks had not mentioned the “aid” that Israel had received from the United States. Did my class know how much? Several eyebrows rose when I informed my students that Israel currently receives close to $3 billion in annual grants from the US, not counting official loan guarantees and tax- deductible contributions by private charities. Since its creation, Israel has received more than $240 billion in grants from the US alone.

We had grasped the elephant’s ear, but what about the rest of it, its head, belly, trunk, tail and tusks? My students did not have a clue — at least, so it appeared to me.

My students did not understand — or perhaps did not show it — that no discussion about Israel, especially in the New York Times, could be innocent of political motives. Israel is a contested fact, a colonial-settler state, founded on ethnic cleansing, a state of the world’s Jews, but not of its Arab population. It continues to marginalise its Palestinians “citizens”, to dispossess the Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and strangulate them in Gaza.

Supported and coddled by the United States and other Western governments, Israel now faces growing protests from diverse segments of Western civil society. Churches, labour unions, professors, students and other activist groups are calling on corporations and governments to divest from, boycott and sanction Israel. As always, but now more than ever, advocates of Israel continue to manufacture myths, opinions, and “facts” that can cover for its crimes against the Palestinians and other Arabs in its neighbourhood.

Isn’t that what David Brooks was doing, I asked my class, by painting Jews and Israel in the colours of pure glory?

I saw a few nods of recognition. But one student demurred. “Doesn’t everyone glorify his own country? The US too had engaged in ethnic cleansing. What is the difference?”

There are two differences, I submitted. David Brooks is glorifying Israel but he is not Israeli. More to the point, he is glorifying Israel to cover up for Israel’s present and projected crimes against Palestinians. He is covering up for Israeli apartheid that exists here and now.

At this point, many in my class gasped at what they heard. It appeared to be a voice quarried from the past. It was a defence of genocide quite commonly advanced in previous centuries when European settlers were exterminating natives in the Americas, Oceania and Africa. “We had done so much better with the land than the natives.” Occasionally, such repugnant ideas from the past, which we think we have buried forever, leak into public discourse. Perhaps it is good that they do: they remind us that the past is not dead.

David Brooks starts his article with statistics to show that the Jews “are a famously accomplished group”. Do we need to be convinced of the accomplishments of the Jews? Is there anyone who contests this? So why does Brooks feel the need to support this with statistics? “They make up 0.2 per cent of the world population,” he informs us, “but 54 per cent of world chess champions, 27 per cent of Nobel physics laureates and 31 per cent of medicine laureates.” Just in case these comparisons fail to clinch the point, David Brooks offers more comparative statistics.

Does Brooks aim to belabour the point, or is he saying, ‘Look at all the great things we have done for you Gentiles. We are indispensable. Don’t you criticise what we do. Don’t you go against us’? Or does he feel so personally inadequate that this forces him to seek comfort not in Jewish accomplishments — as he claims — but in Jewish superiority?

Alas, the Jews in Israel have not matched the achievements of the Jews in the Diaspora. The Jewish state contains close to 40 per cent of the world’s Jewish population, but very few of the Jewish Nobel laureates are Israelis. Only nine Israelis in 61 years have won the Nobel Prize. If we exclude the three “Peace” laureates — and wouldn’t you, if you knew who they are — that leaves six. Only three of these six were born in Israel, and one was born there while his parents were visiting relatives in Tel Aviv. Hardly a great total. Ireland, with a smaller population, has six Nobel laureates.

David Brooks knows this. “The odd thing,” he writes, “is that Israel has not traditionally been strongest where the Jews in the Diaspora were strongest.” Why has Israel fallen short? Blame it on the Palestinians and the Arabs. “Instead of research and commerce, Israelis were forced to devote their energies to fighting and politics.”

That was in the past, however. Israel is now bubbling over with innovation and entrepreneurship. Tel Aviv is now “one of the world’s foremost entrepreneurial hot spots”. Once again, statistics are offered to establish Israel’s leadership in civilian research and development. Israel’s more ominous leadership in military technology is not mentioned.

Moreover — and this is David Brooks’ point — this technological success “is the fruition of the Zionist dream”. Then follows another piece of chauvinism. Israel was “not founded so stray settlers could sit among thousands of angry Palestinians in Hebron. It was founded so Jews would have a safe place to come together and create things for the world.”

David Brooks disguises Israel’s second round of colonial expansion that began in June 1967 as a diversion from the main goal of Zionism, a distraction created by “stray” settlers in Hebron. The close to half a million Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, supported, financed, and protected by the world’s fourth most powerful military are minimised as “stray” settlers in Hebron, who are a problem only because they are surrounded by “angry” Palestinians.

Israel was founded — David Brooks asserts, invoking the language of Zionism — so Jews could have a “safe place” and create “things for the world”. Has Israel been a safe place for the Jews? Safer than the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, or even the Arab world before 1917, when the Zionist movement gained official sponsorship from Britain? Plausibly, the answer is no.

One must also ask: What “things” has Israel created for the world? What “things” has Israel given to the Arab world, other than wars, massacres, ethnic cleansing, occupation, war crimes, and alibis to its rulers to create repressive regimes? What has it given to that other world — the Western world — that Brooks probably has in mind? Israel has jeopardised the strategic interests of Western powers in the Islamicate. On more than one occasion, it has brought the United States close to nuclear collision with the Soviet Union. The most valuable “things” that Israelis provide to Western powers, to the United States in particular as an occupying power in Iraq and Afghanistan, are the technologies and tactics they have been perfecting while crushing Palestinian resistance. But David Brooks does not wish to talk about that.

Then comes the coup de grace. This is the blow aimed to finish off Brook’s primary target, the Arabs. Jewish and Israeli accomplishments must finally be placed against the terrible paucity of Arab creativity in the sciences, technology and entrepreneurship. Arabs are asked to declare the patents they have registered in the United States. The astronomical gap between Arab and Israeli patents can only have one cause. The Arabs do not have the “tradition of free intellectual exchange and technical creativity”. In true Orientalist style, blame Arab failures on Arab culture.

Ironically, the two countries Brooks picks to make his point — Egypt and Saudi Arabia — are the closest Arab allies of the United States. The US never wags its finger at the despotic monarchy in Saudi Arabia or the repressive dictatorship that has controlled Egypt for decades. The United States works to bring “democracy” only to its enemies.

Yet for all its triumphalism and crude claims of superiority, the New York Times op-ed ends on a disappointing note. Israel’s innovators, the sons of Zionist dreamers, bring no real commitment to Israel. Just a little instability, and they will vote with their feet. “American Jews used to keep a foothold in Israel in case things got bad here. Now Israelis keep a foothold in the US.” As remarkable as it is, Israel’s success is “also highly mobile”.

Is Brooks the great friend of Israel that he must believe he is? All that any one has to do to destroy Israel’s economy, he writes, is “to foment enough instability so the entrepreneurs decide they had better move to Palo Alto, where many of them [Israelis] already have contacts and homes.”

What sad and strange thinking. Perhaps this is what happens when a person gets trapped inside the nightmare that was sold to the Jews as the great Zionist dream. Brooks confirms that this nightmare cannot be saved by Israel’s technological prowess. Apparently, Israel’s greatest success stories — its cutting-edge technology companies — are also footloose. They could be heading for the exits at the first sign of instability.

Technological prowess will not save Jewish apartheid. Nothing will. But Jews can shore up their lives and build a more promising future for themselves by discovering their common humanity with the Arabs, by making amends with the Palestinians, and learning to give back to the Palestinians what they have taken from them over the past nine decades.

The Zionists are prisoners of a bad dream: they must first free themselves — break free from the prison in which they can only play the part of tormentors — if they and especially their Palestinian victims are to live normal lives.

Ref: Al Ahram


* The writer is professor of economics at Northeastern University. He is author of Israeli Exceptionalism: The Destabilising Logic of Zionism .

Israeli Exceptionalism: The Destabilising Logic of Zionism

A small band of European Zionists enters the world stage in late 19th century,

determined to create a Jewish state in Palestine. This is their solution to the ‘abnormal’ condition of European Jews, who are without a land and are not a nation. To achieve this, they must seize Palestine; induce Western Jews to become colonists; and, above all, recruit Western powers to adopt their colonial project.

Zionists can only succeed by creating Islamicate enemies; they need resurgent

anti-Semitism to send Jewish colons to Palestine; and they must persuade/coerce the West to stand behind their colonial project. In succeeding, the Zionists merely transplant Jewish abnormality from Europe to the Middle East – and make it worse. In Europe, Jewish-Gentile frictions were local problems; in Israel, ominously, they have come to form the pivot of a global conflict that pits the West against the Islamicate.

Writing about Zionism has not been easy. The history of Zionism is history gone wrong, and not only for the Palestinians. The tragedy for the Palestinians is obvious, although, blinded by racism and the Zionist bias of their media, Westerners only recently have begun to see this tragedy for what it is. It has been a tragedy for the Jewish people too, who were co-opted by the Zionists to place their energy, their talent and their hopes on a project they should never have undertaken, and whose only chance of success lay in obliterating the hopes of another people. The more trapped this project becomes in its own logic, the greater the destruction it becomes willing to wreak. It chooses destruction in order to delay coming to terms with, and making amends for, the tragedy it has spawned.

The Future of Israel and the Decline of the American Empire

Israel is in the grip of a kind of collective schizophrenia. Not only its governors but the majority of its Jewish population have delusions of both grandeur and persecution, making for a distortion of reality and inconsistent behavior. Israeli Jews see and represent themselves as a chosen people and part of a superior Western civilization. They consider themselves more cerebral, reasonable, moral, and dynamic than Arabs and Muslims generally, and Palestinians in particular. At the same time they feel themselves to be the ultimate incarnation of the Jewish people’s unique suffering through the ages, still subject to constant insecurity and defenselessness in the face of ever-threatening extreme and unmerited punishment.

Such a psyche leads to hubris and vengefulness, the latter a response to the perpetual Jewish torment said to have culminated, as if by a directive purpose, in the Holocaust. Remembering the Shoah is Israel’s Eleventh Commandment and central to the nation’s civil religion and Weltanschauung. Family, school, synagogue, and official culture propagate its prescriptive narrative, decontextualized and surfeited with ethnocentrism. The re-memorizing of victimization is ritualized on Yom Ha Shoah and institutionalized by Yad Vashem.

Israel uses the Holocaust to conjure the specter of a timeless existential peril, in turn used to justify its warfare state and unbending diplomacy. Forever posing as the impossibly vulnerable Biblical David braving the Islamic Goliath, Israel insists all its cross-border wars and punitive operations are strictly defensive, preventive, or preemptive. Yet its leaders, many of them retired senior officers of the armed forces and intelligence services, attribute the exploits of the military to the advanced weapons, exemplary strategists, and uniquely principled citizen soldiers of the country’s formidable “Defense Forces,” one of the world’s mightiest fighting machines.

This self-congratulation passes over the powerlessness of the enemy “other” while it vastly exaggerates Israel’s innate strength to the point of impairing judgment and action. Without the enormous and practically unconditional financial, military, and diplomatic support of the United States and European Union, Israel would be an unexceptional small Middle Eastern nation-state, not an anomalous regional superpower. Even with this truly uncommon foreign backing (not to mention that of the global diaspora), the Jewish state scores only pyrrhic victories, judging by its failure to significantly enhance its strategic and political position in the Greater Middle East—except for the time gained to further consolidate and expand its fiercely contested “facts on the ground” in the West Bank, Jerusalem, and the Golan.

Although its leaders avoid saying so in public, Israel does not want peace, or a permanent comprehensive settlement, except on its own terms. They do not dare spell these out publicly, as they presume the enemy’s unconditional surrender, even enduring submission. Instead the Palestinians continue to be blamed for a chronic state of war that entails Israel’s continuing self-endangerment and militarization. This policy’s underlying strategic premise is the need to prevent any significant change in the West Asian balance of power.

But there is possibly another less delusional reason for their spurning accommodation and negotiation: because of their history of exile and want of political self-rule, Jews and their sages may well be insufficiently mindful of the theory and practice of sovereign statecraft. Admittedly, after 1945 the leaders of many of the new states of the post-colonial worlds were equally benighted. Unlike most of them, however, Israel’s political class and thinkers prize their deep connection with the West, including its philosophic and intellectual heritage, to the point of putting admission to the European Union ahead of rapprochement with the Arab/Muslim world. Yet they seem not to be conversant with the fundamental ideas of the likes of Machiavelli and Clausewitz. Respectively theorists of politics and war, both emphatically propound moderation over unrestraint. Machiavelli puts virtù at the center of his formula for the use of power and force. He does not, however, construe it as a moral principle—as virtue—but as a prescript for prudence, flexibility, and a sense of sober limits in power politics.

Clausewitz theorizes limited war for well-defined and negotiable objectives, the disposition for compromise varying in inverse ratio to the victor’s aims and demands. He cautions above all against “absolute” war in which intellect, reason, and judgment are cast aside. Although he and Machiavelli take account of the interpenetration of domestic and international politics, both conceive them as two distinct spheres. In Israel, domestic politics prevails, with little concern for the reason of international politics.

These insights are particularly relevant for small states. But blinded by their successful defiance of limits and laws, the leaders of Israel take their country of seven million people (over 20 percent of them non-Jewish, mostly Arabs) to be a great power by dint of its outsized armed forces and arms industry. They deceive themselves by assuming the Western world’s support for its military hypertrophy is irreversible. Perverting virtù they launch nearly absolute military expeditions against the radical Palestinian resistance. They also envisage striking resurgent Iran with the most modern American-made and -financed aircraft operated by American-certified Israeli pilots. Nor does Tel Aviv hesitate to send military, technical, and covert “intelligence” missions, as well as weapons, to scores of nations in the Middle East, ex-Soviet sphere, Africa, Asia, and Latin America, not infrequently in concert with Washington.

State terror is all but integral to the latest weapons and tactics with which Israel’s forces engage the Palestinian resistance fighters. Of course the latter also resort to terror, the hallmark of asymmetrical warfare. But it is Israel that sows the wind and reaps the whirlwind. A vicious, endless cycle of vengeance, driven by the clashes of Israel’s overconfident, sophisticated, and regular military forces with crude and irregular paramilitary forces, further intensifies the distrust between Israelis and Palestinians, including Israeli Arabs, most of them Muslim. Though intended to break the will of the armed militias by inflicting unbearable pain on the host society, as in Lebanon and Gaza, the collateral damage of Israel’s campaigns of “shock and awe” only serve to fire the avenging fury of the powerless.

Since Israel’s foundation, the failure to pursue Arab-Jewish understanding and cooperation has been Zionism’s “great sin of omission” (Judah Magnes). At every major turn since 1947-48 Israel has had the upper hand in the conflict with the Palestinians, its ascendancy at once military, diplomatic, and economic. This prepotency became especially pronounced after the Six Day War of 1967. Consider the annexations and settlements; occupation and martial law; settler pogroms and expropriations; border crossings and checkpoints; walls and segregated roads. No less mortifying for the Palestinians has been the disproportionately large number of civilians killed and injured, and the roughly 10,000 languishing in Israeli prisons.

Despite the recent ingloriousness of Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, Israel’s ruling and governing class continues to stand imperious. Yet evidence that the country’s military is increasingly ill-adapted to fight today’s decentralized irregular warfare mounts, while its foreign policy is increasingly incoherent and hostage to the hidebound partisan politics of competing intransigence. Geopolitically unsteady, its relation to Washington is battered by the same heavy winds now buffeting the center and periphery of the American empire.

Even so, emboldened by cutting-edge conventional and unconventional weapons, the governors of Israel, contemptuous of the minuscule and comatose left opposition in the Knesset and the country at large, vow to hold on to most of the archipelago of settlements and all of Jerusalem. They pay lip service to the two-state solution, but all they are prepared to concede to the Palestinians is a cramped pseudo-state with minimal sovereignty, with Gaza severed from the West Bank. If pressed they might agree to a 30-mile tunnel under sovereign Israeli land to establish an artificial contiguity between fragmented West Bank and fenced-in Gaza Strip. Yet they mean to control all land and maritime borders as well as the airspace and electromagnetic frequencies.

Meanwhile Israel continues to play on the internecine divisions of the Palestinian nation and the discords in the Arab-Muslim world. Its leaders dread nothing more than a reconciliation of the two principal Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah; a Palestinian unity government; and an entente cordiale of the Arab states whose peace proposal, initiated by Saudi Arabia in 2002, they consider fraught with doom. The latest spirit of darkness is non-Arab Shi’ite Iran. Should Tehran’s political power and ideological sway strike fear into the so-called moderate Arab states, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Syria, these might all rally around the treacherous Arab peace overture. Such a turn would most likely drive Iran to step up its support of radical political Islam throughout the Greater Middle East, including Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas throughout Palestine, and the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. If Israel responds only with the usual truculence, it will continue to navigate dangerously between the ever more insecure and disoriented anciens régimes of the Arab/Muslim world and an intensifying political unrest whose impulses are both secular and religious.

While the country is fixated on national security—Iran being decried as the latest, and imminent, existential threat—elsewhere Israel is widely perceived to be rapidly eroding what remains of its singular moral capital and international prestige. There are more and more calls for boycotts, embargoes, divestments, sanctions, and prosecutions, while the media are finally giving more space and time to analytic and critical voices. To dismiss or denounce this growing censure of Israel’s policies as an expression of resurgent age-old anti-Semitism—allegedly encouraged and legitimated by the ravings of self-hating Jews—is not to see the forest for the trees. The same holds for Israel’s leaders’ disposition to stigmatize major foreign adversary leaders—Nasser, Arafat, Saddam Hussein, Ahmadinejad—as Hitler redivivus.

But the old reflexes remain, and the prospect of a nuclear and Islamist Iran said to be bent on regional hegemony keeps them quick. With a population of 70 million and some 15 percent of the world’s proven oil and natural gas reserves, Iran is, indeed, a state to reckon with: it has a long history, a strong national consciousness, and a swelling educated middle class. Its two-stage, solid-fueled missiles are capable of carrying conventional and nonconventional warheads a distance of between 930 and 1,200 miles.

Instead of joining those who seek diplomatic ways to refigure the balance of regional power, Israel advocates an all-out economic embargo of Iran backed by the threat of air strikes. The hardliners’ aim: to trigger a regime change by way of a color revolution covertly fomented by the U.S. and Israel. They warn that Tel Aviv will make good on this threat of aerial assaults on Iran’s nuclear sites to delay or prevent it from developing the ultimate weapon. Even respected politicians and public intellectuals swear that in extremis Israel will strike without approval from Washington, confident the U.S. will have no alternative but to provide military and diplomatic cover, all the more so now that Israel can use America’s five military bases in the Holy Land as blackmail.

In March 2009, Barack Obama and Shimon Peres saluted the Iranian people and government on the occasion of Noruz, the start of the Persian new year. Obama stressed the “common humanity that binds us together” and insisted it was in the interest of both countries that “Iran should take its rightful place in the community of nations.” Peres struck a radically different note. He urged Iranians to reclaim their “worthy place among the nations of the enlightened world” as he laid out the conditions in their country: “There is great unemployment, corruption, a lot of drugs, and general discontent. You cannot feed your children enriched uranium, they need a real breakfast. It cannot be that the money is invested in enriched uranium and the children are told to remain a little hungry, a little ignorant.” Iran’s children suffer only because “a handful of religious fanatics take the worst possible path.” Rather than heed President Ahmadinejad, who in 2006 questioned the Holocaust, the citizenry should “topple these leaders…who do not serve the people.” Besides, while “they are destroying their [own] people, they won’t destroy us.”

The accusations are rich. Even now the independence of the Israeli judiciary is compromised, secularism is losing ground, xenophobia is rampant, and, still and always, the Palestinian minority is reduced to second-class citizenship. In brandishing the Iranian threat, Israel’s faction-ridden but consensual political class merely perpetuates its rule by fear, which, according to Montesquieu, sows the seeds of despotism.

Israelis must ask themselves whether there is a point beyond which the Zionist quest becomes self-defeatingly perilous, corrupting, and degrading. Although the Judeocide marks the nadir of the history of the Jewish people, it is not its defining moment and experience. The mythologized millennial exile of the Jewish people was anything but an unrelenting dark age: there was a vital Jewish life before the Shoah, and it resumed full force after 1945, in both Israel and the diaspora. It is neither to profane the Holocaust nor to desecrate the memory of its 5 to 6 million victims to recall their membership in a vast confederation of over 70 million killed during World War Two, some 45 million of them civilians. It is simply to point up that the Jewish catastrophe was inextricably tied into the most murderous and cruel war in the history of humanity, a war uniquely ferocious because of its crusading furies, and not because of a divine narrative about the Jews.

The Greater Middle East is a seething cauldron of domestic and international conflicts. All the nations of this perennially contested geopolitical space will have to adjust to the emergence of a multipolar world system and the attendant waning of the American empire. This great and accelerating change in international politics coincides with the breakneck globalization of economics, finance, and science, which subverts national economies while simultaneously fostering a new mercantilism whose terms are set by a new concert of Great Powers.

Israel’s leaders are at a crossroads: either they stick to their guns and are forced into a reconfigured geopolitical reality they cannot outwit or overmaster, or they decide of their own accord to temper their hubris and rein in their propensity to vengeance. What should they choose at a moment when Israeli society is facing a decline in Jewish immigration, a rise in Jewish and Israeli emigration, and an upturn in draft dodging (to say nothing of how this disenchantment may be affecting the steep rate of assimilation and intermarriage in the diaspora)?

To begin, Israel’s governors and public intellectuals should rethink the fundamental premises, objectives, and strategies of the policies followed since 1948. They might do well to recall one of Theodor Herzl’s earliest ideas: in exchange for a Jewish commonwealth serving as “an outpost of civilization against barbarism” in Palestine, which was considered a link in Europe’s “rampart against Asia,” the Great Powers would guarantee its existence “as a neutral state.” To be sure, even for most Israeli Jews the crass orientalism of this vision is out of season. But the notion of a neutral state ought not to be dismissed lightly. The present garrison state is not about to become, as Herzl envisioned, “a light unto the nations”—let alone the diaspora.

Next, they might admit to themselves that small nations do not have the prerogative to speak loudly and carry a big stick, and that they keep tempting fate by stubbornly staying Israel’s nuclear course. This defiance cannot help but increase the perils of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and Central Asia from which Israel will not be immune. Betting a tiny country’s security and survival on a momentary regional head start in state-of-the-art warheads, aircraft, missiles, unmanned drones, cluster bombs, and cyber weapons is, again, delusional. Inevitably Iran and other states will challenge its imperiousness, in the process exposing the entire region to the unthinkable doctrine of mutually assured destruction premised on both attacker and defender having a fail-safe deterrent in the form of a second-strike nuclear or chemical-biological capability. Although Tehran may still lack an effective missile air defense system, it has test-fired high-speed missiles whose range puts it within striking distance of Israel. But Iran has two additional trumps: a foothold near the northern entrance to the narrow Strait of Hormuz, the world’s single most vital energy chokepoint; and a critical geopolitical proximity to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

Rather than lead the regional nuclear and biological charge, Israel should issue a call for a nuclear-free Middle East along with the announcement of a significant reduction of its own outsized atomic arsenal and armaments industry, which are both counterproductive and provocative. Tangible and symbolic, such a military cutback could be paired with a signal that Israel is prepared to seriously discuss the Palestinian refugee issue. This might take the form of expressing remorse and assuming partial moral responsibility for the exodus of over 700,000 Palestinian Arabs in 1947-49 and of mounting an international effort to make amends in the form of reparations in line with U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194 (Article 11).

In the aftermath of the bloody and destructive invasion a donors’ conference raised some $4.5 billion for the relief and reconstruction of Gaza. While the bulk of the aid was pledged by the Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia, the U. S. committed $900 million for the Palestinian Authority and $300 million for relief in Gaza. What if these monies had been raised earlier? Had they gone to reparations, deployed as a confidence-building measure, the region might have been spared the politically toxic and humanly lethal Lebanon and Gaza incursions.

Overtures of this nature, seconded by other nations, might be preliminary steps to Israel’s at long last specifying base lines for a negotiated agreement on security, borders, settlements, Jerusalem, holy places, and water resources. Such a turnaround and agenda would spell the renunciation of the secular and religious diehards’ inveterate reach for the Jordan River and reliance on the strategy of the Iron Wall. To seek a conciliation and accommodation with the restive Palestinian political class, edgy Arab regimes, and turbulent Islamic world is to forsake the Joshua-like martial and closed Zionism of Weizmann, Jabotinsky, Ben-Gurion, Begin, Netanyahu, and Barak. It would call for and make possible a recovery of the repressed Isaiah-like humanist and open Zionism of Ahad Haam, Martin Buber, Judah Magnes, Ernst Simon, and Yeshayahu Leibowitz for either two demilitarized states or a single bi-national state for two peoples with open borders, the separation of state and religion, universal civil and social rights, and ecumenically informed cultural reciprocity.

The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only at dusk for political actors as well as philosophers. Israel’s leaders, reflecting more critically on Herzl’s belief in the need for an imperial patron, must grasp the implications of the incipient decline of the American empire for Israel’s future. Paradoxically the waning of Washington’s hegemony in the Greater Middle East is likely to chasten Israel’s pride and give enlightened and cosmopolitan Zionism a new if difficult lease on life. But insofar as the U.S. fights its decline tooth and nail, Israel’s power elite is also more likely to remain implacable, at all risks and hazards for their own country and the diaspora.

Ref: Counterpunch
Arno J Mayer is emeritus professor of history at Princeton University. He is the author of The Furies: Violence and Terror in the French and Russian Revolutions.and Plowshares Into Swords: From Zionism to Israel (Verso).