By Salim Nazzal
In 1939 Europe turned a blind eye to the rise of Nazism. The British foreign minister Neville Chamberlain believed that a policy of appeasement would work with Hitler; it did not. Hitler attacked Poland, giving the world a costly lesson – a policy of appeasement does not work with fascism. The outcome is well known: Europe was ruined and around 50 million lost their lives. Yet thanks to the Norwegian "home front" resistance, Hitler was deprived of the heavy water needed for manufacturing the nuclear bomb; had he acquired enough material to do so, the history of humanity might have been dramatically different to that which we know.
The fact that Hitler was democratically elected by the German people did not legitimize his policy of mass murder; in the same way the Israeli election of fascists and war criminals should not legitimate the Zionists’ policy of mass murder. However, if Hitler is the starkest model of the democratic electoral system that brought Nazism to power in Germany, the recent Israeli election is a more recent example of an election that brought another known fascist, Avigdor Lieberman, widely viewed as the Israeli duplicate of contemporary European fascists like Jorg Haider or Jean Marie Le Pen, to power.
The evidence is the program of Lieberman’s party, Yisrael Beiteinu (‘Israel is our home’), and his hateful threats to ethnically cleanse the Palestinians who comprise 20 percent of Israel’s population. To make the picture clearer, imagine that the Norwegian government decided to ethnically cleanse the Lapp minority from the country or to demand a written oath of loyalty from each individual Lapp. Imagine that the British government demanded that each Northern Irish citizen sign a pledge of loyalty. Who could believe this is happening now in the 21st century? And furthermore, who would not find it shocking that a Jew is demanding a vow of loyalty in the 21st century, which is equivalent in significance to enforcing the wearing of the Star of David in Nazi Germany in the middle of the 20th century.
The rise of fascism in the Zionist culture is, as I shall explain below, an aspect entrenched in Zionist culture from its earliest establishment; the recent Israeli election (in February 2009) has only made it more visible to public opinion. For years Zionists have used the phrase "Israel is the only democracy in the middle east" as an ideological weapon to demonize Arabs and to justify its crimes. Today, after the war on Gaza which showed the world the ugly face of Zionism, the rise of Israeli fascism is yet evidence that Zionism and racism, as the UN declared in 1975, are twins; the recent elections in Israel showed us that Zionism and fascism are synonyms. Yet I must note that there is a major difference between the Nazi and the Zionist fascist, this difference does not lie in the culture of hate, which is the basis of both, but rather in the fact that the Zionist fascist has nuclear capability, enough, according to military analysts, to destroy a large percentage of the human population globally; this fact has, unsurprisingly, raised serious concerns both in the Middle East and around the world.
Even prior to his election, knowing the great support he already had among new generation of Israelis instilled for years with the culture of hate, the Moldavian fascist Avigdor Lieberman, brought to Israel in 1978, told the media that they must get used to the idea of him as the next Israeli defense minister. What does it mean when the majority in a society elects ultra-right wing and fascist parties? It can mean anything, but it is definitely not a healthy sign and shows a society for which the logic of ‘might makes right’ has become synonymous with it very existence.
A recent psychological study might explain the reasons behind the rise of the far right and war criminals to position of power in the state of Israel. The research was conducted by Daniel Bar-Tal, who is, according to Haartz newspaper, one of the world’s leading political psychologists and Rafi Nets-Zehngut, a doctoral student. It found that "Israeli Jews’ consciousness is characterized by a sense of victimization, a siege mentality, blind patriotism, belligerence, self-righteousness, dehumanization of the Palestinians and insensitivity to their suffering" (Haartz, 30.01.09).
It seems that many in the Arab world did not initially take Lieberman’s threats to nuke Gaza and his promises to conduct a policy of ‘transfer’ against the 1.5 million Palestinians with Israeli citizenship seriously; now, however, it would be politically naïve to ignore his threats. The Arab observers who I’ve talked with recently believe that the ascent of fascists to the leadership position in Israel will sooner or later create an arm race in the Middle East and probably put pressure on Arab countries to develop weapons of mass destruction to defend themselves, especially given Lieberman’s repeated threats to use atomic bombs on Gaza. Indeed, if Lieberman proposed to nuke Gaza in response to its resistance fighters’ use of rockets less powerful than the fireworks used to celebrate New Year’s Eve, what would he be capable of doing in a wider regional conflict?
The situation that we have reached now is unprecedented in modern history. The fear that a group of terrorists might acquire access to weapons of mass destruction has become a reality and the danger is very real indeed. A group of ultra-far-right extremists which has, for years, presented an illusion of their being the "permanently oppressed" figures, now represents an existential threat to the Middle East and the whole world. Avigdor Lieberman has made it clear on more than one occasion that he will strike Iran. Benyamin Netanyahu, who is likely to form the next Israeli government, is no less willing than Lieberman to hit Iran; the result of any such strike would be to destabilize the whole region, causing a state of complete chaos as never before.
According to some Arab observers, if any such war were to take place it would very probably extend to Syria, Lebanon and Palestine, drowning the region in a sea of blood. Those who support this assumption base their view on the fact that the state of Israel has lost its deterrent capacity in terms of its traditional arsenal of weaponry. This would mean, in their view, that Israel would be much more likely to use weapons of mass destruction in future wars.
It is essential, therefore, at this time is to send a clear message to the Norwegian, French, British and American governments who made the grave mistake of aiding Israel in its nuclear arms build-up to assume responsibility and to move quickly to impose the implementation of the UN Security Council resolution issued in 1981, which Israel has never honored because it put Israel’s weapons of mass destruction under international surveillance.
This naturally poses the inevitable question of attempting to understand the sociopolitical conditions that allowed this ideology to appear at this time, bearing in mind that sociological factors are complicated phenomena, which are not born overnight, but form a dynamic process that accumulates over time.
This will be my point of departure with the aim of digging for the roots of fascism in Zionist thinking.
MJ Rosenberg, the Israeli Policy Forum’s director of policy analysis, has observed that the state of Israel has been moving to the right for years. 30 years after its establishment, it elected a right wing party in the 1977 elections. (Los Angeles Times, Feb 11 2009). Rosenberg gives no account, however, of how he would explain the rise of this far right phenomenon, which reached its peak in the fact that Lieberman’s fascist party has become the country’s second far-right wing party, bearing in mind that Kadima is just an offshoot of the right wing Likud party.
According to one Palestinian expert in Israeli affairs, crime levels within Israeli society have increased dramatically in recent years because the soldiers who regularly murder Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza become acclimatized to solving their everyday problems through the use of violence. It is unlikely that the soldier capable of murdering a Palestinian child without any feeling of guilt will behave in a civilized way with his own family. Violence goes back to its perpetrator, changing his character and, to a large extent, the society’s character. This has made violence a predominant ideology in Israeli society, the very foundation of which was built on practicing violence against native Palestinians; indeed, its continued existence as a state in the Middle East has become largely dependent on using violence against Palestinians.
Therefore I argue that the Israeli elections which brought the ultra-right wing, war criminals and fascists to power reflects a serious crisis in a society where the culture of violence, force and war has become one of its most obvious behavioral traits, where the whole culture has been based on glorifying military generals and militaristic values which naturally happens at the expense of the civil values of tolerance, peace, understanding etc.
Let me first contest the thesis that adopts the oppression theory used to justify the rise of Zionism, which I view as the legislative mother of the fascist phenomenon in the state of Israel. I refute the oppression theory on the basis that other communities have not suffered less than Jews, yet did not develop its form of Zionism.
There are numerous examples to sustain this hypothesis. The native peoples of the US, Canada, Australia and New Zeeland, millions of whom were murdered and ill treated for centuries, didn’t develop any form of Zionism .The Africans were treated almost as subhuman, joined with chains and thrown into the European slave ships with zero regard for their humanity. Indeed, this was only the beginning of their long suffering, yet nobody has ever heard of ‘African Zionism.’ We can compare, for instance, the reaction of both communities to oppression. The founding father of Zionism Theodor Herzl’s response was to internalize the culture of hatred that laid the ground of the Zionist culture, to plan to colonize Palestine, to uproot its people, to build a military base in the Middle East which has now ended up a quasi-fascist state.
The African response, as formulated by Martin Luther King, was to assert that Africans, after centuries of oppression, must dream of freedom and justice and a day to come when "little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers."
The differences between the two ideologies are clear to everybody with the minimum of commonsense:
The political fruit of Martin Luther King and the African-American struggle for justice has resulted in the election of Obama and his discourse about change. The political fruit of Herzl and his Zionist discourse, meanwhile, has resulted in the election of the fascist leader Avigdor Lieberman and his agenda of ethnically cleansing Palestinians.
It must be stated, however, that in the course of creating Zionism not all European Jews embraced it; there was a liberal trend (Haskalah) that never fused Judaism with nationalism.
Those following the Haskalah school of thought pressed for integration and believed that the emancipation of European Jews could be achieved only through struggling alongside other democratic forces in Europe for justice and equality for all citizens; in other words its approach lay in the struggle for integration with the majority. This trend wanted to "close" the physical and psychological Jewish ghettoes and reach towards wider, more inclusive perspectives.
Zionism represented the exact opposite; it wanted Jews to retain a culture of ghettoisation, but with the difference that the ghettoes would be moved from Europe to the Middle East and would acquire a form of legitimacy by means of making Judaism a nationality rather than simply a faith. The two main sources from which Zionism benefited were the settler movement in the so-called New World, and the racist theories of the 19th century.
The Zionist response to the culture of anti-Semitism, therefore, lay in identifying itself with the basis of that very culture through developing an ideology of hatred towards others and a culture of verbally and physically terrorizing anybody who disagreed with them. Zionists view themselves as the sole possessors of absolute truth; their interpretation of Jewish history has been sanctified to an extent that nobody may challenge their version of events. Their interpretation of Palestinian history must be accepted, they insist, as the only truth. They assert, for instance, that they returned to Palestine after 2,000 years as if this were a short trip from London to Paris, as if Palestinian history were frozen until they came "back," and as if Palestinians were expected to welcome them with roses. This made of Zionist thinking a Machiavellian mindset par excellence, a total fusion of myth and reality on the one hand but a total separation between politics and morality on the other. They want to steal Palestinian lands, they want to murder Palestinians, but they become hysterical at the slightest criticism. In this way Zionism defends itself against its critics with racist-based charges of anti-Semitism, purely because Zionists reserve for themselves the right to hide behind these theories which blame all others for an "unimaginable eternal Jewish suffering".
The sharpest example of this lies in the Zionist response to the concept of anti-Semitism. The natural response of the oppressed should be in developing a strong stance against all sorts of racism and discrimination. That is what we witnessed with the experience of the ANC in South Africa which, after the collapse of the white apartheid regime there, focused on the concept of opposing discrimination and promoting tolerance; this, naturally, is the response which one expects from those who have themselves been oppressed. The word tolerance, however, is one rarely found in Zionist literature, but then this is no surprise when one considers that the whole ideology is based on murder, theft and oppression and that its literature has been created to justify and rationalize this creed.
In reality, the Zionists have adopted the fascist culture of hate, replacing the Nazis ideology which demonized all Jews with an ideology which demonizes all others; in other word, it has become ‘anti-other,’ ‘anti-non-Zionist’ or ‘anti-others who disagree.’
The benefit of this is clear; it puts the blame on the entire world for the oft-cited "eternal Jewish suffering."
Numerous terms in Zionist literature like "the world left us dying," "the world did nothing for us," "never again" and similar expressions help to support my argument that the Zionists have responded to anti-Semitic ideology by replacing it with an ‘anti-others’ philosophy. In other words Zionists replaced the culture of hate with a mirror form of hate; this, Zionist hatred, however, was not even directed against the repressive European regimes which tyrannized Jews but against the entire world as a generalized perception. The most obvious implementation of the Zionist "anti others" ideology is clearly in the case of Palestinians. In Palestine, Zionists use the so-called ‘eternal guilt of the west’ and Europe’s ‘eternal sin’ towards Jews to effectively pressurize Europe into supporting their oppression of Palestinians and silencing the critical voices raised against Israeli occupation.
The clearest crystallization of this ‘eternal sin of Europeans towards Jews’ has become an accusation of anti-Semitism convenient to use against whoever criticizes Israel, to the extent that even those individuals who generally support Israel, like President Carter who criticized it for its racist policy, did not escape this allegation. In this context, the ‘anti others’ concept was one of the principal constituents of the construction of Zionist theory, as we have seen in the Zionist literature of the past century. It must be necessarily noted that the ‘anti others’ concept carries the same fictional ideas as the fictional notions of the ‘anti Semite,’ with the anti-Semite blaming all Jews for the world’s problems and the anti-other blaming all others for Jewish suffering.
The Zionist representation of Jewish history in Europe never wanted to dig down far enough to understand the development of the anti-Semitic phenomenon, being rather selective as if this oppression has taken place in all times and all nations which of course does not match with the historical facts. Both assumptions are no more than the products of selective thinking and the fantasy theories of the conspiracy theorist mindset, which have no roots in the real world. It is obvious that Zionists are fond of this theory of constant victimization and its affinity and linkage with this ‘world-phobia,’ which is the basis of the ‘anti-other’ mindset, since it has for them become a form of insurance against any criticism, especially after the colonization of Palestine. The reality which Zionists never like to hear is that their anti-Nazi rhetoric and literature were never an honest position towards Nazi culture, but rather a means of legitimizing the violence of Zionist ideology.
The alternative to this culture of hate is a culture which is in accord with human rights and human decency. This is exactly what happened in South Africa, whose people suffered centuries of discrimination; the alternative offered by the ANC was to promote a tolerant and inclusive culture in post-apartheid South Africa. Africans have been subjected to every form of historical oppression, yet did not develop African Zionism. Zionism did not develop as an emancipation movement to liberate Jews from oppression as its literature claims it did; rather it followed almost in the same footsteps as those fascist ideologies it professed to oppose. The Zionist disease has even affected many of the world’s Jews, in particular American Jews who traditionally supporting the left wing movements in American society; today, however, most American Jews form the financial and propaganda store for supporting the state of Israel.
If Zionists were sincere in their opposition to Nazi culture how would it be possible for them to morally justify the destruction of Palestine at the hands of those who claim to be the Nazis’ victims? How could they justify their deeds that inflicted and continue to inflict enormous pain on the Palestinians? The Zionists’ frankly sickening ‘fifth floor fire’ analogy, which suggests that a man fleeing a fire on the fifth floor can be forgiven for accidentally or ‘unintentionally’ killing someone on the first floor by landing on them when he leaps over the balcony to escape the flames, is easily refuted. The acknowledged historical reality is that Zionists very deliberately aimed to colonize Palestine. They planned it, knowing that Palestinians would oppose it (see David Ben Gurion’s memoirs, Jabotinsky and others) and knowing that they would be resisted. They cooperated with the imperial powers to invade Palestine, and acquired arms specifically to kill Palestinians. If all this is an "unintentional accident," I wonder how we can define an intentional deed! The Holocaust and Jewish suffering in Europe was used not as a lesson teaching them to fight the culture of hate but rather as a useful benefit to justify a near-identical hateful ideology.
The problem, of course, has nothing to do with Palestinians as Palestinians. The Zionists would have used exactly the same murderous policy had they created the state of Israel in Uganda, which Herzl also suggested as a Jewish homeland. Zionists have defined Palestinians as enemies only because they view them as obstacles to the Zionist project. The Zionist psyche could not or would not see that the Palestinian people love their homes and families, that they value their hopes, feelings and dreams like every community on earth. Indeed, the Zionists did not even want to be part of the Middle East region culturally; as Ben Gurion put it, "We shall not become Arabs any more than Americans became red Indians." They did not want to integrate into their original societies and did not seek to integrate in Palestinian society because integration would mean returning the Palestinians rights that they took by force.
They saw the Palestinian natives as obstacles to be removed in the same way as road builders would demolish a rock standing in their way. The few left wing Zionists’ voices calling for a democratic state in Palestine were quickly lost in the violence of mainstream Zionist thinking.
Israel Zangwill, one of Herzl’s earliest and strongest supporters, observed that Jerusalem was twice as heavily populated as the United States. The solution to this in his view was to use the sword against the native Palestinians. The paradox of this, of course, is that Israel Zangwill invented the biggest lie in modern history, that Palestine was "a land without people for a people without land."
The Zionists knew almost nothing about Palestinian culture, and I believe that they did not even want to know because that knowledge might disturb their worldview, which had rewritten past and future history to follow their hatful ideology. Having already decided to displace and to kill, there was no need to discover anything about their future victims apart from the knowledge which aid them to occupy.
This has been the path of Zionism, an ideology founded on war, occupation and oppression, deception and falsification. Zionism turned Palestine, which should be a country of peace, into a centre for spreading a culture of hate against Palestinians, against Arabs, against Muslims, against anti Zionist Christians and against anti Zionist Jews and against everybody and anybody who asks Zionists to look at the mirror and see the true, ugly face of their ideology. It has turned the beautiful Palestine into a centre that spreads poison between the US and the Islamic world, between Europe and Arabs, between Arabs and Iranians, between Arabs and Arabs and even between Palestinians and other Palestinians.
The emergence of the ultra-fascist tendencies in the state of Israel is the natural consequence of a century of building a culture of hate towards the other. It is not at all a sudden phenomenon which landed by parachute, but rather the logic outcome of a poisonous culture which was transplanted in Palestine. Today the political map of Israel strongly indicates the disappearance of the left wing and of the rational voices that seek to find a just and peaceful solution; this gives the world a strong indication of the dark direction in which the Middle East is heading.
– Salim Nazzal is a Palestinian-Norwegian historian on the Middle East. He has written extensively on social and political issues in the region. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.