The Palestinians: In the Crosshairs of the Exceptional and the Righteous

People wave American and Israeli flags at a Zionist rally in Jerusalem. (Photo: ActiveStills)

By Issa Khalaf

Forget the dismal political, legal, security, and moral consequences of Washington’s relocation of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the US’s effective sponsorship of routine Israeli war crimes committed against an essentially defenseless, captive Palestinian people, the disgusting hypocrisy of the Western powers, always on the military ready to obliterate Arab states and societies, or the slow-motion colonization and dispossession of the remainder of historic Palestine.

It’s not these facts alone that stagger. The daughter and son-in-law of the leader of a dominant global power attending the inaugural ceremonies of this relocation is an equally appalling, shameful spectacle. Trump’s son-in-law, an Orthodox Jew, clueless but ardent in his right-wing Zionism, awarded the gratuitous remit of a diplomat or special envoy for the Middle East and Palestine-Israel peace, is a bizarre state of affairs.

The alliance and friendship with the good Arab and Muslim, the dashing Saudi with cool initials, MBS—who with Netanyahu eagerly lobbies for US attack on Iran while murdering Yemen and sponsoring, in concert with the US and Israel, jihadis’ ferociously vile undoing of Syria—validates and comforts Jared Kushner and Jews who think like him. It legitimates in his mind the unconscious denial of Israeli guilt and feeds the fantasy of an Israel defending itself against its bad Arabs and Muslims, reassuring himself of Jewish/Zionist righteousness, superiority, and innocence.

Autocratic leaders are not unknown in history to be heavily influenced and advised, their ears whispered into, by family members and close relatives, but this is also an inevitable outcome of the intimate though hardly mutually beneficial—that is, deleterious to American national interests—symbiosis of the current imperial or hegemonic, ostensibly democratic state and Zionism.

It certainly speaks to the incredibly special and pampered place Israel holds in Washington and in Western capitals, the effortless access to power Zionist organizations (along with government officials and advisors) working on behalf of Israel have in these states, and the comfortable ease and openness with which they display their Israel-first credentials.

In the mind of Kushner and that of neo-conservative American Jews, the protective, good American big brother and unsullied little sister Israel share an indissoluble emotional and psychological bond with identical interests. Both are exceptional and entitled.

On the obverse, it speaks to the Palestinians’ feeling of being voiceless, their grievances shut down and shut out in the centers of Western power and media, their freedom viciously denied in their own homes and homeland, unfairness and accusation ceaselessly heaped upon their tormented lives as they powerlessly witness the murder and theft of Palestine unfolding with open impunity and closed moral conscience.

This reality has only led to perennial destabilization, wars, injustice, fanaticism, and unending violence in the tattered Middle East. Always a convergence of hubris-filled, mayhem causing hegemonic powers and Zionist ambitions, with the added element of local Arab regimes, leaders, and elites whose power, privileges, and control are intimately tied to external guarantors.

American, European, and Israeli Jews who speak up and act on behalf of the Palestinian people do not know how greatly their ethical voices raise Palestinian morale and optimism for a future of shared dignity and freedom. Palestinians certainly act with their own agency, but the cruel Israeli killing of hope requires moral solidarity.

Still, American Jewish liberals desperately seek to impose a normalcy on Israel that is not there, who believe that by rationally analyzing its internal politics and parties, its personalities and ideologies, they can apprehend a peaceful end to Israel’s occupation. I’m not so sure. Likud or Labor, right, center, or liberal, “political Zionism’s” colonization of Palestine differed and differs in degree rather than in kind.

The atrocities in Gaza, as countless atrocities elsewhere and over many decades against Palestinians and other Arabs, are a symptom of an ideology that has morally failed and continues to miserably fail at realizing Israel’s genuine peace and security. Some object that Zionism is vaguely familiar to Israel’s young and even irrelevant to today’s Israel. But what of the Zionist foundation, values, institutions, indoctrination that define and drive today’s Israel?

Socio-politically, Israel is a self-defined religio-ethnic state, based on a dominant group identity, exactly the antithesis of Western secular, democratic, citizenship based states.

To say that Israeli Jews’ treatment of the Palestinians is caused by the trauma of the Holocaust can only go so far. You would think those who have unspeakably suffered will understand the Palestinians’ suffering all the more. In any case, Zionist attitudes toward the Palestinians predated the Holocaust by decades. Denial, disdain, hatred, superiority, exclusion, violence, terrorism, frenetic racism and so on were always there.

Astoundingly, we are talking about a contemporary Israeli society in which very large Jewish majorities openly declare, in one poll after another, their racism and loathing of “Arabs.” A Jewish state that practices extreme dehumanization of Palestinians, the snakes and roaches whose babies and children—or their source, mothers—must be killed, whose young soldiers snipe them off or bomb them with merriment, as if killing animals, a state that starves them and programmatically designs sadistic conditions for them to exist in.

This is irrational in the extreme. Even live and let live, much less honest peace with the Palestinians, the Israeli state will not allow. Only subjugation, destitution, and submission will do, disappearance most of all. Palestinian resistance or protest in any form is typically translated by most Israelis ranging from equally lunatic academics, chief rabbis, and political leaders to mean that their victims want to kill them, “forcing” Israel to destroy them. This is the full extent of their self-awareness.

A Palestinian march of return, a mass, peaceful, Gandhian-like march on Israel from all parts of the occupied territory, is Israel’s worst nightmare, for it shocks its denial and delusions about Zionists’ ethnic cleansing in 1948 and since, that others centuries before them lived on the land. This sort of thing, a reminder of the Palestinians’ national existence and its corollary, acknowledging the injustice against them, much less the hint that this constitutes the only path to modern Israeli Jewish redemption, drives most Israelis mad. Hence the ferocity directed at the protesting Gazans.

There’s no other way of course, especially now with population parity between Arabs and Israelis in historic Palestine. Israel’s survival will always depend on its willingness to coexist with the Palestinians on equal terms and acceptance by the Arab peoples. Wars and destruction and alliances with Arab autocrats cannot buy safety and security. The routine horror inflicted on the Palestinians only becomes increasingly unforgivable to many young Middle Easterners, in the region and outside it, and alienates masses of people worldwide. This does not bode well for Israel’s future.

–Issa Khalaf has a Ph.D. in political science and Middle East Studies from Oxford University. He contributed this article to

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