By Hasan Afif El-Hasan
Jewish people are observing the Passover tradition of escaping slavery in Egypt and enjoying freedom. While they celebrate their ancient struggle against slavery and claim having Jewish moral superiority, they at the same time accept terrorizing, starving, strangulating, detaining and humiliating another people on a daily basis and occupying and colonizing their lands under false narratives.
Last time I read the Ten Commandments that were given to Moses by God in the form of two stone tablets, according to Judaism, the sixth and eighth commandments prohibit murder and stealing. Murdering a human being is a capital sin according to God, but the Israelis murder Palestinians and steal their lands and properties every day.
I wonder how the Jewish people, despite their achievements and contributions to science, philosophy, music and art, could have descended into the madness of suppressing a people and denying them free life in only one fifth of the land that they owned for centuries. Where is the morality in calling the indigenous Palestinians only as “Arabs” to deny their linkage to their home land? It is sad that some Jewish intellectuals routinely use the tragedy of the Holocaust to vindicate the obliteration of the Palestinians’ society and human rights. Have they accepted the fiction that their occupation of the Palestinian lands is part of their “enlightenment”?
Even some Israelis here and there question the morality of their fellow countrymen who abuse the indigenous Palestinians. The respected Israeli novelist, Yizhar Smilansky expressed his feeling of unease and anguish about the defacement of the Jewish humanistic ideals in an open letter to Haaretz. He ended his letter by stating, “The Jew in me is crying out!” In a soul searching moment, David Grossman, an Israeli novelist and essayist wrote in his 1984 book, “The Yellow Wind”: “I could not understand how an entire nation like mine, an enlightened nation by all accounts, is able to train itself to live as a conqueror without making its own life wretched”. The answer is simple. It is the Zionist colonialism.
Because Zionism was a project to erect a state on the ruins of the indigenous Palestinian society; and due to its commonality with the nineteenth century European colonialism in Africa; and because it was conceived by European Jews, it must be recognized as a movement in the European colonial tradition. Zionism has been supported and its project was made possible by the European colonialists. Like the nineteenth century colonizers who employed Christian ideologies to justify conquering far away lands at the expense of its indigenous population, the Zionists employed the Jewish religion to colonize Palestine. Perez Smolenskin, a nineteenth century Russian Jew and the founder of the Hebrew “Literary Monthly” suggested that all methods were legitimate to sustain the Jewish national goal including colonizing the “Land of Israel”.
The Zionists declared secularism, but they managed to have their nationalism culturally dependent on the Jewish religion. They expressed their ideology in religious terms of redemption and rebirth. “Zion” is the religious name of a hill in Jerusalem and the Zionists chose their flag based on the prayer-shawl used by Orthodox Jews. The secular Zionists who are economically and numerically the strongest sector in Israel, gave the religious Jews only the power to define the Jews identity culturally.
Theodore Herzl (1860-1904), a broadly traveled well known Hungarian non-practicing Jewish, perhaps atheist, journalist and a writer, was obsessed with the Jewish question since his university days but he had different solutions at different times. Until the eruption of violence against the Jews in France as a result of the “Dryfus Affair”, the court martial of a Jewish officer in 1894, Herzl believed that gradual Jewish assimilation with the Christian Europeans would be the best solution to anti-Semitism. In 1895, Herzl wrote in his diary, “About two years ago I wanted to solve the Jewish question, at least in Austria, with the help of the Catholic Church. I wished to arrange for an audience with the Pope and say to him: help us against the anti-Semites and I will lead a great movement for the free and honorable conversion of Jews to Christianity”.
A year later after the “Dryfus Affair”, he changed his belief and attempted to articulate a new ideology based on Jewish nationalism, in his formal sixty-five page essay, Der Judenstaat, translation, “the Jewish State”, addressed to the Rothschilds banking Jewish family in 1896. He proposed a Jewish state as a modern solution to the Jewish question because Jewish-hatred was inevitable fact of life. He asserted in his essay that all Jews, whether in Russia or those assimilated in Western Europe, belong to one nation and their question was a national question rather than religious or social. He stated in his essay, “The idea which I have developed in this situation is an ancient one: it is the establishment of the Jewish state”.
Herzel was explicit that the Jewish state should be secular. He wrote that, “We shall not permit any theocratic tendency to emerge among our spiritual authorities. We shall keep them to their synagogues..” Despite his non-religious ideology, Herzl’s writings were replete with religious references only to justify the Zionist’s ideology. The Jews should settle in Palestine because, in his words, “the Temple will be visible from long distance, for it is only our ancient faith that has kept us together”. Herzl’s solution to the anti-Semitism was for the Jews to have a land of their own. He suggested Argentina or Palestine as the settlement site, but he preferred Palestine as the first choice because of its historical significance to the Jews.
One century after Zionism was conceived, Israel is a reality and the Palestinians are denied the right to establish a mini-state on one fifth of their land because it is against the Zionist colonialists’ way of thinking. The Zionist project turned out to have calamitous consequences for the Palestinians as well as the Jewish religion. The Zionist colonial enterprise has superseded Judaism, and the practice of the oldest monolithic religion in Israel has lost any claim to spiritual or moral superiority among cultures.
As a result, Judaism has been reduced to mere ritual practices.
– Born in Nablus, Palestine, Hasan Afif El-Hasan, Ph.D. is a political analyst. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.