Excluding radical, religious dictatorships, most states have some measure or recognition of the necessity of the separation between Church and State because the danger is obvious. Governance has to be impartial if it exists at all. It cannot claim to be doing “God’s work.” Such rhetoric often inflames nationalism, xenophobia, extremism, religious violence, and intolerance and it can be used in attempts to justify just about anything. Yet Israel proudly calls itself the “Jewish state,” so that all criticism of the government’s brutality and tyranny can be called “antisemitism” as if the Jewish identity is inextricably linked to such brutality, apartheid, and genocide, which is truly an insult to Jews against Zionism like Dr. Hajo Meyer, an outspoken critic of Israel’s crimes who was also a survivor of the concentration camps of Nazi Germany. Meyer has compared the tactics he saw the Nazis use with Israel’s1 and stated in an interview that Israel has “given up everything that has to do with humanity, with empathy, for one thing: the state. The ‘blood and soil,’ just like the Nazis. I learned in school about blood and soil, and that’s exactly their idea, too.”
Israel prides itself on its war machines and innovations in killing technology and they have a hand in just about every type of crime imaginable from stealing the organs of dead Palestinians2, to incarcerating 500 to 700 children per year under military law3 (some of whom were kept in outdoor cages during a winter storm in 2014)4, to torture5, to attacking civilians with chemical weapons like white phosphorus6, cutting off Palestine’s water supply7, to withholding the bodies of victims from their families and freezing them to prevent autopsies8, to use of explosive ammunition9, to use of dense inert metal explosives on civilians10, to imprisoning them with their Nazi-like apartheid walls and in their Draconian prisons, to degrading checkpoints and restricting free travel, to killing pregnant Palestinian women11, and bombing hospitals, mosques, UN centers, schools, and residential buildings.12
Detained Palestinian children are also repeatedly threatened with rape to force false confessions and to implicate those the IDF wants to punish. One 15-year-old boy, Ahmad F., had food smeared on his genitals by IDF soldiers so that a dog would eat it off him.13 Fathi Mahfouz, also 15 years old at the time he was kidnapped by the IDF, explained he was electrocuted and hung to a cross by the IDF.14 No lawyers are ever present during forced “confessions” and Israeli military courts have conviction rate of 99.74% for Palestinian defendants according to the military court’s own annual report.15 Meanwhile in 2012, out of 103 investigations opened into offenses perpetrated by Israeli soldiers in Palestine, not one resulted in a charge according to research by the Israeli legal advocacy group Yesh Din.16 Palestinian children don’t just suffer the trauma of arbitrary arrests, injuries, and deaths. They are also regularly woken up in the middle of the night during raids and asked which bed they sleep in, asked for IDs, and photographed to map their location.17 The IDF also interrogates children to gain information about leaders of nonviolent protest movement against the occupation.
Israel’s blockade of Palestine also has caused major increases in poverty and food insecurity. According to a report by the Euro-Med Monitor for Human Rights, 65% of Gazans suffer from poverty, 72% are food-insecure, 80% have become dependent on international aid, and in 2016 43.2% of Palestinians in Gaza faced the heavy burdens of unemployment.18 Most efforts to help Palestinians have been savagely crushed. For example in 2010, civilian ships called the Freedom Flotillas attempted to peacefully break the Israeli blockade, bringing humanitarian aid, 500 passengers, and construction materials. The IDF responded by storming the ship and killing 9 passengers. A tenth passenger later died from wounds sustained from the IDF. The Freedom Flotillas tried again the following year and again in 2015 to transport humanitarian aid across the blockade with similar responses by the IDF but no more murders of passengers fortunately. In 2015 Spain issued an arrest warrant for Netanyahu and 7 other Knesset members for their part in the 2010 Freedom Flotilla massacre.19 Israeli foreign ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nachshon called the arrest warrant “provocation” and it could not be enforced because of Netanyahu’s sovereign immunity, one of the most archaic legal concepts in the world that illustrates the absurdity of all governments.
As stated the racist, capitalist, and fascist Israeli government has absolutely nothing to do with Judaism. They just use it as a cover for their crimes, and criticism of the government has nothing to do with antisemitism. Real antisemitism also affects far less people as there are only 14 million Jews worldwide (by 2014 estimates), whereas there are 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide and Islamophobia has been increasing steadily with the rise of far-right xenophobes and Islamophobes like Trump, Marie Le Pen, Boris Johnson, and Theresa May. Refugees fleeing untold violence and suffering who are being turned away from relatively safer countries aren’t Jewish. They’re Muslim. Further, despite Israel’s constant invocation of the Holocaust, Palestine and Palestinians had absolutely nothing to do with that tragedy. As Dr. Hajo Meyer pointed out the takeaway from the Holocaust should not be “never again for Jews” but “never again for anyone.”
When religion turns violent, devoutly religious people are often the first to defend their religion and explain the violent ones weren’t “real” followers or that the conflict wasn’t really about religion at all. For example, when Israel’s government gets international criticism for war crimes, (which it has been finally, but it needs more) IDF soldiers and sympathizers often claim their war isn’t about religion. But this has almost always been about religion. Almost all of the conquests over Israel, Palestine, and surrounding territories over the past few thousand years have been about religion. Even when the conquests are made truly for resources, money, and land, religion is used in an attempt to justify them.
Historically, Jews have been the more often subjugated religious minority, but there have also been Jewish Kings who were very repressive and violent as well. Netanyahu is the current one, even though that isn’t his official title. He is fighting for a Greater Israel, (which includes more than Palestine) by making settlements on land that belongs to other people, suppressing dissent, and unapologetically ordering massive military airstrikes on hospitals, UN schools, mosques, and humanitarian aid agencies. These strikes are mostly killing innocent children.
The Gaza strip being bombed right now by the Israeli Air Force with many US weapons is a small, overpopulated region. It is just one region Netanyahu would like to overtake and turn into a part of Greater Israel. It contains 139 square miles and over 1.8 million people. The density of the population makes air strikes that solely kill terrorists impossible. Egypt has also blocked Gaza’s only portion of its border that isn’t shared with Israel or the sea, locking the common Gazans in their territory currently under assault and essentially making Gaza an open air prison. At the Israeli / Gaza strip border there is an enormous 37 mile long barrier separating the two territories with violent, contemptuous soldiers. Many Palestinians who have attempted to cross the barrier at night have been shot and killed. The Israeli government prevents much humanitarian aid from entering Palestine, as well as imports of food, water, and electricity. The Jewish Voice for Peace reported in July 2017 that “homes in Gaza have electricity for 2-4 hours daily.” The Israeli government also claims ownership of the airspace above Palestine and the waters adjacent to Palestine and often kills or arrests Palestinian fisherman trying to fish to survive. The Israeli government encourages Jewish settlers to steal more and more Palestinian territory and regularly engages in “combat engineering,” knocking down Palestinian homes to make room for settlers, sometimes killing Palestinians and protesters in the process. According to the Iran Daily Newspaper, “More than half a million Israelis live in over 120 settlements, built since Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank, including East al-Quds, in 1967.”20
The Israeli government has been able to keep their crimes under wraps for so long in part because of the enormous Israeli lobby in Washington, DC. Organizations like the Anti-Defamation League are so intent on maintaining a Jewish state that any criticism made by anyone of the Israeli government’s policies is often called “anti-Semitic,” even though the occupation has nothing to do with Judaism and very orthodox Jews have protested by the thousands in Israel against their government’s occupation of Palestine, just as many very religious Palestinians have protested rocket attacks by Hamas. However, the military capabilities of Hamas dwarfs those of Israel, and Hamas has killed far fewer civilians in their attacks than the IDF has. From 2004 to 2014 rocket attacks from Palestine only killed 5 IDF soldiers, 27 Israeli civilians, 5 foreign nationals, and 11 Palestinians,21 despite the fact that thousands have been fired while the IDF killed thousands of Palestinian civilians with its far superior billion dollar weapons technology. Israeli claims so few have died from these Palestinian rocket attacks because of the Iron Dome defense system deployed in March 2011 near Beersheba that intercepts rocket fire but in reality the real reason they have killed so few is that the so-called “rockets” fired on Israel by Hamas are “technologically speaking, just a few steps above homemade fireworks in terms of their guidance systems”22 as Subrata Ghoshroy of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists explained. Further, Ted Postol, an MIT-based missile defense expert told NPR “We can tell, for sure, from video images and even photographs that the Iron Dome system is not working very well at all….It—my guess is maybe [it hits a targeted missile] 5 percent of the time—could be even lower. … And when you look—what you can do in the daytime—you can see the smoky contrail of each Iron Dome interceptor, and you can see the Iron Domes trying to intercept the artillery rockets side on and from behind. In those geometries, the Iron Dome has no chance, for all practical purposes, of destroying the artillery rocket.”23 The reason Israel lies about the effectiveness of the Iron Dome is twofold. They want to exaggerate the threat of Hamas in an attempt to justify more artillery bombardment of the civilian population and they want more money for the military. Hamas has no ability to get advanced missiles because their budget is so low and Israel and Egypt have blockaded the Gaza Strip’s borders. Egyptian President Sisi even sealed the Palestinian tunnel system, making large weaponry smuggling underground impossible.
Hamas also spends about 10 to 20% on its military, which is less than many nations do. Reuven Paz PhD, Senior Research fellow at The International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) in Herziliya, Israel said in July 20, 2001 that 90% of Hamas’ funds go to “social, welfare, cultural, and educational activities” like running relief programs, funding schools (including ones for women), orphanages, nurseries, mosques, sports leagues, healthcare clinics for orthodontics, pediatrics, post-surgical care, as well as soup kitchens. This is largely why they were elected in 2006 and why they are still popular among Palestinians. Even, Matthew Levitt, a strong critic of Hamas who wants it destroyed admits in his book on Hamas using Israeli estimates that Hamas has a budget of only $70 to 90 million, and 80 to 85% of this money is spent on social welfare programs.
Some Palestinians may feel “safer” when Hamas launches rocket attacks on Israel, just as some Israelis believe the IDF’s strikes are making them safer, but this is not true in either case. Many of the attackers believe they are defending their homeland, but most often they perpetuate the violence as the Israeli government is incredibly reactionary and uses rocket attacks as excuses to bombard the civilian population and of course these bombardments radicalize some of the population and motivate them to physically fight back.
The targets of the Israeli Knesset, the only legislative branch of the Israeli government, aren’t limited to Palestinians. Many members of the Knesset describe immigrants and refugees in Israel as “infiltrators” and this is even codified in laws like the “anti-infiltration law” passed in 1954. The law was amended on January 10, 2012 to legalize imprisonment of immigrants for up to three years without a trial. This law is ironic considering that the country which was supposedly built to give a home to refugees by pushing out natives and creating refugees won’t allow any more refugees in their country who aren’t Jewish. Jewish exceptionalism and supremacy is essentially law in Israel. This stems from the Zionist narrative that they are the “chosen people,” which is itself racist and makes Zionists feel justified to ethnically cleanse the land of Israel and Palestine of non-Jews. Ironically, this exceptionalism is much like the belief the Nazis had of the “superiority” of the Aryan “master” race.
In May 2012 Deputy Defense Minister, Danny Danon, Interior Committee Chair, Miri Regev, former Public Security Minister of Israel, Yariv Levi, and Michael Ben-Ari, member of the Knesset from 2009 to 2013 attended an anti-African rally in Tel Aviv, after which Jewish racists rioted, destroying African homes and places of business. Just days after the riots, former Kadima member of Parliament, Yulia Shmuelov-Berkowitz, called for the imprisonment of Ethiopian Israelis in camps in the Negev desert before deportation, (which is ongoing though they’re euphemistically called “accommodation centers” instead of prisons despite the fact that leaving them before deportation is not an option, except for residents of Holot detention center who are allowed to leave but required to sign in three times a day and not break curfew) along with anyone who offers them assistance. In an interview by Max Blumenthal in 2010 with Ben-Ari he stated that “We’ll turn into a country of immigrants. There are those who are hostile to the state and want to turn it into a state of people from all over the world. We’ll bring in a million Africans, half a million Filipinos, 2 or 3 million Chinese, and that’s the end of Israel. There will no longer be a Jewish state. Our country is different from other countries. Our country is a Jewish state. A Jewish and democratic state . . . that may sound like a contradiction. If you bring in a million Africans, it will no longer be Jewish. We are waging war against the phenomenon of assimilation.”
Former deputy Prime Minister and IDF member, Eli Yishai, who has played numerous other roles in the Israeli government said in November 2009 that African refugees should not be allowed in Israel because they carry “a range of diseases such as hepatitis, measles, tuberculosis and AIDS.” In June 2012 he used white supremacist language and said in an interview by Maariv, “Muslims that arrive here do not even believe that this country belongs to us, to the white man.” In November 2012 during “Operation Pillar of Defense” he told Haaretz, “The goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages, only then will Israel be calm for the next 40 years.” Prime Minister, Netanyahu, himself said at the Herzliya Conference on security in 2003, “If there is a demographic problem, and there is, it is with the Israeli Arabs who will remain Israeli citizens...if the percentage of Arab citizens rises above its current level of about 20 per cent, Israel will not be able to maintain a Jewish demographic majority.”
The racism in Israel isn’t exclusive to Israeli politicians. For example, on December 1, 2010, hundreds of Rabbis like Sderot Rabbi Ariel Bareli made an announcement forbidding landlords from renting apartments to any non-Jewish person and then dispatched community patrols to enforce this decree. Bareli stated, “If we blur this message and say this is a country for all its citizens and the other automatically becomes a citizen with equal rights, and you don’t have any special privileges just because you are a Jew, unfortunately, in moral terms, that’s like scoring a goal against your own team.”
Immigrants in Israel are even discriminated against in medical settings. The Guardian reported in February 2013 that Ethiopian women immigrating to Israel are injected with birth control, Depo-Provera, without their consent or knowledge in many cases in transit camps in Ethiopia and again when they arrive in Israel every three months in Israeli clinics. The Guardian noted, “The phenomenon was uncovered when social workers noticed the birth rate among Ethiopian immigrants halving in a decade.”24 Jajaw Bimro, a Jewish Ethiopian who immigrated to Israel and refused to serve in the IDF told the San Francisco Bay View some immigrants have even had their blood thrown in the trash when they donate.25 Immigrants also face discrimination in many Israeli workplaces.
Much of the press in Israel is also extremely racist and Islamophobic. For example, Ben-Dror Yemini’s column in Israel’s best-selling daily newspaper, Yediot Ahronot, regularly attacks Africans, Palestinians, and dissenting Israeli Jews. In one article Yemini argues that African men should be transferred to desert detention centers to prevent romantic relationships between them and Jewish Israeli women.26 He is not alone in this view. Palestinians who live in Israel also face daily discrimination and in some cities Palestinians are chased and harassed once the sun sets to prevent romances between Palestinians and Jews.
Immigrants experience the brunt of police violence in Israel as well. For example, on October 18 2015, after Bedouin Israeli, (Bedouins are regularly subject to racist attacks in Israel and Bedouin towns in Israel are not given equal access to water) Muhand al-Okabi, began to shoot up a bus station in Beersheba Israel, killing IDF soldier, Omri Levy, and wounding 11 others, a security guard mistook an innocent Eritrean refugee at the station, Haftom Zarhum, for the shooter because he also had dark skin and shot him. Other Israelis then kicked the wounded Zarhum, cursed him, slammed him into a bench, and prevented medics from evacuating him to the hospital. However, because Zarhum entered the country “illegally” the defense ministry offered his family no compensation and no one was charged for his beating, shooting, and death.
Saharonim Prison, Ktzi’ot Prison, Sadot prison, and the Holot detention center in the Negev desert were all built strictly for African asylum seekers, primarily from South Sudan, Eritrea, and Sudan, including infants and young children. Saharonim and Sadot have a capacity of 8000 inmates each and Ktzi’ot is the largest detention facility in the world. According to Human Rights Watch, Ktzi’ot held one of every fifty West Bank and Gazan males over 16 in 1990. The Nachal Raviv tent camp has a capacity of 2000 to 4000 inmates and is just a few miles east of Ktzi’ot in the desert. According to +972 Magazine, “It was built on army land in order to bypass the local zoning committees and objections expressed by the regional council, which claimed that the conditions were not suitable for humans.”27
Contrary to Zionist propaganda, which calls these refugees “infiltrators” and “criminals,” Israeli Supreme Court justice Edna Arbel has stated that studies show that African immigrants actually commit far less crimes than the rest of Israeli society on average. However, far-right fascist hawks like Gilad Menashe Erdan, Public Security Minister of Israel, have encouraged Netanyahu’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau into treating some African refugees as terrorists.
Journalist David Sheen reported in December 2015 that “Eritreans and Sudanese make up more than 90 percent of the asylum-seekers living in Israel. And yet Israel has awarded refugee status to only four of the former and zero of the latter.”28 In October 2015 about 65,000 African refugees were estimated to live in Israel. In May of that year Israel sent letters to 45,000 Eritrean and Sudanese refugees giving them two options: either accept a payment and a one-way ticket back to Africa or go to prison.29 But going back to Africa can be a death sentence. In March 2015, Haaretz, an unapologetically Zionist propaganda rag, reported that 9000 Sudanese refugees who were deported in the last two years from Israel were imprisoned and tortured upon their return.30
The targets of racism in Israel aren’t limited to Muslims, Palestinians, or Africans. There is even racism among Jews directed at Jews of different origins. For example, Mizrahi Jews were housed in tent cities upon their arrival in Israel, their heads were shaved, and they were sprayed with DDT. Today, there is still economic disparity between Mizrahi Jews and Ashkenazi Jews. Mizrahi and Sephardi Jews have also been excluded from some schools and segregated in others. Further, 13% of Israel’s land is owned by the Jewish National Fund, which will not lease or sell any land to Arabs, including Jewish Arabs. Israel’s Law of Return also makes Palestinian refugees ineligible for citizenship.
To make matters worse, conscription applies in Israel to all able-bodied 18-year-olds, including immigrants. Men are required to serve in the IDF for three years and women for two. However, the San Francisco Bay View reported in December of 2016 that “in recent years, a significant proportion of the population – 28 percent of men and 42 percent of women – has avoided conscription in one way or another.”31
The History of Israel and Palestine
As stated Israel, Palestine, and surrounding territories have long and bloody histories. They involve genocides and all kinds of abuses on all sides, which is what makes the history so sensitive. It is important to note that extremists on both sides usually use “Holy” Scriptures in an attempt to justify what they are doing.
According to the Torah, God gave Abraham the Promised Land, which included Gaza, parts of modern day Palestine, Israel, Lebanon and Syria:“The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”- Genesis 17:8. In the Book of Exodus, Moses leads the Israelites who had previously been slaves under the Egyptian Kingdom to the “Promised Land.” (However, there is little evidence this migration actually took place.) In the Qu’ran the story is very similar. In the book of Numbers, God says to Moses to explore the land at that time called Canaan. The Israelites go there and explain the land is already populated and very fertile:
“We even saw descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.’ Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, ‘We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.’ But the men who had gone up with him said, ‘We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.’ And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, ‘The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the Nephilim there. We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.’” Numbers 13:1-3, 17-33. God then gives the plague to the Israelites for fearing the people living there and hesitating to conquer the land, killing 14,700 of them.
Later in the book of Numbers, God orders Moses with the Israelites to massacre all the men of Midian (part of modern-day Saudi Arabia adjacent to Israel) and any women who have slept with a man. The Reubenites and the Gadites then ask Moses to grant them the land east of the Jordan river. Moses agrees on the condition that they assist in conquering the land west of the Jordan River. The land east of the Jordan River is divided among the tribes of Gad, Reuben, and Manasseh. Moses then instructs the Israelites to destroy the Canaanites and their idols. The Israelites in the Bible are also constantly at war with the Philistines whose capital is Gaza.
Abraham had two sons according to the Bible. The first was Ishmael and the second was Isaac. Most Biblical scholars believe Arabic people are the children of Ishmael and the Jews are the children of Isaac. The Zionists claim only the Jews deserve Israel because Ishmael’s mother was only a handmaiden for the mother of Isaac.
God instructs many in the Bible to wage war for the “Holy Land,” so it’s not surprising countless peoples and states have waged wars for the land. It’s worth revisiting some of that history that many are not aware of because the current situation in Israel and Palestine mirrors this old history, which we must study so that we stop repeating the tragic mistakes of our ancestors.
The Christian Bible claims the Kingdom of Israel was founded by King David who created a dynasty of kings beginning with his son Solomon. The kingdom split into a northern Kingdom of Israel and a southern Kingdom of Judah around 930 BCE. The Kingdom of Israel was destroyed by Assyrian King Tiglath-Pileser III around 750 BCE, along with the Philistine kingdom. In 586 BCE King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon conquered the Kingdom and exiled the Jews to Babylonia. Cyrus “the Great” of Persia conquered Babylon in 538 BCE and the Jews were allowed to return to Judea, the Kingdom of Judah and Edom. The Macedonian ruler, Alexander “the Great”, gained control in 333 BCE. After his death, the Seleucid Empire took control.
When the Roman Empire split in 390 CE into separate East and West states, the region was renamed Palestina Prima. Christianity became the official religion of the East Roman or Byzantine Empire. It was also the only permitted religion, except for Judaism. However, Jews couldn’t hold public office, build new temples, or own slaves (as Christians could). The Byzantine Emperor, Heraclius, later banned Judaism altogether after promising to restore rights to the Jews.
By 160 BCE modern day Israel was under Jewish Hasmonean control headed by Simon Maccabaeus after his brother, Judas the Maccabee, defeated the Seleucid army. In 125 BCE the Hasmonean King John Hyrcanus proselytized the population of Edom to Judaism. But Judea was conquered by the Roman Empire in 6 CE. The Jews revolted against Rome to reestablish the state of Israel, but they were unsuccessful and were exiled from the land.
From 634 CE to 636 CE Arabic fighters conquered the Byzantine controlled Palaestina Prima and allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem. Caliphs from Medinah, Damascus, and Baghdad ruled several centuries more. The first Crusade in 1099 established the Kingdom of Jerusalem. In 1260 Egyptian Mamluk Sultan, Baibars, conquered the region. The Mamluks expulsed many Jews from Europe, and the Christian conquest of Spain also forced out Jews there in 1492. Many Jews in Portugal were also driven out, killed, or forced to convert in 1497. Modern-day Israel was under Mamluk (slave) control from 1260 until 1517 when the Ottoman Empire conquered the region. It ruled until the British conquered them.
In 20th century Europe, Jews were still facing antisemitism and persecution that reached a peak with the rise of the Third Reich and the Holocaust, which prompted mass Jewish migration. Zionist historians call the different waves of Jewish migration “aliyah,”(עֲלִיָּה) which means ascent in Hebrew. During the First Aliyah from 1882 to 1903, 35,000 Jews moved to what is now Israel. By 1890 Jews were a majority in Jerusalem, but they were outnumbered by Muslims and Arabic Christians in surrounding cities.
Theodor Herzl is sometimes referred to as the father of Zionism. Born in Budapest, he formed the World Zionist Organization in 1897. (Initially, it was just called the Zionist Organization.) In his book, Der Judenstaat, (The Jewish State) he explains his answer to antisemitism in Europe is the creation of a Jewish state, which was obviously not a new concept, but he was seemingly not familiar with the history. The First Zionist Congress of the World Zionist Organization proclaimed its aim is “to establish a home for the Jewish people in Palestine secured under public law.” The Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland also formed in 1899 to establish a permanent homeland for the Jews.
During the Second Aliyah from 1904 to 1914, around 40,000 Jews settled in Southern Syria. In 1908 the Zionist Organization set up the Palestine Bureau or the “Eretz Israel Office,” (Eretz Yisrael is the Torah’s term for the Israeli State) and they established an aggressive Jewish settlement policy. Jewish migrants were mainly escaping persecution in Russia, which then included part of modern day Poland. In 1909 Ahuzat Bayit (now Tel Aviv) became the first entirely Hebrew-speaking city. Hebrew media, workers ‘organizations, Hebrew schools and Jewish political parties were also established.
During WWI France, the UK, and Russia assumed they would win and so they wrote up the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916 to establish which nations would control the Middle East after the war was over. Britain gained control over Kuwait, much of Jordan, most of Iraq, some of Saudi Arabia, a small part of the West Bank, most of Gaza, and about half of modern-day Israel, including the ports of Haifa and Acre. The rest of Israel and Palestine was declared an “international zone” to be divvied up after negotiations with the Russians. The area came under complete British control in 1920 and was ruled as Mandatory Palestine until 1948. Meanwhile, the French took control of South-eastern Turkey, Syria, northern Iraq, and modern day Lebanon (Syria and Lebanon both became independent in 1943 and French troops left in 1946) while Russia took control of Istanbul, the Ottoman Armenian vilayets, and the Turkish Straits. The Sykes-Picot agreement established British, French, and Russian “mandates,” which gave them legal authority over their claimed portions of the Middle East. The British government claimed the Mandate for Palestine was supposed to create a “national home” for the Jews on territory previously controlled by the Ottoman Empire supported by the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires. But it had nothing to do with support for Jewish refugees. The British government simply wanted a “land bridge” between the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf to defend British companies in India. Today, it is a land bridge for the US government that enables the flow of military supplies, oil, and other resources. In the Shfela Basin, there are also 150 billion barrels of oil according to the Israeli Energy Initiative. The Persian Gulf and the Gazan waters in particular contain a great deal of oil too. Gazan reserves have been valued at $4 billion.
In the 1917 Balfour Declaration, a letter from the British Foreign Secretary, Arthur James Balfour, to Walter Rothschild of the Rothschild banking family, Balfour expressed Walter’s interest in the establishment of a Jewish homeland. (Not surprisingly, a later Rothschild and Rupert Murdoch acquired exploration licenses to dig up gas reserves in Israel with Genie Oil and Gas. This company still has these licenses.) The language in the Balfour Declaration made it sound non-discriminatory but there is no way to create a home for a people that is already occupied by another people who have just as much right to live there and consider it home and just as Holy. Here is the introduction of the Declaration:
“His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”
In 1800 only 7000 Jews lived on the land. By 1850 about 4% of the population was Jewish. (Scholch, Alexander, 198532) By 1914 Jews outnumbered Christians there by 24,000. A 1918 British census estimated the population of Palestine consisted of 700,000 Arabs and 56,000 Jews. 33The 1947 Partition Plan of Palestine put an end to the British mandate and sought to create two separate, but co-existing Jewish and Arab States. Most Palestinians rejected the partition plan since in 1945 only 6% of the land of Israel was owned by Jewish people. By 1947 there were 630,000 Jews in Palestine, 140,000 Christians and 1,181,000 Muslims who remained the majority, (Sergio DellaPergola, 200134).
In 1948 the Palestine War broke out. 700,000 Palestinian Arabs were expelled or fled their homes and 400 to 600 villages were sacked. The day of Nakba, which literally means “disaster” or “catastrophe” on May 15 commemorates the day of the illegal Israeli land grab (“absentee property laws” passed by Israel transferred the ownership of about 2 million dunams35 to Israel) and the 1948 Palestinian exodus that occurred during the war. Many Palestinians didn’t flee and were named “present absentees,” an obvious contradiction, so that Israel could steal their land anyway. In 2009 Israeli ministers approved a draft law banning commemoration of the Nakba. Punishment for violation of this law is up to three years in prison. This is just one of the many Israeli attempts to erase Palestinian history and existence and replace it with a completely Zionist narrative.
The demands for a ‘Jewish State’ that empires like the US and Britain have made have had nothing to do with support for the Jews and everything to do with having control of a piece of the Middle East that can serve their interests and more quickly attack other Middle Eastern countries. They also want to avoid dealing with the “Jewish Question.” The winning nations of WWI and WWII (League of Nations) recognized the mostly Jewish European refugees needed homes after centuries of antisemitism and persecution in Europe and Russia. But instead of helping rebuild their homes demolished from the wars, the consensus was to occupy and divide their territory (Germany was occupied by the Soviet Union, the US, Britain, and France) and ship them off to Palestine. It was a recipe for disaster from the beginning since a home cannot be created for refugees by pushing people out of their land to make space, creating more refugees. That is a negative sum solution. That doesn’t solve the problem, unless the problem is viewed as one that only affects Jews and not a problem that affects the world in which ideally there would be no refugees and everyone would have a home.
The problem with a Jewish state, an Islamic state, or a Christian state is that even if its founders pledge not to discriminate, eventually the hardened extremists will proselytize, ethically cleanse, or push out all religious and ethnic minorities. A state that conducts itself according to religion is not a democracy by any stretch. (Like America’s Electoral College, Israel also uses their representatives in the Knesset to vote for their President instead of a popular vote and they employ a secrecy ballot, so in this sense it is not a democracy either. This ensures the same bloodthirsty, conservative hawks stay in power. The Knesset also has the power to dissolve the entire government and remove the President.) Much of the world has realized a need to separate church and state, even the US, even though it is hardly completely separate here. The first amendment of the Constitution states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
The “Holy Land” has been conquered by many different Jewish, Muslim, and Christian rulers. Jews, Christians, Muslims, and followers of other religions have all lived in the “Holy Land” for centuries at one point or another and there has likely been a good deal of breeding between them, meaning the bloodlines of the original tribes and Kingdoms have mixed and they are irrelevant anyway. Who claimed the land first doesn’t matter. Even if you follow the Bible, the Bible says we are all descendants of Abraham, so it shouldn’t matter. The “Holy books” are filled with outlandish myths, but also some horrible truths about the past like our ancestor’s acceptance of slavery, their repression of the underclass, wars for lands called “promised,” reigns of Kings, dynasties, their conquests, and mass murder. No one currently alive was around to see any Biblical events occur, but it is incredibly likely the “gift” of Israel to the Israelites is just one of the Bible’s many myths. The Israelites described in the Bible may have believed they were being spoken to, but this land doesn’t belong to anyone. It belongs to the Earth, and we can share it and live in union as long as we accept one another and make efforts to understand each others lives and motivations. If this land is as Holy as it is believed to be by many, we can’t desecrate it with the blood of more innocent people. The Israeli government doesn’t have to hoard more weaponry, build up its borders, destroy homes, and live absorbed with fear and hate. There is room for all people on Earth and enough resources for us all too. But we need to move past the dogma to ensure people’s needs on Earth are met and to uplift everyday people and human welfare. This may mean changing some of our long-held personal beliefs that contradict this as hard as this can be.
The common people of Palestine could try to convict the Israeli government of war crimes in the International Court of Justice or the International Criminal Court. Many victims of genocide have appealed to these courts and won. Common Americans can press their government to stop funding Israel’s military, boycott Israeli companies, and all of the world’s states can commit to justice, freedom, and education or face destruction from common people. Then, we will see an end to the violence.
One of the most common problems is the general impression of futility. Some individuals believe they can’t do anything to greatly change the world, but they can, and the more people who believe this, the more they will act, and the more the world will change. As Howard Zinn said: “To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”
32 Scholch,http://articles.latimes.com/2006/mar/02/world/fg-charity2/2 Alexander (November 1985). “The Demographic Development of Palestine, 1850–1882.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 17 (4): 485–505.
33 Mansfield, Peter (1992), The Arabs, pp. 172–175.
34 DellaPergola, Sergio: Demography in Israel/Palestine: Trends, Prospects and Policy Implications,’ 2001.
35 A dunam is an Ottoman unit of measurement equivalent to an English acre.