I am nauseated by the American pretense that Israel is anything other than an expansionist ethno-state.
It makes sense, because the US is also an expansionist ethno-state. Like knows like.
Nobody, and I mean nobody ought to be able to profess real surprise at Netanyahu’s play of his final hole card, threatening to annex most of the west bank. Basically, he was so desperate to stay in power that he was willing to gamble the long-term game in order to gain influence in the short term. There has been remarkably little commentary in the US media about it, especially when you compare it to coverage of Russia annexing Crimea.
Let me re-introduce to you one of my terms: “emergent conspiracy”; that’s when there’s an uncoordinated move in a certain direction that appears as though it may be coordinated; it’s not a plot but rather an expression of people’s desires for action filling in an opportunity where it happens to present itself. If you have enough people who want things to work out in a certain way, and each of them gives a little nudge – it will happen. Whether or not there is a majority or a formal political process is irrelevant; this is part of the reason why I reject the idea that democracy is a good political system: what you are really measuring is not the will of a majority, so much as the will of people who are willing to act. When you move that down the dial to people who are willing to stop at nothing then they are going to have a massively disproportionate say in events as they occur. Keep that idea in mind when you watch what is happening in the US right now, and what has happened and will happen in Israel. Both of those countries harbor toxic minorities that will stop at nothing, which consequently out-power people who would otherwise act slowly and deliberately. This is why, I believe, all human politics ultimately fail. For one thing, if those energetic people who are willing to stop at nothing go on the offense, everyone else is immediately on the defense and cedes the initiative to the energetic and aggressive.
This appears to me to be how it has always been: militarists will arm up, stomp you, and declare themselves your king while you are still scheduling the meeting to discuss how to deal with militarism and understand what they are so upset about.
I have always been deeply suspicious of the trope we often hear which is that any criticism of Israel is unjustified because the country is under existential threat: they are fighting for their lives and therefore opposition to any aspect of that fight reduces their chance of survival and therefore you support the slaughter of jews. It’s an offensively stupid argument that any bank robber could also make – and it’s no excuse for being unwilling to negotiate in good faith. At this point, someone comes along and says that Israel does negotiate in good faith, it’s the arabs that are unwilling to accept a deal that amounts to “accept a fraction of what used to be yours” and it’s easy to tell who has been negotiating in good faith when you look at the map above. It doesn’t matter if the arabs are or not, because the Israelis rather obviously are not and never have been.
Then, someone often comes along and says that Israel is the middle east’s sole democracy and we must support democracy, whether it’s Israel or the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of North Korea, which also claimed to be a democracy. That’s also a risible argument since – as the republican party in the US has been showing us – you’re not a “democracy” if only a privileged minority can vote. I’d go a step further and say that you’re not a democracy if there is any gerrymandering or voter exclusion at all because how then can you claim to reflect anything but the will of a manipulated majority of some of the people. Netanyahu’s plan for annexation is as disgusting as a North Carolina election; he proposes to take the land where palestinians aren’t – thereby not gaining any new palestinian voters. It would be as though the american southern states, after reconstruction, moved all the black people to Atlanta and then made it a special elections district that can’t vote. That’s not a very funny example because I just described Washington, DC.
If you combine Israel, Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, jews would not be a majority in the new country. So: Israel can only maintain its control on ‘democracy’ as an ethno-state if it only annexes the areas which have already been declared off-limits to palestinians.
Do you think, for one single moment, that that happened by accident? It’s as “accidental” as a North Carolina gerrymander.
There’s more precise analysis of what’s been going on in an article in the New Yorker [ny]
Typically, those maps made Jewish settlements and outposts look tiny compared to the areas where the Palestinians lived. The new map in the briefing book was different. It showed large swaths of territory that were off limits to Palestinian development and filled in space between the settlements and the outposts. At that moment, Lowenstein told me, he saw “the forest for the trees” – not only were Palestinian population centers cut off from one another but there was virtually no way to squeeze a viable Palestinian state into the areas that remained. Lowenstein’s team did the math. When the settlement zones, the illegal outposts, and the other areas off limits to Palestinian development were consolidated, they covered almost sixty per cent of the West Bank.
See, if I show you a map of the illegal settlements, then there are great big swaths of land that are not occupied by settlements: it looks like Israel’s zone of control is much smaller than it is. If I show you a map that includes regions where palestinians can’t go (large regions around each settlement, in fact) suddenly palestinian regions become a map of tiny little islands. And those tiny little islands are trivially easy to suffocate if you’re a militarily superior power that controls the movement of anything into and out of those zones, including water and food. Netanyahu’s annexation plan just skips to the chase scene; the plan all along (which Netanyahu has been working toward for decades) was slow death by a thousand cuts. Now, it’s time for one big chop.
Like most rationalists, I steer away from talking about Israel because, in my opinion, it is difficult to talk about Israel without being critical of Israeli politics and risking being accused of anti-semitism for daring to criticize it as an ethno-state. You know, I’m sick of that shit and I’m not doing that dance any more: those of us who criticized South Africa back in the 80s were not criticizing the white people in South Africa for being white, we were criticizing them for what they were doing, which happened to be centered around their interpretation of whiteness. I’m not criticizing Israel because I hate jews, I am criticizing Israel because I hate what Israel is doing. Oh, it’s mostly jews doing that? So fucking what. They should stop.
All of this nonsense about a two-state solution has been known to be nonsense since the late 1930s. Enter, emergent conspiracy: I am not saying that there’s a big secret play-book that each successive ultra-conservative Israeli politician gets read into, it’s that that’s the direction Israel has been going all along, and you don’t get to be an israeli politician if you’re not aligned with that ultimate goal. Which means, to the extent that Israel is a democracy at all, the majority has been pushing in that direction all along. All this hand-wringing about “why can’t we have peace?” can be answered by the Indigenous Peoples who used to own the United States: they got pushed back, pushed back, slaughtered when they stood up, and crushed when they knelt. Either way, slaughter or crushing, there was never any intent to have a “two state solution” in the territory the US occupies, either. There was never a secret book passed down from president to president that has a line-item saying that “our strategy is ethnic cleansing” but it wasn’t necessary: you didn’t get that job unless you were aligned with the general thrust of US politics, which was and always has been ethnic cleansing. Israel’s the same deal. And everyone knew that back when the British were in the middle of fucking up the break-apart of the Ottoman Empire. The British felt that palestine was a pain in the neck, and the zionists were getting awfully annoying and it was time for the Brits to step out of the way and let the stronger party win. And the Irgun and the Stern Gang were going to kill a bunch of Brits – as many as it took – to get them to leave so they could displace the arabs and take over the land.
When Bernard Law Montgomery put down the arab revolt [1936-1939] [wik] said:
The jew murders the arab, and the arab murders the jew. This is what is going on in Palestine right now and it will go on for the next 50 years, in all probability.
Also: note the date. Most American students are allowed to confuse themselves about when Israel founded itself, and when zionists began ethnically cleansing Palestine. Because of the (understandable) focus on the crimes of white christian nazis, we connected the Holocaust with the founding of Israel. That’s not correct, at all. Israel, in fact, was being founded as an ethno-state starting well before Germany made its horrible historic blunder. The Holocaust and Israel are connected, of course, because it certainly gave Israelis an understanding of the threat of global anti-semitism. Anti-semitism is another stupid form of racism and should be fought and crushed whenever it’s encountered, but we shouldn’t preference it as the stupid form of racism: an ethno-state that is deliberately and maliciously displacing a population because it’s not the preferred ethnicity is, in fact, exactly what the nazis and the United States and South Africa and Rhodesia and, and, and, and, … did. That is has been going on throughout time doesn’t make it any less stupid and malicious and nobody rational supports ethnic cleansing and ethno-statism because, by definition, building a state on ethnicity is not rational. Ethnicity is imaginary; it has reality only in people’s minds and in their politics.
Unfortunately, we probably need to educate ourselves more about what is going on in Israel, as we had to when we came to understand South Africa and Rhodesia. Once we educate ourselves about this stuff, there is no way to continue to support it. [I like to imagine that any sufficient introspection about nationalism will also cure us of it, in general] We need to learn how to dodge the distracting accusations of anti-semitism and stay focused on the actual facts of what is going on, and why, and force the supporters to defend the facts of the actions that are being taken. For one thing, the US complained bitterly about Russia annexing Crimea, and placed sanctions (and seized the bank assets of…) Russian oligarchs close to Putin. We should be asking why the US is not sanctioning Netanyahu and everyone around him, for threatening to do what the Russians did. Oh, it’s different? How and why is it different? We need to be asking our peers, “Did you support divestment from apartheid South Africa? Then you support BDS, I assume? The world does not need more ethno-states.”
Here is an interesting resource on this stuff. I’m a bit “iffy” about it because I wonder about the podcaster’s agenda and where they are coming from, because I worry always that I am about to gobble down a bunch of carefully spun propaganda – but his history checks out. The interpretation of that history is, of course, up to us, but I think he’s being factual and fair. It’s fascinating stuff. Darryl Cooper does a podcast called Martyr Made which is sort of similar to Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History i.e.: it’s long and detailed and full of fascinating crunchy facts and dates and stories. He has a series called Fear and Loathing in the New Jerusalem [apc] it’s six episodes each of which is several hours long – do not undertake this stuff lightly – but it gives him time to go through all the characters and actions from the beginning(s) of zionism to today. I guarantee you that you will find the Israel he describes unrecognizable compared to the Israel of today, which constantly asks us for pity and special treatment. There’s a lot of bombings and some throat-cuttings and shootings – but the bombings and shootings are mostly aimed at British soldiers and civilians. As I said, it’s really interesting stuff. The reason I’d encourage you to give those episodes a listen is because there’s a trajectory running through them, and that trajectory is people who will stop at nothing. People who make Netanyahu look like a complete wimp. People who are familiar with, if not comfortable with, both sides of genocide: they’re comfortable pointing a finger of accusation at the nazis and they’re comfortable covering it up and defending it.
If you give Cooper’s podcast a listen, I expect you will see the current situation as I do: Netanyahu’s annexation move is the inevitable end-game of decisions that were put into motion in the 1900s. The Palestinians, from that moment on, were as fucked as the Indigenous Peoples of North America were when Columbus’ gold raiders waded ashore and the locals were not willing to pay the price it would have cost to slaughter them.
These are the grand ebbs and flows of history, and they are why I don’t feel much love for humanity. Paraphrasing Santayana: once you come to understand some of history, you’ll see that it’s just going to be an endless cycle of humans being horrible to eachother until they scour the planet of life or a great big asteroid wipes them out.
If any of you do bite it off and chew up that podcast, I’d really appreciate any comments you may have on it. I don’t think it’s inaccurate and it seems to me to be pretty straightforward history, but I may be misunderstanding it. Help my confirmation bias?