This article is about a nine minute read. It’s in three parts. Some readers already familiar with the reports I cite in Part two and may wish to leapfrog to Part three.
Part one: Can Israeli Apartheid last?
Israel will not of its own volition unmake its rancid racist regime. Currently, it is so immersed in self-generated and self-sustained contempt and fear of the Other – Palestinians – that it has not the internal emotional, ethical or ideological resources to break out of what is, were Israel able to see it, an existential dead end. At present, it can conceive of itself only in terms of domination, of dominating the material, human and political landscape that is Palestine/Israel. From this perspective, Israel might be said to suffer from a form of institutional and personal psychosis, such that it has condemned itself to tread a seemingly endless, junction-less road of folly, stained with its crimes and calculated cruelties – and a vista that offers no kinder horizon. Israel: a nation in need of a cure.
And the root cause of Israel’s ailments? Its pursuit, its violent pursuit, of a herrenvolk, or Master race ideology. The objective: To create a Jewish supremacist state requiring that the indigenous population of Palestinians be either removed totally from their own land, or reduced to numbers that can be controlled and managed. In this, Israel replicates the settler-colonialist practices that spawned, for example, the states of America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. A colonial endeavour is, inevitably and necessarily, violent. Thus, from a herrenvolk ideology, all evil flows. (Though, by way of an aside, the idea of a pure race of anybody is a false construct, devoid of foundation to support it, or mortar to hold it together.)
I reproduce without comment an article in Haaretz by Amira Hass, dated 17 October 2021
When it isn’t the settlers who try to directly disrupt Palestinians’ olive picking, it’s the Israeli army that prevents it from taking place
Mohammed al-Khatib from the village of Bil’in uses every opportunity he has to talk to soldiers, in Hebrew. Even after they beat him, laid him on the ground and detained him, even after one of the soldiers imperiously placed his foot on Mohammed’s back, which is what happened last Monday near the West Bank town of Salfit.
“I like talking to young soldiers, explaining the occupation to them,” he said. “‘What do you mean by occupation,’ they ask, ‘you Palestinians can do whatever you like.’ And I tell them: ‘Don’t you believe me that a Palestinian cannot build on his own land? Look it up on the internet. Don’t just listen to your officers.’” He was talking to Haaretz two days after being detained for a much shorter than is usual under the circumstances described below.
Khatib has forgotten how many times he’s been arrested for his activity in the popular committees fighting against the separation barrier. The reason for his arrest this time was picking olives. Groups of volunteers are spreading out across the West Bank these days to help with the olive harvest, especially in areas that are prone to violence by Israelis living in adjacent illegal outposts.
Since the beginning of this year’s harvest season, October 3, until October 16, Israeli citizens in the West Bank have sabotaged the harvest 18 times either by direct physical attacks on farmers, or by cutting and breaking trees or stealing the crops.
Among the volunteers is a group called Faz’a, established a year ago. Khatib was one of its initiators. The group strives to revive the tradition of volunteerism and mutual aid that characterized Palestinian society in the 1970s and ’80s.
When it isn’t the settlers who try to directly disrupt the olive picking, it’s the army that prevents it from taking place. This is what happened last Monday at a grove in the al-Ras area near Salfit, north of the settlement of Ariel. Just over a year ago, an illegal outpost called Nof Avi was established there. Since then, the owners of the grove can only view their plot from a distance. Now that the olives are ripe, volunteers were called to joining the farmers, on the assumption that large numbers would protect the latter from Israeli violence and allow for a speedier completion of the harvest, before the olives might be stolen.
When the volunteers arrived at around 8:30 in the morning, they were surprised to find “a hysterical number of soldiers,” as Israeli activist Gil Hamerschlag told Haaretz. The soldiers stretched a tape between some posts they had driven into the ground. To the tape were attached several notices, in English and Arabic, declaring the area a closed military zone. According to activists who were there, the soldiers did not present them with a signed closure order (this was presented in court the following day). In any case, the activists took care to remain outside the marked area, deciding to walk to the grove from another direction. This too was prevented by the soldiers.
Khatib says that he didn’t expect the area to be closed. “It’s true that on top of the hill there is a settler who has taken over the hill. But we were coming to protect something legal, like olive picking, against something illegal, the violence of settlers. If the army were truly worried about the safety of that settler, why didn’t they place the soldiers around the illegal structures of the outpost? Why prevent the olive picking? It all revolves around a decision by the commander.
“The previous day we picked olives in the groves of Beita. For that we had to go through an outpost [Evyatar]. The army didn’t bother us and there were no problems. In other words, the decision about whether there is quiet or not is in the hands of the military commander. We come to pick olives; we’re not interested in tensions. It’s not a provocation, but we refuse to coordinate with the army in advance in order to reach a private grove, only because a settler has taken over Palestinian land. Because of this one outpost, the land has not been ploughed all year in that grove; it’s full of thorns.”
Khatib arrived there a bit late, saying that he didn’t see the tape marking off the “closed military zone.” He saw soldiers denying access and joined the other activists. Khatib, who studied law, says that during his detention “one officer told me that if there is a closure order, that means it’s Israeli land. He knows nothing about the law. What logic! The settler is the one breaking the law, I’m abiding by it, and you claim that I’m the transgressor.”
Even though the activists moved away, the soldiers approached them and started pushing them. “I argued with the officer: ‘Why are you pushing us? I have a right to pick olives.’ I heard a junior officer telling the commander that he wanted to arrest two people. He asked for permission and got it. I told them: ‘You can arrest me, but what did I do?’ He said I was under detention. I raised my arms. A few activists came and extricated me, and then a few soldiers pounced on me, maybe five or six, and started beating me. I didn’t feel anything then, but later, in detention, I noticed it was difficult to move my neck. They laid me on the ground facing down, and one of them stepped heavily on my back.” Photographer Matan Golan had the impression that the major, seen in a video running toward the soldier stepping on Khatib, was not pleased with what was happening, and indeed, when he arrived, the foot was taken off Khatib’s back. At this point, the soldiers started lobbing stun grenades at the volunteers.
In responding to Haaretz, the Israel Defense Forces spokesperson stuck to the claim that there had been “a violent disruption of public order near the farm [illegal outpost] of Nof Avi,” and that the volunteers had violated a closure order which was presented to them and had used violence against soldiers. The spokesperson also stated that “the force responded with demonstration-dispersal methods, arresting three suspects. One of them behaved violently toward a soldier and behaved wildly during his arrest, even trying to escape. The soldiers therefore needed to use physical force in order to complete his detention. The conduct of the soldier [who stepped on his back] is unacceptable.”
It was 10 in the morning when soldiers handcuffed Khatib’s hands behind his back, blindfolding him and taking him to the grove, closer to the outpost. Two Israeli detainees, Hammerschlag and activist David Shalev, were already sitting there. Their hands were also cuffed behind their backs but their eyes were uncovered. The two remarked about the different treatment and one of the soldiers removed the blindfold from Khatib’s eyes. After two and a half or three hours, during which the three sat on the ground in handcuffs, soldiers blindfolded all three and put them on a jeep that took them to the nearest police station, in Ariel.
While they were waiting in a detention cell, they heard a police officer talking with one of the soldiers who had arrested them, the only one still there. Their impression was that the officer was instructing the soldier on how to shape the evidence supporting the arrest. Khatib said he stood near the door and heard the police officer explaining to the soldier that violation of a closure is insufficient reason for detention, which is why it should be noted that the Palestinian assaulted the soldiers. Khatib says the soldier said he didn’t assault anyone, only causing a disturbance, and the policeman said that this wasn’t sufficient. Hammerschlag says he heard the officer asking if Khatib had pulled the soldier’s rifle, as a hint of what could be noted in the evidence supporting the arrest (the Judea and Samaria District has not commented on this so far).
After that, the three were split up. The Israelis were taken to Hadarim prison in Israel and Khatib to a detention facility at the military base of Hawara, south of Nablus. Israeli law requires a suspect to be brought before a judge within 24 hours of his arrest. Military law prevailing in the West Bank allows a Palestinian suspect to be held for up to 96 hours without being brought before a judge. In fact, Hammerschlag and Shalev were given the opportunity of being released on some conditions while they were still in Ariel. They refused, claiming they had committed no transgression.
Their refusal to be released immediately made it easier for the lawyer representing the three, Riham Nasra, from the law offices of Michal Pomeranz, to get Khatib released before the 96 hours were up. On Monday afternoon she filed a request for his immediate release, which require the military court’s secretariat to convene a earlier hearing session. This is no trivial matter. Given the abundance of prisoners, attorneys in the West Bank have grown accustomed to a minimum of four days’ detention, without even trying to obtain a release earlier.
On Tuesday, the two Israelis were brought to a court in Petah Tikva. The police asked for an extension of Hammerschlag’s detention and an order prohibiting Shalev from going to the olive grove for 15 days, so that “the investigation could be completed.” Nasra showed a video that proved the detainees’ version. If the soldiers had a video showing the opposite, the police would have been happy to show it. Judge Liat Har Zion concluded that the police could complete its investigation even if the two were released. Nasra immediately sent the minutes to the military court in Salem, in the northern West Bank, drove there and demanded an immediate ruling on Khatib’s release. At 4:30 P.M. a decision was taken to hold a session at 4:45.
Khatib remained at the detention facility in Hawara, participating in the session via video conference. The judge, Lt. Col. Samzar Shagog, said that there was “reasonable grounds to suspect that Khatib had pushed soldiers and tried to enter a closed military zone,” but he released him, with Khatib having to post personal bail amounting to 1,000 shekels ($310).
On Tuesday, at 6:30 P.M., Khatib was released. On Friday and Saturday, he was picking olives in Burin.
Yesterday dozens of Israeli settlers attacked a Palestinian community in the south Hebron hills. Accompanied by Israeli soldiers they invaded homes, smashing windows & causing massive damage. One of those injured was a 3 yr old Palestinian boy. This is what a pogrom looks like. 29/09/2021, 13:57
The descriptions given by eyewitnesses of the attack allegedly carried out by Jewish Israeli citizens…against the residents of the Palestinian village of Khirbat al-Mufkara are horrifying.
Basel Adraa, an activist…wrote that dozens of masked men “went from house to house, and broke windows, smashed cars with knives and hammers. A large stone they threw hit a 3-year-old boy, Mohammed, in the head, who is now in the hospital. The soldiers supported them with tear gas. The residents fled. I can’t forget how the villagers left their houses, terrified, the children screaming, the women crying, while the settlers entered their living rooms, like they were possessed with violence and wrath.”
4 y/o Muhammad of al Mufagara was attacked yesterday by Israeli settlers. Under the watchful eye of soldiers, he was hit in the head by a stone thrown by a settler, resulting in a crack in his skull and his hospitalization. Thankfully, he is in stable condition. #DefundRacismpic.twitter.com/pZnyh6WtbR
Not random, not arbitrary
These atrocities, and others, are perpetrated daily by racist Jewish Settlers, supported, allowed, tacitly encouraged by the Israeli State via its ‘security’ organs, the IDF and Border police. The atrocities are but the practical and inevitable actions of a State founded on a racist, expansionist ideology, Zionism.
It is possible to have a discussion about the permutations and different meanings that can and have attached to the term Zionism. But that need not trouble us here. The Israeli State has pronounced itself a Zionist one, rooted in an ideology of Jewish supremacy, so that is what we have to confront. Thus, to be an anti-Zionist is merely a logical and ethical stance, born of valuing all human life, even, paradoxically, the vile Jewish Settlers who feel themselves nestled close to their particular version of God. God here conceived as some sort of celestial Estate Agent serving a particularly avaricious client.
Israel is a militaristic state. For many years now, it has ranked first in the Global Militarisation Index (GMI). By way of contrast, the USA ranks twenty-seventh, the UK seventy-seventh. The GMI bases its rankings on a set of quantifiable indicators, for example, GMI compares a country’s military expenditure with its Gross Domestic Product, and its healthexpenditure. Notwithstanding this ranking, it seems to me insufficient evidence to justify what amounts to the charge laid down in my opening sentence: ‘Israel is a militaristic state’.
Militarism is not simply a matter of having armed forces, nor even the fact that a state might take pride in them. Rather, militarism is the expression, and propagation, of a totalising ethical, cultural, economic and political ethos such that the military, and ‘the military way’ of thinking, is the prism through which the world is viewed. Jeff Harper in War Against the People puts it thus:
Encapsulated in symbols, narratives, rituals, holidays, educational curricula and political discourse internalised by generations of Israeli Jews and reinforced by nearly universal military service, cultural militarism has become part of the natural order in Israel.
With the establishment of Israel in 1948:
Militarism was officially entrenched in Israeli culture and policy-making. The army became the primary instrument of nation building. Identification with the IDF [Israel Defence Forces] would define and mobilise “Israel-ness”…For Ben-Gurion, [Israel’s first Prime Minister] Israel as a “nation-in-arms” should foster “a desire to fight and an ability to fight…Israel’s military culture keeps its populace in a constant state of mobilisation.”
It is because the ‘military way’ is Israel’s default setting, justifying both its existence and any action – vile and violent though they may be – that the charge of militarism can be sustained. Israel is a militaristic state.
Militarism, as a totalising system, must maintain and reproduce itself. Special heed, therefore, is to be paid to the state’s young, in particular its Jewish young, for it is they that must – must! – carry forward the State’s ethnonationalist project of Jewish supremacy.
A key objective of the Israeli education system, the Jewish education system, is to prepare the young – from the very, very young through to the high school graduate – for military service; to prepare them for combat, for readiness to fulfil their role as controllers of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. In other words, readiness to control Palestinians, children, women and men.
‘Can a handful of adolescent criminals destroy an entire village? Yes, easily. Sadiq and Faris tell us the stories of the last few days…To put things simply: these shepherds and farmers are being relentlessly pushed farther and farther westward, away from their lands. We are talking about privately owned Palestinian land, with documents of ownership going back as far as Ottoman times—which means, Abu Rafa’ tells me, that they go back to the beginning of time.’
Dawn at Dir Jarir. One herd of sheep is already out on the hills with Khairi’s son. They’re grazing not so far from the noxious outpost of Maaleh Ahuvia, but for now things are quiet. No settlers in sight. That sentence reveals the story of Dir Jarir. Dawn, noon, dusk, midnight, and all the hours in between– demented teenage settlers can turn up at any moment, in the Palestinian fields, in their makeshift tents, and even in their homes. They threaten and bully them, often they beat them, and always they invade their fields, vineyards, olive groves, and grazing grounds, wreaking havoc. The shepherds and farmers live in a state of terror, and the apparatus of the State is unwilling to intervene. There are good reasons to think that the army in the area stands with the settlers. The police are reluctant to come to Dir Jarir without an army…
An inherent, defining feature of Zionism, and therefore of the Israeli state, is its appetite. An unrelenting, voracious appetite for that which is not theirs to consume: Palestinian land. Zionism is this appetite, an appetite not capable of satiation until all – or practically all – Palestinian land has been consumed and digested by the Jewish state.
And what of those which the Israeli state finds indigestible – Palestinians – yet remain so naggingly present? Well, they must be ‘encouraged’ to leave or accept a lesser life under the tutelage of the self-avowedly ethnonationalist Jewish state. The state that is feted, funded, endorsed and protected by other states able, without blushing, to proclaim their commitment to democratic principles.
How to convey?
The means to convey what this unrelenting appetite for Palestinian land means in practice are so limited: words, pictures, personal testaments, sharing narratives of courage and resistance, all attempting to evoke the felt experience of, for example, the residents of Sheikh Jarrar threatened with eviction; the Bedouin attacked daily by settlers; of homes and the means to support livelihoods repeatedly destroyed by the Israel Defence Force – so inaptly and inaccurately titled – working alongside Israel’s Border Police named thus, perhaps with paradoxical intent, since Israel has yet to formally agree its borders.
Israel, as I have elsewhere remarked, is the land of smoke and mirrors, of sleight of hand – little if anything is as on the surface it seems.
Except of course the iron fist, the ‘live’ bullet, the rubber-coated bullet, the tear gas cannister, the skunk water cannon, the handheld baton to beat unprotected Palestinian flesh. Here there is no sleight of hand, no smoke and mirrors, merely raw violence exerted by a militarised, hegemonic society intent on spacio-cide – clearing the land of as many indigenous Palestinians as it can. For the Israeli state, this is work in progress.
ICAHD UK reports: ‘The Palestinian herding community of Humsa Al-Bqai’a (Khirbet Hamsa in Hebrew) was demolished yet again by the Israeli Civil Administration (ICA) on Wednesday, 7th July 2021 following previous demolitions in November 2020 and February 2021….
On Wednesday the ICA, accompanied by the military, held the residents at gunpoint and told them that they were to get on a bus and leave immediately but they refused. Therefore, the ICA proceeded to demolish a total of 27 structures including homes, animal shelters, and water tanks. All personal belongings were confiscated as were their food supplies and water. The residents were left without even milk for their children or fodder for their 4000 sheep.
Eleven households, comprising around 70 people, including 36 children, were left without shelter in yesterday’s scorching heat that reached 39 degrees C. Included in the demolition was destruction of humanitarian aid that had been provided by donors including NGOs, EU Humanitarian Aid and European countries including the UK.’
‘I don’t know if you have seen a family living in terror.’
A haunting evocation of the evil Israel daily visits upon Palestinian Bedouins counterpoised by the quiet courage and persistence of those that resist it.
A state founded on an oxymoron – that Israel can be both democratic and yet in the exclusive control of one ethnonationalist group, in this case Israeli Jews – is unlikely to have a developed sense of irony. Irony, after all, requires, at a bare minimum, a capacity to notice a contradiction when it’s staring you in the face; and, more particularly, when you yourself are its author.
Certainly, Israel’s Foreign Minister appears to be a stranger to the ironic sense. As reported in Ha’aretz newspaper, Israel’s Foreign Minister, Yair Lapid, is very angry – outraged in fact – with the Polish government. The Poles have passed a law that will prevent Jews from claiming the property they had to leave behind when fleeing the Nazi Occupation of 1939. After the war that property was retained by the post-war communist regime. And the current Polish Government intends to retain, without compensation, that property still. ‘This law is immoral’, the Israeli minister fulminated, ‘No law will change history. This is a disgrace that will not erase the horrors …’.
Meanwhile, back in the democratic, Jewish state, it has fashioned its own outrages. As the Ha’aretz correspondent, B. Michael, points out, if the Poles want to deprive people of their property, it should have sought to emulate Israel’s Absentee Property Law which does a more thorough job than does the Polish version. This law, passed in 1950, defines as ‘absentees’ people who were expelled, who fled, or who left the country – i.e. Palestinians – after 29 November 1947 as a result of the 1948 war that established the Israeli state. Those defined as absentees lose any rights to the property they owned within the newly founded state. It legalises the theft of Palestinian property, placing it in the hands of the Israeli state and connected agencies for the exclusive benefit of Israeli Jews.
But that move alone was not sufficient from the state’s perspective. In addition to the 750,000 Palestinians who left land, homes and property to find refuge in neighbouring countries, there were a significant number of Palestinians who were ‘internally displaced’, that is, they fled their original homes in what became Israel in 1948, but fled to other villages and towns that were within the boundaries of the new Israeli state.
Internally displaced people in Israel are also known as ‘present absentees’ normally a contradiction in terms, which rather takes us back to the oxymoronic nature of the Jewish State. This is further exemplified by the fact that ‘present absentees’ have Israeli citizenship, but no right to live in the homes that they own. In normal circumstances the status ‘citizen’ would refer to, among other matters, a substantive body of rights held in common with other citizens. This clearly is not the case here.
The ending of the latest fighting between the Israelis and the Palestinians, in particular Hamas, has drawn attention yet again to the need for an end to over 70 years of conflict and this, it is said, requires a two state solution. I have explained in previous articles why it is that a two state solution is a chimera, but the possibility that others may explore it raises issues about the nature of a state.
In what sense does the state of Israel have rights and, if it does, how do they compare with the rights which a state of Palestine should have? Indeed, can states have rights? And how might such rights compare or conflict with human rights?
States and rights
States do not, cannot, have rights. Yet it is a fundamental plank of Israel’s claim to legitimacy that it – the Israeli State – has a right to exist. The Israeli claim goes further: Israel asserts that it has the right to exist as a specifically Jewish State. These claims, deployed by Israel and its allies, in particular the USA and EU, act as a form of camouflage, concealing Israel’s rooted unwillingness to work towards justice in Palestine/Israel.
Usually camouflage is deployed to conceal weaponry or key installations, but in the case of the assertion that the Israeli State has the right to exist, what is concealed is not weaponry, but the absence of a sustainable, coherent idea. A bit like the Wizard of Oz where the wizard is seen to be non-existent, Israel’s right to exist, when considered, is similarly pointing at an empty construct. And this has nothing to do with Israel as such and everything to do with what it means to say an entity – a State or organisation – has rights.
A state, an abstract construction, is not capable of having rights though all people living within a state’s territory do, or should have human rights. It is the prospect of equal human rights for all that discomforts Israel.
We can apply a real-life test to the proposition that a state cannot meaningfully be said to have rights.
The United Kingdom claims no right to exist
Within the United Kingdom, one of its component parts, Scotland, is debating whether it wishes to remain part of the UK, or to declare its independence as a Scottish State. Similarly, there are currents of opinion in Wales, Northern Ireland and indeed Cornwall, that favour divorce from the UK State, and hope for independence. Such aspirations may or may not be achievable, that is not the point. So far as I’m aware, no charges of sedition have been laid against proponents of these fissiparous tendencies, nor has it been claimed the UK State has any rights that might be infringed by this prospective contraction of its borders. Implementation of any one of the potential scenarios above would mean that the UK State, as currently constituted, would no longer exist. And of course history, even recent history, has examples of state formation and state dissolution.
I had intended that my next post – this one! – would take a look at ‘Israel’s right to exist’, a key phrase in the armory of the Israeli State. But I’ve deferred that subject to the next blog, and that because I happened upon the open letter to President Biden from Dr Sara Roy published by Counterpunch. Her letter is succinct, direct, heartfelt, but invested with moral authority.And timely.
Dr Sara Roy is an American political economist and scholar. She is a Senior Research Scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University. Both her parents survived the Holocaust, but 100 members of her extended family did not. Her father, Abraham, was one of the two known survivors of the Chelmno extermination camp, while her mother, Taube, survived Halbstadt (Gross Rosen) and Auschwitz. While confined in the Lodz ghetto she endeavoured to hide children destined for deportation to the Nazi extermination camps, but they were seized and despatched to Auschwitz.
Dear President Biden,
I am writing to you about Gaza, a place that I have studied and written about for the last 35 years, a place that I consider another home, filled with the kindest and most generous people you will ever meet—have you ever been there? But I am writing not only as a scholar of the region but as a Jew and one whose parents survived Auschwitz.
I have a question for you, Mr. President: When is the death of a child acceptable? Or perhaps I should ask the question this way: When does the death of a Palestinian child become unacceptable? You have experienced the unspeakable loss of your own children so you are better placed than most to answer my questions.
Last week after 87 Palestinians in Gaza were killed and over 500 wounded you stated that you had not seen a “significant overreaction” on Israel’s part to Hamas’s rocket attacks. Among the dead at that time were 18 children. I did not know any of them but I know people who do. Would you please help me explain to my friends why the death of these 18 children does not constitute an overreaction? This brings up another question I have for you, Mr. President: How many children must die in Gaza before you would consider Israel’s response excessive particularly since you have made human rights the center of your foreign policy? I need to know so that I can explain it to my friends. As I write this, over 60 Palestinian children have been killed by the government of Israel. Is that enough to qualify?
I know people inside our government who work on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I need to tell you something I heard from one of them about the death of Gaza’s children. This individual implied that some of the dead were likely the children of Hamas officials so their deaths don’t really matter, that is, their deaths are acceptable. Is this the answer to my first question? Should this be the way I explain it to my friends? Please help me out here.
It is tragic that after more than three decades of research and writing, I still find it necessary to argue for the humanity of Palestinians, even to you.
One more thing before I end this letter if you’ll indulge me. It is about my mom. When she was imprisoned in the Lodz ghetto during the Holocaust, she risked her life hiding children who were chosen for deportation to Auschwitz and other extermination camps. The Nazis eventually found the children and sent them to their deaths. But my mom tried to save them even though she knew she was powerless to do so. And I can assure you, knowing her and learning from her as I did throughout my life, she would have done the same for any child under threat, Jewish or Christian or Muslim. She would have been horrified by the senseless killing of children in this terrible conflict, both Palestinian and Israeli, and she would have railed at the injustice of it all. And this is my last question for you: Why haven’t you done the same?