|Bethlehem house fired on by Israeli troops in 2002. |
The family inside was not part of any conflict.
Copyright Shafiq Morton
WHILE the world seems to go mad with bloodthirsty extremism, and our leaders grow dodgier by the day, one of the modern era’s most lingering constitutional questions – the actual existence of Palestine – has almost slipped off the radar.
With pompous louts like Trump parroting witless sound bites, the Orlando killings, Ashin Wirathu’s Rohingyan racism, ISIS, Syria, Yemen, Boko Haram and the Eternal President from North Korea blowing off nuclear steam, it is sometimes difficult to stay focused.
And whilst our chat rooms buzz, Israel under Benjamin Netanyahu and his coalition of the crazy has been marching inexorably towards its endgame, the ethnic cleansing of historical Palestine and the creation of a greater, or Erez, Israel – the pure nation secure from outside threat.
For Netanyahu and his ilk, whose fathers supported Vladimir Jabotinsky (and his credo of an Iron Wall permanently dividing Arabs and Jews) the fact that racial division will never create security is lost on them. For Netanyahu, Palestinians are simply an existential annoyance.
In almost three decades of reporting on the Palestinian situation, I have never seen things as bad as they are today. Leaderless, balkanised, totally besieged and victimised by a systemic apartheid that has become infinitely worse than the South African version, a disaffected and disempowered Palestinian youth has even taken to random attacks on Jews in Israel’s troubled streets.
All too sadly, Israel’s leadership – and the rest of our sleazy political elite in world capitals – are either incapable, or unwilling, to see the signs. Ominously, the third intifadah – which is happening right now – is characterised by abject despair in which the participants feel they have nothing left to lose.
Attacks, such as those recently in Tel Aviv, are not suicide missions orchestrated by Hamas, Islamic Jihad – or even the PLO. They are self-originated, independent acts of out-and-out nihilism. There can be no justification for the targeting of civilians, ever, but the question needs to be asked: why have things become what they are?
And whilst some may have eschatological explanations as to what has been happening in Israel, the reality is still a secular one. So let it be said for the umpteenth time, political Zionism is the question here, not Judaism.
But there are, however, some serious questions that have to be asked with regards to scripture – as secularist Israeli politicians have always cynically exploited the Christian Zionist movement to justify the apartheid status quo in Israel, the late Gerry Falwell being gifted a jet by Menachim Begin for his loyalty
|The wall, dividing people, but not |
Copyright Shafiq Morton
But the blunt point is that nowhere in the holy books is there a prediction of a third Jewish return the way it has played out in the 21st century. The children of Abraham were not only from Isaac, but also from Ishmael, and refusing to contemplate a shared destiny in Israel and Palestine is sociological and theological insanity.
In fact, the modern apartheid “Jewish state” – which is ironically not governed by sacred law – is a contradiction of terms. It’s like Saudi Arabia taking over Texas, kicking out the Baptists and then declaring an Islamic state without the Shari’ah.
Modern Israel, if one wants to take the scriptural paradigm further, is also a betrayal of Talmudic tradition. In the Three Great Oaths taken after the Babylonian exile, the undertaking was that Jews would not descend upon the holy land by force, that they would not rise up against host governments and that they would not hasten the coming of the Messiah with their sin.
Political Zionism has totally removed Messianic expectation from Judaism. Few remember that at the beginning of the 20th century, European Rabbis regarded Zionism as a heresy.
Then, of course, we have to recall that political Zionism was originally a “gentile project”, not a Jewish one. It was popularised in 1853 by the British evangelist and colonialist, Lord Shaftesbury, who declared that there was a “country without a nation” for a “nation without a country”.
Lord Shaftesbury was ably supported by Cape Town born Lord Oliphant, who wrote the Land of Gilead, an apocalyptic blueprint for Jewish settlement in Palestine. This was followed by an Anglican priest in Vienna, William Hechler, who penned The Restoration of the Jews to Palestine in 1894, predating Theodore Herzl’s Der Judenstat by two years.
The only Jewish thinker to ponder on a Jewish state amidst an overwhelming Christian revivalist urge was Moses Hess. An atheist and mentor to Karl Marx, who foresaw the Nazi era, he called for a purely socialist model. His works were only read after his death in 1875, influencing people like Herzl.
Space precludes further discussion on the rise of political Zionism after the Russian pogroms, the Balfour Declaration, the Arab uprising, Sykes-Picot and Nazism, as well as the UN Partition Decision of 1947. But it should be clear – just from the above – that the existence of Israel, based on extremist religious impulse, Holocaust guilt, secularism and Arab apartheid, raises serious constitutional quandaries.
In honestly searching for a peaceful solution (which is an anathema to blinded hawks like Netanyahu) no-one is advocating the removal of Jews from Palestine – no. Nobody is saying that they must be chased into the sea – again, no. God, no.
But what has been denied are the real facts – the real yearning by Palestinians for a just and equitable solution to the Palestinian problem, one that is based on real fairness, one that doesn’t pander to Zionist brinkmanship and the dissembling hasbara of terror, and one that accommodates Arabs and Jews within an internationally sanctioned state.
Under Netanyahu and his coalition of gun-toting settlers, end-timers, corrupt opportunists, mavericks and cronies, Israel has reached a tipping point – where it will go to, nobody knows yet – and I would say that the greatest threat to Israel today is not Iran, the BDS movement or the Arab world, but Israel itself.