Hamas, Violent Resistance, and Zionist Ideology

This is a brief view of the Iranian official party line on the Israel/Palestine conflict:

Which I originally saw on Norman Finkelstein’s website.

It’s sad to say, but to me it seems that if the West Bank were armed as Gaza and engaged in the same rocket throwing tactics against Israel and especially the settlements, there would probably be a Palestinian state in five years… (though of course there would be much loss of life). So I can’t entirely disagree with the video…

This is the real risk that Israel is running. By rejecting peaceful moves towards a Palestinian state governed by moderate elements, they are opening the door to a Palestinian state established by violence and ruled by Islamic fundamentalists. And this is one reason that I think Israel should make unilateral concessions to the Palestinians so as to empower moderate elements (besides the obvious fact that Israel has a moral obligation to do these things).

I can give many examples that would cost Israel virtually nothing.

  1. 50% of the occupied West Bank in Area C, which is forbidden to all Palestinians, is totally unused. Israel could hand that over now without having to evacuate any settlements.
  2. The blockade of Gaza could be ended for exports which would have no security consequences.
  3. Israel could stop expanding the settlements and build new “settlements” in the unused land in Israel proper.

I think Israel should do these things to de-legitimize the claims of those among the Palestinians who say that Israel only responds to force. Right now Hamas says look Abbas collaborated with Israel and he got nothing. He is not fighting Israel for a decade now, he is keeping security in the West Bank and they give him no land and no state, so support Hamas.

Luckily for Israel (but not for the Palestinians), Hamas is an Islamic fundamentalist group, and such groups are rightly condemned in the West. Today Israel’s main defense is to demonize Hamas. However if the same arguments were made by a secular democratic movement, they would be very hard to reject. And the Israeli occupation would likely go the way of South African Apartheid.

Again these concessions would cost Israelis virtually nothing and would contribute to their long term interests. And yet Israelis refuse to consider them! Why is this? I think Israelis refuse to even consider these things not because they have a strategic interest to refuse, but primarily for ideological reasons. That is because of the Zionist belief that there should be a state with a Jewish majority in all the Land of Israel. And this means there can never be a Palestinian state within the current boundaries of Israel/Palestine. They may say it is because of security, but that’s not the real reason. The real reason is that their beliefs are the mirror image of Hamas’s charter. Hamas wants an Islamic state in all of Israel/Palestine and many Israelis want a Jewish state in all of Israel/Palestine. Asking Palestinians to recognize a Jewish state of Israel is in this sense as reasonable as asking Israelis to accept an Islamic state of Palestine.

Many believe that Israel is grabbing land because there is no cost involved, and that it will continue to do so as long as there is no cost. But there is a cost, and it is not a small cost. The cost is economic, political, social and moral. But Israelis are willing to pay, because they believe in the ideal of a greater Israel and are willing to sacrifice their real interests for the sake of the ideology of a Greater Israel.

This is similar to the case of South Africa. The white minority didn’t just support Apartheid simply because it benefited them economically. Even after it was clearly hurting their economy, they still supported it, because they at least to some extent fundamentally believed in the system. Only when threatened with economic collapse and complete international isolation did Apartheid end.

Israel is fundamentally still driven in part by Zionist ideology, rather than purely by cost/benefit analysis.

I say in part, because thankfully it is less than in the past. Most now accept autonomy and Bantustans (independent Gaza like pockets of Palestinian population in the West Bank), whereas the Zionist ideal is a Jewish state in all the land of Israel (and which meant for example that displaying Palestinian/Jordanian flags was officially illegal in the occupied territories before Oslo).

But as Israel Shahak said (Jewish History Jewish Religion p. 121) because of this ideology, Israel is (still) not willing to make concessions for purely political reasons. Only when there is loss of Jewish life or loss of international legitimacy is Israel willing to retreat from its knee-jerk rejectionism. And because of Israel’s military might and international support, Israel can go very far in its rejection.

In my opinion those who care about the fate of Israelis and Palestinians, should denounce not only Islamic fundamentalism but also Zionist ideology.

Without discussing the belief in Zionist ideology, one is forced to say that Israel is in some way evil (because Israel does things that hurt not only the Palestinians but also fundamental Israeli interests as well). And since Israel is a Jewish state (actually THE Jewish state) this can lead to antisemitism.

Because of this I think that criticism of Zionism actually helps prevent antisemitism, by showing where these paradoxical policies come from.

(However this is a complicated and sensitive issue because to a certain extent Zionism is related to Jewish views and attitudes towards non-Jews.)

Note I do not reject the idea of a Jewish State (in the sense of France as a French state). Or the idea of a Jewish State in this sense being established in Israel/Palestine. What I reject is the establishment of this state by force, and the expropriation and expulsion of the native Palestinians, the expansion of this state by force, and the fact that not all citizens of Israel are considered to be Jews, contrary to the case where all citizens of France are considered to be French (and a similar thing holds for all liberal democracies). If extending the term Jew to cover all citizens of Israel is not possible, then in my opinion the state should be Israeli or Hebrew or some other term, either that or Israel should accept that it is not a liberal democracy.

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