The ferocity of the Israeli war against the people of Lebanon and the Palestinian people, and it is a war against peoples rather than armies or guerrilla groups, is embedded in strategic orientations and founded on basic tenets of Zionist thought..
The first strategic orientation relates to the undermining of the conventional frame of international relations founded on a set of agreed upon rules and conventions. This came about principally as a result of various strategic doctrines adopted by the United States, the only remaining superpower in the world at the end of the Cold War, to deter challenges to its supremacy around the world, and especially in the Middle East. This strategic orientation became accentuated with the Bush administrationâ€™s doctrine of pre-emptive war and the so-called war on terror.
Whoever dares to challenge the imposition of imperial will is labelled terrorist or supporter of terrorism and war against them is rationalised with little or no regard to international law or the United Nations. Needless to say, this privilege of using massive violence pre-emptively is reserved only to the Empire, and its closest allies. Others must be held to the usual standards of accountability within the framework of international law and the United Nations. This double standard and disregard for law and conventions, arrogantly illustrated by the Anglo-American support for the Israeli use of force, encouraged Israelâ€™s blatant disregard for the international communityâ€™s condemnations of its bloody conduct of the war.
The second strategic reality suggested by the Israeli conduct of the war against the Lebanese people and the Palestinian people indicates that the Israelis are wedded to the belief that the conflict in the Middle East can be resolved by a change of military strategy- massive use of aerial bombardment instead of a large scale land invasion- not by a shift in mental attitudes.
Various Israeli leaders are obviously unable to come to terms with the fact that their use of massive force may have helped them establish their state in 1948, expand and acquire additional territories, but has not enabled them to vanquish and eliminate all resistance to their project of continued dispossession and displacement.
The belief that invading Lebanon and forcibly ejecting the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and dispersing its fighters, in 1982, would eliminate Palestinian nationalism was just as mistaken then as the assumption today that assassinating the leaders of Hamas, subverting its democratically elected government, or destroying the military infrastructures of Hizbollah in a massive show of uncontrolled force would eliminate all resistance to Zionist designs in the region.
This logic is erroneous because while you can defeat armies and eliminate military infrastructures, you can not eliminate the competing will of a whole people short of extermination or total subjugation, as the experience of the indigenous people in North America, and the survival of the Palestinian people despite repeated attempts to eliminate them, illustrate.
These myopic assumptions on the part of Washington and Tel-Aviv have cemented their strategic alliance into partners in what they like to call the war on terror. The militarization of the international environment to serve the imperial interests of the US came about partly as a result of active propaganda and lobbying by Israel and its supporters in the United States, particularly throughout the 1990s when peace with the PLO threatened to derail the Zionist project of continued dispossession and displacement.
Conflict was necessarily to the promotion of ideological convictions of imperial expansion that characterise the thinking in the Bush administration. Conflict was also necessary to the continuation of the Zionist project of forcibly eliminating the Palestinian people as rival claimants for the land of Palestine.
Historically, the necessity of permanent conflict and the primacy of force have been basic tenets of Zionist thought and its approach to the Palestine conflict.
The Enlightenment of the eighteenth century and the triumph of liberal ideas in Europe presented European Jews with alternate paths to social and political development. They made possible total social integration in Europe, but they also made acceptable the possibility of separate nationalist fulfilment of political aspirations.
The modernists among the Jews, particularly those of Western Europe, chose integration. Continued pogroms and persecution of Jews in Eastern Europe encouraged some East-European Jewish leaders to reject integration in favour of the nationalist solution.
The intellectual ideals, which made possible the transition from integrationism to the Zionist revolution, were articulated by a number of Jewish thinkers in the second half of the nineteenth century.
Thus, Moses Hess (1812-75), like Hegel before him, argued that history was a dialectal process and that the world was entering an age of maturity and reconciliation.
In his book Rome and Jerusalem (1862), he argued that nationalism is a natural historical growth and that Jews may be emancipated but they would never be respected so long as they denied their origins. Assimilation was no solution. “Neither reform, nor baptism, neither education nor emancipation,â€ he wrote â€œwill completely open before the Jews of Germany, the doors of social life.”
Without soil, there is no national life, Hess believed, and he therefore asserted that the reconstruction of Jewish life is the only solution. He was convinced that European powers would see benefits in helping the Jews and believed that France, once the Suez Canal was completed, could help the Jews establish colonies on its shores.
Jewish national reconstruction was to act as a synthesis of Jewish ideals and establish bridges between the “nihilism of the reform Rabbis who have learned nothing” and the “conservatism of the orthodox who have forgotten nothing.”
It was the first systematic expression of the Zionist idea. With it, he brought the messianic ideal from the realm of idealism and spirituality to the more temporal level of practical programme to be carried out by the Jews themselves.
Leon Pinsker (1821-91) argued in his Auto-Emancipation (1882) that anti-Semitism was not a temporary phenomenon but “an inherited aberration of the human mind” and therefore the fight to eradicate it “can only be in vain”.
The emancipation of the Jews was never a matter of course and its self-interested logic could be reversed anytime. He therefore concluded that “the proper and only remedy would be the creation of a Jewish nationality, of a people living upon its own soil; the auto-emancipation of the Jews…The international Jewish question must receive a national solution.”
The territory on which the task of self-liberation and national reconstruction were to be accomplished must be productive and large enough for several millions but its location did not seem to matter a great deal. Pinsker thought that it “might form a small territory in North America, or a sovereign pashalik in Asiatic Turkey.”
Pinsker presided over the first international Jewish conference at Kattowice (Poland) in 1884. In collaboration with Hoveve Zion (Lovers of Zion), he launched Zionism as Jewish self-assertion and nurtured the first Jewish agricultural settlements in Palestine.
Although Pinsker was interested in agricultural Zionism, he was not enthusiastic about linking the Jewish national idea to Palestine, associated in Jewish minds with religious notions of messianic redemption. Political Zionism was more interested in a territory, not necessarily Palestine, on which to found an independent Jewish State.
Conflict is Essential
Theodor Herzl (1860-1904), a Hungarian journalist, was also preoccupied with anti-Semitism and first conceived as a solution to it the massive conversion of Jewish children to Catholicism. He was subsequently persuaded to drop the idea in favour of a territory-based Jewish national movement.
The Dryfus affair in France, in 1894, in which a Jewish French officer was accused of spying for Germany, convinced him that anti-Semitism is a perpetual and inalterable force in Jewish life. In his search for a territory to colonise, he selected Argentina and campaigned with wealthy Jews to sponsor Jewish colonization of Argentina.
In 1896, Herzl published an influential pamphlet which he called Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State). In it, he argued that anti-Semitism must be used to reinforce a Jewish identity, which could freely develop in a Jewish State either in Argentina or Palestine.
Herzl recognized that the idea was not new but that his contribution lay in the practical programme he was proposing: “I do not claim the idea is new…The only novelty lies in the method whereby I launch the idea and then organize the Society, and finally the State.”
He proposed a specific scheme whose propelling force was the plight of the Jews. Herzl believed that assimilation has failed and that much as the assimilationist Jews try to be loyal citizens of their native lands they would always be considered “aliens” because the power relationship in the societies in which they live favour the majority not the minority.
Herzl was a strong believer in power politics and was contemptuous of the humanitarian ideals of the Enlightenment. His was not the humanitarian nationalism of the romantic movement of Herder, Hegel or Mazzini.
To the latter’s belief in the “sisterhood of nations” and in progress born out of the collective life of the human race, Herzl opposed the view that “Universal brotherhood is not even a beautiful dream.” Like the post-Darwanian militarist nationalism of Treitschk,
Herzl’s was based on idealizing struggle and conflict as supreme channels of human redemption. For Herzl firmly believed that “Conflict is essential to man’s highest efforts.”
Might Over Right
To the idealism of romantic thinkers, Herzl opposed the realism of Nietzsche’s thought that the master impulse of life was power. To achieve it no effort is too great and no hurdle too daunting.
Like Machiavelli, he firmly believed will is a moving force of events, force and craft are necessary weapons, and ultimately the state is power. The emancipation of Jews being doomed to failure, the assimilation only temporary retrieve before the unalterable ugliness of anti-Semitism struck again, the Jews had to have power; and the state being power, the Jews must have a state: “In the world as it now is and will probably remain, for an indefinite period,” he writes, “might takes precedence over right.”
Herzl proposed to turn Anti-Semitism to advantage and power: “Affliction binds us together, and thus united, we suddenly discover our strength. Yes, we are strong enough to form a State… The governments of all countries scourged by anti-Semitism will be keenly interested in obtaining sovereignty for us.”
He proposed Argentina and Palestine but warned against the method of gradual infiltration of Jews because sooner or later infiltration “is bound to end badly. For there comes the inevitable moment when the government in question, under pressure of the native populace-which feels itself threatened-puts a stop to further influx of Jews. Immigration, therefore, is futile unless it is based on our guaranteed autonomy.”
After noting that the infiltration of Jews into Argentina has produced some discontent, he turned his attention to Palestine where he proposed that a Jewish state there would “form a part of a wall of defence for Europe in Asia, an outpost of civilization against barbarism.”
Spirit the Penniless Population Out of the Country
But Palestine was already inhabited. And this fact would constitute the most fundamental problem the Zionists will have to face after securing Great Power support for their scheme.
Most Zionists and Zionist writing deliberately ignored the existence and the rights of the overwhelming Muslim and Christian majority in Palestine even though the establishment of an exclusively Jewish State which they preached would necessarily entail the expulsion of the existing population of Palestine.
Deception was, therefore, inherent in the Zionist project. Max Nordeau recounted with pride how he instructed the First Zionist Congress, which met in Basle in August 1897, in the art of linguistic deception: “I did my best to persuade the claimants of the Jewish state in Palestine that we might find a circumlocution that would express all that we meant by saying it in a way so as to avoid provoking the Turkish rulers of the coveted land. I suggested Heimstatte (homeland) as a synonym for ‘state’…This is the history of the much commented upon expression. It was equivocal but we all understood what it meant. To us it signified Judenstaat (Jewish state) then and it signifies the same now.”
But the first priority was to secure support for the project of colonising Palestine, whose connections to Jewish history made its appeal more powerful in the campaign of recruiting Jewish supporters for the Zionist goal.
Thus, upon being elected President of the Zionist Organisation by the First Zionist Congress, in Basle in August 1897, Herzl looked to Germany for support for “a publicly recognized, legally secured homeland in Palestine”. But, Germany had neither the power nor the influence to secure the necessary support from Constantinople where the Sultan strongly rejected Herzl’s request for colonization of Palestine.
The Jewish-Ottoman Land Company (JOLC) was Herzl’s blueprint for the colonization of Palestine. Intrinsic to the proposed agreement between the World Zionist Organization and the JOLC was the concept of the transfer of the Palestinian Arabs from Palestine.
Herzl also had his own ploy for getting rid of the 93% Muslim and Christian majority population in Palestine. He recommended that the Zionists occupy the land in Palestine and gradually spirit the penniless population out of the country by denying it employment.
During his only visit to Palestine (October 26-November 4, 1898) Herzl noted with emotions how a group of “daring” Zionist colonists on horseback who greeted him at a Zionist colony reminded him of “the Far West cowboys of American plains.”
There were to be sure Jewish leaders who refused the deception and condemned the injustice inherent in the project. Thus, Hebrew essayist and humanist Ahad Ha-am had visited Palestine in 1891 and in his report entitled “The Truth from Palestine” he perceptively identified Zionism’s fundamental problem in Palestine: The Arab people.
Already, he noticed and strongly disapproved of how the early Zionist colonists were dealing with the Palestinian Arabs and warned that Jewish settlers must not arouse the wrath of the people of the country: “Yet what do our brethren do in Palestine? Just the very opposite! Serfs they were in the lands of the Diaspora and suddenly they find themselves in freedom, and this change has awakened in them an inclination to despotism. They treat the Arabs with hostility and cruelty, deprive them of their rights, offend them without cause, and even boast of these deeds, and nobody among us opposes this despicable and dangerous inclination.”
But it was Herzl, and not Ahad Ha-am, who led the Zionist Organisation. His strategy of expelling the majority inhabitants of Palestine, and commitment to the principle that might took precedence over right prevailed, and, after the establishment of Israel in 1948, informed the Israeli approach to the Palestine conflict.
Prof. Safty served as Professor of International Relations and law, Dean, School President, and Head of UN Mission. He is founding President of the Global Leadership Forum, and author/editor of 16 books, including From Camp David to the Gulf (Montreal, New York, 1993, 1997), Leadership and Democracy (New York, 2004), and the forthcoming book, the Modern Machiavellians.