OPINIONS

Mon 06 May 2024 12:58 pm - Jerusalem Time

Israel or the last Western colonial enterprise

DAVID DAHOMAY

Is there now in France and Europe a new implicit form of “thought police” which prohibits approaching the Israeli-Palestinian question as being a conflict of a colonial nature?

Because, how can we objectively deny that since the failure of the Oslo Accords in 1993, and in particular the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 by a Jewish ultranationalist, it is above all the supporters of “Greater Israel” – whose figure leader is none other than Benjamin Netanyahu – who has held political and military power in Israel for around twenty years? And that the consequences for many Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have been disastrous: forced colonization, repeated abuses by settlers against Arabs with the implicit support of the IDF, expropriation of Palestinian land in the West Bank, arbitrary detentions, sky prison opened in Gaza. To the point that Amnesty International, in a well-supported report dating from 2022, does not hesitate to use the term “apartheid” to describe the discriminatory policy carried out by the Israeli authorities:


How can we further deny that Benjamin Netanyahu himself contributed in 2007 to the coming to power of Hamas in Gaza to the detriment of the Palestinian Authority, thinking he could cynically take advantage of this openly anti-Semitic and terrorist organization to justify his policy? vexatious towards Gazans and Palestinians as a whole?


Finally, what should we make of the manifest indifference of a majority of public opinion in many Arab countries for two decades towards the sad fate of the Palestinians?


Regardless, some argue that anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism come together in one way or another. This issue is indeed delicate, but they are nevertheless two very distinct notions, etymologically and historically.


For my part, I observe two very different, even opposing, philosophical approaches relating to the creation of a Jewish State: that supported in particular by the physicist Albert Einstein (1879-1955), very critical of nationalist and religious Zionism. , and that defended by Theodor Herzl (1860-1904), considered one of the founding fathers of Zionism, and who wrote “The State of the Jews” in 1896.


It would indeed be difficult to refute the fact that Herzl viewed the creation of a Jewish state through a colonialist vision. In his 1896 essay, Herzl tried to justify why the authorization of a European power would be necessary for the colonization of the territory intended for the creation of this state:


“Two territories are being studied, Palestine and Argentina. In both countries, important colonization experiments were carried out, however, they were carried out on the erroneous principle of a progressive infiltration of Jews. An infiltration is bound to end badly. It will continue until the inevitable moment when the indigenous population feels threatened, and forces the government to stop a new influx of Jews. Immigration is therefore futile if we do not have the sovereign right to continue this immigration.


Herzl in fact predicted that such an initiative would initially begin “under the protectorate of the European powers”.


Furthermore, in a letter that Herzl wrote in 1902 to Cecil Rhodes (a wealthy British businessman considered one of the greatest colonialists of his time, based in South Africa, and whom some consider to have played a role indirectly in the advent of apartheid), he told him this: “We invite you to contribute to history. Not that of Africa, but that of a piece of Asia Minor; This story does not concern Englishmen, but Jews... How is it that I turn to you, since this question does not concern you? For what ? Because it is a colonial affair.”

Some might criticize us for being anachronistic, and that we should place Theodor Herzl's words in the context of his time. However, from this period, in Europe as in the United States, certain major intellectual or political figures did not hesitate to firmly condemn the misdeeds of the great colonial powers. We could notably cite Georges Clémenceau, who in the Chamber of Deputies in 1885, against the wishes of Jules Ferry to lead France into new colonial conquests, declared the following:

https://www.amnesty.org/fr/latest/campaigns/2022/02/israels-system-of-apartheid/


“No, there is no right of so-called superior nations against inferior nations; there is the struggle for life which is a fatal necessity, which as we rise in civilization we must contain within the limits of justice and right. But let's not try to label violence with the hypocritical name of civilization. Let's not talk about rights or duties.


The conquest that you advocate is the pure and simple abuse of the force that scientific civilization gives over rudimentary civilizations, to appropriate man, to torture him, to extract from him all the force that is in him for the benefit so-called civilizer. This is not the right, it is the negation of it. To speak of civilization in this regard is to add hypocrisy to violence..."


What, then, is colonization, if not everywhere and always a crime against humans? Because to colonize is to conquer a territory by force or trickery, and to dispossess the indigenous populations of their land, or to subjugate them. How then could any colonization have played “a positive role” since this is an indelible and unforgivable crime?


In contrast to Herzl's Zionist conception, Einstein was very early suspicious of those who advocated the creation of a Jewish state, often with messianic ulterior motives. Indeed, in a letter written in 1929 to Chaim Weizmann (first president of the State of Israel in 1949), he told him this: "If we prove incapable of achieving cohabitation and honest agreements with the Arabs , then we will have learned absolutely nothing during our two thousand years of suffering and will deserve everything that happens to us.” Today, with hindsight, Einstein's words could strangely appear premonitory.


In 1930, in a letter to Chaim Koffler, member of the Foundation for the Resettlement of Jews in Palestine, the father of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud also confided all his skepticism with regard to the project of creating a Jewish state in Palestine, convinced that this would produce endless wars of religion between Jews, Christians and Muslims, on the land of the Holy Places. He advocated “founding a Jewish homeland on historically uncharged soil.” This letter from Freud to Koffler was hidden for nearly sixty years, for fear of defeating the Zionist project in the Middle East.


The persecutions suffered by citizens of the Jewish faith in Europe, then the Shoah with the extermination of nearly 6 million Jews during the Second World War, shook Western consciences, discovering astounded that the so-called "civilized" countries had produced very heart of the Old Continent, the worst of barbarities: “a crime against humanity”. Western leaders then struggled to take up the cause of the Zionist project, as previously hatched by Theodor Herzl, and the State of Israel was proclaimed in 1948, after the UN had voted on a plan to share the Palestine, between Arabs and Jews, but which was never respected.


1948 symbolized for the Palestinians the Nakba (“the catastrophe”), with the forced exodus of several hundred thousand of them.


Despite the trauma of the Second World War and the European anti-Semitic paroxysm, Albert Einstein maintained his criticism of Zionism as it was taking shape. In December 1948, to protest against the coming to the United States of Menachem Begin who had just founded the Herout party, ancestor of Likud, he published in the New York Times with other eminent intellectuals of Jewish origin, including Hannah Arendt, a very scathing letter towards the Israeli extreme right of the time: "Among the most disturbing political phenomena of our time, is the emergence in the new state of Israel of a political party close in its organization, its methods, its political philosophy and its propaganda, of the Nazi and fascist parties. He comes from the Irgun, a terrorist, far-right and chauvinist organization in Palestine..." These words, certainly dry, resonate with a certain acuteness when we know that it is the Likud of Benyamin Netanyahu which is at the forefront. power today in Israel, with a coalition of Jewish supremacists, and particularly the very sulphurous minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.

There are therefore historically several different, if not divergent, approaches to Zionism within the Jewish community, some having even been opposed to the principle of creating a Jewish state. Freud in particular sensed that such a State, created exclusively on religious bases, could hardly become secular. And it would be absurd to characterize Albert Einstein or Sigmund Freud as anti-Semites.


However, it must be admitted that it is the colonialist conception of Zionism which was imposed from the creation of the State of Israel, as planned by Theodor Herzl, and which has produced for more than seventy years, so much suffering among the Palestinians. And which can only produce ad vitam aeternam hatred, violence and reciprocal wars.


The attack perpetrated by Hamas on October 7, 2023 is an absolute horror, and cannot in any way find the beginning of a justification or legitimization. And the far-left LFI party committed a double moral and political mistake by persisting in seeing it only as “a war crime”, when it is clearly a terrorist act. abject. But the totally disproportionate military response of the Israeli authorities in the Gaza Strip is equally reprehensible. More than 30,000 dead, the majority of them women and children, more than 70% of homes and infrastructure destroyed, including schools and hospitals, a thirsty and hungry population no longer having access to the most basic care , secret talks between the Israeli authorities and those of the Congo to exfiltrate a majority of Gazans to this African country, what are these if not on the one hand probably "war crimes", but on the other hand? on the other hand an enterprise of a genocidal nature?


The 1948 International Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide describes genocide as “a crime committed with the intention of destroying, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group”. . Let us further recall that in a decision dated January 26, 2024, the International Court of Justice expressly asked Israel to prevent possible acts of “genocide” and to “take immediate measures” to enable the provision of “the humanitarian aid to the civilian population of Gaza.


Meanwhile in the West, a majority of political leaders, with the support of major opinion media, minimize or are in denial, some even going so far as to legitimize the ongoing massacre in Gaza, notably by providing the weapons necessary to Israel, with the United States in the foreground.


In a recent article published in Orient-Le Jour, the essayist Soulayma Mardam Bey puts forward the idea that “the two shores of the Mediterranean are united by a colonial history which is slow to end definitively”:


https://www.lorientlejour.com/article/1411826/au-royaume-de-france-la-palestine-muselee.html


However, it is high time to close the chapter of colonization or neo-colonization, of which Israel symbolizes in the eyes of a large part of the former colonized countries the last spearhead of Western colonialism. Aimé Césaire in “Discourse on Colonialism”, however, warns us: “A civilization which chooses to turn a blind eye to its most crucial problems is an affected civilization. A civilization that is cunning with its principles is a moribund civilization…”


I have always fought all fanaticism and obscurantism wherever it comes from, as well as all racism (phenotypic racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, etc.). Furthermore, I remain attached to the secular and republican spirit, which reactionary forces nevertheless persist in opposing to the spirit of openness and respect for all differences, thereby distorting the republican ideal. Finally, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 must not become a relic of a bygone time, but more than ever we must demand from everyone and everywhere around the world, respect for international law!


We must therefore hope that in the near future, Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior Israeli officials will have to answer for their actions before the International Criminal Court, within the framework of a fair trial. Likewise, we must hope that all those responsible – sponsors and perpetrators – of the terrorist attack of October 7, 2023, will be judged before this same International Criminal Court.


We must also demand an immediate and definitive ceasefire in Gaza.

The writer and rabbi Delphine Horvilleur affirms in a recent interview that she does not believe “that the solution will come from generals or politicians, but more from poets, from those who have the capacity to construct other possibilities through their words . This is why my book opens with a Palestinian poet and ends with an Israeli poet. They are the ones who help me to believe again.”


Albert Einstein, for his part, considers that “the bond that has united Jews for thousands of years and still unites them today is, above all, the democratic ideal of social justice, coupled with an ideal of mutual aid and tolerance among all humans.”


Israelis and the Jewish diaspora would undoubtedly benefit from paying more attention to these poets and eminent thinkers, and from re-examining the history of Zionism, in light of the impasse in which they find themselves, due to the supporters of a hard line, supremacist and colonialist.


Israelis and Palestinians, far from religious fanaticism which can only produce exclusion and hatred of the Other, will have to find the strength within themselves, despite all the almost insurmountable resentment nourished on both sides, to dialogue. together again, as equals. The solution can ultimately only be political. Freud evoked the idea of a secular state. Some people talk about the idea of a single binational state in the long term. What if ultimately the solution was none other than the advent of a secular and republican State, in which all citizens would be equal, whatever their religious beliefs or cultures? The utopias of today sometimes constitute the realities of tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.

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Israel or the last Western colonial enterprise

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