A month ago, on 7 January, two French Muslim brothers of Algerian descent held the office of Charlie Hebdo at siege, and killed twelve people. Two days later an associate of theirs killed five others in a Jewish Kosher shop. I have been reflecting on this tragic saga since then. I decided finally to write about it focusing on the Jewish Question.
It is an epical saga – a complex story of multiple contradictions. In the aftermath of the Paris events, the Israeli Prime Minister, Netanyahu, asked the Jews of France to “come home”.
In this piece I argue that the “home” for the Jews would have to be wherever they presently live. This is my main message.
I have two other complementary messages. One is that the two state solution is dead as dodo. The Jews need to work towards creating one state in Palestine, with Arab majority and a substantial Jewish minority who would enjoy democratic, including religious, rights. It will not be easy, but there is no other way.
The second is that it is the responsibility of the international community to join in solidarity with the Jews to defend their rights where they are. By “international community” I do not mean political community, which in effect has been the United States and its allies – depending on the concrete circumstances of each situation as it affects American global political and corporate interests. By international community I mean the “Global Community of Concerned Citizens” – GCCC. This includes religious communities. It also includes individuals working in government as well as non-governmental citizen activists. It is their responsibility to provide support to the Jewish – as well as Muslim – communities. The peoples of the two monotheistic religions are the targets of venomous attacks in an increasingly racist and fascist Europe. (Just so that you know where I come from, I am born a Hindu polytheist – I believe in many gods).
The Jewish Question
In 1843 Bruno Bauer, a German philosopher and historian, wrote a book titled “The Jewish Question” in which he argued that Jews can realize political liberation only if they abandoned their Jewish religious consciousness, that in a secular state there was “no space” for religious identities. Interestingly, Marx challenged Bauer to argue that the secular state is not opposed to religion; religious communities could maintain their identities in a secular state. The significance of this debate would not be lost to those concerned about the situation of the Jewish and Muslim communities in contemporary Europe and America.
In December 1894, a young French Jewish artillery officer – Captain Alfred Dreyfus – was sentenced to life imprisonment for allegedly communicating French military secrets to the German Embassy in Paris. Dreyfus was deported and imprisoned on Devil’s Island in French Guiana. In 1906 Dreyfus was acquitted and reinstated in the French Army. But the “Dreyfus Affair” (as it was called) divided the French society. The more liberal section of the French elite argued in favor of Jewish social and political integration in Europe. But an influential Jew, Theodore Herzl, argued that Europe was no longer safe for the Jews; that they must find their own state. Between 1880 and 1920, millions of Jews left Europe for safer havens, including the United States.
Things turned ugly for the Jews when Hitler came to power. In a bid to carry out “the final solution of the Jewish question” he exterminated six million Jews in the holocaust. For the Zionists, the founding of a Jewish state became urgent. Gandhi at the time argued that the Jews should stand up and fight for their legitimate rights in Europe.
But the Jews preferred to vote with their feet. In 1948, finally, within the United Nations framework, a majority of states led by Europe, the US and the Soviet Union created the Jewish state. Very few countries of the South were members of the UN. Virtually the whole of Africa was still under European colonial rule. The Palestinians were not consulted. It is no exaggeration to say that Europe and America dumped their nagging centuries-old problem on to the Arabs. India voted against the creation of the state of Israel as did the then already sovereign Arab states.
The two-state deception
The state of Israel was born in blood and violence – sadly for those of us who know a little bit about the second book of the Torah – the Exodus – and the hardships 600,000 Jews suffered in escaping from slavery in Egypt in 6th Century BC. In our time, Israeli security forces have killed at least 700,000 (some say a million) Palestinians in their quest for statehood. If it is not genocide, what is?
Stern Gang terrorists Begin and Shamir (for that is what they were if we use today’s terminology applied to the Islamic Jihadists) became prime ministers of the state of Israel. Their slogan at the time was that “Palestine was a land without people for a people without land”. Revisionist Zionists that developed into the Likud party sought Eretz Yisrael Ha-Shlema – the Whole Land of Israel. During the Six Day War in 1967 Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza Strip from Jordan and Egypt, and since then Israel has not stopped colonizing the rest of Palestine.
Under the 1948 division of the land of Palestine, the Jews and the Palestinians were to create their own states. But this – the “two state” formula – was a deception. Netanyahu says that he has no Palestine partner with whom to negotiate, but the fact is that he is not even looking for one; he has his sight set on occupying the whole of Palestine. At the heart of his call for “Jews to come home” is to prepare ground for confiscation of Palestinian land and the illegal constructions in East Jerusalem: “come home” he says’ “there is enough space to accommodate you, whatever your numbers!” If he thinks he is deceiving the Palestinians, he is palpably wrong. It is self-deception. This strategy is bound to fail – that is a prediction I dare to make. But I am not the only one.
A study conducted by the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has cast doubt over Israel’s survival beyond the next 20 years. The CIA report predicts “an inexorable movement away from a two-state to a one-state solution, as the most viable model based on democratic principles of full equality that sheds the looming specter of colonial Apartheid while allowing for the return of the 1947/1948 and 1967 refugees. The latter being the precondition for sustainable peace in the region.”
Israel’s existence is no longer morally justified
As a young man I grew up believing in the cause of the Jews for a state of their own, especially after reading Leon Uris’s “Exodus” and watching the movie with Paul Newman (and his famous blue eyes) in the role of the hero. Later, as a young Socialist, I read about the kibbutz and moshav (agricultural co-op) movement, and I dreamt of visiting one of these co-ops. I never made it.
In 2012 – now no longer young – I was finally able to go to Palestine. I was in Ramallah for over a week. And what I saw simply shattered me. In the 1980s and 1990s, I used to go to South Africa (from Zimbabwe where I lived) invited by the underground resistance movement. I can say with complete honesty that what I saw in Ramallah, East Jerusalem, and Jericho was far worse than apartheid South Africa. The Palestinians were going about their business as if nothing was happening. However, underneath the surface calm I could sense the feeling of frustration – even seething anger – leveled at the Palestinian Authority (PA). It was a government they had voted in power; but it was hopelessly ineffective in addressing the basic problems of the people – such as access to water, and the right to visit families and relatives across the hundreds of Israeli barriers and check-points they had to cross. And the PA was spinelessness when it came to “negotiating” with Israel or the “Quartet” of “mediators” that was led by the United States.
As apartheid South Africa (then supported by the United States and the West) ceased to be morally unsustainable, so today apartheid Israel (supported by the same “international community”) has lost moral legitimacy.
Palestinian resistance will continue until liberation
My visit to Ramallah also convinced me that the Palestinian resistance will continue until liberation. I saw old Palestinian and Jewish friends I used to know in the 1970s and 80s; I saw the “warriors” of the “First Intifada”; I saw young men and women, barely out of their teens, who told me that Hamas won’t be defeated; that the two states solution was a Euro-American invention to exploit Jews for their own geo-political strategic interest in the Middle East – Jews who in turn super-exploited Arab citizens of Israel and the Palestinians in the occupied lands. I was told that Hamas are liberators not terrorists.
ISIS – the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – had not yet seen the light of day when I was in Ramallah. If it was emerging underground, nobody mentioned it to me. Looking back, I am not at all surprised at the rise of the ISIS. Its emergence was almost inevitable, given the colonizing geo-politics of the ruling elite in Israel backed by the “International Community”, which, you must have gathered by now, has no legitimacy in the eyes of the GCCC (Global Community of Concerned Citizens).
For a long time I shared the illusion with most concerned citizens of the world that Tikkun olam (a process of healing) would prevail in Israel. I have given up that hope, for although there are hundreds – possibly thousands – of Jews in Israel who believe in Tikkun olam, it seems to me that the vast majority of the Jews have put their trust, rather, in the Israel Defence Force (IDF) and securing and expanding the territory of Israel through violence. Rabbinical institutions that preach Judaism place greater hope in the IDF than in Torah’s teaching of love and compassion. They seem to have abandoned their faith in the God that failed to save the Jews from the Holocaust and have placed their faith in the IDF’s perpetual military hegemony in the region. They are palpably wrong.
Wilting sands of Israel
So how would the Jewish Question resolve itself? I think it would do so by the force of demographic and psychological changes within Israel and the evolving global and regional geo-politics.
Psychology and demography go hand in hand. The notion of Jews as “chosen by God” had been a dazzling psychological prop, but in the face of sporadic rocket attacks from Gaza and Syria, this prop is wilting away in the sands of time. Many young Jews no longer believe in it. Some have put their faith in the IDF. Others are leaving Israel.
According to a television programme on Israeli Channel 2 almost one million Israelis left Israel for the US, Britain, Australia and Germany in 2011. Migrants to Canada told the programme that life in Canada is “more peaceful” than in Israel. According to Israeli newspaper Maariv, 70 per cent of American Jews have not been to Israel and do not intend to go there. More than 50 per cent of Jews in America are married to non-Jews and do not care if Israel ceased to exist. An expert in demography at the University of Haifa said that the number of Arabs in Galilee in 2011 stood at 640,000 whereas there were only 570,000 Jews.
The ghost of the Holocaust is a ritual played year after year (as happened following the Charlie Hebdo event in Paris) to sustain the myth that the salvation of the persecution of the Jews in Europe lay in the appropriation of the lands of the Palestinians – “a land (of Palestine) without people, for a people (the Jews) without land”. This “creation myth” is also wearing thin, as an agonizing never-ending holocaust is perpetrated by the Jews against the Palestinians.
Israel’s principal strategy is to shred the unity of the Arab-Islamic world. Israel hopes that the Sunni-Shia rift will exist forever; that it can continue forever to exploit the division between Saudi Arabia and Iran. So far this has indeed been the case. Israel, like the US, has supported the rise of the Islamic state (ISIS). But it is a delusion. The US created Al Qaida to fight against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan until bin Laden had his own ideas on how to use a temporary alliance with the US to pursue his own grand design. ISIS too has its own program, its own agenda.
Hamas and Likud are two sides of the same coin. Hamas can coexist with Jews but not the state of Israel, just as Likud can tolerate Palestinians but cannot accept the creation of a state called Palestine. One of them has to go. As the above cited Programme 2 of Israel stated, many Jews find Canada and the US more peaceful than Israel.
Is it possible to scale up the movement of individuals into a properly organised movement – or relocation – of Jewish communities – as happened when Jews moved from Europe to Palestine?
Might Nevada in the US be a “state” of Israel?
Might the Jews consider moving, let us say to a land near Utah or Nevada in the USA? This is just an example. But let us explore it further. Some 150 years ago, many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) moved to the US. One sect of these LDSs constitutes the Mormons. They settled in Utah near Salt Lake City. Mormonism has close historical affinity to Judaism. It has incorporated many Old Testament ideas into its theology, and it has many cultural similarities. Among the early Mormon settlements, the largest was called Nauvoo, which in Hebrew means “to be beautiful”. They named a tributary of the Great Salt Lake the “Jordan River.” The LDS Church created a writing called the “Deseret Alphabet”, which was based, in part, on Hebrew. The LDS Church has a Jerusalem Center in Israel, where young people learn to appreciate and respect the region. Not surprisingly, Utah also has places called South Jordan and West Jordan, and Zion National Park.
This could be a place worth considering by the Jews of Israel – not necessarily within the midst of the Mormons. However, there are still vast tracts of unoccupied lands in Utah and Nevada to which Jews from Israel might contemplate moving. From there the beaches of California are not far – a single day’s car journey to a more peaceful environment than along the Mediterranean Sea. They should, of course, have a right to visit Jerusalem and other holy shrines in the Middle East, and they could come as tourists for an occasional nostalgic dip in the Mediterranean. They must not lose everything in moving out of Israel.
The Lesson of the Holocaust
The lesson of the Holocaust is not that the Jews needed to create a state of their own. By running away from Europe and by killing or incarcerating a million Palestinians the Jews have not resolved “the Jewish Question”. Anti-Semitism (as indeed anti-Islamism) is on the increase in Europe. The Jews have compounded their own problem by running away from Europe and inflicting an undeniable genocide on their Palestinian Semitic brothers and sisters. Israel calls the Hamas resort to “terrorism” an asymmetric war. This is odd. It is in fact the other way round; it is Israel that is waging an asymmetric war against the Palestinians.
The real lesson of the 1930s Holocaust is that the civilized Europeans – Christian, Muslim or Jews – must not let that happen again. Prime Minister Mr. Netanyahu, don’t ask the Jews of Europe to “come home” to Israel. They must stay in Europe and struggle by nonviolent means to defend their legitimate rights. I know you can’t say this, but I can – namely, that Jews fighting for justice might learn a lesson or two from the Palestinian First Intifada when masses of people – including women and children – stayed on their lands and fought for justice by non-violent means. The real lesson of Charlie Hebdo is not to emulate the fundamentalists – Islamic, Jewish or Christian- and resort to violence, but to reclaim the ground of social justice from them. Promoting social justice is more challenging than a quick-fix resort to violence. It demands advancing a social and political discourse that involves not only ‘the other’ but also divine consciousness – listen to Pope Francis.
Violence will only breed more violence. The Jews will lose. This is not the way to resolve “the Jewish Question.” Gandhi was right in 1938. He is still right and relevant. For those who choose to go to the US or Canada, let them be supported by financial compensation for their loss homes and land in Israel. Create a “state” for the Jews in Nevada. It would still be far less costly than the billions the United States pours into Israel in the form of military and intelligence hardware. For those who opt to stay where they are, work towards a one state in Palestine, with Arab majority and a substantial Jewish minority with democratic – including religious – rights. This is not going to be easy. But it is a far better solution than the present totally untenable situation. Go to the Torah’s teaching of love and compassion. Only those who have abandoned the Torah have resorted to violence and genocide. The Torah is a fascinating book, just as the Bible and the Quran.