Israel-Palestine and the American Left
It’s very disappointing that even the most progressive and anti-imperialist voices who dare speak the truth in this country, surrender and cave under Zionist pressure and blacklisting. Shortly after Chris Hedges wrote an insightful piece in Truthdig (December 15, 2014), in which he correctly likened ISIS to Israel, he got disinvited to a talk on Israel and Palestine that he had been invited to speak in the following April at University of Pennsylvania, and consequently and regrettably backtracked from his earlier position and made the following clarification (Truthdig, December 21, 2014):
“I oppose violence by either party. I have condemned Hamas rocket attacks as war crimes. And I support Israel’s right to exist within the pre-1967 borders.”
Here’s what he had originally written:
“Its [ISIS’] quest for an ethnically pure Sunni state mirrors the quest for a Jewish state eventually carved out of Palestine in 1948. Its tactics are much like those of the Jewish guerrillas who used violence, terrorism, foreign fighters, clandestine arms shipments and foreign money, along with horrific ethnic cleansing and the massacre of hundreds of Arab civilians, to create Israel. Antagonistic ISIS and Israeli states, infected by religious fundamentalism, would be irreconcilable neighbors. This is a recipe for apocalyptic warfare. We provided the ingredients”.
Israel was founded as a colonial settler state on racism and ethnic cleansing, using mass murder and terror. It was carved out of an existing nation with its own mixed population of Arabs, Jews, Armenians and others, to be the exclusive state for a particular people who were a minority in a country of majority of Arabs, based on biblical claims that the land “belonged” to Jews and therefore it had to be cleansed of non-Jews to create a “Jewish state”. Aside from the absurdity of claiming a stretch of land where people live as “belonging” to a particular ethnic or religious group to come and settle from around the world, at the exclusion of others, any such endeavor based on ethnic cleansing and a racist ideology will inevitably lead to countless mass murders, displacements, atrocities and genocide. There is no justification for such a racist project on any grounds. Such a colonial settler state built on mass murder, ethnic cleansing and genocide does not have the right to exist. What has the right to exist and must eventually exist after dismantling the racist and apartheid state of Israel is a democratic and secular state for all people of the land, regardless of their ethnicity, religion or race.
To say that Israel has the right to exist after you correctly liken it to the Islamic State that ISIS is trying to build is like saying the latter has the right to establish its own Islamic Caliphate, on the ruins of Syria and Iraq, after massacring thousands of people and making millions refugees who rightly oppose their genocidal project based on the terrorists’ religious beliefs.
To say that Israel has the right to exist is like saying Israel, as an exclusive “Jewish state”, has the right to exist, which leaves out the non-Jews which then legitimizes apartheid and ethnic cleansing because that’s what’s entailed in the idea of a state for only one particular people. By definition, a “Jewish state” isn’t and can’t be also for other inhabitants of the land. The home demolitions, evictions, displacements, stealing of the land and building settlements, along with the resistance that such injustices engender and the consequent crackdowns and killings are all natural byproducts of such a colonial settler and apartheid state.
To say that Israel has the right to exist is to say that the Palestinians who have been made refugees since 1948 don’t have the right to return to their homes and live as equals of other citizens. The whole concept of the state of Israel is built on denying Palestinians and other non-Jews their basic and human rights.
To say that you’re only opposed to the lands occupied after 1967 and not before, is to arbitrarily distinguish between one part of the Zionist project and occupation from others. Occupation is occupation. What difference does it make which occupation was done when? Do those Palestinians who were driven from their homes into refugee camps in 1948 have less rights to live on their ancestral lands than those driven from their homes after 1967?
To say that Hamas firing their primitive and ineffectual rockets into Israel is also a “war crime” is to equate them with the Israeli occupiers and obfuscate the issue of occupation, ethnic cleansing and genocide the Zionist state is subjecting the defenseless Palestinian people to, which would naturally lead to resistance in whatever shape the victimized people know how and can conjure.
My question to Mr. Hedges is: if you were going to say in your talk at University of Pennsylvania that you condemn violence by both sides and that Hamas too committed war crimes and that Israel has the right to exist along with the promise of an unfeasible and impractical and “demilitarized” “state” over some disjointed pieces of land surrounded by and dependent on Israel, with those Palestinians who are left within the borders of Israel not having equal rights with Jews and refugees not having the Right of Return, what would distinguish you as a progressive and as a socialist and anti-imperialist from those who say the same things in mainstream US media? And how are your positions now that you’ve clarified them different from even the US State Department?