Wednesday, 03 July 2024 20:37

Zionism is Broken

A child waits to fill water containers in Gaza. Credit: UNRWA

ATLANTA, Georgia, Jul 03 (IPS) — Zionism is broken. It is finished as a political philosophy and cannot long survive. Having earned the visceral opposition of multitudes of people and countries around the world for engaging in vast overkill in Gaza, that historical reality will likely become clear to the Israeli people over time.

In its latest update last week, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, reported “especially intense” airstrikes in central Gaza in recent days, particularly in Bureij, Maghazi and Nuseirat refugee camps and eastern Deir Al-Balah.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military’s ground offensive “continues to expand”, UNRWA noted, particularly in the southern regions of Gaza City and eastern Rafah, causing further suffering and further “destabilising” humanitarian aid flows.

Still, how could the most powerful state in the Middle East, the most flourishing economically, with the strongest superpower backing, become defunct? It cannot—unless somehow its chief raison d’etrê, its founding philosophy, collapses. That has already happened.

In the wake of the October 7 attack by Hamas, the visceral racist core of Zionism has become evident in the indiscriminate slaughter of tens of thousands of innocent Palestinian civilians, including many thousands of children.

No reason of state can ever excuse that. Israel’s righteous anger against HAMAS for its obscene October 7 attack transitioned quickly into racial hatred, ending in, if not genocide, then certainly war crimes and crimes against humanity. Netanyahu and his Likud allies have not hidden their racism for decades. Now it is explicit in full view of the world.

The Zionism of Netanyahu and his supporters must be repudiated by the Israelis themselves. Israel’s leaders from Menachem Begin to today have long endorsed statements lauding Israel uber alles.

Zionism can only be rehabilitated if it separates its reason for existing from the current triumphalist military identity that is determined to kill, kill, and kill again until the utter destruction and suppression of all every tangible and ideological enemy.

In a recent CNN interview, former Shin Beth Director Ami Ayalon, was very explicit: he said “The toxic leadership of Prime Minister Netanyahu” will “lead to the end of Zionism.” In that case, he said, “We cannot be secure and we shall lose our identity.”

Ayalon was preceded by a number of courageous Israeli thinkers and writers who warned of the same outcome—Israel was founded in 1948 but in their opinion, Zionism had already failed ideologically by the mid-1960s. They included Hebrew University professor Israel Shahak (1933-2001), who wrote, “It is my considered opinion that the State of Israel is a racist state in the full meaning of the term.”

He insisted that, “You cannot have humane Zionism. It (too) is a contradiction in terms.” Uri Avnery (1923-2018), a decorated Israeli soldier and later a publisher and politician, published a book in 1968 titled Israel without Zionists.

Many of the original Jewish colonists had utopian dreams, but their leaders would probably not recognize the grim, revengeful militarism of today’s Israel. A few tiny orthodox religious parties in Israel have never bought into the military machine that is the Likud Party’s pride and joy.

Some have steadfastly refused even to serve in the Israeli army because they don’t believe in the Israeli state. Now even they are being conscripted.

The original dream of Zionism from Theodore Herzl to Chaim Weizmann to David Ben Gurion, although containing seeds of a today’s hob-booted military identity, nevertheless also expressed a grandiosely humane, even a universal, goal—to become a “light to the nations.” In that, Israel has signally failed.

Like HAMAS and most Palestinians, Israel’s people—and Israel as a country—has become increasingly and deeply racist. Now racism—hatred of others for their differences—has become racial-ism, which is even worse, a doctrine of race superiority, which was the Nazi credo.

The Israel of Benjamin Netanyahu and his thuggish coalition has succumbed to such race hatred that Zionists from pre-1948 Palestine would not recognize it. A Jan. 6, 2024 opinion article in the Jerusalem Post urges Israel to reform its politics along better Zionist lines and take power away from the extremists now in charge. Commendable, but not nearly enough.

What if Abraham Lincoln had countenanced America’s original sin of slavery by merely taking half steps? We might still have “slavery lite.” No, Israel’s race-based philosophy must change to the democratic ideal: a single state in Israel and the occupied territories for Muslims, Christians, and Jews. One person, one vote.

When Palestinians are treated as human beings—as real people instead of enemies to be eradicated en masse—people everywhere would soon see how quickly peace would come to the Middle East.

James E. Jennings, PhD, is President, Conscience International[email protected]

IPS UN Bureau