Twelve hundred years before Christ, The Israelites were warring with the Philistines. At one point during a deadlock, a giant Philistine named Goliath called for one Israelite to face him. No soldier volunteered but David, a shepherd boy, felled Goliath with a stone from his slingshot and cut off his head.
It turns out that the land occupied by the Philistines was the modern Gaza strip, north to beyond Ashdod in Israel. And in an ironic reversal, the Philistines' descendants now play the role of David.
Since the end of the second world war the United States has consistently backed the wrong party in the Middle East: Iraq against Iran, the Taliban against the Russians, and Israel against the Palestinians. American (as opposed to European) politicians have insisted for decades that the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is irrelevant to other Middle East issues. Our mistake may stem from an unconscious racism inspired by irrational Israeli attitudes toward their fellow Semites.
Recently I learned why Israeli anti-Zionists consider the state of Israel as illegitimate: it's because the very notion of a Jewish state conflicts with scripture. Genesis implies that the earth from which Adam was formed was not taken from one place, but from various parts of the globe. Thus human dignity is not limited to one region, and human worth has nothing to do with appearance. Since Adam is the common ancestor of all mankind, the idea of a purely Jewish state is a rebellion against God. The definition of a Jew as anyone who has a Jewish mother or converted to Judaism in conformity with Jewish religious law excludes racism. Moses married a Midianite woman who became Jewish. And Ruth from whom David, the greatest Jewish King, is descended, came from the Moabites, traditional enemies of the Jews.
Anti-Zionists consider that the Jewish nation was not created by Zionists, but was born on Mount Sinai when the Jews adopted the Torah by saying "let us do and let us hear," and God answered: "This day you become a people."
Political Zionism was a reaction to the anti-Semitism embodied in the Dreyfus affair at the turn of the twentieth century. Its founder first proposed to resettle the Jews in Uganda; then he thought they should convert to Catholicism. Finally he hit on the idea of a Judenstaat, an exclusive Jewish state. Both Zionists and Anti-Semites believe all Jews should be confined in one place.
The Israeli state symbol, the menorah or candelabrum declares "not with armed force and not with power, but in My spirit." Anti-Zionists affirm that the Zionist state is the modern "golden calf", where sovereignty replaced Judaism's lofty ideals, rendering the divine covenant with the Jewish people null and void. Religious obligations became a private matter rather than a duty, with divine law subject to the standards of conduct and ethics set by party and parliament.
Like the founder of political Zionism, Israel's early prime ministers were non-believers, their claim to the Holy Land based on a Bible which they considered to be mere folklore. Anti-Zionists accuse Israel's leaders of ignoring the fact that the Jewish people were exiled by God, destined to return only at the coming of the Messiah.
In fact, the birth of Israel came about as an invasion authorized by the international community, represented by the United Nations. But the Israelis have refused to abide by subsequent United Nations resolutions that it must renounce land conquered in the 1967 war.
Anti-Zionists stress that violence is not a Jewish tradition or value. The Jewish people were chosen, not to set an example of military superiority, but to seek perfection in moral behavior and spiritual purity. How different is that from Mohammed's determination that his people submit to the will of Allah that they adopt high moral standards? For that matter, how different is Hamas "terrorism" from that of early Israeli settlers?
Hamas, the twenty-first century David, embodies the same socialist principles of service to the people that inspired the Holocaust survivors to colonize Palestine. From the beginning Zionism had a military arm called Irgun, which fought to wrest Palestine from British occupation so that every Jew could enter the Holy Land. Some of Irgun's better-known attacks were the bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on 22 July 1946, and the Deir Yassin massacre of Palestinians (together with the Stern Gang) on April 9, 1948.
To finance its activities, Irgun extorted money from Zionist businessmen and ran bogus robbery scams in the local diamond industry that enabled victims to recoup their losses from insurance companies. Irgun was described as a terrorist organization by The New York Times, The Times of London, the BBC, and prominent world and Jewish figures. In 1946, the World Zionist Congress strongly condemned "the shedding of innocent blood as a means of political warfare".
From 1942 to 1948, Irgun was led by Menachem Begin, and notwithstanding this general opprobrium, it was a predecessor to the Likud party. As Likud Prime Minister, Begin made peace with Egypt in 1979.
In the late 1980s, during the First Intifada, Israeli governments encouraged the emergence of the Palestinian religious movement, Hamas, hoping to weaken the entrenched secular movement, Fatah, led by Yasser Arafat. Like the United States in its dealings with communist movements across the world, the Israelis discounted the socialist tradition of building schools and hospitals and insisting on clean administration (implemented by the Cuban revolution and eventually emulated in Latin America). Yet these policies made Hamas the strongest Palestinian political party, just as it was with the Lebanese Hezbollah.
The modern Goliath is threatened by two Davids, one on its northern and one on its southern border. Though there were no journalists to report it, the story of the original David lived down through the ages. Today's Goliath does all it can to prevent witnesses from reporting its war with the two Davids, but it too will become history.