Reprinted from To The Point Analyses
Part I -- From Bad to Worse
Zionism's range of influence is shrinking. One can see this progression worldwide. At a popular level the Israelis have lost control of the historical storyline of Israel-Palestine. They may teach their own citizens their version of the story, the one wherein the Jews have a divine and/or historical right to all of Palestine's territory. But beyond their fellow Zionists and the loony Christian right, no one else believes this story. Significantly, an increasing number of Jews no longer accept it either.
None of this means that the Zionists are not still influential. Yet their influence no longer has a broad popular base. It is now largely restricted to Western government circles. Of course, that is still impressive, and such lobby power does a lot of damage in the West through the corruption of elites and the perversion of state policies. We are seeing examples of this in the many stories of American police officers being trained by Israelis while (coincidentally?) episodes of police brutality in the U.S. multiply.
It is to be noted, however, the Zionist ability to maintain a close connection between Western governments and Israel is now based on their ability to spread around enormous sums of money, and not on what once was popular emotional admiration for the "Israeli experiment." In truth the Zionists are left with a narrowing base of support for a country that is increasingly seen as, at best, inhumane and racist and, at worst, ruthless and criminal.
Zionism's internal reaction to the loss of popular support is to defensively circle the wagons ever more tightly and press on with transparently illegal policies of settlement expansion and oppression. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is the secular-political leader of this hunker-down strategy. However, for Jews worldwide what is perhaps more alarming, and certainly as depressing, is the role played by Judaism's religious representatives -- members of Israel's rabbinic officialdom -- who keep publicly calling for, and religiously justifying, the slaughter of Palestinians. Here are some recent examples:
In early March of 2016, Israel's chief Sephardic rabbi, Yitzhak Yosef, announced that it is "a religious imperative" to execute "Palestinian assailants" as soon as they are apprehended, despite more judicious directives given by Israel's military high command and law courts. Yosef then managed to show himself utterly out of touch with the history of Palestinian resistance (which he incorrectly mixes up with modern terrorism) when he declared that "It deters them too. The moment a terrorist knows that if he comes with a knife he won't return alive, that will deter them. That's why it's a mitzvah [a blessing] to kill him." There is, of course, no evidence that such a policy of on-the-spot executions deters Palestinian violence.
Yosef's call for on-the-spot executions is actually a follow-up to a statement made by his predecessor, Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, in 2007. At that time Eliyahu pronounced that "there was absolutely no moral prohibition against the indiscriminate killing of civilians during a potential massive military offensive on Gaza."
In December 2015 Chaim Kanievsky, an important "ultra-Orthodox" Israeli rabbi, instructed the members of United Hatzalah, a West Bank settler-run ambulance service, that when confronted with a Palestinian "terrorist" who has "a life-threatening condition, they should leave him or her to die." This pronouncement has sparked a lively debate among some Israeli rabbis, but the resulting impact on the practice of Israeli ambulance crews has been to give them an excuse to disregard their obligations under international law, and leave injured Palestinians untreated.
This attitude has long been evolving, and it has even produced the equivalent of "saintly" figures. For instance, there is the American Zionist settler Baruch Goldstein who in 1994 killed 24 Palestinian worshipers and injured another 125, at the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron. The settler community at Kiryat Arba has erected an elaborate tomb to Goldstein with an epitaph that reads, in part, that he had "clean hands and a pure heart." The tomb remains today a site of pilgrimage for Zionists of genocidal inclination.
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All those Zionists who justify the murder of Palestinians lawfully resisting unlawful occupation are themselves in violation of international law. Those who rationalize this behavior by evoking violent and wrathful biblical images go further and put themselves in the same category as al-Qaeda and ISIS fanatics.
Part II -- An Existential Dilemma
Zionism did not start out advocating slaughter. The original Zionist preference for the disposal of the Palestinians was "transfer" -- the removal by force or economic inducement of the Palestinians from conquered Israeli territory into the surrounding Arab lands. This scheme, in its forceful guise, was put into effect during the 1948 and 1967 wars. This certainly cleared out some of the indigenous population, but by no means everyone: there are today some 6 million Palestinians living under Israeli control.
For most of those who have remained, policies of enforced poverty, enforced immobility and daily harassment have made life miserable. It has also encouraged continuous violent resistance among Palestinians and a corresponding growing frustration among Israeli Jews. This frustration soon began to encourage Zionists, both secular and religious, to replace the traditional notion of transfer with newer visions of slaughter.
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