A few weeks ago, a former Israel finance minister interviewed on Newsnight stated that since the state of Israel represented the “soul of the Jewish people”, any criticism of Israel was de facto anti-semitic, and added that only Jews had the right to define anti-semitism. Thus, one must surmise, Israel, in its own eyes, is the only state in the world with carte blanche to behave entirely as it pleases, since to condemn it on any grounds is racist.
One would have thought such a statement would have at least induced a raised eyebrow from the interviewer, even if they could not stretch to actually questioning the assumptions behind it. But this was Newsnight’s Kirsty Wark, who, wretched even by the standards of the BBC News and Current Affairs regime under former Murdoch acolyte James Harding, exhibits bland ignorance and stupidity to the same degree that Laura Kuenssberg exhibits crude bias. One hesitates to wonder what response might have been induced by a representative of the Palestinian Authority questioning Israel’s commitment to a two-state solution, or complaining of the daily attacks on Palestinians, often fatal, by members of the Israel Defence Force (IDF) or extremist settlers, but I suspect it would not have been pretty, and would not have ended with a cringeing “Thank you for talking to us” expressed in the tone of a Buckingham Palace housemaid who has just been presented with a new plastic fiver as a Christmas bonus.
We were also admonished a few months ago by the home affairs select committee, in their partisan and cynically politicised report on anti-semitism, for use of the term ‘Zionism’. And now Theresa May has announced – to a meeting of the Conservative Friends Of Israel (during which she said of anti-semitism: “It is disgusting that these twisted views are being found in British politics. Of course, I am talking mainly about the Labour Party and their hard-left allies.”) – that the government would be adopting into law the definition of anti-semitism based on one propounded by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) which has been rejected by almost all other organizations, including the EU.
The definition, drafted with the help of pro-Isael advocacy groups, reads: “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.” While reasonable at first glance, the scope for stretching the definition to include practically any criticism of or opposition to Zionism and Israel are obvious, especially when many pro-Israel propagandists argue, for instance, that proposing a ‘one-state’ solution (a secular Arab-Jewish state encompassing the whole of Palestine) is in itself anti-semitic, because it is “denying the right of Israel to exist”. And under Theresa May’s proposals, claiming that the State of Israel itself is a “racist endeavour” would be regarded as anti-semitic hate speech.
Yet Israel owes its existence to the Zionist Movement, and Zionism is nothing if not racist. Anyone who has any doubt should read Thomas Suarez’s disturbing account, a book that really does get to the heart of the Zionist soul – a very dark place indeed. State Of Terror is not a polemic but a chronological account of the cynical, often indiscriminate violence that enabled a single ‘race’ to colonise and conquer another people’s land within the space of 60 years, and (though the book does not deal, except in a brief epilogue, with the post-Suez period) to continue its campaign of ethnic cleansing for the next 60 or more, slowly gathering to its bosom more and more of the land the Zionists always claimed was theirs by right. It is based entirely on the historical record, including papers from the Public Records Office at Kew and contemporary press reports, but also diaries letters, and internal documents from the Zionist organisations, ‘official’ and ‘unofficial’, and their Jewish opponents.
We are programmed to regard Arab anti-semitism and terrorism as the root cause of the violence in Palestine, an area where Arabs and a small Jewish population lived side-by-side for centuries until the end of the 19th century. Yet for at least the first 50 years of Zionist colonisation, as the book reveals, there was little Arab violence against Jews – the anti-Jewish riot in Hebron in 1929, during which 67 Jews were killed was a rare, isolated incident – even during the worst period of Zionist violence in the post-war run-up to Partition. And yet as soon as Zionist settlers started arriving in numbers in the early 1900s, attacks on Palestinians began – beatings, shootings, bombings of buses and cafes, destruction of homes and crops. Those who criticize the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS) – so often condemned by the current Israeli government and its apologists – should perhaps note that from the very beginning, Jewish settlers were forbidden by Zionist leaders from employing Arab labour or buying their goods; failure to comply could lead to being beaten or shot. The Arabs were to be “starved off the land”.
After the First World War the British Mandate forces and their civilian infrastructure also became targets, and the Zionist war of occupation was fought on both fronts. Name an atrocity that was shocking when carried out by Al Fatah, the PLO, Black September, Hamas, or Iraqi ‘insurgents’ and you will find it in Suarez’s text, committed many years earlier by Zionist terrorists: attacks on hospitals and orphanages; the use of children to deliver bombs; roadside IEDs; kidnappings; bank robberies; drive-by shootings; the murder of political opponents. Arab wells and cisterns were infected with typhoid and dysentery, and Zionist supporters in hospital labratories obstructed and delayed the production of drugs to treat subsequent epidemics. Even a refugee ship, the Patria, was bombed, killing hundreds of Jewish immigrants who were being refused entry to Palestine; the terrorists tried to claim it was a Masada-like act of mass suicide in resistance to being returned to Europe, but it was actually a sabotage attempt gone wrong.
The engine for this campaign of violence was the main Zionist organization, the Jewish Agency, its Hagana militia and the two main Hagana breakaway groups, Irgun and Lehi (the Stern Gang). Hagana has always been portrayed as a plucky band of freedom fighters, disciplined and moral, but in fact it was as guilty of wanton acts of terrorism as he other two. It often joined forces with them, despite its occasional acts of disciplinary violence towards their operatives, who needed to be shown who was boss now and again. After Partition, Hagana absorbed Lehi and Irgun and became the IDF, the “most moral army in the world” (c Mark Regev, former IDF and Israeli government liar-in-chief, now Ambassador to the Court of St James), which continues Hagana’s sterling work to this day.
Three future Israeli Prime Ministers were among Zionism’s most celebrated killers: Moshe Sharett of Hagana, Menachem Begin of Irgun (who masterminded the deaths of 95 people, British, Jew and Arab, in the King George Hotel bombing) and Yitzhak Shamir of Lehi (the murderer of kidnapped servicemen and organiser of the indefensible assassination of UN diplomat Folke Bernadotte). Another, David Ben Gurion, was effectively Commander-in-Chief of Hagana as part of his role at the Jewish Agency, and a fifth, Golda Meir, was the Agency’s travelling apologist for the terrorists. Future ‘statesman’ Yigal Allon led a Hagana attack on a Christian-Muslim Arab village, Khisas, where dozens were killed, for “experience” in preparation for the post-Partition ethnic cleansing operation.
Besides presiding over the terrorist campaign, the Jewish Agency’s task was to entice Jews to emigrate to Palestine, something the majority had little interest in, their preferred destination being the USA. The Agency strong-armed Presidents Roosevelt and then Truman to refuse migrants. As Suarez writes: “Zionism handed anti-semites a way of sending Jews elsewhere while looking progressive.” In 1941, Irgun described attempts to offer Jews safe haven anywhere other than Palestine as “anti-Semitic”.
Ken Livingstone was recently suspended from the Labour Party for his clumsy statements about Hitler encouraging Jews to emigrate to Palestine. He was right however. Jewish organizations, including the Jewish Agency, were frequently in dialogue with the Nazi regime about allowing emigration, but part of the deal was that Jews would only be allowed to travel to Palestine, not to the US or elsewhere. On one occasion, some Jews – the “dregs of Europe” according to their social superiors in Palestine – were actually refused the scarce immigration permits given by the British Mandate authorities to the Jewish Agency in favour of a better class of Jews from the US.
This obstruction was repeated all over Europe in the post war period, when Zionist organizations forced governments to allow Displaced Persons (DPs) in refugee camps to emigrate only to Palestine. Under the threat of facing, in a period of chaos and scarce resources, an increase in the terrorism the Zionists had already unleashed in Europe pre-war, they mostly complied. Those in DP camps who wished either to return to their home countries or escape to the US or elsewhere – that is, most of them – were terrorized into submission by Hagana thugs who infiltrated the camps, or their recruits.
That Zionism was a racist, fascist ideology is demonstrated by its followers’ own words and practices in their efforts to ensure “purity of blood” in Palestine. The JA’s 1929 constitution allowed for race laws, long before those of Nazi Germany (it is still illegal in Israel to perform a marriage between a Jew and non-Jew). And Zionists from the very beginning claimed ownership of all Jews; as its founder, Theodor Herzl, declared, “no true Jew can be an anti-Zionist”. Religious Jews who could not (and to this day can not) recognize a State of Israel were dismissed by Herzl as “a hideous distortion of the human character … unspeakably low and repulsive”. As for the Arabs, one disillusioned Jew, Paul Siegel, who had fought in the International Brigades in Spain, wrote that Zionist settlers’ “chauvinism towards the Arabs is even greater than that of Hitler’s Germany towards the Jews”.
State Of Terror is exhaustive and exhausting in its cataloguing of Zionist terrorism. Israeli authors such as Ilan Pappe and Benny Morris have written in more depth on some areas, such as the land-grab and atrocities in the immediate pre and post-Partition period, but the meticulously referenced detail provided by Suarez is invaluable for anyone interested in the roots of the seemingly insoluble problem of Palestine today.
And let’s be clear: whatever select committees and Theresa May may say – whether out of sincere, but ill-informed, ignorant, ahistorical belief, or cynical political opportunism – Zionism is a racist and fascist ideology, and modern Israel a racist, apartheid state, and to describe it so is not anti-semitism. Zionists do not speak for all Jews, neither in the wider diaspora nor even in Israel itself. The lies propagated about Zionist settlement in Palestine and the birth of the state of Israel are contradicted by the historical facts, recorded and available to study (though Israel keeps much other material under lock and key). It is important to remember how Israel came about, and to fight its continuing oppression and dispossession of Palestinian Arabs, even if we accept the fact of its existence. Anything less is a betrayal of the principles of liberal democracy that we claim to support elsewhere.
*State Of Terror:?How terrorism created modern Israel by Thomas Suarez (Skyscraper £20)