FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Out of Europe, Out of Time

by JAMES BROOKS

Prior to the onset of European colonization a century ago, generations of Muslim, Christian, and Jewish Palestinians cohabited in the Holy Land with little or no conflict. Zionism’s arrival opened a vein of intolerance that eventually grew into a river of bloodshed that flows directly into the sea of violence and chaos gripping the region today.

Like their present-day descendants, early Zionist colonizers glorified Jewish separation from non-Jews. They set themselves apart from the people and dreamed openly of claiming all of Palestine for the Jews. Foreign intruders and a law unto themselves, they posed a self-declared threat to the lives and land of the indigenous population.

Political Zionism had grown up in the ethnic nationalist fervor that swept Europe for several decades before and after World War I. These movements, which still smolder today, tended to borrow from the self-idolizing annals of 19th century racialist science, which in turn were a product of Europe’s centuries of genocidal colonialism.

European ethnic nationalists held that a ‘people’ define a nation, which has the right to an independent state. By extension, residents of the state who not are not of the ‘people’ can be excluded from the affairs of the nation, if not expelled or exterminated. Nationalist movements in central and eastern Europe were often supported by Britain and France, to undercut Germany and the multi-ethnic Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires.

Zionists took ethnic nationalism a step further by claiming the right of statehood for a religion. By promoting a ‘Jewish race’ with its own speculative bi-racial history, they leveraged the notion that a ‘racial type’ can define a (nation-deserving) ‘people’. With the other hand, they accepted a religious definition of Jewishness. In this way they were able to hijack Judaism to serve the purposes of their politics.

After World War I shattered the old order in Europe and southwest Asia, western powers rewrote the map through the auspices of the League of Nations. In a vain attempt to restrain the genie of ethnic nationalism they had helped unleash, the League required its Balkanized ‘democratic states’ to respect the rights of their ‘minority peoples’.

In practice, this ‘assimilationist’ stance was not significantly enforced. The charters of several new states fashioned citizenship along ethnic lines. Liberals debated the assimilation potential of ethnic groups to gauge their suitability for ‘democracy’. Jews were the group most often defined as ‘difficult’ or ‘impossible’ to assimilate.

In his book, Dark Continent, Professor Mark Mazower demonstrates that the democratic spring of post-Versailles Europe rapidly lapsed into the authoritarian custom of pre-Versailles Europe, without its stabilizing multi-ethnic structures. By the mid-1920s, fascism was a respectable and popular position across the continent. By the time Hitler took power, fascist governments had become so mainstream that the Nazis felt obliged to rejuvenate the movement with more virulent words and deeds.

In both Britain and Germany, transferring the ‘Jewish nation’ out of Europe was an attractive and even logical solution to Europe’s long-standing ‘Jewish problem’. Zionism promised to do just that, and so enjoyed support in the highest reaches of European society. The British occupation (on orders from London) largely ignored Zionist lawlessness and persecution of Arabs, while the Nazis hailed them as fellow travelers to a future of mutual ‘racial’ purity.

Of course it was intrinsically colonial to think that millions of Europeans could move en masse to any place outside of Europe, as if the world were a tabula rasa upon which The Continent could write off its worst bigotry with one large check. While political Zionism was part and parcel of Europe’s 20th century infatuation with ethnic nationalism, its program belonged to the 19th, like Lincoln’s mania to transfer black Americans to Central America.

By forcing itself on Arab Palestine, Zionism took nationalist ideology and threw it into historical reverse, with the 1948 inception of a colonial European ethnic state in the heart of a simultaneously ‘de-colonizing’ Arab Middle East. Israel was an anachronism at birth.

Funneled by the western nations’ anti-Semitic immigration laws (which the Zionist lobby had encouraged) the ‘Jewish nation’ (which the Zionists claimed to represent) would transplant itself to Palestine to fulfill a divine commandment to reclaim the ancient nation of Israel. The extreme historical and religious sweep of this assertion easily trumped all other national mythologies and marked Zionism’s enduring tendency to audacity.

The motive forces of Zionism have continued to conduct Israel as an expansionist colonial project into the 21st century, relentlessly appropriating, destroying, and annexing Palestinian land and water. This robbery-in-broad-daylight is accelerating, thanks in part to the ‘separation barrier’ Israel is building in the Palestinian West Bank. In Europe, walls have been used to delineate borders of nations and ghettoes. Israel uses them to continually expand its borders and carve up its ghettoes for its own use.

By responding to European intolerance and the Holocaust in the inherently racist terms of colonialism, Zionism tied the Jewish desire for freedom and security to the worst impulses of the human heart. It compounded the moral blindness of ethnic nationalism with the moral crime of ethnocide, and saddled Zionism with an incessant need to deny historical reality and the humanity of Arab and Muslim peoples.

These are the deeper roots of the lawlessness we see today in Palestine and Israel. No one has been spared. Israelis are awash in an escalating tide of crime, corruption, incompetence, and venality afflicting their government and society. Recently we learned the graft has consumed even the Israel Tax Authority, and probably the Prime Minister himself. Meanwhile, the State is leaking threats to attack Iran with nuclear weapons.

History suggests that Israel faces an inevitable reckoning with the moral and political bankruptcy of colonialism. It cannot maintain a state of war with its neighbors forever. There is a peaceful way out that begins with Israel’s renunciation of colonialism and occupation. Whether Zionist ethnic nationalism would survive these changes is an open question. Without them, Israel may be blindsided by a day of reckoning it cannot control.

* Mazower, Mark: Dark Continent: Europe’s Twentieth Century, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1999

JAMES BROOKS serves as webmaster for Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel (www.vtjp.org). He can be contacted at jamiedb@wildblue.net.

 

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Rogue Elephant Rising: The CIA as Kingslayer
Matthew Stevenson
Is Trump the Worst President Ever?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Flynn?
John Wight
Brexit and Trump: Why Right is Not the New Left
Diana Johnstone
France: Another Ghastly Presidential Election Campaign; the Deep State Rises to the Surface
Neve Gordon
Trump’s One-State Option
Roger Harris
Emperor Trump Has No Clothes: Time to Organize!
Joan Roelofs
What Else is Wrong with Globalization
Andrew Levine
Why Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban?
Mike Whitney
Blood in the Water: the Trump Revolution Ends in a Whimper
Vijay Prashad
Trump, Turmoil and Resistance
Ron Jacobs
U.S. Imperial War Personified
David Swanson
Can the Climate Survive Adherence to War and Partisanship?
Andre Vltchek
Governor of Jakarta: Get Re-elected or Die!
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Destruction of Mosul
Norman Pollack
Self-Devouring Reaction: Governmental Impasse
Steve Horn
What Do a Louisiana Pipeline Explosion and Dakota Access Pipeline Have in Common? Phillips 66
Brian Saady
Why Corporations are Too Big to Jail in the Drug War
Graham Peebles
Ethiopia: Peaceful Protest to Armed Uprising
Luke Meyer
The Case of Tony: Inside a Lifer Hearing
Binoy Kampmark
Adolf, The Donald and History
Robert Koehler
The Great American Awakening
Murray Dobbin
Canadians at Odds With Their Government on Israel
Fariborz Saremi
A Whole New World?
Joyce Nelson
Japan’s Abe, Trump & Illegal Leaks
Christopher Brauchli
Trump 1, Tillerson 0
Yves Engler
Is This Hate Speech?
Dan Bacher
Trump Administration Exempts Three CA Oil Fields From Water Protection Rule at Jerry Brown’s Request
Richard Klin
Solid Gold
Melissa Garriga
Anti-Abortion and Anti-Fascist Movements: More in Common Than Meets the Eye
Thomas Knapp
The Absurd Consequences of a “Right to Privacy”
W. T. Whitney
The Fate of Prisoner Simón Trinidad, as Seen by His U. S. Lawyer
Brian Platt
Don’t Just Oppose ICE Raids, Tear Down the Whole Racist Immigration Enforcement Regime
Paul Cantor
Refugee: the Compassionate Mind of Egon Schwartz
Norman Richmond
The Black Radical Tradition in Canada
Barton Kunstler
Rallying Against the Totalitarian Specter
Judith Deutsch
Militarism:  Revolutionary Mothering and Rosie the Riveter
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir Evoked a Lot More International Attention in the 1950s Than It Does Now
Adam Phillips
There Isn’t Any There There
Louis Proyect
Steinbeck’s Red Devils
Randy Shields
Left Coast Date: the Dating Site for the ORWACA Tribe
Charles R. Larson
Review: Bill Hayes’ “Insomniac City”
David Yearsley
White Supremacy and Music Theory
February 16, 2017
Peter Gaffney
The Rage of Caliban: Identity Politics, the Travel Ban, and the Shifting Ideological Framework of the Resistance
Ramzy Baroud
Farewell to Doublespeak: Israel’s Terrifying Vision for the Future
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail