The first Israeli victim of Saddam Hussein is a Zionist myth on which we were brought up.
It stated that Israel is a haven for all the Jews in the world. In all the other countries, Jews live in perpetual fear that a cruel persecutor will arise, as happened in Germany. Israel is the safe haven, to which Jews can escape in times of danger. Indeed, this was the purpose of the Founding Fathers when they established the state.
Now Saddam comes along and proves the opposite. All over the world, Jews live in safety, and only in one place on the planet are they threatened by annihilation: Israel. Here the national parks are prepared for mass-graves, here (pathetic) measures against biological and chemical weapons are prepared. Many people are already planning to escape to the communities in the Diaspora. End of a myth.
Another Zionist myth died even before that. The Diaspora, so we learned in our youth, creates anti-Semitism. Everywhere the Jews are a minority, and a minority inevitably attracts the hatred of the majority. Only when the Jews gather in the Land of their Forefathers and constitute the majority there, will anti-Semitism disappear throughout the world. Thus spoke Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism.
Nowadays this myth, too, is giving up its blessed soul. The very opposite is happening: the State of Israel is causing the resurrection of anti-Semitism all over the world, threatening Jews everywhere.
The Sharon government is a giant laboratory for the growing of the anti-Semitism virus. It exports it to the whole world. Anti-Semitic organizations, which for many years vegetated on the margins of society, rejected and despised, are suddenly growing and flowering. Anti-Semitism, which has hidden itself in shame since World War II, is now riding on a great wave of opposition to Sharon’s policy of oppression.
Sharon’s propaganda agents are pouring oil on the flames. Accusing all critics of his policy of being anti-Semites, they brand large communities with this mark. Many good people, who feel no hatred at all towards the Jews, but who detest the persecution of the Palestinians, are now called anti-Semites. Thus the sting is taken out of this word, giving it something approaching respectability.
The practical upshot: not only does Israel not protect the Jews from anti-Semitism, but quite on the contrary – Israel manufactures and exports the anti-Semitism that threatens Jews around the world.
For many years, Israel enjoyed the sympathy of most people. It was seen as the state of the holocaust survivors, a small and courageous country defending itself against the repeated assaults of murderous Arabs. Slowly, this image has been replaced by another: a cruel, brutal and colonizing state, oppressing a small and helpless people. The persecuted has become the persecutor, David has turned onto Goliath.
We Israelis, living in a bubble of self-brain-washing, find it hard to imagine how the world sees us. In many countries, television and newspapers publish daily pictures of Palestinian children throwing stones at monstrous tanks, soldiers harassing women at the checkpoints, despairing old men sitting on the ruins of their demolished homes, soldiers taking aim and shooting children. These soldiers do not look like human beings in uniform – “the neighbor’s son” as they look to Israelis, but like robots without faces, armed to the teeth, heads hidden by helmets, bullet-proof vests changing their proportions. People who have seen these photos dozens and hundreds of times start to see the Israel in this image.
For Jews, this creates a dangerous vicious circle. Sharon’s actions create repulsion and opposition throughout the world. These reinforce anti-Semitism. Faced with this danger, Jewish organizations are pushed into defending Israel and giving it unqualified support. This support enables the anti-Semites to attack not only the government of Israel, but the local Jews, too. And so on.
In Europe, Jews already feel the pressure. But in the United States, they still feel supremely self-confident. In Europe, Jews have learned over the centuries that it is not wise to be too conspicuous and to display their wealth and influence. But in America, the very opposite is happening: the Jewish establishment is practically straining to prove that it controls the country.
Every few years, the Jewish lobby “eliminates” an American politician who does not support the Israeli government unconditionally. This is not done secretly, behind the scenes, but as a public “execution”. Just now this was done to the black Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, a young, active, intelligent and very sympathetic woman. She has dared to criticize the Sharon government, support Palestinians and (worst of all) Israeli and Jewish peace groups. The Jewish establishment found a counter-candidate, a practically unknown black woman, injected huge sums into the campaign and defeated Cynthia.
All this happened in the open, with fanfares, to make a public example – so that every Senator and Congressperson would know that criticizing Sharon is tantamount to political suicide.
Now this is repeated in a big way. The pro-Israel lobby – which consists of Jews and extreme right-wing Christian fundamentalists – is pushing the American administration to start a war. This, too, openly, in full view of the American public. Dozens of articles in the important newspapers point this out as a plain political fact.
What will happen if the war ends in failure? If it has unexpected negative results and many young Americans die? If the American public turns against it, as happened during the Vietnam War? One can easily imagine a whispering campaign starting: “The Jews have pushed us into this,” “The Jews support Israel more than they support America,” and, finally, “The Jews control our country.”
Furthermore, Sharon may sooner or later bring about a revolution in the Arab world. This will be a disaster for American interests. American Jews, now completely identified with Israel, will be blamed.
Anyhow, the conspicuousness of the Jews in the United States, especially in the media, and their disproportionate influence over the Congress and the White House, can backfire one of these days.
Of course, the special political culture of the United States encourages such phenomena – but that was also true in Spain of the “Golden Age” and the Weimar republic in Germany. History does not have to repeat itself, but neither should one disregard its lessons.
There are people in Israel people who secretly wish for the victory of anti-Semitism everywhere. That would confirm another Zionist myth on which we were brought up: that Jews will not be able to live anywhere but in Israel, because anti-Semitism is bound to triumph everywhere. But the United States is not France or Argentina, it plays a critical role in the Middle East. Israel’s national security, as established by all Israeli governments since Ben-Gurion, is based on the total support of the United States – military, political and economic.
If I were asked for advice, I would counsel the Jewish communities throughout the world as follows: break out of the vicious circle. Disarm the anti-Semites. Break the habit of automatic identification with everything our governments do. Let your conscience speak out. Return to the traditional Jewish values of “That which is altogether just shalt thou follow!” (Deuteronomy 16,20) and “Seek peace and pursue it!” (Psalms 34, 14). Identify yourselves with the Other Israel, which is struggling to uphold these values at home.
All over the world, new Jewish groups that follow this way are multiplying. They break yet another myth: the duty of Jews everywhere to subordinate themselves to the edicts of our government. to the edicts of our government.
URI AVNERY has closely followed the career of Sharon for four decades. Over the years, he has written three extensive biographical essays about him, two (1973, 1981) with his cooperation. Avnery is featured in the new book, The Other Israel: Voices of Refusal and Dissent.