As the fourth strongest army in the world, Israel could have arrested the quadriplegic and partially blind spiritual elder of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas). But history shows that such extrajudicial executions (200 so far) create instability and a cycle of revenge that is calculated to serve Zionist colonization efforts.
Political Zionism started in 1845 with a British feasibility study for Jewish colonization in Palestine to further British interests in weakening the Ottoman Empire and establish connections to colonial holdings in India. The adoption of this political (as opposed to religious or cultural) Zionism by a small but very influential segment of Ashkenazi Jews in Europe was deemed crucial for success. Zionism remained marginal among Jews until it capitalized on the atrocities of WWII. Early advocates of Zionism did not shy away from using the term colonization to describe their activities or to describe the use of violence to achieve their goals because natives will always resist such efforts. This violence against native Palestinians started in 1917 when the Zionist Herbert Samuel was appointed as British high commissioner. He made it clear with violent action that the end result will be the creation of a Jewish state in a land that had less than 6% Jewish population.
Most native Jews, including the Palestinian Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, were opposed to Zionism at the time. Before 1917 Palestinian Christians, Muslims, and Jews coexisted in relative harmony. Violence between 1917 and 1949 resulted in the establishment of a Jewish state and the ethnic cleansing of 530 Palestinian villages and towns. Israel rejected International law by adopting exclusionary laws that prevent refugees from returning while offering automatic citizenship to Jews (including converts) from anywhere in the world. Zionists expected resistance of Palestinian Christians and Muslims. 800,000 were made refugees by 1949 (now nearly 5 million including Yassin’s family). Israeli leaders from Ben Gurion to Sharon have always used the ‘Zionist response’ to resistance: overwhelming violence and increased colonization.
It was Zionist Jews who first to plant bombs in market places (1930s), first bomb civilian neighborhoods using aircraft (1947), first sent mail letter bombs (1940s), and first to hijack (1954) and shoot down (1973) civilian airplanes. As our biased mainstream US media keeps emphasizing, Palestinians also engaged in expected violent resistance. Violence is a symptom and was used to further colonization efforts whether in Palestine or in America (against Native Americans). It is not a coincidence that the major waves of expulsions of Palestinians occurred between October 1947 to January 1949 and in June 1967. It is not a coincidence that in the name of ‘security’, Israel destroyed over 3000 Palestinian homes rendering some 15,000 civilians homeless most in the most desirable land. The Apartheid wall being built with the excuse of the violence is not separating Israel from the occupied areas but is surrounding Palestinians in small cantons to starve them and force them to leave. Thus, Zionist leaders deem violence and escalation a sound strategy because, as the first Prime Minister of Israel admitted, peace would mean having to restore rights to native people.
Israel’s assassination of Sheikh Yassin was described as stupid (Gush Shalom), horrendous mistake (Yossi Beilin), contrary to International law (Amnesty International and the European Union), and a war crime (Israeli liberal leaders). I think such actions remove any doubt about the fact that political Zionism is incompatible with peace in the 21st century. As for us here, Israel’s strong lobby in congress drained us of over $100 billion in direct aid and much more indirectly. It is responsible for the low standing of the US around the world. The price tag is much higher in lives lost: American, Israeli, Palestinian, Iraqi, and others.
Just like South Africa shed apartheid, Israel must shed Zionism and become a country for people of all religions rather than a country for and by Jews. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (including the right of refugees to return) provides the most logical road map to peace. The American public can no longer afford to allow our government to keep supporting violence and war against the will of the international community. Only then will we begin to rectify historic injustices and bring peace at home and abroad.
MAZIN QUMSIYEH is an associate professor at Yale University and co-founder of the Palestine Right to Return Coalition.