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The Self-Defense of Suicide

by OREN BEN-DOR

Echoing Lebanon 2006, the people of Gaza are being butchered by murderous pilots of a murderous state.  Ground forces will soon butcher many more.  This widely-expected repetition of Israel’s large scale violence is carried out after a long process that was triggered when Israel unilaterally cleared its settlements and ground presence from Gaza only to create what has been described as a remote-controlled human zoo.  Israel has maintained total control over Gaza’s borders, its air and sea space, its economy, its electricity, food and medical supplies.  The people of Gaza have been starved, humiliated and constantly intimidated.  However, whether the withdrawal was well-intended or not engages little with the reasons rockets are being defiantly shot at the Israeli towns of Sderot, Ashkelon and Beer Sheva.

Beyond achieving very short term relief from rocket attacks the scale of Israel’s violence is question-begging and thought provoking.  Israel’s actions, justified by the “no choice” (ein brera) and “self-defence” rhetoric, can temporarily put the lid on the volcano of hatred around Israel and within it but, after the initial shock and awe, it is surely destined to bring much more violence.

Assassinating individual members of Hamas, even toppling the organisation, destroying its infrastructure and buildings, will not destroy the legitimate opposition to the arrogant and self-righteous Zionist entity.  No army, however well equipped and trained, can win a combat against increasing number of people who no longer have any reason to care about dying.  If there was hatred against Israelis before the Gaza massacre, the hatred after it will be of a different order of magnitude.

Given the sure failure of attempts to bring about stability through violence, intimidation, starvation and humiliation, what, on earth, is the desire that moves the Israeli state?  What, do Israelis imagine, will be achieved by this massacre? There must be something which is suppressed here.  There must be, for Israelis, some being and thinking which is preserved, indeed defended, by the pathology of provoking a permanent state of violence against them.  What kind of self-righteousness conditions this self-destructive desire to be hated?

Gaza itself gives us a clue.  Many of the Palestinians who live in Gaza are descendants of 750000 refugees who were expelled in 1948 from what is now the Jewish state.  Ashkelon is built on the ruins of the Palestinian village of al-Majdal whose people were expelled in 1948, many to Gaza.  Only by such massive ethnic cleansing could a state with a Jewish majority and character be established.  Any just realisation of the refugees’ internationally recognised right of return would effectively mean the end of the Zionist project.  Those who choose to return would not merely threaten the Jewish majority.  Upon return, they would surely press demands for equal citizenship.  In so doing, they would challenge the foundational discriminatory premise of the Jewish state, which assigns a different stake in the state to all those who pass a test of Jewishness, whether they live in the country or elsewhere.  Thus, for the same reason that Israel discriminates against its own non-Jewish Arab citizens, it will prevent the return of the refugees.

The proliferation and dominance of the self-defence discourse and its by-product – the uncritical acceptance of the legitimacy of the Israeli state – successfully hide the fact that Israel itself is an apartheid state which is based on an apartheid (separation) premise.  In the name of this apartheid premise, occupation, dispossession and discrimination affected all Palestinians whether in Gaza, the West Bank, in Israel itself or indeed all over the world.

Thus, what is in fact being “preserved” is the unwillingness, or rather the inability, of Israelis to question their own state’s apartheid foundation.   The concealing mantra about Hamas’s rocket firing versus Israel’s legitimate self-defence cynically conscripts both the Palestinians of Gaza and the Israelis of Sderot.   Shielding the Jewish state’s unwillingness to deal with colonial and racist Zionism is more important than all of them.

Accepting the right of Israel to securely exist as a Jewish state has now become the bench mark for political moderation.  Obama is already singing the song. Egalitarian anti-Zionists who challenge that right readily fail the test.  This anti-Zionist voice is inclusive and moderate. It insists that injustices to Palestinians stem from the very premise of statehood that Israel is based on.  Injustices to Palestinians encompass the whole of historic Palestine in a way which cannot be partitioned so that they become visible only in the territories, including Gaza, which Israel occupied in 1967.  Let us, then, break the idle chatter about self-defence that merely levels “criticisms” against Israel but by that legitimises it: the origin of the violence in Gaza is intimately linked to the manner the Israeli state came into being and to the continuing toleration of the apartheid premise at its very essence.  Israel should not be “reformed” or “condemned” but replaced with a single egalitarian structure over all historic Palestine.

Israel needs a continuing cycle of violence.  As long as this cycle is provoked through daily oppression, Israelis can sustain that haven in which they can unite behind their inability to examine their apartheid mentality.   Violence maintains a zone in which that existential threat of old stifles any possibility for genuine empathy and egalitarian self-reflection.  At the same time, violence is a necessary means for entrenching the purported legitimacy of what is claimed to be the only alternative to this violence. That alternative is no other than the “surprisingly” failing, “sane”, “reasonable” and “moderate” “peace process” towards two states, a process which aims to legitimise the apartheid state once and for all.  The discourse has been hijacked in such a way that the urgent calls for the immediate cessation of violence resuscitate that non-starter, the essentially unjust two states project that will ensure the continuation of violence.

Alas, the pathology of generating violence against oneself, violence that suspends reflection on the core apartheid, succeeds only at the price of generating enormous hatred.  The Israeli pathology will bring about, stealthily and fatefully, that which the Israelis fear most.There is indeed “no choice” for the nationalistic project of the eternal victims but to commit suicide with those whom they oppress.

The sublimated Zionist desire to be hated is the fuel of Israel’s unity and self-righteousness.  This self-destructive nature, concealed as a desire for self defence, comes from deep and ancient forces of which Zionism is merely a symptom and a hint.  That which preserves these self-destructive forces ensures that the eternal victims’ apartheid nationalisticproject will be a fleeting phenomenon. When arrested in mere nationalism, primordial victim mentality self preserves by generating collective suicide of that nationalistic project.  The self-defence of suicide points out the uniqueness of the Israeli apartheid.  Both the no-choice and the self-defence rhetoric contain a chilling chronicle of suicide foretold.  Despite its military might, Israel is a weak and dying state that desires to destroy itself. The most powerful nations in the world assist this suicidal process and this fact calls for urgent contemplation.

OREN BEN-DOR grew up in Israel and teaches Legal and Political Philosophy at the School of Law, University of Southampton, UK.   His latest book, Thinking About Law: In Silence with Heidegger, was published in 2007 by Hart Publishing, Oxford. He can be reached at: okbendor@yahoo.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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