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Israel’s New Ideology of Genocide

Photo by Jordi Bernabeu Farrús | CC BY 2.0


As a Jewish Israeli descendant of Holocaust survivors, I believe the
comparison of the conditions in Palestine to those preceding the Shoah is not only justified, but necessary. Israel is ideologically prepared to enact a genocide on Palestinians right now. If we do not act, it will march into its new decisive stage—up to the 6th million Palestinian and over.

I study and write speculative fiction. A lot of my writing contemplates Israeli future, envisioning brutally grotesque scenarios as a kind of warning for my culture. But these days, whenever I nail another period at the end of a new chapter, my sense of accomplishment is cut short, as reality towers over my imagination. No author could foretell insanities such as the split screen on live Israeli television on May 14th: the Netanyahus and Trumps smiling whitely on one side, the Palestinian protesters carrying their dead on the other, and that night—the Gazans weeping over corpses as tens of thousands of Israelis dance in Rabin Square, singing “I’m not your toy.”

In the novel I am currently working on, I contemplate what a full-fledged Israeli genocide (and resistance to it) would look like from the eyes of a perpetrator and a victim. But while I started this project inventing the conditions in which such an event would take place, they have, to my horror, already ripened in Israeli society. I have woken up to the situation in which a dystopian future has accelerated into existence, and I can’t hit pause and write ahead of the storm. The world is stuck on play, the news feed refreshes itself, and inexorably, the blood flows. I’m experiencing a peculiar, unnamed anxiety, witnessing a future which is too much like the past, crawling on the present.

The bleeding edge among Israeli politicians—MK Smotrich, Minister of Education Bennet, Jerusalem Mayor Barkat and their ilk—are nowadays advocating the move into the so-called “decisive stage” of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To transgress from the status quo into a durable peace (incidentally, the title of PM Netanyahu’s one and only book): a Final Solution for the Palestinian Question. That vision, à la Smotrich, is taken from the Book of Joshua, where the invading Israelites enact a genocide on the native Canaanites, until Not a single soul is left to breathe, to paraphrase Rabbi Maimonides. According to the Midrash, there were three stages to that operation. First, Joshua sent the Canaanites a letter advising them to run away. Then, those who stayed could accept inferior citizenship and slavery. Finally, if they resisted, they would be annihilated. Smotrich has presented this plan publicly as the shift to the decisive stage of the conflict. If the Palestinians do not run away and refuse to accept inferior citizenship, as any dignified people would, “The IDF will know what to do,” he says.

Yes, like in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Israeli politicians are now suggesting policies on the basis of “scriptural precedence.” In their reactionary theology they ignore commandments such as tikkun olam (“repairing of the world,” the instruction to struggle for justice and equality), ve’ahavta (“love your neighbor as yourself,” the idea with which Rabbi Hillel has taught the entire Torah), and Talmudic concepts such as Shiv’im panim la’tora (“seventy faces for the Torah,” meaning that dozens of stipulations can be derived of every verse).

As with Turks and Armenians, Hutu and Tutsi, Germans and Jews, genocide is justified on the grounds that there is a zero-sum game in which only one side can triumph. The Palestinians want to throw us into the sea, the Zionists claim, and haba le-horgecha, hashkem le-horgo (“he who comes to kill you, rise early and kill him first”). In his book, which, his assistants state, he sometimes uses in order to write his speeches, PM Netanyahu sees the “Palestinians” (he makes sure to mark them with quotes) as a “phantom nation,” (p. 56) and denies their existence as a people with a unique culture and history. He sees them as a tool in the zero-sum game between Islam and the West. Prominent Israeli historian Benny Morris, who has thoroughly chronicled Zionist crimes of rape, murder, and ethnic cleansing in 1948, sees the displacement of only 750,000 Palestinians in that war as the greatest mistake of Ben Gurion. In his view, Ben Gurion should have finished the job, and that’s precisely what leading Israeli statesmen are aiming for today.

There are no forces in Israeli society able or willing to stop the ascent of this tendency. Israeli soldiers, as demonstrated to the world by the cheering snipers in Gaza, are instructed to see all Palestinians as death-worthy security threats. Israeli masses celebrate the early release of convicted murderers, as long as the victims are Arabs. Israeli crowds chant “burn them, shoot them, kill them” as the US embassy opens in Jerusalem. From the foot soldiers to the big brass, from the flag-waving street folk to the height of academia, Israel is ideologically prepared to enact a Palestinian Shoah.

Some Jews will cringe while reading these words. Asur le-hashvot (“to compare is forbidden”) is now a Hebrew proverb. It is forbidden to compare Jewish suffering to that of others, and I have made several comparisons. However, as a Jewish Israeli descendant of Holocaust survivors, I think these comparisons are not only justified, but vital. Israeli society is ideologically prepared to enact a genocide on Palestinians right now, and if we do not make the comparison and act accordingly, Israel will march into the decisive stage, up to the 6th million Palestinian and over.

In his own comparison, Israeli Minister Gil’ad Erdan likened the killed Palestinians to Nazis, saying: “The number of killed (sic) doesn’t indicate anything—just as the number of Nazis who died in the world war doesn’t make Nazism something you can explain or understand.” Evidently, counting the dead will not help awaken the Israelis to the grisliness of their actions. Only after the fall of their system—like the white South Africans on their regretted Apartheid—will they recognize it in horror. To stop the pending genocide, world leaders must cease talking and start acting. Arms embargo, economic sanctions, and arrests of traveling war criminals will be a long-overdue start. Anything short of that is compliance. As an Israeli, I am aware of the consequences these measures could have on my life and on the lives of my loved ones. These are all dwarfed by the consequences of the assault on Palestinian rights. Those will be felt the world over, especially by marginalized people, as Ann Coulter threatens, when she looks at the shooting of Palestinian protesters and says, “Can we do that?” With 75% of the Israeli military industry slated for export, expect Israeli teargas drones to whir over the next Standing Rock or Parisian revolt. Expect snipers to gun down Mexican migrants. Expect the storm to arrive before you begin to pay attention.

In my fiction, the Palestinian Shoah will happen during war with a local Muslim power. Israel will justify the mass slaughter as its right to defend itself. It will not put Gazans on trains or build extermination camps for them, but bomb them to death. Ironically, settler presence will be a de facto human shield that will necessitate different methods of extermination and expulsion for West Bank Palestinians, East Jerusalemites, and Palestinians with Israeli citizenship. If the world will fail to act effectively in support of the Palestinians, this will be the crest of the Nakba, the Catastrophe, the process of Palestinian disenfranchisement that has begun 140 years ago.

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Amitai Ben-Abba is an Israeli writer and dissident based in the Bay Area.

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