Star of David; Land of Myth

Photograph Source: Chris Yunker – CC BY 2.0

“We stand for justice, truth and the value of a single human being.” With these simple but powerfully inspiring words, a life-time ago, the world held-out hope that at long last international law and accountability would progress from abstract, esoteric principle to momentous binding application. The Nuremberg Tribunals spoke directly to the pain and suffering of tens of millions of civilians swept up into the geo-political chambers of supremacist hate and violence, victimized by an unprecedented rampage of the relative few who committed a calculated, gruesome violation of human rights. Yet, before the ink had even dried on exalted ideals and commanding words, Europe was at it, once again, with the forcible implant of a generation of surviving victims into age-old Palestine, indifferent to how many new victims were crushed by its latest colonial project, which continues brazen, unchecked and deadly all these decades later.

What is there about our shared journey that permits us, with ease, to consciously blind ourselves to the grief of others because it aches too much to see the obvious? That upends echoes of pain as screams come in unbearable waves that leave no doubt of its horrible source of crimes, in progress, of broken families and dreams never to be dreamt? What finds escape in crafted denial that accepts no combat from waves of reality… for to handle truth is, seemingly, well beyond our collective capacity?  It is the story of our day. Star of David … land of myth.

We live in times where the yardstick of reality is a measure beyond the conscious, willing reach of many, while to others but a passing, indifferent glance too numbed by the spin of daily life to stop and feel the pain and suffer of those regarded as little more than a momentary snapshot of another distant world.  It is within this discount that the Star of David has found comfort, indeed empowerment as it has upended a value system held out long-ago to be the universal pathway of international justice for all.

For generations, the world has been a largely silent witness to an unbridled Western enterprise erasing millions of Palestinians from their unbroken ancestral homeland in the name of a diabolical resettlement project built of tenants with enduring leaseholds elsewhere dating back for as long as the West has been settled.  Yes, the Old Testament (and other historical religious narratives) as so much providential design, speaks of the Jewish people and the Holy Land as if not just inexorably intertwined, but apparently, it is claimed to the exclusion of all others. However, let us not forget like beauty resting in the eye of the proverbial holder, elsewhere in sacred text we learn the universe is just over 6000 years old; Joshua stopped the sun moving across the sky; Lot, the only righteous man in Sodom offered up his virgin daughters to be gang-raped by a mob; a human witnessed a conversation between God and Satan; that two of every animal fit on a boat for forty days while a flood destroyed the world; that humankind was formed of clay; that the Jewish God, YHYH, fought a monster named either Leviathan, or Rahab or Sir Sea; that the serpent in Eden talked to Eve; that David’s harp was played at night by the wind; and that Samson fell 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of an ass. Star of David … land of myth.

This is not to say that Jews, like Muslims, Christians and non-believers alike, have no claim to live in the Holy Land, in peace, with equality and justice side by side … but simply to provide context to the land-grab preach of messianic Zionists willing and enabled to commit the most heinous of crimes because they speak to their God and, having heard back, reason they have received an age-old green light to abuse, to steal, to cripple, to murder in the name of their fanciful biblical “right of return.”  If this is to be the divine decree of YHYH, I for one want no part of any such deadly theocratic temple of heresy. But what of others…  those that keep eyes closed and heart icy cold, stripped of principle and voice, soundless while the palpable unspeakable orgy of history repeats itself day in and out, targeting Palestinians, in particular its very young and very frail.  Age-old communities which seek nothing but the right to be left alone, with family and friends, to tend to their fields, to pursue their education, free to journey where they wish, with whom they want, to chase their dreams and hopes, not simply with the crafted, deflective talisman of “dignity and respect,” but in a state of their choice with values and aspirations of their choosing. Star of David … land of myth.

Tragically, it is far too easy to compartmentalize our world into victimizer and victim, giver and taker. It is define clearly road-marked, or should I say pockmarked, by a seeming endless trail of pillage and pain. Nowhere is that more flagrant than in the occupied Territories… nowhere more predictable and purposeless than it is in the killing fields of Gaza. I have written about Gaza for years. There is little I can say, now, about it that has not been said by me and countless others time and time again. It is a vision of extreme cruelty and criminality long memorialized by all the world to read of and see, if only one’s thirst for knowledge takes them beyond the empty, craven pretext of those who would target and murder civilians, leaving behind the constant wail of mourn and a trail of tattered essential infrastructure and broken hearts. Star of David … land of myth.

But what of Israel itself, the “Nation-State” that exalts the democratic ideal but holds near and dear a dark, supremacist theology that promotes Judaism and Jews to the exclusion of all others and divergent faiths? Twenty percent of Israel proper (if ever a misnomer) is, in the words of fundamental ethnic cleanse, “48” Arabs, not Palestinian, as if refusing to flee the grand Zionist pogrom of 1948, re-invented by political fiat an age-old culture and tradition to fit the new European imposed and packaged narrative. It continues unabated and unabashed today with largely European Ashkenazi’s promoting a political reality defied by unmistakable, glaring human truth.  No … “48” Palestinians are not equal in any way of consequence at any time of meaning when weighed against the Jewish state and its Zionist agenda … one that reduces all others to but convenient ritualistic stage props for the dutiful …  those unable, or willing to discern the disguise of rhetorical makeup which covers inequity at its worst.  Star of David … land of myth.

Where is the Israel of today?  In 2018, its parliament, the Knesset, passed a new foundational act referred to as the Nation State law that canonized Jewish supremacy over all of its Palestinian citizens.  In unambiguous, seismic- like, terms the law removed any and all pretense about the nature of Israel, identifying the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people alone. The law, which promotes no allegiance to democratic norms or guarantees of equality, fails to mention, let alone outlaw, discrimination on the basis of race, nationality or ethnicity. Designating Hebrew as the sole official language of Israel, it stripped Arabic of its previous de jure state status. It recognizes only the Jewish people as having a national right of self-determination and calls for promotion of “Jewish settlement” within Israel to the exclusion of all other groups, ethnicities and faiths. Constructed of unmistakable apartheid features, the law celebrates overtly racist acts leaving no doubt about the second class status of Palestinians citizens, defining sovereignty and democratic self-rule as belonging solely to the Jewish people of the world no matter where they may reside. In relevant part, Act 1 of the law states that “the Land of Israel (“Eretz Israel”) is the historic national home of the Jewish people, in which the State of Israel was established, and in which the Jewish people exercise its natural, cultural, and historic right to self-determination … which is solely for the Jewish people.”  Act 2 limits state symbols, holidays and recognized religious practices to solely those that are Jewish in history and character.  Star of David… land of myth.

Under the law, hundreds of admission committees throughout Israel have the power to reject applications from Palestinian citizens to live in communities on the grounds of “cultural incompatibility” thus legitimizing communities across the country designated for Jews only. One recent challenge to state policies that seek to control and purify the landscape speaks volumes. Thus, not long ago, a magistrate’s court on the outskirts of Haifa denied a request for the establishment of an Arabic school or funding for Palestinians to be bused to nearby ones.  In relying upon the specific legislative aim of the nation-state law, the court held the presence of Palestinian citizen/students would undermine the town’s “Jewish character.” In another successful effort by the Israeli to deny equal educational opportunity to all there is no Arabic-language school for a population of approximately 3,000 Palestinian  students in Nof Hagalil (formerly Nazareth Ilit), a town where they constitute 26 percent of its residents.  This is the rule and not the exception in Israel where Palestinian citizen/students largely attend segregated schools denied equal funding and resources routinely doled out to Jewish contemporaries… thus marginalizing and placing them at a systemic educational disadvantage. In Israel, economically disadvantaged Palestinian students do not receive the same level of financial support as do Jewish students with the same financial needs.

Elsewhere, Palestinians are typically denied apartments and homes or land leased for commercial use that is designated for Jews only… thereby consigning them to segregated poverty ridden neighborhoods due to a lack of educational and religious services or state sanctioned discriminatory housing practices. This reality is a direct and desired result of budgeting policies that divert public funds to Jewish councils, communities and individuals… and not Palestinian… for the purpose of ensuring exclusive Jewish enclaves. Indeed, regulatory practices have significantly reduced the areas designated for Palestinian local councils and communities which now have access to less than 3% of the Israeli land base. As a  result, more than 90% of that land is under state control and, thus, subject to nation-state regulations which have succeeded in limiting new housing and business opportunities to Jews only. In a country where Palestinians comprise over 20% of the total population and live in some 139 towns and villages, they receive only 1.7% of the state budget for local councils. Not at all aberrant or inadvertent, according to the Adalah-The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, Israel maintains over 65 laws that overtly discriminate against Palestinians.

For example, government funding is denied to Palestinian institutions that commemorate the Nakba or challenge, by speech alone, the existence of Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state” or commemorating “Israel’s Independence Day, or the day on which the State was established, as a day of mourning.” Likewise, an association or political party cannot be registered if among its goals is the denial of the existence of the State of Israel or of the democratic character of the state. Under the law, the candidacy of any party or individual that denies the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people or the democratic character of the state or one that incites racism is prohibited.

Needless to say by design these government practices have inflicted great and disproportionate injury to the health, safety and welfare of Palestinian citizens throughout Israel. Year in and out the Palestinian population has been found to be far behind Jewish contemporaries in life expectancy, infant mortality, morbidity, diabetes and obesity. There are significant gaps in the extent and quality of health-care services provided to the country’s Palestinian residents compared to those that are Jewish. Nowhere is the damage of the nation-state law more palpably visible than it is to Palestinian Bedouin citizens who live under constant siege by an Israeli military that routinely demolishes their homes and villages, as unrecognized by the state. Several hundred thousands of Bedouins have no access to government services including no support from the Israeli electricity grid or its water infrastructure system. Star of David … land of myth.

Israel, and its choir, take great pride in extolling and preaching its democratic ideals and opportunity to the rest of the world…  no matter how plainly desperate its overreach and fraudulent its claim.  Seldom does a day pass without a Zionist apologia for its crimes against humanity, its war crimes, its genocide … skillfully relying upon the cheap talisman that, as the only democracy in the Middle East, it is entitled to do whatever it must to protect its noble call for all its citizens. For the poor, for the oppressed, for the dissenter, for those of a different skin, faith or gender there is nothing unusual or unique about this, by now, timeless pretext.  Israel is not alone in its shout to democratic equality that, historically, has meant little more to many than the tyranny of the majority.

What is democracy? Was it not a democratic ideal that ravaged indigenous communities throughout North America; that assaulted Africa to kidnap natives as commodities for sale in slave markets in the South; that denied women the right to vote and full equality throughout the United States… reducing them to mere chattel for centuries?  Ask a Muslim in France about the democracy that strips her of her Hijab or the young German activist imprisoned because his speech crossed the line of acceptable.  Yet, the democracy of Israel is very much an unmatched sinister blight on the contemporary body politic of the world and has been for more than 73 years. A world body that shares the complicity and blame as it has stood by in idle silence funding an unbroken pounding of millions whose only offense is to be the age-old landlords of the consecrated earth that the Star of David demands.

So just who is this David,  this star cast for 73 years to buff up the blood-stained blue and white banner that has defiled the ancient air above Jaffa, Haifa, Ashdod and dozens of age-old Palestinian cities and villages extracting unbearable pain from so many for far too long? In the Book of Samuel, legend has it that David is a young shepherd who gains fame by slaying the giant Goliath, the titan of the Philistines who, as a foreboding harbinger of distant times to come, arrived in the Holy Land from Europe in the 12th century B.C., as an earlier colonial project of sorts, only to disappear from history some 600 years later. Today, David is that bruising, beastly giant and Palestinians the shepherds.

Stanley L. Cohen is lawyer and activist in New York City.