Yves here. This post looks at the deep historical roots of the Israel’s campaign against Palestinians, back to open acknowledgements by Moshe Dayan and other founding fathers of the nation and analogies to long-running political disputes in the US. It argues that an Israeli secular state is a solution.
The problem is that horse left the barn and is in the next county. As Alastair Crooke has described long-form, the Mizrahim, who were formerly an underclass in Israel relative to the European (and for the most part less intensely religious) Ashkenazi, now dominate numerically and in representation in the Knesset. From Wikipedia:
Today, the Ashkenazi vote is associated with left-wing, secular and centrist parties (especially Blue and White, Meretz, Kadima and historically Labour), and the majority of Mizrahim vote for right-wing parties, especially Likud, as well as the Mizrahi-oriented splinter party Shas…
Whereas Ashkenazi prominence on the left has historically been associated with socialist ideals that had emerged in Central Europe and the kibbutz and Labor Zionist movement, the Mizrahim, as they rose in society and they developed their political ideals, often rejected ideologies they associated with an “Ashkenazi elite” that had marginalized them. Although these tensions were initially based on economic rivalries, the distinction remained strong even as Mizrahim increasingly moved up the socioeconomic latter around 1990, entering the middle class, and the disparity between Ashkenazim and Mizrahim diminished (but did not completely disappear), with Mizrahi political expression becoming increasingly linked to the Likud and Shas parties. Likud, the largest right-wing party in Israel, became increasingly influenced by Mizrahi political articulation, with the Mizrahi middle class’ political coming-of-age held by political science commentators to be embodied by the rise of Mizrahi Likud politicians such as Moshe Kahlon and Miri Regev….
The Mizrahi turn to the right has been analyzed from many viewpoints. Some consider it a result of the failure of Ashkenazi progressive elites to adequately tackle racism against Mizrahim within their organizations. On the other hand, many Mizrahim came to credit Likud with their socioeconomic advancement, with Likud centers serving as hiring halls. Some models have also emphasized economic competition between Arabs and Mizrahim. However, other analysts partially or mainly reject the economic explanation, arguing that instead cultural and ideological factors play a key role. Whereas Ashkenazi Israelis tend to support left-wing politics, secularism, and peace with Arab peoples, the Mizrahim tend on average to be more conservative, and tend toward being “traditionally” religious with fewer secular or ultra-religious (Haredi) individuals; they are also more skeptical of prospects for peace with Palestinian Arabs. The skepticism towards the peace process among Mizrahim may be tied to a history of mistreatment by Muslim and Christian Arabs from when they were in diaspora in Arab countries, though many doubt that this alone is sufficiently explanatory.
The greater support among Mizrahim compared to Ashkenazim (48% versus 35% as measured by Pew in 2016) for the settlements in the West Bank has also been attributed to economic incentives and the fact that many working-class Mizrahim live there, often in subsidized housing.Another contributing factor is religious views among some Mizrahim who join the settlements. Although Mizrahim form a considerable portion of the settler population, with a particular concentration in and around Gush Katif, they often are ignored by public discourse about the settlements which tends to incorrectly paint all or most settlers as having North American origins, which a disproportionately large but still minority portion do.
I find it endlessly fascinating that the two savage conflicts which currently threaten us with nuclear annihilation stem from the psychology of ethnic cleansing as practiced in Central Europe during the 20th century. I’ve been struggling to understand why Kiev feels entitled to “kick-out” the Russians of Donetsk and Luhansk and why Tel Aviv feels entitled to “kick-out” the Palestinians. I find myself returning to European ethno-nationalism, antisemitism, and the mindset of 1914-1945, which culminated in the infliction of so much suffering.
These motivations are important for us to understand because Climate Change threatens us with a mass-migration of 1.5 Billion people by 2050. The struggle over who “gets” to inhabit a certain patch of land will become existential for all of humanity.
By Thomas Neuburger. Originally published at God’s Spies
I want to point to the intersection of two ideas and see what thoughts they lead to.
Moshe Dayan and the Creation of Israel
The first is this now-forgotten set of observations by Israeli Defense Minister (and Zionist “freedom fighter”) Moshe Dayan.
He has a strongly pro-Zionist past, a fighting past:
Haganah was “the main Zionist paramilitary organization that operated for the Yishuv in the British Mandate for Palestine. It was founded in 1920 to defend the Yishuv’s presence in the region, and was formally disbanded in 1948, when it became the core force integrated into the Israel Defense Forces shortly after the Israeli Declaration of Independence.”
In other words, a fighting Zionist true-believer.
Dayan had very strong opinions about the defense of Israel and what it would take to achieve it. One thing it would take is an unblinking acknowledgement of what Israel had done to acquire the land for its own.
Dayan recognized what had been done to create the state of Israel. He understood, therefore, what it would take to defend it.
An Undoable Act
This theft of land is, in Arab eyes, an act that cannot be undone. It should be seen that way in Israeli eyes as well, because of its consequences.
In many ways, this is like Henry VIII’s theft of the wealth of the Catholic Church in England. Once taken and distributed, the act could not be undone, much like a murdered man cannot be brought back. In the time of Shakespeare, England was as Catholic as France; only the government and its dependents were Protestant. It took war to settle the dispute, several in fact.
So with this. It seems to me there must a war, or barring that, a return to the status quo ante, in which people in the occupied land are continuously tortured until they die or decide to leave.
There are only three ways this can go:
- One side will win, with Israelis or Arabs driven out.
- The torture regime will restart, each side afflicting the other as much as it can.
- A single, secular state will be created.
A secular state — not the vaunted two-state solution — is the only humane solution. That solution, if you’re not a religionist, seems certainly fair. The other outcomes lead only to rights abuse and war.
But a secular state — often called a “one-state” solution — is also unacceptable to Zionists. For them, it’s “Greater Israel or bust.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds up a map showing the occupied West Bank and Gaza as part of Israel during his speech at the UN General Assembly, 22 September 2023 (Reuters)
How to get past this problem? Consider the following.
Like the Abortion Battle
The battle for Palestine/Israel is like the US abortion fight in a single, crucial way. Until it’s completely won by one side or the other, the torture can last forever.
Americans seemed complacent, willing to see abortion limited in one cruel way after another, in one state and the next, so long as it was legal somewhere. They seemed content, in the aggregate, with a slowly eroding status quo.
My wife and I marveled at this, but it’s been true since the battle against Roe was first enjoined. The movement against the so-called ‘pro-lifers’ was small and ineffective; where we expected mass insurgency, we saw complaints and protests. There were victories, but it seemed that the most Americans were content to stand by, so long as the losses came in small enough doses that each one unremarkable compared to the last.
What the “pro-life” movement never should have done, was won completely.
Pro-choice people are now aflame with desire to reinstate Roe. We’ve seen this in the past few elections at the regional level. That new-found insurgence may, if the stars are aligned for the Democrats, re-elect Biden against a resurgent Trump.
To make the comparison clear, if the Right had not achieved total victory over abortion, had not repealed all of Roe, the pro-choice movement might never have grown this strong. Sad that is, but true.
The Road to Lasting Peace
Is the same thing true of Israel/Palestine? If the only alternative to war is a secular state, perhaps the only way to get there is for world opinion, face with a total war, to force on both parties.
What will a painful “peace,” a return to the status quo ante where hundreds are murdered, slowly and by both sides, actually achieve? And what’s the cost of achieving it?
The hatred on both sides had already reached the youngest pre-October 7. It’s now metastatic. It will take 50 years to clear all of that out. And worse, the world may tolerate another half-century’s hate, since it’s tolerated the last.
In contrast, what would a “blowout battle” accomplish compared to its cost? Deaths will be horribly high. But faced with that, will the world finally force an end? Force a secular state, in which none have the upper hand?
I have no answers to this. But I strongly hope for peace, however achieved, and fear I’ll never see it.