The essential thing is to stop the carnage

Image: Pok Rie


Holocaust, genocide, carnage, war crimes? How to describe the confrontation between the State of Israel and the Palestinian people?

First of all, this is not a confrontation between Hamas terrorism and the Israeli army. What we are witnessing is a stage in a confrontation that long predates the existence of Hamas. It begins even before the creation of the State of Israel, in 1947.

The Zionist movement began in the 19th century with the financing of the migration of Jews, especially Eastern Europeans, to the territory that today is called, alternatively, Palestine or the Israeli State. Initially the process was to purchase land from the inhabitants, then subjects of the Ottoman Empire.

Jewish settlements gradually multiplied, without generating major reactions among the “natives”, the vast majority of whom were Muslim Arabs, poor farmers. Zionist propaganda, in more modern times, asserted the narrative that it was a “land without people (Palestine), destined to be occupied by a landless people (Jews)”. After the First World War, which led to the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire and the creation of the Palestine Mandate, a British protectorate, the movement accelerated a little, but statistics point to the existence of a population with 93% Arabs to 7% Arabs. Jews.

It is necessary to remember that the latter were still a community dominated by native Jews in Palestine who had lived with the Arabs for many centuries. European migrants, however, were more organized and aggressive in their expansionist project, framed by the Zionist movement.

The current situation begins to emerge after the Second World War. The Holocaust “scientifically” eliminated six million Jews. In addition to Jews, the Nazis eliminated hundreds of thousands of gypsies, communists, homosexuals and others, as well as millions of Russian prisoners of war. The Nazis' so-called “final solution” had extermination goals through the creation of a police action of identification, capture, transportation, detention, gassing and incineration of corpses in a true large-scale logistical/industrial operation.

Holocaust survivors looked for a place to live, and their countries of origin did not constitute an attractive alternative, given the well-known anti-Semitic hostility of the majority in countries such as Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, among others. It was in this context that the Zionist proposal of seeking to “retake the land promised by God to Moses” gained strength.

Who saw the Hollywood film Exodus, will remind you of the award-winning song “This land is mine” (this land is mine), a reproduction of the Zionist campaign motto. In the film, a boat chartered by Zionists full of Holocaust survivors is prevented from disembarking its passengers at the port of Haifa, giving rise to solidarity campaigns around the world.

International solidarity, especially with Holocaust survivors, was strengthened by the horror to which Jews in Europe were subjected, but also by the feeling of guilt felt by many Western countries, in particular the United States, for having refused to receive the refugees who they sought to escape the clutches of Nazism before the start of the war. This feeling contributed greatly to the growing support for the proposal to create the State of Israel, which was debated at the recently created United Nations.

The British, responsible for the territory claimed by the Zionists, faced political actions by Jewish emigrants in Palestine that soon took on more radical forms, with the creation of terrorist organizations such as the Irgun. With the potato getting hotter every day, Great Britain started to support the creation of the new State. The map of the new country was drawn by UN negotiators, with a format cut into pieces that occupied half of the current area. Despite the UN resolution stipulating the creation of two states, there was no equivalent Palestinian movement that allowed this to happen at the time.

On the other hand, neighboring Arab states opposed the creation of the State of Israel, with an excellent justification: even within the space “granted” by the UN to Jews, the vast majority of inhabitants were Muslim Arabs. The creation of the State of Israel was considered Western arbitrariness. In whose name was this concession made? The argument that it was “historically” Jewish territory was beyond complicated. If the UN started to re-discuss who has the right to what land for historical reasons, it would be necessary to review the world map whole. There is no shortage of expropriated peoples, most famously and recently, the Kurds and the Armenians.

Palestinians and Arab countries rejected the new state and adopted a radical program of liquidation of the Jewish/Western enclave in the Middle East. On the other hand, the Zionist movement was not satisfied with the UN concession and continued to claim the entire area between the borders of Lebanon, Egypt, Syria and Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea. But the new state's most immediate problem was the fact that the Jewish population was a large minority in the country. The solution adopted was to expel, militarily, millions of Palestinians from their lands and their homes. In a few years, with extreme brutality that only differs from the current one due to the weapons used, millions of Palestinians were sent to the Gaza Strip and Lebanon, where they lived in camps for decades. And yet the Jews were a minority, while the remaining Palestinians became second-class citizens, with restricted rights compared to the Jews.

The 7-Day War in 1967 was Israel's opportunity to expand its territory, occupying the West Bank, the Golan Heights (Syria) and smaller parts of other countries. The map of Israel doubled and the land occupation movement expanded. During Yitzhak Rabin's government, a peace agreement was reached with the Palestine Liberation Organization, an entity that coordinated political, diplomatic and military actions against the Israeli State.

The PLO was born in the refugee camps and, until the Camp David and Oslo agreements, was the only representative of the oppressed, inside and outside the territory of Israel. These agreements were boycotted by the Zionist right, including the assassination of Rabin. The failure of the agreements, with the resurgence of the expansionist colonization movement in the West Bank, the impasse in the debate on refugees outside the borders, and the increasingly rightward hardening of Israeli politics, the PLO lost representation and other, more radical, movements emerged. like Hamas and Hezbollah and other smaller ones. Benjamin Netanyahu's government encouraged the first in Gaza, aiming to split the Palestinian movement, which it achieved in the 2006 elections.

As I said in the first sentence of this article, what is happening in Palestine today is yet another episode in an inexorable confrontation since the origins of the State of Israel. Successive Israeli governments have not changed territory occupation policies (with the brief exception of the period after the agreements mentioned above) and the search for the elimination of non-Jews, in particular Arabs, to guarantee the existence of an ethnically homogeneous country. Despite political oscillations, more or less to the right, in Israeli governments, the most extreme positions consistent with this objective of ethnic cleansing prevailed.

The anti-racist and democratic minority in Israel is not small and, on several occasions, it has defeated the extremism of the Begins and Netanyahus (there are worse ones in the current government). But this minority is tied down by the lack of alternatives to the conflict and only manages, eventually, to slow down the process. Recently, the civilist and democratic movement managed, through large mass mobilizations, to contain attempts to expand the powers of the executive by the current prime minister.

For Benjamin Netanyahu, the Hamas attack was a blessing and everything suggests that there was facilitation on the part of the Israeli army, as even Egypt's intelligence services warned of the imminent terrorist offensive. It is likely that the Israeli government minimized the risk it was going to take, given the number of failures in the military reaction. But the attack served to unify the government and put critics on the defensive and, above all, to provide the opportunity to carry out ethnic cleansing in the Gaza strip.

The violence of the Israeli army's actions has nothing to do with any military objective, as the Israeli government says. This is not about eliminating Hamas, its militants and military or its leadership. This is the pretext. The objective is to eliminate the population of Gaza, two and a half million people. Eliminating does not necessarily mean killing everyone. The object is to make them leave. They have already managed to reduce the population of the north of the enclave (Gaza city) from 1,2 million to 300 thousand.

Now the proposal is to push almost two million who gather in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, into the city of Rafah, forcing the Egyptians to open the border to receive them. The Egyptian government is resisting the pressure and keeping the border closed, but how long will it resist? The increasing bombing in Rafah, the increasingly difficult living conditions and the daily horror in the media around the world are leading to an unsustainable situation.

The Israeli government's bet is that the desperation of millions of Palestinians will lead them to try to cross the Egyptian border en masse. And what will the Egyptian army do? Machine-gun and cannonade refugees? Israel is causing this despair, and the blockade of food, water, medicine and energy is even more brutal than the bombings. Even as widespread as they are, the bombings have killed close to 30 Palestinians and injured probably three times as many. But the blockade affects all Palestinians and has probably killed more than the weapons.

There is no solution to this crisis, the root of which lies in the very creation of the State of Israel. Ethnic cleansing, if achieved, will come at a gigantic price in human lives and in the prospects of life for the millions of refugees. And, remember, the mass expulsions of Palestinians in the 1940s and 1960s did not bring peace to the people of Israel. The Israeli right sells the electorate a mirage of a country of Jews well defended within its borders.

Forget the more intangible price to pay: the moral cost of conquering the “promised land”, imitating his Nazi tormentors in their “living space” policy in Eastern Europe, although I don’t think Benjamin Netanyahu imitates Hitler when the issue is the Holocaust. Unless the “metaphor” is stretched too far, the two processes are not comparable, in terms of objectives, methods and scale. There is a difference between killing Jews for being Jews, and more, methodically exterminating them in all countries occupied by the Germans and expelling Palestinians from their homes, lands and territories even while massacring thousands of them. The object of Nazi fury in the Holocaust was the extermination of an ethnic group. The object of Zionist fury is the ethnic cleansing of the territory of Israel.

What the Israeli government is doing is already sinister, horrendous and intolerable without needing to force comparisons with the Holocaust. In my opinion, Lula's misuse of the comparison provided a service to Benjamin Netanyahu's nefarious policy by diverting public attention from the debate about the seriousness of his actions to the delicate terrain of the historical singularity of the extermination of the Jews in the Second World War. Zionism is off the hook and will fuel the controversy with Lula to the maximum. Meanwhile, the Brazilian right tries to get out of the ropes by attacking Lula. Although the mainstream press does not have the courage to defend Benjamin Netanyahu, Bolsonarism's social networks are going a mile a minute.

In the short term, the position defended by Lula and Brazilian diplomacy, pointing out the large-scale massacres and inhumanity perpetrated by the Israeli army and calling for an immediate ceasefire, is the most correct and is gaining ground here and in the world despite the stumble unnecessary.

In the long term, the exit through the two States seems illusory to me. Nowadays, in the territory occupied by the Israeli government, Jews are still a minority, although the ratio is much more balanced than it was 85 years ago: 49%. And in the most strategic area of ​​expansion for Zionism, the former West Bank, there are already 500 Jewish settlers. Where will this Palestinian State be?

The historical impasse caused by the creation of the State of Israel tends to perpetuate itself and could be even more violent and dangerous both in the region and in the world as a whole. Israeli extremists are concerned about the imbalance in the evolution of the Arab and Jewish populations. The former multiply more quickly than the latter, despite the reproductive effort of ultra-Orthodox Jews (the most radical among Israelites), whose families are much more numerous than among other believers or non-believers.

If the fighting, today or in the future, leads to the involvement of neighboring countries, the response of a cornered Israel must be to use even heavier weapons and, ultimately, its atomic weapons. It is no secret that Israel has tactical nuclear bombs and their use could lead to an escalation with unpredictable consequences in the Levant, especially if Iran manages to produce equivalent weapons. In this extreme case, which we pray does not occur, we would have several “holocausts” in the region and the risk of a widespread nuclear war.

Defusing this conflict would involve re-discussing the distribution of space between the two States, with the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers from all territories illegally occupied since the 7-day war. This implies a profound change in the state of mind of the Israeli population and its government, but also the renunciation of the program to eliminate the State of Israel by the Palestinians and Arab countries. In the short term, the essential thing is to stop the carnage.

Although it is not the object of this discussion, it is worth remembering that the West produced carnage that was equally or even more brutal on a larger scale. See the atomic bombs dropped on the civilian population of Hiroshima and Nagasaki or the firebombings that killed even more people in Tokyo. Or the phosphorus bombings of major German cities with hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths in the final months of the war. In Roosevelt's words, in a justification presented to the American Congress, it was a punishment for the Germans for the bombings of London. Humanism is not part of the ideology of the ruling classes.

*Jean Marc von der Weid is a former president of the UNE (1969-71). Founder of the non-governmental organization Family Agriculture and Agroecology (ASTA).

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