Current Affairs Military Politics

In Defence Of Israel

Israeli soldiers pray before a Torah, southern Israel, 2012 (AP Photo – Ariel Schalit)

I’ve always admired the state of Israel and the Israeli people as a whole. From an Irish point of view the historic parallels between our nations are obvious. Both share a sense of ethnicity and cultural continuity that reach into a far distant past, with roots that are of greater import than any transient political or ideological beliefs. There is a depth to my own identity, to my Celticness, that I recognise in Jewish and Israeli friends. Reflections of it can be glimpsed in the works of writers, poets and artists from both peoples. And in the intellectual underpinnings of our revolutionaries too. Yet, as the years have passed, it has become harder and harder to sustain that admiration for Israel.

A certain embarrassment has overcome those of us on the Left who speak up for Israel, who defend it’s re-foundation and right to exist. There is a feeling of awkwardness, almost shame, to find oneself in the company of some less than savoury characters or ideologues who express similar views (albeit in less nuanced or more bellicose terms). To be associated with some Fox News “journalist”, however tangentially, on the issue of Israel is enough to make your skin crawl.

The actions and attitudes of the Israeli state itself have moved far away from the centre-left and secularist impulses of many of its founding members. Today one increasingly perceives an Israel that is only marginally different in composition to the countries which surround it. When I watch a video of Israeli soldiers standing and praying before a military rabbi holding up a torah I find it hard to distinguish them from their Palestinian counterparts. They look the same, they pray the same, their languages and accents sound the same… yet we are told they are not the same.

Now we have a ceasefire after the latest ramping up of the conflict in that part of Occupied Palestine known as the Gaza Strip and it is hard to disagree with this summation from professor John J. Mearsheimer in, of all places, The American Conservative:

“…when a ceasefire comes, Israel will declare victory. Don’t believe it. Israel has foolishly started another war it cannot win.

The campaign in Gaza is said to have two objectives: 1) to put an end to the rockets and mortars that Palestinians have been firing into southern Israel since it withdrew from Gaza in August 2005; 2) to restore Israel’s deterrent, which was said to be diminished by the Lebanon fiasco, by Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, and by its inability to halt Iran’s nuclear program.

But these are not the real goals… The actual purpose is connected to Israel’s long-term vision of how it intends to live with millions of Palestinians in its midst. It is part of a broader strategic goal: the creation of a “Greater Israel.” Specifically, Israel’s leaders remain determined to control all of what used to be known as Mandate Palestine, which includes Gaza and the West Bank. The Palestinians would have limited autonomy in a handful of disconnected and economically crippled enclaves, one of which is Gaza. Israel would control the borders around them, movement between them, the air above and the water below them.

The key to achieving this is to inflict massive pain on the Palestinians so that they come to accept the fact that they are a defeated people and that Israel will be largely responsible for controlling their future. This strategy, which was first articulated by Ze’ev Jabotinsky in the 1920s and has heavily influenced Israeli policy since 1948, is commonly referred to as the “Iron Wall.”

What has been happening in Gaza is fully consistent with this strategy.

If Israel wanted to stop missile attacks from Gaza, it could have done so by arranging a long-term ceasefire with Hamas. And if Israel were genuinely interested in creating a viable Palestinian state, it could have worked with the national unity government to implement a meaningful ceasefire and change Hamas’s thinking about a two-state solution. But Israel has a different agenda: it is determined to employ the Iron Wall strategy to get the Palestinians in Gaza to accept their fate as hapless subjects of a Greater Israel.

This brutal policy is clearly reflected in Israel’s conduct of the Gaza War. Israel and its supporters claim that the IDF is going to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties…

The best evidence, however, that Israel is deliberately seeking to punish the broader population in Gaza is the death and destruction the IDF has wrought on that small piece of real estate…

… Israel is unlikely to stop the rocket fire for any appreciable period of time unless it agrees to open Gaza’s borders and stop arresting and killing Palestinians. Israelis talk about cutting off the supply of rockets and mortars into Gaza, but weapons will continue to come in via secret tunnels and ships that sneak through Israel’s naval blockade. It will also be impossible to police all of the goods sent into Gaza through legitimate channels.

Israel could try to conquer all of Gaza and lock the place down. That would probably stop the rocket attacks if Israel deployed a large enough force. But then the IDF would be bogged down in a costly occupation against a deeply hostile population. They would eventually have to leave, and the rocket fire would resume. And if Israel fails to stop the rocket fire and keep it stopped, as seems likely, its deterrent will be diminished, not strengthened.

More importantly, there is little reason to think that the Israelis can beat Hamas into submission and get the Palestinians to live quietly in a handful of Bantustans inside Greater Israel. Israel has been humiliating, torturing, and killing Palestinians in the Occupied Territories since 1967 and has not come close to cowing them. Indeed, Hamas’s reaction to Israel’s brutality seems to lend credence to Nietzsche’s remark that what does not kill you makes you stronger.

But even if the unexpected happens and the Palestinians cave, Israel would still lose because it will become an apartheid state. As Prime Minister Ehud Olmert recently said, Israel will “face a South African-style struggle” if the Palestinians do not get a viable state of their own. “As soon as that happens,” he argued, “the state of Israel is finished.” Yet Olmert has done nothing to stop settlement expansion and create a viable Palestinian state, relying instead on the Iron Wall strategy to deal with the Palestinians.

The bottom line is that no matter what happens on the battlefield, Israel cannot win its war in Gaza. In fact, it is pursuing a strategy-with lots of help from its so-called friends in the Diaspora-that is placing its long-term future at risk.”

The article above was published on January 26th, 2009, after the first “Gaza war”.

Do I need say more?

11 comments on “In Defence Of Israel

  1. Jonathan Boyko

    Thank you for your view, especially since it’s coming from Eireann. It is my understanding that in general, the view of my country there ranges between neutrality to outright hostility (though my information could be wrong).
    Do know that many in Israel love your country (well, especially the music and the booze 🙂 ).

    • The allegation that the Irish are anti-Israeli, or even anti-Semitic, is certainly one that is common in certain extreme Christian Right circles in the United States. However it is often driven more by domestic, home-grown anti-Irish and anti-Catholic prejudices in the US than any basis in reality. It is something that I have occasionally been drawn into tackling myself.

      Like everywhere else in the world there is a wide variety of opinions in Ireland on the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Some are pro-Israeli, some pro-Palestinian, but most people are neutral (or more honestly, simply don’t care one way or another). The general Irish opinion, I believe, is the wish for a just and lasting settlement between both peoples based in part upon our own experiences over the last several centuries of conflict with Britain, and the recent 30 year conflict in the north of the country involving the British Unionist ethnic minority population and the Irish Nationalist population.

      The two state solution, as it were, is the one favoured by most.

      However many Irish people, especially those like myself who identify with Ireland’s indigenous language and culture, have an enormous respect for Israel and what the Israeli people have done since the 1940s in terms of restoring their nation and their national identity. The restoration of Hebrew as a living, daily language is a monument to human ingenuity and intelligence. If Ireland had followed the Israeli path we would be an Irish-speaking nation today instead of a nation where Irish-speakers feel themselves to be second-class citizens with second-class rights when compared to their Anglophone neighbours.

      As you may have gathered from the article above I do have deep reservations and concerns about Israel’s actions in relation to Occupied Palestine. These have only grown over the years. But my basic support for Israel continues – albeit with caveats.

      Thank you for the Comment. Most welcome.

  2. you know in the american conservative there’s a section who are paleoconservatives or libertaraians who oppose having america involved in certain wars or any wars that hold right wing views like nativism and secession. that said you should check out excellent compendium of views which protest against america’s funding of israel

    • Indeed, the American Conservative isn’t my normal cup of tea, nor are the views of J. J. Mearsheimer. However in this particular case what makes them so interesting is the very fact that they stem from the (libertarian) right of US politics that. And certainly they are shockingly prescient. Written in 2009 but could easily have been penned last week.

      Thanks for the Comment and link.

  3. You know Israel , as the settlement of palestine, was founded by Arthur Balfour, nephew of lord salisbury who opposed home rule at all costs for ireland and forced us to endure repression and give birth to relations between unionists and israeli settlers

    • One should point out that the relationship between Israel and the British Unionist minority in the north-east of Ireland is more in the eyes of the Unionist community than of the Israelis. Most Israelis recognise no such relationship with the Unionist minority. Many have never even heard of them. Any Israelis I know are extremely unhappy with such comparisons. Though admittedly those I know are on the Left and look to Irish Republicanism as a more fitting ideological companion.

      Thanks for the Comment 🙂

  4. Bob Wilson

    What exactly has anything regarding Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland got to do with Israel? Other than the fact that the Neocons who are the Jewish elite of America, think they already own Ireland and all the Irish are their “cattle” or Golus I think they call them. If Ireland is going to choose an ally, choose a little better. You are no more than stupid “Gentiles” to Talmudic extremists who think they will rule the world by exterminating and enslaving the Gentiles, that means you Ireland. Go ahead jump into the lions mouth if it makes you feel better, most Jews are on the left because the Talmud tells them to kill off property owners and seize peoples nations for themselves, hence the reason they invented Socialism and Communism. If you want to accuse me of “anti-semitism”, then prove the so called semites or shemites are decended from Shem, show the line of descent with records to back it up. meanwhile ponder the following alleged quotes-

    “the government of the peoples included in this world republic with the aid of the victorious proletariat, all will fall without difficulty into Jewish hands. Private property will then be strangled by the Jewish directors, who will administer the state patrimony every where, thus the promise of the Talmud will be fulfilled, the promise that the Jews at the arrival of the Messiah will posess the key to the wealth of all the people on Earth” (Baruch Levy, letter to Karl Marx)

    “All property of other nations belongs to the Jewish nation which consequently is entitled to seize upon it without any scruples” (Schulchan Aruch, ref the Talmud)

    “we have exterminated the property owners in Russia, we are going to do the same in America and in Europe” ( The Jew, 1925)

    “my opinion of Christian Zionists, they are scum. But dont tell them that we need all the usefull idiots we can get right now” (Benuamin Netanyahu, Israeli PM)

    • Well now, that’s all just a wee bit silly. I could answer the whole thing but it is so self-evidently preposterous that I see little point. However I generally let all Comments through so I’ll let others judge this. Thanks anyway.

  5. ar an sliabh

    It’s a war of brothers. Those, like we all know, are the worst.

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