Leon Rosselson
18 min readJan 19, 2021

AS THAT CHARISMATIC JEWISH PREACHER SAID…

Thou hypocrite, first cast the beam out of thine own eye; and then thou shalt see clearly to cast the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

Exactly. Zionists have no right to accuse others of antisemitism when they themselves support the most racist state on the planet.

Racism is deeply embedded in Israel’s DNA. Israel was founded on an ideology of racism — specifically racism towards the Diaspora Jew. It is no secret that Herzl, the founding father of political Zionism, was an antisemite. His writings are full of anti-semitic stereotypes. He despised the Diaspora Jew, the stetl-dwelling Jew, the ghetto Jew. He referred to Jews as ‘money-worshipping people’ and wrote about ‘the frightful financial power of the Jews’. His antipathy towards Jews for being Jews is the very essence of antisemitism. In 1885, after attending a soiree in Berlin, he wrote in his diary that there had been present ‘some thirty or forty ugly little Jews and Jewesses. No consoling sight’. Little? Ugly? All of them?

In 1897, a year after the publication of Der Judenstaat, he wrote an article for the Zionist journal Die Welt. He called it Mauschel, a derogatory German slang expression, equivalent to ‘kike’, for the Diaspora Jew, the Jew who spoke Yiddish or who spoke German with a Yiddish accent; the Jew who had no interest in Herzl’s Jewish state. The Mauschel, he wrote, is ‘crooked, sleazy’, ‘a hideous distortion of the human character, something unspeakably low and repugnant’. Merely to look at him is ‘enough to make us feel sick’. He contrasted the Mauschel with the ‘new Jew’ , the Zionist Jew, ‘a human being like any other’, the Jew who, transformed by living in a Jewish state, would be modern, healthy, honourable, manly, courageous in the image of the heroic ancient Hebrews like the Maccabees and Bar Kochba.

Herzl believed that the Jews who did not choose to live in his Judenstaat would eventually assimilate and disappear which, for him, would be a good outcome. In his view, Jews were a contaminated race. ‘At some dark moment in our history,’ he wrote, ‘some inferior human material got into our unfortunate people and blended with it.’ It is no surprise then that antisemites were fans of Herzl’s project. After the 1st Zionist Congress in 1897 the Kaiser wrote “I am all in favour of the ‘’kikes’ going to Palestine. The sooner they take off the better.”

Herzl at the 1st Zionist Congress

Herzl’s first bright idea for solving ‘the Jewish problem’ was a mass conversion of Austrian Jews to Catholicism. ‘It should be done on a Sunday, in St. Stephen’s Cathedral,’ he wrote, ‘in the middle of the day, with music and pride, publicly.’ The logic is impeccable. No more Jews, no more antisemitism. Then, realising that conversion wasn’t going to work, he conceived of the project that would obsess him for the rest of his life: a Jewish State.

As I have pointed out in a previous blog, and as anyone who reads Der Judenstaat will discover, the most striking thing about Herzl’s Jewish state is that there is virtually nothing Jewish about it. The Jewish religion — which he had no interest in — will play no part in the administration of the state. We shall keep our priests within the confines of their temples… There is no mention of keeping the Sabbath or celebrating Jewish festivals. The flag — seven golden stars on a white background — has no Jewish symbolism. As for the language that the ‘new Jews’ will speak, Yiddish is absolutely verboten. ‘We shall give up using those miserable stunted jargons, those Ghetto languages which we still employ, for those are the stealthy tongues of prisoners.’ He didn’t believe Hebrew was practical. Instead there will be a ‘federation of tongues’ until the most useful language wins out. It’s not difficult to guess that Herzl’s favoured language would have been German since, for him, German civilisation and culture were the most advanced in the world.

In short — and I don’t think this is an exaggeration — the aim of Herzl’s Zionist project was to disappear Jews from the world.

‘The negation of the Diaspora’ — shlilat ha’galut — runs through Zionism from left to right. Jabotinsky, the founder of Revisionist Zionism, the party of Menachem Begin and Netanyahu, followed Herzl in contrasting the Diaspora Jew, ‘the Yid’, with the ’new Jew’, yet to be created. ‘Because the Yid is ugly, sickly and lacks decorum,’ he wrote, ‘we shall endow the ideal image of the Hebrew with masculine beauty. The Yid is trodden upon and easily frightened and, therefore, the Hebrew ought to be proud and independent…The Yid has accepted submission and, therefore, the Hebrew ought to learn how to command…’

Ben Gurion, leader in the ruthless war against the Palestinians which led to the founding of the state of Israel, shared this prejudice against Eastern European Diaspora Jews and their ‘jarring foreign language’, as he put it, though he himself came from a Yiddish-speaking family. Diaspora life, he asserted in a letter to Simon Rawidowicz, is ‘a sad, wounded, limping and impoverished existence’. In a conversation with Isaac Deutscher he called Jews living in the Diaspora ‘rootless cosmopolitans. There can be nothing worse than that.’ It was their duty, therefore, to settle in the state of Israel because ‘only in a state of the Jews is a full and complete Jewish life possible’. Since he was totally secular, it’s not clear what he meant by ‘a complete Jewish life’. Like Herzl, whom he revered, he believed that Jews living outside the Jewish state would assimilate and disappear.

For Ben Gurion, as for Herzl and Jabotinsky, the ideal Jew was ‘the new Jew’ (who is, it seems, always a man) preferably a ‘tzabar’, born and bred in the Jewish state, the ‘chalutz’, the pioneer, Hebrew-speaking, strong, healthy, outdoor, self-confident, scorning the ‘sin of weakness’, everything that the Diaspora Jew was not. He didn’t think much of the ‘Hitler Zionists’, the German Jews who had been allowed to emigrate to Palestine in the 1930s, because they came as refugees, not pioneers. He referred to Holocaust survivors and Mizrahi Jews as ‘human debris’.

When I think back to my teenage years in the Socialist-Zionist youth movement Hashomer Hatzair, I have a picture in my mind of our ‘shaliach’, Gaby, who had been sent to persuade all the Jewish boys and girls to ‘make aliyah’. He was a big strong man, the very image of a chalutz, a perfect model for the ‘new Jew’, exemplifying all those splendid Zionist virtues. Chazak ve’ematz, he commanded. Be strong and courageous.The only thing he wasn’t, in my eyes, was Jewish.

“As you delve into Hebrew literature of the 1940s to 1970s, you meet more blue-eyed blonds than you could meet anywhere in Israel….In Yizhar’s works, the ‘others’ are ugly Jews of Middle Eastern origin or Diaspora Jews from Europe. In Shamir’s novel, the Other is a Diaspora Jew, a Holocaust survivor, described as ‘a podgy bald man’ and also as a despicable crook.”
(Yitzhak Laor The Myths of Liberal Zionism)

The racism of Zionism — an ideology of Ashkenazi Jews only — was even more virulent against the wrong sort of Diaspora Jew — Mizrahi Jews, Jews from N. Africa and the Arab countries. They were needed to do the hard work in building the new state but they were treated with utter contempt. Come build a new homeland, they were told but when they came in the early 1950s, they were forced to live in appalling, unsanitary conditions in Ma’abarot, tent camps for refugees.

“People can live for years in tents. Anyone who doesn’t want to live in them needn’t bother coming here.” (Ben Gurion)

They were seen as primitive, ignorant, unclean; they ’do not know how to make use of a toilet at home’, according to Ben Gurion. He referred to ‘the simple, natural worker of Yemen’ as, like the Arabs, ‘able to work at anything, with no shame, no philosophy and no poetry’. Their values would have to be changed. They would have to be Westernised, Europeanised, civilised by living in the modern state of Israel.

“Even the immigrant from North Africa, who looks like a savage, who has never read a book in his life, not even a religious one, and doesn’t even know how to say his prayers, either wittingly or unwittingly has behind him a spiritual heritage of thousands of years…” — David Ben-Gurion.

“The primitiveness of these people is unsurpassable. As a rule, they are only slightly more advanced than the Arabs, Negroes and Berbers in their countries… The North Africans bring their ways with them wherever they settle. It is not surprising that the crime rate in the country is rising… above all there is one equally grave fact and that is their total inability to adjust to the life in this country, and primarily their chronic laziness and hatred for any kind of work.” Arye Gelblum, Ha’aretz, April 22, 1949.

“The goal must be to instil in them a Western spirit and not let them drag us into an unnatural Orient.” Abba Eban 1967

The racism of Zionism and its founding fathers (there are no founding mothers) was absorbed into the psyche of the Zionist state. When I lived in Israel in 1958/59, I found that, being English, I was privileged since Western Jews ranked highly in the hierarchy that made up Israeli society. Sabras, of course, were securely established at the top. Bumping along at the bottom were Jews from N. Africa and the Arab countries. They were called shachorim — blacks — and were given the dirtiest jobs and the worst living conditions. Everyday discourse was casually racist. Yemenites? ’Donkey riders.’ Moroccans? ‘All thieves.’ If they spoke Arabic, they were doubly despised.

All its human values need to be changed from the ground up.” (David Ben-Gurion, on the new Yemenite immigrants to Israel.)

Yemenite immigrants

In those early years of the state, thousands of Yemenite babies — and babies from other Mizrahi families -were abducted from their families and sold or given for adoption to Ashkenazi families. It usually happened soon after the birth in hospital.The mother would be told that her baby had died but she was not allowed to see her baby’s body or the grave.

The nurse said, ‘You have lots of children, why not let us take one of them?’ My grandmother refused. A couple of days later, the nurse told her her baby girl had died. She did not receive a death certificate and was not shown a grave. (Shlomi Hatuka, who helped found Amram, an organisation campaigning on behalf of the families.)

What sort of country does that to its citizens?

“A baby disappeared from one out of every eight Yemenite families. One out of eight.”

In the 1990s, it was revealed that the Israeli national blood bank had routinely destroyed blood donated by Ethiopian Jews because of fears of HIV.

And another racist scandal. In January 2013, Roni Gamzo, from the Israeli Ministry of Health, finally admitted that Ethiopian women had been injected with Depo-Provera without their knowledge or consent.

We believe it is a method of reducing the number of births in a community that is black and poor.’ (Hedva Eyal, Women’s Rights Organisation.)

One of the Ethiopian women who was interviewed is quoted as saying: “They [medical staff] told us they are inoculations. We took it every three months. We said we didn’t want to.” It is alleged that some of the women were forced or coerced to take the drug while in transit camps in Ethiopia. The women’s testimony could help explain the almost 50 percent decline over the past ten years in the birth rate of Israel’s Ethiopian community.

Well, it wouldn’t do to have too many black Jews in the modern country of Israel, would it?

Ethiopian Jews, who mainly immigrated in the 1980s and 1990s, have the highest unemployment and poverty rate among Israeli Jews and are the most liable to be stopped and searched, arrested and incarcerated.

Ethiopian immigrants heading for Tel Aviv

Israel’s racism towards the wrong sort of Jews is not, however, on the same level as the racism directed at the people whose land Israel has stolen. Mizrahi Jews suffer racist discrimination but they are accepted as full citizens and have a voice in the political life of the country. Palestinian Israelis, however, cannot be full citizens in a state that is designated for all the Jews in the world. They are viewed as a demographic threat. (Of course, Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, living under military rule and subject to military law, have no civil rights and are subject to systematic violence from settlers and the IDF.)

A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid (Report of B’Tselem, Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights)

Palestinians in Israel live, in the main, under an apartheid system — separate and unequal. They have no voice and no power in the political system. Palestinian Israelis and Jewish Israelis rarely interact and almost never intermarry since there is no civil marriage in Israel.

‘An Arab is still not on the human level that I would want for a man who marries a Jewish woman’ (Ben Gurion)

Apart from a few ‘mixed cities’ like Haifa and Jaffa, (mixed but not shared) Palestinian Israelis and Jewish Israelis live separately. The Israel Land Authority manages 93% of the land on behalf of the Israeli state. This land is off limits for Palestinian settlement.

“Israeli policy on both sides of the Green Line restricts Palestinians to dense population centers while maximizing the land available for Jewish communities.” (Human Rights Watch)

Palestinians constitute 21% of the population but the vast majority of them live in communities/municipalities which occupy less than 3% of the land.

“Israeli land policies treat towns inside its own borders in starkly unequal terms based on whether its inhabitants are Jewish or Palestinian. After decades of confiscating Palestinians’ land, Israel confines them to crowded towns while enabling neighbouring Jewish towns that exclude them to flourish….

Decades of land confiscations and discriminatory planning policies have confined many Palestinian citizens to densely populated towns and villages that have little room to expand. Meanwhile, the Israeli government nurtures the growth and expansion of neighbouring predominantly Jewish communities, many built on the ruins of Palestinian villages destroyed in 1948.” (Human Rights Watch)

Zoning laws prevent Palestinians from building in their own communities. Houses built without a permit are regularly demolished.

“There are more than 50,000 houses that were built without a permit in Arab and Druze communities in Israel. Applying the law ‘blindly’ means erasing entire neighbourhoods and leaving half a million people without a roof over their heads.”
(Ha’aretz January 13, 2017)

Houses in Jewish communities are not demolished.

Over 900 small Jewish towns have the right to decide who can live in them. This means that they can — and do — bar non-Jews from living there.

100,000 Bedouin (nominally Israeli citizens) live in 46 unrecognised villages in the Negev. This means they receive no municipal services — no electricity, running water, waste disposal, medical care, education or roads. Unrecognised villages are constantly targeted for demolition, the costs for which are charged to the Bedouin.

In 2018, after battling for 15 years against demolition and forced eviction, the village of Umm al-Hiran was finally demolished & the villagers forced into homelessness to make way for a Jewish-only settlement to be called Hiran. Only “a Jewish Israeli citizen or permanent resident of Israel who observes the Torah and commandments according to Orthodox Jewish values” will be permitted to live there.

In October 2020 the unrecognised village of al-Araqib was demolished for the 179th time since the year 2000. The villagers still refuse to be uprooted from their land.
“We will rebuild our village,” asserted the Local Committee for the Defence of al-Araqib.

There are no Jewish unrecognised villages.

According to Adalah, there are 65 Israeli laws that discriminate directly or indirectly against its Palestinian citizens and limit their rights in all areas of life. The most egregious are the recently enacted Nation-State Law which states that ‘the right to exercise national self-determination is unique to the Jewish people’, that Hebrew is the official language, downgrading Arabic, and that ‘Jewish settlement’ is ‘a national value whose establishment and development the state will labour ‘to encourage and promote’; and the Law of Return, passed in 1950, which gives every Jew in the world the right to live as full citizens in Israel. Palestinians driven out in 1948 and their descendants have no such right despite UN Resolution 194 which states that ‘refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date’. An Israeli Palestinian who marries a Palestinian living in the West Bank cannot bring his or her spouse to live with him/her.

Israel operates a segregated education system. There are Jewish schools and ‘Arab’ schools. (Israel does not accept the word ‘Palestinian’.) Separate and unequal. According to government figures, the average Jewish student received 78 to 88 percent more funding than the average Arab student. Consequently Palestinian schools are overcrowded and under resourced, lacking basic learning facilities.

The national curriculum imposed on all schools is heavily biased towards a Zionist narrative. It is aimed at suppressing and erasing Palestinian history and memory. They are taught about the symbols of the Jewish state — the Israeli flag, the Menorah, the Israeli national anthem ‘Hatikvah’, the lyrics of which exclude them. Geography lessons use biblical names like Judea and Samaria (instead of the West Bank) to assert the sole right of Jews to belong to the land. “Israeli educational policy and curriculum are designed to support the Jewish nation-building project. As such, they silence the Palestinian Arab narrative while reshaping regional history for both Jewish and Arab students to fit the Zionist narrative. Furthermore, Israeli educational policy has played an essential role in consigning Palestinian Arabs to the social, economic and political margins of society.”
(International Education Journal 2006)

Most children in Jewish schools will never play with a Palestinian child, nor are they likely to meet a Palestinian on equal terms when they grow up. So what do they learn about the ‘Arab Other’ in school?

In June 2018, the late Israeli journalist, peace activist Uri Avnery wrote an article about the success of state and media propaganda in brainwashing the Israeli public. He compared it to the Nazi propaganda machine, only now it was the ’Arabs’ who were seen as the Untermenschen. There are few dissenting voices so the propaganda goes virtually unchallenged. He would certainly have been expelled from the Labour Party for writing that.

The brainwashing begins early, as it must because all the Jewish boys and girls will serve in the IDF when they grow up and that means they may well be called upon to humiliate, shoot, bomb, torture or terrorise a Palestinian man, woman or child.

Nurith Peled-Elhanan, a Hebrew University professor of education, quoted in the Guardian, 6 August 2011, explains how ‘Arabs’ are described in Israeli school books: “The Arab with a camel in an Ali Baba dress. They describe them as vile and deviant and criminal, people who don’t want to pay taxes, people who live off the state, who don’t want to develop…You never see a Palestinian child or doctor or teacher or engineer or modern farmer.”

“None of the books contain photographs of Palestinian human beings and all represent them in racist icons or demeaning classificatory images such as terrorists, refugees and primitive farmers.”
(Palestine in Israeli School Books:Ideology and Propaganda in Education. Nurit Peled-Elhanan)

Events in the Nakba may be taught but only in the context of justifying them as necessary to establish a Jewish state. What cannot be justified must go unmentioned.

‘The children they killed by breaking their heads with sticks. There was not a house without dead…One commander ordered a sapper to put two old women in a certain house…and to blow up the house with them. The sapper refused. The commander then ordered his men to put in the old women and the evil deed was done… One woman, with a newborn baby in her arms, was employed to clean the courtyard where the soldiers ate. She worked a day or two. In the end they shot her and her baby.’
(Report on the massacre at Al Dawayima on 29 October 1948 received by the Israeli daily Al Ha-Mishmar. It was never published.)

According to Ha’aretz, documents describing the atrocities committed by Israeli forces during the War of Independence have been and are being removed from the archives and deposited in vaults. Asked why the Defence Ministry was doing this since many of the documents have already been published, Yehiel Horev, who launched the project, argued that revealing this history could generate unrest among the country’s Arab population and that without back up from the original documents, allegations of atrocities cannot be proved.

Uri Avnery gave as an example of the brainwashing of the Israeli public the way the media and politicians justified Israel’s murderous response to the Great March of Return in Gaza. The lie was repeated over and over again: thousands of terrorists are storming the border fence and swarming into Israel so we have to fire at them. No evidence was produced or indeed needed since 95% of the Israeli public approved of the killing and wounding of thousands of unarmed Palestinian demonstrators, men women, children, paramedics and journalists. The wounds were devastating because the soldiers deliberately used ammunition which expand and mushroom in the body.

‘The nature of these injuries shows that Israeli soldiers are using high-velocity military weapons designed to cause maximum harm to Palestinian protesters who do not pose an imminent threat to them.These apparently deliberate attempts to kill and maim are deeply disturbing, not to mention completely illegal. Some of these cases appear to amount to wilful killing, a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions and a war crime.’(Médecins Sans Frontières)’

‘What an orgasm to see the Israeli Defence Forces bomb buildings in Gaza with children and families at the same time. Boom boom.’
(Israeli teenager with over a thousand Facebook followers.)

Reducing Palestinians to the Untermenschen, less than human, is deliberate and calculated. It is also necessary so that Israel can commit war crimes, so that its citizens can gather on hillsides and cheer and dance as its army, the most moral army in the world, bombs Gaza into rubble and murders Gaza’s children, so that its soldiers can abduct and torture Palestinian children and students, so that its rabbis can urge ‘the Nazi choice’ and demand the elimination of Palestinian men, women, children and decree that one million Arabs are ‘not worth a Jewish fingernail’, so that its politicians can reduce Palestinians to scorpions and little snakes and crocodiles, so that mobs of Israeli citizens can shout ‘Death to Arabs’ and mean it, so that 56% of high school students believe that Arabs should be barred from becoming members of the Knesset and 48% of Jewish Israelis want Arabs to be expelled from Israel and 79% think Jews should be given preferential treatment and 61% think Israel was given by God to the Jewish people.

Racism towards the indigenous people whose land has been stolen is a natural consequence of the colonial project that is Zionism. They will have to be erased or rendered invisible - ‘A land without a people for a people without a land’ — or dehumanised. Without it, the atrocities and mass expulsions perpetrated by Zionist forces during the War of Independence could not have taken place.

Between 1948 and 1966, Palestinian citizens of Israel lived under military rule. There was no pretence, no denial. They were officially the Untermenschen.

‘… a military governor (there were three, for the Negev, the Triangle and the north) demanded that people frequenting a village café show their respect by standing up when he entered and threatened anyone who disobeyed; soldiers amused themselves when intimidating an Arab citizen by leaning on him by placing a firearm on his shoulder; and others prevented Muslim citizens from praying. In other cases, military government representatives harassed farmers and destroyed their property; people were humiliated regularly and addressed in coarse language; violence was perpetrated on children; and military government personnel made threats against Arab citizens if they didn’t vote in elections for the candidates favoured by the authorities.’ (Quoted in Ha’aretz)

Why are Zionists in the Jewish Labour Movement such fervent supporters of a state like that? Of course, these are armchair Zionists who wouldn’t dream of going to live in Israel.

Money willingly we give there, Israel is our guiding star Not that we would ever live there, better worship from afar…’

Do they understand that they, too, are Herzl’s ‘Mauschel’ and Ben Gurion’s ‘human debris’? Do they even understand what the Zionist project is?

“…if every Jew in the world would make Aliyah to Israel…, it would, perhaps, be possible to say that the ‘Jewish question’ had been resolved.” (Ehud Olmert speaking to the 35th Zionist Congress in 2006)

The goal of negating the Diaspora has not changed. In October 2020, Avraham Duvdevani, Chairman of the World Zionist Organisation said, in an interview with the Jerusalem Post , that it may be difficult convincing Jews to leave their comfortable lives in the Diaspora, uproot themselves and move to Israel.However, “Zionism means doing the impossible and we are working with all of our power and ability”.

But what do JLM Zionists know about Zionism? What does Starmer know? Not a lot, I suspect. As far as Israel, its history and its policies are concerned, they are either ignorant, deluded or in denial. Their identities are so bound up with the militarised ethnocracy that is ‘The Jewish State’ that criticisms of its crimes send them into a panic and they can only respond with cries of ‘anti-semitism’ . And these cries are becoming more and more hysterical now because they know they have lost the argument and that Israel has lost control of the narrative.

Despite Herzl’s and Ben Gurion’s ardent hopes, Diaspora Jews have not disappeared. And if they had and merged into one homogeneous Hebrew-speaking Israeliness, wouldn’t that have been a shocking end to thousands of years of Jewish history and a tragic loss to the countries in which Jews have lived over the centuries and to which they made their contribution?

Leon Rosselson

Singer/songwriter, children’s author. Here you will find provocative musings on songwriting, politics and life’s little ironies. http://leonrosselson.co.uk