ISRAEL: WHAT IS IT AND DOES IT HAVE A RIGHT TO EXIST?

Leon Rosselson
6 min readMay 3, 2024

Israel is a settler colonial state founded on terrorism (Irgun, Lehi/the Stern Gang) — 2 of Israel’s prime ministers (Begin & Shamir) were leaders of terrorist gangs — massacres, the destruction of some 400 Palestinian villages and the the ethnic cleansing of 750,000 of the indigenous inhabitants — an ethnic cleansing that continues through the 1967 war to this day as Israel aims to expel 2 million Palestinians trapped in Gaza into Egypt.

The most notorious of these massacres occurred in Deir Yassin, a peaceful village where at least 107 Palestinians, including women and children, were murdered but more gruesome was the massacre in al-Dawayima on 29th October 1948. According to a report received by the Israeli daily Al HaMishmar, soldiers from the 89th Battalion entered the village and killed 80 to 100 Arab men, women and children. “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 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 arm 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.”

The report was never published. In another village, Safsaf, a report submitted to the Mapam Political Committee listed the crimes committed by Israeli soldiers: “52 men tied with a rope and dropped into a well and shot. 10 were killed. Women pleaded for mercy. Three cases of rape…a girl aged 14 was raped. Another was killed.”

Ben Gurion wrote in his diary: “Soldier witnesses to these events concluded that cultured officers had turned into base murderers and this not in the heat of battle but out of a system of expulsion and destruction. The less Arabs remained the better. This principle is the political motor for the expulsions and atrocities.”

Israel isn’t the only settler state to be born in sin and blood but it may be unique in its strenuous efforts to deny, mythologise, tell lies about its history. From ‘A land without a people for a people without a land’ to ‘The Arabs left because they were told to by their leaders’ to ‘There is no such thing as a distinct Palestinian people’(Golda Meir) to ‘The Bible is our mandate’ (Ben Gurion, (who didn’t believe the Bible stories but others did, and that’s what mattered) ) Israel has attempted to justify its theft of Palestinian land and its resources. As for making the desert bloom like a rose, the settlers actually did the opposite. The early settlers from the Palestine Jewish Colonization Association introduced the eucalyptus into Palestine, thus beginning the process of destroying the native habitat. In the Hula Valley, for example, the settlers planted eucalyptus trees to drain the valley, adversely affecting the soil, water cycle, biodiversity and wildlife of the valley on which the native Palestinian farmers had thrived for centuries.

Palestine’s native olive trees on the other hand, the bedrock of Palestinian economy,have been deliberately targeted by Israeli settlers and the IDF. It is estimated that Israel has uprooted nearly a million olive trees since the occupation.

Israel describes itself as a Jewish state but it would be more accurate to call it a Zionist state. Zionism is an ideology that is predicated on the antisemitic belief that Jews do not belong in the countries where they have lived over the centuries. The endgame of Zionism is the negation of the diaspora. Uri Avnery, the Israeli journalist and peace campaigner, explains it like this: “In the Zionist school in Palestine,” he writes, “we were taught that the essence of Zionism is the negation of the Diaspora (called exile in Hebrew). Not just the physical negation but the mental, too. Not only the demand that every single Jew come to the land of Israel but also the total repudiation of all forms of Jewish life in Exile, their culture and their language (Yiddish). The absolutely worst thing we could say about anybody was to call them an Exile Jew.”

In Hashomer Hatzair (the Young Guard), the youth movement of Mapam which defined itself as socialist zionist, (an impossible contradiction but we didn’t know that then) Our Shlichim (messengers) told us that our lives as diaspora Jews were unnatural, abnormal, unfulfilling, unJewish. And we were offered, courtesy of Ber Borochov, a pseudo-Marxist interpretation of this belief. Jewish life in ‘exile’, they told us, was like an upside-down pyramid, a small working class base supporting a preponderance of the intelligentsia and the moneyed classes. Only in a state of their own in Palestine could the pyramid be turned the right way up so that Jews could lead normal lives and engage in the class struggle alongside the Arab proletariat whose interests they shared.

Did they believe this fairytale? It seems unlikely. They were, after all, of an age to have fought in the 1948 war so must have known what happened in the Nakba. And they didn’t tell us that the ‘Arabs’ at that time were living under military rule. On the other hand, I don’t think they were lying exactly. It’s more likely that they were, like most Zionists, in a state of denial.

When I think of those in Hashomer who were persuaded to make aliyah (ascent) and went to Israel with the best of intentions, I wonder how they cope with the reality of what is happening in Palestine under occupation, the slaughter in Gaza, the apartheid system… By living in a state of denial, I assume.

It is no surprise, given the Zionist project’s core aim is the disappearance of the diaspora Jew, that antisemitism permeates the writings of its founding fathers, from Jabotinsky on the right to Ben Gurion on the left.

Theodore Herzl, whose Judenstaat is Zionism’s seminal text and who is venerated in Israel, despised the shtetl dwelling, Yiddish speaking ghetto Jew. He had no interest in judaism and refused to have his son circumcised. His first solution to ‘the Jewish problem’ was a mass conversion of Vienna Jews to catholicism.

‘It should be done on a Sunday, in St. Stephen’s Cathedral, in the middle of the day, with music and pride, publicly,’ he wrote.

He blamed Jews for antisemitism because they ‘carried the seeds within them’. Yiddish was banned in his Judenstaat. His writings reek of antisemitism.

This, for example, describing the attendees at a Berlin soiree in 1885: “ Some thirty or forty ugly little Jews and Jewesses. No consoling sight.” Clearly Herzl didn’t like Jews much.

The hatred of Jews is even more marked in the writings of Jabotinsky, founder of the revisionist movement and Likud, the party of Begin and Netanyahu:

“Our starting point is to take the typical Yid of today and to imagine his diametrical opposite … Because the Yid is ugly, sickly, and lacks decorum, 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 is despised by all and, therefore, the Hebrew ought to charm all. The Yid has accepted submission and, therefore, the Hebrew ought to learn how to command. The Yid wants to conceal his identity from strangers and, therefore, the Hebrew should look the world straight in the eye and declare:I am a Hebrew!”

And on the left, Ben Gurion, who hated Yiddish even though he’d been brought up with the language, viewed the holocaust survivors who came to Israel as ‘human debris’ because they came as refugees not pioneers.

In short, Zionism’s aim is to consign the old Jew to the dustbin of history and in his/her stead create the new Jew, the ‘chazak ve’ematz’ Jew, the strong and courageous Hebrew speaking Israeli who will not flinch from torturing and murdering children.

And now Israel’s Human Rights Association, B’Tselem, the American Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have all examined the evidence and confirmed that Israel is an apartheid state — a crime against humanity.

So does Israel have a right to exist? The demand that the Palestinian negotiators must recognise Israel’s right to exist has long been used by Israel as a ploy to block any settlement. And it was put to me in an email exchange recently by an ex Hashomernik now settled in Kibbutz Zikim. My answer was, first of all, that there is no such right as a state’s right to exist. A state exists or it doesn’t. No-one demanded that Yugoslavia had a right to exist. And who now remembers that there was once a country called Rhodesia?

Let us rephrase the question. Does an exclusively Jewish state founded on the dispossession and continued oppression of another people have the right to exist? The answer, clearly, is absolutely not.

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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