No longer than a decade ago in a Europe wide opinion poll 59% of respondents said that the State of Israel was a threat to world peace. Only last year in a global Gallup poll Israel was ranked the fourth greatest threat to world peace behind the United States, Pakistan, and China. This is insightful because it tells us that most people, in spite of global mass media, do not accept the narrative of the rogue state. Neither Iran nor North Korea appears on this list. Typically Israel explains this international lack of confidence in one of two ways; either claiming that the majority of the world is anti-Semitic and therefore naturally inclined to take sides against the Jewish State, or that the majority simply do not understand the facts. A fuller discussion on these lines of defence will have to wait. A number of facts do stand out however.
Before 1948 the State of Israel did not exist, and no Arab nation supported the United Nations’ plantation of the state on their territory. In 1967 Israel launched an aggressive land and air invasion of its Arab neighbours, and has since held the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank under military occupation – despite both the United States and the Soviet Union determining that Egypt, Jordan, and Syria did not pose a threat to Israel’s security.
Since 1967 the State of Israel has held upward of four million Palestinians within the grip of a dehumanising occupation, has most likely developed a strategic nuclear capability, and has consistently lobbied the United States – which no other nation can do – to pursue a relentless hostile foreign policy in the Middle East. It stands to reason that people see Israel as one of, if not the greatest threat to peace on the planet.
Israel is where it is because the Zionist project, from its earliest days, has made a claim on the land of Palestine. From the religious Jewish perspective this land was given to the Jewish people by God, and from the secular Jewish standpoint the Jewish people have an historic claim to the land because they inhabited it two thousand years ago. In the main Zionism – Jewish Nationalism – employs an ambiguous fusion of these religious and secular claims to assert a singular, yet ill-defined, moral claim on the land of Palestine.
Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because geography books no longer exist. Not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either. Nahlal arose in the place of Mahlul; Kibbutz Gvat in the place of Jibta; Kibbutz Sarid in the place of Huneifis; and Kefar Yehushua in the place of Tal al-Shuman. There is not a single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population.
– Moshe Dayan, April 1969
What is actually most interesting about this claimant package is that, under closer scrutiny, none of it stands up. Let’s for a moment consider God’s part in this. To the secular, atheist Zionist there is no God, and thus no divine gift. For the religious, things are a little more complex. According to two millennia of religious Jewish tradition it is considered meritorious to go up to Jerusalem, but not to return en masse; for the return to Israel must be with the messiah and not before then. Religious Judaism offers no theological, ethical, or religious support for the creation of the State of Israel. In effect this demands that the divine land grant claim is, until the messiah comes, invalid.
What then of the historical claim? Did Jewish people live in Palestine from the time of the Exodus to the Roman destruction of Jerusalem? Yes and no. Modern Judaism – which is not a singular culture – was a development of the centuries subsequent to the Roman Exile. Rabbinic Judaism was largely a creation of European and Mesopotamian Jewry. Pre-Roman Era Judaism was culturally, religiously, and ethnically quite different to the Judaism(s) of today. Historians prefer to call this Judean rather than Jewish culture, but there does remain an ethnic and cultural link between the two. So, in a limited sense, yes, there is a historical link between Judaism and the land of Palestine, but the only literary evidence for this relationship is to be found in the biblical texts, and these ultimately undermine any historical claim – if we are to take such claims seriously. The Judeans were not for first people in the land! That honour goes to the Canaanites and a few others, and the biblical texts spell out in lurid detail that the people of Israel – the biblical people of Israel as opposed to modern Israelis – committed genocide against them; exterminating every man, women, and child. Now by any standard this is a dubious historical claim to land ownership.