On not seeing the Middle East

By Lorenzo

Two now well-established anti-Israel lines of rhetoric are that the Jewish State is “Nazi-like” (Zionism=Nazism) and the Jewish State is “an apartheid state“. What these lines of rhetoric have in common is that they attack Israel invoking comparisons which resonate in the West and Western political rhetoric, invoking comparisons which have no specific connection to the Middle East at all.

There is, of course, actually a political movement with an attached paramilitary wing which openly endorses genocide in its founding political Covenant and in its continuing rhetoric. That would be Hamas and it currently runs Gaza.

But the nature, methods and goals of Hamas seem to be just too hard for many Westerners to deal with. Consider this piece by former US President Jimmy Carter and former Irish President Mary Robinson. It is full of the rhetoric of conciliation and “please just be sensible” that Very Serious People use to show their Very Serious Concern. Rhetoric that is essentially completely interchangeable–swap the relevant nouns and it could be a call for peace, goodwill and conciliation about any endemic conflict anywhere around the globe.

But Hamas is not interested in peace at any price. It is interested in the establishment of Islamic rule and the obliteration of Israel: a Middle East not only free of any Jewish state, but free of Jews, that is Judenfrei. Just as ISIS is currently massacring religious minorities in pursuit of the same vision of Islamic harmony.

Grand Mufti of Jerusalem saluting Bosnian Muslim SS volunteers.

It is simply not possible for Israel to make peace with Hamas. All it can manage is truces of various duration until the next mini-war. If one cannot grasp that reality, one is engaged in acts of delusion, not understanding.

Folk in Israel grasp that reality, which is likely why Israeli opinion is hardening, widening the gap between Israeli opinion and Western opinion. Part of what is going on is that Israel is becoming a Middle Eastern state. The dynamics of conflict have been driving it towards insider-outsider ruthlessness that is so much a part of the dynamics of the region, leading to suggestions that the most recent Gaza conflict is simply an eruption of continuing enmity, with no greater underlying strategy.

Yet what has enabled Israel to survive, and even to thrive, is precisely that it is not a Middle Eastern state: that it is a liberal-democratic nation-state on the Western model, with Western levels of social cohesion and organisational effectiveness. This is perhaps the danger that the Netanyahu Government’s apparent strategy of Greater Israel does not grasp. That giving into the Middle Eastern dynamic may fatally erode Israel’s advantages in being in, but far from merely of, the Middle East. Gazing into the Middle Eastern abyss does mean that the abyss gazes into you. Indeed, the entire quote from Nietzsche is apposite:

Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.

But Israel not being merely of the Middle East also feeds into its rhetorical isolation. First, Israel is judged as a Western liberal-democracy, and not as a Middle Eastern state. Second, Israel is treated as a “settler state”; a colonising and imperial intrusion into the region, thus casting the Palestinians as oppressed indigenes.  Which is again a case of not seeing the Middle East, given that about half of Israeli Jews come from the Middle East and are as every bit “indigenous” to the region as the Arabs. Indeed, in a sense more so, since their Middle Eastern identity is a great deal older than the Arab-Muslim one.

Hence the two-state solution. Recent events has thrown into very stark belief a fundamental problem with that. Arab states, they do not work so well (for reasons nicely summarised in this piece). Which raises serious issues about why would a putative Palestinian state be any more viable? (Ironically, the most hopeful answer is–because they have been observing Israel up close for 60 years.)

Which is not terribly hopeful, because it runs into the “taking on infidel models” problem that organisations such as Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS, etc are brutally committed to opposing. One of the fundamental problems of Palestinian politics is that hating Israel is both fundamental to Palestinian identity and the only common ground in Palestinian politics. It is likely why Arafat walked away from the best offer Palestine was ever likely to get: Ehud Barak‘s compensated borders proposal. He did not want to be Palestine’s Michael Collins or deal with disastrously divided “ordinary politics” toxically mixed in with frustrated hate.

The one-state “solution” would be even worse. The IDF is what makes Israeli Jews so much safer than any other Middle Eastern minority and there is no way they will voluntarily give it up. [Even French Jews are increasingly seeing the IDF as their preferred defenders.]

The problem with seeing the Middle East as it is, is that so much is so depressing. Hamas is a genocidal political movement whose only competitive advantage is well-organised hate who really was using dead Palestinians as a strategic lever. It is the real vector for Nazi-style ideas in the Middle East in a pattern that reaches back to the original leader of Palestinian rejectionism. But ideas that resonate by building on tendencies with Islam itself, including the problems of Arab society dealing with the modern world–in large part due to the dynamics of Islam.

Consider this example of Islamic jurisprudence from Sudan:

Meriam Ibrahim was born as the daughter of a Sudanese Muslim father and an Ethiopian Christian mother. The father deserted and Meriam was raised as a Christian by her mother’s family. She subsequently married Daniel Wasi, a Christian holding U.S. citizenship, with whom she had one child and was pregnant with another when she was arrested. The charge was apostasy and fornication. Under Islamic law the father’s religion determines the child’s, so Meriam is a Muslim. Unless she recants her professed Christianity she is guilty of apostasy. Marriage between a Christian man and a Muslim woman is prohibited, so her union with Wasi is fornication. She refused to recant her Christian faith. She was sentenced to death by hanging for apostasy, and for fornication to be whipped with one hundred lashes. Both sentences were to be suspended for two years after the birth.

There is no conception of an open public space where people get to make their own decisions and choose their own affinities or operate according to them. Sharia was, from its beginning, an imperial legal system, and that is still its in-built dynamic.

Seeing Hamas as the closest analogue in the Middle East to the Nazi movement gets in the way of a whole lot of comfortable Western assumptions and rhetoric. But it is hardly the only thing that does.



  1. Mel
    Posted August 7, 2014 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    I wonder how many Gazan residents are survivors or descendants of survivors of the forced expulsions and death marches?

    You also fail to mention the genocidal rhetoric and territorial objectives of the settler movement in Israel, which are sometimes accompanied by actions.

    There is plenty on ugliness and both sides and it is the easiest game in the world for outsiders like ourselves who know 1% of the history to cherry pick and embellish a couple of facts and fictionalise the narrative.

    It may be entertaining but it certainly isn’t enlightening.

  2. Mel
    Posted August 7, 2014 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    An interesting perspective on Israel in the American Conservative.

  3. Posted August 7, 2014 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] The section from The dynamics of conflict have been driving it towards insider-outsider ruthlessness to gazing into the abyss seems to have passed you by. I didn’t feel the need to go through lists of massacres, pogroms and terror attacks as that is not the point. How many Israeli soldiers at Lydda and Ramle had lost friends or family in x or y massacre of Jews? Such as the 1929 Hebron massacre.

    Which is why I did not bother to go through, or even allude, to lists of massacres, expulsions, terror attacks, etc. Where do you start?

    [email protected] Yes, well, an eloquent statement of the point I was making about The dynamics of conflict have been driving it towards insider-outsider ruthlessness.

  4. Pete
    Posted August 8, 2014 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    Hello, argument, are you in there?

  5. Dion Giles
    Posted August 8, 2014 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    The cat among the Middle East pigeons remains Israel’s founding assumption that Jews bear a genetic “specialness” that God has denied the rest of the world community (“goyim”), thus for example requiring a homeland separate from their existing homelands in Europe and the Americas. In short, racism.

    A two state “solution” could not work unless based on equality, without overlords and submen. This would mean:

    * Each territory to have equal state sovereignty.
    * No restriction of the flow of goods to one not matched by the same restriction of the flow to the other.
    * Equal rights for each to maintain full and free international relations and alliances.
    * Visa requirements for entry to be the prerogative of each territory.
    * Neither allowed to dictate the legal structure of the other.
    * Neither to be allowed to foist or retain by force settlements on the other’s territory.
    * Neither to have power to abridge the right of the other to accept immigrants or visitors.

    A racist deal, with born overlords and born submen, will never be accepted by the designated submen, nor should it be . If the Zionists consider their race too “special” to accept equality with others they may end up with an exasperated world leaving them to be engulfed by Islam and Sharia law. Karma!

  6. Posted August 8, 2014 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] I don’t know that race is the operative criteria here. Is a Falasha the same “race” as a blonde Russian Jew? Jewish identity is a matter of religion and blood, but bloodlines that cross conventional racial boundaries.

    The world at large has accepted all sorts of subordinations among Middle Eastern countries.

    But yes, sovereignty should mean sovereignty.

  7. Hildy
    Posted August 9, 2014 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    It’s not racist, but the acts of the victor over the vanquished. See the treaties that ended WWI and WWII for similar examples, or the unequal treaties foisted upon China, etc.

    If you think of your enemy as submen, then there is no need to place these things into the treaty – they either will not obey, or cannot hurt you. It is the respect paid to previous conflicts in which you have been hurt that leads to the need to impose harsh consequences.

  8. Posted August 9, 2014 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    [email protected] Nice point.

  9. Posted August 10, 2014 at 12:05 am | Permalink

    “The cat among the Middle East pigeons remains…”

    the, probably, “well intentioned” British Imperialist decision to “draw lines on a map”.

    (will, in this discussion, have to concede the fact that ‘modern’ Australia had no need to “draw lines” on a ‘continental’ map. It’s called a “coastline”).

    Something that very few people discussing “Northern Hemisphere” territorial conflicts actually understand.

    Also, very few people born in Australia, with generic heritage – actually understand (or care about) Northern hemisphere conflicts.

  10. Dion Giles
    Posted August 10, 2014 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Lorernzo, “race” is an ill-defined term and is generally taken to refer to genetic inheritance (and not, by the way, to brand of religious indoctrination). Grouping people on the basis of genetic inheritance borders on racism. Discriminating for the purpose of disadvantaging or privileging anyone on the basis of (real or invented) genetic inheritance IS racism. Thus Zionism is racism.

  11. Posted August 10, 2014 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] Only if any nationalism is racism. Which strikes me as a silly claim.

    Otherwise, it looks more like “Jewish nationalism is especially evil”, which does not seem a good place to go.

  12. Dion Giles
    Posted August 11, 2014 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    Lorenzo: Nationalism based on a real nation like France, USA, Australia etc. and not based on (claimed) genetic origin is not racism. Faux “nationalism” based on claimed genetic origin is. It’s evil only in on far as racism is evil. Other indications of evil (arising from racism) include the murderous ongoing attack on Gaza, the multiplicity of war crimes associated with it, and the ongoing armed seizures of ever more territory to establish illegal settlements to accommodate settlers selected on the basis of race. Nobody gets a leave pass from norms of decent conduct for being of this or that race or even nationality. This applied also to “good Germans” during the war.

  13. Posted August 12, 2014 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    [email protected] What on earth is your notion of a “real nation?” Something that existed before 1948? Or is it just “Jews are not allowed to have a refuge state”?

    Nationalisms based on ethnicity typically have purported “genetic origins”. Bringing “racism” into the equation seems much more a rhetorical tactic than something even vaguely resembling useful analysis. In particular, calling Jews “a race” post 1941-5 seems tone deaf at all sorts of levels. As does using the word “evil” so readily.

    The land seizures are wrong. And Hamas has set things up so it is near impossible to fight them with killing civilians. Which still leaves it entirely open whether the Israeli military operation is justified.

  14. Posted August 30, 2014 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

    My guess is that by “real nation” DG means a normal territorial nation state (not one of the nastier ones), rather than a nation expressly established to further the interests of an ethno-religious group privileged over the interests of a sizeable portion of the people actually living there at the time of establishment or many of the people living there now or just next-door in terrorised semi-state enclaves.

  15. Dion Giles
    Posted August 31, 2014 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Exactly, Lorenzo. Thank goodness someone has the wit to comprehend the philosophical basis for anti-racist hostility not just to the policies and egregious actions of Israel but to its very existence.

    Some of this is a gut reaction, after the world has seen the arrogant proclamation that a dreamed-up “Aryan” ethnic group was chosen by history to be overlords over submen in ever-increasing areas of the world in order to seize Lebensraum for themselves. And to plunge the rest of the world into millions of deaths in the process.

    I’ll take it further. I understand that I could presume to trace my own ancestry to Celts, who originated, I believe, in a corner of now-Austria. I cannot imagine anything more vile and racist (in the accepted meaning of the term “racist”) for people with an ethnic ancestry something like mine to demand the brutal expulsion of the inhabitants of that part of Austria to set up a “homeland” for us as overlords, more “special” than the rest of the 7 bn inhabitants of the earth. I can’t imagine anything more cringe-making than to claim that I don’t have a “homeland” in Australia where I and my family were born and live (like Jews) AS EQUALS with everyone else.

    Jews , like Celts and even self-styled “Aryans”, already have homelands as equals in dozens of countries in Europe, Britain, the Americas, Oceania. If they suffer racist discrimination (as in some Arab and ex-Soviet countries) they are quite able to select and adopt homelands in the above-mentioned decent countries.

    So I see Israel as a contemptible racist oppressor on Palestinian land, an insult to the people (including Jews) of the rest of the world, and a source of danger of a holocaust of gigadeaths throughout the planet. I rejoice, however, in the observation that the world is inexorably, however slowly, grasping the message and Israel is losing the hearts-and-minds war.

  16. Dion Giles
    Posted August 31, 2014 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Sorry, looks as if I misread authorship and my gratitude for a voice of non-racist reason belongs to Marcellous rather than Lorenzo.

  17. Mel
    Posted September 1, 2014 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    Dion Giles:

    … and a source of danger of a holocaust of gigadeaths throughout the planet.

    Are you doing drugs?

  18. Dion Giles
    Posted September 1, 2014 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    To Mel:

    Not really. World [population is 7 x 10^9. The conhjseq

  19. Posted September 1, 2014 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] So, you are advocating the abolition of Pakistan?

    If, in the 1930s, countries like Australia and US had been prepared to give refuge to the Jews of Europe, Zionism would have been a dead cause. But we weren’t, were we?

    Israel is a refuge for the Jews of the Middle East too. I am sure the Christians of the Middle East would prefer to have such a refuge. Including the Christians of Gaza.

    It is one thing to say that Israel should not be seizing Palestinian land outside the boundaries agreed by the UN. It is quite another to say “therefore, the Jewish state should not exist”.

    The Jewish state seems to be performing the same function as the Jews used to–to be the pool into which the world spits.

  20. Hildy
    Posted September 1, 2014 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    A real nation like Australia, which was established through the merger of colonies, maintained a racist policy for the majority of its history?

    How is ‘Malaysia for Malaysians’ different to ‘Israel for Israelis’? Israel is less racist than Malaysia.

    Here are a few questions for you:

    1. Were the British Mandate, and the Balfour Declaration, valid? How is it different to say the establishment of Singapore, and importing Chinese workers?
    2. Was the declaration of Israel in 1948 valid? Self-determination of people who were the majority in their particular part of Palestine at the time. How does this compare to say the declaration of Kosovo? What if Kosovo had declared independence in 1991 during the breakup of Yugoslavia?
    3. In the absence of a peace treaty, what should the borders of Israel be?

  21. Mel
    Posted September 1, 2014 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    The Armenians chose not to have their own nation. Their Muslims friends rewarded them thusly.

  22. Posted September 2, 2014 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    L @ 19: your pool of spit link is a pretty partisan account, isn’t it?

  23. Dion Giles
    Posted September 2, 2014 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, my reply to Mel got cut off by the vagaries of my computer. If he is referring to my canvassing the prospect of gigadeaths arising from the West falling in line with the settlers’ demands to involve itself in protecting their overlordship (e.g. in frequently-demanded aggression against Iran) who’s to know where a resulting global nuclear holocaust will go? The world has 7 billion people – enough for seven gigadeaths – and a massive supply of nukes.

    However make it megadeaths if you like. A couple of major cities. Sydney and Melb9uyrne? No thanks – not to satisfy a bunch of racist maniacs who claim a “Covenant” from God to be the world’s overlords.

    Lorenzo: Re “racism” I mean people grouped gathered worldwide the basis of their DNA. Call it wheelbarrow if you like – everyone knows what it means and what it meant also in the Boer “legal” system.

    Hildy: Malaysia is another racist monstrosity made in Britain, like Israel. A bit cynical to describe foreign settlers as a majority in the seized part of Palestine after 1948. After the invasion and massive ethnic cleansing creating several million exiles do you mean? The way “Aryans” were set to become the majority in the Ukraine during their Drang nach Osten?

  24. Mel
    Posted September 2, 2014 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

    Dion Giles,

    You sound like a piss weak pissant, if you don’t mind me saying so. Little man syndrome, perhaps.

  25. Dion Giles
    Posted September 3, 2014 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    Mel: None the less, strong enough to reduce you to schoolboy incoherence it seems. Do you think God has made you an overlord perhaps?

  26. Posted September 3, 2014 at 10:33 am | Permalink


    [email protected], no, just explaining what I thought DG meant, although my explanation now appears to have been only a part of it.

  27. Mel
    Posted September 5, 2014 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    Dion Giles:

    You are creepy and racist. There is no other way to interpret this:

    If the Zionists consider their race too “special” to accept equality with others they may end up with an exasperated world leaving them to be engulfed by Islam and Sharia law.

    Arab citizens of Israel certainly have a lot more power and rights than the 600,000 migrant workers in the ME.

    Take your meds.

  28. Dion Giles
    Posted September 5, 2014 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    These are the claims Mel reckons are creepy and racist:

    * No race or ethnic group or ancestry or wheelbarrow or whatever you want to call it is ordained by God to be overlords. None Anywhere.
    *Anyone who claims a right to racial overlordship is asking for whatever the designated submen end up dishing out
    *No-one who claims a right to racial overlordship deserves to claim blood or treasure from the rest of the world to protect their overlordship. No-one. Not “Aryans”, not Jews, not Boers.
    *The troubles in the Middle East can be ended justly only in the context of equality, with no born overlords and no born submen.
    *Inclusion of some Arabs in Israel on sufferance doesn’t address the millions forcibly exiled from their own homeland to dwell in camps and Bantustans under the bullying eye of overlords.

    Reviewing word by word all of what Mel has written here paints a picture of an arrogant racist with delusions of God-given overlordship. Instructive and suggestive of an ongoing review of Australian foreign policy.

  29. kvd
    Posted September 6, 2014 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    Well, the thing I find really creepy is the repetitive use of ‘overlordship’. Is this maybe a gamer term which has slipped into the real world? What is a “bullying eye of overlords”, and who or what is meant by “submen”?

  30. Dion Giles
    Posted September 8, 2014 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    Responding to kvd, it’s not rocket science. Overlords consider themselves and their ethnic group as men born to rule. Submen are those born to be ruled by the overlords. Examples of overlord bullying include reprisal aerial massacre of submen populations for challenging their submen status, checkpoints restricting submern to separate bantustans, control by the overlords of who and what enters and leaves the submen’s territory, forced annexation of submen’s land for overlord settlements, . . need I go on? The key, if it still seems too much to comprehend, is the lack of reciprocal powers. Get it?

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