To claim the right to create an exclusively Jewish state based on an interpretation of historical record is, at best a convenient argument and at worst an outright lie. No one denies Jews haven’t lived in Palestine for thousands of years and few would argue that Palestine isn’t the cradle of Judaism but you ignore the fact that it’s also the cradle of Christianity and Islam and Christians and Muslims have also been living there for thousands of years. We’re also conveniently ignoring the fact that people lived in Palestine before monotheism was established. It’s interesting too that we ignore the fact that Zionism, a nationalist movement established in the 19th century, seeks to ‘recreate’ a Jewish state in Palestine but this begs the question.. ‘was there ever an ‘exclusively Jewish’ state?’. Certainly, I haven’t seen any evidence of this. The concept of ‘Israel’ seems unique. As far as I’m aware, there isn’t any other country in the world that exclusively represents people of one religious group and denies citizenship, land, property, access and voting rights to people who do not follow that religion but who, never the less, live under its control.
As Professor Robert Wintemute, who teaches human rights law at Kings College (London), points out, there’s something odd about the fact that a state that openly invites Jews from around the world to ‘return’ and become citizens of Israel, supposedly after thousands of years of Jewish exile and yet denies the right of return and citizenship to Arab Palestinians who have been exiled for just a few decades.
So, why is the white Christian western world content to give Israel, a racist, murderous, thieving, apartheid, colonial regime, legitimacy? Well, we can speculate, given that white Christian European nations were keen to ‘deal with’ the Jewish refugee ‘problem’ at the end of the 2nd world war by finding a solution that meant they didn’t need to take in thousands of Jewish refugees, it’s worth considering what would happen if Israel became a failed state (just like apartheid South Africa failed in the end). It’s conceivable there might be a mass exodus of Israeli Jewish refugees heading back to their ancestral European homes. Imagine the ramifications of that for a moment and then how much more politically explosive would it be if these refugees asked for reparations?
Of course western powers also rely on Israel as a political ally (one that happens to supports regime change) and let’s not forget that Israel is a trading power that spends a lot of money on weapons of mass destruction, which it buys from the west. Some might also feel threatened by the possibility that if the state failed then these advancements and weapons could fall into the hands of the Palestinians.
Wintemute explains… “Christian majority countries of Europe created the model of invasion, conquest, colonisation, taking over other people’s lands… Zionism was established in that context, when there was nothing wrong with racism. There was an assumption of European racial superiority and we had the right to get on boats and go across oceans and take over other countries.” He then reminds us that, by some strange irony, “we have a situation in Europe today where people are really shocked and horrified that people from Asia and Africa get on boats and come to Europe without permission.. so we don’t like it when the position is reversed… One of the motivations of Britain in issuing the Balfour Declaration was to divert Jewish refugees from the Russian empire to Palestine, so essentially saying.. we’ve got too many refugees in Britain, we don’t want anymore, what a great idea, we’ll send them to Palestine” essentially saying “Jewish people don’t belong in Europe.” According to Wintemute “the doors were closed in Britain, Canada and the US.. so Palestine became the only option”
In response to the Zionist argument of self-determination Wintermute explains “there was no ‘right’ to move to Palestine in order to exercise self-determination and I can’t think of any other example of self-determination in the world where a population is moved… self-determination is about a majority within a defined territory..” Wintemute goes on to explains that when European Jews arrived in Palestine they still only made up 1/3rd of the population, which is very far from a majority and he asks “since when did 1/3rd of a population get to demand partition of a country?” He proceeds to pull apart the argument that it was somehow the fault of the Arabs because they rejected the UN partition plan and he points out how “The 1947 UN partition proposal gives 55% of the land to the Jewish State, which would be controlled by 1/3rd of the population,” which is clearly unfair. He then explains that the countries who voted in favour of the proposal were “mainly.. guilt ridden but hypocritical Christian majority countries that voted for partition of Palestine but would oppose any partition of their own territories.” Why not a Zionist state in a Christian majority country in Europe he asks? Why one in an Arab nation who had nothing to do with the persecution of Jews in Europe?
Wintemute has no qualms about referring to Israel as “Europe’s last colony” and is happy to point out that “the conquest of the territory of an indigenous people can only be forgotten or swept under the carpet of history, if the surviving indigenous people, or their descendants, are belatedly being treated by the conquerors as equal citizens, with full voting and other rights.” On this point I would point out that there is also precedence for returning a conquered nation back into the control of the indigenous population (the end of colonial rule in India and South Africa are just 2 examples), although we naturally assume the terms to be agreed for such an exchange would still insist on granting citizenship and equal rights for all who choose to stay.
Wintemute then tackles pro-Israel activists who seem ever ready to pounce with cries of anti-Semitism if you dare to accuse Israel of being a racist apartheid state. This, he explains, is a tad ironic given that the Palestinian people are also Semitic and, in fact, many Jews do not refer to themselves as Semitic. Pro-Israel activists also argue that victims of abuse, such as European Jews, couldn’t possibly perpetrate abuse onto others. Wintemute explains that, in reality, the facts are that victims of abuse can, and frequently do, go on to abuse others so this argument is not rational. A rational response would be to look at the facts, just as you might in a criminal investigation – is there a victim, how did it happen, who was involved etc.
Wintemute then describes the Israeli government’s response to accusations of apartheid as “a technical, legal” argument. It argues “that it treats Palestinians differently because of their nationality or citizenship” in other words they argue that Palestinians “are not citizens of Israel” but “not on the basis of racial, national or ethnic origin… so they would say that residents of GAZA and the west bank, including east Jerusalem are living under a ‘temporary’ military occupation and will someday be citizens of a state of Palestine”. Another argument is that “the Palestinians who ‘fled’ in 1948 or 1967 were displaced by armed conflict and should be granted citizenship by the countries where they live” and point out that “Palestinians citizens of Israel enjoy equal citizenship.” In reality, Wintemute explains, Palestinians have been under military occupation for 53yrs, which is hardly “temporary”. He provides an example of another “temporary military occupation” – the US placed Japan under military occupation for 7yrs and points out that the US did not send settlers to Japan or build housing for US citizens.
As a professor in human rights law, Wintemute is able to offer a legal view on the ‘occupation’ and tells us that Israel is wrong to keep pointing out that there are land annexations elsewhere in the world and they are wrong to complain that Israel is being unfairly singled out for criticism. The big difference, he explains, is that in other examples of land annexations, the people living there are treated as equal citizens with voting rights. Israel “maintains a fiction of occupation because it’s convenient,” says Wintemute. It gives them the excuse of not having to give Palestinians citizenship or the right to vote. By definition, this is apartheid because ‘the’ key feature of apartheid is “racial discrimination in access to citizenship and the right to vote”. Wintemute argues that Palestinians should consider changing their legal argument from one of occupation to one of apartheid because it has more of a political shock factor.
While I understand Wintemutes legal argument I’m wondering if this might not be a flawed as it would concede authority to the colonial occupation force. In other words, if Palestinians decide to demand the rights that have been taken away from them by a colonial power, then are they not giving that colonial power the legal authority to grant those rights?
On the argument that Palestinians are ‘refugees’ because they apparently ‘fled’ in 1948 or 1967 as a result of armed conflict and therefore should seek citizenship in the countries they fled to, Wintemute explains that what normally happens after an armed conflict is that refugees are allowed to return to their homes when the conflict ends. The occupation force simply refused to allow Palestinians to return to their homes, so people of one ethnic origin, who were born there, have been denied the right to return while people of another ethnic origin and who happen to be Jewish are welcomed in from all over the world. Also, Palestinians, and many Jewish scholars, now recognise that in reality, the so-called Palestinian refugees didn’t flee the territory, they were forcibly removed by the occupation force. Wintemute explains that Israel wanted to be seen as a democracy but, as the majority of people living in the area were Arabs, they knew that the only way they could ensure Jewish control under a democracy was by removing the majority of the non-Jewish Arab population, something Wintemute refers to as “disguised but vigorously denied apartheid”
On the argument that Palestinian citizens of Israel enjoy equal citizenship, Wintemute points out that, in reality, only about 25% of Palestinians under Israeli control have the right to vote and they don’t have the right to vote for a political party that they would want to represent them, especially if that party challenges Zionist ideology. This would simply not be allowed. In Wintemutes opinion, the only reason why the 25% got the right to vote at all was because they were clearly in the minority (seemingly part of the strategy to perpetuate a myth of a Jewish democracy). He also points out that Palestinians do not enjoy equality because there are many laws that discriminate against them.
Wintemute goes on to argue that the best solution for the current situation would be a bi-national democratic state, which was effectively the model for the end of apartheid in South Africa where the “previously oppressed and discriminated against people” forgive their occupiers a create “a strong constitutional court” that would protect equal rights for all. What he hopes could be avoided is a situation like Algeria in 1962 when over 800k French nationals were threatened and told that if they don’t leave they could be killed.
Wintemute then turns his attention to Donald Trump’s peace plan and explains that this so-called ‘peace plan’ insists that there should be no airport and no seaport for the Palestinians, effectively denying them any access to the outside world. Effectively, the leader of the so-called ‘free world’ is espousing that Palestinians should be interned in a Nazi style containment camp where they have no rights and the Jewish state has complete control over what goes in or comes out of the camp, including food, water, medical supplies, fuel etc. In reality, this is exactly what’s already happening to the Palestinians, so Trump is merely offering his endorsement but Wintemute is keen to point out that the Trump ‘peace plan’ closely resembles the “Black Homelands solution” previously proposed by the South African apartheid regime in the 1970s. The Black Homelands plan proposed 10 fragmented areas or small pockets of land that were physically unconnected to each other that could be assigned to the entire black majority population. It gave them citizenship to one of these small remote territories but they were denied South African citizenship or the right to vote. Each pocket was to have their own internal autonomy but they would all still be under the complete external control of the South African authority.
Israel is unique, says Wintemute. Despite the fact it’s clearly an apartheid state and has repeatedly committed violations of human rights and international laws it has mostly avoided any serious sanctions. The recent expulsion of the Rohingya attracted sanctions, Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 also attracted sanctions but not Israel, why? Wintemute explains this is because Israel labels any criticism, boycott or reprimand of Israel as racial discrimination and anyone advocating for action against Israel is seen to be inciting racial discrimination or racial hatred. However, there is some light at the end of the tunnel according to Wintemute. He explains that despite the fact that half of all US states have passed “anti-boycott laws” that allow employers and universities to force you to sign forms to say that you will not participate in any boycott against Israel, the Supreme Court has recently ruled that ‘a non-violent, politically motivated boycott is constitutionally protected’ and this decision is now being used to successfully challenge the anti-boycott laws.
Wintemute mentions another recent case in France where a group of BDS activists were taken to court for encouraging shoppers to boycott Israeli goods. Although they were initially acquitted by the trial court, the prosecution won their case in the court of appeal. It then went to the highest court in France but they upheld the Court of Appeals ruling. However, when it landed in the European Court of Human Rights, they ruled that the French courts had violated article 10 on freedom of expression, which meant that people have a right to call for a boycott of Israel.
Jeremy Corbyn, Keir Starmer & the Labour Party (time mark: 1hr 13min 36 sec):
Wintemute said he wasn’t as excited about Corbyn’s election as leader of the Labour Party as some of his Palestinian friends were because he knew that unless Labour won an election nothing would really change. He acknowledges that there was a vile smear campaign by the Jewish press against Jeremy Corbyn because they wanted to stop a pro-Palestinian leader getting elected to government. He points out that now, suddenly, there’s no media campaign screaming about Antisemitism within the Labour Party because they got what they really wanted – the removal of Jeremy Corbyn.
He thinks Starmer is an impressive speaker but he can’t see him taking any concrete steps in support of Palestine, given that he’s already declared that he supports Zionism (Wintemute thinks we should be facing right up to Zionism). In Wintemutes opinion, “if Antisemitism is anti-Jewish racism..(then) Zionism is pro-Jewish racism”, which means what Starmer is taking a “completely unprincipled” position by saying “I support racism when it benefits people I like.”
In Wintemutes opinion, South African Apartheid was easier to overcome because it was obvious – the White South African regime openly advocated for apartheid, so we effectively knew who the enemy were). Israel, on the other hand, tries to cover up it’s apartheid and paints itself as a law abiding western democracy.
Wintemute believes that raising awareness is what will ultimately change public opinion and force through political change. He explains how, even now, we see young Jewish people in the US turning against Israel and this is likely to be a prelude to a shift in the wider population as more and more Jewish people begin to realise they have been lied to… “Zionism and International Human Rights Law conflict because Zionism is really a Jewish Supremacy Movement.. it says the solution to anti-Jewish persecution is Jewish Supremacy in Palestine”
Wintemute also argues we shouldn’t just be calling for Boycott Divestment & Sanctions of settlement goods, we should be targeting the whole of Israel because it’s Israel that built the settlements, it’s Israel that operates an apartheid regime and it’s Israel that’s guilty of numerous human rights abuses.
I would also add that until we manage to finally get rid of the last white European colony, black lives will never truly matter.