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You Reap What You Sow
“Freedom is never given. It must be taken.” (Ursula Le Guin)
(If you have received this by email, please click on the title to read the latest version on Substack. I often edit and correct stray typos after publishing the first version).
I was born, raised, and educated (or rather indoctrinated) in the state of Israel. Twenty-two years ago, a decade into my life in Australia, I began to wake up from the stupor of my indoctrination. I began to understand that the so-called ‘conflict’ with the Palestinian people was not what I thought it was.
Growing up, I was taught that all ‘Arabs’ — the word ‘Palestinians’ did not exist in Israeli vocabulary then — wanted to annihilate us. Everyone was brought up to believe that just like the Nazis, Arabs were antisemites who hated us for being Jews. We were a peace-loving, moral and ethical people who would never hurt anyone, except in self-defence. Even then, our military was guided by the principle of the ‘purity of arms’. The Israeli education system told us we were direct descendants of the Biblical people of Judaea who were forced into exile by the Romans1 in 70AD. In 1948, we merely ‘returned’ to our ancestral home and there was nothing wrong with that. All Israelis are taught to believe the world never wanted us to live in peace and quiet in our own country, because of antisemitism.
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I gradually began to realise that this version of history was either selective, or completely fraudulent. It took me a while, but eventually I began to grasp the real meaning behind the Zionist movement and its plan. I realised we were not the ‘good guys’, but in fact really rather bad. What I thought was my identity and history turned out to be a myth that hid the dark secret of the terrible crime we committed against our fellow humans.
After twenty-seven years of incessant Israeli Zionist indoctrination, including two years of military service, I finally understood that Zionism was just another settler-colonial movement. From its inception, the Zionist movement has always intended to replace the non-Jewish indigenous people of Palestine in order to create an exclusively Jewish state. It became crystal clear that the establishment of the state of Israel and the oppression of the Palestinian people were no different from what colonialists and settler-colonialists have done throughout human history.
What is settler-colonialism?
Settler-colonialism can be legally compared to a home invasion. Forcefully entering someone’s home and taking it over is a serious crime that no one would stand for in any democratic society. Regardless of how entitled the home-invader feels, or how desperate, they would be classed as criminals. There would be no confusion about who is the perpetrator, and who is the victim of this crime.
Now imagine that the original home-owner had absolutely no support from anyone. The authorities not only sided with the invader, but gave them more and more money, equipment and practical support to furnish, equip, and protect their stolen home. Imagine the authorities even accepted them as respected members of the local community.
Imagine that the invader told anyone with any power to intervene that, well, take your pick:
The home owner never existed in the first place — ‘The home was empty and had no owners when I entered it’.
God previously promised me this home and the land surrounding it.
The original home-owner had a home elsewhere, and was only there temporarily, therefore has no real claim on that home.
The original home-owner did not deserve to have that home because they were neglectful and primitive, and did not take good care of the property.
The original home-owner is an inherently bad person, a potential murderer who does not deserve any support from anyone.
I have suffered my whole life. I was always abused and homeless, and everyone hated me. I deserve this home for myself. I am entitled to do whatever is necessary to get it, even if it comes at the expense of the home-owner. Everyone has to accept this, or else they are just like those who have always abused me. I am the only victim.
Over the years, the home-invader became increasingly comfortable and established in their stolen home. They taught their children and grandchildren the history of the family as they wanted them to see it. After all, they would need them to defend the home in case the children or grandchildren of the original home-owner tried to take it back.
While the criminal justice system in our flawed democracies is far from perfect, we have made progress enforcing equality before the law. When a crime is committed, the focus is on the crime, not on the identities of victims or perpetrators. However, in the domain of international relations, there are worthy and unworthy victims. When it comes to Israel-Palestine, it is perfectly okay for Israeli Jews to commit a home invasion, oppress Palestinians with impunity, and cast them as the villains.
Most of the world has always colluded with Israel
From the time of the Balfour declaration in 1917, most of the world not only supported Israel, it actively aided and abetted Israeli settler-colonialism. The holocaust is not an excuse for Jewish Zionist settler-colonialism. The Zionist movement began to consider fully populated Palestine as a future ‘national home’ for the Jewish people in the late 19th Century. Back then, it was not regarded a crime by the international community. There was nothing unusual in yet another group of white people coveting the territory and resources of non-white others. Everyone was doing it. The US, Britain, Spain, Germany, France, Italy, the Dutch, the Ottoman Empire, all had colonies in resource-rich lands, often far away from their own borders.
For centuries, colonisers committed genocide, enslaved and oppressed indigenous peoples, and stole their land and resources. They used the proceeds to profit the ruling classes in their own societies. The West deemed itself morally, racially, and religiously superior to indigenous people. Zionism is only the latest manifestation of the same thing.
Historically, colonisers have tried to kill off as many of the indigenous people as possible to limit resistance, and facilitate smooth colonial economic development. By the time the new Zionist settler-colonial project came into being, the world was becoming slightly less tolerant of genocide. The founders of the state of Israel and their military force, the predecessor of the Israeli military, could not kill enough Palestinians in 1947-1948 in full view of the world. They did, however, commit massacres, and gang rapes, and ethnically cleansed 750,000 Palestinians from their homes and land, dispersing them across the Middle East.
In 1949, UN General Assembly Resolution 194 required Israel to allow Palestinian refugees to return home. But Israel had no intention of complying, and the world placed no pressure on Israel to abide by the Resolution. Israel was shamed into granting Israeli citizenship to the Palestinians who dared to stay behind. The Palestinian citizens of Israel, about 20% of the Israeli population, have always been second class citizens. Jewish Israel has seen them as a fifth column, and has always kept them under close surveillance. (Recently there have been growing calls by members of the Israeli Government to strip the Palestinien Israeli citizens off their citizenship).
The Palestinian refugees in the Gaza strip, and the Occupied West Bank have always reminded Israel that it has not ‘finished the job’. For seventy-five years Israel has been biding its time. It has waited for an opportunity to complete the project that Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minster, did not, to take all the land but without the people. Israel has exploited Christian guilt over the West’s antisemitism and the holocaust, as well as Western geopolitical interests to amass wealth, military might and political influence. All the while, the world has turned a blind eye to what Dr Ilan Pappé called ‘an incremental genocide’. If you cannot expel and murder masses of people in one fell swoop, you can try to drive them out, and break resistance by other, slower means. The establishment and expansion of the ‘settlements’ are one example of the single-minded, deliberate and systematic continuation of the Zionist settler-colonial program.
Israel never took the so-called ‘two-state solution’ seriously. Its signing of the Oslo Accords was a ruse to stall, and draw the world off the scent of Israel’s real intentions. The Palestinians have never had any illusions about this.
What does the Israeli media say on the second day of the invasion (Sunday, 8th October 2023)?
I am following the Israeli media in Hebrew. I hear what the non-Hebrew speaking world does not hear. Israel is in disarray. It is confused and disorganised. Its Government is populated with useless, incompetent, self-serving narcissists. They are busy flinging accusations at each other and at the military, which, incredibly, they seem to be excluding from their meetings.
Fifty years ago, in 1973, Israel was caught by a surprise attack on two fronts because Golda Meir’s Government did not listen to its intelligence services. This time, there was no intelligence at all. Palestinian fighters were able to breach the Gaza fence and infiltrate Israel, after jamming the surveillance and radar equipment that the Israeli military relied on. Israel had no idea. Israeli media admit that Israel had underestimated Hamas, but because Israel is so racist against Palestinians, it gives all the credit to Iran.
Hamas fighters have been infiltrating Israel, and the last I heard, they have taken at least a hundred hostages into Gaza. Fighting continues in a number of locations, and at the time of writing, the military does not have it ‘exactly under control’. The Israeli military has announced that they expect this ‘war’ to go on for weeks, possibly longer.
The Israeli media exemplify and amplify Israeli hypocrisy, and as always the language is rife with euphemisms. They refer to Palestinian fighters as ‘terrorists’ (méchablim), and to the Israelis victims as ‘murdered’. When Palestinians are killed, they are ‘eliminated.’ The large writing at the front of the set reads, ‘Israel at War’. A war is between countries, not between an occupier and occupied.
Israel has always been scathing about the victims of the holocaust, accusing them of ‘going like sheep to the slaughter’. I was brought up to see the Jewish victims as guilty of their own destruction, and to believe that resistance to oppression was a virtue worthy of admiration and imitation. When Palestine was still a British colony, the British called the members of the Jewish underground ‘terrorists’. We were brought up to see them as great heroes, and worship Jewish resistance to oppression and colonialism going all the way back to Biblical times. But Israel’s media portrays Palestinian resistance to Israel’s brutal setter-colonialism, and slow genocide as ‘terrorism’, and as a ‘crime against humanity’. The hypocrisy is eye-watering. As I watch and listen, I wonder if these media people even hear themselves talk.
Perpetrators of oppression at all levels, including domestic abuse, are notorious for projecting on their victims. Projection is a form of psychological defence. The ‘shadow’ as Carl Jung called it, contains all the things (negative and positive) that we keep hidden from ourselves, consciously or unconsciously. In Owning Your Own Shadow, Robert Johnson says,
Unless we do conscious work on it, the shadow is almost always projected; that is, it is neatly laid on someone or something else so we do not have to take responsibility for it. (p.27)
The settler-colonial state of Israel, the perpetrator of a seventy-five year long crime against humanity, portrays itself as the victim, and accuses the Palestinians of being the perpetrators. Now that the Palestinians are finally fighting back, Israel can wag its finger at the world, and say, ‘Aha! You see? We told you they were bad’.
Does Israel seriously suggest that the Palestinians should just wait to be led like ‘sheep to the slaughter’? The answer, of course, is ‘yes’! This is precisely what Isreal wants, and what its media reflect. They want the Palestinians to die, to disappear quietly into the night, until everyone has forgotten about them, and Israel can live happily ever after in its exclusively Jewish home.
How is it possible for Israel to be caught by surprise?
Back in the 1960s and 1970s, when I was growing up, Israeli soldiers were prepared to rough it, and to sacrifice their lives for their country. But Israel has grown accustomed to self-indulgence and complacency and it has been overrun by neoliberalism, imported unchecked from the US. Israeli society is arrogant, self-absorbed, and over-confident, qualities that have been well nurtured and indulged by the US, Israel’s greatest collaborator. Israel has become over-reliant on modern technology, and its citizens and military have grown soft. It has forgotten what a bunch of determined and desperate people are prepared to do, when they fight for their very existence. Israel has underestimated the Palestinian people, and the extent of the desperation it has created after decades of oppression, injustice and a slow-moving genocide.
The Palestinians know Israel well. They have had decades to study Israel’s military philosophy, and its weaknesses. Israel cannot ‘flatten’ Gaza as some in Israel are calling for. Hamas has kidnapped at least one-hundred Israeli Jews and brought them into Gaza as hostages. If Israel ‘flattens’ Gaza, it will kill its own people.
Israeli society is more fractured than ever, and the toxicity in its society is orders of magnitude worse compared to what it was when I left in 1991. What remained of the old cohesiveness and patriotism of the early days of the state has collapsed into a selfish, dog-eat-dog neoliberalist society. It is so bad, that nothing, not even a war, can unite Israeli citizens in the same way that military conflicts used to do in my time.
The Palestinians know they do not need to take on all of Israel. They only need to widen the existing fissures in Israeli society. If Israel falls, it would be because of internal collapse, not because of military defeat. It seems to me that the Palestinians’ justified, and long overdue rebellion intentionally presses on Israel’s weak spots.
Israel loves its airforce, and worships its pilots as heroes. But Israel cannot use its famed airforce on Israeli territory. Israel is densely populated. You cannot bomb Israel from the air, and hope to pick out a few infiltrators. You cannot police every street, and every building. The Israeli military is used to large scale wars at its borders, but is not equipped for guerrilla war in its own streets.
There is no difference in physical appearance between Jewish Israelis and Palestinians. When the Israeli media reported on the dead bodies in the town of Sderot, (one of the first colonies near the Gaza border to be invaded by Hamas fighters), they said you could not tell which bodies were Israeli citizens, and which were Palestinian.
I was inside our rented flat in February 1991, when a scud missile from Northern Iraq fell about five meters (~5 yards) from the front of our building in Ramat-Gan, near the centre of Tel Aviv. It was a primitive missile, but it caused a huge amount of damage to our street and our building. I was spared, but was left with trauma that lasted a few years, and was triggered every time I heard fireworks. To my ears, fireworks sounded just like the Patriot missiles that failed to intercept that missile, and the horrendous sound of the scud as it hit the road in front of our building.
That one missile caused enormous damage to property, but there was no war in our streets, no shooting, no further explosions, fighting, or violence. The paratrooper unit that was deployed to our neighbourhood for a couple of weeks, was sent there to prevent looting, not to fight anyone. (Yes, Israeli Jews tried to loot damaged shops and flats). The war came to our streets briefly but was otherwise far away.
Since then, it was easy for me to empathise with Palestinians in Gaza and the Occupied West Bank. Heavy and indiscriminate Israeli military violence has been in their streets, power and water plants, buildings, homes, hospitals, schools, and in the air. Israelis are used to bombing and damaging Palestinian civilian centres and Palestinian civilians. But they are not used to war in their own cities. This is unthinkable to them and shocking. Neither the Jewish Israeli public, nor the Israeli military are equipped for citizens to be at the centre of fighting, and Hamas knows it.
Hamas is inflicting on Israel exactly what Israel has been inflicting on the Palestinian population for decades. ‘An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind’, but what do you expect? Why should victims be more noble, or have more restraint than perpetrators, especially when they have absolutely no support from anyone?
How am I feeling?
I am heartbroken. I was always hoping against hope that Israel would grow a brain, listen to its own wise prophets, and give up its abusive and criminal settler-colonialist program. But Israeli culture is a product of traumatised, and narcissistic psychology. Instead of doing everything to recover from it, and refrain from passing it on to others, it has glorified it. Living with trauma is unsustainable and when you do nothing about it, it inevitably leads to crisis. Israel’s existence was always unsustainable. You cannot be well in a home you stole. You can never be free of the guilt no matter how deeply you tucked it into your shadow. Primitive, blinkered, survivalist psychology is bound to tear you apart. I left Israel long before I understood what I do now. As a young political science student, I recognised that Israel could only offer me and all of its people a life by the sword. Tragically, I have been proven right.
I am heartbroken for all the victims of Jewish Israeli settler-colonialism on both sides. I am heartbroken for the children, who from this day on will be forced to live with trauma. I am heartbroken for the Palestinians who have to sacrifice their lives because no one cares about them. They would rather die fighting for freedom than walk like sheep to the slaughter. Who better than Israel to understand this? If only Israel could see beyond its projections, trauma, and narcissism.
I have no sympathy for the state of Israel, and its setter-colonial project. If you oppress people too much, if you push them to the wall, you give them no option but to fight back. The Palestinian fight for liberation is ugly, because settler-colonialism is ugly. There are no good choices when you are caught up in an abusive system, where someone else holds all the power and can do to you whatever they wish. Without outside help, the only choices are to risk everything and fight, or suffer and die slowly.
As a character in an Ursula Le Guin novella says, ‘Freedom is never given. It must be taken’.
The Romans never exiled entire populations. They kept the conquered in their place to pay taxes to Rome, and exiled or enslaved leaders, and potential ‘trouble makers’. According to the Israeli historian Shlomo Sand, the historians of the Zionist movement and the early state of Israel deliberately fabricated the historical narrative to create a coherent, if fictitious, identity for the new state of Israel. I grew up not on history, but on mythology.