In less than five days last week, US equipped Israeli war planes wrecked the infrastructure of Lebanon’s society - with Lebanese civilian deaths running at over ten times the number of civilian deaths in Israel.
What we see here is the blood-stained application of a Zionist doctrine known as the “Iron Wall” philosophy. This was pioneered in the 1920s by Zeev Jabotinsky, founder of the far right “revisionist” school of Zionism. It argued that Zionists should use overwhelming force to defeat their Arab foe.
As the progressive Israeli historian and Oxford University professor Avi Shlaim showed in his book The Iron Wall - a brilliant modern history of Israel - nearly every Israeli leader has signed up to this murderous doctrine. Today’s Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, is no exception.
Jabotinsky was openly racist. Here he followed Theodore Herzl, the founder of Zionism, who saw the European Jewish colonial settlement of Palestine as “the rampart of Europe against Asia, an outpost of civilisation against barbarism”.
Of course many Jews, fleeing anti-Semitism in Europe and looking for a “safe haven” in the Zionist settlements of Palestine, did not see it this way.
But as the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky put it, Zionism created a “trap” for these Jews.
They may not have wanted to become colonialists - indeed many of the original migrants thought they were socialists - but settlement in Palestine required “displacing” the Arab peasants that had tilled the land there for centuries.
The Jewish migrants became colonialists whether they wished it or not. Indeed the famous “kibbutz” commune settlements were often built on stolen Arab land.
There is another factor driving Israeli aggression. Successful Zionist settlement of Palestine always required the backing of at least one of the Western powers.
In the middle of the First World War, Britain’s entire imperial war cabinet - with one honourable Jewish exception, Edwin Montagu - converted to the cause of Zionism.
David Lloyd George, Winston Churchill and Arthur Balfour saw the expanding Zionist settlements as a device for securing Palestine for the British empire.
A British backed Zionist colony would become a military fortress at the heart of the Arab world, they reasoned. It would help secure control of both the Suez Canal and the oil coming on stream in British controlled Mesopotamia, as Iraq was then called.
In the latter part of the 20th century, the US replaced Britain as the sponsor of what was now the Zionist state of Israel.
It was the US president Richard Nixon who ratcheted up military and financial support for Israel. His administration, and all US administrations afterwards, came to regard Israel as a “proxy” or “strategic asset” that would keep the Arab world in a condition of permanent submission.
By the end of the 20th century, the US had spent no less than $100 billion backing Israel militarily and financially. This a figure that dwarfs US contributions to its other client states.
How Bush’s ‘war on terror’ has ratcheted up the crisis
In this century, the so-called “war on terror” has given an added ideological twist to US backing for Israel.
The neo-conservative strategy that drives George Bush’s Middle East policies foresees the US and Israel reshaping the whole of the Middle East in their interests, by force if necessary.
According to this plan, Islamic regimes and Islamic political influence must be rooted out - irrespective of the democratic will of the people.
Thus the present crisis erupted when the US, Britain and Israel refused to accept the mandate the Palestinian people had given its newly elected Hamas government. Unlike its predecessor Fatah, Hamas refuses to recognise the legitimacy of the state of Israel.
It is a measure of the bankruptcy of the “Iron Wall” philosophy that Israel, with US backing, has ignored the Hamas offer of a long term truce and comprehensive negotiations.
If an old imperial power like Britain can negotiate with Sinn Fein and the IRA, if the South African apartheid regime could negotiate with the “terrorist” Nelson Mandela, then Israel can certainly negotiate with Hamas.
Three key demands of the Palestinians - all rooted in United National resolutions and backed by international law - would secure lasting peace in the Middle East.
- Total Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza, freeing borders and air space.
- Agreement to share the city of Jerusalem on an equal basis
- Conceding the right of return for Palestinian refugees expelled when Israel was founded on Palestinian land in 1948.
Israel sees the termination of the Zionist structure of the Jewish state in these demands - especially the third one, which would end the Jewish majority in the territory within Israel’s current borders.
Herein lies the crux of the problem - the Zionist state and Palestinian liberation are indeed incompatible, because Zionism systematically privileges the Jew at the expense of the Arab.
Dismantling the Zionist state structure provides the only context for Arab and Jew to live together on the basis of peace, equality and harmony.
John Rose is author of The Myths of Zionism and Israel: the Hijack State, both available from Bookmarks. Go to www.bookmarks.uk.com