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Israeli state is worried about questioning of its history 

This article is over 3 years, 9 months old
As Seth Rogen talks about Israel’s lies, Tomáš Tengely-Evans looks at the myths around the foundation of the state
Issue 2717
Seth Rogen was right to say there there were people in Palestine before 1948
Seth Rogen was right to say there there were people in Palestine before 1948 (Pic: Palestine Solidarity Project/Flickr)

All it took was one comment from actor Seth Rogen for one of Israel’s leading politicians to spring into action.

Rogen said on a podcast that “as a Jewish person I was fed a huge amount of lies about Israel”. Referring to the Israeli state’s founding in 1948, he added, “They never tell you that, ‘Oh by the way, there were people there’.”

Shortly afterwards Isaac Herzog tweeted that Rogen had apologised for his comments—a claim the actor denies. 

Herzog is an Israeli Labour politician and chairperson of the Jewish Agency, set up in 1929 to promote Zionism among Jewish people and colonisation in Palestine.

This fragility in the face of criticism shows the Israeli state is worried about the worldwide outcry against its oppression of the Palestinians.

In the US, in particular, Israel is facing a crisis of support among left wingers and liberals, including many younger Jewish people.


There is opposition to Binyamin Netanyahu’s right wing government, such as its annexation of Palestinian land and embrace of Donald Trump and Europe’s far right.

But it also includes a questioning of Israel’s founding ideology of Zionism. 

This response to antisemitism in Europe argues for an exclusively Jewish state in Palestine, and justifies Palestinian dispossession and oppression.

One poll in San Francisco’s Bay Area found that only 40 percent of Jews aged 18 to 34 were comfortable with the idea of a Jewish state.

Rogen is by no means an anti-Zionist.

But what he said questioned one of Zionism’s main myths—the claim that Palestine was “a land without a people for a people without a land”. Israel’s was built on the ethnic cleansing of more than 800,000 Palestinians, a process known as the “Nakba” or catastrophe. 

Paramilitary forces that went on to become the Israeli army drove Palestinians from villages and towns through massacres and terror.

Since its foundation, Israel has grabbed more Palestinian land and brought more Palestinians under its rule.

In 1948 Israeli forces conquered land beyond what was stipulated in the UN partition plan for the British‑ruled Mandate of Palestine. Then in 1967 Israel captured East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. 

But Israeli politicians are obsessed with maintaining a demographic majority. Israel’s first prime minister David Ben-Gurion said, “Only a state with at least 80 percent Jews is a viable and stable state.”

So what happens to the Palestinians under its rule? 

Since the 1993 Oslo Accords, US and Israeli leaders have talked of a “viable Palestinian state” alongside Israel. But throughout this time Israel further cemented its control in the Occupied Territories. 

Today more than 600,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank, their vast settlements connected to Israel with exclusive roads. 

And some 3 million Palestinians live as Israeli subjects while the Palestinian Authority acts as a subcontractor for the occupation.


The idea that the US—which supports Israel to safeguard its interests in the Middle East—would deliver a two‑state solution was always a sham. 

But Donald Trump’s “peace deal” has further exposed this. 

It would make formal the apartheid that Palestinians already live under.

This situation isn’t just down to the policies of the Netanyahu government. Occupation and apartheid flow from the logic of the settler colonial project.

One state is inevitable. The question is whether it will be the Israeli apartheid state or a democratic state with equal rights for Palestinians and Jews. 

Herzog’s reaction shows how concerned the Israeli government is about the sense of unease about its foundations and actions. 

As more people question Israeli occupation, it’s time for the left to stand up and make the argument.

Winning liberation means supporting the Palestinian struggle against colonialism and apartheid.

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