Germany: Israel, Israel Above Everything - Merkel in the Knesset
by Anis Hamadeh
If the German chancellor really cared for Israel’s security as she claimed, she would not have been able to hold a speech like the one she presented on March 18 in front of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. Israel is one of the most insecure countries in the world. Why is that? According to Merkel’s speech Hamas, Hizbollah, Syria and Iran seem to be responsible. Those are criticized by her for their attitude towards Israel. The chancellor said that Israel has been fighting for 60 years against threats and for peace and security, with the values of freedom, democracy, and human dignity. Is that so? Then why are Jewish intellectuals inside and outside Israel - Holocaust survivors among them - vehemently and increasingly deploring the moral decay, militarization of the society, and the self-destructive policy of the country? People like Ilan Pappe, Uri Avnery, Gideon Levy, Amira Hass, Reuven Moskovitz, Uri Davis, Jeff Halper, Hajo Meyer, Hedy Epstein, Noam Chomsky, Felicia Langer, Ran Ha Cohen, Norman Finkelstein, Shulamit Aloni, Michael Warschawski, Tom Segev. And institutions like B’tselem, Gisha, Zochrot, Rabbis for Human Rights, The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, Jewish Voice for Peace. The list is much longer, these are only examples. Each of those individuals and groups are concerned about Israel’s security and they write and protest out of their sense of responsibility.
We are still confronted with the phenomenon that critics of the Jewish State are labeled as anti-Semites or as self-hating Jews, respectively. Historian Ilan Pappe, for instance, in his current bestseller “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine” provided evidence that the foundation of Israel was accompanied by crimes against humanity. A great part of the indigenous population had been brutally expelled - some were murdered -, hundreds of villages were destroyed and estates were disseized. What kind of peace can you reach by ignoring facts like these? What kind of peace can you seek when ignoring the decade-long occupation of the Westbank and the Gaza Strip? And the annexation of a part of Syria? What kind of peace can one hope for when a wall is built not on the border, but on the land of the neighbor? When settlements are placed in occupied territory and expanded until today against international law? When water reservoirs are being tapped that do not lie on the own state territory? When populations are harrassed and treated with violence because of their ethnic affiliation? When democratic elections of the neighbor are annulled which arouses a civil war?
Frau Merkel said that Germany is “decidedly” committed to “the vision of two states”, but this is what Israel keeps saying for decades, while the Palestinian territory is getting smaller and smaller because of annexations and fragmentations. It is a stalling word that does not mean anything. Especially when a corrupt Fatah government is being kept alive, one that is alienated from the own population. The current Palestinian general deputy to Germany, for example, who is denied the rank of an embassador, neither speaks German nor is committed to his people. He comes from the notorious Tunis clique and gets along with Olmert and Merkel better than with his own folks. One of the advisors of Mahmoud Abbas was recently busted for attempting to smuggle thousands of mobile phones to Jordan. Fatah is associated with treason and golden faucets, and with an authoritarian egotistic policy. There is no state to be built on that.
“60 years of Israel - that is 60 years of brilliant construction work of the people under difficult circumstances”, said Merkel. There surely is something missing. Can it make sense to flatter the official Israel and to encourage it in a destructive policy? At first the violence of the people under occupation must stop, at first the occupying state must be acknowledged, this is what we hear. It is presented as a condition. But even in places where there are nonviolent demonstrations, like in Bil’in, Israel plays the card of military harshness. Occupation and oppression lead to resistance and also to terrorism, this is a truism.
Unfortunately, in big politics it is not the facts that count, but myths. Israel and the Jews allegedly are victims of history until today, this is what every child in Israel learns in school. “Although the Federal Republic of Germany has always stood with Israel and its right of existence, the German public has often lacked an engagement and empathy for the state that was wrenched from the desert and a hostile anti-Western environment. Polls show time and time again that many Germans have a lot of understanding for the Palestinians and their problems - while remaining on a most critical distance to Israel, regarding Israeli heroism of survival to rather be an aggressive basic attitude”, wrote the editor-in-chief of the daily newspaper “Die Welt”, Thomas Schmid, on March 16, 2008, sentimentally in a contribution for page 1. When Israel’s violence is praised to be heroic, it is no wonder that there is no change. The myth of Israel the victim, the myth of the Six-Day war, the myth of Oslo, the myth of anti-Semitic Islam/Arabia, they are all refuted and still form the basis of Western policy.
It is perfidious that Israel claims to speak and act for all Jews. To perform breaches of human rights and of international law explicitly in the name of the Jews - this inevitably leads to the creation of anti-Jewish tendencies. This is a major problem. It would be an anti-Semitic clichè, so we hear, that the Jews are themselves responsible for Judaephobia. Yet the discussion does not end here.
If things are so straightforward, why then does Israel act against its own interests? From the beginning, the Israeli society has been traumatized with the Nazi genocide against the Jews. It is in the nature of the trauma that the unmastered situation is played through and unconsciously provoked over and over again, to the end of understanding what had happened in Germany and Europe. This is the reason why Palestinian, Arab and Muslim leaders have constantly been conceptualized as Hitler’s revenants: Arafat, Sheikh Yasin, Saddam, Ahmadinejad etc. The brutal measures against the civil population also is to be understood in terms of the trauma: it is a truism that victims can easily turn to perpetrators when not overcoming their trauma. This certainly is also true for Palestinians. There is another reason for Israel to remain in its trauma: the Zionist ideology needs anti-Semitism as a legitimation. It is the linchpin of Israeli policy, Likud’s and Labor’s alike. Without the “existential threat”, be it real or propaganda, the Israeli identity breaks down, at least as long as it is Zionist.
In German mainstream media and in politics the news about Israel and Palestine are strongly filtered and also falsified. A glimpse on the daily news at http://www.theheadlines.org shows the enormous discrepancy between what is reported in Germany and what is not. Germany’s policy towards Israel can be summarized such that anti-Semitism turned to philo-Semitism: the evil Jew became the good Jew. Both is racist and helps no one. Both separates Jews from other people, both mean a special treatment.
We Germans did understand that “Germany, Germany above everything” (former lyrics of the national anthem) was wrong. So why should the philo-Semitic “Israel, Israel above everything” be right? Or “USA, USA above everything”. George Bush launched an aggressive war against Iraq. We remember that the launching of an aggressive war was the main charge in the Nuremberg trials. So what can be our measure? The answer is as simple as it is compelling: international law and the human rights. Without any buts. It is simply a mistake to demand that “both sides” in this asymmetrical conflict have to move toward each other and compromise. Palestine, in comparison with Israel, has no power, no state, no army, no money, no infrastructure, not even enough to eat and drink. Legally, the situation is as clear as daylight and there is nothing to negotiate. There simply is a law to comply with, and this is all.
Now, whoever thinks that Germany because of its past is the least fit of all countries to fundamentally criticize Israel, is wrong. Israel is destroying itself and friend Germany, who experienced such a self-destruction himself, not only watches, but even encourages Israel to continue and speaks of “shared values”, like Merkel in front of the Knesset. This has nothing to do with the thesis that Israel does not listen to anyone when it gets to politics. It is not true, anyway. Again and again internationals report that the presence of Western witnesses moves Israel to retentiveness, even though the murder of Rachel Corrie, Tom Hurndall and other activists show that there are dangers, too. Germany took a far too easy way when it turned from an absolute Nazi solidarity to an absolute solidarity with the USA and Israel. It is complicit in the results.
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