Rice Compares Israeli Occupation to Infamous US Segregation
By Lenni Brenner
Can anyone be more defensive of Zionism’s reputation than Israel’s Prime Minister? Therefore many wondered why Ehud Olmert suddenly announced after Annapolis that
“if the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights, then, as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished.” (news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7118937.stm - 11/29/07)
Apparently he was reacting to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s blunt statements to him. Haaretz, Israel’s most prestigious newspaper, says that
“In private conversations—and as she said in Annapolis—Rice tends to compare the Israeli occupation in the territories to the racial segregation that used to be the norm in the American south. The Israel Defense Forces checkpoints where Palestinians are detained remind her of the buses she rode as a child in Alabama, which had separate seats for blacks and whites. This is an uncomfortable comparison, of course, for the Israelis, who view it as ‘over-identification’ on her part with Palestinian suffering.”
(Aluf Benn, “What’s the hurry?” - http://www.haaretz.com - 12/27/07)
America’s Anti-Defamation League and other apologists for Israel scream at ex-President Jimmy Carter for denouncing West Bank Israeli apartheid. And Haaretz reports American Zionist ultras dumping on Rice for using the s-word, which, if it sticks to Israel, will be fatal for Zionism in the US. Now these fanatics rant at Olmert for his statement. But he is smarter than his rightists. When Rice and Carter say what they do, Israel must make a deal with the Palestine Authority and the Arab states backing it, or face growing opposition within American imperialism from those more concerned about Arab oil than Zionist campaign contributions. Olmert knows that growing divisions between Israel and its patron will inevitably inspire many Palestinians to continue to fight Zionism until it is defeated like the apartheid regime that even he says it resembles.
Of course Olmert isn’t abandoning Israel’s ‘right’ to exist as a Jewish state within borders recognized by the Authority and the Arab world. Ditto Carter and Rice. But if a Jewish state is legitimate in principle, how and why did “the only democracy in the Middle East,” as Israel proclaims itself, end up looking like apartheid South Africa and the segregated American south? We will never get honest answers from Olmert, much less from Rice, who shows no sign of in-depth knowledge of Zionist history. But there is indeed an intelligent explanation. We can find it in “The Iron Wall (We and the Arabs),” written in 1923 by Vladimir Jabotinsky (1880-1940), the founder of the “Zionist -Revisionist” movement which Olmert grew up in.
Jabotinsky was Russian-speaking and a gifted writer in that language and many others. Indeed his talents were so extraordinary that he soon became a leading international Zionist figure and was instrumental in getting London to establish a “Jewish Legion” in 1917 to help Britain take Palestine from the Ottoman empire.
Early Zionism had many utopian writers who don’t do anything to implement their idealistic notions. But volunteering in an imperial army molded Jabotinsky into a realist. Read him, below, and you will understand why Israel ended up as Rice’s “segregation” and Olmert’s “apartheid,” and why Olmert doesn’t dare invite the world at large to read his own political idol. Jabotinsky prided himself on his clear logic. But that’s Olmert’s problem. The Iron Wall is the ultimate handbook on pith-helmet Zionist “colonisation.”
Olmert, Rice and Carter all call for a “2-state solution,” even if in different voices. Olmert wants as big a Zionist state as he can keep with minimal Israeli casualties, with the Palestinians confined in a ‘Bantustine’ no bigger than a broom-closet. Rice is prepared to be a tad more generous to the natives. But segregation or apartheid, religious or ethnic, has no right to exist on even one inch of today’s planet.
After long struggles, American legal segregation and South African apartheid are dead and gone and we all say good riddance to them. It is time, indeed it is past time for progressive Palestinians and Israelis get their act together, set up their equivalent of the American civil rights movement and the African National Congress, and call for a democratic secular bi-national Palestine/Israel. When they do, Zionism will join segregation and apartheid in the cemetery reserved for defeated colonial regimes.
Vladimir Jabotinsky, “The Iron Wall (We and the Arabs),” Rassvyet (Berlin), November 4, 1923
[Note: The article 1st appeared in English, captioned as below, in South Africa’s 11/26/37 Jewish Herald. - LB]
The Iron Wall
Colonisation of Palestine
Agreement with Arabs Impossible at Present
Zionism Must Go Forward
By Vladimir Jabotinsky
It is an excellent rule to begin an article with the most important
point. But this time, I find it necessary to begin with an
introduction, and, moreover, with a personal introduction.
I am reputed to be an enemy of the Arabs, who wants to have them ejected
from Palestine, and so forth. It is not true.
Emotionally, my attitude to the Arabs is the same as to all other
nations – polite indifference. Politically, my attitude is determined by
two principles. First of all, I consider it utterly impossible to eject
the Arabs from Palestine. There will always be two nations in Palestine –
which is good enough for me, provided the Jews become the majority. And
secondly, I belong to the group that once drew up the Helsingfors
Programme, the programme of national rights for all nationalities
living in the same State. In drawing up that programme, we had in mind
not only the Jews, but all nations everywhere, and its basis is
equality of rights.
I am prepared to take an oath binding ourselves and our descendants that
we shall never do anything contrary to the principle of equal rights,
and that we shall never try to eject anyone. This seems to me a fairly
But it is quite another question whether it is always possible to
realise a peaceful aim by peaceful means. For the answer to this
question does not depend on our attitude to the Arabs; but entirely on
the attitude of the Arabs to us and to Zionism.
Now, after this introduction, we may proceed to the subject.
Voluntary Agreement Not Possible
There can be no voluntary agreement between ourselves and the Palestine
Arabs. Not now, nor in the prospective future. I say this with such
conviction, not because I want to hurt the moderate Zionists. I do not
believe that they will be hurt. Except for those who were born blind,
they realised long ago that it is utterly impossible to obtain the
voluntary consent of the Palestine Arabs for converting “Palestine” from
an Arab country into a country with a Jewish majority.
My readers have a general idea of the history of colonisation in other
countries. I suggest that they consider all the precedents with which
they are acquainted, and see whether there is one solitary instance of
any colonisation being carried on with the consent of the native
population. There is no such precedent.
The native populations, civilised or uncivilised, have always stubbornly
resisted the colonists, irrespective of whether they were civilised or
And it made no difference whatever whether the colonists behaved
decently or not. The companions of Cortez and Pizzaro or (as some
people will remind us) our own ancestors under Joshua Ben Nun, behaved
like brigands; but the Pilgrim Fathers, the first real pioneers of North
America, were people of the highest morality, who did not want to do
harm to anyone, least of all to the Red Indians; and they honestly
believed that there was room enough in the prairies both for the
Paleface and the Redskin. Yet the native population fought with the same
ferocity against the good colonists as against the bad.
Every native population, civilised or not, regards its land as its
national home, of which it is the sole master, and it wants to retain
that mastery always; it will refuse to admit not only new masters but,
even new partners or collaborators.
Arabs Not Fools
This is equally true of the Arabs. Our peace-mongers are trying to
persuade us that the Arabs are either fools, whom we can deceive by
masking our real aims, or that they are corrupt and can be bribed to
abandon to us their claim to priority in Palestine, in return for
cultural and economic advantages. I repudiate this conception of the
Palestinian Arabs. Culturally they are five hundred years behind us;
they have neither our endurance nor our determination; but they are just
as good psychologists as we are, and their minds have been sharpened
like ours by centuries of fine-spun logomachy. We may tell them whatever
we like about the innocence of our aims, watering them down and
sweetening them with honeyed words to make them palatable, but they know
what we want, as well as we know what they do not want. They feel at
least the same instinctive jealous love of Palestine, as the old Aztecs
felt for ancient Mexico, and the Sioux for their rolling Prairies.
To imagine, as our Arabophiles do, that they will voluntarily consent to
the realisation of Zionism. In return for the moral and material
conveniences which the Jewish colonist brings with him, is a childish
notion, which has at bottom a kind of contempt for the Arab people; it
means that they despise the Arab race, which they regard as a corrupt
mob that can be bought and sold, and are willing to give up their
fatherland for a good railway system.
All Natives Resist Colonists
There is no justification for such a belief. It may be that some
individual Arabs take bribes. But that does not mean that the Arab
people of Palestine as a whole will sell that fervent patriotism that
they guard so jealously, and which even the Papuans will never sell.
Every native population in the world resists colonists as long as it has
the slightest hope of being able to rid itself of the danger of being
That is what the Arabs in Palestine are doing, and what they will
persist in doing as long as there remains a solitary spark of hope that
they will be able to prevent the transformation of “Palestine” into the
“Land of Israel.”
Some of us have induced ourselves to believe that all the trouble is due
to misunderstanding –- the Arabs have not understood us, and that is the
only reason why they resist us; if we can only make it clear to them how
moderate our intentions really are, they will immediately extend to us
their hand in friendship.
This belief is utterly unfounded and it has been exploded again and
again. I shall recall only one instance of many. A few years ago, when
the late Mr. Sokolow was on one of his periodic visits to Palestine, he
addressed a meeting on this very question of the “misunderstanding.” He
demonstrated lucidly and convincingly that the Arabs are terribly
mistaken if they think that we have any desire to deprive them of their
possessions or to drive them out of the country, or that we want to
oppress them. We do not even ask for a Jewish Government to hold the
Mandate of the League of Nations.
One of the Arab papers, “El Carmel,” replied at the time, in an editorial article, the purport of which was this:
The Zionists are making a fuss about nothing. There is no
misunderstanding. All that Mr. Sokolow says about the Zionist intentions
is true, but the Arabs know that without him. Of course, the Zionists
cannot now be thinking of driving the Arabs out of the country, or
oppressing them, nor do they contemplate a Jewish Government. Quite
obviously, they are now concerned with one thing only—that the Arabs
should not hinder their immigration. The Zionists assure us that even
immigration will be regulated strictly according to the economic needs
of Palestine. The Arabs have never doubted that: it is a truism, for
otherwise there can be no immigration.
This Arab editor was actually willing to agree that Palestine has a very
large potential absorptive capacity, meaning that there is room for a
great many Jews in the country without displacing a single Arab. There
is only one thing the Zionists want, and it is that one thing that the
Arabs do not want, for that is the way by which the Jews would gradually
become the majority, and then a Jewish Government would follow
automatically; and the future of the Arab minority would depend on the
goodwill of the Jews; and a minority status is not a good thing, as the
Jews themselves are never tired of pointing out. So there is no
The Zionists want only one thing, Jewish immigration; and this Jewish
immigration is what the Arabs do not want.
This statement of the position by the Arab editor is so logical, so
obvious, so indisputable, that everyone ought to know it by heart, and
it should be made the basis of all our future discussions on the Arab
question. It does not matter at all which phraseology we employ in
explaining our colonising aims, Herzl’s or Sir Herbert Samuel’s.
Colonisation carries its own explanation, the only possible explanation,
unalterable and as clear as daylight to every ordinary Jew and every
Colonisation can have only one aim, and Palestine Arabs cannot accept
this aim. It lies in the very nature of things, and in this particular
regard nature cannot be changed.
The Iron Wall
We cannot offer any adequate compensation to the Palestinian Arabs in
return for Palestine. And therefore, there is no likelihood of any
voluntary agreement being reached. So that all those who regard such an
agreement as a condition sine qua non for Zionism may as well say “non”
and withdraw from Zionism.
Zionist colonisation must either stop, or else proceed regardless of the
native population. Which means that it can proceed and develop only
under the protection of a power that is independent of the native
population –- behind an iron wall, which the native population cannot
That is our Arab policy; not what we should be, but what it actually is,
whether we admit it or not. What need, otherwise, of the Balfour
Declaration? Or of the Mandate? Their value to us is that an outside Power
has undertaken to create in the country such conditions of
administration and security that if the native population should desire
to hinder our work, they will find it impossible.
And we are all of us, without any exception, demanding day after day
that this outside Power should carry out this task vigorously and with
In this matter there is no difference between our “militarists” and our
“vegetarians.” Except that the first prefer that the iron wall should
consist of Jewish soldiers, and the others are content that they should
We all demand that there should be an iron wall. Yet we keep spoiling
our own case, by talking about “agreement,” which means telling the
Mandatory Government that the important thing is not the iron wall, but
discussions. Empty rhetoric of this kind is dangerous. And that is why
it is not only a pleasure but a duty to discredit it and to demonstrate
that it is both fantastic and dishonest.
Zionism Moral and Just
Two brief remarks:
In the first place, if anyone objects that this point of view is
immoral, I answer: It is not true; either Zionism is moral and just, or
it is immoral and unjust. But that is a question that we should have
settled before we became Zionists. Actually we have settled that
question, and in the affirmative.
We hold that Zionism is moral and just. And since it is moral and just,
justice must be done, no matter whether Joseph or Simon or Ivan or
Achmet agree with it or not.
There is no other morality.
In the second place, this does not mean that there cannot be any
agreement with the Palestine Arabs. What is impossible is a voluntary
agreement. As long as the Arabs feel that there is the least hope of
getting rid of us, they will refuse to give up this hope in return for
either kind words or for bread and butter, because they are not a
rabble, but a living people. And when a living people yields in matters
of such a vital character it is only when there is no longer any hope of
getting rid of us, because they can make no breach in the iron wall. Not
till then will they drop their extremist leaders whose watchword is
“Never!” And the leadership will pass to the moderate groups, who will
approach us with a proposal that we should both agree to mutual
concessions. Then we may expect them to discuss honestly practical
questions, such as a guarantee against Arab displacement, or equal
rights for Arab citizens, or Arab national integrity.
And when that happens, I am convinced that we Jews will be found ready
to give them satisfactory guarantees, so that both peoples can live
together in peace, like good neighbours.
But the only way to obtain such an agreement, is the iron wall, which is
to say a strong power in Palestine that is not amenable to any Arab
pressure. In other words, the only way to reach an agreement in the
future is to abandon all ideas of seeking an agreement at present.
Lenni Brenner was born into an Orthodox Jewish family. He became an atheist at 10, and a socialist at 15, in 1952. He was arrested 3 times during 1960s Black civil rights sit-ins. He spent 39 months in prison when a court revoked his probation for marijuana possession, for his activities during the Berkeley Free Speech Movement at the University of California in 1964.
Immediately on imprisonment, he spent 4 days in intense discussion with Huey Newton, later founder of the Black Panther Party, whom he encountered in the court holding tank. He worked with Stokely Carmichael (later known as Kwame Ture), the legendary “Black Power” leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, in their Committee against Zionism and Racism, from 1985 until Ture’s death in 1998.
Brenner is the author of 4 books, Zionism in the Age of the Dictators, The Iron Wall: Zionist Revisionism from Jabotinsky to Shamir, Jews in America Today, and The Lesser Evil, a study of the Democratic Party. His books have been favorably reviewed in 11 languages by prominent publications, including the London Times, The London Review of Books, Moscow’s Izvestia and the Jerusalem Post.
He has written over 120 articles for many publications, including the American Atheist, New York’s Amsterdam News, the Anderson Valley Advertiser, The Atlanta Constitution, CounterPunch, The Jewish Guardian, The Nation, The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Middle East Policy, Middle East International, The Journal of Palestine Studies, The New Statesman of London, Al-Fajr in Jerusalem and Dublin’s United Irishman.
In 2002 he edited 51 Documents: Zionist Collaboration with the Nazis. It contains complete translations of many of the documents quoted in Zionism in the Age of the Dictators and The Iron Wall.
In 2004 he edited Jefferson & Madison On Separation of Church and State: Writings on Religion and Secularism.
He blogs at http://www.smithbowen.net/linfame/brenner