Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog.
I recently broke my Golden Rule of Social Media by checking the comments section on a news story, a grave sin for those who want some semblance of peace and happiness in their lives. The comments section on websites like YouTube and Facebook generally have a reputation nowadays for being a cesspit of inflammatory or ignorant comments, and the one I foolishly commented on was no exception.
The post in question was a link by Israeli news site Haaretz to an article written by Zionist Union leader and Labor Party chairman Isaac Herzog, who failed to oust incumbent Likud Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Israel’s recent legislative elections. He was responding to criticism by journalist and writer Gideon Levy, a Haaretz columnist who has been openly critical of Israel’s occupation of Palestine and who advocates a one-state solution to bring about the end of the conflict.
Herzog, whose party supposedly represents the left-wing of Israeli society, penned the article to accuse Levy of wanting to bring about the destruction of Israel by creating a single state for both Palestinians and Israelis, therefore removing something called the ‘demographic balance’, a phrase used by the first Prime Minister of Israel David Ben-Gurion, which refers to maintaining a Jewish majority in Israel in order to create a safe state. To summarize, Herzog believes that Jews living in Israel will be under threat if they are outnumbered by Palestinians, or Arabs in general. He writes:
“Levy believes in one state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea — a state with an Arab majority, as in all the countries surrounding us. He doesn’t want to throw us into the sea. He wants the Jewish minority between the Jordan and the sea to be swallowed up by the Arab majority […] Which sane Israeli would choose to live in a state with an Arab majority?”
Secretary General of the Labor Party, Yehiel Bar, said something strikingly similar in his New York Times op-ed about the existential “threat” facing Israel. He writes:
“The only way for Israel now to remain both Jewish and democratic — that is, for Israel to remain a democracy and retain its Jewish majority — is to separate from the Palestinians via a two-state solution. Without such a settlement, Israel is drifting ineluctably toward becoming a bi-national state. And make no mistake: The logic of the bi-national state means an end to the Zionist project.”
Therefore according to Herzog and Bar, who both apparently oppose the right-wing Likud-led government, an increased Palestinian population is not only a threat to Israel’s Jewish character, but also a threat to democracy itself. Naturally I am deeply opposed to their racist comments and I expressed this in the Unholy Comments Section of the Haaretz Facebook post. I said that Herzog is a racist and it is a damning indictment of the Israeli political system when both sides of the political aisle both endorse a racially pure state brought about by ethnic cleansing.
Reception was mixed. Many people liked my remarks, but the comments on it were mainly made up of people saying “How is that racist?”, a question that, ironically, is often used by racists in Britain. Additionally, one person commented:
“It’s not racist to want your ethnic group to be the majority in your home country. There are many legitimate reasons for the preservation of one’s culture and identity. I have absolutely no qualms in saying that I would prefer it if Britain remains majority white people (those with a genetic and ancestral history there), rather than become majority Asian or African.”
Another more aggressive comment that is too long to repost said that whenever Jews have lived as a minority, either in European or Arabic countries, persecution campaigns and massacres have ensued against them, therefore they have at least earned the right to be a majority in the state they live in, and can plausibly cite “security reasons” as justification for removing Palestinian villages from existence. Sadly, I’m not making that last comment up.
This is racism. More specifically it is white supremacy, given that the Zionist project has for a long time been mainly aimed at preserving a homeland only for white Jews. One need only to look at Israel’s brutality towards Ethiopian and Mizrahi Jews and its hostility to non-white asylum seekers to know that a secure Jewish state actually means a secure Ashkenazi Jewish state, which again undermines its so-called democratic character.
That aside, the hopes for a racially pure state, or at the least a state with more Jews than Arabs, is a textbook, dictionary definition of racism. It is composed of attitudinal hostility towards other ethnic groups on the basis that they are inferior or dangerous, coupled with practical hostility in different areas of society like healthcare and justice. The belief that Jews will be under threat if the Palestinian population outnumbers them is racist because it assumes that Palestinians and Arabs in general are all anti-Semites, and violent ones at that. There is no evidential basis for the claim that the some 422 million Arabs in the world are all murderers and Jew-haters and therefore it is pure fabricated prejudice, i.e. racism, to say so.
The demographic balance of a state simply does not matter so long as all ethnic and religious groups are free from persecution, either attitudinal or institution. But a little bit of history shows how ironic these comments about extermination really are:
In the 19th and 20th century, mainly white Ashkenazi Jews move to Palestine in the hopes of setting up a homeland and eventually a state. Some Zionist groups (for we must always distinguish between Zionism and Judaism), and lone settlers treat the indigenous Palestinians as backwards barbarians and begin to ethnically cleanse them from their homes (See The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine for a fuller account). In this long period, Palestinians are fire-bombed, shot at, massacred, and driven from their homes.
Then, some sixty years later, Herzog and a merry band of Facebook commenters warn that if there are too many Palestinians in Israel-Palestine, Jews will be fire-bombed, shot at, massacred, and driven from their homes. Woeful irony indeed.
Now, that isn’t to downplay the massive infestation of anti-Semitism and the death toll it has brought, both in the European and Arabic spheres. From the Dreyfus Affair to the Holocaust to the autocracy of Gamal Abdel Nasser, Jews have often been persecuted across the world because they were few in numbers. But that doesn’t give Zionist politicians like Herzog the justification to then take that very same mistrust and discrimination and inflict it upon a besieged and oppressed people who have, by and large, shown absolutely no desire to exterminate Israelis. The some 422 million Arabs across the world have not, by and large, expressed this desire either.
In the end, advocating a racially pure state, no matter who is the dominant race, is a morally diseased position that will necessarily inflict misery upon ethnic minorities living in that state. One cannot have a racially pure state, or a state that maintains a ‘demographic balance’, without implementing some form of genocide, ethnic cleansing, or sterilization programme against members of the non-dominant race. In this case, it is the Palestinians, and they have suffered quite enough. End the occupation, end the racist rhetoric, and end the Zionist white supremacy that Herzog, Bar and Netanyahu all subscribe to.