“The moment in which an Israeli soldier gets a gun and feels the power to kill and to defend with their own hands, is the moment in which a dream develops. There are dreams that only Israeli youths dream”.
This is how Yoaz Hendel opened his weekend column a week ago in the major Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot. Hendel is a man of considerable ideological influence. He is a military historian, former director of communications and public diplomacy for Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and expert consultant for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
While Hendel is a regular columnist for Yediot, whose articles often appear in the Ynet electronic version of Yediot (see list here), the mentioned article did not appear in English, and it is indeed a novel one. In his writing, Hendel brings an argument against Nazis around as an argument against Palestinians. In his rendering, they are the embodiment of the new Nazi threat, the real threat against Jews, and not the ‘imagined one’, which he suggests the neo-Nazis are (referring to Charlottesville). It is important to witness just how Hendel reaches from A to B – from the military bravura of the “strong Jew”, to his advocacy for a general assault on Palestinians (including Palestinian culture) under the pretext of a general ‘counter-Jihadist’ notion. I will be translating large sections of his piece from the Hebrew source:
First Hendel takes the mentioned “strong Jew” notion as appears in the start, to address it to Nazis:
“In the national notion, Nazis are an enemy that has to be eradicated and it doesn’t matter whether they are characters in films, skinheads in Europe or demonstrators in Charlottesville”, he writes.
Here, Hendel is still in the ‘dream-world’, where a “free Jew” can go back to a concentration camp to fight back, as it were:
“Whoever grew up here upon Holocaust Memorial days and stories of survivors cannot avoid the thought of what would have happened if he was there. In the dream there are no limits – you can come back with a Merkava 3 [tank], with the latest fighter jets or even a machine gun and loaded with ammunition into the middle of a concentration camp. To do what is required from a free Jew who has his own sovereignty and state – after that to wake up”.
Hendel is thus peddling the notion of Israel being the answer to the Holocaust – ‘if we were only there then’, as it were. True, Israel didn’t exist during the Holocaust, but Zionism did. And for all the militancy that the Zionist Yishuv was indeed capable of at the time, it applied much of it as terror against the British, the Palestinians, as well as Jews themselves. It wasn’t pretty, and Hendel’s “dream” is betrayed by a rather different reality at the time, which included various forms of Zionist collaboration and intents to do so, with Nazis . This includes the Jewish terrorist ‘Stern Gang’ leader Avraham ‘Yair’ Stern (‘Yair’ being his nom de guerre) offering allegiance to Hitler in January 1941.
So, what is the process of waking up from these dreams, how do they play into reality, and what is this reality? Hendel describes this in his next sentence:
“The dreams are part of the motivation to keep fighting every two-three years in a country that lives on the meat-pot [biblical reference meaning ‘the good life’]. The understanding that the State of Israel is standing with its back against the iron wall and that there is no other option. The knowing of what happened in the past, against our power in the present”, he writes.
Here Hendel is alluding in direct terms to the famous Jabotinskyite “Iron Wall” notion. To quote from Jabotinsky on this, in 1923 he wrote that “Zionist colonisation […] 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 breach.” Jabotinsky was the fascist-allied Zionist ideologue informing the Revisionist movement – the same movement which informed the Zionist terror groups of Irgun and Stern Gang (with the mentioned ‘Yair’ Stern), the same Jabotinsky to whom Benjamin Netanyahu’s father was secretary, the same ideology that informed the Herut party formed by Irgun leader Menachem Begin (later PM), Herut being the ideological foundation of today’s Likud. “Iron wall” is a very dense code-word.
But Hendel doesn’t want to appear as a fascist. He wants to appear liberal, so he takes a clear stance against the Charlottesville Nazis:
“That’s exactly the reason why there is no good explanation for the Nazis who walk with torches and shout against Jews. Even if America is going mad, the tattoo on the arm [referring to Nazi concentration camp tattoos] here is too strong. In the national notion Nazis are an enemy that needs to be eradicated and it doesn’t matter if they are characters in films, skinheads in Europe or protesters at Charlottesville”, he writes.
While chiding representatives of the Republican party in Israel and Israeli philosophers for their “both sides are problematic” explanations, Hendel still has to get to the palpable relevance of Nazis for Israelis today.
“That’s all true. But how is this to do with Nazism? The movement that destroyed six million Jews. Trump is not an anti-Semite”,
he writes, as if echoing former Anti-Defamation League Abe Foxman with the latter.
Now, Hendel is ready to make his historical-geographical leap, to address the “New Nazis” (that’s the heading of the section):
“Hatred of the Jews engulfs several groups in the modern world. The Nazis were the prominent ones in modern history. Radical Islam is the prominent one in the present. In opposition to Neo-Nazis spread across Europe as a political force devoid of institutionalized means, the hate of the Jihadis is religious and organized. The Nazis had set up destruction machines for Jews, today they are machine-less. It is possible to assess, even if only from the Mufti-Hitler meeting, that the Arabs, in later periods of history were ready to commit similar acts, only that they fought like they did.”
Here Hendel seems to be peddling the Mufti-Hitler connection, which plays strongly in certain Zionist circles, a claim that Netanyahu took to unprecedented revisionist heights in 2015, when he framed the Final Solution on the Mufti himself. Surely, other alliances of Zionists and Nazis, including meetings with Nazi leaders, would have had no similar implications for Palestinians, in Hendel’s mind. He doesn’t even mention these. Why bother? Beyond the mentioned Stern letter to Hitler, take for example the 1937 Berlin meeting between Adolf Eichmann and the Jewish Zionist and Haganah agent Feivel Polkes – which included a discussion of the possibility that the Nazis might supply weapons for the Zionist fight against the British Mandate in Palestine.
Thus Hendel continues, seeking to further accentuate the threat this “radical Islam” whilst downplaying neo-Nazism as “the old anti-Semitism”:
“It is absurd to be enraged about the white neo-Nazis in America and Europe – the old anti-Semitism – and to give concessions to the new anti-Semitism – that of the Islamic movements.”
Here Hendel is actually promoting a notion quite similar to that of Yair Netanyahu, the Prime Minister’s son, who wrote in response to Charlottesville:
“To put things in perspective. I’m a Jew, I’m an Israeli, the neo nazis scums in Virginia hate me and my country. But they belong to the past. Their breed is dying out. However the thugs of Antifa and BLM who hate my country (and America too in my view) just as much are getting stronger and stronger and becoming super dominant in American universities and public life.”
Hendel then goes to equate the Nazis with the ‘Jihadists’:
“The Nazis are an enemy just like the Jihadists around us. Whoever lifts a gun no matter from where, it is simple – he is a dead man”, he writes.
It would appear, that the macabre irony of Hendel’s own initial statement concerning the Israeli youth dreaming of holding guns and having the power to kill, mirrored against the latter, has been lost on him. By his own logic now, every Israeli soldier is, and should be, a dead man.
Going further to address non-violent protest (such as BDS, although not directly mentioned), Hendel continues:
“And whoever is sophisticated enough to avoid this [lifting a gun] – has to be fought by other means”.
These “other means” already mean attacking Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) as if it was a military operation, but let us go on.
Where is Hendel actually taking this?
“[T]he words [of Salah] and the incitement are only a small part of the problem. The significant issue is the potential. The result, added to the Israeli incapability to tackle this, is the melting of the recruitment to IDF and flowering of [Palestinian] nationalism in the Negev. […] The faction under Salah is responsible for a campaign of 20 years concerning the Temple Mount. The recent bloody round is on his hands. His arrest this week was a few years too late”, he wrote.
Here Hendel decries that there are
“Israeli leftists who show an unclear apologetic approach toward him, as well as towards other Palestinian nationalists”.
Hendel probably also means Israeli Haaretz journalist Gideon Levy, who wrote in 2015:
“Right now, the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel is an illegal organisation. Anyone who thinks that this is the last movement that will be criminalised in Israel is living in denial regarding the dangerous anti-democratic trends manifesting themselves in Israeli society in recent years. Today Sheikh Raed, tomorrow Hanin Zoabi, and the day after that, perhaps, a radical leftist Jew. Today the Islamic Movement, tomorrow the secular Balad party, and the day after that, who knows? Maybe even Haaretz. And it might not end there, either.”
Thus, Hendel both criticizes the “many sides” notion, but also contends that the “one side” is essentially the ‘Jihadist’ one, and that this is what we should really focus upon.
Hendel’s finale is in bringing this mockery of the “many sides” to the arena of Israel’s crackdown on Palestinian culture, headed by Culture Minister Miri Regev.
Hendel thus derides the “for and against” on this one, apparently opining that it should just be “for”:
“Once every few weeks the seasonal debate of the Culture Minister against institutions which represent anti-Israeli contents arises”, Hendel writes. “Most of the debates end with questions of for and against”, he adds.
Hendel seems to think this is nonsense:
“The problem begins and ends with the fear to deal with definitions. A fear at the base of which lie ridiculous claims that artistic freedom is dependent upon the state funding it all with taxes”.
Hendel calls for a more neo-liberal outlook in the arts:
“The market is more free [than before], the artistic freedom is not limited”, he writes. And yet: “This is exactly the time to define what the state should finance. Shows of terrorists or the Palestinian narrative will be financed by donations, not from taxes – Nakba works describing the Palestinian catastrophe [will be financed] by the money of the Palestinians. The same goes for calls to violence and pornography”.
That’s the summary of Hendel’s piece. In his world, the fight against Palestinians is essentially a fight against “Nazis”, only that the real Nazis of today are not an issue. The real Nazis of the Holocaust, they find their extension in today’s Palestinians. Thus Hendel is suggesting to us, that we should really be applying the virtual-reality goggles, seeing a Nazi every time we see a Palestinian. And we already know what an Israeli youth with a gun, feeling “the power to kill and to defend with their own hands”, may do to a Palestinian.
Historically, Israelis acting murderously against Palestinians, has sometimes caused the notion amongst Jews themselves, that they have been behaving like Nazis. For example, in response to the Dawaymeh massacre of October 29th 1948, Agriculture Minister Aharon Zisling said:
“But now Jews too have behaved like Nazis and my entire being has been shaken”.
Another Zionist official, Yosef Nahmani, responded to the events in disbelief:
“Where did they come by such a measure of cruelty, like Nazis? They [i.e. Jewish troops] had learnt from them [i.e. the Nazis]. One officer told me that those who had ‘excelled’ had come from [the Nazi concentration] camps”. (In Norman Finkelstein, Image and Reality).
Indeed, the examples continue to our days, where the ‘punishment of Gaza‘ (to borrow Gideon Levy’s book title), has meant that Gaza has become a huge concentration camp (to borrow Amira Hass’s expression).
There is more than just response here. As Hendel’s “dream” suggests, there is an element of a supposed and projected revenge upon Palestinians, as if it were for historical Nazi crimes against Jews.
Indeed, in a recent bombshell of a documentary, released two days ago under the title “Israel’s Volunteer Soldiers”, Al Jazeera sought to find out how Israel gathers its army volunteers and paid soldiers from abroad (many of them not Jews, constituting about 3% of the army forces), and why they come.
The volunteers admittedly include elderly Holocaust survivors, and one of the interviewed combat ‘lone soldiers’, a Belgian, who also fought in the Gaza 2014 onslaught (interviewed anonymously), said (27:30):
“I love Zionism, I love this country. My grandfather was a Holocaust survivor, and to be here, to wear IDF uniform, is for me revenge”.
Well, who can blame these youths for dreaming about their “Holocaust revenge”, when Israel provides them the means to enact this “revenge” on Palestinians closed in concentration camps, as leading Zionist strategists like Hendel encourage these “dreams” in no uncertain terms.
What few here are considering, is how these “dreams” play out as Palestinian nightmares. But let’s not get over our heads here with empathy.