War Against the People: Israel, the Palestinians and Global Pacification
by Jeff Halper, Pluto Press
In his necessary, dystopic book, Jeff Halper shows how Israel’s choice of warfare in 1948 — what Abba Eban in 1949 called choosing the doctrine of “established fact” over “prior consent” — has led to the “Jewish State” being in the forefront of development and sale of control systems of populations, practicing on Palestinian Arabs what is increasingly applied to us all.
The story Jews tell of themselves is the story of a people with a keen sense of vulnerability and serial survivance. At every generation, we told ourselves, someone rises up against us. In Egypt, a new king arose, who did not know Joseph, and in Persia Haman had a grudge.
For European Jews, after the Enlightenment, Emancipation and wars, the 19th and 20th centuries rang with questions “What is a Jew?” and “What is our place?” European Jews knew how to keep separate. To participate brought more difficulties than to be a people that dwells apart.
At the first Zionist Congress in 1897, Max Nordau complained in a speech that Jews had been emancipated as a matter of logic, but not with a feeling of fellowship:
“Every man is born with certain rights; the Jews are human beings, consequently the Jews are born to all the rights of man. …not through fraternal feeling for the Jews, but because logic demanded it.”
The genius of the Zionist movement — with its linguistic and cultural components — was as an attempt to keep Jewish unity as the revolutionary change and possibilities shook traditional, socially distinctive Jewish life. As educator Solomon Schechter said, he supported Zionism in order to fight the menace of assimilation that frightened him more than pogroms.
Youths would train in Zionist clubs to learn Hebrew and adopt Zionist virtues. Those who could not travel personally to join the project could contribute and work towards the new-old homeland from where they lived.
Jewish nationalists would make Jews a “normal” people — bearing farm implements and arms, confident, on their land, psychologically healthy. The shtetl jew and the neurotic Jew would disappear, replaced by the yeoman farmer tilling Hebrew soil.
Says the hero of a 1916 Zionist short story, “We need work of a patient, simple kind… The return to agriculture will be the redemption of our race… Here (in Palestine) my soul was bred, the soul of my race. What a sense of peace has come to me!”
The history of the Jews, whose persistent existence is dedicated to a spiritual covenant, makes an ironic backstory to Halper’s meticulous depiction of today’s Israeli military-security commercial titan, whose skills were sharpened in 100 years of creating “facts on the ground.”
With Jewish land and crops in Palestine came a system of protection. HaShomer, reported Hadassah founder Henrietta Szold in 1915, were “a self-constituted and self-governed company of Jewish youths, revolver armed, most of them noted for zeal and ebullient enthusiasm.”
Zionist Jews attempted deliberate change from what Jews perceived to be their history. Instead of their fate depending on others, they would control their own fate, and of necessity control the fate of the Arabs in the land they would take as their own.
To Szold, the “few bloody, even fatal encounters between the two nationalities” were salutary, a sign of health. “The general impression appears to be that the Shomerim are innocent of aggression; they have gone to extremes only in self defense. Besides insuring the safety of Jewish property, Ha-Shomer has raised the dignity of the Jew in the eyes of his Arab neighbors.”
From Henrietta Szold’s account onwards, the Jewish nationalist strategy has been teaching a lesson, teaching respect, by overwhelming deterrence. As George Orwell noted, “there is almost no kind of outrage — torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians — which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side.”
Szold saw that the pattern would replicate:
“At all events, Ha-Shomer with its hundred and more members has become an absolute necessity in Palestine, and a picturesque feature in its rural life. The company is made up of the material needed for the pioneer bands that are to prepare outlying regions through occupancy by themselves for permanent settlement and cultivation by others.”
Jewish colonization of Palestine was defined by keeping the upper hand over the indigenes, and that has continued. Israel now is selling tested police technologies and methods to the world, an ironic development for a movement founded by members who knew well of the Czar’s and the Bolshevik secret police, and who feared the Cossack’s sword.
Israel became — as Hannah Arendt predicted — a Sparta, a military power, a martial society whose solvent for the Israeli identity is IDF service.
An important contribution of Israel has been the blurring of military and police functions into securitization and pacification of populations. Shared weaponry and tactics make the “War on [blank]” inanity apt for modern governments, with what Halper calles the MISSLE Complex — “the integrated use of Military, Internal Security, Surveillance, Intelligence and Law Enforcement.”
The use of cutting edge tech on the captive populations of the West Bank and Gaza may not be intentionally engineered, but it is certainly a “happy accident.” The “Start-Up Nation” needs a test bed to refine technical and social domination.
The Israeli military/police/security industry, Halper documents, pervades the peripheries of power, supplying governments from Colombia to Uzbekistan with drones, attack helicopters, missles, arms, and cyber eavesdropping systems.
From drones to electronic surveillance, from torturous interrogations to chronic surveillance and routine database building, Israel has pioneered our world. Notoriously, over the years Israel has been involved with governments of torture, terror and even anti-semitism, in Apartheid South Africa, Guatemala, and Argentina, among others.
Rania Khalek said, “Last year, three weeks after Israel was finished bombing Gaza, it held its annual drone conference, and many of the international buyers that came, what they saw was a lot of these weapons had been unveiled and used for the first time on people in Gaza, and that was a selling point.”
There is a dominance of the world’s cyber security industry by Israeli firms founded by military intelligence veterans. An interesting question is whether Israel will trade this dominance to serve Chinese or Russian power as the American umbrella folds.
Treatment of occupied Palestinians has been notorious in development of routinized programs to “harm the dignity and bodily integrity” of detainees, according to NGO B’Tselem, including isolation, stressful conditions of confinement, tying up prisoners in painful ways, beatings, degradation, threats and intimidation.
The occupation government has been liberal in the numbers of Arabs it has detained. Hundreds of thousands, possibly up to a million, Palestinians have experienced Israeli detention since 1967.
Part of Zionism’s innovation has been adopting the principle of endless war, so that “enemies” and the government are truly partners. As Randolph Bourne observed, “War is the health of the State.”
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, the day following the Paris attacks of 13 November 2015, predicted Europe would “have to” follow Israel’s lead of prioritizing security over human rights. “We as a democracy are experienced in fighting terrorism, used to it. The Western democracies in Europe will apparently need to include such steps in their countries too to defend themselves.”
This is reminiscent of once and future PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s comment on 11 September 2001 that the New York attack was “very good” for Israel. “Well, not very good, but it will generate immediate sympathy….strengthen the bond between our two peoples, because we’ve experienced terror over so many decades, but the United States has now experienced a massive hemorrhaging of terror.”
The New York Times headed its report from Israel 12 September 2001, “Spilled Blood Is Seen as Bond That Draws 2 Nations Closer.” We can assume the November 2015 attack on Paris will only strengthen the idea of following the Israeli expert example.
Author Jeff Halper, anthropologist, is a founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). He says that with the formation of Israel as a fighting state, “it leverages the development and sales of sophisticated weapons systems, military technologies, surveillance and security systems and counter-terrorist tactics into political influence, a ‘value-added’ to normal international relations.”
This is not to say there is no value to the image for American Jews of a courageous but gentle little Israel, an agrarian outpost of Jewish values — with the assumption that with their small numbers in the world, Jews cannot be tyrannical or oppressive.
Within the American political context, the image of innocence and vulnerability keeps the congressional pipeline going, whose major US weapons systems grants allow Israel to concentrate on specialized niche hardware and software in the limitless worldwide “homeland security” market.
Israel is a state that is defined by being “not Arab,” awkwardly because it has a significant Arab electorate structurally locked out from governing by Zionist parties, and to a comical extent now that more and more fanciful “lost Jews” from afar are being found for aliyah, to strengthen the non-Arab component in the “demographic balance” of Israel.
Systems of blackmail by military intelligence of Palestinians, creating informants, matrices of total police dominance is what Halper is talking about, next generation technology ramping up these tendencies, profiting internationally with no ideology or loyalty to anything except control as an organizing principle.
“Invasive though concealed surveillance and intelligence technologies are developed and perfected on Palestinians in the Occupied Territory through joint security industry-IDF endeavors, or from technologies coming from [military intelligence] Unit 8200,” Halper writes.
By the systems that rule, sold by Israel to governments from Brazil to Tajikistan, Jews in Israel and the diaspora may well eventually become a hunted, suspect population. The “national religious” component of Jewish Israel may believe their state is Jewish, but profit and access to resources is the Almighty in the scheme, and Zionist rule is for the moment useful.
There is nothing in the phenomenon of high-tech securitization of the world, “internationalizing Palestine,” that requires continuation of the Zionist government past its usefulness to the larger system. Chants of “Am Yisrael Chai!” may, when the time is right, be met with skunk water, rubber-coated steel bullets and next-generation crowd control gas. Governments that create “full spectrum dominance” of human beings are not friends of Torah.
It may be that we should re-examine the stories we tell ourselves. We’ve been given the land of Canaan once and then restored to it twice. Our situation is reminiscent of Lady Bracknell in Wilde’s play The Importance of Being Earnest:
“To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.”