Opinion

‘Iron wall’ and ‘Villa in the jungle’ – Israel’s colonialism has many names

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has chalked up more victories in his “normalization” efforts – Serbia and Kosovo will be opening embassies in Jerusalem, going against UNSC resolutions, since Israel unilaterally annexed East Jerusalem in flagrant violation of international law. They follow in the footsteps of USA and Guatemala. For Kosovo, which had only declared independence in 2008, this is a first recognition of Israel, and it is jumping head-first into the Jerusalem pool. Netanyahu made it a central point that Kosovo is a “Muslim majority” state:

Kosovo will be the first country with a Muslim majority to open an embassy in Jerusalem. As I’ve said in recent days – the circle of peace and recognition of Israel is expanding and more countries are expected to join.

The deal, which both involves reciprocal recognition of Kosovo by Israel as well as “economic normalization” between rivals Serbia and Kosovo (Serbia does not recognize Kosovo), was brokered by the United States. Of course it comes on the heels of another “normalization” deal – the one involving formalizing ties between the United Arab Emirates and Israel.

For Israel, “peace” has always meant avoiding Palestinian statehood and marginalizing Palestinians. When Netanyahu says “circle of peace”, what it really means is a colonialist cabal of war against Palestinians.

Netanyahu has always seen such “peace” agreements as a means of increasing nationalist strength and further marginalizing adversaries to the colonialist designs. Two years ago, speaking at a ceremony in the Dimona nuclear plant, Netanyahu said:

“The weak crumble, are slaughtered and are erased from history while the strong, for good or for ill, survive. The strong are respected, and alliances are made with the strong, and in the end peace is made with the strong…”

This Hitlerite, fascistic worldview has its trajectory from Ze’ev Jabotinsky, founder of the Zionist Revisionist movement – Jabotinsky had ties, cooperation and ideological affinity with Mussolini – through Menahem Begin’s Herut party, which morphed into Likud. And remember that Netanyahu’s late father had been personal secretary of Jabotinsky himself.

Jabotinsky’s doctrine is called the “Iron wall”.

The Iron wall versus the villa in the jungle

Michael J. Koplow of Israel Policy Forum recently wrote about the Iron Wall notion in relation to the recent UAE-Israel deal:

Ze’ev Jabotinsky, in writing about the Yishuv’s [Zionist Jewish polity in Palestine] challenges with Palestinians living in Mandatory Palestine, argued that Zionists had to construct a figurative iron wall, demonstrating to the Palestinians that it could not be breached and that the Zionists would not be defeated or driven out. Only once Arabs in Palestine and in neighboring countries grasped that the Jews were there to stay and that the situation could not be changed through fighting and violence would they, according to Jabotinsky’s theory, moderate their views and demands and negotiate peace agreements with Zionist leaders. The basic concept at work here is peace through demonstrations of strength, which over time force the other side into acceptance and moderation, and it is a theory that has been wholeheartedly embraced by Prime Minister Netanyahu for decades.

Koplow’s piece, titled “The Iron Wall Versus the Villa in the Jungle,” juxtaposes this doctrine against former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s idea of a “villa in the jungle.” Koplow:

Ehud Barak has used a different metaphor over the years when discussing Israel’s security, describing Israel as a villa in the jungle. This posits that Israel is an island of safety and stability amidst a region where norms and rules do not apply – the law of the jungle, in other words – and thus Israel will always have to vigilantly stand guard in order to prevent being overrun by the chaos beyond its borders.

Koplow is at pains to describe the difference between the two metaphors:

As with Jabotinsky’s iron wall, Israel does this by projecting strength and ensuring that there is no scenario in which it cannot defend itself from the threats surrounding it. But unlike the iron wall theory, where projection of strength is a means to an end of acceptance and eventually negotiated arrangements with Israel’s foes, the villa in the jungle is a snapshot in time that will not necessarily abate. Barak has never ruled out the possibility that Arab states will view Israel’s strength, change their attitudes, and negotiate peace agreements with Israel, but the villa in the jungle metaphor does not contemplate this as the likely next step in the same way that Jabotinsky spelled out with his iron wall. It may happen and it may not happen, but Israel needs to assume that the jungle will never be cleared to make room for townhouses and upscale grocery stores.

What is ironic here is not merely that Koplow fails to see that this is the same colonialist, orientalist jungle– in whatever Zionist jargon it is expressed– no, the irony is that it is in fact the Barak view that tends to be more rejectionist than the Jabotinsky view, since it continues to view with suspicion any agreement that is made with the “jungle”.

It is worth remembering, that Ehud Barak’s solution was also a wall – not only of iron, but of concrete and tower-posts, 8 meters high and trailing through the Occupied Palestinian Territories, to protect that “Jewish majority”.

Ehud Barak at the Annual Meeting 2012 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 26, 2012 (Photo: Remy Steinegge/ World Economic Forum)

Koplow uses this supposedly crucial difference to address a bone of contention regarding the UAE-Israel deal – the sale of the advanced F-35 fighter jets to UAE, which Israel is concerned might end up compromising its “qualitative military edge” (or QME, a principle of the special relationship between Israel and the U.S.). Koplow suggests that this is a consideration directly connected to the wall/villa duality:

Michael Koplow, policy director of the Israel Policy Forum

How one views the answer to this question is colored by two of the most famous Israeli metaphors about its security challenges and posture in the Middle East, which seem similar at first glance but are actually philosophically different.

This is real intellectual vanity. The Netanyahu suspicion, definitely shared by his centrist governing partner Benny Gantz, is precisely a fear of the “jungle”. Neither does Netanyahu’s “Iron wall” mean that suspicion of the “jungle” is reduced, nor that the sword is let down. In 2015 Netanyahu said that “we will forever live by the sword”.

Netanyahu hopes to fortify that Iron Wall through international deals which he calls the “circle of peace”. Such actions weaken diplomatic strength for the Palestinians, as has clearly been the case with the UAE deal – it officially broke the Arab consensus on offering normalization after Israeli withdraws to 1967 lines and a “just solution” for the Palestinian refugee question is arrived at. Netanyahu has long contended that “peace” could be arrived at without these preconditions present.

The “jungle” and the “wall” are two aspects of Zionist thinking which have informed it since its inception: an “advance post of civilization against barbarism”, as Zionist founder Theodore Herzl wrote in his book Der Judenstaadt (“The Jewish State”).

The “wall” is a protection of the Zionist “villa” against the “jungle”. The “wall” and the “jungle” are two sides of the same racist, colonialist coin. It’s not more complicated than that.

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“Villa in the jungle” is on the one hand an expression of moral superiority of Israel over the savages and on the other an understanding that in the jungle one has to act according to the rules of the jungle. It developed from from a self-perception of Jews as bringing civilization/culture/progress to a backwards region and this was used as one of the justifications for the settlement of Israel by the Zionist Left. Those that… Read more »

Zabotinsky was writing in 1923, long before the Shoah. His “iron wall” was made primarily of the arms of the British Empire, Zionism’s colonial metropole. What this wall protected in Zabotinsky’s conception was massive European Jewish immigration from intractable “Arab” opposition. Once the Jewish population had overwhelmed the Palestinian population and had developed their own military strength, the Arabs would be resigned to their defeat and live peacefully with their Jewish rulers. I don’t think… Read more »

1 of 2 It’s over 72 years since expansionist, illegal, brutal occupier, Zionist “Israel” was established in Palestine by force and the dispossession/expulsion of about 1,250,000 of its native Arab inhabitants by 1967. It is still dependent on the U.S. Decades before 1948, eminent Jews correctly predicted the future: Words of wisdom: Secretary of State for India & the British cabinet’s only Jewish member, Lord Edwin Montagu’s response to Prime Minister Lloyd George following issuance… Read more »

2 of 2 Lessing J. Rosenwald, president of the American Council for Judaism, 1944: “The concept of a racial state – the Hitlerian concept- is repugnant to the civilized world, as witness the fearful global war in which we are involved. . . , I urge that we do nothing to set us back on the road to the past. To project at this time the creation of a Jewish state or commonwealth is to… Read more »

The opening gambit of the PLO to enter the villa or breach the wall was to call for one secular state. Israel went on the attack to destroy the idea. It armed and facilitated the rise of Hamas as a “counter”. However, in time Hamas, through its founder Sheik Yassein, called for one state via a 40-50 year stand-down. President Trump put the one state on the table saying one state or two so long… Read more »