Keith Rankin, 1 December 2023
Supremacism is a cultural belief that an in-group of humanity is inherently superior to other groups, and that those other groups have lesser human rights as a consequence of their presumed inferiority or corruption.
The Jewish religion does have texts which can be understood as supremacist. That doesn't make Judaism a supremacist faith, though it does mean that it is a religion vulnerable to supremacist interpretations within that faith; including such interpretations within that faith community. This interpretation manifests today as giving Jewish extremists – neozionists – a priority claim over a piece of real estate which may be called the Southern Levant; especially the lands of the Post WW1 British Mandate Palestine, between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and between the Sinai Peninsula and the lands of ancient Phoenicia which we now call Lebanon. (Levant is most meaningfully understood as the relatively fertile lands of the eastern Mediterranean, extending from Gaza in the south to a small strip of modern Türkiye in the north.) The present government of Israel is dominated by neozionists; especially those ministers representing the small parties to the political right of Likud. They represent an ultra-extremist tail wagging a willing Likud dog in a divided Israel; a divided nation in which opposition forces only this year waged mass protests against the suppression of judicial independence (refer Listening Post 29 July 2023, second story; quote: "Israelis are describing the fight over judicial reform as a looming civil war").
Referencing Amalek as a call to Genocide
The following two programmes on Al Jazeera (among others, including other media) – episodes of Listening Post (about the international media) and Inside Story – showed and cited clips from Israeli domestic sources of Prime Minister Netanyahu making biblical references in what amounts to a call to genocide. Over and above the actual content of these clip, clips that are not fake news, my concern is the degree of self-censorship on the part of the media outlets which western audiences have most access to. In some ways New Zealand is even worse than the United States. Clips about Netanyahu's Amalek comments have circulated in United States media, unlike New Zealand media (although I did see this by Eugene Doyle: The Holocaust Should be a Lesson not a Template, Scoop 7 Nov 2023).
The Wikipedia page for Amalek refers in the second paragraph to "The Biblical commandments to kill all Amaleks". (And see dictionary.com.) Benjamin Netanyahu speaks: "'Remember what Amalek has done to you' says our holy bible. We do remember. And we wage war." That bible passage goes on to say: "Now go and smite Amalek … kill both man and woman, infant". Hamas, the present administrators and 'defenders' of Gaza, is the new Amalek. The Palestinians – and, for the moment, especially the Gazans – are the Amalekites. Netanyahu goes on to refer to "this chain of Jewish heroes" from Joshua "3,000 years ago" to "the heroes of 1948". The audience Netanyahu is speaking to knows the texts referred to and the analogies being spun. The reference to the terrorist militias in the years upto and including 1948 is particularly informative. I'll return to that.
(And we note that, whereas the United States, hidebound by a constitution drawn up in the pre-industrial 1780s, a colonial state which took for granted a deeply racist version of slavery, modern Israel is – or claims to be – a colonising state culturally informed by episodes of violence in the human past which date further back than the iron age. Have we, as a species, not moved on? Is modernity little more than a veneer, a figleaf no longer able to hide our innate savageness? And are our liberal elites, who think of themselves as the most civilised among us, in fact our least noble savages?)
Before coming back to the formation of modern Israel, I'll elaborate on the biblical references, noting that Netanyahu might also have mentioned the legendary David and Goliath story; indeed both the Philistines and the Amalekites, neighbours in the Southeast Mediterranean, to the Israelites were inferior less-deserving peoples. To be a 'philistine' today means to be an uncultured person. Goliath was a Philistine, and Philistia was an ancient version of Gaza; the words 'Philistine' and 'Palestine' have the same etymology. [Note Philistia, and the adjacent Amalec, in this Wikipedia entry for Kingdom of Israel (united monarchy); and Philistine City States in this Wikipedia entry for Kingdom of Israel (Samaria).]
(Also, before returning to modern Israel, I want to look at the issue of supremacist ideology and theology more generally.)
Ancestry and Race in the Bible
Because the Christian bible incorporates the Jewish bible, the origin stories of the Israelite tribe are very familiar in our Christian-dominated global culture. Further, Muslims have the same origin story. Pedigree is an important feature of the Jewish bible – the Old Testament – with the divergence of correct peoples from corrupt peoples linked to fraternal disputes and ex-nuptial hereditary lines. I will never forget the word 'begat'.
The place of Amalek (a tribal leader) is comparable in Zionism to the place of Islam (a religion); both follow allegedly 'inferior' lines of descent. In Islamic texts Muhammed is descended from Ishmael, the 'illegitimate' older son of Abraham/Ibrahim. (Abraham was an immigrant to Canaan from the area we today call Iraq. Abraham's people were not indigenous to Southern Levant.) The Israelites, on the other hand, trace their genealogy from Ishmael's younger 'legitimate' brother Isaac; or, strictly, through Abraham's grandson Jacob. Amalek, also descended from Isaac, was descended through Jacob's bother Esau.
Esau and Jacob were fraternal twins. Esau, the elder, was impulsive and feckless while Jacob was clever, cunning and focussed. Esau was tricked by Jacob into giving up his rights as elder brother. Later, Esau contracted two exogamous marriages; tantamount to, in a community which strongly favoured endogamy, an egregious sin. So, Esau's descendancy was corrupted; God chose Jacob's 'superior' descendancy as the foundational line for Israel and Judaism.
Amalek was Esau's illegitimate grandson. At least one classical scholar, Flavius Josephus, considered that Amalek was a 'bastard' in the derogatory sense (ref. Wikipedia). We may apply that same 'inferior line' or 'corrupted line' sentiment to unreconstructed Jewish perceptions of Arabic ancestry, and a certain conflation of the concepts of Arabism with Islam. There is also the sense that, on purely ancestral grounds, the Jewish tradition sees Islam as a 'bastard' Abrahamic religion, and that in itself is indicative of inferiority.
This is supremacism based on ancestral disdain, which – in that thought mode – confers the right of the righteous collective to inflict arbitrary mistreatment upon people belonging to the ancestrally 'corrupted' collectives. In the Israel case, we might call this example of supremacism 'Semitism', because it’s the counterpoint to the misused term 'anti-semitism' (used to mean either anti-Jewish or anti-Israeli). This language is inaccurate and problematic; the widespread use of 'Semite' in lieu of either 'Jew' or 'Israeli' should be discontinued by those who should know better. (We might note that the Jewish supremacism seen in present times is better called neozionism, which characterises only a minority of adherents to Judaism and a minority of Israeli citizens.)
The ancestral demarcations in Genesis did not begin with Abraham's sons. (And we note that Old Testament genealogy is heavily patriarchal, with daughters mainly absent from the storylines and 'misbehaving' mothers often a source of corruption.)
The story of Cain and Abel, the elder sons of Adam and Eve, is widely known. Cain killed his younger brother in a fit of jealousy. So Abel was not able to establish a line of descent. 'Fortunately' for humanity, Adam and Eve subsequently had a third son, Seth. So we have two lines of descent, Cain's line and Seth's line. Cain's collective line, however, was corrupted by Cain's egregious behaviour.
As the story goes, generations later Cain's line would be subject to divine genocide, the original 'Act of God' which remains as legal terminology today. Noah was the uncorrupted man, allowed to live, and he was descended from Seth. (Presumably other descendants of Seth were corrupted in other ways, establishing lines of descent which would in the main also become victims of divine genocide. The exceptions were Noah's daughters-in-law.)
The Flood – presented as the first genocide, as retribution upon those corrupted – created a new second start for humanity; a second start that contained the raw material for three new bloodlines. (We learned this story of divine genocide at Sunday School, as if the 'wicked' citizens of Gomorrah and other places somehow deserved to die.) The 'raw material' for the new races was of course Noah's daughters-in-law, though the racial bloodlines are named after Noah's three sons: Shem, Japheth, and Ham.
The known world in Old Testament times comprised West Asia (including Arabia), Northeast Africa, and Southeast Europe (including the Caucasus). The descendants of Shem became Semites, and populated Asia. The descendants of Japheth became Europeans (aka Caucasians, a term used by police as a racial descriptor for Europeans). The descendants of Ham became Hamites – Africans – corrupted on account of the Curse of Ham. The Judeo-Christian biblical tradition thus gained a predisposition to anti-hamitism; a problem which clearly exists today, and which this decade has inspired the 'Black Lives Matter' movement.
Anti-semitism is a form of prejudice, which literally should target all persons of West Asian descent, not just people of Israelite descent. (And we should stop calling West Asians 'Middle Easterners'. The term Middle East is itself a supremacist name, reflecting the perspective of Western Europe in recent centuries. We don't call East Asian people 'Far Easterners'. We have already switched to the widespread use of the term 'South Asian', in line with the established 'East Asian' in preference to 'oriental'. Rishi Sunak is a British citizen of South Asian heritage. We should replace the term 'Middle Eastern' with 'West Asian', forthwith.)
This linguistic problem, the continued partial use of archaic racial constructs, is particularly problematic when we try to apply the European construct of 'anti-semitic' to groups of Arabs or Muslims. In the traditions from which the term derived, Arabs were themselves very much Semites. Further, the whole 'hatred of Jews' tradition which came to be called anti-semitism is a Christian European thing, and only has meaning in a Christian European context. There is no comparable racial or religious prejudice in the Arab world, although there is an aversion to supremacist behaviours perpetrated by Zionist (and other) colonists.
The present hatred in West Asia is a hatred of the Zionist and Neozionist behaviours that led to the ethnic clearances in the Southern Levant in the twentieth century; clearances which continue in the twentyfirst century. Anti-Neozism is a valid political position, as was Anti-Nazism in the World War 2 era; neither are hate crimes. These sentiments are anti-ideology, not anti-identity.
While the traditional Jewish texts may predispose some followers of Judaism to adopt a supremacist ideology, that hardly makes someone a supremacist if they identify as Jewish or because they descend in a patrilinear manner from Isaac. (In a strict endogamy, where Judaism is understood as a closed ethnicity as well as a religious faith, all Jews today would descend patrilineally from Jacob. However, given the realities of relationship formation and the biological advantages of exogamy, based on the laws of probability and descent, and assuming that Jacob was a genuine historical person, every person today of European or West Asian descent would be descended from him several times over. If we go back 100 generations, we should each have approximately 1,267,650,600,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 ancestors. Clearly there has been some doubling up!)
While anti-Jewish sentiments are unacceptable (an 'identity offence' if you will; I don't like the expression 'hate-crime'), being anti the politics of the Israeli government is acceptable. And, if we want to accuse people of being anti-Jewish, we should say 'anti-Jewish' rather than the archaic racial euphemism 'antisemitic'. There can be little doubt that Israel at present has a neozionist government, and that it is right and proper to oppose that ideology on ethical grounds; yet without wishing harm on people – without hating people – because they happen to be Jewish by birth or by choice. And we should never hate people; including people who openly espouse a supremacist ideology.
While neozionist supremacism is derived from genealogy rather than ethnicity or theodicy, to some extent these amount to the same thing in this case, thanks to the historical self-segregationist proclivities of the Jewish people. Some genealogical websites treat Jewish as an ethnicity, including the Israel-based site My Heritage.
I will now look at two other fateful versions of supremacy, one based on religion, the other on ethnicity: Calvinism and Collective Darwinism.
The Reformation and Dutch/Calvinist Theo-Supremacism
The medieval Christian churches (Orthodox and Catholic) had their own versions of supremacy, in particular the ideas around hierarchy and priestly absolution. (While I am more familiar with Catholic than Orthodox doctrine, Peter Turchin details Orthodox supremacism in War and Peace and War, 2007.) But the Reformation took this to a substantively different level, especially the Calvinist variation of Protestantism which preached the doctrine of predestination; indeed double-predestination, under which damnation as well as salvation was predetermined. Under predestination, certain groups of people were born into supremacy; and belief in one's own in-group's supremacy had to be sustained by faith, even at the risk of being martyred (especially in the religious wars which peaked in West Europe in the third quarter of the 16th century).
The Calvinist doctrines were particularly attractive to Europe's mercantile communities; with the 'Low Countries' – the Netherlands – already having Europe's most developed mercantile culture. These mercenary sub-cultures (numismaphiles? lovers of money) were attracted to any doctrine for which money-accruing was a virtue, not a sin. In this sense, Calvinism had aspects in common with Judaism; and it is on the matter of moneylending that Judaism differs significantly from both Islam and historical Catholicism.
The Netherlands were riven by the Reformation, which created decades of severe sectarian violence amongst people who were ethnically pretty-much identical. This was the genesis of the split between the peoples of the provinces we now call Netherlands and those we call Belgium. In the culture wars of that time, Calvinist yahoos would terrorise Antwerp and Brussels and other places, inciting violence by calling the Pope the Anti-Christ. Devil-allegers and alleged Devils were everywhere.
The outcome was a 17th century in which Calvinist Netherlands – the successfully rebellious northern United Provinces – changed the world. As the Dutch global presence expanded, the inferior 'other' were decreasingly white Catholics, and increasingly black Africans (in South Africa, the South Caribbean, and New York) and brown Austronesians (in what became the Dutch East Indies, and Indonesia). The Dutch dominated world seaborne trade in the 17th century, creating 'Dutch lakes' in the North Sea and the Indian Ocean. One such Dutch voyage resulted in the extraordinary tragedy of the East-Indiaman ship 'Batavia' (see the actual ship, in Perth); another resulted in the European discoveries of Tasmania and Nieuw Zeeland.
Re the origins of white supremacism in the United States, it is important to note the rise of Calvinism in Scotland and Northern Ireland, under the name of the Presbyterian church. Various neo-Calvinisms followed, such as the Baptist church. It was subsequent settlement in the southeastern states of the United States; settlement – as in Cape Town in South Africa, rich in calvinist values – which created the United States 'Bible Belt', and the secessionist and segregationist Confederacy which brought about the United States Civil War. And we note that the sectarian-apartheid which underpinned the twentieth-century troubles in Northern Ireland is very much a manifestation of calvinist doctrine.
The theme of Dutch/Calvinist supremacism in the eastern Indian Ocean is particularly evocative of the Dutch project of global capitalism described by Amitav Ghosh as 'omnicide' (refer his The Nutmeg's Curse, 2021). Well worth reading, also, for New Hollanders (Australians) and New Zealanders is Peter Fitzsimons' 2011 book Batavia.
Darwinism, secular European Supremacism, and Neoliberalism
We understand German Naziism as an extreme form of Teutonic supremacism. But this was the eventual tip of a very large iceberg. Further, the supremacism wasn't particularly targeted at Jews. The Nazis scapegoated Jews as cunning, mercenary, and somewhat conspiratorial. But they were more inclined to see – or wanted to see – Hamitic people than Semitic people as inferior. Hence the deep frustration with the success of African-Americans at the Berlin Olympic games in 1936.
The more important though understated supremacism was the belief throughout northwest Europe in the superiority of the Teutonic or Anglo-Saxon race. In the 1920s, for example, this ran deep (see The Great Interwar Crisis by Robert Boyce, 2009). It manifested as a division of Europe into a hierarchy of three principal 'races': from superior to inferior, the sequence was the Germanic peoples, the Latin peoples, and the Slavic peoples. Indeed, in both World Wars One and Two, the principal fight was between Germany and Slavic Eastern Europe. The first war was largely about the break-up of the two formerly great empires in the east: the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire, and the contest for the oil reserves around the Caspian Sea. The second war was principally about Lebensraum, a supremacist grab for the lands and labour of the Slavs. The German Nazis were more interested in sidelining the British than defeating them. Jews became a scapegoat.
The anti-Judaism in Germany was more pretext than text. Less so in the Slavic lands – especially the Russian empire – where anti-Jewish Pogrom-culture developed. (This was not Slavic supremacism; more like anti-supremacist hate; and, in line with Peter Turchin's arguments, possibly linked to Orthodox Christianity.) It was from these Eastern European lands that most Jewish emigration to the Southern Levant before 1940 took place, and which formed the breeding grounds for subsequent neozionism. Pogrom-culture spread into Central Europe in the interwar years, and ultimately was the genesis of the Holocaust of 1942 to 1945; a super-pogrom which was anti-Jewish but not only anti-Jewish. (There were earlier iterations of pogrom-culture in Europe, the most notorious being in the 13th and 14th century; culminating in the accusations that the Black Death was the result of Jews poisoning the water-wells. Many terrible retributions followed.)
Before 1948, many Jews lived relatively prosperous lives in other territories in which the predominant populations were Arabic and/or Muslim; those mainly African territories were not the seedbed of anti-Jewish hatred.
Charles Darwin should not be blamed for collective or ethno- Darwinism – supremacism linked to race rather than religion – although his social milieu played a substantial role in the propagation of ethno-supremacist ideas. Herbert Spencer's Social Darwinism – first published as Social Statics – preceded Charles Darwin's Origin of the Species by 8 years. (And for a literary take on Social Darwinist versions of supremacism, try Jack London's Martin Eden – written in 1909 when these ideas were especially prominent – or the 2019 Italian movie based on that book.) Charles Darwin's cousin Francis Galton is regarded as having been the 'father' of Eugenics, a philosophy which became influential in New Zealand, especially in association with the founder of the Plunkett Society, Sir Truby King.
We should also contrast these collective identity supremacisms (Neozionism, Calvinism, Social Darwinism) with individualist supremacisms, such as those of Friedrich Nietzsche on the one hand and Ayn Rand on the other. These philosophies, though problematic, are different.
(Rand was particularly influential amongst the generation of men, mainly born in the 1930s and 1940s, who sequestered the 1970s' inflation crisis to give 'the west' neoliberalism in the 1970s and 1980s. Indeed neoliberalism, a revival of the monetary supremacism of the 1920s, is so cemented into today's 'liberal' narratives that the pragmatist economic insights of John Maynard Keynes, developed in the 1920s and 1930s, cannot even get onto the agenda of policy discussions around governance, inflation, and the cost of living. Public finance, in New Zealand at least, has become an excruciating zero-sum game; an elite intellectual closed shop.)
Al Nakba ('The Catastrophe'): 1948 and all that; Ethnic Clearances
The Israel neozionists have told us and shown us what they see as the long-term solution to their 'Palestinian problem' – at best ethnic clearance in Gaza and surveillance control in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank; at worst, genocide – and have the will and the means to carry out that solution. (Having the means depends, though, on United States' cooperation.) Further, their predecessors – as Zionists – have already done what today's neozionists wish to do. The re-creation of Israel was always going to be a 'game of two halves'. 1948 was the first half. The 1967 Six-Day War might have been the beginning of the second half, but it wasn't to be. Circumstances have come together once again, in 2023, to make it possible for the Israeli regime to return to the 1948 playbook, and complete their modern-era refoundation project.
Basically, after World War II, groups of Zionist settlers waged a terrorist campaign against the United Kingdom, which had a continued mandate to administer the Southern Levant; a British mandate which began as an outcome of World War 1. This campaign of terror was known as the Jewish insurgency in Mandatory Palestine. The insurgents had different factions. The relatively moderate faction was Haganah; the more extreme factions were Irgun and the Stern Gang (aka Lehi).
All three militias were involved in the 1947 Deir Yassin massacre, though it was lead by Irgun. Before 1948 Irgun was the Jewish equivalent of Hamas pre-2006. (In addition to being a sectarian resistance movement, Hamas today is the elected administration of the semi-state of Gaza.) It was Irgun who in 1946 blew up the King David Hotel, British administrative headquarters, although Irgun sought to implicate Haganah (NY Times, 27 July 1947). Further, Irgun can be understood as the institutional forerunner of Israel's ruling Likud Party.
Israel's founding fathers were linked to either Haganah or Irgun. Founding mother 'Golda Meir' was linked to the political wing of Haganah; she was heavily involved in fundraising in United States for the Israeli cause.
As soon as the new United Nations was formed, the United Kingdom couldn't leave quickly enough. The Zionist insurgency was the exemplar for a successful terror campaign. (The father of my first wife served in the British Army during the 1945-1948 mandate. She mentioned to me that, when he was travelling on the back of an army truck, the man next to him was shot in the chest by a sniper, dying instantly. Such is the randomness of life and death, under fire.) The United Nations took over responsibility for Mandatory Palestine (the Southern Levant west of the Jordan River) from Britain, noting that the United Kingdom had various other postcolonial obligations to unravel.
The 1948 Palestinian expulsion and flight involved a mass ethnic clearance; it was a land-grab. Gaza became a refugee 'camp', with responsibility held by both the United Nations (in the form of UNWRA) and Egypt. Most of the dispossessed fled to Gaza, though still claiming rights to the lands they had previously occupied and farmed. A substantial territory to the east of Mandatory Palestine – the 'West Bank' of the Jordan River – was not included in Israel, and was conjoined to Jordan after the 1948 post-independence Arab-Israeli war. This conjoined territory included East Jerusalem.
Partition of Mandatory Palestine, in Six Maps
Both the Washington Post and the BBC have sites showing six critical maps of the formation of Israel to date. The first map shows Mandatory Palestine from 1922. This is essentially the combined area which modern Israel possesses and occupies. (Additionally today, Israel possesses and occupies a little more area around the Syrian border; the Golan Heights.)
Each second map shows the United Nations's November 1947 partition plan. The BBC map shows more clearly that the Palestinian partition is in fact three disjoint territories, although the 'joins' are very close. (It's important to note that Jerusalem/Bethlehem is specified separately as an 'international city'.)
This was the essence of the 'two-state' ethno-sectarian solution which has been revived today, and was a solution very much in the mould of Britain's partition solution for India earlier that year. The Palestinians rejected the United Nations' two-state solution, and no wonder given what was happening in the then dividing India. In the South Asia case, the partition created two ethno-sectarian nation states; with Pakistan located in two detached and culturally different parts. This created two major episodes of catastrophic violence, and many minor episodes. (See Why Pakistan and India remain in denial 70 years on from partition, Guardian, 6 August 2017; review of The Great Divide by William Dalrymple, New Yorker 22 June 2015; Violence against women during the Partition of India, Wikipedia; and 1950 East Pakistan riots, Wikipedia; Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, Wikipedia.) That ethno-sectarian India problem has rekindled since around 2010 with the accession to power of Narendra Modi, with the interesting (and worrying) pro-Zionist sympathy of the ruling Hindu nationalists (see the third story of the 11 Nov 2023 episode of The Listening Post). And ethno-sectarian violence against women remains a big problem in India.
The third map shows the outcome of the 1948/49 Arab/Israeli War, with the two parts we today think of as Palestine under occupation by Egypt (Gaza) and recently independent Jordan (West Bank; Jordan had been the British-mandated Trans-Jordan; see BBC first map). This 1949 map has a distinctly modern look.
The fourth map shows Israel's annexation of Gaza, Sinai, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights in the 1967 Six-Day War. This could have been the completion of the Israeli project, but for the complications relating to Sinai, Egypt, and the closure of the Suez Canal. Eventually Egypt was able to reopen the Suez Canal in 1975, and its repossession of Sinai was formalised in 1982 (fifth map) following the 1978 Camp David Accords.
The Washington Post fifth map also mentions that Southern Lebanon was occupied by Israel from 1982 to 2000. The 1982 events were particularly nasty, though barely mentioned today because there is just so much other context to the present events. (Though we should note that present events include substantial militarisation and violence north and south of the Israel-Lebanon border.) This war largely took place under the cover of the British-Argentinean Falklands War, in June 1982. The nastiest single event, though, was the Sabra and Shatila massacre in September 1982, an aftermath to the Siege of Beirut.
The sixth map shows the situation of occupation in October 2023. (The BBC map shows Gaza only.) Of particular note is the extent to which Palestinians do not supervise the West Bank. It doesn't take much imagination to see the West Bank's fate as a slow Israeli land grab; an ethnic clearance accelerating under cover of the present War in Gaza. While the violence in Gaza has been full-on, the West Bank has been subject to huge amounts of petty violence which in its own way is as distressing.
One State, Two States, Three States?
The present Siege of Gaza began from 2005, after Israel closed its settlements there, and after Hamas acceded to government in Gaza. Gaza has been a 'cage', the "Gaza ghetto", (see 20 November 2023 NZ Listener opinion-piece No Place to Call Home by Paul Oestreicher); a refugee enclosure since 1948 managed in large part by the United Nations in the form of UNRWA. Gaza and southern Lebanon were the major destinations for those 700,000 Palestinians dispossessed of their land during the Nakba.
Gaza once had an opportunity to become an independent nation-state; not an oil-state like Kuwait nor an entrepôt-state like Singapore, but a coherent small nation more along the lines of Malta or Cyprus. But the western obsession with a Two-State solution, with Gaza tagged onto the West Bank – like India and Pakistan (with Bangladesh concocted as a distant appendage, as East Pakistan) – put the kibosh on that.
Gaza became a semi-state under blockade, substantially dependent on aid from both foreign and besieging parties. Israel would utilise Gazan labour, to perform low-wage but essential tasks. Gaza – in a first-past-the post election in 2006 – chose Hamas as their administration and their military; Hamas gained a majority of seats but not a majority of votes. Hamas' rival was Fatah, in control of the Palestine Authority in the West Bank. Gaza was voting for independence from the West Bank as well as from Israel.
People have been able to leave Gaza, but only in accordance with other countries' immigration eligibility criteria. Thus, the Palestinian diaspora has taken place under a much more difficult 'rules-based' legal framework than the 2,000-year Jewish diaspora. (That's not to understate the many difficulties Jews faced over the millennia in settling other parts of the world.) Persons in Gaza born to Palestinian refugees in 1948 would have led their entire 75-year-long lives in a United Nations supported refugee enclosure. There are few people alive in the Southern Levant today who have clear memories of life before 1948.
Hamas wants a one-state solution: one Palestine, no Israel. And it is mandated by a substantial minority of the Gazan people to remind Israel that it is still there and that it has aspirations to be much more than an enclosure of dispossessed people. Hamas-led Gaza has attacked Israel a number of other times since 2006, though with barely a ripple of international attention. (My recording of the 13 May 2023 Listening Post episode about surveillance of Palestinians in East Jerusalem shows this in the lower-screen news-ribbon: "Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip continue for the fifth consecutive day. Israeli military says at least 1,000 missiles have been launched from Gaza since Tuesday. Israel confirms killing a sixth commander of Islamic Jihad in air strikes on Gaza. At least 33 Palestinians killed and 120 injured in air strikes on Gaza. At least two people killed in Israeli raid on Balata Camp in Nablus in occupied West Bank". Clearly Hamas had to do much more next time in order for the international community to take notice of the ongoing plight of the Palestinian people under siege and surveillance.) The world – and the news-cycle – follows an 'out-of-sight out-of-mind' reality. On 7 October 2023, Hamas did enough – probably more than enough – to be noticed. Egregious behaviour is rewarded with attention.
We should also understand that the willingness of many Palestinians to die in their struggle for freedom is not unique to them. Israel maintains a substantial monument to the Siege of Masada (by the Romans) in the year 0073. Apparently "The Jewish rebels had set all the buildings but the food storerooms ablaze and had killed each other, declaring 'a glorious death ... preferable to a life of infamy'."
My sense is that an India-Pakistan-style two-state solution was never viable in the Southern Levant; just as it was never viable as a post-colonial solution to British India. The 'two-state solution' remains a fantasy of the self-proclaimed 'liberal rules-based' West. And, I suspect, it's now too late for a three-state solution. Both Gaza and the West Bank have already been too substantially compromised. (A West Bank state has been compromised by the present degree of Israeli settlement there. There had been a possibility of a small landlocked independent state such as Eswatini, which – as Swaziland – 'enjoyed' an independent coexistence with Apartheid South Africa.) We should note the parallels between the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi in 1948 with that of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, and this story from Al Jazeera in 2015: Rabin’s assassination marked the end of the two-state solution.
The only viable long-term outcome that I can see is a one-state solution, possibly with that state being Israel. For a first-best outcome, we can draw some inspiration from post-Apartheid South Africa. In the Levantine context, an ideal state would neither be called Israel nor Palestine. An important feature of such a state would be a truth and reconciliation process. In the words of Paul Oestreicher: "There is still a fast-shrinking possibility that apartheid Israel could become a nation with equal rights for all of its inhabitants … a dream worth pursuing." Such a state might be called 'South Levant'.
My sense though is that Israel's campaign of supremacist violence has already become a fait-accompli. The rest of the world probably needs to focus on achieving – this decade – the second-best one-state solution. The best that the West can offer the Southern Levant is a state of permanent limbo; a permanent cycle of escalating and de-escalating violence; this is a third-best or fourth-best outcome. Contemporary Gaza is like a turkey-enclosure before Thanksgiving; enduring its own Squid Game purgatory. And the West Bank has already become a Kafkaesque nightmare of Israeli-imposed bureaucracy and petty collective cruelties to those Palestinians – especially Muslims – who resist being chased off their lands.
Military realism today may be a more likely precursor to a long-term realisation of the living-together one-state dream than another permanent set of temporary impasses; than another 75 years of limbo and a continuance of the passions that the last 100 years have brought, not only to that region but to the whole world.
Military and geopolitical realism may see all the Southern Levant west of the Jordan River become Israel; eventually (hopefully by 2050) a depoliticised and de-zionised Israel. To avoid genocide this northern hemisphere summer, the 1940s' architects and sponsors of Israel – especially the United States and the United Kingdom – will need to facilitate a substantial 2020s' expansion of the already-large Palestinian diaspora. Israeli writers are already saying this: refer The West Should Welcome Gaza Refugees, by Danny Danon and Ram Ben-Barak, Wall Street Journal 13 Nov 2023. The sooner the purgatory is over, even if the short-term outcome is not first-best, then the sooner people who identify as Palestinians will once again be welcome in the lands of their ancestors; welcome as equals in a 2040s' Israel or South Levant that is very different from the present Israel.
We note that the Netherlands of today – renowned for its pluralist tolerance – is quite different from the Calvinist Netherlands of 1600; although Netherlands still retains much from its Calvinist origins, including its own rural Bible Belt. Some forms of supremacism wither, when circumstances no longer sustain them. In addition to the Dutch, consider the more recent histories of the Germans, and the South Afrikaners. The United States remains a work in progress; white supremacism remains a problem there. And there are other supremacisms still alive, still rampant; in Myanmar, and in Darfur, which have not so far been mentioned here, and are not mentioned much anywhere else either. The West's attention span remains too short.
The Zionists and the Calvinists – the Jews and the Dutch – have, for better and/or worse, punched above their weight in world history, in the creation of the modern capitalist world. Likewise, we must give much credit to Darwinism as a positive force; the science of evolution and the evolution of science that is (not supremacist Darwinian pseudo-sciences!).
Supremacism will not go away. It will not be smashed by anti-supremacism. Israel cannot and should not be smashed, just as the Calvinist tradition in modern Christianity cannot be eradicated. Rather, supremacist cultures can be 'domesticated', their energies channelled in ways that construct rather than destroy, that sustain rather than deplete. Jewish people should be – and are – proud of what they have achieved and have endured, in collectives and as individuals; they don't need Zionism or Neo-Zionism through which to express that pride.
Keith Rankin (keith at rankin dot nz), trained as an economic historian, is a retired lecturer in Economics and Statistics. He lives in Auckland, New Zealand.