September 10, 2016 Editor

“A Continuous War Mentality”: Richard Falk on Israel’s Human Rights Abuses

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Written by C. J. Polychroniou and Lily Sage By C.J. Polychroniou and Lily Sage, Truthout | Interview

photo above: Israel Defense Forces operating in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge, July, 2014. (Photo: Israel Defense Forces)

WN: Israel to Palestine is the United States to the entire world: a brutal (mini-)Empire that is deeply committed to the doctrine of  Might Is Right. Further and tragically, Israel to Palestine is Nazi Germany to the entire world: a mirror image of  the life and death domination of the Jews.

an excerpt:

It seems clear that nearly the entirety of the population of Israel and Palestine are in a constant trauma-reification cycle that began when Israel largely became inhabited by traumatized Jewish refugees, post-WWII. Do you think it is possible to overcome this, and would it be possible to find a peaceful resolution if this didn’t occur?

This is an insightful way of conceiving of the toxic interactions that have taken place over the years to the detriment, in my view, of both people. However, unless the assertion is seriously qualified, it suffers from a tendency to create impressions of symmetry and balance, when the reality of relations from the outset, especially since the Nakba [the mass displacement of Palestinians from their homes in 1948], has been one of oppressor and oppressed, invader and invaded. It is undoubtedly true that Israeli ideas about the use of force and security were reflections of their collective trauma and Holocaust memories, further reinforced by biblical and ancient historical claims, but it is also the case that the Palestinians were invaded in their place of residence, and then occupied, exploited, dispossessed and turned into refugees in their own country, while Israelis came to prosper, and to establish a regional military powerhouse and have the geopolitical reinforcement of its special relationships with United States. The early politics surrounding the establishment of Israel were also strongly influenced by the sense of guilt in Western liberal democracies, [which]… were reluctant to use munitions to disrupt the Holocaust.

Under Netanyahu, Israel has moved dangerously closer to becoming a fundamentalist and neo-fascist state, although long-standing Israeli propaganda has it that “Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East.” In your view, what accounts for the transformation of Israel from a once-promising democracy to an apartheid-like state with no respect for international law and human rights?

I believe there always were major difficulties with Israel’s widely proclaimed early identity as a promising democracy guided by progressive ideals. This image overlooked the dispossession of several thousand Palestinian residents, the destruction of hundreds of Palestinian villages, and the long-term discriminatory regime of military administration imposed on the remaining Palestinian minority that coincided with the establishment of the newly established Israeli state. What is important to appreciate is that this 20th-century process of state-creation took place in an era that was increasingly imbued with anticolonial activism that was convinced that Israel from its genesis (with the Balfour Declaration of 1917), and despite the Holocaust and historic tragedies of the Jewish people, was an essentially European colonialist imposition on the Arab world and the latest instance of settler colonialism.

Against this background, Israel became embattled in various ways with internal Palestinian resistance and regional hostility that generated several wars. In that process, a series of developments moved Israel further and further toward the right. A continuous war mentality tends to erode democratic structures and values even under the best of circumstances. Military successes, especially after the 1967 War, created a triumphalist attitude that also solidified US geopolitical support and made it seem possible for Israel to achieve security while expanding Israel’s territorial reality (via settlements).

Israeli demographics over the years, involving large-scale immigration of Russian Jews and high fertility rates among Orthodox Jews, pushed the political compass even further to the right. These key developments were reinforced by Israeli public opinion that came to believe that various proposals put forward by Israel to achieve a political compromise were not accepted by the Palestinians. These outcomes were misleadingly interpreted as justifying the Israeli conclusion that they had no Palestinian partner for peace.

Additionally, the need for Israel to remain aggressively vigilant [after Gaza fell] under the control of Hamas… led to [Israelis] entrusting government to rightest leadership and in the process, weakening the peace-oriented political constituencies remaining active in Israel. In part, here, memories of the Nazi experience were invoked to induce acute anxiety that Jews suffered such a horrible fate because they remained as a group too passive in face of mounting persecution, and failed to take Hitler at his word.

Please click on: Israel’s Human Rights Abuses

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Wayne Northey was Director of Man-to-Man/Woman-to-Woman – Restorative Christian Ministries (M2/W2) in British Columbia, Canada from 1998 to 2014, when he retired. He has been active in the criminal justice arena and a keen promoter of Restorative Justice since 1974. He has published widely on peacemaking and justice themes. You will find more about that on this website: a work in progress.

Always appreciate constructive feedback! Thanks.