Understanding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Zionism

Washington, DC (TFC) – The “Z-word.” It’s a word we aren’t really supposed to use in respectable media. People have gone to great lengths to paint those that use the word as Anti-Semites. Many associate the word with tinfoil-hat wearing conspiracy theorists that blame the Jews for everything. Is any of that accurate? What exactly is Zionism?

Announcement about Uganda venture.

Announcement about Uganda venture.

First things first, Zionism is real. It’s a political movement. It was founded in 1896 by Theordor Herzl and the movement had a pretty simple goal. It wanted to establish a Jewish state. Today we immediately think of Israel, but that country was formed almost half a century later. The original “Jewish territory” was not in Israel, Palestine, or even in the Middle East. It was in present day Uganda. The British government authorized the creation of a Jewish territory in East Africa on August 29, 1903. After two years of expeditions and debate, the Seventh Zionist Congress rejected the proposal. The Zionists then went on to explore the idea of establishing a Jewish territory in Canada, Australia, Angola, Libya, and scores of other locations. 9,300 Jews migrated to Galveston, Texas between 1907 and 1913 under “The Galveston Scheme.”

Herzl, Zionism’s founder, repeatedly made it clear that any successful Jewish territory would be temporary in nature and only exist until the time came when the Jews could reclaim Jerusalem, a city synonymously known as “Zion.” Ok, no harm, no foul. Not many people object to the idea of an ethnic minority reclaiming a territory viewed as their homeland.

Then, in 1917, The Zionist movement got the break it was looking for. It came in the form of a plainly typed note from the British Foreign Secretary Lord Arthur James Balfour. This note became known as the “Balfour Declaration.” The important part of the message reads:

“His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

This was the true birth of Zionism in earnest and this note starts many of the conspiracy theories about Zionism. It was addressed to Lord Rothschild. Yes, one of those Rothschilds. Specifically Baron Edmond James de Rothschild. He was a prominent Jewish figure and had been involved in the movement since its inception. He was wealthy and tied to the British government. That’s the reason he was the recipient of the note. Was he a Zionist? Yes. He bankrolled several settlements in Palestine.

This note was followed by the Palestine Mandate issued by the League of Nations (the forerunner to the United Nations). At the end of World War II the UN declared Jerusalem to be under UN control and that the area known as Western Palestine should be divided to provide for the Jewish migrants that had been settling there. The Arab states and Arab Palestinians living in the land objected and the first war broke out.

The war is known as the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. This marked a transformation in the Zionist movement. Prior to this point, those that argued for ethnic cleansing were extremists within the movement. After this war, ethnic cleansing is the norm. (The term “ethnic cleansing” may seem harsh, but keep reading).

On May 14th of 1948,  David Ben-Gurion and others within the Zionist movement declared the creation of The State of Israel. The designated area was promptly invaded by the armies of seven different Arab nations. Israel’s military forces destroyed the invading armies. During the war, more than 700,000 Palestinians were forced from their homes and wound up displaced refugees. Their descendents are still refugees today.

There is even an exact moment when Zionism changed from a somewhat noble goal of giving a homeland to a dispossessed people to the genocidal ideology that engages in ethnic cleansing that we know today. That moment is an operation known as Mivtza Nikayon. The name of this operation is rarely translated into English by the mainstream press. With good reason.


Operation: Cleaning

“Mivtza Nikayon” translated becomes operation: cleaning. It was the operation that was designed to clean out the Palestinians after the 1948 war. Yes, they named their ethnic cleansing operation “cleaning.” What happened during this operation? Everything you expect to happen during a tribal war in Africa. Homes were torched, property was seized without due process, people were executed, and the only justification was that they were from the other side. An article from the New York Times in 2008 described the scene:

“In late August 1948, during a United Nations-sanctioned truce, Israeli soldiers conducting what they called Mivtza Nikayon — Operation Cleaning — encountered some Palestinian refugees just north of the Egyptian lines. The Palestinians had returned to their village, now in Israeli hands, because their animals were there, and because there were crops to harvest and because they were hungry. But to the Israelis, they were potential fighters, or fifth columnists in the brand new Jewish state. The Israelis killed them, then burned their homes.”

This left almost a million people without a home and created the ready recruitment pool for Palestinian militant groups that still exist today. The Palestinians refer to it as Al Nakba, the catastrophe. This was all done under the premise that if they were allowed to return, Israel would be in a constant state of war with these people. How’s that working out? It’s been almost 70 years and the war is still raging. People are dying every day.


There is no true Palestinian

There’s a common response to any criticism of Israel’s genocidal policies that nobody self-identified as “Palestinian” prior to the 1948 war. This is mostly true. The people that make up the group we know as Palestinian today were members of separate tribes, clans, or groups. They were not unified. It took genocide to unify them.

Image Source: Adolfo Lujan, Flickr, Creative Commons

Image Source: Adolfo Lujan, Flickr, Creative Commons

The premise that because not many identified themselves as “Palestinian” in 1948 it is ok to withdraw human rights from them or that they just don’t even exist is insane. It would be similar to saying “Because there was no tribe in the Americas called ‘indian,’ they have no rights and do not exist.” No matter what name you wish to assign them, the indisputable fact is that at least 700,000 people were the victims of ethnic cleansing.

400,000 more were displaced following the 1967 war that started when Israel attacked Egyptian forces that were mobilized along the border. While many Anti-Israeli historians argue that this was an unprovoked attack, it seems clear that the troops were positioned there by the Egyptians to provoke a response from Israel after Egypt had received bad intelligence from the Soviet Union. Israel’s response was probably not what the Egyptians had intended with the sabre-rattling.


What about today?

It’s all the same. The same failed policies are in effect that encourage Israel to engage in apartheid, ethnic cleansing, and genocide. The Palestinians are still attempting to reclaim their lands. The war rages on.


Tidbits on Zionism:

Zionism is not a fiction, nor should it be a dirty word. It is a political ideology that has run amok. It is not confined to Jews. There are Christian and Muslim Zionists.

Not all Jews are Zionists. Most aren’t.

Criticising Zionism’s current policies in Gaza and the West Bank is a moral imperative.

Being anti-Zionist does not make you an anti-Semite or a racist.

Gandhi opposed Zionism. He once said “…they have erred grievously in seeking to impose themselves on Palestine with the aid of America and Britain and now with the aid of naked terrorism.”


Is there a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

Of course. It’s the same solution that has worked in other seemingly endless wars. For 800 years, the British government occupied and subjugated all or part of Ireland. The war with the Irish seemed unending. A policy shift in the 1980s brought about what certainly appears to be a lasting peace.

The shift was simple to implement. The British began recognizing the human rights of the individual Irish citizen. Rather than the collective punishment that only served to drive young men into the arms of the Irish Republican Army, they began only arresting those they had proof were involved with the insurgency. The level of peace in Ireland since the Brits committed to that course of action has risen steadily. While the IRA still exists and still has some support, it is nowhere near the controlling influence it was in the 1970s when it matched Hamas’s control over Gaza.



Tactics the Israelis are currently using were employed by the British. They failed. Even the British weren’t dumb enough to intern an entire section of the country as the Israelis have done in Gaza. The Apartheid policy in Gaza has done nothing more than confirm to the Palestinian people that they have one option: fight.  Mr. Netanyahu, tear down this wall.