by Zafar Bangash (Book Review, Crescent International Vol. 28, No. 6, Muharram, 1420)
One of the most enduring myths of the contemporary era is the image of the Zionist State of Israel as a beleaguered entity. The presence of ‘Arab hordes’ surrounding ‘tiny Israel’ is constantly peddled and easily accepted by guilt-ridden governments in the west. This is compounded by political and financial blackmail, especially in the US, where the Jewish lobby has a stranglehold on the entire system.
While it is true that Israel is surrounded by Arab countries, to interpret this as Israel being under siege by hostile states requires a major leap of faith, as Israel Shahak, a Jewish writer and scholar reveals in his book, Open Secrets. Shahak is something of a gadfly in Israeli politics, with a knack for getting under the establishment’s skin. He does this well in this book also, pointing to an ingenious ploy used by successive Israeli regimes: the Hebrew press in the country discusses issues freely and from every possible angle; the English press (as well as the Arabic press) is highly censored.
Shahak says there is a simple reason for this. The Israeli establishment is aware that few people outside Israel can read Hebrew; hence while Israeli citizens are kept informed about major issues and allowed to debate them fairly openly, outsiders are denied this opportunity. Even the Hebrew press is censored but finds this exercised in a subtle manner. It is the Israeli English press that is used by ‘western experts,’ primarily Jews, to extol the non-existent virtues of the Zionist utopia.
Israel thrives on myths. The Zionist State will not survive and the Jewish lobby in the US will not be able to blackmail people to fork out money for it with such myths. In fact, there is a symbiotic relationship between the Jewish diaspora and Israel, a colonial settler-state which cannot sustain itself without constant injection of resources from outside.
Giving readers a glimpse of how life is structured in Israel, Shahak says that censorship is enforced through the Israeli military, which decides what information is allowed into print because it projects itself as the true defender of Israel. Shahak quotes Yitzhak Gal-Nur, the Ma’ariv newspaper columnist: “In Israel, the underlying principle is that all public information is secret, except if it has been authorized for publication” (p.14). This sums up the situation in the ‘only democracy in the Middle East’, which supposedly has the ‘freest press’ anywhere.
Since the military exercises total control over all aspects of society, it reigns supreme. This is evident from the large number of important political posts military men occupy in the country. In the forthcoming Israeli elections (May 17), all three prime ministerial candidates have military background. Yes, even Benjamin Netanyahu used to be a paratrooper before he entered politics. His two rivals, Ehud Barak and Yitzhak Mordechai, are former military chiefs. Most cabinet members are also former military officers.
In fact, in the ‘only Middle Eastern democracy,’ every person has to serve in the military, man or woman. Orthodox Jews, who refuse to serve on religious grounds, are the only exception. This does not mean that they are any less militant.
Sometimes censorship can go to seemingly ridiculous lengths. One persistent pattern revealed by Shahak is the censorship imposed on Jews from Russia. Their mail is censored to prevent them from informing their relatives in Russia about the true situation in Israel. If Russian Jews really knew what life in Israel was like, they would never leave their homeland, or if they did, they would choose to settle elsewhere rather than in Israel.
But the issue is larger than the mere case of overzealous military censors. It has to do with Israel’s insatiable appetite for manpower to settle the ever-expanding land area they steal from the Palestinians. For this, a steady supply of human beings is needed, be they Slavs from Russia, whites from America and Europe or Falashas from Ethiopia.
But Shahak puts his finger on the issue when he points out that censorship serves a much wider purpose: to promote Israel’s policy which he considers to be neither to make peace with the Palestinians nor have peace in the region. Zionism and peace cannot co-exist. The Zionists need a state of permanent conflict to ensure a steady supply of funds from abroad to survive economically.
By focusing on the Hebrew press, Shahak exposes the duplicitous nature of the zionist State. It brings out Israel’s real aims as a regional bully, as opposed to the myths peddled in the English press, of a beleaguered State anxious for peace. He says Israel has regional ambitions but these are projected globally. The Israelis consider the entire region from Morocco to Pakistan as their domain. They have turned the saying, ‘think globally, act locally,’ on its head into ‘think locally, act globally.’
It is this mentality that takes Israel to such places as Estonia, Azerbaijan, South Korea, Kenya and Nigeria, countries far away from the Middle East. Of course, exercising virtual control over the US Congress and the White House are other important dimensions of the same policy. Quoting an important Hebrew commentator who described US president Bill Clinton as ‘the real Israeli ambassador in Washington,’ Shahak reveals the mindset of the Zionists.
The author gives other examples: the English press projects Arab regimes and the PLO as being hostile to Israel; the Hebrew press talks about ensuring the survival of these regimes - in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and as far away as Morocco, as well as the PLO chairman Yasir Arafat.
As early as 1983, Ariel Sharon, who had gained notoriety as the butcher of Beirut for Israel’s June 1982 invasion of Lebanon, had proposed to India an alliance for a joint attack on Pakistan (p.32). Shahak categorises Israel’s policy as a ‘cosmic struggle against all Muslims.’ This explains its unremitting hostility to any manifestations of Islam anywhere in the world, whether by Palestinians or in Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Shahak says that Israel is also extending its foreign policy reach through its nuclear doctrine. For instance, the Hebrew press has discussed Tel Aviv providing a ‘nuclear umbrella’ to Qatar, Kuwait, Oman etc (p.4). One wonders how this is possible for a country that officially denies having nuclear weapons? Further, who poses a nuclear threat to these Persian Gulf countries? Jewish commentators have also discussed in the Hebrew press the ‘actual use of Israeli nuclear weapons in war.’ This would never be printed in the English press nor publicly admitted to by any Israeli official.
Shahak says that Israel compares itself with the big three in the use of nuclear weapons - the US, UK and France (p.40). It even surpasses Russia and China, not to mention India and Pakistan, the latest gate-crashers in the nuclear club. What is, however, of interest is that while others finance their own nuclearisation, Israel uses the US tax-payers’ money to advance its program.
Ultimately, of course, Israeli policy is predicated on ensuring its own survival. Shahak divides Israel’s occupation into two phases: before the intifadah in 1987 and the period since. The pre-intifadah period is described as a ‘quiet occupation.’ Israel maintained no more than 10,000 to 15,000 troops to control the West Bank and Ghazzah. Jewish settlers roamed freely around and could go where they pleased.
While there was opposition to the occupation, it was localised and easily controlled as Israel used Palestinian collaborators to inform on their fellow Palestinians. The intifadah changed that equation radically. Resistance spread to all parts of post-1967 borders (what are commonly referred to as the West Bank and Ghazzah). In addition, Palestinian collaborators were targeted and eliminated.
This was a major blow to the occupiers. The intifadah forced Israel to increase its occupation force to 180,000, putting enormous strain on its financial resources. More devastating was the psychological trauma suffered by Israeli soldiers who are used to an easy lifestyle. The macho settlers, too, could no longer prowl at will; they were exposed for what they are: thugs from North America and Europe.
Shahak is equally dismissive of the Oslo accords, describing them as an opportunity for Israel to find a ‘super collaborator’ in Arafat, who is doing Israel’s dirty work. Nothing has happened to change this assessment in the two years since the book was published.
Shahak is not opposed to the zionist State of Israel; he does not wish to see a Palestinian State established on the entire land of Palestine. But he is keen to expose the excesses of his fellow Zionists. In this, he spares neither Likud nor the Labour party. He also questions the commitment of Yitzhak Rabin, who entered into the peace deal with Arafat and was killed by a Jew in November 1995, pointing out that this ‘champion of peace’ continued to expand Jewish settlements and refused to make any concession to the Palestinian masses (p.165). In fact, Shahak says, Rabin insisted “Only Jews have the right over the entire Land of Israel.”
Since the ‘peace’ deal was signed in 1993, Israel has also constructed bypass roads to be used by Jews only. Shahak calls it ‘Israeli apartheid.’ But he reveals that these roads were planned by Sharon as early as 1977 and neither Rabin nor his foreign minister Shimon Peres objected to it at the time (p.177). They started to implement Sharon’s plan after the so-called peace deal.
Shahak’s book offers readers an interesting insight into the mentality of the Zionists, based largely on Hebrew sources which non-Jews are unable to access. As a Jew, he is also immune from the accusation of being ‘anti-semitic’, with which Zionists automatically smear all non-Jewish critics of Israel. The result is that his books is an excellent source which Muslims can use to expose the lies peddled by the Zionists and their apologists worldwide, especially in the US.
Muslimedia: May 16-31, 1999