Thanks Geoff for alerting me to Israeli PM Netanyahu’s slap down of army deputy chief of staff Major-General Yair Golan – and to Golan’s boss, Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon, standing by his man. Last Thursday Golan likened “nauseating processes” within Israel to those in Nazi Germany. Interesting. The more so for chiming with Westminster bells 2200 miles away over a remark, unwise but not inaccurate, that brought Ken Livingstone’s suspension from the Labour Party and with it a blow to Jeremy Corbyn.
In Israel the hysteria Golan provoked was as predictable as that generated by Ken’s comment. And just as the latter brought together the UK Zionist lobby and forces eager to oust Corbyn, in the byzantine maze of Knesset politics there’ll be internecine aspects to the Golan brouhaha no outsider could fathom – though we’re given a clue in Yaalon’s cryptic: ‘the attacks against Golan and the current criticism against him are deliberate distortions of the things he said’.
At a more general level Golan’s remarks, like Livingstone’s, point to historic accommodations Zionists are not entirely comfortable with. Today CounterPunch hosted this piece by Jonathan Cook, who writes:
… Livingstone’s comments – however clumsily expressed – point to an important truth. Herzl and other early Zionists implicitly accepted the ugly framework of European bigotry.
Jews, Herzl concluded, must embrace their otherness and regard themselves as a separate race. Once they found a benefactor to give them a territory – soon Britain would oblige with Palestine – they could emulate the other European peoples from afar.
For a while, some Nazi leaders were sympathetic. Eichmann, one of the later engineers of the Holocaust, visited Palestine in 1937 to promote the “Zionist emigration” of Jews.
Hannah Arendt, the German Jewish scholar of totalitarianism, argued even in 1944 – long after the Nazis abandoned ideas of emigration and embraced genocide instead – that Zionism was “nothing else than the uncritical acceptance of German-inspired nationalism”.
Israel and its supporters would prefer we forget that, before the rise of the Nazis, most Jews deeply opposed a future in which they were consigned to Palestine. Those who try to remind us of this forgotten history are denounced, like Livingstone, as anti-semites. They are accused of making a simplistic comparison between Zionism and Nazism. But there is good reason to examine this uncomfortable period.
Modern Israeli politicians, including Netanyahu, still regularly declare that Jews have only one home – in Israel. After every terror attack in Europe, they urge Jews to hurry to Israel, telling them they can never be safe where they are.
Even today the Zionist movement cannot help but mirror many of the flaws of those now-discredited European ethnic nationalisms, as Golan appears to appreciate.