Israel, the Hermit Kingdom

            “The world is kind of deserting Israel right now,” Representative Tim Burchett, Republican of Tennessee, remarked after meeting with members of the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC. “So they’re worried about that.”

            Their concern is warranted. Less than six months after Hamas attacked on October 7th, killing 1,200 people with brutality that sparked widespread sympathy as well as material support for the Jewish state, polls show that popular opinion in the U.S. and internationally has turned against Israel at unprecedented levels. The UN secretary-general is angry, the International Court of Justice is giving serious consideration to the charge that Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians in Gaza, and even President Joe Biden—a self-described Zionist who has repeatedly visited Israel and rushed to send it weapons after October 7th—has warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that continuing his ground offensive into Rafah, the last relatively intact city left in the Strip, would cross his “red line.”

            Israelis and their supporters are confused. Why is Israel rapidly sliding into pariah status now?

            Netanyahu has forgotten that Israel is a U.S. vassal state. They don’t call the shots. We do. Bibi nonetheless has insolently rejected Biden’s ultimatum.

            Israelis’ cluelessness is understandable. They’ve been oppressing the Palestinians for decades. They’ve ignored UN resolutions requiring that they stop occupying Arab territory, they’ve sent nearly a million religious fanatics to colonize the West Bank, and they’ve run the only apartheid state in the world following the end of that system in South Africa—yet nothing bad has ever happened to them. America kept sending them billions of dollars a year, arming them with high-tech weapons and intelligence, and ran interference for them at the UN whenever the world tried to hold them accountable for human rights abuses. Why should the good times come to an end?

            The answer, of course, is two-fold. The systemic decimation of Gaza, caught in high-definition videos on social media in an act of ethnic cleansing obviously intended to be succeeded by annexation, is even more extreme than Israel’s previous crimes. Israel’s war against the innocent civilians of Gaza is the feather that broke the world’s patience and indifference…a one-ton feather.

            That the world would turn away from Israel was easy to see coming tens of thousands of dead Gazans ago.

For everyone but the Israelis, that is.

            Israelis are not stupid people. How did they fail to anticipate that they would soon be shunned and despised for what most of the world sees as a grotesque and opportunistic overreaction to October 7th? As a nation created by the UN, no other country depends as much upon international goodwill for its survival.

            Israel, you’ll notice if you visit, is along with North Korea and the United States one of the most insular countries on earth. Whereas most of the world and its news coverage is omnivorously internationalist, and floods in Myanmar or a coup in Central America makes the top of the news, Israel, like the U.S., obsesses over its own domestic affairs to the exclusion of all else with the exception of events that impact it directly—and it does so from an unabashedly nationalist viewpoint.

            Like the U.S., Israel is a melting pot of immigrants where assimilation is expected to include learning the national language. Unlike us, who have been blessed with seeing our mother tongue spread as the 20th and 21st centuries’ lingua franca, more than 90% of Israelis read and speak one of the most globally useless languages anywhere, an artificially revived form of long-dead Hebrew.  Curious Americans looking for viewpoints outside the MSM echo chamber can access the BBC and the CBC and Al Jazeera English for foreign coverage in the English language. Israelis looking for alternative news and opinions in Hebrew have no options.

            Founded in large part by Holocaust survivors, veterans of numerous wars and beleaguered by countless terrorist attacks, it is completely understandable why Israelis are obsessed with security. But security is a two-edged sword. When you keep other people out, you yourself remain inside. And you are deprived of the insights and different ways of looking at things people get when they interact with others and opinions that differ from their own.

            It’s also not very effective. Israel, a self-declared safe haven for global Jewry, is by far the most dangerous country for Jewish people.

            Consider, for example, the massive “smart” high-tech security walls Israel built to keep out residents of the occupied territories of Gaza and the West Bank. They were remarkably effective (until October 7th) at segregating populations that Israelis have come to view as dangerous, if not as inherent enemies. At the same time, Israelis now have no day-to-day interaction with their Arab neighbors. They don’t do business together, they don’t make friends, they don’t date, they don’t talk, they can’t get each other. Walling off Gaza is such an extreme act that it cuts off Israel from the Mediterranean Sea; no country interested in its internal security or military strategy voluntarily relinquishes access to the sea. Even the Arab Israelis who comprise 20% of Israel’s population have found themselves discriminated against, isolated and alienated within their own country.

            It’s the height of irony. It’s not just the people of Gaza who live in a giant open-air concentration camp. Survivors of Germany’s camps have built their own prison camp—for themselves—and it’s the biggest, most effective one of them all.

            No wonder Israelis can’t relate to the rest of the planet. They’ve been living on the inside so long they don’t see the real world anymore. Colonialism, a distinctly 19th and early 20th century project, is an anachronism. Apartheid too. Israelis don’t see that opposing the war against Gaza isn’t the same as anti-Zionism, which itself isn’t the same as anti-Semitism. They don’t understand that, these days, even if you don’t care about the people you are killing to steal their land, you have to pretend that you do (e.g., Biden’s parachute drops of food supplies into the same place his bombs are killing the starving locals).

            A poll by the Israel Democracy Institute found that 75% of Jewish Israelis think the country should ignore pressure from the U.S. to wind down the war in Gaza. A poll by Gallup showed that 65% oppose an independent Palestinian state. “It isn’t fashionable to trust Palestinians, any Palestinians,” former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert observes. That’s how white South Africans felt about Blacks during apartheid. Now, of course, they’re fine. So it would be in a unified post-apartheid Palestine.

            Now the highest-ranking Jewish politician in the U.S., Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, has formally issued a Biden-approved verbal demand for regime change in Israel, saying that Israel should call new elections, which polls indicate Netanyahu might lose.

            Yet Netanyahu persists. “No international pressure will stop Israel,” the prime minister says, pledging to attack Rafah despite Biden’s warning.

            “Isolated, cloistered, militaristic and more unhinged than ever, Israel is becoming the North Korea of the Middle East,” Uri Misgav writes in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. Israelis need to tear down their paranoia-grounded security walls—not just to liberate the Palestinians, though that is way overdue!—but to free themselves.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, co-hosts the left-vs-right DMZ America podcast with fellow cartoonist Scott Stantis. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

2 Comments. Leave new

  • alex_the_tired
    March 19, 2024 8:01 AM

    Ted mentions: “President Joe Biden—a self-described Zionist who has repeatedly visited Israel and rushed to send it weapons after October 7th—has warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that continuing his ground offensive into Rafah, the last relatively intact city left in the Strip, would cross his ‘red line.’ ”

    So, that is Biden’s line. When one nation has destroyed every single city in a region except one, that’s Biden’s breaking point.

    I truly, truly, truly wish I could understand the mind of the Biden supporter.

  • This essay is spot on. I once saw a Jewish man in a private home wearing a tee shirt that said, “They did it to us now we will do it to them.” Schumer gave his speech knowing that all the years of work by the Israel lobby and others to curry favor is going down the tubes. As Phyllis Bennis pointed out on Democracy Now, a Netanyahu replacement might be worse. And, Schumer’s use of “cease fire” was far from a demand.

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