November 20, 2023 –
The genocidal Israeli assault on Gaza is steeped in racism. It could hardly be otherwise. How can you justify the elimination of vast numbers of civilians, including children, unless you reduce your victims to the level of sub-humans?
How can you tell your soldiers to storm hospitals, bomb schools and kill babies without assuring them that the enemy is not like you?
He is not just barbarous and cunning but also a different type—almost a different species—to decent people.
When last month defence minister Yoav Gallant announced a “complete siege” of the Gaza Strip with “no electricity, no food, no fuel,” he added, “We are fighting human animals”.
Prime minister Binyamin Netanhayu said the onslaught was, “A struggle between the children of light and the children of darkness, between humanity and the law of the jungle.”
The need to separate “us” from “them” was the spur to the creation of racism during the Atlantic slave trade. Africans could be treated as non-human because, said the new racist ideology, they were “others” and therefore could be used as mere instruments to produce profit.
Zionism has frequently adopted vile “Palestinians equal animals” language. In 1982, during the war on Lebanon, prime minister Menachem Begin described Palestinians as “beasts walking on two legs”.
A year later, chief of staff of the Israel Defence Forces, Rafael Eitan said, “When we have colonised the country, all the Arabs will have left to do is go around in circles like drugged cockroaches in a bottle.”
Cockroaches was the word used to describe the Tutsi ethnic group during the Rwandan genocide of 1994.
In 2016, at a construction site of a border fence between Gaza and Israel, Netanyahu said the barrier was necessary because, “In our neighbourhood, we need to protect ourselves from wild beasts”.
The use of racist language is often the instinctive response to unanswerable accusations of Israeli cruelty. Former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Dan Gillerman was recently asked by Sky News to justify the collective punishment of Gazans.
He said, “I am very puzzled by the constant concern which the world is showing for the Palestinian people and is actually showing for these horrible, inhuman animals who have done the worst atrocities that this century has seen.”
The settler-colonial state has apartheid and separation at its heart. Israel’s Law of Return allows all Jews and those with a Jewish grandparent to enter. Palestinians whose parents or grandparents Israel expelled in 1948 are not eligible for citizenship.
It’s not some ancient prejudice. In 2018 the Israeli parliament passed the “Nation‑State” law. It says, “Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people and they have an exclusive right to national self-determination in it.”
It also says, “The state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment.” It’s a plan for ethnically-cleansed Jewish-only territories.
The Israel state allows Jews to seize land and set up settlements. There were 700,000 illegal settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem before 7 October and in the last month the rate of expulsion and dispossession of Palestinians has massively accelerated.
The ideology of racism is enhanced by the material difference in the lives of Israelis and Palestinians. Palestinians working in Israel are concentrated in the worst-paying jobs in the lowest-paying sections such as construction and basic services.
And many are undocumented workers, without the necessary permits which leaves them even more vulnerable to working for less than the usual rate and without any rights.
Yet those who are allowed to work in Israel are better off than Palestinians elsewhere. Wages of Palestinian workers in Israel and the settlements are 2.7 times higher than in the Occupied Palestinian Territory—2.2 times higher than in the West Bank and 4.4 times higher than in Gaza.
The Israeli worker may be angry at their boss and the politicians but they feel themselves superior to the Palestinians psychologically and materially. They sense their lives cannot be sustained without the injection of funds from the US and its allies.
At some points they may take to the streets against Netanyahu. But—except for a small set of anti-Zionist Jews—they won’t try to bring down the whole set-up.
The Israeli state has always been intertwined with racism. The early Zionists, at the beginning of the twentieth century, believed antisemitism—hatred of Jews because they are Jews—was eternal and unbreakable.
Jews would always be oppressed and would face constant violence from non-Jews unless they set up their own exclusive nation-state. It was impossible, they thought, to beat back the racism of antisemitism, still less to think it could be conquered.
The Zionist analysis coincided in a terrible way with the most awful antisemitism. Both believed that living together was impossible. Zionism was a minority view.
Most Jews accepted either a conservative, liberal or a socialist approach. The conservatives called for an enthusiastic embrace of prevailing capitalist laws and values in the countries where Jews lived.
If they adapted to this system, and pledged obedience to it, they could win prestige and become part of the elites. Such views attracted only a small audience of the rich.
Liberals also urged blending into the wider society. But they wanted to press within the existing political process for social and political equality and the removal of anti-Semitic measures.
The socialists, and especially the Marxists, identified antisemitism as one of the putrid effects of capitalism. It had to be fought without reservation wherever it appeared, but could not finally be defeated without taking on the wider system.
Workers had to tear out antisemitism’s roots through united struggle and the overthrow of capitalism. The Zionists advanced by hitching their futures to the killing machine of imperialism.
They offered to their powerful friends their services as an outpost of imperialism in the Middle East. And this enabled them to gain the military punch to deliver their dream of a Jewish state.
But this involved adopting the racism of the powers they had allied with. Zionism, a warped and distorted response to racism, became a form of racism itself once it clasped hands with imperialism.
Israel was founded in 1948 on land seized from Arabs though murder, intimidation and deliberate violence. That was justified by treating the Arabs as at best primitive and backward, and at worst as non-human.
In either case they did not have rights and could be swept aside to allow the “higher races” to succeed. This chimed with the theory and practice of imperialism. Winston Churchill expressed this most clearly.
In 1937, in testimony he thought would remain secret, he spoke about the Arab inhabitants of Palestine to the Peel Commission on a Jewish Homeland that the British had set up.
Churchill said, “I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time.
“I do not admit that right. I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia.
“I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race, has come in and taken their place.”
He was using examples of imperialist genocide, which used racist myths, to justify the Zionists’ arguments. Once such ideas gain a hold, all the rules that normally apply can be jettisoned.
Killing 12,000 Gazans is acceptable. Driving them from their homes into the desert is acceptable. But like all colonialists, the Israelis both despise and fear those they oppress.
They ooze contempt for the Palestinians but must pen them behind walls and barbed wire because they know they have many reasons to revolt.
They must beat or kill them when they resist, and tolerate them only when they are servile and useful to their masters.
And in order to deny their own racism, the Israelis and their supporters insist that any criticism of Zionism is antisemitic. Our pro-Palestine marches against Zionist hate are dubbed “hate marches”.
The reality of Israeli racism is turned on its head. But the movement can be more powerful than all these lies.