Palestinians are in Israel’s crosshairs because they are not Jews

People praying at the Western Wall

Jews pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem in the late 19th century.

Felix Bonfils

If Israel were stripped of its endlessly elaborate narrative, all that would be left would be the violent replacement of a native population with an imported Jewish “tribe.”

That – all charade dispensed with – is the reckoning Israel’s supporters must face. To be sure, millions of Evangelical end-of-timers may say “Amen!” to that, but the pretense will be gone, exposing what Israel’s claimed “right to exist” actually means.

What stands in the way of that reckoning is language – control of the words used to explain the so-called conflict in Israel-Palestine, not least the word “conflict” itself. The manipulation of language is key to Israel’s impunity, to securing the Western public’s complicity for its crimes, and so a critique of that language is evident among those fighting for justice.

Yet the most basic linguistic construct serving to blur public understanding of Israel’s crimes has escaped proper scrutiny: the very term, “the Palestinians,” as the target of Israel’s crimes. Yes, they’re all Palestinians of course — but although “being Palestinian” has long been synonymous with what puts them in Israel’s cross-hairs, this equation obscures the deeper truth: their “crime” is not that they are Palestinian but that they are not Jews. Hiding this fact is essential to Israel’s propaganda.

Zionism’s goal of a “Jewish” state in all of historic Palestine has always required expelling the land’s native people, except for Palestine’s native Jews. When early Zionist colonizers reached Palestine, they found a Palestinian population comprising a small minority of Jews, the rest being Muslim and Christian. All that mattered was that the rest were not Jews and so an impediment to Zionism’s goal of ethnic “purity.”

Palestinian Jews, moreover, were not willing converts – as the eminent historian Ilan Pappé has documented. They were as distrustful of Zionism as were their Muslim and Christian countrymen. Over time, however, the Zionists successfully incorporated them into their messianic project, yet as late as November 1945, the British still reported that the native Jews of Levant states are “apprehensive of Zionism” and “show solidarity with [the] local Arab population.”

False framing

The term “Palestinian” suggests geographic association – people whose heritage and cultural identity derive from historic Palestine, whether native-born or diaspora. When a public already indoctrinated by the Israeli narrative hears that there is trouble between Israel and “the Palestinians,” it creates a false sense of conventional territorial haggling, reinforced by the phantom of a Palestinian “national” Authority.

The false framing vanishes, however, when “Palestinians” is replaced with “non-Jews” or “non-Jewish Palestinians.”

Palestinian Jews were not the only Arab Jews that the Zionists incorporated into their colonial project. Zionists worked hard, indeed violently, to transplant Arab Jews from the Middle East and North Africa to Palestine, benefiting Zionism beyond their value as settlers. During the Mandate period, Zionized Middle Eastern Jews (e.g. Yemini), were especially effective in the Zionists’ terror campaigns for the very fact that they blended into indigenous populations and so could operate anywhere without raising suspicion.

Once the Zionist movement succeeded in creating its so-called “Jewish state” in 1948, Palestinian identity itself became a liability, damning evidence to be erased. Today, the West’s dehumanization of Palestinians on Israel’s behalf is such that the US congressional response to Israel’s massacres, like the mass murder of the 2014 “Protective Edge” operation, is to increase funding for Israel.

It is in the effort to wake up the Western public to the slow genocide it docilely empowers that it is important to expose the inner workings of how and why it has been made complicit.

Israel flaunts itself as “the Jewish State” to clinch its messianic pretenses and hijacking of Jewish identity – indeed to spin words against the state as being against Jews. As Ben-Gurion himself put it in a 1941 meeting planning the Zionist takeover of Palestine, it is about “being a Jew.”

It is to turn historic Palestine into the home of this Jewish “race” – a worldwide “nationality” marked by blood descent, the parameters of which Israel alone dictates, and for which intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews is outlawed – that Israel has condemned millions of human beings to various levels of apartheid, confined to bantustans and refugee camps.

It is why it kills so easily, why the Zionist militias depopulated some 500 villages in 1948, and why millions now languish in camps. Had they been Jewish – whether Palestinian, Arab or anything else – they would instead have been given a house whose owner was ethnically cleansed for not being Jewish.

Accurate reporting

Thus accurately identifying the victims of Zionism exposes not just Israel’s racial fascism in regard to the Palestinians, but also its racial fascism as a profound crime against Jews, hijacking Jewish identity to serve its ethnic supremacy cult.

In my view, nothing going on between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea, or in the internment (“refugee”) camps that dot the region, can be understood without keeping this front and center. The Israeli state will exploit the terms “Jews” and “Jewish” – for example, coercing news media to refer to West Bank apartheid settlements as “Jewish neighborhoods” in order to plant the idea that if you’re against them, it’s because they’re Jewish. But the public is deliberately left unaware that the actual people of the “neighborhood” are those kids throwing stones, who are being forcibly removed because they are not Jewish.

If the public was not kept ignorant, the effect would be quick and profound. Imagine reporting for the Great March of Return of a few years back, when people in Gaza made a purely symbolic show of returning to their own legal homes from which they were ethnically cleansed. It would read something like: People attempting to return home continue to be shot dead by Israeli snipers because they are non-Jews.

Or when the Israeli army breaks into a refugee camp at 3 am and shoots dead a 15-year-old, we might have an accurate description like this: Israeli soldiers entered the al-Arroub camp, one of the internment camps in which Israel confines non-Jews, and executed a teenager who challenged them.

Or on bantustans and control of movement: The mother of three lost her battle against cancer this morning after Israel repeatedly blocked her from reaching medical care because she was a non-Jew.

Or just the routine ethnic cleansing: Israeli forces continued their hunt for any remaining non-Jews in the Sheikh Jarrah area of occupied East Jerusalem, today forcing two such families from their homes in order to replace them with Jews.

There is nothing interpretive in this reporting. They are straightforward, factual summaries of what is happening and why.

Were the media to report on Palestine with such accuracy, the entire Zionist project would quickly fail. They won’t – not at first, not until enough of us do so.

Thomas Suárez is a London-based historical researcher. His books include three works on the history of cartography, and four on Palestine, most recently Palestine Hijacked – How Zionism forged an apartheid state from river to sea.