By Prof. Dr. Mohsen Mohammad Saleh:
More than half a century ago, specifically in the year 1956, one of the most important figures in the Zionist Movement, and a key role player in the establishment of “Israel”, as well as its first prime minister; Ben-Gurion told Nahum Goldman; president of the World Zionist Organization (1956-1968): “The Jewish state will survive for the next ten or fifteen years, but the possibility of its henceforth survival is fifty-fifty.”
The great Zionist leader, Nahum Goldman, didn’t miss Ben-Gurion’s words while writing his article published in Foreign Affairs magazine issue of October 1975, where he warned that: “The Zionist demand for a Jewish State was in full contradiction with all principles of modern history and international law…. Israel has no long term future without accords with the Arabs.”
This article aims at highlighting the crisis of the Zionist Project in the 60th anniversary of establishing the Israeli entity. This is not to imply that there are no crises on the side of the Palestinians or the Arab or Islamic worlds, but these are not the focus of this article.
A Crisis in the Nature of “Israel” and its Legitimacy
The core of the Zionist project crisis is that the entity it established “Israel” is an “abnormal” entity. It’s an entity that represents the last vestiges of the European Colonialism, based on irregularity and injustice. It’s an entity that started with the immigration of Jewish groups from about 90 countries to replace the land-dwelling people since 4500 years; a racial entity based on racial preferences for followers of a particular religion, without regarding the rights of others.
Racist Entities based on violating the rights of others, bear within them the seeds of extinction, as they move against history and development, and against God’s rules for the universe. Their existence is a matter of time and is also linked with the efforts exerted by the rightful owners and original dwellers to restore their rights.
To ensure the survival of this entity, Israel has two options: the first is to change from an abnormal entity in the region to a normal one, and thus erase the reputation it has gained in the region as being a “tumor” in the Arabic and Islamic body.
This option however can only be resolved if Israel can change the deep Palestinian, Arabic and Muslim belief regarding Israel’s legitimacy. Legitimacy can’t be obtained through power or even through international resolutions, because the original population is the only party that has the right to give it.
Could the Israeli Entity -for example- reach a satisfactory and final settlement with the Palestinians inside and outside Palestine? There is no doubt that there are no signs for such a possibility in the near future, that ensures the return of the Palestinian refugees, or that establishes an independent Palestinian State with full sovereignty on its territory. What the most “moderate” Israelis consider as the ceiling of what they could offer is way far from what the most “settlement-enthusiastic” Palestinian would accept.
The current leadership of the Palestine Liberty Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority (PA) is suffering from being in a loose situation where they are not able to speak on behalf of all the Palestinians; and even in case an incomplete settlement was reached, this leadership is incapable of imposing this settlement on the rest of the Palestinian.
Add to this that the readiness of the Arabic and Islamic Regimes to reach a settlement, is overshadowed by the fact that the overwhelming majority of Arabs and Muslims, especially in surrounding countries, still believe in the illegitimacy of the Israeli entity. Actually many of the Arab and Islamic regimes are unstable, and once ravaged by the winds of change, there is no guarantee for any settlements. Yet further, the normalization processes have obviously failed in achieving any significant popular progress in both Egypt and Jordan.
The second option is directly related to the ability of Israel to maintain its power outbalance within the region, and in the continuation of the current status of the surrounding countries and nations in being weak, underdeveloped, and disjointed; an postulation that Israel has been counting on since its establishment.
The Israeli Ambassador in Spain, Rafi Shutz, wasn’t away from the reality when he announced in 11/5/2008 that was it not for the Israeli military strength, Israel wouldn’t be able to remain for even five minutes!! This explains the quite-often repeated statement: “Israel must prevail in all wars, and it can’t afford a real one defeat”.
Israel owns more than 200 nuclear warheads, and a developed army that can defeat the armies of the Arab countries combined, with the help of its strategic alliance with the United States (US). The per capita military expenditure in Israel is estimated by 2000 US$ per year, compared to an annual 42 US$ per capita military expenditure in Egypt.
But Israel can’t respond to the simple basic question: “How long can Israel ensure to remain strong? And how long will the Arab and Muslim countries remain weak?” Especially if the Arabs and Muslims still believe that their battle with Israel is a battle of generations, a battle not about boundaries, but about existence. This is also supported by their enormous faith in the ability of the region to absorb colonial attacks through history, and to defeat it eventually. Unnecessary here is to remind with the history of the region, and colonials ranging from Pharaohs, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Crusaders, Tatars and others.
The Zionist Project has failed to prove the saying: “A land without people for people without a land”. Palestinians, whom the Zionist Project wanted to extinguish, have not only proven their ability to strive, but also their extraordinary vitality and enormous capacity to endure and to create new means of steadfastness and resistance.
Palestinians keep taking the Zionist project to square one from the conflict every time they revolutionize and flame their resistance. They have proven that the Palestinian case is different than that of the “Red Indians” or the —.
The Israeli wishes that the Palestinian Refugees would forget their cause over the past sixty years didn’t ratify; and over the last ten years, a vast movement of Palestinian Refugees with greater awareness and organization has risen, a movement that insists on the “right of return”; a movement that is spreading among the Palestinians in Europe, the Americas, and Australia as well as those in the Arab Countries.
These are the people who represent a real challenge to Israel because their return means the end of the Zionist Project, and their presence outside Palestine means an on-going conflict.
Another aspect of the Zionist project crisis is the constantly rising Islamic forces, both politically and militarily. These forces reject the peaceful settlement of the Palestinian issue, reject to recognize Israel, and consider Palestine as a Muslim land (Waqf). They adopt the option of armed resistance and jihad, and call for extending the warfare against Israel so that it includes not only the Palestinians but also Arabs and Muslims.
For this, it was not surprising to hear it in the Herzliya Conference (one of the most important annual Israeli conferences, in terms of influencing the decision making process, that is attended by senior politicians, security men and professionals) that: “Hamas’s popular and political rise is a strategic threat to Israel”
The conference also considered that the rise of the Islamic forces in the region represents a real strategic threat. The Israeli decision makers’ concerns are further aroused with the fact that this rise in these forces is accompanied with an increasing state of instability in the regimes surrounding Israel. They are afraid thus that all changes in these regimes, whether through democratic elections or with the fall the regimes themselves and entering a phase of chaos, will serve at the end these Islamic forces, and thus serve the resistance plan against the Zionist Project.
The Armed Resistance
The armed Palestinian resistance, its development and the possibility of its spread in the Arab and Islamic worlds, is also one of the issues that alarms the Zionists and their project. During the past twenty years, the armed resistance center of action has moved from outside Palestine to inside it.
The resistance methods and tactics has also developed, from stone-throwing and knives, to automatic guns then to self-immolation explosives and rockets. Even yet, the rockets have been improving in terms of their range, their components of explosive material, and their accuracy in reaching specific targets.
For example, and according to Israeli sources, the number of the Israelis killed during the five years of the first Intifada (1987-1992) reached 134 Israeli; compared to 1080 Israelis who were killed in the first five years of the second Intifada (2000-2005). 451 of the latter were killed only in the year 2002.
The stability of the Zionist Project depends on two pillars: security and economy. The armed resistance is one of the most effective means of shaking or damaging these two pillars.
Thus, the increasing combat potentials for Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad is undoubtedly an increasing issue of concern to the Zionist Project, especially that the human factor of the individuals who are fighting and willing to sacrifice or immolate themselves has also changed radically.
Currently, the total number of Israelis living outside Israel is around 700 thousands. An estimated percentage of 25-30% of the Israelis living in Israel expressed their desire to immigrate and leave Israel when the Intifada and armed resistance activities intensified. These figures are increasing with many factors, such as not feeling safe, the declining economy and the decrease in the income.
The Palestinian Population Growth
Another aspect yet of the Zionist project crisis is the growth in the Palestinian population, as it is estimated that by the year 2010, the number of Palestinians living in historical Palestine (West Bank, Gaza Strip and the land occupied in 1948, i.e. Israel proper) will surpass the number of Jews there. This might push the Palestinians to new tactical options based on adopting the bi-national one-state solution for a settlement rather than the two-state solution, and to struggle as per the South African model. Regardless of the success possibility of such an approach, it would be a blow to the current settlement project, and would confuse the Americans and Israelis, because it is internationally accepted from the humanitarian, legal and logical aspects; and at the same time, its application will practically mean the end of the Zionist project as it eliminates the Jewish essence of current Israel.
And it is no secret that the “Unilateral Withdrawal Project” that was adopted by Sharon and the Kadima Party, was based on the idea of “escaping” this option; through the detachment of the biggest number possible of Palestinians while getting access to as much land as possible.
The Diminution of the Jewish Emigration
The diminution in the potential of Jewish emigrants to Palestine, is yet another aspect of the crisis of the Zionist project, that is based initially on the concept of emigration and settlement.
Jews in Palestine represent about 40% of the total number of Jews in the world (nearly 5.4 millions out of 13.5 millions). The majority of the Jews who were facing what was known as “the Jewish Problem” in their countries, or suffering from poverty and economic crisis, did actually emigrate.
Today, the Jewish distribution in the world is focused in Palestine, then in the United States (about 5.5 millions) and in Western Europe, and the emigration possibilities of the latter two is near impossible. In recent years, the number of Jewish immigrants from Israel was almost the same as the number of Jewish emigrants to Israel; Actually in 2007, the number of immigrants was larger.
Corruption and Slack Culture
The crisis of the Zionist project is further aggravated by the increasing corruption and slack culture within the Israeli Society. Ethical and financial scandals are stirring the Israeli political arena, as in the case of Ehud Olmert, Moshe Ktsav, Sharon, Netanyahu and others.
Moreover, the Israeli society is lacking the pioneering type of leaders, at a time when the establishing lead generation passed away. It is also suffering from the increasingly hedonistic cultures of the upcoming generations, that lack the ideological attachment and the “spirit of the message” that was in earlier generations. This reflected negatively on the Israeli army and security forces, that is facing problems in having as qualified and responsible members.
Negative manifestations were already observed within the Israeli army, like cases of escaping service, and through the level of readiness to fight, and the determination as well. Moreover, Israeli society has been struck, as western societies, with the hedonistic cultures of sex, pleasure, homosexuality, drug abuse, organized crime, family disintegration, etc…
To conclude, the Zionist project is facing a set of challenges and crises, that generates for its opposition a set of chances that might change the course of the conflict, if employed in a considered and systematic manner. But that currently seems very hard, in the light of the current situation among the Palestinians, and in the Arab and Muslim worlds, i.e. being weak, disintegrated, undeveloped, and suffering from internal conflicts.
Might all this set-off the Palestinians to re-arrange their internal order and reset their national priorities, prior to “enjoying” the talks about the Zionist project Crisis? The project of Liberating Palestine couldn’t be dissociated from the larger “Renaissance” project of the nation; a project that gives back to our nations self confidence, wakes in them the factors of force, pride, and dignity and pushes them toward benefiting from their enormous natural and human resources.
Gambling in the time factor, might be in the advantage of the Israelis in the near future because of the huge power imbalance between the two conflicting parties, but it’s a high risk to bet on the long term; and that is exactly the discourse of concern for many Israeli scholars: the lack of prospects for continuity of the Zionist entity.
This article is a translation of the arabic article published by Dr. Mohsen Moh’d Saleh on Aljazeera.Net on 21-5-2008