Charles B. Anthony: I for one will not let Israel hijack my family’s religion and culture in order to propagate the myth that coexistence between Muslims and Jews is not possible
“Today they speak of freedom, democracy…whereas until recently they openly preached the doctrine of the Fascist state. It is in its actions that the terrorist party betrays its real character; from its past actions we can judge what it may be expected to do in the future.”
- Letter to the New York Times, 2 December 1948. Signed by Albert Einstein, Hannah Arendt, Sidney Hook, and 25 other Jewish intellectuals.
On 2 December 1948, Albert Einstein and 27 other prominent Jewish intellectuals wrote to the New York Times to warn the American public and political class about what they deemed to be “among themost disturbing political phenomena of our times” –Israel’s Herut (Freedom) Party. The letter describes the Freedom Party as “a political party closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties”. The Freedom Party was the main right wing party in Israel from 1948 until it merged with other right wing parties to form Likud in 1973. The current leader of Likud is Benyamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu is currently in charge of genocidal operations in Gaza. I think you can guess where we’re heading with this one.
The letter was prompted by a visit to America from Menachem Begin, the leader of the Irgun terrorist group and founder of the Freedom Party. Begin had come to the United States to canvass for political and economic support for his party in the upcoming Israeli elections. The letter makes the overall point that “it is inconceivable that those who oppose fascism throughout the world, if correctly informed as to Mr. Begin’s political record and perspectives, could add their names and support to the movement he represents”. Exemplifying the “character and actions of the Freedom Party” was the massacre of Deir Yassin on 9 April 1948 when “240 men, women, and children” were massacred by “terrorist bands” who “far from being ashamed of their act, were proud of this massacre, publicized it widely, and invited all the foreign correspondents present in the country to view the heaped corpses and the general havoc at Deir Yassin”. That same pride can be witnessed today in Gaza with the complete lack of concern for civilian loss of life and indifference to international outcry.
Einstein was a Zionist; he believed in a homeland for the Jewish people, not in separation from but in coexistence with their Arab neighbours. He was opposed to the terrorist actions of the Irgun and their political incarnation. He and other Jewish intellectuals viewed the politics of Begin as fascist. A homeland for the Jewish people needed to be the complete opposite of Nazism to work. But the Freedom Party:
'within the Jewish community...preached an admixture of ultra-nationalism, religious mysticism, and racial superiority. Like other Fascist parties they have been used to break strikes, and have themselves pressed for the destruction of free trade unions. In their stead they have proposed corporate unions on the Italian Fascist model.'
If Israel were to have any moral compass it would have to remove the cancer of fascist supremacy that Begin was lobbying for. Einstein’s warning was to be ignored. Begin went on to be a heavily influential figure in Israeli politics and in 1977 became their sixth prime minister. The United States became Israel’s best friend.
Fast-forward 66 years and it is without the slightest bit of irony that Martin Sherman, writing in the Jerusalem Post (formally the Palestine Post), invokes the great man to call for ethnic cleansing in Gaza. The article’s epigraph quotes Einstein: “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” You would expect, considering Einstein’s record of criticism in relation to repeating the horrors of history, Deir Yassin included, Martin would infer the avoidance of ethnic cleansing at all costs. But this is Israel, where logic and reason are secondary to biblical rights and colonial supremacy. Instead Martin asks us, “What would Einstein say?” Before the great humanitarian scientist could open his dead, white whisker-tipped mouth, Martin has the answer: “The only durable solution requires dismantling Gaza, humanitarian relocation of the non-belligerent Arab population, and extension of Israeli sovereignty over the region” – ethnic cleansing it is then! Albert Einstein, one of the world’s greatest brains, critic of fascism (wherever it raised its ugly head), champion of life and humanity, would suggest ethnically cleansing Palestinians as the final solution to the problem of Gaza? You heard it there first, from beyond the grave, in a major Israeli based publication, through the callous medium of poppycock. Albert Einstein must be gravitationally spinning in his grave right now.
Sadly, calls for genocide, or the defence of it, have become all too common in modern Israeli discourse. The Times of Israel recently published an article by Yochanan Gordon titled ‘When Genocide is Permissible’. Gordon argued, “If political leaders and military experts determine that the only way to achieve its goal of sustaining quiet is through genocide is it then permissible to achieve those responsible goals?” The piece was later taken down and the author’s blog removed after widespread horror. But to be fair to the author, at least he was being honest. The supremacy of the master race and dehumanisation of the other is not new, especially in relation to the state of Israel, but it is, with the help of the duplicity of extreme right wing politicians, veering more and more towards overt public expressions of fascism.
Moshe Feiglin, the deputy speaker of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, recently called for the use of “concentration” camps and “extermination” to solve the Gaza situation. Knesset MP Ayelet Shaked called for the death of all Palestinian mothers. Israeli academic Dr Mordechai Kedar, live on radio, suggested raping Palestinian women as policy. Israeli right wing gangs roam the streets armed with bats, beating Israeli Arabs, intimidating anti-war activists and singing, “There’s no school in Gaza, there are no more kids left.” And the people of Sderot perch on hills to whoop every bomb that drops on the civilian population of Gaza. All this culminates in the fact that 87 per cent of Jewish Israelis not only support the slaughter in Gaza, but also do not want it to stop.
Only through years of systematic racism and colonial supremacy can the mass killing of civilians including so many innocent children be sold as a necessary means of defence. When one race is nothing more than cannon fodder for another, we have a real problem on our hands. The art of racism dehumanises the other in pursuit of economic and political goals. This is the primary reason why the vast majority of Israelis do not view those children in Gaza, with their caved-in heads, pockmarked faces, missing limbs and concrete dust-covered bodies, as human beings. An Israeli mother from Jerusalem was asked on Channel 4 News if she had empathy for the mothers of the children slaughtered in Gaza. She could only muster her concern for “countering” the images of dead children. Countering.
Einstein was a physicist who solved some of the biggest questions in relation to the nature of the universe, therefore the future of the state of Israel was really not that hard for him to predict. The future would depend on what that country decided to be. Would Israel opt for coexistence or push for perpetual war, to be forever surrounded by an iron wall? Unfortunately, we have been witnessing the answer for many years now. The politics of the Freedom Party haunt every inch of the dark corridors of power that rule, so viciously, over the Palestinians; a mere stone’s throw away, made of the same flesh but separated by a sea of checkpoints; barbed wire, armoured personal carriers and artillery shells.
You can dress genocide up in the cloth of democracy and freedom; many will buy it– the BBC for one– but the public worldwide is not that stupid, not any more anyway. The Israeli propaganda machine has been put on the back foot, thanks to live unhampered footage direct to social media. It may be able to convince an Israeli public, cocooned in a frenzy of manufactured fear, but all the world can see right now, apart from those in Western ivory towers, are mountains of dead Palestinian children. The cold revolving door of stock excuses no longer sanitises the hands of the killers, their masters or their masters’ friends. The emperor is naked, covered in blood and eating children.
Actions speak louder than words. The letter makes clear that “it is in its actions that the terrorist party betrays its real character”. Israel, for all its talk of democracy and freedom, is currently engaging in nothing less than large-scale terrorist action in Gaza, if we apply the Oxford Dictionary’s definition of terrorism as “the unofficial or unauthorized use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims”. Einstein and his noble colleagues understood that if the politics that produced Deir Yassin were to win favour and direct the state of Israel, its future would be one of many Deir Yassins. As we have witnessed, Einstein’s words have become Israeli actions, a cycle to be repeated every two to three years: to win an election here, quell resistance there, annex land or smash a unity government. Einstein famously once said that insanity was “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. I don’t think Israel is insane. I think she knows exactly what she is doing.
Einstein’s letter smashes the myth that criticising Israel is anti-Semitic. It obliterates the notion that debating similarities in Israeli politics to that of past European fascist ideas, if they are indeed similar, should be taboo. After the Holocaust, the world made a promise to both past and future generations, a promise condensed in two simple words: “Never again.” How we have let down those generations. Gaza is of course not the Holocaust, but it does share a lot in common with the ghetto. In the spirit of “Never again”, in the memory of all those who lost their lives to the butchers of fascism, it is imperative that we step up our campaign against the current barbaric genocide and continual dehumanisation of the Palestinian people in the illegally occupied territories of Gaza and the West Bank. We are after all one race, human.
The current trend to equate right wing nationalist political ideology with the teachings of the Torah does a disservice to Judaism. It spits upon the past suffering of the Jewish people and insults their greater humanity. I for one will not let Israel hijack my family’s religion and culture in order to propagate the myth that coexistence between Muslims and Jews is not possible. This is simply not true; my family and friends are a testament to this. More specifically, history, pre-dating the bloody and illegal occupation, proves that coexistence was part of the Holy Land’s very fabric.
Humans are naturally pre-programmed to cooperate; it takes a lot of hard work and political engineering to undo empathy. Israel, one of the most technologically advanced military nations in the entire world, is empirical evidence that Einstein’s theory was right: “it has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity."
There is an old Yiddish saying that goes, “Two mountains can’t come together, but two people can.” In the spirit of such wisdom I support the loud and clear calls for coexistence based upon equality, freedom and justice. Coexistence means an end to colonial apartheid, an end to occupation, an end to war, and an end, once and for all, to the racism and supremacy that makes all of this barbarism possible. To quote Einstein,
“This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, senseless brutality, deplorable love-of-country stance, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be a part of so base an action!”
Martin, are you listening? Einstein is talking.
Charles B. Anthony is a political and cultural commentator.