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Horrors and errors in the land of myths

The tragic history of the Jewish people has created the current tragedy of the Palestinian people. Israel’s domination of the Palestinians has no justification

Israel-Hamas War
Palestinian citizens evacuate their homes after Israeli bombings in Gaza City, Gaza, on October 10, 2023.Ahmad Hasaballah (GETTY IMAGES)

The monstrous massacres committed against Israeli Jews by Hamas on October 7 produce a deep horror in me. Nothing justifies these fanatical attacks, and even less so the issue of the Palestinian people, whose just cause is eclipsed by these acts of barbarism.

Hamas’ terrorism has concealed, and is concealing for many, the terror by a State that has retaliated against two million Gazans without any mercy over those ruthless fanatics, causing 3,000 deaths. And as Netanyahu has announced, this is just the beginning.

Hatred is not new, but now it has been unleashed by both sides. It engenders the madness of attributing collective guilt to the enemy people, which in turn gives rise to the worst cruelties and massacres, even of women, children and the elderly.

The contextualization of the horrors of October 7, essential for any understanding of the situation, places them in the long history of the Israeli people, millenary victims of Christian anti-Judaism first and, later, of racial anti-Semitism that condemned them to extermination, and whose homeland, Israel, has long been threatened by hostile states. Israel has not been an oasis in which to take refuge, but rather a citadel at war.

This tragic story has created the tragedy of the Palestinian people. The latter were partly expelled from their lands as a result of Israel’s war of independence in 1948, and sent to camps in Lebanon, Jordan and the West Bank, where they remain in overcrowded conditions. After the Six Day War in 1967, the entire West Bank, called Judea-Samaria by Israel, was occupied and colonized not only by a State, but also by thousands of Israeli settlers, who now number 800,000.

The consequence of the Shoah, a word that means catastrophe, has been the Nakba, a Palestinian word with the same meaning, which was effectively the catastrophe of Arab Palestine.

In the same way that it is necessary to keep alive the memory of the millions of victims of Nazism, this respectful memory cannot justify the domination that Israel exercises over the Palestinian people, innocent of the crimes of Auschwitz.

Should the curse of Auschwitz be the privilege that justifies any Israeli repression?

The colonization of the West Bank, which began in the same century as decolonization in Africa and Asia, is in many ways similar to those in which revolts and repression led to a proliferation of bloody murders of civilians among both the oppressors and the oppressed. The difference lies not only in the intensification of colonization, but also in the original conflict between two antagonistic sacralizations of Jerusalem and Palestine.

Centuries of Christian anti-Judaism, later of racist anti-Semitism, and three years of Nazi extermination fueled the Zionist myth of the return to the original homeland, despite the fact that the land of Canaan was populated for centuries by Arabs who became Muslims or Christians, and that Palestine was never a land without a people waiting for its landless people. Israeli historians agree that the location of the Temple of Solomon on the site of the Al Aqsa Mosque is a legend, that myth is a reality stronger than reality itself, and that the conviction has been repeatedly expressed that Jerusalem is the sole and eternal capital of the Jewish State and Palestine is the eternal homeland of the Jewish people. No less mythical is the sacred place of Al Aqsa from where, supposedly, the Prophet ascended to heaven to meet God.

In fact, Israel has changed the Jewish condition. The millennial humiliation of the subjugated, fearful, and landless Jew was followed by Jewish pride in the military exploits of the Hebrew people and the agricultural achievements of the kibbutz. The number of universalist Jewish intellectuals sensitive to all forms of oppression, humiliation and colonization has decreased in favor of intellectuals sensitive above all to the fate of Israel; and, for some of them, the Torah has replaced the Communist Manifesto.

The notion of “Israelite confession”, a purely religious affiliation, has been replaced by the notion of the Jewish people, present in Israel and, for example, in France.

This radical attachment, which needs to be understood, has led to the unconditional justification of all of Israel’s actions, including the oppression of the Palestinian people. Westerners, and particularly Europeans, feeling guilty for the genocidal ravages of anti-Semitism, have shown themselves in favor of the Jewish nation.

Israel, the child of European and Western anti-Semitism, has become the privileged outpost of the Western presence in a dangerous Arab world. Recent philo-Judaism (which has reduced but not eliminated ancient anti-Semitism) benefits Israel, while Israel's existence has at the same time aroused tremendous anti-Judaism in the Arab-Muslim world.

Starting in 1948, strategic and military considerations were added. Israel gained its independence thanks to its victory over the Arab states that tried to annihilate it at its birth, and developed a military force superior to that of neighboring states, which remained hostile for a long time.

An authoritarian Israel was imposed that ignored the countless UN resolutions relating to the creation of a Palestinian State. There was a special moment when Arafat and Rabin shook hands and the Oslo Accords were signed, which provided for the existence of two states. But the assassination of Rabin at the hands of a fanatical Jew and the disappearance of the Israeli left led to the hegemony of a nationalist-religious coalition that sought to annex the entire West Bank and which continues its course.

Under these conditions, it is difficult to see the possibility of a Palestinian state that includes 800,000 Israeli settlers who are radically hostile to it, and it is difficult to see Israel withdrawing its settlements.

The outlook is gloomy. Violence tends to intensify on both sides, with indiscriminate attacks and equally indiscriminate massive repression. Unilateral truths prevail, hiding opposing truths. Hatred and fears overflow the mind.

It is not impossible, but it is unlikely, that the joint action of the United Nations and the Western and Arab States will achieve some decisive result. It is not impossible that the conflict will expand, encompassing and inflaming one nation after another. We have to fear the worst.

May our minds at least resist madness. Our mission is not only to reject hatred, but also to do everything in our power to create a basis for mutual understanding, not only between Israel and Palestine, but also between European supporters of both peoples, without relegating a fair cause to oblivion.

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