After the bombings, questions will remain

The following article by Andrew West was published in The Northern Star (NSW north coast) on Saturday, July 22:

Is militant Zionism the correct path?

Weekend Star

Long after Israeli bombs stop falling on Lebanon’s airports, roads and bridges and Hezbollah’s rockets stop landing on Israel’s railway stations, two questions will remain.

When will Israel end its policy of collectively punishing those whose democratic decisions it does not like; and when can we have an honest discussion about Israel itself?

One of the more insidious aspects of the Israeli bombardment of Lebanon and Gaza has been the suggestion that, because the Palestinians voted for Hamas and some Lebanese for Hizbollah, then somehow the people deserve their fate.

It is an interesting proposition. What then can we say about the huge number of Israelis who voted to give Avigdor Leiberman and his racist Yisrael Beiteinu party 11 seats in the Knesset in this year’s election?

Just as Hamas and Hizbollah disgracefully refuse to accept Israel’s legitimate right to exist within secure borders, Leiberman and his allies want to ethnically cleanse Israel of its 20 percent of Arab citizens. He speaks of “transferring” Arabs, who have lived in Israel for millennia, to surrounding countries.

The Washington Post reported Leiberman’s big pitch to Israelis was for a “more homogeneous” (read purely Jewish) state. Yet no western country has imposed economic sanctions or military blockades on Israel because a significant slice of its population embraced a racist.

In fact, even suggesting sanctions and blockades (which I do not support) is a taboo in the West, which raises the second issue.

One of Israel’s great strengths as a country is not its nuclear arms or its reliance on the US for billions in military and economic aid, but the vibrancy of the discussion inside the country. This discussion goes to the heart of Zionism itself and whether, in its current militant form, it helps or hinders Israel’s undoubted right to future security.

Having visited Israel for extended periods, I have been witness to, and a participant in, this discourse with hundreds of Israeli Jews of goodwill. Yet to raise such questions outside Israel, as the Jewish-Australian author Antony Loewenstein does in his superb new book, My Israel Question (MUP), means that, like him, you will be pilloried by the reactionary right as traitorous or, most disgracefully, anti-Semitic.

Over the past 20 years, Israel has lost many of its friends because it refuses to look inward and ask some hard questions – about the way its treats the Palestinians and even who it elects to govern.

Text and images ©2023 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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