Tel Aviv, Israel (Weltexpress). What really got me was the applause.
There they were sitting at the round table, the representatives of the entire world, applauding their own handiwork, the resolution they had just adopted unanimously. The Security Council, like the Knesset, is not used to applause or any other spontaneous outbursts. And yet they clapped their hands like children who had just received their Christmas gift.
It was indeed a day before Christmas and the first day of Hanukkah, a coincidence that happens once in decades, since the Christians use the solar calendar and the Jews still use a modified lunar calendar.
The delegates were deliriously happy. They had just achieved something that had eluded them for many years: the condemnation of a blatant breach of international law by the government of Israel.
Consecutive presidents of the US had used their anachronistic veto power to prevent the UN doing its duty. Now, President Barack Obama, at the very end of his presidency, dared to challenge the government of Binyamin Netanyahu, a person he detests with all his heart.
And so, after years of frustration, the highest international body could adopt a resolution on Israel according to its convictions. No wonder they behaved like schoolchildren let out for vacation. A vacation that may, alas, prove to be short.
On the face of it, the joy was exaggerated. The resolution has almost no practical meaning. It has no teeth. Netanyahu could use the old oriental adage: “The dogs bark and the caravan moves on.”
But Netanyahu’s immediate reaction was very different. He acted like a wounded animal: running berserk, thrashing around, biting everyone in reach.
Some of his reactions bordered on the ridiculous. He could have belittled the resolution and made fun of it, as Israeli leaders have done many times before. Instead he recalled his ambassadors from Senegal and New Zealand (traditionally friendly nations), canceled visits of foreign statesmen, called in foreign ambassadors for a dressing-down on Christmas day, threw around insults and especially besmirched President Obama.
This was obviously a stupid thing to do. The President still has 21 days to go, 21 long days in which to hurt Netanyahu. He could, for example, allow the passage of an irrevocable UN resolution to recognize the State of Palestine as a full member of the UN. At the moment, all of official Israel is in a state of panic in anticipation of such a move.
If Netanyahu had read Machiavelli, he would have known that you do not challenge a lion, unless you are able to kill him. Especially, I would add, a lion you have insulted and wounded many times before. Even lions do sometimes get angry.
But Netanyahu’s behavior may not be as stupid as it looks. Actually, it may be quite clever. Depends on his aim.
As a diplomatic strategy, it is disastrous. But as a strategy to win elections, it is quite sensible. Here is the great hero, the new King David, fighting for his people, facing down the entire world. Is there anyone in Israel who can compare with him?
In the bad old days of Golda Meir, one of the Israeli army’s entertainment bands sang a jolly song which started with the words: “The whole world is against us / But we don’t give a damn…” The band danced around to the tune.
For some reason, Jews derive satisfaction from a world-wide condemnation. It affirms what we have known all the time: that all the nations of the world hate us. It shows how special and superior we are. It has nothing to do with our own behavior, God forbid. It is just pure anti-Semitism.
Netanyahu is out-Golda-ing Golda. The old lady now looks down on him from heaven (or up to him from elsewhere?) with envy.
Zionism was supposed to liberate Israel from these old Jewish complexes. We were supposed to become a normal nation, Israelis instead of “exile” Jews, admired by other nations. Seems we have not quite succeeded.
But there is a great hope. Actually, a giant hope. It has a name: Donald Trump.
He has already tweeted that after he assumes power, everything regarding the UN will change.
But will it? Does anyone – including himself – really know what he has in mind? Can Netanyahu be quite sure?
True, he is sending a rabid Jewish-American ultra-right Zionist as his ambassador to Tel Aviv (or to Jerusalem, we shall see.) A person so right-wing that he makes Netanyahu himself almost look like a leftist.
But at the same time Trump has appointed as his closest assistant a radical white racist with full anti-Semitic credentials.
Perhaps, as some believe, it depends entirely on Trump’s moods. Who knows what his mood will be on the morning of the first important UN vote on Israel? Will he be Trump the Zionist or Trump the anti-Semite?
Actually, he can be both. No problem, really.
The avowed aim of Zionism is to ingather all the Jews in the world in the Jewish State. The avowed aim of the anti-Semites is to expel the Jews from all their countries. Both sides want the same. No conflict.
Theodor Herzl, the Founding Father of Zionism, recognized this right from the beginning. He went to Czarist Russia, which was governed by anti-Semites, and offered a deal: we take the Jews off your hands, you help us to convince them to leave. That was in the heyday of the murderous pogroms. But the Jews who left Russia went en masse to America, very few to Ottoman-ruled Palestine.
This was not a unique chapter. Throughout Zionist history, many attempts have been made to enlist anti-Semites to help in the implementation of the Zionist project.
Even before the Zionist movement was born, American and British evangelists preached the ingathering of the Jewish exiles in the holy land. They may have been Herzl’s inspiration. However, this message of redemption for the Jews had a secret clause. The return of the Jews to Palestine would allow for the second coming of Christ. But then, the Jews would convert to Christianity. Those who refused would be annihilated.
In 1939, when the Nazi danger became obvious, the extreme Zionist leader Vladimir (Ze’ev) Jabotinsky called for a meeting of his followers in Poland. The leaders of the Irgun underground in Palestine attended. One of them was Abraham Stern, whose nom de guerre was Ya’ir.
The meeting decided to approach the anti-Semitic commanders of the Polish army and offer them a deal: you arm and train young Polish Jews, and we shall liberate Palestine and transport the Polish Jews there. The officers agreed and training camps were set up in Poland. World War II put an end to the plan.
With the outbreak of the war, Jabotinsky, an ardent Anglophile in spite of everything, ordered the Irgun to stop all such actions and cooperate with the British. Stern proposed the opposite approach. His credo was: our enemy is Britain. The war provides us an opportunity to drive them out. The enemy of our enemy is our friend. Adolf Hitler is an anti-Semite, but now he is our potential ally.
Stern’s approach caused a split in the Irgun. A furious debate broke out in all the secret cells. As a 16-year old member, I took part. Being a refugee from Nazi Germany, I rejected Stern’s thesis.
Stern created his own group (later called Lehi, Hebrew initials of Fighters for the Freedom of Israel, also known as the “Stern gang”.) He sent an emissary to neutral Turkey, where he delivered the German ambassador a letter for “Mr. Hitler”, offering cooperation. The Fuehrer did not reply. That was, of course, before the Holocaust.
Stern was caught by the British and “shot while trying to escape”. When the war ended, and Soviet Russia became the enemy of Britain and the West, Stern’s heirs approached Stalin and offered cooperation. Stalin, whose anti-Semitism was becoming more pronounced at the time, ignored the offer.
During the war, one of the architects of the Holocaust was Adolf Eichmann, the SS officer who was in charge of organizing the transport of Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz. In Budapest he established contact with a group of Zionists, led by Israel Kastner, with whom he made a deal. As a good-will gesture he allowed him to send a few hundred Jews to neutral Switzerland.
Eichmann sent one member of the group, Yoel Brand, to Istanbul, with a crazy-looking offer to the Zionist leadership in Jerusalem: if the allies provided the Nazis with a thousand trucks, the deportation of the Hungarian Jews would be stopped.
Contrary to his instructions, Brand crossed the border into British-occupied Syria and was arrested by the British. The deportation of the Hungarian Jews – ten thousand a day – went on.
What was the Nazis’ purpose in this bizarre affair? My own theory is that Heinrich Himmler was already determined to dethrone Hitler and make a separate peace with the Western allies. Eichmann served his plan to establish contact with the allies. As a dyed-in-the-wool anti-Semite, Himmler was convinced that the Jews control the world.
Some time after the war, in Israeli captivity, Eichmann wrote down his memories. He stated that he believed that the Zionists were the “biologically positive” element of the Jewish race.
Mahmood Abbas, by the way, as a student at Moscow University, wrote his doctoral thesis on Nazi-Zionist cooperation.
Can Trump’s assistants now include rabid Zionists and rabid anti-Semites at the same time?
Of course they can.
This week, our far-right Minister of Defense, Avigdor Lieberman, condemned the French plan to convene (in Paris in a few days from now) a conference on Israeli-Palestinian peace. The Israeli government fears that there, Secretary of State John Kerry will submit his detailed practical plan for a peace agreement, including the setting up of the State of Palestine. This plan would be adopted by the conference, and then by the UN Security Council.
This would be President Obama’s parting shot. No veto.
By the way, Kerry’s plan is almost identical with a plan my friends and I published in 1957, 59 years ago, called “The Hebrew Manifesto”.
Blazing with fury, Lieberman compared this to the Dreyfus Affair. Some 120 years ago, a Jewish captain in the French army was falsely convicted of espionage for Germany and sent to Devil’s Island off French Guiana. He was later acquitted. Zionist mythology has it that Theodor Herzl, then a Paris correspondent of a Viennese newspaper, was so shaken by the event that he was inspired with the Zionist idea.
The coming Paris conference, Lieberman asserted angrily, was the Dreyfus Affair all over again, only this time against the entire Jewish people.
But not to worry: Donald Trump and his anti-Semitic Zionists will put everything in order again.
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First published in Gush Shalom, 2016-12-31. All rights to the author.