The Middle East:

Commentary and Analysis

Gilad Atzmon: Collective Self-Deception

Collective Self-Deception
The Most Common Mistakes of Israelis

August 28, 2003

The most common mistakes made by Israelis are as follows:

  1. To fail to realize that there is no essential difference between Tel Aviv and a Jewish settlement in the West Bank.
  2. To believe that the creation of the state of Israel was an outcome of the Holocaust.
  3. To regard themselves as innocent people and thus as victims of the Israeli­Palestinian conflict.
  4. To believe that they live in a democracy and therefore that their atrocities are legitimate.
  5. To be convinced that they live in an open society which enjoys political and ideological diversity.
  6. To believe that the ghetto is behind them.
  7. To be convinced that the 'Jewish state' is a legitimate concept.
  8. To think that Israel is a shelter for the entire Jewish people and the best answer to anti-Semitism.
  9. To regard themselves as humanists.
  10. To be sure that Israel is immortal.

Throughout the relatively short history of Jewish nationalism many Jews have managed to find flaws within Zionist philosophy. Many have detached themselves from Zionism. Since the declaration of the Israeli state, numerous Israelis have left Israel and more than a few Jews around the world have joined forces with the Palestinian liberation movement. Israelis, on the other hand, are those who still fail to realize that the ten beliefs above are grave, indeed fatal, mistakes.

One could probably ask whether these essential mistakes are made by Zionists in particular rather than all Israelis. In response I would argue that Israeli people are Zionists even though they may only have a very little knowledge of what Zionism is. Most Israelis were born into a colonial and racist reality. They are educated to maintain Zionism rather than to question it. This blind acceptance of one of the most radically chauvinist worldviews turns the Israelis into an impossible candidate for any form of peaceful negotiation.

The mistakes in detail

1. To fail to realize that there is no essential difference between Tel Aviv and a Jewish settlement in the West Bank.

Most Israeli people regard the Jewish settlements in the 'occupied territories' and the settlers as obstacles on the road to peace. Israelis in general and the so-called 'left' Zionists in particular, from within their self-centered universe, are utterly convinced that a withdrawal of Israeli forces to pre-1967 lines would guarantee them peace. The only intelligible explanation for this common misconception relates to the fact that it was only after 1967 that Israelis came face to face with the Palestinians who had been ethnically cleansed in 1948 (who 'suddenly' appeared within the new expanded occupied territories). Israelis want to believe that what they don 't see doesn't exist. They still refuse to acknowledge that the 'Palestinian cause' is based on the justified demand to return to one's homeland.

Last week PA Minister Nabil Sha'ath made the following statement concerning the 'right of return':

"The U.S.-sponsored road map for Middle East peace guarantees the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in Israel or to lands conquered in the 1967 Six-Day War." (, 16.8.03)

Let's review some comments made by major Israeli political figures:

"Refugees will never be allowed to return to Israel." (Israeli government spokesman Avi Pazner,, 17.8.03)

"Any advances in the road map should be dependent on Palestinians giving up the right of return to lands within Israel." (Israeli Health Minister Dan Naveh,, 17.8.03)

"[Palestinians] again addressing an issue they will never attain." (Labor Party Chairman Shimon Peres,, 17.8.03)

"All political parties in Israel are united against a Palestinian right of return to Israel." (Labor MK Matan Vilnai,, 17.8.03)

"Israel and the Palestinian Authority have a joint interest in finding solutions for the refugee problem within the borders of a Palestinian state, and not in Israel." (Meretz MK Ran Cohen,, 17.8.03)

As we can see Israeli politicians have yet to acknowledge what the Palestinian cause is all about. They still expect Palestinians to give up their fully legitimate legal rights. In practice they expect the Palestinian to give up being Palestinian. Wishful thinking I would say ­ the Palestinians will never give up their right of return. They will never give up the resistance against Zionist colonialism. Definitely not now, not when they are winning growing world support. Every Palestinian knows that Zionism aims to turn the whole of Palestine into a Jewish land. In that sense Tel Aviv, which is partially located over confiscated Palestinian lands (Yafo, Abu Kabir, Sheikh Munis etc.), and Elon More, a settlement in the West Bank, are very much the same. They are Jewish colonies on Palestinian land.

2. To believe that the creation of the state of Israel was an outcome of the Holocaust.

First, some enlightening quotes:

"A Jew brought up among Germans may assume German custom, German words. He may be wholly imbued with that German fluid but the nucleus of his spiritual structure will always remain Jewish, because his blood, his body, his physical-racial type are Jewish." (Vladimir Jabotinsky, 'A Letter on Autonomy', 1904. Jabotinsky is the ideological mentor of the Israeli right wing.)

"I too, like Hitler, believe in the power of the blood idea." (Chaim Nachman Bialik, The Present Hour, 1934. Bialik is the official Israeli national poet.)

"Had I been a Jew, I would have been a fanatical Zionist." (Adolf Eichmann, 1955, published in Life magazine in 1960. Eichmann, an SS officer in charge of the 'Jewish problem', made this remark in reference to his visit to Palestine in 1937.

Along the years, Israeli people have adopted a bizarre view of their own Zionist historical narrative. Somehow they have decided that their militant and nationalistic colonial venture is actually a post-Shoah 'peace-seeking movement'. In the early days of Israel this manipulative notion was found to be very effective in generating western support, probably as a result of feelings of guilt among western people. Since the Lebanese war in 1982 opinion in the west has shifted. More and more people acknowledge that it is the Palestinians who are actually 'Hitler's last victims'. While the western world is slowly but surely waking up to the ongoing inhuman Israeli crimes, Israelis still believe in their fabricated self-image. Israelis are convinced that the Jewish state was created after the Holocaust to secure a safe haven for Jews in case of repeated disaster. This misconception is the direct consequence of the misreading of crucial historical events. Israel is the fruit of Zionism and the Zionist ideology was well established before Hitler was born.

Moreover, there is good reason to believe that Hitler developed some of his anti-Semitic arguments after reading early Zionist texts. From Ber Borochov he could learn how socially abnormal the Jews were ('The socio-economic structure of the Jewish people differs radically from that of other nations. Ours is an anomalous, abnormal structure' Ber Borochov, 1897, published in Moshe Cohen (ed.), Nationalism and the Class Struggle: A Marxian Approach to the Jewish Problem, 1937). From Jabotinsky he could learn how crucial blood purity was. The quotes cited above suggest that Zionism and Nazism are very similar in spirit (both are nationalistic movements inspired by concepts of racial purity). One thing, however, is clear: Zionism pre-dates Nazism.

On the other hand, if we decide to go along with the Israeli self-deception which regards Israel as the outcome of the Holocaust, we should address the fact that Zionists have always been more than enthusiastic about anti-Semitism. In Zionist eyes it is anti-Semitism that will push Jews to their 'homeland'. Accordingly, the Zionists realized from the very beginning that Nazi Germany presented a great opportunity for Zionism. While before the war Zionist organizations collaborated with the Nazis transferring German Jewish wealth to Palestine, during the war, when the scale of the disaster had already been revealed, very little was done by Zionists around the world to help their brothers and sisters in Europe. One particular incident should be mentioned here. Towards the end of World War II Adolf Eichmann (on behalf of Heinrich Himmler) offered Rezso Kasztner, a Zionist Hungarian leader, the freedom of up to one million Jews in return for 10,000 trucks. Surprisingly enough, this offer was ignored by the Zionist organizations that had realized by then that the annihilation of European Jewry would help generate enough support among the nations for the future establishment of the Jewish state. Apparently, the Nazi offer was reduced to a single train and just 600 devoted Zionist Hungarian Jews. Clearly, the Zionists were interested in saving neither assimilated nor Orthodox Jews.

Sadly enough, we must admit that, at least tactically, the Zionists were proved right: the liquidation of European Jewry indeed generated great support for the Zionist cause that led eventually to the establishment of the Jewish state. Nonetheless, if we do adopt this line of thinking, we must regard the Zionist leaders as partly responsible for the liquidation of European Jewry.

3. To regard themselves as innocent people and thus as victims of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It is hard to believe but Israeli people do regard themselves as innocent beings. Even those very Israeli people who ethnically cleansed the Palestinians and terrorized them for decades (such as Peres and Sharon) have the chutzpah to regard themselves as victims. Even the clear fact that for more than half a century the Israeli people have been voting in favor of denying the Palestinians the most basic human rights has never brought Zionist minds towards some skeptical contemplations. To date there isn't a single Jewish political body in the Israeli parliament that acknowledges the Palestinian right of return.

Considering the fact that world Jewry led by the Israeli government is pretty efficient at raising demands concerning pre-World War II Jewish interests (in relation to bank accounts or properties in eastern Europe), it is rather bizarre that Israelis are so successfully ignoring very similar Palestinian rights. How does it happen that Jews who are so enthusiastic about Swiss banking injustices are found to be completely deaf and blind to their own continuous robbery of Palestinian land, assets and dignity? I have two possible answers to suggest:

a. Israelis and Zionists aren't genuinely concerned about the injustices done against their people in the past; they are simply motivated by greed, by political enthusiasm or both.

b. Israelis and Zionists are very unusual creatures that do not follow any recognized human pattern of empathy, therefore we shouldn't expect them to feel any sensation of compassion or guilt regarding their own crimes against gentiles in general and Palestinian people in particular.

It is widely known that thousands of young Israelis travel to Poland every year to visit different 'Shoah' tourist attractions. These journeys are sponsored by the Israeli government and many other Jewish organizations. One would expect that when those cheerful youngsters go on to join the Israeli army they would apply the moral lesson and feel some genuine compassion towards their Palestinian neighbors. However, though it becomes clear that they have learnt a lesson, it is unfortunately the wrong one: when in the occupied territories they behave very much like the vermacht. No wonder Israelis invest so much money in these 'educational trips'.

4. To believe that they live in a democracy and therefore that their atrocities are legitimate.

In spite of the fact that more than half of the population living within Israeli borders is denied the right to vote, Israelis still regard themselves as democratic people. Moreover, Israeli people (very much like many Americans) believe that their 'freedom' of political choice gives them a mandate to decide the fate of other people. Israelis are sure that their murderous acts are fully legitimate only because they are 'the only democracy in the Middle East'. This can be explained with reference to the Israeli interpretation of the Jewish concept of 'chosen-ness'. While Orthodox Jews regard being chosen as an ethical and spiritual burden, Israelis regard their 'chosen-ness' as a form of cosmic gift: a condition you are born into which makes you superhuman. In a very short time, Israeli people have developed a system of 'chosen people democracy' which allows them, the chosen people to dictate their worldview to those who are too weak (for the time being) to fight back. It is important to mention that Israel is not alone in having a 'chosen people democracy'. American democracy follows very much the same line of thinking. Since World War II, American people have decided for the rest of the world how the latter should participate in supporting American wealth. No wonder those two 'chosen people democracies' are so enthusiastic about each other.

5. To be convinced that they live in an open society which enjoys political and ideological diversity.

"The problem with the [Israeli] left is that they think that being for peace is a matter of singing a song. I say, if you want to sing a song, become a singer." (Shimon Peres, the Independent, 4.8.03)

Israeli people tend to believe that they enjoy a politically diverse society with a real left­right debate. Traditionally, left-wing thinking is identified with a struggle towards social and legal equality while right-wing politics is classed as the endeavors of the strong. Funnily enough, when it comes to Israel such a distinction is not applicable. Zionism is all about being strong and Jewish. Palestinians (and cheap foreign labor) are somehow out of the game. The Israeli left doesn't try to make them equal players and right-wing Zionists don't even allow them in the pit. In practice, both the Israeli right and left have adopted Jabotinsky's right-wing 'Iron Wall' philosophy which aims to build a power that 'the native population cannot break through' (Vladimir Jabotinsky, 'The Iron Wall ', 1923).

I assume the reason that Israelis fail to see that their society lacks any real debate between right and left is because they fail to differentiate between an ideological debate and a political one. While in practice there is no ideological difference between the Likud party and Israeli Labor, Israeli people still regard their political clash as an ideological debate. In the UK, by contrast, most people now understand that Tony Blair is a Tory leader in Labor disguise. British people are far more advanced than the Israelis in realizing the ideological context of their own political game. In Israel, only very few people grasp that differences between Peres and Sharon are nothing but marginal. If this were not enough, even the left-wing Israeli organizations such as Peace Now, Women in Black and Gush Shalom, who fight courageously for Palestinian rights, support the unacceptable 'two states solution'. Thinking about those 'Israeli left' movements in categorical terms reveals the devastating fact that their political agenda is not at all ideologically far from Sharon's. As sad as it is to admit, there is no such thing as an 'Israeli left'.

6. To believe that the ghetto is behind them.

Nationalistic Jewish aspirations started to appear in the late nineteenth century following the emancipation of European Jews. Zionist ideologists followed the growing wave of European nationalism. Early Zionists regarded the possibility of Jewish assimilation as a grave threat to Jewish existence. Many of those thinkers also agreed that Jewish people suffered from severe social malfunctioning, referring to traditional Jewish occupations as non-productive. The Zionist assumption at the time was that this form of unhealthy social condition was a result of living in a ghetto in a foreign land for too long. Zionism was regarded as a remedy for the many different 'traditional Jewish sicknesses'. It aimed to create a new Jew: a secular, civilized and productive man that lives and cultivates his own land while communicating in his own language (Hebrew), very much the opposite of the eastern European ghetto character. This experiment proved to be very short-lived. In practice, that 'new Jew' has never been created. Zionism has never been a secular movement. While secularity is an alternative philosophy to religion, when it comes to Zionism and Jewish secularity, Zionism rejects some Jewish rituals only to then adopt new ones.

From the very beginning Zionism adopted many biblical and mystical heroic Jewish symbols, mostly suicidal ones (the stories of Massada, a tale of collective kamikaze, and Samson, the first Jewish suicide bomber, are typical examples). Moreover, the decision to resurrect the Jewish state in Palestine related directly to the biblical promise. Although in the beginning it looked as if a real effort to establish a Hebraic civilization was being made, every visitor to Israel nowadays would agree that most Hebraic cultural aspects are vanishing from the collapsing Israeli culture. Even the Hebrew is getting minced by the day. Needless to say, soon after their arrival, the Zionists found that it was far easier to use Palestinian labor than to get burned themselves in the open Mediterranean fields. In retrospect, it would be hard to point out any major cultural Hebraic rebirth except of some barbarian habits that naturally developed during many decades of sadistic oppression. A consideration of the wide and impressive contribution made by Jewish people to world culture will reveal that very little has ever come from the Jewish state. This is not particularly surprising. As we know, very little cultural contribution came out of the Jewish ghetto. When we think of great Jewish thinkers and artists we find that all of them are emancipated Jews who preferred assimilation to Zionism or Orthodoxy. Sharon's remarkable 'Defense Wall' is there to explain why Israel has never been culturally productive. In practice, the Zionists have never left the ghetto; they just moved it from eastern Europe to Palestine. The concept of segregation is probably inherent to Zionist existence.

7. To be convinced that the 'Jewish state' is a legitimate concept.

This mistake results from misreading the twentieth-century cultural shift. When Zionism was born it was more than a legitimate ideological philosophy. It was part of the nineteenth-century European nationalistic movement and developed at a time when hatred of the Other was more than common within European intellectual and political discourse. Revisionist Zionists led by Vladimir Jabotinsky openly praised Italian fascism and regarded Mussolini as their ideological mentor. Further, Jabotinsky adopted the idea of racial purity many years before Hitler even mentioned it. At the time, Zionism wasn 't the only philosophy to push for a nationalistic state based on racial purity. After World War II and the fall of Nazism, however, things changed. The idea of a state based on racial purity was no longer legitimate. Even the new American form of fascism is multiracial. As a matter of fact Israel is the only remaining example of a nationalistic state based on racial purity. The Jewish state isn't a legitimate concept anymore.

8. To think that Israel is a shelter for the entire Jewish people and the best answer to anti-Semitism.

It was recently revealed by Mrs Tzipi Livni, the Israeli Minister of Immigration, that Jewish immigration to Israel has stopped completely. In other words, she admitted that Israel is not the most attractive place for Jewish people to come to live in. Not long ago I heard a presentation by a Palestinian spokesman here in the UK. The spokesman was asked whether he could justify Palestinian suicidal acts against Israeli civilians. Saving himself from the over complicated moral aspects of this much repeated question, the spokesman restricted himself to the pragmatic aspects of the different forms of Palestinian struggle. His argument was very simple: 'If Israel is the state of the Jewish people, it is Palestinian terror that should make this state into a very unattractive place for Jewish people to live in.' There is no doubt that suicidal attacks are found to be very effective in achieving such an aim. Tzipi Livni's words confirmed that Palestinian terror is defeating the Zionist venture. But the failure of Zionism is far more dramatic. Not only has Israel not stopped anti-Semitism, if anything, the devastating inhuman crimes that are daily committed by Israel 'in the name of the Jewish people' make anti-Semitism into a legitimate philosophy. No doubt the next Jewish disaster is going to be a reaction to Zionism.

(It is important to note again that Zionism is consciously enthusiastic about anti-Semitism. Here we face a vicious circle initiated by the Zionists: Israel deliberately commits inhuman crimes in order to initiate anti-Semitic acts that will supposedly lead Jews towards the realization that Zionism is the one and only solution for the 'Jewish problem'.)

9. To regard themselves as humanists.

No, this isn't a joke. In spite of the pain that they inflict on their neighbors, Israeli people still regard themselves as humanists. Moreover, it seems as if the humanist image is very important to the Israeli people. You will find Israeli rescue teams and medical emergency crews in every disaster location around the globe. For some reason, however, you never find those Israeli humanist knights in Gaza or Jenin.

I would assume that the Israeli humanist disguise has something to do with the universal Marxist legacy partially adopted by the early 'left' Zionists. That said, we must remember that there is nothing in the Zionist philosophy to echo any universal moral code of behavior. Zionism is all about Jews. It was invented by Jews and can only be applied to Jews. The call for the unification of world proletarianism that appeared for years on some left Zionist papers was a pretentious call with very little behind it. Furthermor e, the left-wing parties that were calling for international cosmopolitanism were in practice very active in the robbery of the indigenous Palestinians. The vast majority of Israeli Kibbutzim are located on confiscated Palestinian lands. The robbing of the Palestinian lands stands at the very core of all Zionist philosophies. I believe that the denial of the most basic human rights by the Israeli people can be explained by their self-perception as a chosen race. Why should Palestine belong to the Jews who left it two millennia ago and not to the Palestinians who have been living there since time begun? Probably because Jews are chosen and their biblical text is superior to any other text (including legal documents). How can you be chosen and a humanist at the same time? This is a major question that should be addressed to Israelis. It would appear that in the new Jewmerica dominated world, you are entitled to regard yourself as a humanist as long as you have enough nuclear weapons at your disposal to support your self-image.

10. To be sure that Israel is immortal.

As a matter of fact, Israel is pretty much a dead entity already. It is going through a rapid process of disintegration into isolated sectors that share no common collective aim. Sooner rather than later the currently rejected Israeli sectors will understand that they have far more in common with the Palestinian people than with the Zionist zealots. The so-called 'left' Zionists will realize that they have more in common with Nabil Sha' ath and Saib Arikat than with any Likud Party members. The Orthodox Jews will realize that they have far more in common with Islamic fundamentalism than with the so-called Israeli secular liberal front. The new Russian immigrants haven't even tried to integrate into the Hebraic society which they regard as inferior. The Ethiopian Jews, who are not even allowed to donate blood, and the many oppressed foreign cheap laborers will soon realize that Zionist supremacy is their biggest enemy. The days of the Zionists are numbered. There is no need for a war. Let them destroy themselves in 'peace'. Within the new self-imposed ghetto walls they surround themselves with they do not have any other option.

Where does this leave us?

It seems as if any form of communication with Israelis is pretty much impossible unless one decides to engage with Israeli self-deception. Since it is clear that the Israelis are pretty good at self-destruction, we need only help them by serving as a catalyst. A gradual scheme of bans and boycotts would do the job. We must start with cultural boycotts and market boycotts. We must make sure that Zionist and Israeli war criminals are arrested as soon as they land on the free world's soil (assuming of course that there is such a thing). If these don't provide the goods we must move forwards and ban Israelis from traveling to Europe unless they state their complete rejection of Zionism. Those many enlightened states who are brave enough to ban anti-Semitism, neo-Nazi propaganda and any other form of racist activity should immediately consider adding Zionist activity to their list of prohibited activities.

It won't take too long. Facing a moment of truth, many Israelis will be happy to leave Zionism behind and rejoin the human family.

Gilad Atzmon was born in Israel and served in the Israeli military. He is the author of the new novel A Guide to the Perplexed . Atzmon is also one of the most accomplished jazz saxophonists in Europe. His new CD, Exile, was just named the year's best jazz CD by the BBC. He now lives in London and can be reached at:
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