Review of 'Apartheid Israel' by Uri Davis, Zed £14.95
'If I knew it would be possible to save all the [Jewish] children in Germany by bringing them to England, and only half of them by transporting them to Eretz Israel [Palestine], then I would opt for the second alternative' (David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, 1938).
Apartheid Israel is a compelling, in-depth account of how political Zionism has carefully structured its legal, political and social systems to exclude Palestinians from all but the most trivial aspects of the Israeli state. Uri Davis's meticulous research presents Israel for what it is - a racist apartheid state that from the beginning was ideologically motivated even to the extent of cynically exploiting murderous Nazi anti-Semitism to achieve its aims.
Davis shows how powerful organisations like the World Zionist Organisation (WZO), the Jewish Agency and the Jewish Land Fund dictated the shape the Israeli state would take, with the WZO operating in the new Israel as a 'state within a state'. Jewish fundamentalism intertwined with the state, depriving Palestinians of land, property, citizenship and ultimately legal rights. From this flowed logically the criminal acts of mass expulsions, wide-scale ethnic cleansing, and arbitrary murder of innocents on a daily basis.
Densely packed with statistics and facts, one of the book's strengths is the first-hand accounts of Palestinian Arabs and early Jewish settlers - the colourful descriptions of the villages, towns and the original inhabitants ethnically cleansed by the terrorist death squads, led by future leaders of the Israeli state. Moreover, Davis is absolutely clear whose side he is on - the millions of dispossessed Palestinians inside and outside Israel. Contrary to much liberal opinion, his recognition of the right of Palestinians to resist in whatever way they can is admirable.
There is, however, one fundamental question that is never addressed by Davis. Why, despite the international condemnation for the many atrocities committed by successive Israeli governments since its bloody birth in 1948, have the leading powers done nothing to stop the atrocities, the land grabs and the building of the new 'Berlin Wall'? This is where his appeal to international values, justice or morality enshrined within the Declaration of Universal Human Rights fall flat. Seeing the state or international organisations such as the UN as neutral ignores reality and, sadly, history.
Davis is not a dreamer. This book dispels the myth held by some on the left that change can come from within - from a reinvigorated Israeli working class. For Davis, Zionism's roots are too deep. Zionism in any guise - be it Labour Zionism, Socialist Zionism, the kibbutz or the moshav - is fundamentally racist and cannot be reformed. Davis also shows that to be anti-Zionist is not to be racist. Zionism is both a political and social construct, and thus open to criticism.
There are rightly many comparisons made with South African apartheid, particularly the international anti-apartheid campaigns. Yet although international condemnation, boycotts and solidarity had an impact on this regime, its eventual downfall was brought about by the organised working class in South Africa, who alone had the power to hit South African capital where it hurt most. This points the way forward for the Palestinian struggle. Davis's book, however, ultimately offers little more than hope - that one day justice will prevail. How we get there is never truly explored.
Israel's continued existence as an apartheid pariah state is rooted not primarily in its legal and political structures, but in the need of US imperialism to have a 'ruthless outpost for western domination of the Middle East' in order to protect the interests of western multinationals and maintain profits. It is clear that the Palestinians cannot win a war against the US-backed armed might of Israel. The solution for the Palestinians lies with the organised united working class of the Middle East and the wider world. This Davis ignores.
The anti-capitalist movement has helped show us who the real enemy is - the multinationals and imperialism. Palestinian resistance shines like a beacon for all the oppressed across the globe. Justice for the Palestinians has to be central to the wider struggle against a system that daily breeds war, poverty and death on a global scale.