The Dangers of Nationalism

A dissection of nationalist ideology.

“They’re just as bad as each other” is a phrase I often hear in regards to Israel and Hamas. But does this statement have any backing behind it? Whilst, there is clear evidence to suggest that there are more Palestinian deaths than Israelis, there is strong evidence to suggest – how shall I phrase it(?) – that Israel’s larger budget equips them with better defences and weaponry: thus the ‘corpse equilibrium’ is always going to be somewhat displaced in Benjamin Netanyahu’s favour . If we assumed, just as a thought-experiment, that both sides were just as well equipped, would it be safe to say that the deaths and casualties on either side would be equal? In fact better questions would be the following:

1) In each isolated case of bomb-flinging, what motive is more trenchant in either side’s reasoning for exhausting their weaponry: sinister ethnic/nationality/religious hatred or “defence”?

2) Can any isolated incident of bomb-flinging be considered “just”?

This article won’t pinpoint a conclusive answer to such questions but will attempt to squeeze past the propaganda and lay bare the facts and analyse the ideologies and humorously disturbing hypocrisies of both sides, and allow you to answer those questions for yourself.

Before I start, I must also add that it is frustrating to see how often it is in discourse surrounding the Israel-Palestine (or rather ‘Israel-Hamas’ – more on that later) question the following events consistently rise up in conversation:

1) Somebody criticises Israel, they’re called Pro-Hamas.

2) Somebody criticises Hamas, they’re called Pro-Israel.

Thus, the aim of this article isn’t just to analyse both sides ideologically, but to see if it’s fair to observe both “sides” under the same scrupulous sceptical eye.

At a singular glance, Israel and it’s supporters are motivated by the ideology of Zionism. This is an important point to stress because it’s difficult to emphasise in words how powerful an ideological structure and worldview can affect any individual’s perception of current events. Recently, I have argued with Zionists and have been labelled anti-semetic. Of course, I take this as a compliment, how else should I take it from a man who I won’t name who is so obsessed with Israel that the only posts he ever puts forth onto his twitter feed is from Israel-TV. From this enlightening figure, I learned that antisemitism is essentially anything that is critical of the Israeli state. He said that the Jews had the right to live there, it’s their homeland. I said, what about the Palestinians? To which he replied, they don’t have the right to live there, it’s the Jewish homeland. In other words, the very presence of a Palestinian in ‘Jewish soil’ is antisemitic – because as we all know, antisemitism is the exact same as anti-Zionism (a statement which he would of course agree with). In other words, when you consider moving house, be careful where you choose to live, because the mere act of living somewhere is considered by some people to be a trenchant political-statement, the estate-agent equivalent of kristallnacht. There are two things to be said about this eluvious unnamed Zionist I mention:

1) He’s not alone in his views as many people agree with him

2) His very existence is quite simply, a waste of good Judaism

This inevitably poses the question: How does a Zionist define Zionism? An apt description might be the following:

Zionism is the belief in a Jewish homeland for the Jewish people, in Israel. Zionism is the Jewish people’s instantiation of the human right of self-determination.
No more, no less.

The inevitable issue with this comes when we consider what happens when some people enact this “human right” (it’s not a human right, more on that later). It is widely known that on the Westbank, there are Jewish settlers who are essentially throwing Palestinians out of their homes. Of course, this is a perfectly decent and noble thing to do, because this act is merely a humble person or family exorcising their ‘human right’ to take over someone else’s property and leave another family homeless. If you criticise this, you are being antisemitic, as you are criticising the Jewish people’s “self-determination”. Don’t even think about committing such wicked and prejudiced thoughts.

It’d be reasonable then, to view Zionism as an ideology with the mentality of a ‘club’ (dare I say ‘cult’). Religion and politics have always allowed humans to interact and to thus form communities due to their agreements on issues, common values and shared experiences. Zionism is of course, no exception to this:

The final safety net is the existance of Israel – a country that has since it’s foundation been a safe haven for Jews being persecuted around the world. From Ethiopia to Russia, from the expulsion of Jews from Arab states in 1948 to the extraction of the last few Jews in Iraq today… Israel has consistantly welcomed the Jews home in times of crisis.

It is of course, an actual law that any Jew in the world, is allowed to come to Israel. But don’t the Palestinian people have the right to self-determination? Specifically the endless amount of refugees of 1948? Well, if you ask a Zionist this, you might get this response:

Palestinian advocates claim that the refugees of 1948 have a right guaranteed in international law to return to Israel. In fact, there is no such law. The Fourth Geneva Convention, often cited in this context, does not stipulate a right of return for refugees. UN Resolution 194, also cited as the basis for this “right” is a resolution of the UN General Assembly. Such resolutions are not binding in international law. No nation has the obligation to admit enemy belligerents. Moreover, Resolution 194 does not insist on a Right of Return. It says that “refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so.” 

From this there are 2 strikingly obvious things that we can conclude. The first is that if the refugees were Jewish, they’d be accepted in with open arms. Why? Because it’s the law that all Jewish people in the world can come to Israel and settle there. Why? Because the people who make such laws are Zionists. The second point is that lurking behind Zionism is a sinister ethnic sentiment. “No nation has the obligation to admit enemy belligerents.” What we see here is the branding of thousands of refugees as behaving in a certain way. It does not say “one belligerent”, it implies that all refugees (who are all Palestinians) are “belligerent” – thus from this, it doesn’t matter what your personality is like, if you are a Palestinian you are the enemy and must not be allowed in, if you are a Jew, all the rules are flipped over. Of course, by stating this, I am committing a horrific act of antisemitism, because as we all know, allowing Palestinians to come back to where they might have been born is fundamentally hateful to Jewish people. It is also striking to observe how Israel has a self-pitying hypocritical ideology behind it. Notice how in the above two quotes, the Zionist has sympathised with Jews thrown out of Arab lands in 1948, but in the same year when Palestinians are ejected and made refugees there is no such sympathetic sentiment. From this we can safely assume that behind all of the rhetoric this is an ideology founded on sinister ethnic sentiments.

But what about the more dangerous aspects of this “side” of the conflict? Let’s move onto the casualties and deaths on the Palestinian side. We’ve all seen the images:

Indeed, there is nothing pretty about this, and it’d be a waste of time censoring oneself to truly hide the barbaric nature of this conflict.

Children have died – and I believe this very phrase sums up everything you need to know about how powerful ideologies can shape our actions.

David Cameron

David Cameron

Nationalism seems to me to be an ideology fuelled by confirmation bias. Anything positive said about it is warmly secreted into its supporters as “evidence” that Nationalism is a positive thing. Anything criticising it is simply rejected and not even considered. Thus, unsurprisingly, it was a shame that in David Cameron’s most recent visit to Israel, he gave a speech at the Knesset and a press conference with Netanyahu so simperingly self-pitying of Israel that one’s initial logical response was to gob up a substantial amount of phlegm:

Can I first of all join you in condemning, unreservedly, the rocket attacks from Gaza onto your country? These are indiscriminate attacks aimed at population centres, and that tells you everything about the despicable and wicked people carrying out these attacks. We condemn them utterly. They do, as you said, underline the importance of guaranteeing Israel’s security. And any 2-state solution has to have, at its heart, the guarantee of Israel’s safety and security and the security of your people. And let me just say again how important it is for the whole international community to say, with one voice, that Palestinian statehood can only come about through dialogue and discussion. It can never come about through violence or terror, which we will always condemn.

Of course, he never mentions the rocket attacks on Palestinians. Rocket attacks which for the most part aren’t defended due to lack of budget. It would be foolish and utopian of me to assume that David Cameron would walk into the Knesset and into a press conference and then proceed to openly criticise Israel’s genocidal tendencies. But why shouldn’t he? In fact, there is something undeniably creepy about the decline in morality in politics in certain areas. He then of course feeds the self-pitying nature of Zionism by cheaply – very cheaply – mentioning the holocaust, of course, forgetting that the Zionists are daily exorcising a Shoah of their own:

As I stood at that memorial to the 1.5 million children who were killed, it made me even more determined to make sure that in Britain, we never forget what happened. That’s why I have established the Holocaust Commission. That’s why some of the members are here with me today, to talk to people here about how we can do something very special in Britain to make sure that no generation ever forgets the lessons of the Holocaust.

Indeed, I hope people in the distant future remember the daily atrocities of the Israel-Palestine conflict, and contemplate how disturbingly cynical and pernicious it is of a British Prime Minister to openly suck up to a particular side of this nasty cruel war and how profoundly vulgar it is of David Cameron to essentially inject into Netanyahu a strange sense of ego about how his policies are right because in the past, the Jews faced mass-extinction as well. It is quite simply some form of live performance art satire when David Cameron can walk into a room denounce the holocaust and then not denounce another mass-genocide which the nation he is in is creating. Indeed, most recently, Sayeeda Warsi – who by no means has a perfect track-record – has resigned over David Cameron not condemning Israel.

I make no qualms of admitting that I am a person of the Left. Due to this, with the people I spend most of my time with, there is obviously going to be a strong culture concerned with opposing Israel. However, I always feel there’s a damaging element to this culture in the sense that there’s an atmosphere which does not state, but implies, that one must not critique Hamas. I am always hesitant of critiquing Hamas for this reason, and I think it’s a damning shame that one must actually have to physically make obvious that criticising Hamas is not synonymous with not allowing the Palestinian people to be free. It is important to state that Palestinian Freedom and Hamas are totally separate. I think it’s important to criticise both sides – especially in this article, considering how much trenchant sarcasm and bitterness I have flung onto Israel, there would be a danger that some buffoon somewhere out there would assume that I was a suicide bombing Jew-hater – indeed, as I have made clear, Zionism is a belief which believes that critiquing Israel is synonymous with antisemitism.

Amnesty International

Amnesty International

Hamas’ human rights record isn’t exactly glitzy clean. It’s be a misnomer and anti-intellectual to suggest that they were angels. Amnesty International have been documenting war crimes and human rights abuses on both sides for a significant amount of time. During the second intifada, “Palestinian armed groups killed more than 1,100 Israelis, some 750 of them civilians and including 120 children, in suicide bombings and shooting attacks in buses, restaurants, shopping malls and other areas frequented by civilians.” It must be stated clearly and firmly that the massacring of civilians is always a war-crime. Indiscriminate weaponry is also uses against Israelis, which – as you have already expected – ends up killing more civilians than it does military. Amnesty International takes a firm position on Hamas and other Palestinian Armed Groups in regards to war crimes and human rights violations:

“While Amnesty International agrees that the resolution could have said more about the violations of international humanitarian law by Hamas and Palestinian armed groups, and could have established a more precise mandate, the organization notes that nothing in the mandate of the commission of inquiry excludes the actions of Hamas and Palestinian armed groups.”

This is due to its firm line regarding the “principle of distinction” which concerns distinguishing between military and civilian – and is applied to all parties:

The principle of distinction requires that parties at all times distinguish between military targets and civilians and that they direct their attacks only at military targets. Deliberate attacks on civilians or civilian objects – such as homes, medical facilities, schools, governmental buildings – that are not being used for military purposes are prohibited and are war crimes. It is not unlawful to directly attack soldiers, those who are directly participating in hostilities, and military objectives (such as army bases, weapons and munitions caches). In case of doubt as to whether an individual or object is civilian or military, the attacker must presume civilian status.  [Bold text added by author]

Thus, there really is no excuse for either ‘side’ to be perfectly frank, and whilst we can comment on the ideologies of either side, the law should be blind: they are both committing war-crimes. Thus this notion that either side is being “restrained” is total pernicious nonsense of the most trenchant kind. There is nothing restrained about killing hundreds of civilians in one go – we’re not even talking about a singular civilian being accidentally killed, but whole clusters. They never learn and do not frankly care about the havoc they wreak for the other side.

There will be those reading this suggesting why I am not critiquing Hamas as much as I am critiquing Israel. The reason is perfectly simple: Israel is a state and Palestine isn’t. Whilst both sides commit war-crimes and do wish to slaughter each other (the amount of rockets fired by Hamas weekly at Israel goes into the thousands – but never usually hits), Israel is daily committing other offences, mainly the situation on the West Bank with the displacement of Palestinians. Truth be told, more burden rests on Israel than on Hamas as Israel should be behaving like a responsible democratic state, but instead isn’t as daily it resorts to barbarism similar to that which Hamas attempts to inflict on Israelis. The Palestinians don’t have a state and Israel do, and it would be unwise to believe that Hamas were even popular amongst the Palestinian people. Thus we should call it the Israel-Hamas conflict rather than the Israel-Palestine conflict.

A lot of the attacks on Israeli-soil are due to jihadi terrorism. A lot has been written about this already in terms of ideology, but it becomes apparent to me that it is nothing more than plain old nationalism disguised with messianic language. The belief that our god is the one true god and thus everyone else is infidels sounds almost similar to the belief that our patch of grass is better than your patch of grass.

Whilst painstakingly clear that suicide bombing has no ethical stance, I don’t think it’s nearly emphasised enough how utterly unproductive it is. Entering Israeli land and then blowing oneself up (and obviously other people) will never ever convince people that your side is correct, let alone convince the infidels to become muslims. If anything the culture of suicide bombing and sadistic jihadism has been detrimental to Islam and the Palestinian cause. Far from making people wish to embrace Islam, suicide bombing – quite obviously – makes people adamantly reject it, making assumptions that Islam is an unethical religion of violence rather than of peace. Indeed, the same criticism is true of Israel: rampantly attacking Palestinians isn’t exactly going to make Israel popular, and idiots, yes idiots, will associate this with Judaism – they will hold antisemitic opinions due to their impression that because Israel puts on an Anti-Palestinian display, then obviously, all Jews, every single Jew in the world does, has and will as well.

Indeed if there is one barbaric tragedy of this conflict, it is the way it has poisoned language and discourse. Not only are to the common idiot the notion that Muslim = Suicide Bomber & Jew = Zionist – but there’s also a creepy xenophobic subtlety which has infected that language of political moderates. When attempting to sum up the situation, notice how people don’t refer to the IDF, but instead “the Israelis”: “The Israelis want the Palestinians wiped off the map”. Indeed I am certainly guilty of this and have done it probably throughout this article. It is important to consider that a state or at least a pseudo-state like Palestine (it has a leader but no place on a map) consists of multiple ideologies and groups.

But is there a truth in the notion that “they are just as bad as each other”? I think this cliché is an intellectual misnomer. It is impossible to judge who is more morally defunct and who is more morally enlightened. It reminds me of one of those trivial exercises where people try to decipher who was worse, Hitler or Stalin, or who was better, Ghandi or Chuck Norris. The real question is to understand what links them and that is quite obviously Nationalism. But what nationalist traits do they both share in common and what even is Nationalism? George Orwell, answers this question in his great essay Notes on Nationalism where he dissects what all the nationalist-ideologies have in common. In essence, his essay is about how Nationalism infects everything, how it isn’t just political but emotional – and thus due to this is dangerous. It makes people’s views of the conflict gain convictions so blatantly ignorant that it verges on satire. Notice how in arguments Palestine is viewed as an actual state, notice how people forget the war crimes committed by Hamas, notice how people forget how undemocratic Hamas are, notice how people forget the fact that Israel has committed crimes and barbaric occupations against other Arab states aside from the pseudo-state that is Palestine, notice that people use the pseudo-argument of Hamas using human shields when the same nasty argument could be applied to Israel, notice how people say that Israel is nice and lovely as it gives warnings before it bombs homes – but never tells residences where to move and what area of land is safe, notice how someone will pursue the ‘restraint argument’ even though it is clear that using phosphorous gas (which is a chemical weapon, thus a war crime) is in’t ‘restrained’ as it is indiscriminate and attacks everyone in the vicinity that it is used in, notice how people forget to say that both sides have killed civilians and how such people forget that this is a war crime.

I think if this article serves anything, it is merely to back up that age-old cliché about this war, its horrific complexity: a complexity so innate into it that misconceptions, unintentional prejudices seep and infect everything surrounding it, everything is so over-simplified that of course the war will never stop because it’s all viewed in such a simplistic manner. And of course, simple things are simple to get rid of: just throw a bomb at them, you’ll see.

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