Recent clashes in Charlottesville, VA, brought to surface just how much appeal racist ideologies have to-date. They also showed how little we have learned from history. However, there is another side to racism that is less obvious and even more dangerous: racist ideologies are deeply ingrained in our everyday lives and most—if not all—of us participate in keeping racism alive. Subsequently, denial is a major aspect of racism. That is why real changes in this arena hardly ever occur.
Understanding this widely misunderstood subject, however, is not only key to understanding the current clashes in the USA, but also to many other conflicts around the world. One such conflict is the “Israeli-Palestinian” conflict. This particular conflict is a crucial example as it, among others, illustrates how easily targets of racism can become perpetrators themselves.
Racism—Economics and Power
Before discussing the racist aspects of the ideology that created the state of Israel, let us examine what racism is and what makes it such a difficult topic.
First of all, the term is difficult to define. Racism has little to do with race, ethnicity, or anything along those lines. Racism is an illogical construct, the details of which can change depending on what narrative is needed at a given time to justify (ill) actions. What is steady, however, is the way racism works: Racist narratives help overcome the natural empathy that humans have for each other. Once empathy is overcome, mistreatment of “others” can occur. Any ill actions taken against the “others” can additionally be justified as an action to protect the “in-group,” as reflected in the Israel’s right to defend itself narrative.
One of the biggest challenges of racism is that we can hardly even discuss the topic without utilizing racist concepts. Even to identify the “offenders” versus “targets” of racism, we have to create groups and “other” peoples. It is critical to remain conscious of these facts during conversations about racism. It is also critical to refrain from labeling individuals as racist, as labeling only leads to denial. The question that we have to ask ourselves is not whether someone is a racist (because most people who grow up in the systems in which humans operate possess racist notions), but rather, to what degree is one aware of this, and to what degree does one let his or her notions affect his or her actions?
Racism is a construct that primarily serves economic purposes. Therefore, it is critical to keep track of the exchange of money and power that is associated with it.
Exchange of Money and Power—Largest Military Aid to Israel Under President Obama
Israel, a country with barely 8.5 million in population, is the recipient of the highest US military aid in the world. The Memorandum of Understanding for the largest military package ever to go to Israel was signed during the administration of the Democrat and Nobel Peace Prize winner President Obama.
Israel, itself, is among the top ten of exporters of military equipment in the world. At the same time, main suppliers of weapons to Israel are USA, Germany, and Italy.
Politicians and other movers and shakers claim they want the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to end, even though they and their businesses, and other interest groups they collaborate with, are the major winners of this conflict. It doesn’t make sense—why would someone want something that is the basis of their existence to end? On the other hand, given the amount of money that is to be made, and power to be gained, who can blame the benefactors for exploiting the situation?
Zionism and Theodore Herzl’s Utopia
Israel is a state that was created on racist premises, ironically, in response to the horrors of racism that Jews had to endure over centuries. The founder of Zionism, Theodore Herzl, suggested creating a Judenstaat (Jewish state), a safe haven for Jews. However, creating such a state for a particular group was not only short-sighted, but also based on the racist notion that there is such a coherent, distinguishable group—the Jewish peoples. Zionists, themselves, seem not to agree what the mutual traits are that makes the group so coherent. However, this is very common in racist constructs; reasons for coherency of any alleged group are inter-exchangeable, because they are arbitrary. Therefore, traits that make Jewish people who seem to share a common religion, a coherent group, can also easily be identified as culture, nationality, race, ethnicity, and what have you.
Zionists have not been subtle about their claim that there is not only a particular group—peoples called the Jews who share a common culture and history—but also that they are superior. According to the Israel Democracy Institute, approximately two thirds of Israeli Jewish persons to-date believe that Jews are the “chosen people.” There are many attempts to rationalize this inappropriate suggestion that an almighty could have the audacity to prefer one peoples over another; however, the truth remains that such notions are similar to the perverted notions that made the persecution of the persons of Jewish belief for centuries possible. The Zionist notions of superiority are also emphasized, among others, by the group’s overall exclusivity—the opposition to “intermarrying” with other groups, and the existing hurdles for “others” to join the religion. Opposition to “intermarrying” is a common indication for one group feeling superior over another, as, among others, demonstrated in the Nuremberg Laws. However, denouncement of “intermarriage” is also common among other groups, including persons of Islamic beliefs, when they are in a more dominant position.
Besides having been created out of racist notions, the state of Israel’s existence is additionally legitimized through religious belief systems/myths in which, coincidentally, males similar to other major religions, play the main roles: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the list goes on. This legitimization additionally forces everyone to buy into a particular religious belief. Anyone has the right to believe in anything they wish; however, dominating a region because of what one believes to be true based on some religious narratives is generally not how we expect democratic countries to operate.
Given the circumstances, Zionists subsequently have to rely on fear and paranoia to keep up the status-quo in Israel. However, living in paranoia and fear is not a sustainable way of life, and it is doing disservice to one’s self.
Politicians understandably encourage fear and paranoia, because that is how they can keep the population in check and have them look up to them for solutions and protection. However, the general public should know better than to buy into such disabling narratives.
Even though religion appears to play a major role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the conflict itself is not a clash between religions, but rather stems from racist ideologies that justify mistreating the others, denying them their human rights and their human dignity.
There is a solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict; however, the solution is not “political,” because politics is what created the problem in the first place. The real solution is a human solution. The good news is, politicians don’t change the world. It is the general public, their opinion, that changes the world.
The only people we have to look up to in order to resolve this conflict is the everyday individual—persons of Jewish faith, as well as Muslims, Christians, and the list goes on. Once a majority of people involved in the so-called Israeli-Palestinian conflict manage to see behind the perverse narratives, once a breaking point is reached, and they start dealing with their own dehumanizing attitudes, leaders will have no choice but to follow suit with appropriate actions. Unfortunately, it probably won’t take long for this conflict to be replaced by another one, but in the meantime, at least the people who suffered for too long as a result of this conflict can get a break from their pain and suffering.
However, if the general population remains conscious of what racism is about, how it is utilized to “divide and rule” common people, maybe the next conflict won’t take as many casualties, and as much pain and suffering, before it is resolved.
Alev Dudek is a German-American researcher, analyst, and writer. As an established scholar in diversity, she served on the executive board of the International Society for Diversity Management in Berlin as well as the City of Kalamazoo Community Relations Board. Alev received The National Security Education Program (NSEP) award in 2014.