Monday, 10 August 2015

After the murder of baby Ali, is Zionism beyond redemption?

My latest blog post is published at Patheos.

Here's an extract...

Soon I will be heading back to Israel and the West Bank for my fourth trip to the area.

Along with notebooks and pens, I'm packing questions too. The recent deadly arson attack by Jewish Settlers in the village of Duma, near Nablus, has again focused my mind on what Zionism is or isn't and what the Jewish project of nationalist renewal should mean to me as a British Jew.

Just as the kidnapping and burning of Mohammed Abu Khudeir did last summer, the death by fire of 18 month old Ali Dawabshe has provoked horror and soul-searching by Jewish Israelis. They are asking How has this happened? How could we have stopped it? What are they teaching their children in these Settlements?

But Duma was hardly an isolated incident, as this report from Al Monitor makes clear. And Israel's track record in finding and prosecuting those that carry out such attacks is far from impressive. The death of a child however put the attack on radar of the international media and so prompted this reaction from Prime Minister Netanyahu, who would normally stay silent on Settler violence:

“I am shocked over this reprehensible and horrific act. This is an act of terrorism in every respect. The State of Israel takes a strong line against terrorism regardless of who the perpetrators are."

The sentiment has been echoed by Jewish Communities around the world. In Britain, the Jewish Chronicle gave three pages of coverage to the issue of Jewish extremism this week and the Senior Vice President of the Board of Deputies, Richard Verber, had this to say:

“We share in the pain of the Dawabsha family and hope that the perpetrators of this act of terror will be brought to justice as soon as possible.”

On Saturday 8 August Ali's father Sa'ed died in hospital from his injuries and his mother Riham and older brother Ahmad are still in a critical condition. Meanwhile, there have been a number of arrests of suspects including Meir Ettinger, the grandson of the notorious ultra nationalist Rabbi Meir Kahane. They are being held under 'administrative detention' with the same lack of due process and transparency usually reserved for Palestinians.

But was it a random act of Jewish terror, a hate-filled aberration to disown, grieve over, and then move on from? Or was it a direct consequence of the near fifty year Israeli occupation of the West Bank? Has the Jewish State created a political culture that has nurtured the attitude of Ali and Sa'ed's killers? Indeed has it subsidised the fundamentalist rabbis and yeshivas that taught them their hateful chauvinism.

Or worse still, is Duma the inevitable consequence of the entire Zionist programme of Jewish renewal through 'return' and state building? After all, it never was a land without a people for a people without a land, as the old Zionist slogan liked to frame things.

As I pack my questions for Israel I'm asking: Is Zionism in 2015 beyond redemption?