The Great Fear of Israel's Leaders

by John Spritzler

January 27, 2009


The great fear of Israel's Zionist leaders is that ordinary people in all of historic Palestine, no matter what their religion, will define the struggle against Zionism not as Jew versus non-Jew but as a struggle by those who seek equality under the law for all people, no matter what their religion, versus those who oppose that goal. Thus Israel's prime minister Ehud Olmert, as reported in Ha'aretz November 29, 2007, said:

WASHINGTON - "If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights (also for the Palestinians in the territories), then, as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Haaretz Wednesday, the day the Annapolis conference ended in an agreement to try to reach a Mideast peace settlement by the end of 2008.

"The Jewish organizations, which were our power base in America, will be the first to come out against us," Olmert said, "because they will say they cannot support a state that does not support democracy and equal voting rights for all its residents."


Zionism's Core Strategy

Israeli leaders have a fundamental strategy for staying in power:

#1. Make ordinary Jews in Israel and the American public believe that Jews are surrounded by violent anti-Semitic terrorists. Do this by portraying all resistance to Israel's ethnic cleansing of Palestinians as anti-Semitic terrorism.

#2. Use Israeli and American military power to ensure that resistance to Zionism never succeeds in overthrowing  Israel's Zionist ruling elite.

The first part of the strategy is clearly essential for the second part.

The number one requirement for Palestinian resistance to succeed is to defeat Zionism's core strategy. There is every reason to believe it is possible to do this.

There are five million Jews in Israel and three-hundred million Americans in the United States. Most of these people want to live in a world where people are not at war with one another, and where the principle of equality prevails. People support the kind of governmental terrorism that Israel inflicts upon its enemies only when they are convinced that an enemy with very different values threatens them and it is kill-or-be-killed.

When the resistance to Zionism succeeds in persuading most Israelis and Americans that it is Zionism itself that attacks the positive values shared by most people of all religions, then and only then will it be possible to overthrow the Israeli ruling class. Israeli leaders understand this. This is why they act in a manner that is otherwise paradoxical.

The Role of  Hamas

Israeli leaders have been carrying out actions, prior to and including the recent slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza, that strengthen, not weaken, Hamas.*

Many articles and reports by knowledgeable sources across the political spectrum acknowledge and describe this strange fact, regardless of their differing explanations for it and attitudes toward it.

In a 2002 UPI report, Richard Sale wrote:

"according to several current and former U.S. intelligence officials, beginning in the late 1970s, Tel Aviv gave direct and indirect financial aid to Hamas over a period of years. Israel 'aided Hamas directly -- the Israelis wanted to use it as a counterbalance to the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization),' said Tony Cordesman, Middle East analyst for the Center for Strategic Studies. Israel's support for Hamas "was a direct attempt to divide and dilute support for a strong, secular PLO by using a competing religious alternative," said a former senior CIA official."

Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia, wrote in the  London Review of Books January 15, 2009:

"Resistance movements such as Hizbullah and Hamas, by contrast, can plausibly claim that they forced Israel to withdraw from occupied Arab land while scoring impressive gains at the ballot box; they have also been reasonably free of corruption. As if determined to increase the influence of these radical movements, Israel has undermined Abbas and the PA at every turn...But Hamas will not be so easily defeated... it looks likely to emerge politically stronger when the war is over,..."

John J. Mearsheimer, professor of political science at the University of Chicago, wrote January 18, 2009, in Gaza: Another War, Another Defeat,

"Indeed, Hamasís reaction to Israelís brutality seems to lend credence to Nietzscheís remark that what does not kill you makes you stronger."

Anthony H. Cordesman, a national security analyst for ABC News, in The War in Gaza: Tactical Gains, Strategic Defeat? written on January 9, 2009, said:

"At least to date, the reporting from within Gaza indicates that each new Israeli air strike or advance on the ground has increased popular support for Hamas and anger against Israel in Gaza. The same is true in the West Bank and the Islamic world. Iran and Hezbollah are capitalizing on the conflict...What is the strategic purpose behind the present fighting?...Will Israel end in empowering an enemy in political terms that it defeated in tactical terms? ...To [be] blunt, the answer so far seems to be yes."

Khalid Amayreh, a journalist who lives with his family in the Occupied Palestinian town of Dura, in Hamas Gaining Sympathy as Onslaught Continues written January 1, 2009, reported:

"Palestinian intellectuals as well as ordinary people expect Hamasís popularity to rise dramatically when the present Israeli campaign is over...'There are widespread feelings among Palestinians that the PA is quite satisfied with what is happening in Gaza. And undoubtedly this is going to seriously undermine the image of Palestinian leadership,' opined Abdul Sattar Qassem, Professor of political Science at the Najah National University in Nablus. Qassem predicted that the current Israeli campaign would actually lead to the boosting of Hamasís popularity.

"Qassem said he believed that the PA would be the biggest loser in the current showdown between Israel and Hamas.

"Another Palestinian intellectual, Abdul Bari Atwan, predicts that public support for Hamas will increase as a result of the present Israeli campaign in the Gaza Strip."


Finally, this video made January 13, 2009, reports:

"Since beginning its offensive in the Gaza Strip Israel has repeatedly declared it will maintain attacks to smash what it calls the Hamas terrorist machine. However, as Israel's bombardment continues, the appeal of Hamas in the Arab world appears to be growing. Al Jazeera's Hashem Ahelbarra reports on how the war has left Hamas gaining popular support."

Most of these authors explain the fact that Israel strengthens Hamas while claiming it wants to weaken it in terms of the incompetence of Israeli leaders. But when somebody keeps doing something that has a consequence he claims not to want, the most plausible explanation is that he really does want it.

Standard wisdom may deny it, but the fact of the matter is that Israeli leaders have good reason for wanting to strengthen the hand of Hamas. Hamas and the Zionist leaders of Israel both want the conflict framed the same way--as a religious war between Jews and non-Jews, rather than as a conflict between those who want equality regardless of one's religion, in a democratic and secular state, and those who want inequality.

The Zionist version of this shared Israel/Hamas religious war framework calls for making most or possibly all of Palestine a Jewish state based on the assertion in the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel that, "[T]he right of the Jewish people to establish their State is irrevocable. This right is the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign State." Israeli leaders have implemented this framework by carrying out violent ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, oppressing Palestinians both inside and outside of Israel, and periodically slaughtering Palestinian and Lebanese non-combatant civilians.

Hamas's version of this religious war framework, spelled out in its "The Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement (1988)" calls for Palestine to be an Islamic state, in which "It is the duty of the followers of other religions to stop disputing the sovereignty of Islam in this region." Hamas leaders have implemented this framework by targeting Jewish non-combatant civilians with suicide bombers and Qassam rockets.

Israeli leaders need the conflict to be framed the way that Hamas helps them to frame it, as Jew versus non-Jew. Only in this framework, which the pro-Israel mass media spin as "decent freedom-loving people versus violent anti-Semitic terrorists," can the true rulers of Israel--billionaires, generals and the politicians who serve them--maintain their grip on the Jewish population of Israel and maintain the backing of Jews and the general public in the United States--their indispensable ally.

This is what explains the otherwise paradoxical fact that Israeli leaders do things that strengthen Hamas and keep doing these things over and over and over again.

This also explains why Israeli leaders have done everything possible to undermine the legitimacy of the PLO (Fatah and Abbas) in the eyes of Palestinians. The PLO's official goal is (or at least, before Oslo, was) a democratic secular Palestine with equality for all people under the law. Any Palestinian organization with this objective poses a strategic threat to Zionism.

Israeli leaders defeated the PLO by using Oslo to entice the PLO leadership to act in a manner that caused the Palestinian people--justifiably--to dismiss the PLO as corrupt stooges of the Israeli government. Israel's then-prime minister, Ariel Sharon, delivered the final blow to the PLO and delivered a valuable gift to Hamas when, just prior to the 2006 Palestinian elections, he made a big show of insisting that the Israeli withdrawal of troops and settlers from Gaza was a unilateral act and not the result of any negotiations with the PLO's Abbas. This told Palestinians that the PLO's strategy of moderate negotiating accomplished nothing, and reinforced Hamas's claim that their militancy was responsible for Israel's withdrawal, thereby helping to ensure Hamas's electoral victory.

Zionism's core strategy  requires winning the ideological war in Israel and the United States.  Israeli leaders promote Hamas so that they can frame the conflict as a religious war. The job of good people everywhere in the world is to prevent Israel's leaders from winning this ideological war, by explaining to our fellow citizens that no matter what Hamas leaders may say or do, the conflict in Palestine is most definitely not a religious war.

The vast majority of Palestinians do not want to replace the inequality of Jews dominating non-Jews with its opposite. They want equality. They want equality for all people who live in historic Palestine no matter what their religion. They want the right of return for Palestinians who were ethnically cleansed by Zionism. They want the same compensation from Israel for their property that was stolen  by Zionism as Jews received  from Germany for their property stolen by Nazis. The only people who are truly threatened by these demands are the tiny elites who want to rule over people in a world based on inequality and pitting people against each other. They are small in number, and we can defeat them.


* After writing this article I came across this added evidence: The host introducing a talk by Professor Juan Cole, an expert on the Middle East (see ), name-drops that he recently had lunch with former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, and then (starting at the 26:56 minute point of the video) reports having heard a startling eyewitness account of the following:  that during the recent Israeli slaughter of people in Gaza, supposedly to wipe out Hamas, this eyewitness was on the phone directly with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barack and told him he knew where the Hamas leadership was hiding, and Barack replied, "We know where Hamas's leadership is hiding, but we're not going to go further, we are trying to send a message." 


John Spritzler is the author of The People As Enemy: The Leaders' Hidden Agenda In World War II, and a Research Scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health.


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