If I had any sense that inside Gaza there is a genuine aspiration to build a modern nation state in which a desire to protect human rights and live in peace if not collaboration with its regional neighbours — an aspiration characterised by a failure to emerge which cannot be substantially pinned on outsiders — then I might have assumed a more balanced take on the present situation.
Even the Gazans’ useful idiots* in the lumpen-lefty community are really bad at disguising what ‘free Palestine’ really means, and seeing this weekend how Egypt has strengthened its border wall with the enclave into something resembling a MAGA reverie, has reminded me that the Israeli hardliners are not alone in regarding this as a territory almost irredeemably polluted by toxic mentalities.
Like the Saudis, the Israelis (and now the UK and the US) imagine rather optimistically that suppression with high explosives acts as a kind of tonic against geopolitical delinquency.
Egypt’s approach is far more like quarantine. Yet there is of course a measure of hand-washing involved, because the twisted Hamas mentality is very much an offshoot of that of the Muslim Brotherhood which first evolved on the other side of all that razor wire.
Palestine is an imagined entity. Not essentially a historical space where territory and cultural or ethnic identity congeal, like Israel, but the name of a no-compromise campaign for “Not Israel” or even “No Israel”, which was born with that essential negativity.
And it took time to become this thing, for in 1948, even though Arab imperialists reacted like antibodies to the sudden flourishing of Jewish democratic self-determination on their authoritarian turf, many of the people who still actively referred to themselves and their culture as ‘Palestinian’ were Jewish. Two decades and a good deal of self-inflicted territorial recession later, the moniker had become free of any association with the hated intruder within.
At base Zionism is the desire of Jews to finally run their own affairs in relative safety within their ancient homeland after two millennia of colonial oppression and persistent persecution wherever else they sought a measure of autonomy and basic tolerance.
I can’t see Anti-Zionism as much other than the determination to deny them this. Anti-Zionists often do actually admit this, but more commonly make a token effort to cover their essentially racist animus by portraying Zionism as something it is not or — at least only mutates into at one end of its bell curve — an evil coloniser ideology which needs to be expunged from the Earth. This is more than anything a disturbing inversion of the situation as understood by any historian worthy of the name.
* Many of whom, even more (dis)ingenuously, now verbalise support for the Houthis, an arguably even more unhinged group of zealots, responsible for ten times the number of deaths as Israel in this current war, as if they were the true representatives of the internationally-recognised nation called Yemen that we can expect to see represented at the Paris Olympics this year. As with the Gazans, it is what the Houthis are not, not what they are, which appeals to their newfound fan club abroad.