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GEW Briefing

Many people still believe Israel is a strong state and a vibrant democracy. But this is no longer the case. Not just because the Zionist project couldn’t stand on its own two feet like any other nation-state as it was based on flawed principles and lacked the Right. And not only because Democracy and Colonialism insult each other when they represent the same regime and end up in civil war. But also for many other reasons that indicate the failure of the doomed Zionist project in Palestine. This is what Ilan Pappe explains.

Ilan Pappé, a prominent Israeli historian and professor of history at the University of Exeter, has made significant statements regarding the Zionist project and the ongoing conflict in Gaza, describing Israel as a “failed project” destined to fail. His assertions are grounded in a critical examination of the historical and contemporary realities of the Israeli state and its treatment of Palestinians. His extensive research informs Pappé’s perspective on the history of Israel and Palestine and his critique of Zionist ideology and practices.

Historical Context and the Zionist Project

Pappé argues that Israel was born out of a “violent project” that necessitated the displacement and oppression of the Palestinian people to establish a Jewish state in what was then British Mandate Palestine. He describes this process as “incremental genocide,” highlighting the systematic efforts to remove Palestinians from their land and deny their rights. This perspective challenges traditional narratives about the formation of Israel, emphasising the violent and oppressive methods used to achieve Zionist goals.

The Ongoing Occupation and Oppression of Palestinians

The historian points out that the oppression of Palestinians is not just a historical event but an ongoing reality. He notes the continued occupation of Palestinian territories, settler violence, and the political project of Zionism that seeks to maintain Jewish supremacy at the expense of Palestinian rights and lives. Pappé’s analysis suggests that the Zionist project cannot be sustained without the continued oppression of millions of Palestinians, which he views as inherently unjust and unsustainable.

The Failure of the Zionist Project

Pappé’s assertion that Israel is a “failed project” destined to fail is based on several key arguments. First, he highlights the inherent contradiction between the Zionist vision of a Jewish state and the demographic and political realities of the region, where Palestinians continue to resist their displacement and demand their rights. He also points to the international criticism and growing solidarity movements supporting Palestinian rights, which challenge the legitimacy of the Zionist project.

Furthermore, Pappé argues that the Zionist project’s reliance on violence and oppression to maintain a Jewish majority and control over the land is ultimately unsustainable. He suggests that the only viable solution is a change of regime in Israel that brings equal rights for everyone from the river to the sea. This perspective is grounded in a belief in justice, morality, and the possibility of a better world for both Israelis and Palestinians.

The religious civil war in Israel

Ilan Pappé has indeed made significant statements concerning what he calls “the religious civil war in Israel”. His analysis is rooted in the historical and contemporary realities of religious Zionism and its impact on Israeli society and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

 The Evolution of Religious Zionism

  Pappé traces the origins of religious Zionism to the teachings of Avraham Itzhak Kook and his son Zvi Yehuda Hacohen Kook, two influential figures in the Zionist movement. According to Pappé, Avraham Kook was the first to preach that the right of the Jewish people to Palestine was God’s will, a view that challenged the Orthodox Jewish perspective, which saw Zionism as a secular attempt to tamper with God’s will. Zvi Kook, on the other hand, is seen as the ideological father of the messianic movement Gush Emunim, which carried out the Judaisation of the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip after the war of 1967.

 The Impact of Religious Zionism on Israeli Society

Pappé argues that religious Zionism, which he describes as “messianic, racist, and fundamentalist,” has grown in presence and influence within Israeli society. He notes that this movement has moved from the margins to the centre of the Israeli political system. Pappé also highlights the role of religious Zionists in instigating violence against Palestinian communities, describing how they have entered Palestinian neighbourhoods in a systematic way, built “learning centres” in these areas, and constantly harassed the local population.

 The Religious Civil War in Israel

 Pappé’s reference to a “religious civil war in Israel” seems to be a critique of the divisive and destructive impact of religious Zionism on Israeli society. He warns that the blind veneration of the military, especially after the 1967 war, is dangerous and could lead to the ultimate destruction of democracy. He also suggests that religious nationalism, which equates enemies (usually Muslims) as subhuman embodiments of evil, is akin to National Socialism’s relationship to socialism.

Disillusionment with the Zionist Project Among Young Jews

Ilan Pappé’s observations about the changing attitudes of young Jews towards the Zionist project are rooted in a complex interplay of historical, social, and political factors. The disillusionment can be attributed to several key reasons:

 1. Historical Reevaluation: There has been a growing awareness and critical examination of the history of Israel and the Palestinian territories, including the displacement and oppression of Palestinians. This reevaluation challenges the traditional narratives that justify the Zionist project.

 2. Moral and Ethical Concerns: Younger generations are increasingly concerned with justice, human rights, and equality issues. The ongoing occupation and the treatment of Palestinians by the Israeli state are at odds with these values, leading to a moral disengagement from the Zionist ideology.

 3. Global Solidarity Movements: The rise of international solidarity movements for Palestinian rights has influenced public opinion, including among young Jews. Global criticism of Israeli policies and support for Palestinian self-determination has contributed to a shift in perspective.

 4. Internal Israeli Dynamics: The ascendance of religious Zionism and its impact on Israeli society may also play a role. As Pappé notes, the movement has become more central in Israeli politics, and its messianic and nationalist tendencies may alienate those who envision a more inclusive and democratic society.

 5. Political Realities: The perceived failure of the Zionist left to reconcile the occupation with liberal or socialist values has led to a crisis within Israeli society. The inability to maintain a democratic ethos and a colonial work has created a contradiction that is increasingly difficult to ignore.

 6. Shift in Identity and Values: Young Jews may also be experiencing a shift in identity that is less tied to nationalist narratives and more focused on universal principles. This generational change in values can lead to a rethinking of the role and future of the Zionist project.

Israeli Military’s Inability to Protect from the North and South

Ilan Pappé has highlighted the inability of the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) to protect the Jewish community in the south and north of Israel. This statement reflects concerns about Israel’s security situation and its military’s capacity to ensure the safety of its citizens from various threats. The reasons behind this perceived inability are multifaceted and can be attributed to the following factors:

 1. Geopolitical Threats: Israel faces significant security challenges from various armed groups in neighbouring regions, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon to the north and Hamas in Gaza to the south. These groups possess advanced weaponry, including long-range rockets and missiles, which can target Israeli territory.

 2. Military Overstretch: The IOF may be stretched thin due to the need to maintain a significant presence in the occupied Palestinian territories while also being prepared to respond to threats along its borders. This dual responsibility can strain resources and readiness.

 3. Asymmetric Warfare: Israel’s military, while technologically advanced and well-equipped, is often engaged in asymmetric warfare against non-state actors who use guerrilla tactics and operate within civilian populations. This type of warfare can be challenging to counter effectively and can limit the military’s ability to provide absolute protection.

 4. Political and Social Dynamics: Internal divisions within Israeli society, including tensions between secular and religious camps, may also impact the military’s cohesion and the overall strategic direction of the country’s defence policies.

 5. Changing Global and Regional Dynamics: The evolving geopolitical landscape, including shifting alliances and the rise of new regional powers, can affect Israel’s security environment and the military’s ability to adapt to new threats.



Four ideas should be retained from the preceding analysis:

1- Ilan Pappé’s assessment of the Zionist enterprise and his portrayal of Israel as a “failed project” reflect a thorough examination of the historical and contemporary reality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His work questions established narratives and asks for reevaluating the Israeli state’s foundations and destiny, highlighting the importance of justice, equality, and a long-term peace that acknowledges the rights and humanity of all people in the region.

2- Ilan Pappé’s comments on the “religious civil war in Israel” reflect his critical view of religious Zionism and its impact on Israeli society and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His work offers a historical and contemporary perspective on religion’s involvement in regional political and social processes.

3- Ilan Pappé’s remarks reflect a broader trend of disillusionment among young Jews with the Zionist project, fueled by a mix of historical reevaluation, ethical considerations, global influences, internal Israeli dynamics, political contradictions, and a generational shift in identity and values.

4- Pappé’s observations on the Israeli military’s difficulties in protecting the country from threats from the north and south are based on a combination of geopolitical threats, military overstretch, the nature of asymmetric warfare, internal political and social dynamics, and shifting global and regional dynamics.

For all those reasons and many others that have become too clear today to be concealed, we think that Israel and the Zionist project will collapse sooner or later.

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