Friday, May 31, 2013

The things that you're liable to read into the Bible...

... ain't necessarily so.

All things considered, the settler-colonial movement known as Zionism really has had a dream run.

While there are many reasons for this, one of them is purely ideological. No other mob of usurping European colonials has ever been able to exploit the Bible to such great advantage as the Zionists. Having said that, it was only the prior colonisation of the European mind by the biblical narrative that enabled them to get away with it.  

I was yet again reminded of this when I read the following letter, by Vic Alhadeff, chief executive of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, in the Sydney Morning Herald of May 29:

"Associate Professor Mohamad Abdalla indulges in a groundless swipe against Israel in his response to Paul Sheehan's column on the Koran. Arguing that many groups use biblical texts to justify violence against others, he claims that 'Zionists use them regularly against Palestinians'. No they don't. What reputable Israeli leaders do is rely on the Bible to justify their 4000-year connection to the land. They disavow violence and they don't use biblical texts to justify violence against Palestinians. That's a critical difference."

A "groundless swipe," eh? I don't think so.  Alhadeff is being disingenuous here.

Historically, although primarily secular nationalists, Zionist leaders have unashamedly used the Hebrew Bible to dress up their naked colonial land grab in Palestine, and none more so than Israel's founding father, David Ben-Gurion:

"The Bible has been utilised by modern secular Zionism as 'history' rather than theology or a source of belief... [T]he secular Zionist claim to Palestine is based on the biblical paradigm and the notion that God had given the land to the Jews... In 1937 David Ben-Gurion (1886-1973), a Russian Jew, later to become the first prime minister and chief architect of the State of Israel, told the British Royal Commission visiting Mandatory Palestine that the 'Bible is our Mandate'. Ben Gurion, who is revered in Israel as the 'Father of the Nation', was a non-believer and deeply secular Zionist. From its earliest days in the late 19th century secular Jewish Zionism embraced the Protestant Zionist biblicist doctrine of exclusive land ownership. This fundamental doctrine was premised on the notion that the Hebrew Bible provides for the Jews' sacrosanct 'title deed' to colonise Palestine, and gives moral legitimacy to the establishment of the State of Israel and its current policies towards the indigenous Palestinians. The nationalised and racialised European doctrine, which viewed the Jews in racial terms, was not only central to Zionist policies in the late 19th century but was ever pervasive within mainstream Christian theology and biblical scholarship. The link between Zionist myth-making, Zionist settler-colonialism, territorial expansion into the occupied West Bank and the use of the Hebrew Bible is reflected in the claim of Ben-Gurion that the Bible was the Chosen People's sacrosanct title deed to Palestine, 'with a genealogy of 3,500 years'. A leading advocate of the historicisation of the Bible, Ben-Gurion wrote: 'The message of the Chosen People makes sense in secular, nationalist and historical terms... The Jews can be considered a self-chosen people... Though I reject theology, the single most important book in my life is the Bible'." (The Bible & Zionism: Invented Traditions, Archaeology & Post-Colonialism in Israel-Palestine, Nur Masalha, 2007, pp 16-17)

Much as Alhadeff might pretend that by referencing the Hebrew Bible "reputable Israeli leaders" are merely illustrating an alleged "connection to the land" of Palestine, as opposed to asserting a divinely- (or historically-) sanctioned prior ownership of it, no serious student of Zionist colonialism in Palestine is fooled.

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