Peter Beinart’s new book, The Crisis of Zionism, tries hard—really, really hard—to distinguish between what he calls “non-democratic Israel”, i.e. the occupation and settlements, and “democratic Israel”, which seems somehow in his and other liberal Zionists’ brains as immune from the theft, murder, and grinding ethnic cleansing of the big-o Occupation.
It’s a charming but silly, ahistorical attitude. The fiction of “democratic Israel”, based on a solid Jewish demographic majority, was artificially constructed via violent as well as legalistic ethnic cleansing of Palestine.
Consider this story, as recounted by a Jewish soldier present at the time of the massacres in al-Duwayima, Palestine, 1948:
“He opened his heart to me because there are not many hearts these days that are willing to listen. He arrived in al-Duwayma immediately after its occupation. The conquering army was the 89th battalion… They killed some 80–100 Arabs, women and children. The children were killed by smashing their skulls with clubs. There was not a single house without dead. The second wave of the army consisted of the battalion of the soldier who gave this eyewitness report… In the village there remained Arab women and men who were put in houses without food or drink. Then the sappers came to blow up the houses. One officer order a sapper to put the two old women into the house he was about to blow up. The sapper refused, and said that he would obey only such orders as were handed down to him by his immediate commander. So the officer ordered his own soldiers to put the women in, and the atrocity was carried out. Another soldier boasted he had raped an Arab women and then shot her. Another Arab woman with a day-old baby was employed in cleaning jobs in the yard… She worked for one or two days in the service, and then she was shot, together with her baby…
Cultured and well-mannered commanders who are considered good fellows… have turned into low murderers, and this happened not on the storm of the battle and blind passion, but because of a system of expulsion and annihilation. The fewer Arabs that remain the better.”
This is why when Israeli right-wingers flyer Jerusalem with ads saying “All of Israel is a settlement”, they are way more precise and honest than is Beinart about the brutal history of Zionism. The difference between the land-obsessed colonialism, ethnic cleansing and violence of “democratic” and “non-democratic” Israel is merely the pace at which the crime is committed.
This is why the artificial distinction between “democratic” and “nondemocratic” Israel can only exist through a historical amnesia that “liberal Zionists” seem far more willing to make—surprise!—than Palestinians.