The Delusions of a Colonialist

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with President of Guatemala Jimmy Morales Cabrera at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, May 17, 2018.
Amos Ben Gershom / GPO

After many years of concealment, last week, in a few short sentences Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed the core of his ideology, which is shared by many in the dominant ideological stream in Israel. At the opening of a cabinet meeting, the outgoing prime minister said that he had begun to read Barbara Tuchman’s “The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War, 1890-1914.”

“Queen Victoria’s 60th year, a great parade in London. England ruled one quarter of the world. ... Everything crumbled a few decades later. There are many reasons, but one reason is clear, and their great security collapse stemmed from them not arming themselves against their enemies. They relied on the successes of the past, and from the position of the greatest empire in the world, they declined and declined and, of course, were hit very hard.”

Later Netanyahu reaches the inevitable conclusion: “We know that the force that has served us up until now must continue to strengthen in the face of all these phenomena.”

Netanyahu’s message is that that there is no message. This is not the time to discuss Netanyahu’s aggressive approach, but it’s very interesting to hear that a leader who is a member of the second generation of the founders of the state compares Israel to a colonialist power, rather than to those who fought colonialism. Apparently, had Netanyahu been alive and in a position of influence in the days following World War II – on the British colonialist side of course – we would still be getting parking tickets from Her Majesty’s policemen. Really, it’s sad that the empire declined, and that its leaders didn’t continue to arm themselves against their enemies - namely the inhabitants of one quarter of the earth.

And while certain historians here explain to us morning, noon and night that the Yishuv – the pre-State Jewish community in Palestine – fought against the British, now comes the prime minister and mourns the empire that his predecessors claimed to have fought against. That may be the reason for Netanyahu’s admiration of Winston Churchill: He admires him because he sees him as the last emperor. And if we continue and compare today’s Israeli empire, which oppresses the Palestinian people, with the empire that ruled a quarter of the world, oppressed many nations and robbed their treasures, there’s no doubt in my mind that we will all be better off when the Israeli empire shrinks to the dimensions of a normal country, just as happened to England.

Aside from that, I’m sorry to disappoint Netanyahu, but the waning of British colonialism was not a result of their failure to arm themselves, but because a continuation of the colonial regime was untenable. Both those who groaned under its yoke and the colonialists themselves reached the conclusion that this trend was over.

Now Netanyahu wants to “revive the bones, which are already worn out,” as it says in the Koran. This is the time to explain to the outgoing prime minister that the British are actually pleased about the fact that they got rid of the empire and its burden. Today you will no longer find a young man from Manchester patrolling some poverty-stricken neighborhood in New Delhi, or a young man from Birmingham running around on the hills near Nablus chasing Palestinian kids who are tired of the occupation. They have left this pleasure to the Israelis.

The new colonialists no longer occupy land and don’t send in tanks, and if they do, then they bring them back quickly. Today colonialism has undergone a conversion, to ruling by means of high-tech – via the computer and the cell phone. And why doesn’t Israel adopt this idea? Why not offer the nations of the region advanced technology and cooperative projects? Such a thing cannot be compared to the terrible cruelty of the old colonialism, and there’s also a good chance that everyone would come out ahead. Nu, what’s wrong with a change in profession?

Incidentally, it wouldn’t be the first time. Many years ago Israel offered the world a wonderful product – drip irrigation. Later, what can you do, militarism destroyed this welcome message too. Recently we heard that the Spanish police used Israeli-made water hoses to disperse demonstrations, and let’s not forget the export of lethal weapons to anyone who wants them – including criminals.

If drip irrigation is not restored to the heart of Israeli activity, the water hoses will drown us all yet.