Why Palestine is Important

By Israel Shamir – July 14, 2011

Palestine is important not because it is as beautiful as Tuscany, nor because the Palestinians are suffering, and not even because it is occupied by a Jewish state. What we need to understand is that the Jews have been handed Palestine not because they were so smart or so strong or so devoted, but by Imperial design.

Palestine is important because it is believed to be a linchpin of Empire, one of the key points necessary to control the world. Such was the conviction of the 19th century British Empire-builders of the Rhodes variety, and this conviction has been recently and continuously reformulated into the terms of modern geopolitics. Once an arcane theory developed by HJ Mackinder, it has grown up to become a driving force behind globalism. We shall not go into its rational interpretation of mythological imagery; we must simply accept that this is the way the world’s powerful elite think.

Mackinder planned the subjugation of the whole planet to the Empire. He noted that the Arab world (a passage-land, in his terms) is central for this enterprise, and declared that “the hill citadel of Jerusalem has a strategic position with reference to world-realities not differing essentially from its ideal position in the perspective of the Middle Ages, or its strategic position between ancient Babylon and Egypt.” He believed that the “ideal position” of Jerusalem as the centre of the world of the medieval Crusader maps is no religious quirk, but an inspired understanding of the inherent quality of the place. In his exact words, “In a monkish map, contemporary with the Crusades, which still hangs in Hereford Cathedral, Jerusalem is marked as at the geometrical centre, the navel, of the world, and on the floor of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem they will show you to this day the precise spot which is the centre… The medieval ecclesiasts were not far wrong”.

A strategist-mystic, Mackinder was a great supporter of Balfour declaration: “The Jewish national seat in Palestine will be one of the most important outcomes of the war. That is a subject on which we can now afford to speak the truth … a national home at the physical and historical centre of the world”.

In his fresh-from-the-presses book, The Great Games (rush out and buy it while stocks last, dear reader!), our friend and fellow Counterpuncher Eric Walberg says it best: “Mackinder’s inspiration was not Zionist but rather imperial, and by putting Jews in a Palestinian homeland he was assembling the pieces in today’s imperial order”.

Clearly, his imperialism, and his geography have had religious antecedents. Geopolitics is a secularised sacred geography, and its drive towards “the hill citadel of Jerusalem” and “Shambala” is not a coincidence. But then, every ideology is a crypto-religious doctrine; or in words of Carl Schmitt, «all of the most pregnant concepts of modern doctrine are secularized theological concepts».

People argue that geopolitics has more than a touch of mumbo-jumbo, but this doctrine is being applied by the elites. One can rationalise the fateful Imperial attachment to Afghanistan by a vague possibility to build there a pipeline; it is easier to see in the US drive to Afghanistan a new version of the search of Shambala.   Mackinder rationalised his feelings, he referred to Jerusalem’s army being able to defend the Suez, but the old maps influenced him – and other Empire-builders – more than he was ready to admit.

For this reason it is difficult to imagine that the Empire will ever voluntarily release Palestine; it is far too important ideologically, religiously, geopolitically, and strategically in the eyes of the Imperial elites. But why has the Empire chosen the Jews to be the shock troops in Palestine? Indiana University’s Professor of Geography, Mohameden Ould-Mey provides some explanation in a scholarly paper, a paper that was never successfully published. The paper had been duly reviewed and accepted by Political Geography’s chief editor David Slater, but two years later a new chief editor came along who knew better on which side lies the butter, and he quickly spiked the paper. He used his position to instead commission some celebratory articles about Israel’s Independence Day.

In the never-published paper, Professor Ould-Mey revealed that the Zionist movement was not created by Jews in the 19th century: they were busy looking closer to home. These starry-eyed Jews once dreamt of forming a homeland inside Ukraine or Poland, to build there an independent state “just like Serbia”. It was the British who had a different idea, namely, to turn the Jews into English colonists in the Middle East. They needed manpower to man the Hill Citadel, and “they wanted the Jews to fill in the blank for the non-existing native Protestants in the Holy Land”.  The idea was tried earlier and failed: Napoleon toyed with the idea of planting Jews in Palestine as France’s foot soldiers, but there were no takers among Jews. The Brits achieved what the French could not.

Enter William Henry Hechler (1845- 1931), “the British agent who actually fathered Zionism in Eastern Europe and Russia”. Hechler is the man who turned Leo Pinsker into a Zionist; Pinsker later became author of the first and most influential pre-Zionist pamphlet, Auto-Emancipation. “This is when and how the British began to inject their Zionism into an otherwise local and normal emancipation movement of Eastern European Jewry in their own ancestral homeland” in Eastern Europe, writes Ould-Mey.

After winning over Pinsker and establishing the first Jewish movement for settlement in Palestine (Hibath Zion), Hechler went to Vienna to entice Theodor Herzl. At that time, Hechler was already “described as an agent working for German and English interests and particularly as a ‘secret agent’ working for the Intelligence Service”.

“Hechler actively participated in the First Zionist Congress in Basle, Switzerland in August 1897…Hechler-Herzl relations (like the Hechler-Pinsker ones before them and the Balfour- Weizmann ones after them) would seem to resemble the tutor-tutored relations rather than prophet-prince relations as suggested by Zionist historiography. Beyond tutoring Herzl on what Zionism is all about, Hechler introduced both Herzl and Zionism to the German Emperor, the Russian Czar, the Ottoman Sultan, the Pope (Pie X)” and other luminaries.

“Herzl was essentially a British envoy to the Germans, the Russians, the Ottomans, and the Jews. It was said that Herzl was fitted to lead Zionism precisely because he knew neither the Jews nor Palestine or Turkey…”

Ould-Mey concludes: “The British wanted Palestine for imperial and religious motives and used the Zionist Jews as willing surrogates and proxies who down the road became more active agents.”

This makes sense, for it solves the mystery: why was the Jewish Zionist movement such a Johnny-come-lately? Jewish Zionism was still in its infancy when Russians, French and Germans had been buying up lands and building houses all over the Holy Land for 40 years. Ould-Mey’s theory answers all the pertinent questions nicely. It was an English coup de grace.

This discovery is very exciting, but a trifle short of sensational: the British Intelligence Service is known to have rocked the cradle of The Muslim Brotherhood, the CIA fostered the Taliban, Shabak fathered Hamas. There is no doubt that all these bodies became wildly independent, unleashed themselves from their masters and ended up causing them a lot of trouble. Ould-Mey’s discovery that the Zionist movement was established by the British Secret service does not necessarily imply that it remained under their control – or anybody’s external control. 

Since then, Jews have become doubly integrated into the fabric of the Empire: as the holders of the geopolitical “hill citadel of Jerusalem”, and as the bearers of neo-liberal post-modern ideology, the ideology of the “islanders” in Mackinder’s terminology — which is surprisingly close to “the traditional Jewish ideology” in the view of Milton Friedman as expounded by Gilad Atzmon. The first group is located mainly in Israel; the second group is mainly in the US.

The Zionist conception that the Jews are natural placeholders of the “hill citadel of Jerusalem” is now under review. The Middle East has sprung forth new forces with which the Empire is already actively collaborating. Foremost are the aggressive Saudi Wahhabis whom Thierry-Meyssan has identified as the Sudairi. Qatar’s Al-Jazeera is a powerful weapon that is in their hands. They play along with Israel but they are not Zionist stooges. They are quite a nasty lot and are friends of the Empire by their own right.

Obama’s May speech has made this clear. Israel is no longer the only outpost in the wilderness of the Middle East, no longer a bastion of the West in the East. Obama’s proposal was similar to that made by Jimmy Carter to China and Taiwan in 1979, when the United States transferred diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing while carrying on commercial, cultural, and other unofficial contacts with Taiwan. Over 30 years have passed since then, and Taiwan has not suffered from being downgraded. Likewise, Obama offered Israel a similar deal: shrink a bit, and you will live a long and happy life. Contraction should be not only territorial, but strategic and ideological as well. You are welcome to stay a favorite son of the US in the Middle East, but as a son among other sons, not as a pampered baby among slaves. In short, be a Taiwan – don’t try to be a China.

As we know, Israel quickly neutralized this proposal by mobilising pro-Jewish American politicians. This has effectively humiliated Obama – and energized the new pro-Imperial Arab forces to action. Their new confidence was expressed in Prince Turki’s opinion piece and has been widely commented upon. This is one reason why Israel has been acting hysterically recently, as is evident from the attacks on the Flotilla, the detention of the fly-in tourists, and the massacre of the unarmed Palestinians upon the anniversary days of the Nakba and Naksa.

Israelis have a feeling that their position is being re-evaluated, and they are freshening up their connections with the Jews abroad and flexing the power of their lobbies, playing up anti-semitism hysteria. The most recent orchestrated surges of pro-Jewish sentiments have surfaced in the harsh treatment of film director Lars von Trier and designer John Galliano, but are by no means over.

Now an important debate of the last decade can be addressed. Noam Chomsky explained America’s obsession with Israel by hard-nosed Imperial interests, while John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt inter alia have explained it by activity of the Israel Lobby. Now we can try to square this circular argument.

Indeed, the imperial plans for conquest of the world as they were laid upon in the end of 19th century included creation of the “hill citadel of Zion” manned by “ranging” (Mackinder’s term) Jews. New data proves that these plans were not inspired by Jews, but given to Jews by imperial planners. These plans passed from generation to generation, and presumably they are now accepted by the imperial elites as given.

During the Cold War this idea figured less prominently, but “since the end of the Cold War, as regional strategic concerns have replaced those of the global bipolar confrontation of the twin superpowers, the relevance of Mackinder’s study [and of his concepts] is once again apparent”, in words of Leut.-Gen Ervin Rokke.

 So apparently, Chomsky was right? Not so fast. We can reword the old argument in new terms: M&W argument can be read as “the old ideas of Mackinder are so much of old bunkum, and in reality the citadel became rather a hindrance than a useful defence, like Belfort”.  This coincides with the Arab pro-Imperialist view of the Saudis. Perhaps it is a convincing opinion, but the Lobby is still instrumental in blocking it.

Edited by Paul Bennett

Israel Shamir is a critically acclaimed and respected Russian Israeli writer. He has written extensively and translated Joyce and Homer into Russian. He lives in Jaffa, is a Christian, and an outspoken critic of Israel and Zionism.

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