Alternative Insight

The Sepoy Mutiny and the Middle East Peace Process

Explaining the unusual growth of Israel and predicting its future solicits comparisons between the Zionist adventure and previous historical episodes. As circumstances and facts on the ground change, so does the comparison of the Middle East crisis with past dramas.

The Zionist mission, which was able to gain a foothold and prevail against hostile forces of an Arab world that dominated a huge area and contained magnitudes more population, resembled the undertaking of the East India Company (EIC) that operated in adversarial conditions on the Indian sub-continent from mid 18th century to mid 19th century. This comparison defines the beginning and past development of the Zionist enterprise. Twenty first century Israel's polices can be compared to the German occupation of Herero lands and decimation of he Herero tribe in Namibia during the years from 1890 to 1933. That comparison portends the future.

Seems far fetched, but wait and see. Examination of the EIC leads to the importance of boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS).
Established as a British joint-stock company and organized to pursue trade with the East Indies, the EIC found more desirable business adventures by trading indigo dye and opium from India for tea with commercial enterprises that existed during the 17th to 19th century Qing Dynasty of China. Not satisfied with limited trade, an EIC equipped military defeated the Bengal rulers at the Battle of Plassey in 1757 and, a few years later, acquired the right to collect revenues on behalf of the Mughal Emperor. Coincidentally, the Mughal Empire slowly disintegrated and was replaced by a variety of regional states, which were powerless to combat the British mercenary forces. Soon, the company ruled all Bengal and territories acquired from wars in the Indian sub-continent and with foreign nations - China, Nepal and Afghanistan.

Protection of its expanded territorial rule and enterprises required:
(1) Equipping a large standing army. By 1850, this army consisted of 38,500 British troops and 311,000 Indian recruits, most known as "sepoys," well trained and uniformed Muslim and Hindu natives.
(2) Suppressing the native peoples and all rebellious groups.
(3) Preventing Indian regional states from forming alliances that could combat the EIC encroachment into the Indian peninsula.
(4) Co-opting Indian rulers to acknowledge the Company's hegemony in return for limited internal autonomy.
(5) Seeking a benefactor that would rescue the company from trouble -- the mighty Great Britain served that purpose. .

Similar to other colonial enterprises that grew from determination and oppression, the East Indian Company eventually failed. Expansion by war and annexation, harsh revenue policies, reduction of Indian peasantry to penury and religious complications led to the Sepoy Mutiny, a catch name for a general rebellion during the years from 1857-1858. Although the EIC overcame the rebellion within one year, Queen Victoria repealed its charter and became the ruler of India for almost another one hundred years.

How do the East Indies Company and Sepoy Mutiny relate to Zionism and the state of Israel?
Prior to the start of World War I the Zionist adventure had become stagnant or more likely had failed - not surprising - it had insufficient reason to succeed. More on this later. The Allies' victory in the war destroyed the Ottoman Empire and created several weak and autocratic states, Similar to the EIC quickness in taking advantage of the decline of the Moghul Empire and the establishment of weak and princely states in order to gain control of the Indian sub-continent, new and more business-minded Zionist look-alikes, bolstered by the Balfour Declaration, which approved "a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine," proceeded to enter the vacuum in Palestine. How this was engineered is still debated, but not debated is that the French and British designed spheres of influence and economic control of most of the Middle East for themselves at the secretly prepared 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement, and left open a door to Palestine for those favored by the Balfour Declaration to enter. The Crown permitted one specific group to bring human and economic capital into Palestine with complete disregard for the local inhabitants. Technically called Zionists, the immigrants to the British Mandate did not arrive with the same motivation as that of the earlier Zionists.

Zionism has its ambiguities and different forms of expression, but the more accepted definition is that it is the "national movement of Jews and Jewish culture that supports the creation of a Jewish homeland in the territory defined as the Land of Israel." A side issue connects anti-Semitism with a need for a homeland for Jewish people. To most Jews, promoting a Jewish nationalism separates Jews from the nations in which they live, and Zionism provokes anti-Semitism. As portrayed by its founders, Zionism could not and did not succeed for several reasons:

(1) The Zionists were a loose group of self-appointed intellectuals who had no close contact with mass Jewry or approval from them.
(2) Jews rejected the Zionist mission. Proof is shown by the Russian Jews, who had major problems and did not consider Zionism as a relief for their difficulties. Between 1881 and 1914, 2.5 million Jews migrated from Russia - 1.7 million to America, 500,000 to Western Europe, almost 300,000 to other nations, and only 30,000 - 50,000 to Palestine. Of these, 15,000 returned to Russia.
(3) The Russian revolution established a society in which Jews were technically equal to others, for good and bad. It is well documented that the Soviet government, in which Jews played essential roles in the early years of the Revolution, rejected Zionism. In later decades, general repression and economic difficulties prompted Soviets who could leave to head to the border. Except for a short euphoric period of six years, derived from Israel's 1967 war victory,

most Soviet Jewish Zionists who only wanted to immigrate to Israel had done so by 1973. The overwhelming majority leaving after 1973 were motivated more by economic betterment than by Zionist ideology. They saw Israel as a very small market with fewer opportunities. Between 1968 and 1973, almost all Soviet Jewish émigrés resettled in Israel. By 1975-1976, however, a near majority favored resettlement in the United States. While the government of Israel wanted all émigrés to resettle in Israel, many American Jewish leaders supported "freedom of choice" -- the right of Soviet Jewish émigrés to choose their country of resettlement. In 1989, however, when Mikhail Gorbachev allowed free emigration for Soviet Jews and over 90 percent preferred to come to the United States, American Jewish leaders supported their government's policy to limit the entry of Soviet Jews as political refugees.

(4) By accepted definitions, Jews could not be considered a People or a Nation. People who claim a nation speak the same distinctive language, have a common history, and share the same art, literature and customs. At the end of the 19th century, Jews around the globe may have had some similar characteristics but they did not, similar to Mormons, Mennonites, Quakers and others, have the requisites that define a People or Nation
(5) Archaeology and history refute the Biblical assertions of a Hebrew Exodus, conquest of the Levant, and establishment of extensive kingdoms. Except for a few centuries from 800 B.C. until the Babylonian exile in 597 B.C., the Hebrews were minor hill tribes who did not practice a strict monotheism. This monumental topic can not be summarized in a few paragraphs, but the most credible historical evidence illustrates that western Jews have no more direct relation to the ancient Hebrews than many other groups and that the Biblical Jews and ancient Jerusalem played no significant and lasting roles in the development of the Levant of today. The there is not here. A summary of the historical record can be found in an earlier article, The War of Narratives at:

If Zionism failed, how is there an Israel?
Zionism became a familiar term, a simple noun for a complex process and a rationale for those who arrived in Palestine. However, the process in forming the state of Israel neither followed original Zionist directives nor mainly consisted of Zionist followers. Although immigrants may have thought of themselves as Zionists and had no malice to the indigenous peoples, they failed to understand or investigate who is a Zionist and what is Zionism. As described above, neither term had concrete reality, existing only in a mindset. Those calling themselves Zionist reject the findings of anthropology, history, archaeology, and science, replace truth with romanticized fiction and subscribe to a singular vision of the world.

The Jews who immigrated to Israel after 1933, from Germany, Eastern Europe, Arab lands and the Soviet Union arrived for mainly economic and political reasons and not to fulfill a Zionist mission. Many had no choice. Israeli politicians even claim that the massive number of immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East (Mizrahi) did not arrive voluntarily, but were forced out of their homes.

Would those who left London to live in EIC India have done so if they did not have promise of a more agreeable life? Would those who came from the tenements of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, have been willing to come to Israel if they did not receive special housing and welfare? Why, if they claim this is the land of their ancestors, do they tear it apart with super highways and modern towns on shaven hilltops? Why do relatively few Israelis visit Jerusalem, "the eternal capital of Israel?" Reason - they don't care to traffic with their orthodox co-religionists who control much of the city.

A principal portion of these immigrants were accidental, proceeding from circumstances that forced them to change their locales. However, those who came immediately after World War I had intentions that resembled the East Indies venture, and the results of their incursion resembled the happenings in the Indian sub-continent. With their entrance the romantic visions attributed to Zionism - cooperative Kibbutz, reclaiming the land, and building a more social economy - disappeared.

In 1920, after the Zionist population had grown to 60,000 in a Palestine composed of 585,000 Arabs, a reporter noted that earlier settlers felt uncomfortable with the later immigrants, who were less willing to work at agriculture and had no ability to live off the available land.

It may not be generally known, but a goodly number of the Jewish dwellers in the land are not anxious to see a large immigration into the country. This is partly due to the fear that the result of such immigration would be an overcrowding of the industrial and agricultural market; but a number of the more respectable older settlers have been disgusted by the recent arrivals in Palestine of their coreligionists, unhappy individuals from Russia and Romania brought in under the auspices of the Zionist Commission from the cities of Southeastern Europe, and neither able nor willing to work at agriculture or fruit-farming. (Zionist Aspirations in Palestine, Anstruther Mackay, originally published in The Atlantic Monthly, July 1920.)

The change from Political Zionism to an economic enterprise is noted by the establishment of The Histadrut, the Zionist labor agency. In December 1920, The Histadrut became a federation for only Jewish workers and a conduit for capital investment in the Holy Land. Within seven years, the labor agency had 25,000 members or 75% of the Jewish workforce in the British Mandate. Using its charter to provide employment for immigrants, The Histadrut instead used its economic arm, Hevrat HaOvdim ("Society of Workers"), to own and operate enterprises, including the area's larger industrial conglomerates and large financial organization, Bank Hapolim. The Histadrut, for a time, became the largest employer in the country and provided a comprehensive health care system. Its cut-throat manner of operating called for a boycott of Palestinian labor and goods.

David HaCohen, former managing director of the Histadrut construction company Solel Boneh, described the boycott in a speech to the secretariat of the Mapai in November 1969, as reported in Ha'aretz on 15 November 1969:.

I had to fight my friends on the issue of Jewish Socialism, to defend the fact that I would not accept Arabs in my trade union, the Histadrut; to defend preaching to housewives that they should not buy at Arab stores; to defend the fact that we stood guard at orchards to prevent Arab workers from getting jobs there… to pour kerosene on Arab tomatoes; to attack Jewish housewives in the market and smash Arab eggs they had bought… to buy dozens of dunums [of land] from an Arab is permitted but to sell God forbid one Jewish dunum to an Arab is prohibited; to take Rothschild, the incarnation of capitalism as a socialist and to name him "benefactor? -- to do all that was not easy.

English-speaking Jews obtained leading positions in the British Mandate and acquired influence from their positions. External capital from wealthy Jewish persons and organizations provided investment funds and attracted western knowledge for building efficient commercial enterprises that bankrupted less efficient Palestinian enterprises and created unemployment among the Arab masses. Hiring practices preferred Jews for higher paying positions, reduced Arab labor to the lowest wage scale and pauperized Arab workers. Land purchases from absentee landlords drove Arab farmers off soil that their ancestors and families had tilled for centuries. The Palestinians realized they would be reduced to a menial laboring class, become subservient to westerners and in many cases, impoverished. Similar to the Sepoy mutineers, the Palestinian masses erupted, and erupted and erupted.

It was not Zionism or an influx of foreigners that caused the Jewish/Palestinian conflict; the culprit was Company Zion that became the state of Israel. The conflict was mainly due to the shift in economic control - a calculated endeavor by the 'Zionists" to control the lands, to control the resources, to dominate and have the Palestinians serve.

Similar to the EIC, Israel formed a strong military to protect its interests, incorporated more lands into its holdings, warred against several nations and depended upon a stronger state - the United States - to defend it in time of need.

Those who trusted the social oriented ideals of Zionism should know that Israel of year 2013 had the lowest rankings of all Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development nations (OECD). From the Jerusalem Post, Report: Israel has highest poverty rate among OECD countries, By LIDAR GRAVÉ-LAZI, 03/18/2014.

Israel has the highest poverty rate among countries in the developed world, according to findings released Tuesday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. According to the findings, Israel maintains a poverty rate of 20.9 percent - nearly twice the OECD average of 11.3%.

The report further stated that Israel is among the countries with the highest income inequality, surpassed only by Chile, Mexico, the US and Turkey as measured by the Gini coefficient.

The report found that confidence in the government in Israel stands at 37%, lower than the OECD average of 43%. Furthermore, Israelis do not have much confidence in their financial institutions with a rate of 38% compared to the average OECD rate of 46%.

Each venture is unique and the relation between the East India Company and those who propelled Israel into existence, although having common elements, is incomplete. However, the message is clear - perceiving Israel as the culmination of a Zionist mission and as a fulfillment of a vision, misdirects the knowledge and opinions of Israel. Focusing on the history, noting that it contains elements of an economic pursuit that took advantage of anarchy of the times to dominate an area and subdue a people, highlights the emptiness of a peace process. A peace treaty reconciles a conflict between two warring parties -- no war here, only a crisis by which the "Zionists" seized the patrimony of the Palestinians and formed a nation from it.

Treating the crisis as a series of illegal economic maneuvers that featured military and severely oppressive tactics sheds light on a strategy for resolution - place Israel into economic doldrums and the wannabe Zionists will retreat. In addition to alerting the world to the falsehoods of Zionist ideology and the oppressive tactics of the Israelis (daily killings and land seizures), apply with vengeance, boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS), as The Histadrut did to the Palestinians, and other measures that weaken the Israeli economy. Which does the world prefer: An economic catastrophe to those who worked their way to the top by breaking bodies of others or a human catastrophe to those who saw their lands and homes confiscated and their brethren being killed on a daily time schedule?

Not even time to take a breath. Past history shows that tomorrow will be too late. Compare the German occupation of the Herero tribe lands in Namibia during the years from 1890 to 1933, and the extinction of the Hereros to Israel's occupation of the West Bank and policies toward Gaza.

Genocide of the Herero
Past genocides, hidden in obscure news reports and subjected to denial and exaggerations, are not easy to prove. What can not be denied is that German settlers displaced Herero tribes in Namibia, Africa and a German army brutally drove them into near extinction.

The Herero tribe of cattle herders lived in present Namibia. German merchant Franz Adolf Eduard Lüderitz acquired land in southwest Africa which he placed under the protection of the German Empire in 1884. In order to shield themselves from attacks by rival tribes, the Herero leaders signed treaties with Imperial Germany's colonial governors on several occasions, each time allowing German settlers to use land in return for protection. As their lands became more and more occupied by foreigners, the Herero leaders voiced complaints about violation of the treaties.

Finally, in 1903, tribes from Southeast Africa rose in revolt.
Realizing they had already ceded over a quarter of their 130,000 square kilometres (50,000 sq mi) to German colonists by 1903, and that a new railway line, running from the African coast to inland German settlements would divide their territory and bring a new wave of Europeans into the area, the Hereros joined the revolt. In an attack of desperation, Herero warriors killed between 123 and 150 German settlers. A more credible summary of what occurred afterwards is found in an article: The First Genocide of the 20th Century and its Postcolonial Afterlives: Germany and the Namibian Ovaherero By George Steinmetz, The Journal of International Institute, Volume 12, Issue 2,;view=fulltext

Military hostilities then dragged on until June 11, when General Lothar von Trotha arrived in the colony from Germany to take over the direction of the campaign from the colonial Governor, Theodor Leutwein. By early August the majority of the Ovaherero nation was gathered with their cattle at the Waterberg (Hamakari). The decisive battle occurred on August 11, 1904, when 5,000-6,000 poorly armed Ovaherero warriors were encircled by 1,488 German troops and 96 officers armed with modern rifles, machine guns, and cannons. The Ovaherero were defeated and forced to flee, mainly in the direction of the waterless Omaheke desert to the east.

On September 13, von Trotha gave orders to drive away any Ovaherero women and children who came to ask for water, and on September 23 he rejected the suggestion by one of his officers, Major Ludwig von Estorff, that the Germans should accept Ovaherero offers to open negotiations. The culmination of this hardening stance was the General's "words to the Herero people" on October 2, 1904.

I, the great General of the German soldiers, send this letter to the Herero people. The Herero are no longer German subjects. . . . The Herero nation must...leave the country. If they do not leave, I will force them out with the Groot Rohr (cannon). Every Herero, armed or unarmed...will be shot dead within the German borders. I will no longer accept women and children, but will force them back to their people or shoot at them.

Final denouement came with new orders at the end of 1904. Prisoners were placed in concentration camps and used by private companies as virtual slave laborers. The wants of 4,500 German settlers brought about the suppression of peoples, whose population was twenty times that of the German colony.

Will the Palestinians who observe their lands and water rights being daily usurped by setlers finally seek retribution? Definitely!
Will the Israeli army come in and punish the Palestinians severely? Already happening, and will become more severe.
Will the Palestinians be forced to leave or live in concentration camps? Already happening and will get worse.

Is history a neglected subject? Definitely.
Does history repeat? Definitely!

Among the confusing array of those who recognize Israel's iniquities and oppression of the Palestinians are those who subscribe to an Israel that only needs adjustments, many of whom consider themselves cultural Zionists - claiming a unique Jewish culture, history, language and roots - most of which, according to this writer, is distorted, has nothing to do with Israel, and is a product of exaggeration and conditioning.

Many of these individuals are leaders in movements for freedom and justice and deserve credit for their sacrifices. They occupy strong positions in the struggle for Palestinian rights. Unfortunately, they unknowingly hinder a strategy for a just solution to the crisis. Convincing them to change their attitude, rather than baiting them, is an essential part of a strategy for achieving peace and justice in the Middle East. The most recognized of the cultural Zionists is America's prominent progressive, Noam Chomsky. His words and deeds show the importance of having him and his followers couple boycott and sanctions to their divestment agenda.

Israel [has become] a militarized state completely dependent on US aid, willing to undertake tasks that few can endure, such as participation in Guatemalan genocide. For Israel, this is a moral disaster and will eventually become a physical disaster as well. For the Palestinians and many others, it has been a catastrophe, as it may sooner or later be for the entire world, with the growing danger of superpower confrontation.
-- Noam Chomsky

march, 2014