Picture: Screenshot via Wikimedia Commons – Golda movie.
By Ramzy Baroud
Much of Meir’s political life is based on the same legacy that is shared by all founders of Zionism: She wanted to be part of constructing a Zionist state in Palestine, today’s Israel, while simultaneously denying the very existence of the Palestinians who have lived for numerous generations on that same land.
A new movie glorifying the legacy of Zionist leader and Israel’s fourth Prime Minister, Golda Meir, has been released in selected theatres in the US and Europe.
The movie is typical Israeli propaganda. The Israeli director, Guy Nattiv, has tried to whitewash Meir’s legacy of violence and outright anti-Arab racism through portraying her as the ‘Iron Lady’ of Israel, a ‘lioness’ who has triumphed as a politician and persisted as a military leader.
The narrative in the movie gets more complicated when Ukraine is infused into the mix. “When I was a little girl in Ukraine, people were beating Jews with clubs,” she is quoted as saying, asserting that “I am not that little girl anymore”.
Recentring the movie’s geography and historical context around Ukraine is critical to the Golda Movie. The director shrewdly taps into the media-infused imagery of Ukrainian heroics against advancing Russian armies, thus rewrites the legacy, not only of Meir but also of Zionism.
The message gleaned is that, although at times the morality of the choices of Zionism is not always perfect, neither Meir nor the founders of Zionism had a choice; existential wars in a world filled with enemies, pogroms, and antisemites require difficult choices.
The movie is centred around these supposedly difficult choices, during the 1973 war, when Meir served as the prime minister of Israel between 1969 and 1974.
Meir, like most Zionist Israeli leaders, is presented as someone in constant conflict between multiple loyalties to ethnicity, cultural background, religious and national identities. For Meir, the conflict was resolved through the prioritising of Jewish identity exclusively. This was demonstrated in the famous exchange Meir had with then-US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger.
In a letter he wrote to Meir, Kissinger said that he considered himself “an American first, secretary of state second, and a Jew third”.
Her reply, accentuating her own priorities, and how she wanted to perceive Kissinger’s relationship to Israel, was: “In Israel, we read from right to left.”
Propaganda aside, when Golda Meir arrived in Palestine in 1921 at the age of 23, she was not coming directly from Kyiv, then part of the Russian empire, but from the United States.
It was mostly in the city of Milwaukee that Meir developed her ideas about Zionism, and the supposedly innate rights of all Zionist Jews to ‘return’ to Palestine.
Meir’s utter hatred for Palestinians and Arabs was, therefore, formulated long before she met a single Palestinian. Neither Palestinians nor Arabs played any role in the victimisation of Jewish communities in the Russian empire or anywhere else in Europe.
This indicates that the anti-Arab racism – a staple in Meir’s political discourse throughout her life – is an outcome of largely Western historical dynamics.
Arabs viewed Zionists as colonialists and imperialists, not because Arabs were antisemitic. Arab nations viewed the Zionists in Palestine through the same logic through which they viewed French colonialism in Syria, British in Egypt and Italian in Libya.
Zionist and pro-Israel historians have labored to create separation between both phenomena, that of Western colonialism in the Middle East and Zionist colonialism in Palestine.
Such misinterpretation of history hardly examines the issue in a truthful manner. Worse, at times, Zionist colonialism is presented, not as a British implant in Palestine through the Balfour Declaration, but as an opposing political force to British colonialism and ‘mandate’ in Palestine.
Much of Meir’s political life is based on the same legacy which is shared by all founders of Zionism: She wanted to be part of constructing a Zionist state in Palestine, today’s Israel, while simultaneously denying the very existence of the Palestinians who have lived for numerous generations on that same land.
“Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us,” she once said, sowing the seed of the racist notion that Arabs and Palestinians hate their children, which played a major role in the portrayal of Palestinians in US media during the Second Intifada (2000-2005).
In an interview with the Sunday Times in June 1969, Meir denied the very existence of Palestinians. “It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country from them. They did not exist,” she said.
She maintained that line until her death in 1978. In an interview with the New York Times in 1972, she insisted: “I said there never was a Palestinian nation”.
Meir, however, could hardly be credited for originating that racist notion, which has been functional in dehumanising the Palestinians throughout history.
This language has been fundamental to the early Zionists who wanted to see in Palestine “a land without a people for a people without a land”, as it remains useful to modern Zionists. Bezalel Smotrich, Israel’s current far-right minister of finance, has recently declared that “there is no such thing as a Palestinian people” during a visit to France.
The intellectual orientation of the Golda Movie can be seen in two different ways: one, as creative Israeli hasbara aimed at taking advantage of a growing worldwide movement that celebrates women and their contributions and, two, as an act of desperation.
Indeed, the Israeli brand has lost much of its former appeal as a liberal, democratic and even ‘socialist’ project. Such terminology is hardly marketable when many Israelis are themselves questioning if their ‘democracy’ is even a democracy at all.
When images of Israeli military brutality and racism are viewed daily by millions of people across the world, it is difficult for Israel to portray itself as a ‘beacon of light’ and democracy in an otherwise backward, undemocratic and violent Middle East.
This is why the Golda Movie is a functional piece of propaganda, albeit its impact is, at best, limited in both time and scope. At best, it is a belated attempt at reinventing Zionism.
Oppressed Palestinians – in fact, the whole war-torn region – are in urgent need for a future that is founded on justice, freedom, equality and lasting peace. Glorifying war and lionising war-hungry individuals like Meir cannot be the way to achieve this coveted end.
Dr Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books. Baroud is a non-resident senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net
This article was first published in The Palestine Chronicle