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For Zionists, the obsession with Jerusalem is a recent phenomenon

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations recently “reaffirmed its longstanding position that a united Jerusalem should remain the sovereign and eternal capital of Israel,” according to a JTA story. Some left-of-center groups were against it but they could not stem the tide. Anyone with the slightest familiarity with Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in the last decade, including Ehud Olmert, knows that the status of Jerusalem is an open question that must be resolved as part of a comprehensive agreement, but that did not deter the groups from, once again, being more Israeli than the Israeli government.

The idea that the Jewish people have had a continuous, unbreakable emotional and spiritual connection with Jerusalem for thousands of years is, of course, one of the organizing principles of our narrative. I certainly feel that connection, deep in my bones. But the transformation of that emotional and spiritual identification into the core of a political ideology, is, in fact, a recent phenomenon.

For one thing, many secular Israelis on the coastal plain want nothing to do with Jerusalem, rarely if ever venture there, and live quite happily without such a connection. That is, I think, their loss. But the Zionist pioneers who are mythic heroes to American Jews also lacked an attachment to the city. I just stumbled upon a compelling tidbit in The History of Zionism by Walter Laqueur, by far the best and most comprehensive history of the movement. He is, by and large, sympathetic to the Zionist cause. But, in a new preface written in 2005, he tells us:

The question of Jerusalem illustrates best the enormous difference between historical Zionism and the ideology that has replaced it. Jerusalem contains the holy places of three world religions, and elementary prudence if not basic tolerance should have prevented declarations according to which Jerusalem was to remain forever undivided under Israeli rule. It was, in fact, an empty declaration, for in actual fact Jerusalem is of course a divided city.

When Hertzl first visited Jerusalem, he saw only the musty deposits of two thousand years of inhumanity, intolerance, and impurity; he perceived superstition and intolerance on all sides. Hertzl suggested Haifa as the capital of the new Jewish state. But it was not only Hertzl, the assimilated Jew, who reacted in this unsentimental manner. Chaim Weizmann always feared becoming involved in the Jerusalem imbroglio. And because their attachment to the city was not overwhelming, David Ben Gurion and other leaders of the second aliyah did not visit Jerusalem for the first time until two or three years after their arrival in the country. For many years, not a single Zionist leader chose to live in Jerusalem. For them, Jerusalem symbolized the negative past of Jewish history, that part of the tradition from which they wanted to disassociate themselves.

The idea that Jerusalem was the beginning and end of Zionism, that Israel could not exist without having full sovereignty over the entire city emerged only after 1967 and the growth of a religious fanaticism and aggressive nationalism that had more in common with the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood than the founding fathers of Zionism.

And so, guarding the holy sites has become a nightmare and Jerusalem itself has become a dangerous flashpoint. The insanity of a few religious fanatics –Jewish, Muslim or Christian—has the potential of transforming a local conflict into a religious war with incalculable consequences.

Word up, Walter.

58 thoughts on “For Zionists, the obsession with Jerusalem is a recent phenomenon

  1. Happy to hear that B-G and Weitzman and the rest of them didn’t care all that much about Jerusalem. But I fail to see why that fact means they did not practice a form of “aggressive nationalism,” or how the Zionism of today is somehow markedly than the “historical Zionism” of the founders, as Laqueur claims. Like the Zionist “pioneers,” today’s bunch has, at its core, an ethos that has led to grabbing land and establishing claim to other people’s property, with nationalist ends used to justify just about every conceivable means.

  2. Prior to 1967 Jews were functionally prohibited from most of Jerusalem. It rankled.

    I visited Israel in 1968 (at 14) and shared in the joy of being able to visit the old city, the Wailing Wall, Mount of Olives, etc.

    The Jewish shrines had been neglected, as if there were no Jewish presence or relevance there, historically or modernly.

    At the same time, it was OBVIOUS that Dome of the Rock and associated mosques were Arab home and nucleus, and that the majority of the city was in fact Arab, by title, by convention, by prevailing community spirit.

    It seemed to be accepted that that was the nature of the city.

    Annexation, expansion has always been gradual. So long as the annexation was NOT part of an orchestrated (even informally) strategy, that did not strike me as unjust.

    However, the reality of the situation is that it was strategized, implemented, and through politically deniable methods (rather than politically responsible).

    The conspicuous leaders that structured it and pushed it forward were Likud (Begin, Shamir, Netanyahu, Sharon). But Kadima and Labor were willing beneficiaries.

    The norm now is that Jerusalem has been annexed (and accepted by the US).

    I think you did capture the shift in emphasis of what Zionism is, from pioneer times up to the present. That is a shift from an opportunity of an oppressed people to do something new, to a religious revisionist fundamentalism.

    By revisionist, I mean that when Torah says “If you keep my commandments…I will give you the rain in its time…” and “I have chosen you to be a nation of priests to all the nations”; the neo-religious instead select the instructions to Joshua “remove the …, and if they will not move, smite them”.

    Its not the first time. In the time of the Romans, there were those that picked unnecessary fights, and those that avoided unnecessary fights.

    The logic of the holocaust, is NOT the general rule.

    The Koran states in a few places that historically, Israel rejected the commandments (thereby voiding the covenant/contract), and instead claims the rights.

    As much as I hate to admit that conclusion, there is some truth to it.

    Even the orthodox’ (including the neo-orthodox settlers) SELECT what commandments are to be applied, and which to be neglected or applied only to Jews.

    Rather than adhere to the ten commandments to the extent that others can RELY on their integrity, including “thou shalt not covet thy neighbors’ possessions”, much of the neo-orthodox rage over technicalities and rationalizations for their very mundane greeds.

  3. Marco,

    People in the tradition of “Historical Zionism” did not want to sacrifice all chances of peace and reconciliation in order to cling to Greater Israel. They accepted the partition plan in ’47. And they offered to return the territories (via Eshkol) after the 67 War. Recently, they offered to give up 92-95% of the West Bank in Taba and Geneva. You cculd argue, as you are wont to do, that they –i,e, the Labor leaders– made a terrible mistake by not standing up to the settlers early on, and by letting them continue to expand with only minor impediments. You would be right. But that’s not quite the same thing as the kind of aggressive expansionism favored by Likud, with the support of zealots who are, as Laqueur nottes, closer to the Muslim Brotherhood than the Zionists I grew up with.

  4. But the “transformation of emotional and spiritual identification” with a place into a “political ideology” was and is the essence of Zionism. Some Israelis have chosen not to extend it to East Jerusalem or other parts of the West Bank for practical reasons, and that is a smart move. But there is still little difference between the philosophy inherent in the Zionism of Ben Gurion or the kibbutzniks of 60-70 years ago and that of the hawks who today refuse to part with any part of Jerusalem. Merry X-mas, my friends.

  5. Now this posting draws me back into things at RD. I find my primary purpose here is to dispute Dan’s historical analysis as Zionism as a pure movement somehow rendered impure after 1948, as well as to dispute the notion that Zionism may be ‘fixed’ to assume a stance acceptable to what we may broadly term progressive politics. The question of Jerusalem is an interesting one – Dan raises good points in showing that the early Zionists were content with focusing on other symbols and other aspirations for their state – what we can’t lose focus of is that the issue of Jerusalem was subordinated to goals such as the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, the negation of Arab Palestinian identity generally, and the development of a state that promoted a notion of ethnic/religious superiority for one privileged group over others. In fact, one may argue that Jerusalem itself is not such an important issue for Palestinians either – I would suggest that Palestinians would rate the implementation of 181/242 and the return of dispossessed refugees to their land and property as a higher goal than some notion of sovereignty over parts of Jerusalem. Until all Zionists, left and right, come to terms with these issues, we won’t really find a resolution to the conflict. I challenge Dan to compose a post on how the strain of Zionism he represents would address the matter of Palestinian refugees and their legal claims — this is much more difficult than returning the 1967 conquests including Jerusalem, no? Put briefly, liberal Zionists need to understand that the conflict dates from 1948, not 1967. When will they begin to reflect upon this? The only “Zionist” I know who has begun to do so thoughtfully in a public forum is “Jerry Haber” of the Magnes Zionist…

  6. Kevin et. al,

    I did not provide a “historical analysis” that considers “Zionism as a pure movement somehow rendered impure after 1948.” I was providing an intriguing quote from Walter Laqueur. I agree with you that he makes too much of the distinction between pre-’67 and post-’67. I guess my view of Zionism is somewhere between Marco’s and Teddy’s, as expressed above. If you take the trouble to read through the posts on this blog (come on, take a few hours and review them; you’ve got nothing better to do:), you will see that I don’t hesitate to deplore the brutality that was exhibited by Jews as well as Arabs in ’48; that I’ve endorsed the priniciple that Israel should acknowledge and apologize for the forced expulsion of a high (no one knows how high) percentage of Palestinian Arabs in ’48; that I’ve acknowledged the racism and Orientalism that characterized many of the Zionist pioneers…But I also believe that the Jews needed a homeland in the first half of the 20th century after 2,000 years of getting their butts kicked, a place of refuge, a polity where they could determine their own destiny. They had no choice. There was a clash of two national movements. One of them lost.

    So, what now, where do we go from here? Where I am going is on vacation with my family. If I don’t walk out the door in ten minutes, they will do something drastic and you might never hear from me again…The question of the Right of Return and the legal claims of the refugees deserves more time and space than I can give it just now. Sorry to disappoint you. But thanks for raising it.

  7. Kevin,
    If the conflict began in 1948 how do you explain the Palestinian riots of 1920 and 1933, the Palestinian pogrom that led to the Hebron massacre in August 1929, and the Arab Revolt of April 1936 to April 1939? Opponents of Israel like to always date the conflict to some point at which they came claim it was the natural reaction to some great injustice by Zionists against Arabs. What would the injustice in 1929 have been?

  8. Don’t most chroniclers of Zionism agree that it wasn’t until the Arab Revolt in the 1930s that the Zionist leaders became convinced that some kind of shared state would not be possible? There may have been conflicting statements by B-G on this issue and I’m sure he was conflicted internally. But, as Tom says or implies, a lot of stuff went down before 1948 and both sides contributed to the eventual confrontation. Anti-Israelists act as if there was some kind of early, conscious conspiracy among the Zionists begining with Hertzl to expell the Arab inhabitants and that “ethnic cleansing” was an inherent part of Zionism from the start. That is just not true. Until the 1930s, most–or at least many–of them hoped that some kind of accomodation could be worked out and that the land could be, in one way or another, shared. They may have, by today’s standards, been “racists” and “Orientalists,” as Dan claims, but that doesn’t mean they wanted to kick the Arabs out or fight with them.

  9. Dan, it’s not a question of an obsession about Jerusalem although its certainly relevant in a lot of the Torah and certainly the haggadah. It’s this, the spectacualr disregard that the Arabs have for Jewish religous sites. The ancient synagogue in jericho and Josephs tomb just to name two. And the idea that a devision of Jerusalem isn’t going to do anything except bring Hamas and by entension Iran just that much close to making Jewish life in Jerusalem untenable.

  10. I know the name of Ilan Pappe may not be popular here, but his work “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine” is a solid historical study that documents (at very least) a strong ideological underpinning to the planned expulsion of Arabs during the 1948 wars that traces back to the origins of Zionism. Other historians have offered similar data albeit with different terms to describe the same process — I prefer calling this “ethnic cleansing” as it seems the most accurate. I don’t point to this in order to somehow make the founders of Zionism seem like monsters – quite the opposite, they were working within what had been quite an acceptable paradigm in colonial administration during the late 19th and early 20th century. Let’s not forget about the massive ethnic cleansing that was codified in the partition of India, or the ethnic cleansing policies of Britain in Ireland, or the Armenian genocide (which is perhaps best understood as an ethnic cleansing policy by murder than a total genocide on the order of Rwanda or Nazi Germany). So the early Zionists took inspiration from and were influenced by these other colonial contexts in their idealization of their future state. But let’s not be naive about it – ethnic homogeneity was and still is the goal of Zionism, even if there are different routes one can take to achieve this. In 1948 there was an explicit military policy to expel Palestinians, and today instead there are dozens of administrative policies and formal and informal mechanisms from home demolitions to arbitrary detentions to the destruction of civil society institutions so as to squeeze, push out and impoverish Palestinians or to simply ghettoize them behind high walls while still dreaming of a pure and homogeneous society. That’s Zionism, as a political ideology. I appreciate those who wish to recover the term zionism (which has an very long historical and emotive context that surpasses its use as a modern political ideology) for other purposes (as Jerry Haber consistently seems to do and as Dan often comes close to saying he wants to do), but this really can only happen once we come to terms with the past, especially with 1948.

    Dan — I hope you have had or are having a nice and relaxing trip with your family. I look forward to your further reflections on 1948 and the refugee issue. Best wishes on the New Year.

  11. Kevin:
    I would venture to say that there are way more Arabs in Israel then there are Jews in any of the Moslem countries. Perhaps we Jews haven’t learned the real ins and outs of ethnic cleansing the way the Arabs have. They really do a good job at it.

  12. The ethnic cleansing of Jews from the Islamic world is part of Zionism. Who’s paying $10000 for each Iranian Jew to do ‘aliya? Ask Iraqi Jews in Israel who was responsible for the bombing of the Baghdad Jewish centers in the 1950s. I’m not dwelling in conspiracy here, it’s an open aspiration of Zionism to have the Islamic world cleansed of Jews, if you want to put it in those terms.

    That said, there’s no doubt that Arab and other ethnic nationalisms have had their own parallel purist streaks that have done nothing to discourage ethnic minorities from emigration. I despise this aspect of these nationalisms as much as I do the overt ethnic purism of Zionism.

    When Zionists say that the resolution of the Palestinian refugee problem is linked to claims of Jews from the Arab world, I think this is generally a specious attempt to obfuscate the crimes of 1948. However, I support the resolution of the claim any refugee/expellee, Jew or Arab. I would support the right of return of any Arab Jew to their ancestral homes in the Arab world, or for their claims to property that was lost or confiscated to be recognized. I don’t think Zionists would accept this as a principle — Bill would you?

  13. Actually Kevin, I don’t think the Arabs would accept that. I know the prevailing narrative is that every Palestinian, ( which is what the Jews were called prior to 1948 by the way) had 100 acres of olive grove and a marble house and were brutally slaughterd and expelled but if you look at population figures and levels of economic activity the whole place was a shithole before the first aliya. If we’re talking about prevailing leverls of loss the Arabs have a lot more paying to do than Jews but I digress. The fact is that the Arabs see this has a relgious war. And the Arab world is already cleansed of Jews and the Christians are next.

  14. Zionism is the establishment of a home for the Jewish people, who previously were barely tolerated (periodically not) elsewhere, but from the thirties until the late fourties were not tolerated.

    The holocaust was the straw. It shifted Jewish sentiment from accomodation to assertion, from their own obedience to a form of Jim Crow, to rejection of that.

    That is a good in the world.

    It is an expression of LIVE and LET LIVE.

    Let living doesn’t happen without living first.

  15. Kevin,

    While I have a brief window of opportunity, I’ll share a quick note on Pappe, not your larger questions.

    When it comes to historical facts and trends, I believe in locating the truth ragardless of who the guide might be, whether they are anti-Zionist, left-wing Zionist or right wing. The same people who embrace Pappe are the people who embrace Walt and Mearsheimer with unqualified glee. Both Pappe and W&M base their approach to the past and present with pre-ordained conclusions and then find documentation to back up those conclusions. I am not a trained historian, but trained historians who know something about the Middle East do not have much respect for Pappe’s work. Benny Morris, for example, who is one of the most important revisionist historians, has excoriated him for poor and even non-existent scholarship. If you read Laqueur’s book, especially the chapter on “The Unseen Question,” you will get a sense of the wide range of opinions and approaches to the Palestinian Arabs among the pre-1948 or at least pre-1936 Zionists. He is a historian. I am not sure we can say the same thing about Pappe.

    Ami Isseroff is not a trained historian either and I often disagree with him, but he offers an interesting take on Pappe at

    “Pappe’s work should be be ignored not because he is a communist or an anti-Zionist, but because he is a bad historian and what he writes is not history, but vicious and polemical historical fiction. Pappe explained his approach to history in a documentary movie that was made about the battle of Latrun:

    [Excerpt from Pappe]:

    “Pedantic and empiricist historians like to argue and to waste a lot of ink so to speak on figures, on numbers, as if the numbers are really important for the construction of myth, or if you have the accurate number you can destroy a myth or debunk it and I don’t think it’s very true.”(Quoted in a film about the Latrun battle and originally posted on the Web here –”

    [Isseroff continues]:

    “Facts, figures, and numbers are for “bourgeois science” and pedants. This approach was first illustrated by Soviet scientist Trofim D. Lysenko, who fudged experimental data to “prove” that acquired characteristics can be passed on to future generations, because that is what Soviet ideology required.

    “If the revolution requires that mice who had their tails cut off will give birth to mice with short tails, then the Ilan Pappes of the world will produce the necessary “data…” Pappe has stated: ‘We do [historiography] because of ideological reasons, not because we are truth seekers… ‘there is no such thing as truth, only a collection of narratives’.

    “If the man announces that he is going to lie to you, why waste time on his work? Pappe’s approach is exemplified by the saga of Theodore Katz. Theodore Katz, a Haifa University Master’s student who was supervised by Pappe, presented a thesis alleging that a massacre of 200 Arabs was committed by the IDF’s Alexandroni Brigade at the village of Tantura in May of 1948. Veterans of the brigade sued Katz, claiming he had falsified oral evidence, and Katz withdrew his allegations. Katz’s interview tapes were examined, and it was shown that Katz’s transcriptions of the taped conversations did not correspond to what witnesses stated in those tapes. Katz had apparently faked the “evidence” for the massacre. This open and shut case of fraudulent research was nonetheless defended by Pappe, and anti-Zionists continue to insist, based on this invention, that there was a massacre at Tantura.

    “In his books, beginning with “The Making of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1947-1951, Pappe has repeatedly claimed that Haganah plan Daled is “proof” that “the Zionsits” planned in advance to expel all the Arabs of Palestine in 1948. This claim has been repeated over and over in successive books, along with “new” evidence, such as fake quotes from Ben-Gurion, and selective quoting of the works of Benny Morris. But Plan Daled was not a plan for expelling Arabs. It was a plan for defending Israel. The plan envisaged temporary removal of civilians in specific cases, for strategic reasons, rather than wholesale expulsion. Anyone who wants to know the truth can read Plan Dalet and see that it is so.

    “Plan Dalet stated:

    “`The objective of this plan is to gain control of the areas of the Hebrew state and defend its borders. It also aims at gaining control of the areas of Jewish settlement and concentration which are located outside the borders [of the Hebrew state] against regular, semi-regular, and small forces operating from bases outside or inside the state….

    “`Generally, the aim of this plan is not an operation of occupation outside the borders of the Hebrew state. However, concerning enemy bases lying directly close to the borders which may be used as springboards for infiltration into the territory of the state, these must be temporarily occupied and searched for hostiles according to the above guidelines, and they must then be incorporated into our defensive system until operations cease.

    “`Bases located in enemy territory which are intended to be temporarily occupied and controlled will be listed among the operational targets for the various brigades.'”

    [Isseroff continues]:

    “However, people like Pappe base their careers on the surmise that nobody will ever read the documents to which they refer, and check their falsifications and distortions.

    “It is wrong to confuse Ilan Pappe with “New Historians” like Benny Morris, Tom Segev or Baruch Kimmerling. We may disagree with some of the conclusions that Morris or Segev or Kimmerling reach, and we may find a quote here and there that has been bent out of context, but we can learn a great deal from their books, as well as from the writings of those with opposing books. Pappe’s work is not scholarship however.”

    Well, I thought this would be a brief note but I see that is not possible. I know you still hope for more specific answers and, within a few days, I’ll see what I can do.

  16. How nice to see that you managed to dig up a bit of nasty prose painting Pappe as a fraud – Google comes in handy, no? I don’t have time to revisit the entire Haifa U affair around him, nor even the mischaracterized Katz affair (as referred to by Isseroff here – the reality as I’ve heard it from students who were at Haifa U with Katz is much more complex) other than to say what you’ve reproduced here is pretty much the standard right-wing Zionist response to these issues. I’d be more moved if you found an academic review that drew some of these conclusions, but other than Isseroff’s decontextualized quoting of Pappe and his repeated claims of “fake documents” etc (but no refs that I can see) there’s not much that holds water here. Pappe isn’t infallible, but this is very poor bit of criticism — reading it, it betrays too much of Zionist anxiety; methinks he doth protest too much.

    But in any case Pappe was one passing reference in my earlier post and I’m not interested in fighting that battle (there are plenty of websites where polemicists from both sides have already done so — draw your own conclusions, but I’d suggest doing so with some reference to the facts and not just by making uncited claims). My only point was to say that the term “ethnic cleansing” is an accurate description of what the dominant forces in the Zionist project intended to carry out before 1948, and what they in fact did carry out during 1948. To reiterate, there’s no hope for resolving the conflict until Zionists of left and right come to acknowledge this and account for it in their historical understanding of Israel. I mean, we’ve done this in the US – no one doubts that the European Americans had designs to ethnically cleanse native Americans from most of their lands. We now recognize it as a key aspect to the American narrative. Same for slavery. So what is so sacred about Zionism that should make you Zionists run screaming as Isseroff has when someone says the words “ethnic cleansing”?

  17. I think you got it wrong Kevin.

    Pappe and others successfully suggested that SOME individuals (and organizations) desired and attempted an ethnic cleansing of Israel/Palestine, but in most cases he INFERRED (and often innacurately) from unrelated and only correlative quotations and documents.

    The evidence does NOT add up to a characterization of Zionism as essentially an ethnic cleansing movement, but more accurately the characterization of seeking refuge.

    The careless use of the term “they”, when referring to some “all” Zionists is MIS-representative.

    That is why Pappe’s scholarship is criticized, because of the logical and prejudicial jumps in his analysis.

    They are useful as suggestions to investigate further (and likely reject, when investigated without prejudice), but useless yet as conclusions characterizing a reality.

    I also take issue with your use of the name-calling tactic “of the standard right-wing Zionist response to these issues”. Its a silly generalization, a MIS-characterization of Dan in particular, and does not serve to assist in reconciliation.

    I would also suggest that your allusion to the “intent” of “all” of the white settlers of North America is similarly MIS-representative. “They” were mostly individuals, and mostly desiring the benefits of individual life in a land that was mostly vacant.

    The accepted narrative for the settler monarchies is as you stated, but NOT for the population, and it is the population that drove the expansion.

    With Zionism however there is NO colonizing monarchy, no colonizing authority, but only individuals and communities seeking refuge and self-determination.

  18. Richard,
    Zionism did have a colonizing authority–it was the the British colonial ministry, which supervized the implementation of the British Mandate in Palestine with its enclosure of the Balfour Declaration.

    This was the administration for the colonizing effort for thirty years when the vast majority of prestate Zionist settlement took place. Secondarily it was assisted by the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Organization, the latter which supervized Zionist settlement in Palestine before the British Mandate. Jewish settlements were protected up until the end of World War II by the bayonets of British soldiers.

  19. “Jewish settlements were protected up until the end of World War II by the bayonets of British soldiers.”

    And, immigration was restricted to appease the Arab elites.

    The Jewish Agency and World Zionist Organization are organizations, facilitators, not an accepted monarchical government serving its own colonial objectives.

    If one were to criticize the British for colonial ambitions, using populations as pawns for the purposes of control and profits, that is a different assertion than to say that Zionism’s intent was ethnic cleansing.

    The predominant effort of Zionism was settlement, living.

  20. Pappe’s assertion is that that Zionists ALWAYS and ONLY sought to take over.

    The reality conflicts with that. Israel is a multi-cultural state currently.

    Palestine (excepting the settlers) is a uni-cultural state.

  21. Tom:
    The British were pro-Arab, always have been. witness the white paper. Jewish settlements were not protected by British soldiers and in fac were the subject of raids by the British. Who in turn wree the driving force behind the Arab legion. And I reiterate yet again. If we Jews are so great at ethnic cleansing where are the bodies. How come there are more Arabs left in the town um-el fahm in Israel than there are Jews in the entire population of the Arab league.

  22. “If we Jews are so great at ethnic cleansing where are the bodies.”

    I waste my time pointing out the obvious:

    BP: I think four million (likely more) Palestinian refugees and displaced people around the world are the bodies you seek.

    I’m not sure what Palestine you’re talking about, RW, but Palestine before 1948 was a place where many cultures had existed in relative harmony for centuries. In 1948 the majority of Muslims and Christians were expelled, and Jews given special rights over others. That doesn’t meet any taste test for “multi-culturalism” in the American understanding of the word.

    Now off to see a movie…

  23. Oh one last thing… Bill, don’t put words in my mouth. I never said “Jews” were agents of ethnic cleansing. Zionists were. Big difference.

  24. “RW, but Palestine before 1948 was a place where many cultures had existed in relative harmony for centuries.”

    Except for the periodic riots chasing all the Jews out of Hebron for example.

    Your study of history of the region is incomplete. Read some other material than Pappe, even if it rankles.

    My politics are goal-oriented, not reaction-oriented.

    In ALL cases, jurisdictions are chosen. While it may be a wonderful world if Jews and Muslims and Christians got along wonderfully, and none sought to adopt their specific codes and agreements to the exclusion of the other, that is NOT the current reality.

    So, the best in the present is partition.

    1948 existed in a context. Ignoring the context is opportunist revisionism. The holocaust had just occurred. NO state permitted beyond token Jewish immigration. Not the US. Not Great Britain. Not France. Not Canada. Not Australia. In nearly all of Europe, Jews were STILL harrassed, blamed for naziism. (Talk about blame the victim).

    My own in-laws were harrassed in Hungary following their liberation from slave and death camps. Harrassed by locals, harrassed by communists.


    Please don’t be so revisionist as to conclude that the desire to survive, self-associate, or self-govern is somehow “racism”.

    The MOST that can be said is that there are conflicts that are associated with making an assertion.

    There are moral obligations that Israelis have. There are title issues, social issues to resolve.

    But, the poster child of Palestinian refugees is a bad one. The Arab world is ROLLING in money. In Islam, one of the five fundamental obligations is to the poor.

    There is no good reason that Palestinian refugees should be in a state of starvation, and prohibited from assimilating with great help into other communities. (Many have.) Just for example, Palestinians that have lived three generations in Lebanon, are by definition Lebanese citizens. Why is that?

    They DESERVE similar self-governance to Jews, which hopefully fools won’t prohibit either by suppression, or by over-zealous militancy.

    Multi-culturalism is relative. In Israel it exists at all, and is codified in law, even if inconsistently applied. In the West Bank and Gaza, it doesn’t exist.

  25. The state of the world.

    Its all occupied. There is no place that even appears empty now.

    The consequence of that is that nothing new can occur without some stresses on others.

    The skillful political world would ACCOMMODATE refugees, migrations.

    To presume that demographics would be stagnant, and that there would be no need to settle, is by definition a VERY conservative conclusion, an imposing and static conclusion.

    The statement “what did Palestinians do to deserve the effects of the holocaust?” is a nice formula, but IGNORES the reality that populations shift. The assertion that “the Palestinians have always been there” is a fantasy.

    Palestine has for millenia been a site of empire, displacement, mingling of peoples, religions, etc.

    Tragedies abound.

    Rather than attempt to foment an additional one, how about if we attempt to resolve what is before us?

  26. “Just for example, Palestinians that have lived three generations in Lebanon, are by definition Lebanese citizens. Why is that?”

    That is that they are NOT permitted to be Lebanese citizens.

  27. Kevin,

    Sorry if my quote lambasting Pappe offended you, but, again, I don’t think we should not care who the source is –right wing, centrist, left-wing, anti-Zionist—as long as he or she can teach us something. But let’s leave him and his critics aside.

    I can’t possibly address your “challenge” adequately without writing a whole chapter or a whole book, and that’s not something I can or will do. But you ask very good questions and I have been trying, to the best of my ability, to look at them honestly over the last few years. As I keep saying, I am not a trained historian. Maybe I have been sold a bill of goods all of these years and I am prepared to be shown that this is the case. But, with the understanding that there will be 30 important points omitted from the following, I’ll give it a shot:

    o–The Jews who settled in Palestine beginning in the early 20th century were a motley crew with all kinds of ideas about the nature of an ideal society. Many were die-hard socialists. Some hoped to build a worker’s paradise in which Arab and Jewish workers would unite and throw off the yoke of feudal landowners. Their form of Orientalism and noblesse oblige was that Jewish colonists would be “good for the Arabs” because it would develop class consciousness. Others believed, in the manner of many western colonialists, that they were bringing the benefits of modern technology and modern thinking to the Arabs. Some apparently believed they would be welcomed by the Arabs of Palestine. Many more believed that they should have been welcomed.

    Most just didn’t give this whole question much thought. They were too busy with other matters, like creating an entirely new Jew, free of the ghetto’s shackles.

    The notion that most of them –or most of their leaders– set out to Palestine with the intention of kicking out Palestinian Arabs is simply not true. As Laqueur described the early Zionists: “The idea that it might be impossible to establish a state without bloodshed seems never to have occurred to them.”

    o—Many of the Zionists’ ideas about relations with Palestinian Arabs kept evolving, morphing, mostly in response to the absolute refusal of all but a few Palestinian Arabs to consider any compromise. Some changed their minds several times. Some, like Ben Gurion, often seemed to be of two minds on the same issue. One can prove that he was a “population transfer” advocate with one quote or action and also find another quote to show that he wanted the two peoples to somehow co-exist peacefully. In 1918, according to Laqueur, he wrote a piece in a Hebrew newspaper that emphatically rejected population transfer as an option. For one thing, he said, “even if Jews were given the right to evict Arabs, they would never make use of it,” (Laqueur’s paraphrase), That could give fodder to those who want to show he secretly believed it was the best option. But, in the same piece, he also called it morally reprehensible. “He said Zionism did not have the right to harm one single Arab child even if it could realize all of its aspirations at that price.”

    Again, if you haven’t read Laqueur, I urge you to do so. His chapter on “The Unseen Question” is a pretty good summary.

    o—Throughout the 1920s, there were a host of plans, proposals, half-baked ideas proferred by some Zionist leaders for sharing the territory of Mandatory Palestine. It wasn’t just people like Jerry Haber’s hero, Judah Magnes and his idealistic friends. Haim Weitzmann called many times and in many ways for a bi-national state, and for a legislative body in which Arabs and Jews would have parity. In 1922, Eliahu Golumb, one of the founders and leaders of the Hagana, met with a British official to discuss the possibility of resolving the conflict through some kind of Arab confederation, of which Palestine would form a part. There are many other examples.

    There are also examples of harsh rhetoric about the impossibility of solving the conflict without separating from the Arabs.

    None of the idealistic plans and proposals got anywhere. They ran smack dab into a Palestinian nationalist movement that had grown quickly in response to the Zionists –both to their behavior, which was sometimes reprehensible, and to their mere presence.. Before the riots in the 20’s in Jerusalem and Jaffa, most of the Jews in Palestine either completely misunderstood, preferred to ignore or dismissed this nationalist movement. But gradually, painfully, it became clear to more and more of them that the conflict could not be resolved through federal schemes or bi-national parliaments or other idealistic proposals, even if they kept presenting them to the British and to Palestinian Arabs in a half-hearted manner. [I am not saying the Arabs of Palestine should have accepted any of those schemes and proposals. That’s another question for another thread.]

    The Arab Revolt in the mid-1930s, coupled with the Zionists’ sense of the growing emergency of Jews in Europe, confirmed a growing conviction that only a violent confrontation was going to resolve this issue. The seizure of Palestinian land without paying for it became more common. Attitudes hardened. The differences between Ben Gurion and Jabotinsky on what to do about the Palestinian Arabs gradually diminished.

    Nevertheless, the Jews did begrudgingly accept the Peel Commission proposal in 1937, which would have restricted their state to the coastal plain between Tel Aviv and Haifa. The Arabs didn’t. The Arab leadership, with very few exceptions, clearly wanted to rid all of Mandatory Palestine of the Zionist interlopers. They showed the same sentiments when they rejected the UN partition plan of 1947. I think it would accurate to say that the Zionists were in favor of ethnic exclusion, and the ability to carve out their own destiny in their own territory. But I think that it was the Arabs who advocated “ethnic cleansing,” if that term means the forced expulsion of an entire population from one distinct territory.

    In many ways, the thesis that the Zionists as a whole deliberately intended to kick out the Arabs of Palestine was a self-fulfilling prophecy. The Arabs did everything in their power to make their prophecy come true by choosing the road of armed resistance, and losing.

    So, Kevin, tell me what I missed.

  28. “for in actual fact Jerusalem is of course a divided city”

    couldn’t be more true. jubal mukaber, silwan, isawiya, shuafat are like another country compared to rechavia, the german colony or french hill. connected in geography and little else.

  29. Here’s the thing Mike, I could give two shits about shufat, or silwan. What I am interested in is one thing. Can I go to the kotel and the temple mount. Two things I COULDN’T do when that part was under Jordanian control. Not would I have been able to go there under the British mandate except with great difficulty. The Arabs have shown a spectacular disregard for Jewiish religious sites and specialize in desecrating them. On another note, I’m not crazy about bringing Hamas, and be extension Iran, into the city. You tell me why these aren’t real concerns.

  30. no one said that jews won’t be able to pray at the kotel if israel cedes sovereignty over the arab neighbourhoods in a peace deal.

    if, like the jerusalem municipality, you couldn’t give 2 shits about shuafat etc then why is there this hysterical campaign about keeping them under israeli control to perpetuate the myth of ‘united’ Jerusalem.

  31. Yes.

    Don’t you?

    If you never prayed on the temple mount, do you think your life would be less?

    On the other hand, if insisting that Jews pray at the temple mount now caused pain for Jews and non-Jews, would that be worth it?

    And then again, if Jews considered praying at the temple mount to be more important than the commandments of Torah, would that be a good or not?

    If praying at the temple mount CONFLICTED with Torah, would that be something that you would willingly forego?

  32. What makes you think that giving up Jewish religious sites for desecration by the Arabs will bring peace. What’s your reasoning?

  33. I don’t know for sure.

    I do know that arbitrary or romantic non-compromising positions will deter it.

    The temple mount is not that important.

    Community is.

  34. Bill,
    More British soldiers were killed fighting Arabs than fighting Jews. Arab villages were raided repeatedly by British soldiers and policemen during the Arab Revolt of the 1930s. The British attempted to fulfill both portions of the Balfour Declaration–creating a Jewish homeland in Palestine (note the wording–not turning all of Palestine into a Jewish homeland) and preserving the rights of the existing non-Jewish inhabitants. In the end this proved impossible, but it was only really abandoned as a British goal once the Revisionist undergrounds began attacking British soldiers and the Mandate in the late 1940s.

    Why the concentration on monarchy with settler colonialism? Ancient Athens populated the eastern Mediterranean and it was a democracy without a monarchy. Portugal settled Africa in the 1920s to the 1970s and it was a fascist regime. Fascist Italy attempted to colonize Libya during the interwar period. Although Italy (and Portugal ?)had monarchies they by now means controlled the state. The British monarchy certainly didn’t determine British colonial policy and France was a republic throughout its colonial period of settlement in Indochina and Africa. (Algeria was conquered under the monarchy.)

  35. We were talking about “ethnic cleansing”, as in the formula “Zionism IS racism”.

    I contested the formula. I contested the characterization.

    In the past, and in the present.

    Reform is needed, not revolution, not uprising.

  36. Dan and others,
    What do think can be done to move the peace process along?

    What can be done now, even if we have to wait for a democratic president?

  37. Tom, the British cut off immigration into the mandate during the late 1930’s. There by condeming millions of Jews to death. And they did it in collaberation with the Arabs. Which was pretty ironic since the Arabs threw in with Hitler And 30,000 Jews volunteered for the Bitish army. But I digress. And Richard, I hate to break this to you but there is no way that this country is going to elect Barack Obama

  38. A democrat will be the next US president.

    None of the republicans will beat any of the prominent democrats. (Either Obama, Clinton, or Edwards would beat either Giuliani, Romney or Huckabee)

    (I assume that was your point about Barak Obama, that he is somehow now the democratic “shoe-in”)

    Each would and should put their weight behind the road map.

    Of course, ANY new candidate will be tested by those foreign and domestic fanatics that seek to test, and probably distract from real work, even as so much real work is needed to fix what is so severely broken.

  39. McCain is going to beat any of the Democrats. Edwards is an idiot. Clinton is completely corrupt and people don’t want them anymore. And this country is not going to vote for a black guy named Barack Hussein Obama. Maybe in 10 or 20 years but not now,
    And the road map, what road map. What guys like you don’t understand is that Hamas, the guys in charge, say no. The elusive Palestinian moderate, the ones who will make a deal and have the power to make it stick doesn’t exist.

  40. Bill,
    You also are a few months behind the news cycle.

    There is tension certainly. And there are committed fools on both sides that will commit to inessential, but symbolic stands, rather than make real peace in the real here and now world.

    Hamas’ control is based on the impression of “impossibility” of real Palestinian sovereignty.

    Whether it is Hamas militancy, or PFLP militancy, the “impossibility” creates the condition where militancy is the only possible path forward.

    The next question for the Palestinian militants is the question of “toward what goal”. What are we trying to achieve.

    If Israel chooses to defends borders that are in fact defensible, unlike the maze, then Palestinians will KNOW certainly that Israel is not disappearing and the question “what are we trying to achieve?” will be a practical goal, and not the romantic.

    So long as Israel AND Palestine pursue the romantic (whether originating from religion and/or nationalistic ideology), then each will commit t the impossible.

    As a parent, my kids get romantic. They extend the range of what might be possible. I care more for their prospective experience, and want to practically make a different reality, rather than imagine one.

    McCain has to win the republican nomination.

    I agree with you that McCain is the only electable republican though.

    I disagree with you about the other three. I’m most attracted to Edwards. The most important issues in the US now are three-fold (interrelated).

    1. Decline of manufacturing and other value-adding activity
    2. Undue taxation on work (in contrast to very limited taxation on unearned income)
    3. Decline in functionality and development of public assets

    McCain’s program will continue expanding “defense” (including staying in Iraq indefintely, and I mean indefinitely), attempt to reduce taxes, and cut public investment and services.

    And, he’s the most appealing of the four.

    McCain doesn’t have a viable strategy to suggest about Hamas either. Maybe he would be able to convince the Israelis to abandon expansion and romance in favor of practical borders and lawful policies.

  41. I have no clue has to what your talking about Rich but let me ask you this: I would thing that Gaza is a test case for your theory. And I would say that its not working out too well. What say you?

  42. How do you know that Hamas wasn’t elected because people like their platform. Destruction of Israel included. I prefer to believe that the Palestinians aren’t children. They know exactly what they are choosing and should take the consequences of their actions. You just can’t fire off rockets into southern Israel and expect to skate away. And the fact that liberals like you let them is actually somewhat racist.

  43. “And the fact that liberals like you let them is actually somewhat racist.”

    Hard to know how you infer that from any of my comments here.

    What SPECIFICALLY didn’t you understand of my post 46?

    What specifically are you committed to? What do you prioritize?

    Is it the temple mount, damn the consequences? That strikes me as a particularly fanatic, and fantastic position, if that is yours.

  44. “How do you know that Hamas wasn’t elected because people like their platform?”

    There are THREE groups in Palestinian, or Israeli society, for that matter.

    1. Those that are committed to reconciliation unconditionally.
    2. Those that conditionally committed to reconcilation.
    3. Those that are unconditionally opposed to reconciliation.

    Most in any society are in the second category. I don’t know if you are.

    I’m in the second, but close to the first on principle (God-taught, Torah AND life).

    I don’t know where the majority of Hamas’ supporters are.

    I expect that the current status of undefendable borders (the maze is FAR worse than the green line) and unnecessary suppression of the other, creates a LARGE part of the opinion of the Arab street.

    I don’t know if it is possible to change the conditions, and then change the opinion of the majority that holds their opinions based on conditions.

    I know that its inhumane not to try to.

  45. What makes you think that most Palestinians are in any way committed to reconciliation. I would think that the evidence points to exactly the opposite.

  46. Bill,
    Most Palestinians and most Israelis react emotionally to events–mobs screaming death to the Arabs or death to the Jews. Both have leaderships that tend to exploit and play up this emotionalism for political benefit. The Israelis are less guilty of this then the Arabs, because they have left and center-left parties that have attempted to ameliorate the process and negotiate a solution.

    Like most bloggers you seem very sure and infatuated with your own prognostications and project them on to the country as a whole.

    Most Palestinians are conditionally willing to accept Israel, but on terms that most Israelis are unwilling to accept. For a peace treaty to be negotiated an Israeli government must be willing to accept terms that a Palestinian government could agree to and survive and vice versa. This is why foreign mediation is needed. Foreign mediation to be effective must involve a party or parties that have influence with all the parties. Washington has it with Jerusalem but lacks it with Ramallah/Al-Quds; Brussels has it with Ramallah but lacks it with Jerusalem. Therefore Washington should combine efforts with the Europeans. This won’t occur with this administration, but might occur with the next administration depending on whom is elected. A president that will not be dependent on the support of AIPAC or the religious right might agree to this. Of the realistic winners I see only Obama and McCain as fitting the bill.

  47. Tom, The EU has neither influence over the Palestinians andd if they did there would be no inclination to use it. There are no consequences for these people and never have been. And if there opposition had been anybody else other than Jews nobody would give a shit. But I digress. Gaza was a test case. The Israeli settlements were closed up, they were handed a thriving agricultural export business and they had the most foreign aid per capita in the world. Yet the lust to kill Jews was too much for them. A total withdrawal from south lebanon. No territorial issues, yet here they come again. The Palestinians have shown no inclination to move towards a settlement. And you can’t argue that point.

  48. Sincerity makes peace. Posturing doesn’t.

    Doing what is possible because it is possible, convinces.

    Failing to do what is possible, also convinces.

    Its called accountability.

  49. The bulk of my recent experience is in business, in the marketing of new food brands.

    There is nothing that is perfectly predictable. There are no laws there, but there are likelihoods.

    There is significant risk in investing in a new brand, especially for small companies, as a brand is not part of a portfolio.

    Those companies that launch a brand without research, and without commitment, fail 80%+ of the time.

    Those companies that launch a brand with research and really TAKING the risk, succeed 70% of the time. Still significant risk. BUT, the ACTIONS of research and sincere commitment in action, ends up reducing the risk (rather than increasing it).

    It is the half-assed, the genuinely reluctant, the cheap, that fail.

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