Friday, 16 January 2009

Is Israel A Racist State?

Blinded by hatred.

The following ‘From the Left’ Column was originally published in The Dominion Post of 7 September 2001. I republish it here to reassure the readers of Bowalley Road that I am not in the pay of the Israeli Defence Force’s secret propaganda department.

AS the United Nations Conference on Racism struggles to repair the damage done to it by the calculated withdrawal of the United States and Israel, there might be some value in examining the ostensible cause of their displeasure – the characterisation of Israel as a racist state.

The state of Israel did not come out of an historical vacuum. David Ben Gurion’s triumphant 1948 proclamation was the culmination of more than half a century of agitation by the advocates of Jewish nationalism – proudly calling themselves Zionists.

Zionism was the brainchild of Theodore Herzl, a Hungarian-born Jewish journalist, who, in 1897, convened the First Zionist Conference at Basle, Switzerland. The Conference resolved to "secure for the Jewish people a home in Palestine guaranteed by public law".

Conceived as the only practical solution to the virulent - and apparently ineradicable - anti-Semitism which had deformed Europe for the best part of a millennium, Zionism eventually won the sympathy of British Foreign Secretary, Arthur Balfour, who on 2 November 1917, declared British support for a Jewish national home in Palestine - provided that safeguards could be reached for the rights of "existing non-Jewish communities".

The so-called "Balfour Declaration" formed the basis of the League of Nation’s 1920 decision to award Britain the "mandate" of Palestine – effectively placing the Palestinian people under British rule.

Crucial to the success of Zionist policy in Palestine was Dr Chaim Weizmann – a brilliant biochemist whose influential position in Britain’s wartime armaments industry gave him privileged access to key figures in British politics. Weizmann’s advice was highly valued by the British Foreign Office, and later by his close friend Winston Churchill.

The coming to power of the Nazis in the 1930s, and the accompanying persecution of European Jewry, fuelled Zionist demands for ever greater numbers of immigrants to be granted entry to Palestine. Conflict with the Palestinian people – led by Haj Amin el Husseini, the Mufti (Islamic religious leader) of Jerusalem - escalated. It was in this rapidly heating political crucible that the full contours of modern Zionism took shape.

Here are just a few examples of the thinking of the Zionist leadership of the 1930s and 40s:

"There is no choice: the Arabs must make room for the Jews in Eretz Yisrael. If it was possible to transfer the Baltic peoples, it is also possible to move the Palestinian Arabs."

"Zionist colonisation must either be terminated or carried out against the wishes of the native population. It is important to speak Hebrew, but it is even more important to be able to shoot – or else I am through at playing with colonising."

Vladimir Jabotinsky, 1939

"There is no other way than to transfer the Arabs from here to neighbouring countries, not one village, not one tribe should be left."

- Joesph Weitz, 1940

Such was the intellectual and political atmosphere in British Palestine on the eve of the Holocaust. Jewish nationalism embraced the concept of wholesale ethnic cleansing at almost exactly the same moment as the Nazis.

In the aftermath of the Second World War, with the conscience of the West still reeling from images of Auschwitz and Belsen, Zionism seized its chance to gain the whole of Palestine by military force. Zionist terrorists, furious at the British Government’s refusal to abandon the Palestinians to their fate, turned their guns on British troops. When an exhausted Britain finally withdrew, heavily armed Jewish forces lost no time in razing over 500 Palestinian villages to the ground.

From this poisoned soil has grown a deadly harvest of war, oppression, rebellion and yet more oppression. The US and Israel may not like to hear the truth - but that should not prevent the delegates at Durban from speaking it.


Green Tea said...

Chris, while I am happy that you acknowledge the racism in Israel, I have to say your treatment of the Zionists is a little superficial.

"Zionism eventually won the sympathy of British Foreign Secretary, Arthur Balfour". I disagree that it was out of sympathy, I suspect it was more to do with nessessity and needing an imperialist partner in the region to sure up supply of oil.

If I could point you and your readers towards this:

'Israel: The Hijack State: Oil and Imperialism'.

On the same site there are articles which use strong evidence to show that the Zionist were in collaboration with many Anti-Semitist groups before and during the war. The saddest part of the suffering of the Jews is the way in which the Zionists manipulated it for their own gain.

I.M Fletcher said...

Green Tea, you're trying to support your arguments by giving links to a Marxist site? Interesting...

I have just been reading another website which claims it is using the latest information -

The recent declassification of millions of documents from the period of the British Mandate (1920-1948) and Israel’s early days, documents untapped by earlier generations of writers and ignored or distorted by the “new historians,” paint a much more definitive picture of the historical record. They reveal that the claim of dispossession is not only completely unfounded but the inverse of the truth. What follows is based on fresh research into these documents, which contain many facts and data hitherto unreported.

In any case, there are some interesting quotations there -

The simple fact is that the Zionist movement had always been amenable to the existence in the future Jewish state of a substantial Arab minority that would participate on an equal footing “throughout all sectors of the country’s public life.”[Vladimir Jabotinsky, The Jewish War Front (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1940), p. 216.] The words are those of Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the founding father of the branch of Zionism that was the forebear of today’s Likud party. In a famous 1923 article, Jabotinsky voiced his readiness “to take an oath binding ourselves and our descendants that we shall never do anything contrary to the principle of equal rights, and that we shall never try to eject anyone.”[Originally published in Russian under the title “O Zheleznoi Stene,” in Rassvyet, Nov. 4, 1923, the “Iron Wall” was reprinted several times, including in The Jewish Herald (South Africa), Nov. 26, 1937]

Eleven years later, Jabotinsky presided over the drafting of a constitution for Jewish Palestine. According to its provisions, Arabs and Jews were to share both the prerogatives and the duties of statehood, including most notably military and civil service. Hebrew and Arabic were to enjoy the same legal standing, and “in every cabinet where the prime minister is a Jew, the vice-premiership shall be offered to an Arab and vice-versa.”[Jabotinsky, The Jewish War Front, pp. 216-20.]

They sound very tolerant to me, and not very racist at all!

There is much more at the site to read and I don't want to be copy/pasting too much. I guess it all comes down the history you believe. It is quite amazing though for for events that happened not that long ago that there are such contradictory views.

Anonymous said...

It is a given that, in any discussion of the History of Zionism, someone will cite Ephraim Karsh, a writer who has inserted himself in the debate with his voluminous writings on the evils of Islam.

Karsh holds no degrees in history (his field is International Relations) and began his career as an analyst with the IDF where he attained the rank of Major.

Yezid Sayigh, ( PhD (War Studies, London), is Professor Middle East Studies in the Department of War Studies at King's College London.) says of him:

"He is simply not what he makes himself out to be, a trained historian (nor political/social scientist)," and encouraged "robust responses [that] make sure that any self-respecting scholar will be too embarrassed to even try to incorporate the Karsh books in his/her teaching or research because they can't pretend they didn't know how flimsy their foundations are."

Karsh is a speaker for hire for Benidor Associates, a public relations firm that promotes conservative writers and speakers dealing with U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Here is what they do:

The neoconservative campaign to equate Iran with Nazi Germany received a setback in May. Bloggers and a few journalists quickly exposed as wholly concocted a story about a new law that would require Iranian Jews to wear yellow insignia. Within days the National Post of Canada--founded by disgraced neocon media mogul Conrad Black and now owned by the no less hawkish Asper family--was forced to apologize publicly for its "scoop.".......

Ubiquitous in this campaign, as it was with Iraq, is the PR firm Benador Associates. Its president, Eleana Benador, told me it was her agency that placed the article with the National Post. Its stable of writers and activists, a Who's Who of the neocon movement, includes Richard Perle, Michael Ledeen, Frank Gaffney, Charles Krauthammer, Victor Davis Hanson and Iranian exile journalist Amir Taheri--the author of the bogus piece.

Professor Ian Lustick (Ph.D., University of California-Berkeley) describes Karsh's writing in Fabricating Israeli History as malevolent and the nature of his analysis as erratic and sloppy. The book, he wrote, is ripe with 'howlers, contradictions and distortions'. Lustick points to six instances in which Karsh gives quotes that say the very opposite of what Karsh tells his readers they say.

The reading of Israel’s History is fraught with difficulty, the stakes are high. For those of us who do not have access to the original documents, the credibility of historians is an issue. Given the alternatives of the “new Historians” (one of whom, Benny Morris, is an avowed Zionist) who have ignored the threat to their lives that their published research has brought them and Karsh, a known propagandist, the balance of probability would seem clear.

That, along with the opinions of independent scholars such as Dr Anthony Toth (D.Phil., Oriental Studies/Middle Eastern Studies, University of Oxford, 2001. M.A., Middle East History, Georgetown University, 1982. B.A., History and Journalism (double major), University of Central Florida, 1980) who wrote of Karsh’s book:
This is a polemical book whose authors have extended the intemperate and unbalanced rhetoric customarily employed by dogmatic partisans of the Arab Israeli conflict to the normally sedate and measured arena of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Ottoman history........The book relies mainly on Western published sources and official British documents. But their use of even these sources is limited, since they actually ignore most of nineteenth-century history. Instead, the authors emphasize those episodes they feel support their interpretations.

......seems to me to give a guide as to which “history you believe”.

I.M Fletcher said...

brewerstroupe - to me, it still comes down as to whose version of history you believe. As far as calling Benny Morris an "avowed Zionist" I really don't understand that. Karsh and Morris are always writing articles refuting each others point of view, one charging the other of misquoting and visa versa (eg, here where Karsh charges Morris of using partial quotes in his book). Morris seems very pro-Arab from what I have read.

Perhaps the only way of making sure what was said to to be able to look up the source material oneself, which can be quite hard if it's out of print or difficult to lay your hands on.

I think every writer has their detractors and one will always be able to find quotes from "respected academics" poo-pooing another author with whom they don't agree.

As for me, I tend to believe Karsh over Morris, but that's just me.

Anonymous said...

Come on, I.M. Fletcher. It's a wee bit hypocritical to start out by "poo-pooing" Green Tea's source because it's Marxist, then arguing some sort of academic ethical relativism when your own source is called into question.

Of course, it does move the debate from "was Israel created by racists (which therefore takes a bit of the remaining moral validity away from its actions today)?" to the question of whether Israel's origins can be not-racist because the amount of ethnic-cleansing comments the founders made was outnumbered by the amount of nice "we will all live together happily in the Promised Land" stuff they also said.

Is "racism" a tallied sum, where we each try and end the score with a credit balance? Or does each N-word we drop forever tarnish our soul, to be taken into account at the end (or even when just trying to live in a society, global or local)?

And does it really change the ethical"facts on the ground" today? To use a Milton analogy, the devil was once an angel made by God - but he still became evil.