2012-01-08

Palestine 1896 (beautiful)

by Neil Godfrey

From Gilad Atzmon.

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  • 2012-01-08 12:05:00 UTC - 12:05 | Permalink

    A quick skim of Atzmon’s blog suggests that he is a rabid anti-Israeli (even if he is a Jew, which I assume) whose tone and innuendo puts him virtually on the same level as a Holocaust denier. There seemed even to be an insinuation in that direction in one of his postings.

    I really think that this topic should be eschewed. (It has nothing to do with Christian origins.) There is nothing more divisive and pointlessly counter-productive than debating the Arab-israeli conflict. I have first-hand experience of that. A few years ago, the national magazine of the Humanist Association of Canada, in which I had been involved several years earlier, had an interim editor who produced a few issues, the first of which was an anti-Israel diatribe throughout, including an editorial by himself which went so far beyond the acceptable that several objecting letters were received and several subscriptions lost. The issue split the board and editorial committee, and I personally, though I had already drifted somewhat away from the organization previously, resigned my membership when the editor and the board refused to print a retraction, even though a few members did agree with me that it had gone too far.

    A newspaper editorial cartoon recently, in response to some flare-up on the Arab-Israeli scene (don’t remember which one, there are so many) said it all: One group of placard-holders on one side of the street announcing “Israel can do no right!”, with another group of placard-holders on the other side of the street announcing “Israel can do no wrong!” The caption said something like never the twain shall meet. It is probably the most polarizing issue of our day and has been for a long time. And polarization never solves anything. It just allows each side to vent.

    • 2012-01-09 03:50:15 UTC - 03:50 | Permalink

      Earl, I think I found one of the editorials you were talking about.

      http://www.humanistperspectives.org/issue169/editorial.html

      Which parts should Henry Beissel have retracted?

      I think what bothers people who give a damn about the Palestinians and who think the truth is worth pursuing is the fact that in North America politicians can never even hint that they disagree with the actions of the Israeli government. As Beissel points out, “There are many such voices in Israel, calling for a just peace with the Palestinians.”

      Ironically, while a wide range of discussion is permitted in Israel, if you’re politician in the US (from dog-catcher to mayor to President) you dare not say anything contrary to the policies of the Israeli government lest you be cast as a secret Muslim, a closet fascist, or worse.

      Finally, I’m disappointed that after merely skimming Atzmon’s blog, you would feel justified in going nuclear and trotting out the Holocaust. Do you think that maybe, just maybe, you could stick with conventional name-calling until you’ve read a little more about his views?

    • RoHa
      2012-02-13 14:07:21 UTC - 14:07 | Permalink

      I have taken some time about this because I didn’t really want to write essay length response, but you seem to be under so many misapprehensions that I cannot forbear. I admire your work in Early Christianity, so it seems inappropriate to let you continue in error over Israel.

      From what you write (and I apologise if I have misunderstood you), it looks as though you think

      (a) the Palestinians were in some way morally obliged to agree to the partition and the establishment of Israel.

      (b) the establishment of Israel is morally justified since it provides a “safe haven” against possible persecution of Jews

      (c) if the Palestinians had agreed to the partition there would be no further problems.

      In respect of (a):

      Why, exactly, should the majority of the people of Palestine have agreed to give over part of the land to a bunch of Zionists (mostly immigrants) whose declared policy was to take over the whole of Palestine and either drive out or subjugate the non-Jews?

      What moral obligation did they have to allow a bunch of foreign immigrants to set up a racist state in their land? None. In fact, they were morally obliged to resist.

      The whole notion of a Jewish state is morally unacceptable. It implies a state run by and for the benefit of a single ethnic group, with the corresponding implication that any persons who are resident in the state but who are not members of the ethnic group will be second-class citizens if they are not expelled. Michael Neumann elaborates here. http://www.counterpunch.org/neumann01262006.html

      In respect of (b)

      Maybe it is true that “the Jews” wanted or even needed a Jewish State. So what? How does that give them the right to get one at the expense of other people? Are Jews more important than other people?

      To try to justify Israel on the grounds that Jews need a state as a safe haven from future anti-Semitism is to say that possible future injustice against Jews is more important than the past and current, continuous, real injustice against Palestinians.

      In respect of (c)

      And to suggest that if the Palestinians had agreed to the partition there would have been no further problems is simply naïve. The nature of Zionism, and the declarations of its proponents, make it clear that the Jewish State would still have carried out a policy of expansion and ethnic cleansing.

      Now for some details.
      http://ifamericansknew.org/history/origin.html

      First, the background. Before the Zionists started pouring in, the population of Palestine was overwhelmingly Arab. About 85% were Arab Muslims, 10 % were Arab Christians, and about 5% were Arab Jews.

      The Muslims, Christians, and Jews of Palestine did not go to Brooklyn or Warsaw or Golders Green and make trouble there. They stayed in Palestine. The trouble came to them.

      The trouble was started by a bunch of Europeans – the Zionists – who were infected by the nasty nineteenth century European idea of ethnic nationalism. (And we have seen the misery that led to in Europe.) They decided that the Jews constituted an ethnic “nation”, and decided to establish an ethnically based state. Eventually they chose to establish it in Palestine.

      http://www.robincmiller.com/articles/hanna1.htm

      Let me repeat that. The Arab Jews of Palestine did not want a Jewish State.

      (From the point of view of religious Judaism, this notion was a corruption of Judaism. See The Decadence of Judaism in our Time, by Moshe Menhuin.)

      It was the Zionists who went to Palestine, and started setting up their “national home”. They openly declared their intention to take over the land. They openly declared that the land would be one run by Jews for the benefit of Jews, and that anyone else in that land would be -at best – second class citizens. (Some of the Zionists bought bits of land from Turkish and Syrian landlords and then drove off the Arab tenant farmers who had been living there for generations.)

      They did not try to assimilate or become part of Palestinian society. They were out to replace it.

      Of course, the people of Palestine objected. They did not want their land to be invaded and taken over by foreign immigrants, so it is hardly surprising that conflict flared up between the Palestinians and the immigrants.

      In the First World War Palestine passed from the control of Ottoman Turkey into British control, by means of conquest by Allied forces, which included Arab forces. The British had promised that all Arab countries would gain independence, but they had also promised a large chunk of Syria including what is now Lebanon, to the French, and had promised the Zionists that they would support the establishment of a Jewish “national home” in Palestine.

      The British started granting (limited) independence to ex-Ottoman territories. However, they did not grant independence to Palestine, because they had committed themselves to establishing a Jewish National Home (not, official British documents emphasise, a Jewish State) in Palestine. But this presented an intractable problem.

      The Palestinians wanted a democratic state in Palestine. They made it clear that the immigrant Jews would be full and equal citizens in such a state, but also that they wanted limits to the number of foreign Jews migrating into Palestine

      Zionists began to pour in from Europe, and the Arabs of Palestine protested. They wanted the promised independence, not to have their land taken over by a bunch of European immigrants. The Zionists made it equally clear that they wanted a Jewish state.

      The British could not find a resolution between these positions, but in the meantime Mandate authorities allowed large numbers of foreign Jews to migrate to Palestine.

      The British authorities did their best to keep the Arabs under subjection and prevent clashes with the Zionists, but from time to time their policy wavered, and they eventually aroused the enmity the Zionists.
      http://www.merip.org/palestine-israel_primer/brit-mandate-pal-isr-prime.html

      The Zionists therefore turned their terrorist militias against the British as well as the Arabs.
      http://www.wsws.org/articles/2003/jun2003/irae-j21.shtml.

      Partition was suggested by the Peel commission.

      The Palestinians rejected the whole idea of partition. They simply did not want a state -even a tiny one – to be created wherein Palestinians would be second class citizens. They also probably recognized that the Zionists would use such a state as a basis for expansion.

      The Zionists rejected the Peel version as well. As far as partition in principle was concerned, they accepted it only on a provisional basis. They made it quite clear, to each other, at least, that they would go along with it until they were in a strong enough position to take over the rest of Palestine. http://www.palestineremembered.com/Acre/Famous-Zionist-Quotes/Story695.html

      In 1936 The Palestinians had had enough, and attempted rebellion. The British authorities suppressed them and shattered the leadership. The Zionists stepped up their terrorism against the Palestinians.

      But then the Zionists turned on the British, and directed their attacks against them as well. In 1947 the British gave up and handed the problem to the UN. The UN suggested an outrageously unjust partition plan, but had no authority to enforce it against the will of the majority.

      Even in 1947, the Arabs of Palestine were the majority in Palestine, and they still did not want partition. The creation of the State of Israel was contrary to the wishes of the majority of the people in the territory.

      Fighting broke out, and the Zionists began taking over some of the area designated to be the Arab state. The ethnic cleansing started. By the time the British Mandate ended, and the Zionists declared the State of Israel, the Zionists had seized the major Arab cities and were driving Arabs out. 250,000 had already become refugees. The surrounding Arab states, under pressure from their outraged people, sent their small and ramshackle armies to try to prevent this. (Although it is usually suspected that the new state of Jordan was simply intending to seize territory for itself.) The Arab armies did not invade the area designated for the Jewish state.

      During the war there was a ceasefire. Count Folke Bernadotte was appointed as a mediator by the UN, but the Israelis assassinated him. One of the men responsible (Yitzhak Shamir) later became Prime Minister of Israel.

      The massacres and ethnic cleansing of Arabs did not stop. The Zionists had planned it, and they did it.

      From Rabbi Dr. Chaim Simons

      http://www.palestineremembered.com/download/Palestinian-Transfer-Chaim-Simons.pdf

      (Here is a good review of Israeli historian Ilan Pappe’s book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. It deals with some of these matters in some detail.)

      http://www.wrmea.com/archives/May-June_2007/0705023.html

      They drove out three quarters of the Arab population of the area, destroyed many of the villages, looted the homes, destroyed the libraries, and took over the farms, orchards and businesses.

      At the end of the war, the Israelis refused to allow the refugees to return, in spite of the UN requiring them to. The Arabs who remained were put under military rule, and those who tried to return were killed.

      Israel passed a series of laws which declared that the lands of the refugees were now property of the JNF.

      Nor has this process stopped, Even as I write, Israel is driving Palestinians out of their homes in Jerusalem, and Bedouin out of their villages. Israel has used its domestic legislation to strip Palestinian citizenship rights, personal property rights, and prevent the repatriation of displaced persons in violation of international law. It legally discriminates against various classes of Palestinians regardless of where they live, and it has done that ever since the day it was established.

      The military rule has been lifted, but Arabs in Israel are still second-class citizens who face legal, administrative, and social discrimination.

      You can read a bit about it here,
      http://ifamericansknew.org/cur_sit/ips.html

      (Very useful site. Try http://ifamericansknew.org/history/magic-carpet.html
      for more about Arab Jews.)

      So where is the accountability for the crimes? Where is the atonement for the evil committed? Where is the apology for the wrongs, and where are the sincere and humble efforts to right them?

      Israel offers none. Only more and more demands. Only more and more persecution, more and more oppression, more and more ethnic cleansing, more and more dispossession.

      It was the Zionists who started the trouble. They could end it by giving up Zionism, by giving up the idea of a “Jewish State” and agreeing to share the land with the Palestinians, as equal citizens in a democratic state.

      I could write a lot more, but this is enough for now.

  • Bob Carlson
    2012-01-08 14:26:58 UTC - 14:26 | Permalink

    There is good coverage of the history of Palestine in the recent book The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean, by David Abulafia. I read (and re-read) the Kindle version in which the place names on maps are a bit too small to be readable without a magnifying glass. However, this wasn’t a major problem, as the locations of most place names can be conveniently looked up by typing the name and toggling to the Kindle’s Wikipedia search, which accesses the mobile version of Wikipedia pages. On those, the small map with the location of a the city or whatever is usually quite prominent.

  • 2012-01-09 07:52:16 UTC - 07:52 | Permalink

    It sums up everything that is wrong when the contents and implications of the video are completely ignored, and a comment appears seemingly equating criticisms of a state policy with racism. The video truly says far more than people want to know — Arabs and Jews living in peace! Perversely the Holocaust has become a holy sacrament that is used (betrayed would be a more apt word) as cover for the sins of the children. Everyone agrees, “Never again” — but in order to have “never again” we need to face reality and history and the real people on the ground. We learn nothing by demonizing (i.e. dehumanizing) Nazis and Arabs nor by encouraging another people towards its own inevitable self-harm by its tribalism fueled by racism and a God-given right to ethnic cleansing.

    • 2012-01-09 13:28:16 UTC - 13:28 | Permalink

      Maybe I should clarify why I spoke of “demonizing (i.e. dehumanizing) Nazis and Arabs”. I had meant the coupling of the two to be jarring for a reason. Nothing is solved by demonizing — dehumanizing — anyone. Film makers have been censured for humanizing Hitler but we need to fully grasp that the human species is not divided between those who wear black hats and those who wear white. What makes the Holocaust so horrific is that it was a human act. We humans did it. That fact needs to be faced and addressed. It won’t do to sweep it to the back of our consciousness as something perpetrated by madmen. Eichmann’s confessions at his trial (the film is well worth seeing http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eichmann_%28film%29 — no doubt the book, “The Banality of Evil”, likewise worth reading) is the most sobering for this very same reason. He was one of us. That is where we need to look to come to grips with what is happening in Israel and Palestine.

      The voices of the Palestinian Arabs have too rarely been heard. They have been dehumanized in the bulk of the western discourse about this conflict. As someone pointed out, since the Holocaust anti-semitism has taken a strange twist: the negatives have been shifted from the Jews and dumped on the Arabs while the Jews have likewise been dehumanized in the other direction, as superordinately right.

      If an Israeli action is faulted it is always addressed as “I can’t condone that BUT don’t forget the Holocaust” — as if the Holocaust has the power of the blood of Jesus to cleanse sins. That is, the Israeli in this narrative is “fundamentally” in the right and his flaws can on that account be forgiven. This expresses the very essence of fundamentalist thinking.

      There is nothing to be gained by thus dehumanizing, albeit in opposing directions, both Jews and Arabs.

      Not too many years ago I was involved with a community group who sought to invite people of wide-ranging backgrounds, places, experiences to address public audiences simply for no other reason than to hear other points of view as told from personal experiences. Inevitably we eventually had both Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza and Jews from Israel on a couple of sessions. It was a tragic comparison and illustrated well the root of the problem. There was no arguing, no raised voices, not even any heated exchanges. We were a very mixed community audience simply interested in hearing the experiences of others and asking questions and getting to know others a bit better.

      The Palestinian side spoke of daily life, families, schooling, checkpoints, almost daily abuse and humiliation, fruit-trees, learning to live with regular sonic booms and bullets being fired in their direction from soldiers simply in order to intimidate, markets, bulldozers creating roadblocks, late night family get togethers on the roof, children’s games, soccer teams, the impossibility of proper medical care, poverty, sporadic electricity, loss of hope, loss of family and friends to violence, hatred of Hamas exploiters of this loss of hope recruiting for suicide bombers. The Jewish side spoke of history (the Holocaust), geography (the vast Arab land mass), hatred (on both sides), fear, especially fear, and the need for the wall and a nuclear arsenal and a continual readiness for war. They were not living in a post-traumatic stress situation. They were living in a pre-traumatic stress hyper-tension of fear. The difference was like day and night. One spokesperson living in such fear and hatred yet who had no personal experiences to justify this fear and hatred — only impersonal stories and visions — and who wanted only to keep on a war footing and keep the Arabs under the boot or behind the wall. The other side had all the daily suffering and all the personal experiences to speak of yet wanted only peace. The former lived a very well-to-do lifestyle; the latter could only hope to return home under a false identity.

      Tim is right. One can openly discuss all of this discrepancy, the self-destructive policies of the settlements, defiance of world opinion, the ongoing ethnic cleansing and expulsion of the Arabs from their land, the racist foundation of their democracy and legal system, — one can read Jews debating these things themselves in Israel. It is in the west that the narrative is strictly controlled through threats of being defamed as an anti-semite or a holocaust-denier. This fact ought to raise serious questions.

      Afterthought:

      Around the same time as the community discussion sessions we held some of the same speakers also addressed the university where I was working. The one who spoke of the Palestinian experiences went first. He spoke in an open auditorium. Mostly a slide show of personal daily experiences. Anyone could freely enter and leave. No special security — all open. The Israeli who opted to reply to this booked an upper floor room with a single door, security guards at the door and scattered among the guests in the room, one could only enter after first writing one’s name and workplace on a sheet of paper and one could not ask a question without first explaining clearly who one was and having a security person check the name. No personal experiences, only the same message of an impersonal narrative and fear.

  • 2012-01-10 02:21:44 UTC - 02:21 | Permalink

    That comment was based on him saying something to the effect that he would neither confirm nor deny that he questioned the Holocaust. I don’t remember in what posting I read it.

    I thoroughly agree that western politicians handle Israel and its faults with kid gloves. Nor did I disagree with Henry Beissel’s comment about a just peace with the Palestinians. Who would? But that was hardly the worst sentiments he expressed in an editorial entitled “An Evolution of Evil” and which referred to “genocide” of the Palestinians. This sort of demonization of Israel is not productive, not fair, and certainly doesn’t help the Palestinians.

    Atzmon’s videos may have been meant to convey the idea that prior to Zionism the Arabs and Jews lived in peace. But that’s hardly surprising when Jews constituted only 5% of the population, and as long as they did not try to act on seeking a homeland. As I pointed out, the political situation arising out of the first World War was completely fluid, and a Jewish homeland could very well have been created, as with the Balfour declaration. It was not the Jews who were responsible for the failure of that enterprise and the much more serious turn it eventually took. Yes, that turn has led to behavior on the part of Israel which has been anything but commendable, but it is to a great extent understandable.

    I have lost friends in the past over the Palestinian-Israeli issue and it looks like that is continuing. I should have kept my mouth shut, but the issue is treated by so many people as so one-sided, with Israel the unalloyed embodiment of evil (a la Beissel) that it becomes very difficult to do so. All I really ask for is a little fairness and a little more rationality applied to the most difficult international problem of our time, and one which involves the people that has suffered the most over the millennia from cultures we are still a part of.

    • pearl
      2012-01-10 03:50:26 UTC - 03:50 | Permalink

      It saddens me that you and others lose friends over this undoubtedly very emotional issue. I typed “Holocaust” in Atzmon’s search engine and quite a few hits appeared.

      This gripping exchange is one example:

      http://www.gilad.co.uk/writings/gilad-atzmon-tony-greenstein-debate.html

      Actually, I’d skip that brief version, and go straight to the original, unedited exchange:

      http://gilad.co.uk/html%20files/Greenstein-Atzmon.html

      I’m sure that readers will side with whom they want to. I just find the whole mess unsettling, to say the least.

      • 2012-01-11 04:10:23 UTC - 04:10 | Permalink

        Thanks Pearl, for giving us that deeper taste of Mr. Atzmon’s thinking and alignments. it doesn’t alter my judgment of him after my initial ‘skim’ of his blog.

        While I am well aware of the commendable (in principle) idea he espouses that ethnic segregation may not be the most worthy way to approach society in modern times, Israel arose as an historical response to the segregation (cum persecution) imposed upon Jews for two millennia. The fact of the Holocaust cannot be viewed as an apologetic device but as the immediate spur to the creation of the Jewish state which grew into what we have today, with all its flaws, and for that we all have to accept responsibility.

      • 2012-01-11 13:17:13 UTC - 13:17 | Permalink

        Atzmon on “Holocaust denial” (pp. 175-6 of “The Wandering Who?”):

        In my formative years I blindly accepted every thing they told us about our ‘collective’ Jewish past: the Kingdom of David, Massada, and then the Holocaust: the soap, the lampshade, the death march and the six million.

        It took me many years to understand that the Holocaust, the core belief of the contemporary Jewish faith, was not at all an historical narrative, freely debated by historians, intellectualls and ordinary people. As I mentioned before, historical narratives do not need the protection of the law and political lobbies. It took me years to grasp that my great-grandmother wasn’t made into a ‘soap’ or a ‘lampshade’ as I was taught in Israel. She probably perished of exhaustion, typhus or maybe even by mass shooting. This was indeed bad and tragic, but not that different from the fate of many millions of Ukranians, on learning the real meaning of communism.

        The fate of my great-grandmother was not so different from hundreds of thousands of German civilians who died in deliberate, indiscriminate bombing, just because they were Germans. Similarly, the people of Hiroshima, who died just because they were Japanese. Three million Vietnamese died just because they were Vietnamese and 1.3 million Iraqis died because they were Iraqis.

        I think that 65 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, we must be entitled to start asking questions. We should ask for historical evidence and arguments rather than follow a religious narrative that is sustained by political pressure and laws. We should strip the Holocaust of its Judeo-centric exceptional status and treat it as an historical chapter that belongs to a certain time and place. The Holocaust, like every other historical narrative, must be analysed properly.

        65 years after the liberation of Auschwitz we should be able to ask — why? Why were the Jews hated? Why did European people stand up against their neighbours? Why are the Jews hated in the Middle East, surely they had a chance to open a new page in their troubled history? If they genuinely planned to do so, as the early Zionists claimed, whey did they fail? Why did America tighten its immigration laws amid the growing danger to European Jews? We should also ask what purpose Holocaust denial laws serve? What is the Holocaust religion there to conceal? As long as we fail to ask questions, we will be subjected to Zionist lobbies and their plots. We will continue killing in the name of Jewish suffering. . . .

        • pearl
          2012-01-12 02:16:59 UTC - 02:16 | Permalink

          Excellent. We should not fail to ask questions. And, yes, the Holocaust, should be “analysed properly” as we “ask for historical evidence and arguments rather than follow a religious narrative that is sustained by political pressure and laws.”

          Atzmon stated in his discussion with Greenstein that “Holocaust Denial is in itself a Zionist terminology” and he “refuses to accept it or to use it.”

          That said, the term “Holocaust Denial” is used in the mainstream. Per Wikipedia,

          Holocaust deniers generally do not accept the term “denial” as an appropriate description of their activities, and use the term “revisionism” instead.[5] Scholars use the term “denial” to differentiate Holocaust deniers from historical revisionists, who use established historical methodologies.[6] The methodologies of Holocaust deniers are criticized as based on a predetermined conclusion that ignores extensive historical evidence to the contrary.[7]

          In the quotation you provide, Atzmon mentions,

          In my formative years I blindly accepted every thing they told us about our ‘collective’ Jewish past: the Kingdom of David, Massada, and then the Holocaust: the soap, the lampshade, the death march and the six million.

          I’m curious. Does Atzmon consider the “six million” to be an exaggeration?

          I ask because another statement during his conversation with Greenstein gave me pause:

          As you may know, after the collapse of the Soviet block some major cracks appeared in the official H narrative. For instance, while the official number for Auschwitz Jewish death rate was 4 million (a figure provided by the Soviets after the liberation of the camp and was presented in Nurenberg) the current figure is less then one million. In short, 3 million Jews were saved. More than a few Jewish and Zionist scholars are trying to resolve this discrepancy, can you suggest a solution???

          I don’t know what “more than a few Jewish and Zionist scholars are trying to resolve”, but regardless of propaganda, most mainstream historians independently estimated around a million dead early on and did not use the 4-million figure on the commemorative plaque in their estimate of total Jews killed in the Holocaust.

          • 2012-01-12 09:12:22 UTC - 09:12 | Permalink

            As far as I am aware Atzmon is less interested in the numbers per se than the cynical (let’s say obscene) political manipulation of the narrative with its numbers. A sickening eye-opener for me was Norman Finkelstein’s The Holocaust Industry in which he documents the way the Holocaust has been manipulated for political and financial ends since the War. Finkelstein is personally outraged not least because he lost all his relatives on both is mother’s and father’s side in the war; his father was a survivor (with head injuries) of Auschwitz.. He defends his book in a series of videos beginning with this one:

            [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5BaJCRXsgt4&skipcontrinter=1]

            • pearl
              2012-01-12 11:25:40 UTC - 11:25 | Permalink

              Neil, no doubt political and financial manipulation of the Holocaust is obscene.

              In the video a point was made about use of terminology and its effects. Finkelstein defended his terms as appropriate.

              If Atzmon’s interest lies in effectively addressing this area of manipulation, my opinion is that he should consider how he comes across. In case it wasn’t obvious from my last reply and links, even the few examples I gave involved rhetoric and ideas that are commonly associated with holocaust deniers – not accepting the term “denial”, implication about blindly accepting that six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust. Even if Atzmon were solely commenting on the “H narrative” as propaganda, his question to someone, who has just been accusing him of association with Holocaust deniers, about how to resolve a discrepancy in numbers in relation to the Auschwitz death rate could easily be (mis)understood as a common example by deniers trying to use this as an excuse to reduce the total number of Jews killed in the Holocaust. Of course, as I said this false number was not originally considered in the total count anyway.

              Terms and associations matter.

              • 2012-01-12 12:05:37 UTC - 12:05 | Permalink

                Gilad Atzmon is not me and our experiences and personalities are chalk and cheese. It’s a bit like Paul said, there are all kinds of evangelists out there and they all have their place, I suppose. Gilad has to wear whatever he brings upon himself and he obviously can take it and thinks it is worth his while. He’s either very foolish or very courageous, either doing harm to his cause or breaking through when and where it counts.

                Some people think the “New Atheists” are too “in your face”, too.

                I recall when leaving a religious cult I had been emotionally very attached to for some years — I was questioning things and weaning myself out slowly but steadily. Then I contacted someone who had left long before me and he spoke to me as if I were a complete fool for not having already made a complete break. I was deeply offended. But the charge stuck with me and once my pride was soothed I realized he was right.

                I am surprised and disappointed that Gilad Atzmon has even become a topic of discussion here. I don’t know much about him apart from several of his blog posts and his book. I’m not even all that strongly enthusiastic about his music, brilliant though I am sure it is.

                The only reason he has surfaced as an issue is because I acknowledged his blog (I get email updates to his blog) as the source of a video showing Jews and Arabs living in peace. Of course that scenario delivers a very powerful message at many levels. Rather than deal with that video, its content, or its message, the offended focus was put on a blog through which the video came to my attention. Now if a biblical/HJ scholar tried to avoid an argument by such a red herring . . . .

    • RoHa
      2012-01-10 08:47:15 UTC - 08:47 | Permalink

      “Jews constituted only 5% of the population, and as long as they did not try to act on seeking a homeland.”

      Palestinian Jews had a homeland. Palestine. Australian Jews have a homeland. Australia. That is where they were born, brought up, and educated. It is where their homes are and where they make their lives.

      “It was not the Jews who were responsible for the failure of that enterprise”

      Not all the Jews, but it was the Zionists. (Many Jews opposed them.) Long before the Holocaust, they planned to go to Palestine and take over the country. The Muslims and Christians were to be driven out or subjugated. They made this clear in their writings. They made it clear by their actions and declaration in the the run up to 1948. And it was they who introduced terrorism into the area. It was they who carried out the ethnic cleansing.

      Your grasp of Early Christian history is impressive, but it seems that it has taken up so much of your time that you have missed out on modern history.

      “one which involves the people that has suffered the most over the millennia from cultures we are still a part of.”

      “Peoples” don’t suffer. Individual human being suffer.

      • 2012-01-11 03:51:26 UTC - 03:51 | Permalink

        Well, this is a very superficial and extremely slanted reading of the situation, and offers no flexibility, let alone pragmatism, which would help the existing problem. This is 2012, not 1896 or 1948. Israel exists. Many believe it has a right to. Right or wrong, that is the situation and we have to work with it. Most Arabs haven’t come to that realization yet, and as long as they don’t, the situation won’t get any better, and unfortunately it is the very continuation of it which allows the activities we deplore (increasing radicalization of element of Israeli society, the expanded settlements, the suppression of Palestinian rights) to flourish and get worse.

        In the 1990s (1994, I think) the best opportunity before or since for a Palestinian-Israeli settlement leading to two states was rejected by Yasser Arafat at a meeting in Europe (Paris, I think?), when a relatively moderate Israeli govt. offered a two-state solution involving some kind of joint administration of East Jerusalem and, I believe, a fairly equitable proposal on the settlement areas. It was rejected, not the least because it did not allow for “right of return” of millions (?) of Palestian refugees from the 1948 war and their descendants. Totally unworkable. It would have destroyed the Jewish state and created, yes, two states: both of them Palestinian. Anyone who thinks that Israel would ever be able to agree to such a “right” is living in cloud cuckoo land. Yet today’s Palestinians still largely hold to such a fantasy. Rightly or wrongly, but in light of their own past, Jews would consider that an act of suicide.

        I once argued with someone on the issue and raised the point that those refugees, when they fled to neighboring Arab countries, were ensconced in refugee camps, where they largely remain to this day. Why, after a reasonable amount of time when the future became clear, were they not integrated into their fellow-Arab societies? Displacement of peoples is a natural consequence of war, the displaced usually find new homes. At the time of the 1948 war, Jewish populations in Arab countries were displaced, too. To Israel. Were they housed in refugee camps? No, they were integrated into Israeli society. The political reasons for the former are obvious and don’t need spelling out.

        That person I was arguing with, when I raised this point, objected rather emotionally that he “didn’t want to have to consider such a thing in deciding on the right and wrong of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.” Well, I beg to differ. This is a highly complex and shades-of-grey issue in its entirety, as I have tried to convey overall, and is one reason why I have a deep dissatisfaction with the prevailing anti-Israel position that is far too black and white to be acceptable. And one reason why I usually open my mouth on the issue and get myself into trouble. So be it.

        • RoHa
          2012-01-11 09:35:03 UTC - 09:35 | Permalink

          “Well, this is a very superficial and extremely slanted reading of the situation,”

          It is an accurate description of the situation before 1948.

          “This is 2012, not 1896 or 1948.”

          But the injustice of 1948, and the overall nastiness of Zionism, still have to be dealt with. Otherwise there can be no peace.

          “Israel exists. Many believe it has a right to.”

          States do not have “a right to exist”.

          “Most Arabs haven’t come to that realization yet,”

          They are well aware that Israel exists. They are well aware that Israel denies the humanity of non-Jews. They are well aware that Israel is not really interested in peace, but in taking over the whole of Palestine.

          Palestinian negotiators have put forward proposals for a two-state solution, with just a token, symbolic, return of refugees. Indeed, they came close to agreement at Taba in 2001, but then the Israelis broke off the talks and the whole thing collapsed. The Palestinians have bent over backwards, being prepared to settle for 22% of their land, but the Israelis simply will not budge.

          “It would have destroyed the Jewish state”

          And that is the nub of the matter. The Israelis cling to their idea of an ethnic supremacy. They drove out as many Palestinians as they could, and refused to allow the refugees to return. But they offer citizenship to foreign Jews from anywhere in the world. This is blatant racism. The Zionist attitude is “We matter and you don’t”.

          There is no good reason to maintain a Jewish State. It was evil in conception, it was evil in creation, and it is evil in its conduct.

          The Arab countries did not treat the refugees well, it is true. But that does not make Israel actions any more moral. And the various Arab Jews were not displaced in 1948. The movement of Arab Jews to Israel was a slow process, often instigated by Zionist agents. Naem Giladi gives a version of the events in Iraq.

          http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0964237903/qid=1035411207/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_1/002-3260180-2424812?v=glance&n=507846

          And the Ashkenazi Israelis integrated them as a lower class in the society. But all this is irrelevant to the peace issue. Until the Israelis are prepared to accept equal human rights for everyone, and give up the idea of a society in which Jews are privileged, the IP problem will continue.

          I realise that, as an American, you have been bombarded with the Zionist story, and denied much of a chance to hear anything else, but if you are really interested in the issue, may I suggest you joinj the discussions on Mondoweiss?

          http://mondoweiss.net/

          • 2012-01-11 10:10:23 UTC - 10:10 | Permalink

            The Jews of Iraq by Naeim Giladi — Naeim Giladi is an Iraqi Jew who joined the Zionist underground. He begins that article with:

            I write this article for the same reason I wrote my book: to tell the American people, and especially American Jews, that Jews from Islamic lands did not emigrate willingly to Israel; that, to force them to leave, Jews killed Jews; and that, to buy time to confiscate ever more Arab lands, Jews on numerous occasions rejected genuine peace initiatives from their Arab neighbors. I write about what the first prime minister of Israel called “cruel Zionism.” I write about it because I was part of it.

    • 2012-01-11 10:28:27 UTC - 10:28 | Permalink

      I should have kept my mouth shut . . . All I really ask for is a little fairness and a little more rationality . . . .

      I have little time for people who come here to vent abusive spleen or otherwise troll. You have not seen that here yet and I try not to allow it on a space for which I am responsible. So why should you keep your mouth shut? I think everyone here wants the same — a little fairness and a little more rationality in the discussion. That is why it is important that you continue to speak and clarify your views and that we all listen carefully to what each has to say. You mentioned the cartoon depicting two sides who are not wiling or capable of a rational discussion with each other. I am sure you don’t think of yourself as one of those.

      I was not expecting this exchange but I believe it is potentially very healthy and very good that it has surfaced. It is much more important than any academic debate about Christian origins.

      I will be taking time to respond later. Maybe it needs another post to address fully. Will see.

  • C.J. O'Brien
    2012-01-11 05:16:02 UTC - 05:16 | Permalink

    Earl:
    This is 2012, not 1896 or 1948. Israel exists. Many believe it has a right to. Right or wrong, that is the situation and we have to work with it.

    By the same token, it’s 2012 and those refugee populations being used as a political bargaining chip by the Arab countries in which they reside exist too, and many believe they have a right of return.

    Of course Israel can’t accede to blanket right of return (but I don’t think that’s the aim of Palestinian leadership). But I believe any settlement is going to have to include gestures toward extending that right to families who have substantial claims on land in Israel and the occupied territories, on a 10- or 20-year schedule, like immigration quotas. Complete rigidity on this point scuttles any possibility of a deal being considered by the Palestinian leadership.

    • 2012-01-11 11:25:20 UTC - 11:25 | Permalink

      I know that there are conflicting views about “rights” and some are incompatible. I don’t have easy solutions around them. Nor do I deny that in some ways, Israel’s leadership has become intractable. It’s almost too late. And I don’t have a solution to that either. But it’s also the responsibility of the West Bank Palestinian Authority not to undertake extremely unwise political moves which are only going to make the matter worse. I have in mind their forming some kind of association with Hamas. That will only harden the Israeli position. Netanyahu (I realize he is a hard-line extremist himself) has said that under no circumstances would he allow a terrorist state to form on Israel’s border. Yes, some claim Hamas has softened its stance in the last couple of years, but that has not extended to actually declaring that it will accept Israel’s existence and forego its traditional aim of destroying it. So that has yet to be tested and one could understand Israel’s hesitation to join in, let alone make concessions, on any peace talks which would involve Hamas, explicitly or implicitly.

      And this is to declare that I will make no further response to “RoHa” whose statements are objectionable in the extreme. There is no opportunity for dialogue there. He doesn’t understand the difference between “privileged” and “protected” or anything to do with the modern Jewish psyche or its reason for being. When you don’t properly understand, let alone accept, the reason for a problem, you preclude any possibility of solving it.

      • 2012-01-11 13:02:25 UTC - 13:02 | Permalink

        Speaking of Hamas as if Israel can never be expected to deal with them may not be approaching the matter with rationality. One must always in the end talk with one’s enemies, IRA, Taliban, no matter, to eventually reach peace. Here is the debate on the pages of Israel’s own respected and conservative Ha’aretz newspaper:

        Israel Needs to Listen to Hamas and Take Notice

        Israeli War Drums Ignore Hamas Move for Change

        It looks like in Israel one can find more fairness and rationality — certainly two sides — of a discussion than one usually encounters in the West.

        One regularly hears (“in fairness”) of what is said to be “in many ways” the intransigence on the part of Israeli leaders for which one generally sees no “easy” solution but then one hears the “but” following hard after: but it is the Palestinian leadership’s responsibility for making them even more intractable. It seems to me that this is saying that the Israeli “sins” are “understandable” but the Palestinian sins are “never excusable” and it is their inexcusable sins that are responsible for Israel’s “understandable” reactions. This sounds to me like only one side is getting all the “understanding”. It sounds like it is a perception of one side of the conflict that borders on racism.

        One often hears of the need to understand “the modern Jewish psyche and its reason for being.” What exactly is meant by the nature of this psyche and its reason for being? How do Jews themselves debate and discuss this “psyche”? The discussion is far more complex than we find in the slogans of one side of the debate among westerners. Is it also worth making an effort to understand how the Jews themselves debate it — and even to make an effort to understand “the modern Palestinian psyche and its reason for being”?

        RoHa’s fault was in failing to support his assertions with evidence thus leaving his remarks open to blanket dismissal by those who are familiar with different narratives and unfamiliar with any “facts” he may be thinking of. As you have said, we want fairness and rationality and that means a need to address facts and not mere beliefs or assertions.

  • 2012-01-11 16:24:51 UTC - 16:24 | Permalink

    Earl, I may be misreading you but it seems to me that you are implying that those who make public a small part of the Palestinian narrative are speaking in black and white while your argument is not like that. You drove home to me the importance of examining one’s argument for logical validity but I do not see the same rationality governing the points you are advancing here. You are also very thorough with a knowledge of the details of the evidence for Christian origins but some of your “facts” and “analogies” you have used in this and the earlier thread demonstrate a significant ignorance of the real history — from both sides — substituting emotive rhetoric of a grand narrative that has come to serve all the functions of any other modern national myth. To argue even-handedly surely we need to listen and respond rationally and with evidence to the other side rather than allow ourselves to be enraged that the other side speaks at all. We also need to be open to facts and try to avoid relying on vague perceptions. I addressed two of several significant gaffes in the other thread.

    As you point out historical narratives are never one sided and their complexities really are well worth exploring. Some excellent studies have been done — Understanding the Reasons for Anti-Semitism. The studies addressed here zero on the very point Atman makes about the “tribal” mentality he is addressing. It is germane to any discussion of “the Jewish psyche” — and addresses some “facts” about this that were of major concern to some of the pioneers of Zionism, including Herzl.

    In comment #4 above you said that Henry Beissel “referred to [Israel's] “genocide” of the Palestinians” and that this was a “demonization of Israel”. But here is what Beissel wrote:

    The rumblings are growing out in the streets to the effect that we cannot allow Israel to go on with a policy towards the Palestinians that can, at best, be called ‘ethnic cleansing’ and, at worst, ‘genocide’. The categorical imperative of Humanists does not allow us to sit by idly while Israeli authorities destroy the lives, the homes, the community and its infrastructure, the very country of our Palestinian fellow-humans. And Israel has been doing so for over 60 years.

    Here is the relevant portion of Article II of the Genocide Convention defining the international crime of genocide:

    In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group as such:

    (a) Killing members of the group;

    (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

    (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part

    Reducing an indigenous people to a Bantustan or reservation conditions as our ancestors did to the North American and Australian indigenous peoples is, as Beissel correctly says, “at worst, ‘genocide’”. And the ongoing expansions of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories is steadily doing just that as surely as “we” pushed our indigenous peoples into their reservations.

    In the previous thread you said movements of peoples and ensuing conflicts are beyond “right and wrong” and are facts of history that must be accepted — even if “not pretty”. Slavery was once not pretty, so was ethnic cleansing, and so was a war of aggression. But none of those are any longer simply facts of life to be accepted. Humanity has made some progress in some areas and may it continue.

    As for the interest in maintaining the racial character of Israel, Israelis themselves are aware (many of them, according to their internal debates) that this project is doomed. Excluding a poverty-stricken people from normal civic activities has a habit of leaving them little else to do but have babies and many Israelis know that the demographic time bomb will doom the Zionist project to create a race-based state anyway.

    You said “Most Arabs haven’t come to that realization yet” speaking of acceptance of the fact of Israel’s existence. But why speak of “Arabs” like this? Who, exactly, do you mean by “most Arabs” in this context, and exactly what do you mean by saying they have not yet “realized” something? It would be productive to be clear and specific. Because I can see a long list of Arab (and Palestinian Arab, too) peace proposals (including PLO backed Security Council resolutions, 1976, 1980) that realize and accept Israel’s existence that have all been repudiated one by one, and even repeated offers by the military wing of Hamas to establish truces with Israel. On the other hand I can find instances where prominent Israeli leaders say the Palestinians are not even “a people”.

    So the issue is not so black and white that one can factually say “Most Arabs” don’t “accept the fact of Israel’s existence” and imply this is the root cause of the problems.

    You spoke of Arafat’s failure. Let’s not condemn a people because of the betrayals of their corrupt leaders. But again this is another instance where it is not useful to be vague about the facts. This gives others the impression that one is primarily in tune with belief and advocacy and only secondarily in facts.

    1994 in Paris? We are probably thinking of the first round of the Oslo talks in 1993 that had follow up negotiations in a hotel in Paris. As a result of those talks Arafat was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994.

    Or were you thinking of the 2000 Camp David Talks? There was a lot of media spin about Arafat walking out of those but this was just spin and the facts are documented that Barak called an end to the talks, but that nonetheless Barak and Arafat did stay on a little while afterwards. The media faulted Arafat for not accepting what was reportedly a very magnanimous offer (which was so magnanimous it split the Palestinian land split up into 3 West Bank cantons all separated from their commercial hub in Jerusalem, as well as the Gaza canton, by contiguous Israeli settlements). But that Arafat walked out is a media myth that I don’t believe can be substantiated.

    There are two sides to every historical issue. Unfortunately you appear to be only vaguely aware of one of them in this case.

  • 2012-01-13 08:30:37 UTC - 08:30 | Permalink

    I will make a few comments on various things since I posted last. Neil is right that I do not know intimately all the ins-and-outs of some features of the issue, and that is probably true about most people, including many who pontificate entirely against Israel, as did CHP’s Beissel. He and I had exchanges by e-mail after my complaint about his magazine issue and that was borne out. Everything he said showed he was driven by a very distinct anti-Israeli prejudice and (surprisingly for a humanist) unable to argue on a rational level, and he ended up attacking me personally.

    First, let me say I have never said, if one looks over my postings, that nothing the Palestinians have done is understandable or excusable. I commented only on the basic aspect of their refusal to acquiesce to giving the Jews a homeland as being a root cause of the problem. Atzmon’s video naively tried to make the point that prior to Zionism Arabs and Jews in Palestine lived in peace (both equally non-independent in no political states, given that they were all under the thumb of the Ottoman Turks.) In other words, he is acknowledging that in 1896 the Jews were legitimately present in Palestine as immigrants, just as peoples around the world have immigrated and have been accepted as legitimate residents of their new homes (although the acceptance of Jewish immigration in Palestine was limited, to say the least).

    After the fall of the Ottomans in WW1, the ‘statehood’ situation was fluid and open to many possibilities. If Arabs and Jews were supposedly equally legitimate in Palestine as residents, why did the British grant various statehoods to Arab groups but refuse to do so for the Jewish group? (Any further immigration of Jews would have been to that state, and surely no one honestly believes that if that Jewish state had been accepted it would have launched an expansionary war against peaceful neighbors.) Zionism was an expression of the Jews’ desire to have their own state, especially given an extended history behind them of non-acceptance in many other states where they resided or were driven to for two millennia, states in which they had regularly been systematically persecuted and even slaughtered. What more natural and understandable than a desire to form their own state, especially in an ancestral homeland, to prevent that from happening again? What more natural than that such a desire and ambition was amplified by the Holocaust of WW2, leading to a determination to have that state, which led to some unfortunate extremism on their part? This is the “Jewish psyche” I referred to. Yes, the Arabs have their own “psyche” but I don’t know to what extent it justified having a Jewish desire for a homeland treated as the work of the devil and totally opposed, which it usually has been since its inception. But perhaps I can be enlightened.

    Now, Neil, you said:

    “Reducing an indigenous people to a Bantustan or reservation conditions as our ancestors did to the North American and Australian indigenous peoples is, as Beissel correctly says, “at worst, ‘genocide’”. And the ongoing expansions of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories is steadily doing just that as surely as “we” pushed our indigenous peoples into their reservations.”

    There are important missing nuances in this comparison. Israel, once established, did not put its Arab citizens—citizens!—into reservations. They remained citizens, they took part in society and government, they still vote. This is not genocide by any stretch. (I won’t be naïve enough to deny that there are some de facto unwritten inequalities, of course.) The “reservations” were formed outside of Israel (including pre-1967 in Jordan’s West Bank) in camps whose host countries made little effort to alleviate or integrate the inhabitants. Yes, in the West Bank the post-1967 expansion of settlements is squeezing them in unacceptable ways and needs to be stopped, even reversed. Again, shades of grey rather than black and white.

    You also said:

    “In the previous thread you said movements of peoples and ensuing conflicts are beyond “right and wrong” and are facts of history that must be accepted — even if “not pretty”. Slavery was once not pretty, so was ethnic cleansing, and so was a war of aggression. But none of those are any longer simply facts of life to be accepted. Humanity has made some progress in some areas and may it continue.”

    This is making something far too harsh out of what I said. I said that movement of peoples has always taken place and has a kind of ‘beyond-morality’ inevitability, and I acknowledged that bad things often happen in those processes. (Deir Yassin was as deplorable as anything that happened to Jews in their historical pogroms.) I did not say that such movements should blithely be accepted in all their aspects, and I certainly did not and would not equate “movement of peoples” on the same level with slavery and ethnic cleansing. My point was simply that Zionism was an historical movement of people and ought to be treated as such, not as a thoroughly evil phenomenon engineered by thoroughly evil people, as it so often is in discourse even today. And it should also be recognized, going back to your previous quote above, that the Jews were driven by centuries of persecution and homelessness at their backs. There was no such thing driving the Spanish into the New World, or the British into Australia. More shades of grey.

    I may be lacking some of the nitty-gritty in the overall issue, but I know of no Hamas “offers of truce” to Israel which contained any basis for peace and acceptance. They amounted to no more than temporary cessation of hostilities, usually to regroup. Israel’s withdrawal from their occupation of Gaza (including its Jewish settlements) resulted only in unprovoked rocket attacks by Hamas, which I don’t think signaled a desire for peace on Hamas’ part. I may have been too woolly in saying “most Arabs” don’t accept the existence of Israel, although I wonder what an actual poll would tell us. Egypt as a nation accepted it, and got back its occupied territory as a result, but what about its individual citizens? In any case, I was talking about the “Arabs” directly concerned, namely the ones that want to form a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. Have *they* accepted Israel’s existence? Evidently not the ones who voted Hamas into power in Gaza knowing their stance against Israel. Not the ones I heard interviewed recently on the street in the West Bank who want to see right of return for all displaced Palestinians going back 60 years.

    I may not have had all my ducks in a row, but I do know (recalling interviews with Palestinian spokespersons after those failed peace talks) that a major reason for Arafat’s rejection was the “right of return” issue, and it almost makes little point to argue over specific territorial proposals if an elephant like that is in the room. I don’t know if today the Palestinians would still hold out for a blanket right of return, but if they do, negotiation will be as pointless as it was in the past. (Commenting on O’Brien’s remarks on this, I can’t see a limited or token Right of Return ever being on the table. It would be unworkable. Who would decide on who had the “right”? The litigation would be horrendous, and unending. And the resentment (or worse) among those who didn’t make the cut would fall on both leaderships’ necks.)

    Are the Israelis liable to be as unreasonable in their requirements in negotiation? I don’t doubt it. But if neither walks out or refuses point blank, there’s always a chance that the unreasonableness can be softened to something workable.

    I don’t mind being faulted for not being an expert on the Palestinian-Israeli situation in all its aspects and history, but over the years I have encountered too many on the other side who are far less knowledgeable than I am (I won’t include Neil in that, he has obviously spent a lot of thought—and emotion, nothing wrong with that, I have too—on the issue). But in the past, when confronted with an impasse, I have usually cut to the chase and asked two questions together: Does Israel have a right to exist (meaning as a Jewish state), and should it be accepted? If the answer to both is no, then I realize that nothing further is to be said. If it’s “yes, but—” then there is scope for dialogue, and maybe even a solution.

    Or, maybe Neil’s last comment is right, and it’s all moot and only a matter of time.

  • 2012-01-16 18:29:20 UTC - 18:29 | Permalink

    I reply in the colour indented sections to Earl Doherty’s comment. Earl’s words are in the normal black font.

    Three things:

    1. I have not had the time to compose as complete a reply as I would like and that I think is needed. I have too easily referred to past posts or evidence “elsewhere” for some of my statements. I believe these statements to need and deserve unpacking and I hope to do so in further posts.

    2. I hope my words will not be ear-read in a tone that is hostile. Too easily one can hear shouting behind words that one does not like – yet be shocked to hear a very different tone in real life. Unless I were to take the time to couch so much of what I have written with appeasing preludes I have to run this risk. I ask that anyone interested in reading this to try to hear a voice that is open to discussion and questioning.

    3. I think this needs to be continued as a new post rather than in more lengthy comments here. Maybe when I get the time to reply with citations etc then I should place this as a post for discussion.

    I will make a few comments on various things since I posted last. Neil is right that I do not know intimately all the ins-and-outs of some features of the issue, and that is probably true about most people, including many who pontificate entirely against Israel, as did CHP’s Beissel. He and I had exchanges by e-mail after my complaint about his magazine issue and that was borne out. Everything he said showed he was driven by a very distinct anti-Israeli prejudice and (surprisingly for a humanist) unable to argue on a rational level, and he ended up attacking me personally.

    I cannot comment on any exchanges between you and CHP’s Beissel. Tim asked you what, specifically, you took exception to in his article, and I addressed one central remark that I felt had been misrepresented. Here you are replying with an ad hominem against Beissel. You take exception to his prejudice, yet it is clear you are also writing with a distinct prejudice and not entirely with rational validity.

    First, let me say I have never said, if one looks over my postings, that nothing the Palestinians have done is understandable or excusable.

    Not explicitly, you don’t. But everything you do say is begging us to have understanding for the Israeli motives while blanketing Palestinian unreasonableness or hatred as the ultimate cause of all the problems — that certainly does send this implicit message.

    I commented only on the basic aspect of their refusal to acquiesce to giving the Jews a homeland as being a root cause of the problem.

    This statement expresses ignorance of the basic history and current position of the Palestinians and Arabs generally. It’s not about “intimately knowing all the ins-and-outs of some features” as you put it – it’s about knowing some basic facts that give a clearer view of both sides of the story. That is not entirely your fault since Western mainstream media has by and large presented only one narrative.

    Atzmon’s video naively tried to make the point that prior to Zionism Arabs and Jews in Palestine lived in peace (both equally non-independent in no political states, given that they were all under the thumb of the Ottoman Turks.) In other words, he is acknowledging that in 1896 the Jews were legitimately present in Palestine as immigrants, just as peoples around the world have immigrated and have been accepted as legitimate residents of their new homes (although the acceptance of Jewish immigration in Palestine was limited, to say the least).

    Is it a problem that the video portrays Jews as residents in Palestine in 1896? How many were immigrants and how many had long lived there I don’t know. Jews have always lived among the Muslim territories. I don’t know the immigration policies of the Ottomans but I do know that every state has some restrictions on immigration. What is the problem here?

    What is offensive to some, I suspect, is that the video implicitly yet powerfully demonstrates what has been the root factor underlying the conflict since – stripped of all rationalization — and that given other political and demographic realities Jews and Arabs have lived and can live together. (I’m not suggesting that anyone should return to Ottoman rule or that all rationalizations are by definition unjust.)

    After the fall of the Ottomans in WW1, the ‘statehood’ situation was fluid and open to many possibilities. If Arabs and Jews were supposedly equally legitimate in Palestine as residents, why did the British grant various statehoods to Arab groups but refuse to do so for the Jewish group?

    A rhetorical question that bypasses the facts of what actually happened is not a reasonable argument. We know the total mess that the Versailles meetings made of carving up the world with inconsistent regard to ethnic divisions and all the contradictory promises made to various groups during the war years. But it needs also to be kept in mind that in 1917 the Jews owned 2% of Palestinian land and consisted of 10% of the population.

    (Any further immigration of Jews would have been to that state, and surely no one honestly believes that if that Jewish state had been accepted it would have launched an expansionary war against peaceful neighbors.)

    This is where your lack of awareness of the facts allows you to repeat popular Israeli myths, Earl. Jewish acceptance of the 1948 borders is a myth as is Arab rejection of the presence of a Jewish state. “Intimately knowing all the ins-and-outs of some features” is not necessary but is preferable to hearing and swallowing only one side’s narrative. But it is not hard to find at least enough of the ins-and-outs to know that most Arabs did not want war and that most Israeli leaders were opposed to the UN borders and only accepted them for short-term tactical reasons.

    Ben Gurion’s diary lays it all out — the tactical machinations and propaganda ploys with the UN, his blunt rejection of the UNSCOP’s proposal of a two-year transition period that would facilitate a peaceful transition and allow for a viable Palestinian State to emerge alongside a Jewish one. His diaries and many official meeting minutes tell us that he and his colleagues knew his hard-line would provoke war but that he also knew Israel stood to gain from such a war. The Arab leaders were divided over the prospect of war and the Arab masses exerted no pressure at all for a jihad. Of course many other Arabs did want war and Arab leaders handled the diplomacy up till then very badly, but at the same time Ben Gurion is on record as having only accepted the UN borders as a temporary tactical measure and felt that a war would be a good thing and enable the borders to be expanded anyway. More details to follow. Facts are important.

    Zionism was an expression of the Jews’ desire to have their own state, especially given an extended history behind them of non-acceptance in many other states where they resided or were driven to for two millennia, states in which they had regularly been systematically persecuted and even slaughtered. What more natural and understandable than a desire to form their own state, especially in an ancestral homeland, to prevent that from happening again?

    Again this is a sweeping catch-all myth in place of facts. Many Jews, if not most, were for a long time opposed to the very concept of a Jewish state, especially one in Palestine. It is also worthwhile understanding the emergence of Zionism within the context of jingoistic imperialism and nationalism – along with its racism — of the day. On the other hand many Jews believed that their best world was in assimilating with European culture, and many did. At least one of the most prominent Zionist leaders was motivated by an “anti-semitic” desire to get rid of the “isolationist Jewishness” of many of his less sophisticated fellow Jews and hoped their own secular state would be a means to ridding them of their “Jewishness”. Other Jews argued for a temporary twin Jewish and Arab states that could through an economic union transition period culminate in a single harmonious state for all. History and facts are important.

    What more natural than that such a desire and ambition was amplified by the Holocaust of WW2, leading to a determination to have that state, which led to some unfortunate extremism on their part?

    Why is Jewish violence “unfortunate extremism” while Arab violence is never expressed so sympathetically? I don’t call suicide bombing “unfortunate extremism” any more than I call Israel bombing of a whole apartment building and inevitably killing innocents just to kill one individual suspect “unfortunate extremism”. Can you be as outraged at both?

    But if you want to talk “unfortunate extremism” even-handedly then I suggest some of the studies exploring what has lain behind some of the extremist Palestinian acts, such as Dying to Win by Robert Pape and Against Paranoid Nationalism by Ghassan Hage. Or simply bypass the filters of mainstream media and listen to ordinary Palestinians tell their own stories and wonder why you don’t hear of a lot more hatred, violence and suicides.

    This is the “Jewish psyche” I referred to. Yes, the Arabs have their own “psyche” but I don’t know to what extent it justified having a Jewish desire for a homeland treated as the work of the devil and totally opposed, which it usually has been since its inception. But perhaps I can be enlightened.

    You seem to have a very simplistic black and white view of both Jews and Arabs. Who has fed you these myths? Such a simplistic view really does sound like justification of that observation that since WW2 anti-semitism has bifurcated: Jews are fundamentally good (mistakes are “unfortunate” exceptions); Arabs are fundamentally bad. Are you really interested in being enlightened or is your mind made up to never read anything by anyone whom you consider to be a hater of Israel without a jaundiced eye? I have begun and intend to continue posting a side of the story that few in the West have ever known, http://vridar.wordpress.com/category/book-reviews/masalha-expulsion-of-palestinians/. Meanwhile you might like to have a look at the Birth of Israel: Myths and Realities by Jewish historian Simha Flapan. Read Ha’aretz [reputed to be Israel's "most influential newspaper" among the higher educated and influential] online for the current debates within Israel.

    You might also be enlightened by understanding the nature of anti-semitism in its broader context of racism generally. Overseas Chinese and Indians and other races have filled the “marginal” needs of mainstream societies and often suffered the same sorts of political and social discrimination and sometimes (sometimes quite frequently) deadly race riots. Jews are not a unique race any more than are the Romani. They are part of us all and need to be understood as part of our common humanity – not as if their experiences are unique: The Jewish Century by Yuri Slezkine, The Pity Of It All by Amos Elon. And much of Israel’s enterprise really is racist and needs to be recognized as such by a bit more attention to the documented and ongoing facts: Jewish History, Jewish Religion by Israel Shahak.

    Now, Neil, you said:

    “Reducing an indigenous people to a Bantustan or reservation conditions as our ancestors did to the North American and Australian indigenous peoples is, as Beissel correctly says, “at worst, ‘genocide’”. And the ongoing expansions of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories is steadily doing just that as surely as “we” pushed our indigenous peoples into their reservations.”

    There are important missing nuances in this comparison. Israel, once established, did not put its Arab citizens—citizens!—into reservations. They remained citizens, they took part in society and government, they still vote. This is not genocide by any stretch. (I won’t be naïve enough to deny that there are some de facto unwritten inequalities, of course.)

    No, enlightenment is needed here. I will attempt to supply it in coming posts.

    Firstly, I was referring to the reason for the failure of the peace talks that you mistakenly attributed to Paris 1994. The “state” being offfered was just that — pockets of bantustans. You have missed the context of my statement so your reply is misdirected.

    But back to your new point here, once Israel was established the first action was expulsion en masse of large swaths of civilian Arabs in war. The facts – to be detailed – are “not pretty”. Of those that remained within the extended borders have had to live with de jure inequalities and denial of free speech and cultural expression that have been imposed simply to preserve the racial purity of the state of Israel — in addition to the de facto (really quasi de jure) ones.

    My remarks referencing the “genocide” word need to be read in the same context in which I made them.

    The “reservations” were formed outside of Israel (including pre-1967 in Jordan’s West Bank) in camps whose host countries made little effort to alleviate or integrate the inhabitants. Yes, in the West Bank the post-1967 expansion of settlements is squeezing them in unacceptable ways and needs to be stopped, even reversed. Again, shades of grey rather than black and white.

    The illegal settlements in the West Bank are not motivated by fears of another Holocaust. They are undertaken by mostly fanatically (religious) Israelis who hate Arabs and believe they need to be treated according to the Bible – expulsion or death. I don’t call this a shade of grey or a nuance. (Surely you have seen a few of the many documentaries interviewing West Bank settlers and have seen the reactions of any settlers, in Sinai, Gaza and some of the minor West Bank ones, when forced to leave, and are aware of their primitive religious/biblical zeal and attitude towards the Arabs they are steadily forcing off their lands. There is no question that a good many of these settlers believe the land is theirs by God-given right and they fully intend to continue pushing the Arabs out.)

    You also said:

    “In the previous thread you said movements of peoples and ensuing conflicts are beyond “right and wrong” and are facts of history that must be accepted — even if “not pretty”. Slavery was once not pretty, so was ethnic cleansing, and so was a war of aggression. But none of those are any longer simply facts of life to be accepted. Humanity has made some progress in some areas and may it continue.”

    This is making something far too harsh out of what I said. I said that movement of peoples has always taken place and has a kind of ‘beyond-morality’ inevitability, and I acknowledged that bad things often happen in those processes. (Deir Yassin was as deplorable as anything that happened to Jews in their historical pogroms.) I did not say that such movements should blithely be accepted in all their aspects, and I certainly did not and would not equate “movement of peoples” on the same level with slavery and ethnic cleansing. My point was simply that Zionism was an historical movement of people and ought to be treated as such, not as a thoroughly evil phenomenon engineered by thoroughly evil people, as it so often is in discourse even today. And it should also be recognized, going back to your previous quote above, that the Jews were driven by centuries of persecution and homelessness at their backs. There was no such thing driving the Spanish into the New World, or the British into Australia. More shades of grey.

    On the one hand you describe Zionism as simply a movement of people but on the other come close to acknowledging that it is not quite like any other movements of peoples in history.

    In the process you are imputing the language of extremists into one entire side of the issue.

    Jews themselves – certainly some of them — acknowledge that what we have is historically unique: http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/features/why-the-israeli-palestinian-conflict-refuses-to-be-resolved-1.358095

    Again, it is problematic to assume that the Zionism was driven by centuries of persecution and “homelessness” and I won’t repeat what I have already said. But the facts of the Zionist movement need to be known. Jewish leaders of the Zionist movement for most part from the beginning intended the displacement of the Arab population. That is the documented record that should not be replaced by myth.

    I may be lacking some of the nitty-gritty in the overall issue, but I know of no Hamas “offers of truce” to Israel which contained any basis for peace and acceptance. They amounted to no more than temporary cessation of hostilities, usually to regroup.

    This is the Israeli propaganda line but not that of many independent observers, including Jews expressing their views in the newspaper I linked to earlier. There are two sides to every story as you pointed out at the beginning, but only one is generally ever heard in the mainstream Western media.

    I find the rejection of “temporary” cessation of hostilities curious. There have in fact been quite a number of temporary cessations of hostilities – truces. I know of not one that Hamas has unilaterally broken. Do you? Besides, what is wrong with any cessation to killing — even only a temporary one?

    Israel’s withdrawal from their occupation of Gaza (including its Jewish settlements) resulted only in unprovoked rocket attacks by Hamas, which I don’t think signalled a desire for peace on Hamas’ part.

    Again this is Israeli propaganda and not the documented facts.

    I may have been too woolly in saying “most Arabs” don’t accept the existence of Israel, although I wonder what an actual poll would tell us.

    Why the hint of scepticism? Why such a jaundiced view of an entire race?

    Egypt as a nation accepted it, and got back its occupied territory as a result, but what about its individual citizens?

    The Sinai was not wanted by Israel and was returned after Egypt regained what in their eyes was their self-respect in their war against Israel in 1973. Why the presumption that Egyptians would be opposed to the peace? Again, your remarks appear to be tied together with an anti-Arab sentiment that is not informed by knowledge of the facts on the ground, but by Israeli propaganda. There were in fact mixed reactions and evidence points to many if not most Egyptians supporting this development at the time. But the remainder of the Arabs were outraged at what they saw as a betrayal of the Palestinians and the allowing of Israel to focus its efforts on the West Bank.

    In any case, I was talking about the “Arabs” directly concerned, namely the ones that want to form a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. Have *they* accepted Israel’s existence?

    Yes, they have. I have even pointed to some specific declarations in earlier posts.

    Evidently not the ones who voted Hamas into power in Gaza knowing their stance against Israel. Not the ones I heard interviewed recently on the street in the West Bank who want to see right of return for all displaced Palestinians going back 60 years.

    Wrong. Hamas has emerged to replace Israel’s ongoing destruction of the secular Palestinian opposition. Hamas won the elections because of the corruption of Fatah and the PLO. It’s political wing won the support of many Palestinians because it is often the only agency that has met their basic civic and health needs and has a less corrupt reputation. I have reasons to understand from all my own communications (including what I read in independent news reports) that most Palestinians despise the military wing of Hamas – especially at the time they were exploiting the despair of the young to recruit them as suicide bombers.

    Right of return is an interesting concept. Those who claim their ancestors lived in the land 3000 years ago are encouraged to return even though many don’t want to and even if from lands where they are already welcome, but those who were driven out 40 years ago, taking their keys with them expecting to return within days, are not.

    I may not have had all my ducks in a row, but I do know (recalling interviews with Palestinian spokespersons after those failed peace talks) that a major reason for Arafat’s rejection was the “right of return” issue, and it almost makes little point to argue over specific territorial proposals if an elephant like that is in the room. I don’t know if today the Palestinians would still hold out for a blanket right of return, but if they do, negotiation will be as pointless as it was in the past.

    You seem unaware of what the Palestinians have been offering. I will need to put some facts together with verifiable online citations.

    I have in fact come to shudder every time I hear of a new Palestinian peace initiative. It is not an exaggeration to say that in the last few years since I began taking notice every one has been followed up by another Israeli attack somewhere — as if on cue it is Israel’s intention to provoke violence and discredit any such effort coming from the Palestinians.

    (Commenting on O’Brien’s remarks on this, I can’t see a limited or token Right of Return ever being on the table. It would be unworkable. Who would decide on who had the “right”? The litigation would be horrendous, and unending. And the resentment (or worse) among those who didn’t make the cut would fall on both leaderships’ necks.)

    Serious people — including trained negotiators — directly involved with the Palestinians do discuss this.

    Are the Israelis liable to be as unreasonable in their requirements in negotiation? I don’t doubt it. But if neither walks out or refuses point blank, there’s always a chance that the unreasonableness can be softened to something workable.

    True. It is a pity that the Israeli walkouts are not well known in the West. Also the number of times peace initiatives have been vetoed by the U.S.

    I don’t mind being faulted for not being an expert on the Palestinian-Israeli situation in all its aspects and history, but over the years I have encountered too many on the other side who are far less knowledgeable than I am (I won’t include Neil in that, he has obviously spent a lot of thought—and emotion, nothing wrong with that, I have too—on the issue). But in the past, when confronted with an impasse, I have usually cut to the chase and asked two questions together: Does Israel have a right to exist (meaning as a Jewish state), and should it be accepted? If the answer to both is no, then I realize that nothing further is to be said. If it’s “yes, but—” then there is scope for dialogue, and maybe even a solution.

    Why should Israel be granted a right that the world would not allow South Africa, or even that the United States would not for a moment permit for itself – a racially pure state? A significant number of Jews in Palestine in the 30′s and 40′s did believe a peaceful state or existence with the Palestinians was possible and something to be worked towards. They were eventually outvoted by those who argued for outright expulsion – ethnic cleansing.

    Israel’s racial project is doomed. The demographic future is against it. The two state solution is dead so a future one-state is inevitable. Eventually Israel will have to become a genuine non-race-based democracy. The only things that seems to be standing in the way of this is (a) Israel’s Zionist intentions to displace the Arabs and (b) fear generated by anti-Arab racism and ignorance.

    Arabs, Palestinian Arabs, have been holding out recognition or simple acceptance of Israel’s reality for many years now. But Israel will not accept the 1967 borders any more than they were prepared to accept the 1948 borders. Their policies have been self-destructive.

    The best way to support Israel is to demand that Israel accept the Arab peace offers and UN resolutions and return to the 1967 borders. Compromises have indeed been tabled on the right of return. The best way to support a just peace is to get to know both sides of the story.


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