For the background to what is happening now in Gaza, see the series of posts on Nur Masalha’s book, Expulsion of the Palestinians: The Concept of “Transfer” in Zionist Political Thought, 1882-1948. I see that I never did complete that series. I stopped at the beginning of 1948. I shall have to rectify that — but for a serious understanding of today one does need to look at the roots — before 1948 — to understand what Zionism is really all about, and to understand how we could be witnessing the beginning of the final chapter of that movement.
For those interested in the “longue durée” picture, here is my overview of Keith Whitelam discussion of the “rhythms” of Palestinian History —
March 1, 1899, Yusuf Diya, scholar, mayor and diplomat, wrote a letter to Theodor Herzl, leader of the Zionist movement.
Background to that letter:
As a result of his wide reading, as well as his time in Vienna and other European countries, and from his encounters with Christian missionaries, Yusuf Diya was fully conscious of the pervasiveness of Western anti-Semitism. He had also gained impressive knowledge of the intellectual origins of Zionism, specifically its nature as a response to Christian Europe’s virulent anti-Semitism. He was undoubtedly familiar with Der Judenstaatby the Viennese journalist Theodor Herzl, published in 1896, and was aware of the first two Zionist congresses in Basel, Switzerland, in 1897 and 1898. (Indeed, it seems clear that Yusuf Diya knew of Herzl from his own time in Vienna.) He knew of the debates and the views of the different Zionist leaders and tendencies, including Herzl’s explicit call for a state for the Jews, with the “sovereign right” to control immigration. Moreover, as mayor of Jerusalem he had witnessed the friction with the local population prompted by the first years of proto-Zionist activity, starting with the arrival of the earliest European Jewish settlers in the late 1870s and early 1880s.
Herzl, the acknowledged leader of the growing movement he had founded, had paid his sole visit to Palestine in 1898, timing it to coincide with that of the German kaiser Wilhelm II. He had already begun to give thought to some of the issues involved in the colonization of Palestine, writing in his diary in 1895:
We must expropriate gently the private property on the estates assigned to us. We shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it employment in our own country. The property owners will come over to our side. Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly.
Yusuf Diya would have been more aware than most of his compatriots in Palestine of the ambition of the nascent Zionist movement, as well as its strength, resources, and appeal. He knew perfectly well that there was no way to reconcile Zionism’s claims on Palestine and its explicit aim of Jewish statehood and sovereignty there with the rights and well-being of the country’s indigenous inhabitants. It is for these reasons, presumably, that on March 1, 1899, Yusuf Diya sent a prescient seven-page letter to the French chief rabbi, Zadoc Kahn, with the intention that it be passed on to the founder of modern Zionism.
The letter began with an expression of Yusuf Diya’s admiration for Herzl, whom he esteemed “as a man, as a writer of talent, and as a true Jewish patriot,” and of his respect for Judaism and for Jews, who he said were “our cousins,” referring to the Patriarch Abraham, revered as their common forefather by both Jews and Muslims. He understood the motivations for Zionism, just as he deplored the persecution to which Jews were subject in Europe. In light of this, he wrote, Zionism in principle was “natural, beautiful and just,” and, “who could contest the rights of the Jews in Palestine? My God, historically it is your country!”
This sentence is sometimes cited, in isolation from the rest of the letter, to represent Yusuf Diya’s enthusiastic acceptance of the entire Zionist program in Palestine. However, the former mayor and deputy of Jerusalem went on to warn of the dangers he foresaw as a consequence of the implementation of the Zionist project for a sovereign Jewish state in Palestine. The Zionist idea would sow dissension among Christians, Muslims, and Jews there. It would imperil the status and security that Jews had always enjoyed throughout the Ottoman domains. Coming to his main purpose, Yusuf Diya said soberly that whatever the merits of Zionism, the “brutal force of circumstances had to be taken into account.” The most important of them were that “Palestine is an integral part of the Ottoman Empire, and more gravely, it is inhabited by others.” Palestine already had an indigenous population that would never accept being superseded. Yusuf Diya spoke “with full knowledge of the facts,” asserting that it was “pure folly” for Zionism to plan to take over Palestine. “Nothing could be more just and equitable,” than for “the unhappy Jewish nation” to find a refuge elsewhere. But, he concluded with a heartfelt plea, “in the name of God, let Palestine be left alone.”
I wonder if the best that can be said about such news is that the great grandchildren of today’s Palestinians will have equal rights alongside Jewish Israelis in a single state with one law for all. …. given no hiccups from unforeseen consequences related to climate change.
However, CNN’s swift termination of Hill and continued employment of former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum sparked wide backlash on Twitter. (Santorum once said that “all the people that live in the West Bank are Israelis. They are not Palestinians. There is no Palestinian. This is Israeli land.”) Many users questioned how any discussion could take place on the question of Palestine if every critique of Israel or any advocacy on behalf of Palestinians is instantly labeled as anti-Semitic.
“There’s another story going on here . . . a punishment of black radical thinkers in the United States”
“But there’s another story going on here,” she added, “There is, more broadly, a punishment of black radical thinkers in the United States who define themselves as internationalists. Here, this is not just limited to the question of Palestine, but this is the case of what happened to Muhammad Ali in his opposition to the Vietnam War. It’s what happened in the sidelining of Martin Luther King Jr. in his opposition to the Vietnam War. It’s what happened to Paul Robeson in his declaration that the U.S. practiced a treatment of black people that is tantamount to genocide.”
Thus, CNN’s termination of Hill makes him part of a larger legacy, Erakat continued, of silencing and repudiating black activists in the U.S. for asserting that “they are part of a global struggle against racism and colonialism.” “When it comes to Palestine, that punishment becomes more cruel,” she added.
From the river to the sea . . . . a vision for all people, all races
“All that Marc was saying was that we need to be committed in the space of the United Nations to full justice for Palestinians, whether they’re in exile, whether they’re under occupation or whether they live in the state of Israel itself,” Kelley said. He added that the specific “from the river to the sea” phrase, which refers to the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, that drew so much ire has been a standard slogan used in demonstrations for Palestinian rights and self-determination “for a century.”
“Nothing in that slogan indicates a calling for the destruction of Israel. It’s certainly calling for an end to occupation,” Kelley said, noting that such a belief is shared by people all over the world, including by some living in Israel.
“What [Hill] said was a vision of inclusion for everybody,” Erakat said, “and all of all things. He’s at the U.N., and when he said it, he gets thunderous applause. So the other thing to consider is that the majority of the world is in agreement with him.”
Hello Vridar, my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you again. I’ve been far afield exploring new ideas and old. Time to leave self-indulgence aside for a moment and return to share a few of them. (Though my hiatus was not all self-indulgent insofar as some of my time was also taken up exploring new ways to be actively involved in various causes that I care about.)
Marcus Ranum describes himself as “a computer security specialist, consultant, gamer, crafty artist, photographer, soap and cosmetic experimenter, and all-around surrealist” but whatever one makes of that we all owe him a huge thank you for the enormous effort he made to take on point by point Sam Harris’s justification of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, most recently on display on the Gaza border while leaders congratulated themselves on the opening of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. I have attempted to take on Sam Harris’s arguments in small bite-sized morsels, addressing just one or two salient details at a time. But Marcus Ranum has had the tenacity, the patience, the stamina, to take up each one of Sam Harris’s points that he made in another one of his rambling, contradictory, mealy-mouthed justifications for any bloody action taken against Muslims on Israel’s border. (“Mealy-mouthed” because he will drop in contradictory phrases in hopes you won’t notice the barbarism implicit in his words and that will enable him to protest that you were “taking him out of context”. Marcus R dissects it all leaving Sam H stark naked in the end.) See
Bookmark the page now but be sure to return to it when you have a good hour to digest it slowly as it deserves. Needless to say, my complaint is not personal. Sam Harris is a nobody who is given way too much publicity for no clear reason as far as I am concerned. My concern is that Sam Harris is articulating the arguments that are all too common everywhere else and whose assumptions and inhumane values, along with outright ignorance, bigotry, not to mention simple logical deceit, need to be addressed and smacked down.
The Prime Minister of Israel used the World Zionist Conference to break the news to the world, unknown or suppressed by all historians till now, that it was a Palestinian Arab leader who gave Hitler the idea of exterminating all the Jews.
I have highlighted sections for easier quick skimming of the main points.
German Chancellor Adolf Hitler and Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini: Zionism and the Arab Cause
(November 28, 1941)
Haj Amin al-Husseini, the most influential leader of Palestinian Arabs, lived in Germany during the Second World War. He met Hitler, Ribbentrop and other Nazi leaders on various occasions and attempted to coordinate Nazi and Arab policies in the Middle East.
Record of the Conversation Between the Führer and the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem on November 28, 1941, in the Presence of Reich Foreign Minister and Minister Grobba in Berlin
The Grand Mufti began by thanking the Führer for the great honor he had bestowed by receiving him. He wished to seize the opportunity to convey to the Führer of the Greater German Reich, admired by the entire Arab world, his thanks for the sympathy which he had always shown for the Arab and especially the Palestinian cause, and to which he had given clear expression in his public speeches. The Arab countries were firmly convinced that Germany would win the war and that the Arab cause would then prosper. The Arabs were Germany’s natural friends because they had the same enemies as had Germany, namely the English, the Jews, and the Communists. They were therefore prepared to cooperate with Germany with all their hearts and stood ready to participate in the war, not only negatively by the commission of acts of sabotage and the instigation of revolutions, but also positively by the formation of an Arab Legion. The Arabs could be more useful to Germany as allies than might be apparent at first glance, both for geographical reasons and because of the suffering inflicted upon them by the English and the Jews. Furthermore, they had had close relations with all Moslem nations, of which they could make use in behalf of the common cause. The Arab Legion would be quite easy to raise. An appeal by the Mufti to the Arab countries and the prisoners of Arab, Algerian, Tunisian, and Moroccan nationality in Germany would produce a great number of volunteers eager to fight. Of Germany’s victory the Arab world was firmly convinced, not only because the Reich possessed a large army, brave soldiers, and military leaders of genius, but also because the Almighty could never award the victory to an unjust cause.
In this struggle, the Arabs were striving for the independence and unity of Palestine, Syria, and Iraq. They had the fullest confidence in the Führer and looked to his hand for the balm on their wounds which had been inflicted upon them by the enemies of Germany.
The ancient Greek world appears to have been ignorant of the Jews (or even Israel) in Palestine until around the end of the fourth century. I still recall my high school disappointment when I read the famous work of the Greek “father of history”, Herodotus, only to find not a single mention of biblical Judea even though surrounding peoples were colourfully portrayed in detail. If Herodotus had truly traveled through these regions as we believed at the time (a view that has been questioned in more recent scholarship) what could possibly account for such a total omission of a people whose customs surely differed so starkly from those of their neighbours. Didn’t Herodotus love to seek out and dwell upon the unusual?
A History of Israel from the Ground Up (i.e. from archaeology)
Perhaps that nagging question prepared me to be more open to the arguments of scholars sometimes labeled as the “Copenhagen School” — Thompson, Lemche, Davies in particular at first — than I might otherwise have been. Their thesis is that biblical Israel, the Israel of the Patriarchs, the Exodus, the united kingdom of Saul, David and Solomon, the rival sibling kingdoms of Israel in the north and Judah in the south up to the time of the captivities, first of Assyria and then of Babylon, and finally the story of Jews undergoing a literary and religious revival by the waters of Babylon, all this was a literary fable as much as the stories of Camelot and King Arthur were. That’s oversimplifying it a little, since the stories functioned quite a bit more seriously than as mere entertainment; and there was indeed a historical kingdom of Israel based around Samaria, although the southern kingdom of Judah led from Jerusalem did not really emerge as a significant power until after Israel was deported by the Assyrians. Leading figures from the Judea really were deported to Babylon but the purpose of this deportation, as with all such deportations, was to destroy the old identities of the captives and reestablish them with new ones. So there was no opportunity for a literary or religious revival. There was no Bible as we know it during any of this time.
The Biblical books were the product of the peoples subsequently deported by the Persians to settle the region of Palestine in order to establish it as an economic and strategic piece of real estate for the Persian empire. This was the colony of Yehud. (If I recall correctly it was for a time part of the Persian satrapy extending across the biblical land of promise from the Nile to the Euphrates.) Fictionalized narratives of this settlement have come down to us in the books of Nehemiah and Ezra. Scribal schools competed to establish a new narrative and cultural identity for this settlement. The native inhabitants (or “people of the land”) became the godless Canaanites from whom the settlers needed to withdraw in every way. Myths of returning to the land of their fathers to restore the true worship of the god of this land emerged just as they did with other deported populations of which we have some record.
In the previous post we saw the initial reaction of the Zionist movement’s leadership to the Peel Commission’s 1937 recommendation that:
Palestine be partitioned into two states, and
that there be a transfer of 225,000 Arabs and 1250 Jews.
So far we have been looking at the words of Zionist leaders that were for most part hidden from the public arena. With the Peel Commission recommendations the question had to become public. Conventions had to be held. The rank and file needed to be consulted and won over. Fellow Jews who had more respect for the rights of the Palestinian Arabs also needed to be persuaded and won over.
The Peel report was debated by two of the highest organizations of Zionism. The final outcome was an emerging consensus that the two state proposal be rejected (the whole of Palestine should be given to the Jews) while the proposal for mass transfer of the Arab population was agreed upon by large majorities.
Wherever possible I have linked names to their Wikipedia pages so readers can assess the level of influence and standing each person had within the wider community at the time. It is important to know who many of these voices are but to provide details in the post itself would have risked losing the theme in a mass of web-page words.
The World Convention of Ihud of Po’alei Tzion
29 July – 3 August, 1937
Better known as Poalei Zion, this was the highest forum for the dominant Zionist world labor movement. It was closely linked with the Mapai political party that dominated Israeli politics until 1968. David Ben-Gurion was a prominent leader in both organizations.
The proceedings of this convention were edited and subsequently published by Ben-Gurion in 1938. All quotations are from these proceedings.
Ben-Gurion and others in their respective presentations to the convention went to lengths to distinguish between the concepts of “transfer”, “dispossession” and “expulsion” and to stress the morality of such a transfer. “Transfer” was not the same as expulsion. The Commission’s report, Ben-Gurion made clear, did not speak of “dispossession” of the Arabs but only of “transfer”.
On 29th July he further pointed out that the Jews in Palestine had already been peacefully transferring Arabs through agreements with the tenant farmers and
only in a few places was there a need for forced transfer. . . . The basic difference with the Commission proposal is that the transfer will be on a much larger scale, from the Jewish to the Arab territory. . . . It is difficult to find any political or moral argument against the transfer of these Arabs from the proposed Jewish-ruled area. . . . And is there any need to explain the value in a continuous Jewish Yishuv in the coastal valleys, the Yizrael [Esdraelon Valley], the Jordan [Valley] and the Hula? (From the full report of the Convention, 1938, as are all quotations)
Eliezer Kaplan portrayed the transfer of Arabs as a something of a humanitarian act to make them at home among their own people:
It is not fair to compare this proposal to the expulsion of Jews from Germany or any other country. The question is not one of expulsion, but of organized transfer of a number of Arabs from a territory which will be in the Hebrew state, to another place in the Arab state, that is, to the environment of their own people.
Other speakers doubted the feasibility of transfer. Yosef Bankover, a founder of the Kibbutz Hameuhad movement and member of the Haganah regional command said:
As for the compulsory transfer . . . I would be very pleased if it would be possible to be rid of the pleasant neighbourliness of the people of Miski, Tirah and Qaiqilyah.
Bankover stressed to delegates that the Commission’s report implied that any transfer was to be undertaken voluntarily. Compulsion was against the intent of the report. Given that Bankover did not believe the British would risk further riots and bloodshed by enforcing Arab transfers. He rejected the report’s appeal to the Turkish-Greek transfers as a relevant case-study: these transfers were in effect by force and certainly under threat of being killed if they did not move, he said.
So the issues being debated and discussed were:
the moral justification of transfer — (this was generally accepted)
would forced transfers be practical?
would forced mass Arab transfers be adequate compensation for the Jews giving up their aspirations to have the one and only state over all of Palestine?
did the Peel Commission recommend transfer far enough afield? If the Arabs were only moved next door into Transjordan then the expansionist hopes of the Jewish state would be limited. Should not the Arabs be transferred to Syria and Iraq instead?
My intention is to make a little more widely known a scholarly Palestinian perspective of the history of Israel’s efforts to transfer Palestinians from their lands. A good many myths have long circulated in Western countries about the Palestinian situation, such as the supposed “emptiness” of the land at the time the first Jewish immigrants began to arrive, and about the supposed lack of cultural, religious or ethnic ties Palestinian Arabs had for Palestine, or even the assumption that the Palestinians had no distinctive sophisticated cultural, intellectual and settled urban identities at all. Palestinian historian Nur Masalha has researched the personal, diaries, the letters, the meeting minutes, government archives, of the Jewish leaders and organizations responsible for bringing about the Jewish state of Israel and published one facet of his findings in Expulsion of the Palestinians: The Concept of “Transfer” in Zionist Political Thought, 1882-1948, published in 1992 by the Institute for Palestinian Studies.
I am well aware that some regular readers deplore posts like this thinking they are antisemitic propaganda and some may even loathe this blog and stop reading. Yet this is a far more important question than biblical studies. I can only ask that we pause and check whether we might possibly have not yet truly heard the real story but have relied predominantly upon emotive declamations as filtered through one side of the conflict. If these posts go beyond what the primary evidence of the documented record allows then they can rightly be dismissed. I hope to present the documented evidence for the real plans and hopes of prominent figures that resulted in the Palestine we see today. I see no point in having a blog that only repeats what many others are saying far better than I can. The posts I compose are for most part, I hope, invitations to re-evaluate (on the basis of authoritative sources, clear evidence and valid argument) what many of us (myself included) have long taken for granted.
Rather than add many explanatory footnotes I link directly to (mostly) Wikipedia articles that explain certain names and terms that I bring in to the discussion. I spell names the way they are printed in Masalha’s book.
The Royal (Peel) Commission
The Peel Commission was set up in May 1936 to investigate the causes of the often violent conflict between Arabs and Jews in Palestine throughout the six month period of a strike by Arabs that year. The following year the Commission published the report that initiated efforts to divide Palestine into Jewish and Arab entities. It also recommended the eventual “transfers” of 225,000 Arabs and 1,250 Jews. This post makes clear the thinking of Jewish leaders in the lead up to this Commission’s enquiry and recommendation for population transfers.
I conclude with my own thoughts on what all of this means for the first of our Gospels.
The biblical tradition informs us of the meaning and understanding that the biblical authors’ contemporaries attributed to the past. Archaeological evidence points to a different reality of the past.
The religious understanding of Israel’s origin myth
The primary biblical referent for Israel’s ethnic and family identification is found in the stories and metaphors of “exodus”, “wilderness”, “exile” and “return”. Even in the Books of Kings the narrative is couched in the suspense of threats and promises of exile from the land. These themes centre on the motif of the children of Israel as the “people of God”, as Jahweh’s “first-born” and God’s “inheritance”.
These stories all are solidly rooted in the self-defining, grand epochal line of a God without a home or a people [and who was] searching for a people without a home or a God. It is in this metaphor that we find the foundation and matrix for the ethnographic metaphor of all Israel. This metaphor gives voice to the ‘new Israel’ with its centre in Yahweh’s temple of the ‘new Jerusalem’. This is an identity that is formed from the perspective of the sectarian theology of the way. (pp. 255-56, The Mythic Past by Thomas L. Thompson)
I received the below invitation from the Palestinian General Delegation in Ottawa announcing a “Briefing Session by Dr. Hanan Ashrawi” who is visiting Canada as special envoy of President Mahmoud Abbas. I believe you all know Dr. Ashrawi; a world-renowned spokesperson for the Palestinian cause. If there is one person you would want to hear articulating the case for the Palestinian people in a highly sophisticated and civilized manner, it would be Hanan Ashrawi. Her briefing is not an event you would not want to miss. Continue reading “For Ottawa readers with an interest in Palestine”
“Now it’s all gone”: Women cope with siege in Jordan Valley
The Electronic Intifada
24 June 2011
Israeli military forces have demolished 27 houses in the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank over the last two weeks. More than 140 Palestinians have been rendered homeless by the demolitions, while Israeli settlement expansion continues to threaten more land and restrict water access — affecting the vitality of dozens of Palestinian villages in the area. Continue reading “Turning Blooms to Desert”