All Thanks to America
Never Again OR Over Again?
Fifty years ago the State of Mississippi was burning …. burning with the same hatred that we see in the State of Israel today. Three young men went missing the summer of 1964. Two of them were Jewish, the third was African American.
Fifty years ago today Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney were murdered in cold blood by active members of the KKK.
But 50 years after Freedom Summer, we once again need to cause some trouble. The tragedy of the “Mississippi Burning” murders became a travesty of justice when only a handful of the perpetrators were convicted on federal charges, none spending more than a half-dozen years in prison because the state wouldn’t pursue a murder prosecution.
Time for a FREEDOM SUMMER THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE WORLD!
Below is a report from the younger brother of Andrew Goodman …. let us never forget the bravery of these young men and the many others that gave their lives for the Freedom of others. Let us never forgive those that snuffed out those lives.
Fifty years ago, on June 21, 1964, my older brother, Andrew Goodman, was murdered near Philadelphia, Miss. He and his colleagues Michael Schwerner and James Chaney were ambushed by more than a dozen members of the Ku Klux Klan, including the county’s deputy sheriff. They were taken to an unmarked dirt road and shot, one by one. Their bodies weren’t discovered for 44 days, a mystery and a tragedy that continues to elicit raw emotions even a half-century later.
It happened on the first day of Freedom Summer, an effort by the black leadership to flood Mississippi with northern college students who would help register African-American voters.
At the time, barely 7% of Mississippi’s black residents were registered to vote. In eight of the 13 mostly black counties in the state, not a single African American had ever voted. A century after the Civil War, they remained disenfranchised — citizens without a voice. It was more than segregation; it was subjugation. Something had to be done.
A daring initiative
The 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer Project was a bold initiative. Given the widespread hatred of “outside agitators,” it was an act of remarkable bravery by all who participated.
As the late Maya Angelou wrote in the foreword to My Mantelpiece, the recently published posthumous memoir of my mother, Carolyn Goodman, “Those three young men represent 300,000 young men and women who dared, who had the courage to go to the lion’s den and try to scrub the lion’s teeth.”
When 20-year-old Andy asked my parents for permission to volunteer in Mississippi, their urge to protect their son was trumped by the understanding that he was a spiritual reflection of themselves and their willingness to take action. His death devastated my family, but the brazenness of the act also shocked the nation. Sadly, it was largely because two of the three victims were white.
In fact, as officials searched through the forests and swamps of Mississippi, they discovered many black lynching victims who simply had been ignored because their tragic fate had become commonplace. So the case, which inspired the movie Mississippi Burning, lit a fire for the cause. It is no coincidence that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed the following year.
Yet here we go again. Last year, the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of that landmark piece of legislation, and immediately a number of states moved to implement laws that would essentially reduce voter turnout among minority groups. Dubious claims ofvoter fraud are being used to once again disenfranchise a portion of the population.
In 1964, black would-be voters were turned away by intimidation and poll tests. Now, voter ID requirements and limited voting hourswill disproportionately turn away, or inconvenience, low-income and minority voters. It is a more sophisticated and insidious form of voter suppression.
Not letting go
Something has to be done. After Andy’s death, my mother devoted the rest of her life to ensuring that he did not die in vain. She formed The Andrew Goodman Foundation, celebrated youth activists, and worked tirelessly for voting rights and human rights (she was even arrested during a protest at age 83).
As the estimable Rep. John Lewis put it, “She got in trouble. … It was necessary trouble. And she inspired many of us to continue to get in trouble.”
But 50 years after Freedom Summer, we once again need to cause some trouble. The tragedy of the “Mississippi Burning” murders became a travesty of justice when only a handful of the perpetrators were convicted on federal charges, none spending more than a half-dozen years in prison because the state wouldn’t pursue a murder prosecution.
It wasn’t until 41 years later that the ringleader of the group wasconvicted of three counts of manslaughter. My 89-year-old mother testified at the trial, a trial that happened because a few determined folks, inside and outside of Mississippi, wouldn’t let it go.
So we cannot let this new movement — these cynical and sinister attempts to disenfranchise Americans — go. If it takes an act of “outside agitation,” so be it. If it requires courage, we can summon it. If it means replacing cynicism with optimism and apathy with action, we can accomplish it. After all, there is a tiny hamlet right next to Philadelphia, Miss. It is a town called Hope.
David Goodman is The Andrew Goodman Foundation president.
Frightening as it may seem, we do not have the free will to think. Our thoughts are controlled by the mass media in ways that are not even realised by us.
This was the case during the Cold War, especially in regard to the Rosenberg Case which I wrote about yesterday.
Today I want us to take a look at how the media controlled our minds then, and how it continues to this very day …
Is the Rosenberg Case closed?
For Michael and Robbie ….
By Michael Kaufman (FROM)
We’re at Aunt Sadye and Uncle Joe’s house in Far Rockaway. A lot of the other uncles and aunts on my father’s side are there. The grownups all have serious looks on their faces. I can’t hear most of what they’re saying because they are talking more quietly than usual… but every once in a while one of them gets angry and the voices get louder. No one notices me in the next room reading the Daily Mirror newspaper.
I am 7 years old and a good reader. But I am disappointed because Aunt Sadye forgot to give me cookies and milk like she always does when we go there. I love the milk at their house because they keep it so much colder in their Frigidaire than we keep it at our house.
“This wouldn’t have happened if they weren’t Jewish,” I hear my father say just as I noticed a picture of the two boys, Michael and Robert. Robert is 7. Like me. He has a crewcut like mine and, hey, he even looks like me. Michael is 9. He has a crewcut too. The words under the picture say the boys are “playing quietly” but their faces look sad.
I look at the picture of the lady. She reminds me a little of my mom. Dark eyes, dark hair, even the look on her face. The man with the mustache doesn’t look like my father… more like my Uncle Joe. I hear a grownup — maybe my father or Uncle Willie — ask, “Did you read the Reuben book?”
“Not yet, but it won’t change my mind… they’re guilty alright.” Was it Uncle Joe who said that? Sidney? But as I read the words on the page, the talking and arguing in the next room becomes an unintelligible buzz.
First they put the man, Julius, in the electric chair… and he was dead. Then they put the lady, Ethel, but she did not die. It says a “wisp of smoke” came out of the top of her head but she was still alive. I look at her picture and try to imagine how she might look with smoke coming out of her head. Then another jolt of electricity and more smoke from her head… and she still didn’t die! It took three more jolts and more than five minutes to kill the lady who reminds me of my mother. The newspaper says they were “red spies.”
I don’t say anything to my parents during the drive home to Oceanside in the 1952 Buick. They don’t say much either. I feel sad for Michael and Robert. I feel bad about what happened to their parents, especially about the way their mother died. I wonder if my parents are red spies and if they will get put in the electric chair someday like the Rosenbergs.
Michael Kaufman of Warwick, NY has been a sportswriter, investigative reporter, and medical writer for more than thirty years. His work has appeared in Sport, Crawdaddy, Black Sorts, Hockey, Woman’s World, Health, and the Daily World (writing as “Michael Jay”), and in several anthologies and textbooks. He is a regular contributor to the blog Zest of Orange.
From Jewish Currents*
Happier Times …
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed by electric chair in Ossining, New York on this date in 1953, despite worldwide appeals for clemency. Their two-year trial for conspiracy to commit atomic espionage on behalf of the USSR was a media sensation that heightened both American anti-communism and the fear and paranoia of American communists — some third of whom were Jewish, like the Rosenbergs — to fever pitch. The deeds for which the Rosenbergs were convicted took place during World War II, when the U.S. and the USSR were military allies in the anti-Nazi struggle — and while independent investigations and Soviet-era secret cables did indicate, decades later, that Julius Rosenberg participated in espionage, his wife Ethel was, at worst, a witness to her husband’s deeds rather than an active participant. Nevertheless, trial judge Irving Kaufman declared them both to be responsible for “putting into the hands of the Russians the A-Bomb years before our best scientists predicted Russia would perfect the bomb” and therefore responsible for “the Communist aggression in Korea, with the resultant casualties exceeding 50,000 and who knows but that millions more of innocent people may pay the price of your treason.” The Rosenbergs’ young sons were orphaned by the execution and were then adopted by songwriter Abel Meeropol and his wife Anne. To read Ethel’s final letter to her sons, as well as her letter about refusing to confess to any crimes, as well as contemporaneous commentary by newspapers, international personages, and writers for Jewish Currents, click here.
“I continue to maintain my innocence for the sole reason that I am not guilty of the charge.” —Ethel Rosenberg, letter to their attorney, June 8, 1953
A song written by Abel Meeropol from another bygone era …
Not in words, but in (non)actions….
Following is a letter from Joe Meadors, Director of Operations, USS Liberty Veterans Association
To: Everyone Who Honors All of Our Battle Dead — This Obviously Does Not Include The National Leaders of The Department of Defense, The Navy Department, The American Legion, The Navy League and Every Member of Congress
Subject: Annual USS Liberty Memorial Service
Suppose you gave a memorial service for Americans killed in action during an attack on a US Navy ship by an enemy of the United States and nobody came.
Suppose you gave a memorial service for Americans killed in action during an attack on a US Navy ship in which that ship was ordered to be abandoned while it was still under attack and calling for help and nobody came.
Suppose you gave a memorial service for Americans killed in action during an attack on a US Navy ship in which among the awards won by the officers and crew of that ship are the Medal of Honor, two Navy Crosses, eleven Silver Stars, twenty Bronze Stars, nine Navy Commendations, 208 Purple Hearts, 294 Combat Action Ribbons and the Presidential Unit Citation which makes it among the most decorated ships for a single action in US Navy history and nobody came.
Impossible you say? Not so. In fact it happens every year. On June 8th of every year — the anniversary of the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty — USS Liberty survivors and our families gather to hold a memorial service in Washington DC. This year it was held in the Navy Memorial.
Members of Congress were invited to send an official representative to honor our fallen shipmates as were the Department of Defense and Navy Department, The American Legion, the Navy League and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
These are all organizations who never miss an opportunity to honor the American military especially those who have been Killed in Action during an attack by an enemy of the United States.
Well, almost never.
The Department of Defense was a no-show.
The Navy Department was a no-show.
The American Legion was a no-show.
The Navy League was a no-show.
Congress was a no-show.
This is nothing new. We’ve been holding an annual memorial service in Washington, DC for decades. They’re always invited but they NEVER attend a memorial service for USS Liberty KIA. At most a ten minute drive from their offices to honor American fallen sailors and none of those organizations could be bothered to send a single official representative.
Being selected for special treatment is nothing new to USS Liberty survivors. You’d think that by now we’d be used to it.
We are the first ship to be attacked by forces declared to be hostile to the United States then ordered to be abandoned by US Navy forces in the Mediterranean while we were still under attack and calling for help.
We are the first ship in US naval history since World War II to be torpedoed during an attack that has never been investigated by the US government.
This is special treatment we can do without and with your help can ensure comes to a halt.
Please help us by making a contribution to the USS Liberty Veterans Association by clicking here. Please forward this to anyone you feel may be interested — especially to those in The American Legion, the Navy League, DoD, Navy Department and Congress who may take issue with their organizations’ treatment of the USS Liberty KIA. If they are interested in being put onto this email list, ask them to visit here.
Director of Operations
USS Liberty Veterans Association
By Tom Karlson
The now official legalisation of racism in Israel has a history …. it didn’t start with Netanyahu and surely won’t end with him …
Some attitudes and policies … Prepared by Michael Rivero
1. “There is a huge gap between us (Jews) and our enemies, not just in ability but in morality, culture, sanctity of life, and conscience. They are our neighbors here, but it seems as if at a distance of a few hundred meters away, there are people who do not belong to our continent, to our world, but actually belong to a different galaxy.” Israeli president Moshe Katsav. The Jerusalem Post, May 10, 2001
2. “The Palestinians are like crocodiles, the more you give them meat, they want more”…. Ehud Barak, Prime Minister of Israel at the time – August 28, 2000. Reported in the Jerusalem Post August 30, 2000
3. ” [The Palestinians are] beasts walking on two legs.” Menahim Begin, speech to the Knesset, quoted in Amnon Kapeliouk, “Begin and the Beasts”. New Statesman, 25 June 1982.
4. “The Palestinians” would be crushed like grasshoppers … heads smashed against the boulders and walls.” ” Isreali Prime Minister (at the time) in a speech to Jewish settlers New York Times April 1, 1988
5. “When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do about it will be to scurry around like drugged cockroaches in a bottle.” Raphael Eitan, Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defence Forces, New York Times, 14 April 1983.
6. “How can we return the occupied territories? There is nobody to return them to.” Golda Maier, March 8, 1969.
7. “There was no such thing as Palestinians, they never existed.” Golda Maier Israeli Prime Minister June 15, 1969
And now, the defense of same ….
“They want a Palestinian national homeland to be established here next to us, and that Israel be gradually turned into a bi-national Jewish-Arab state within our reduced borders,” he told ministers in a reference to Israel’s Arab minority who number just over 20 percent of the population.
Netanyahu and others in the rightwing camp have long expressed fears that following the establishment of a Palestinian state, Israel’s Arab citizens would seek to press their own claims for territory in the northern Galilee and southern Negev regions.
“You cannot say we want to break away from the Palestinians to prevent a bi-national state — something which has a certain logic — and at the same time give your blessing to a bi-national, Jewish-Arab state within Israel’s permanent borders,” he said.
“Israel gives full equal rights to all of its citizens but it is the national homeland of just one people – the Jewish people.”
Throughout the most recent round of peace talks, which ended in crisis on Tuesday with the sides bitterly at odds, Netanyahu demanded such recognition from the Palestinians, insisting it was a core issue of the conflict.
The Palestinians have refused.
For them, accepting Israel as a Jewish state would mean accepting the Nakba, or “catastrophe”, that befell them when 760,000 of their people fled or were forced out of their homes in the war that accompanied Israel’s establishment in 1948.
Israel’s Arab minority are the descendants of the 160,000 Palestinians who remained on their land after 1948.
According to figures published ahead of independence day, which is marked from sundown Monday, Israel’s population stands at 8.2 million, the Central Bureau of Statistics said.
Of that figure, 75 percent, or 6,135,000 people, are Jewish, while Arab Israelis account for 20.7 percent, or 1,694,000 people.
On this day in 1976, thousands of Palestinians marched in towns and villages across theGalilee region, in the north of present-day Israel, to protest Israel’s expropriation of vast tracts of land as part of its openly declared policy to “Judaize” the area at the expense of the indigenous population.
“Following the Zionist tenets, Israel has systematically and callously followed an intricate and continuous process of Arab land expropriation through the promulgation of new laws, the circumvention of existing laws, harassment and duplicity. Recognizing the naked truth, Y. Ben-Porat, a known ‘hawk’ wrote ‘One truth is that there is no Zionism, no settlement, no Jewish state without evacuation of the Arabs and confiscation and enclosure of their land,’” anthropologist Khalil Nakhleh wrote in The Journal of Palestine Studies in 1976.
Frustration and anger at Israel’s land theft from, and discrmination against, Palestinian citizens of Israel had been mounting for years.
Nakhleh adds: “To protest against the essence of this process and orders for new expropriations, the Arab population declared a general strike for 30 March 1976. In an effort to preempt the strike, army and border police, including armored units, were dispatched to the most affected Arab villages. Violent confrontations ensued, and left behind six Arabs killed, tens wounded and hundreds arrested. March 30 was commemorated as Yawm al-Ard or the Day of the Land.”
“On that day, quiet demonstrations in the villages of Sakhnin, Arabeh and Dir Hanna were confronted by an aggressive police and army presence which later turned on them in violent confrontations,” historian Ilan Pappe writes in his book The Forgotten Palestinians.
Already, on 28 March, “the Minister of Police declared that his forces were ‘ready to break into the Arab villages’ – he used the Hebrew word ‘lifroz,’ which is usually employed to describe assaults on enemy lines and bases,” Pappe explains.
Pappe gives the names of those killed as Khayr Muhammad Yasin from Arabeh, Raja Hussein Abu Riya, Khader Abd Khalil and Khadija Juhayna from Sakhnin, Muhammad Yusuf Taha from Kafr Kana and Rafat Zuhairi from Nur Shams refugee camp, who was shot in Taybeh.
The Day of the Land – or Land Day – marked a turning point as the first mass mobilization by Palestinians within Israel against internal colonialism and land theft.
Its commemoration is a reaffirmation that the Palestinians who remained in the areas on which Israel was declared in 1948 are an inseparable part of the Palestinian people and their struggle.
Land Day continues to resonate with Palestinians everywhere because it does not just mark a past historical event, but draws attention to Israel’s ongoing violent, settler-colonial process of “Judaization.”
To mark Land Day, The Journal of Palestine Studies has made available several articles from past issues, including Khalil Nakhleh’s, quoted above.
These articles recall the history of Land Day, how it was seen in the context of the Palestinian reality in its time and in the decades since.
A Jew to Zionist Fighters, 1988By Erich Fried
What do you actually want?
Do you really want to outdo
those who trod you down
a generation ago
into your own blood
and into your own excrement
Do you want to pass on the old torture
to others now
in all its bloody and dirty detail
with all the brutal delight of torturers
as suffered by your fathers?
Do you really want to be the new Gestapo
the new Wehrmacht
the new SA and SS
and turn the Palestinians
into the new Jews?
Well then I too want,
having fifty years ago
myself been tormented for being a Jewboy
by your tormentors,
to be a new Jew with these new Jews
you are making of the Palestinians
And I want to help lead them as a free people
into their own land of Palestine
from whence you have driven them or in which you plague them
you apprentices of the Swastika
you fools and changelings of history
whose Star of David on your flags
turns ever quicker
into that damned symbol with its four feet
that you just do not want to see
but whose path you are following today
From 1952 to 1968 he worked as a political commentator for the BBC German Service. He translated works by Shakespeare, T. S. Eliot and Dylan Thomas. In 1962 he returned to Vienna for the first time.
Born to Jewish parents Nelly and Hugo Fried in Vienna in 1920, he was a child actor and from an early age wrote strongly political essays and poetry. He fled to London after his father was murdered by the Gestapo after the Anschluss with Nazi Germany… He arranged for his mother to leave Nazi occupied Austria, as well as helping many other Jews to come to the UK. He joined Young Austria, a left-wing emigrant youth movement, but left in 1943 in protest at its growing Stalinist tendencies.
He published several volumes of poetry as well as radio plays and a novel. His work was sometimes controversial, including attacks on the Zionist movement and support for left-wing causes. ..The composer Hans Werner Henze set two of Fried’s poems for his song-cycle Voices (1973).
In 1982 Fried regained his Austrian nationality, retaining the British nationality he had adopted in 1949. He died of intestinal cancer in Baden-Baden, West Germany, in 1988 and is buried in Kensal Green Cemetery, London.
An Austrian literary prize is named after him the Erich Fried Prize.
He married three times and had six children
Today, with no resolution in sight to the historic injustices inflicted upon them, Palestinians in Israel and elsewhere use this day to remember and redouble their efforts for emancipation.
By Sam Bahour and Fida Jiryis
Every year since 1976, on March 30, Palestinians around the world have commemorated Land Day. Though it may sound like an environmental celebration, Land Day marks a bloody day in Israel when security forces gunned down six Palestinians as they protested Israeli expropriation of Arab-owned land in the country’s north to build Jewish-only settlements.
The Land Day victims were not Palestinians from the occupied territory but citizens of the state, a group that now numbers over 1.6 million people, or more than 20.5 percent of the population. They are inferior citizens in a state that defines itself as Jewish and democratic, but in reality is neither.
On that dreadful day 38 years ago, in response to Israel’s announcement of a plan to expropriate thousands of acres of Palestinian land for “security and settlement purposes,” a general strike and marches were organized in Palestinian towns within Israel, from the Galilee to the Negev. The night before, in a last-ditch attempt to block the planned protests, the government imposed a curfew on the Palestinian villages of Sakhnin, Arraba, Deir Hanna, Tur’an, Tamra and Kabul, in the Western Galilee. The curfew failed; citizens took to the streets. Palestinian communities in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as those in the refugee communities across the Middle East, joined in solidarity demonstrations.
In the ensuing confrontations with the Israeli army and police, six Palestinian citizens of Israel were killed, about 100 wounded and hundreds arrested. The day lives on, fresh in the Palestinian memory, since today, as in 1976, the conflict is not limited to Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip but is ever-present in the country’s treatment of its own Palestinian Arab citizens.
The month following the killings, an internal government paper, written by senior Interior Ministry official Yisrael Koenig, was leaked to the press. The document, which became known as the Koenig Memorandum, offered recommendations intended to “ensure the [country’s] long-term Jewish national interests.” These included, “the possibility of diluting existing Arab population concentrations.”
Israel has been attempting to “dilute” its Palestinian population − both Muslims and Christians − ever since.
Thirty-eight years later, the situation is as dire as ever. Racism and discrimination, in their rawest forms, are rampant in Israel, and are often more insidious than physical violence. Legislation aimed at ethnically cleansing Palestinians from Israel is part of public discourse. Israeli ministers do not shy away from promoting “population transfers” of Palestinian citizens − code for forced displacement.
Israel’s adamant demand that the Palestinians recognize it as a “Jewish state” leaves them in a situation of having to inherently negate their own existence and accept the situation of inferiority in their own land. Recent efforts in the Knesset to link loyalty to citizenship threaten to target organizations and individuals who express dissent and even the revocation of citizenship, a practice unheard of in other countries.
Budgets for health and education allocated by the Israeli government to the Arab sector are, per capita, a fraction of those allocated to Jewish locales. Although hundreds of new Jewish towns and settlements have been approved and built since Israel’s creation, the state continues to prevent Arab towns and villages from expanding, suffocating their inhabitants and forcing new generations to leave in search of homes. Palestinians living in Israel are heavily discriminated against in employment and wages.
The message is clear: Israel has failed, abysmally, in realizing its oft-cried role as “the only democracy in the Middle East” with such discriminatory policies and a culture of antagonism and neglect vis-a-vis a fifth of its citizens. The original Land Day marked a pivotal point in terms of how Palestinians in Israel − living victims of Israel’s violent establishment − viewed their relations with the state. Today, with no resolution in sight to the historic injustices inflicted upon them, Palestinians in Israel and elsewhere use this day to remember and redouble their efforts for emancipation.
The names of the six victims of Land Day are written on the front of a monument in the cemetery of Sakhnin, accompanied by the words: “They sacrificed themselves for us to live … thus, they are alive − The martyrs of the day of defending the land, 30 March 1976.” On the back of the monument are the names of the two sculptors who created it: one Arab, one Jewish. Maybe it is this joint recognition of the tragedy of Palestinians that is required in Israel to get us beyond the chasm of denial.
For our part, as second-generation Palestinians born and raised outside Palestine who have decided to return to live in this troubled land, we view Land Day as an ongoing wake-up call to Israeli Jews and Jewry worldwide to understand that land, freedom and equality are an inseparable package − the only one that can deliver a lasting peace to all involved.
Sam Bahour is a Palestinian business consultant from the Palestinian city of El Bireh. He blogs at www.epalestine.com. Fida Jiryis is a Palestinian writer from the Arab village of Fassuta in the Galilee. Her website is www.fidajiryis.net. Sam and Fida were both born in the Diaspora and relocated to their family’s hometowns in Palestine and Israel, respectively.
The Triangle Shirtwaist fire
March 23, 1911
By Tom Karlson
infernoed smoke and heat everywhere
elevator pulleys buckle,
sculpted by fire and crash
charred pick-up sticks
to be counted and named
by shattered lovers and family
148 sweatshop workers
148 Italian and Jewish women
148 from 14 to 48
on that sidewalk morgue
a flat temporary mausoleum
tears and blood
Or …. how this glorious Holiday almost wasn’t …..
Clara Zetkin (left) with Jewish Marxist Rosa Luxemberg in 1910 // Wikimedia Commons
Today is International Women’s Day. Two German women, Clara Zetkin and Luise Zietz, first proposed the holiday in 1910 at the International Women’s Conference in Copenhagen. A year later, the holiday was celebrated for the first time. Neither woman was Jewish, but Zetkin, a member of the German parliament, was called a Jew by members of the Nazi press who wanted to prevent her from speaking at a government event.
According to a 1932 article in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency:
Ignoring the fact that Clara Zetkin, veteran Communist, is of Aryan stock, the Nazi press here calls her a Jewess and seeks to make stock from this fact for its propaganda, in connection with the possibility that, as the oldest member of Parliament, she may open the new Reichstag sessions in accordance with tradition. While the “Vossische Zeitung” insists that Clara Zetkin is of Aryan descent, and while it is known that her husband was a Jew, and not she, the “Angriff” writes: “Zetkin was never attached to Germany which is small wonder considering that she is not German, but a Jewess. We therefore ask whether it is to be tolerated that such shame be imposed upon the German nation as permitting a Jewess residing in Moscow and obeying orders from Moscow to open our Reichstag?” The “Voelkische Beobachter” also endeavors to establish that Clara Zetkin is a Jewess and uses the title “Jewish Woman wants to preside over Reichstag.” It is not only the irony of fate but symbolic that a Jewess from Moscow should open the Reichstag, the “Beobachter” asserts, expressing the hope that this Reichstag will be the last.
Read more about Zetkin here.
20 Years of Lessons after Al-Ibrahimi Mosque Massacre – A Memorial History for the 30 Palestinian Martyrs
The dawn of Friday 15 Ramadan 1414 a.h. / 25 February 1994 marked the first of three massacres perpetrated by Israeli settlers accompanied by the Israeli Army. There were more than 30 martyrs and 270 injured. The main massacre took place while the victims were performing al- Fajr (Dawn) Prayer at Al Ibrahimi mosque.
At 05:00 on February 25, around eight hundred Palestinian Muslims passed through the east gate of Al-Ibrahimi mosque to participate in al-Fajr prayer, the first of the five daily Islamic prayers. At that time of the holy month of Ramadan, there were many people who flocked the Ibrahimi Mosque to perform their prayers. The mosque was under Israeli Army guard.
That same day, a Jewish American Zionist physician decided to materialize the dream of the typical Zionist movement of annihilating the Arab existence in Palestine. Dr. Baruch Goldstein prepared for the move. It was during Ramadan when Dr. Goldstein decided to execute his old plan of vengeance.
Goldstein passed two army checkpoints at the dawn of February 25, 1994 from the northeastern gate of the mosque near privy. That privy could be the reason why Goldstein decided on that gate because he, probably, received his contemplation about Arabs from the Rabbis of Kach in Kiryat Arab where the Arabs were described as the demons of the privy. The privy of the mosque is important not only because it has two Israeli army checkpoints on its nearby mosque’s gate, but also because it is surrounded by Israeli army posts from the east and army patrols in the west. So Goldstein was acting from the deepest parts of the Zionistic ideology in liquidating the demons.
Goldstein walked at least 100 yards in the mosque before he decided to choose the exact location to liquidate his demons. He positioned himself at the last row of the main hall, just opposite to the Imam’s place (Manbar.) In this case and as a typical Zionist, shooting from the back was the style. The position was not arbitrary not only because it enabled him to shoot directly at the largest number of the backs of the worshipers but also because it was supposed to have enabled him to get a fast escape or protection from the Israeli soldiers who were scattered right behind him in the northern hall -the plate- of the mosque.
Goldstein was carrying his IMI Galil assault rifle, four magazines of ammunition, which held 35 bullets each and hand grenades. He thought about the best moment to execute the plan, maximize the number of casualties and secure the escape or rescue. The best moment, of course, was when the Muslim worshipers knelt on the floor with their backs towards Goldstein.
It was first a hand grenade that he threw among the worshipers causing casualties, confusion, and possibly an invitation to the Israeli soldiers in the halls and outside of the mosque to intervene for rescue. And in no time, the automatic massacre took place with the same kind of mercy that other Zionists like Goldstein shows all the time toward Arabs.
Standing in front of the only exit from the mosque and positioned to the rear of the Muslim worshipers, he opened fire with the weapon, killing 29 people and injuring more than 125. He was eventually overwhelmed by survivors, who beat him to death.
An eyewitness said that when Goldstein was executing the massacre and people attacked him, there was a soldier who attempted to come closer to the scene. But instead of “rescuing” Dr. Goldstein, the Israeli soldier shot his bullets in the air and then escaped from the inside eastern door of the northern hall to the previously known “women praying area.” In the opinion of the eyewitness, the soldier could have rescued Goldstein by killing 5 or 10 more Palestinians, but it appeared that his personal safety was above any blood value.
Al Ibrahimi massacre (a.k.a Hebron massacre) is not the last one. Muslims and Jews are and will remain candidates for victimization. But the cause will always be the same: “The Nazi style laws of the Zionists occupation in Palestine.”
Reports after the massacre were inevitably highly confused. In particular, there was uncertainty about whether Goldstein had acted alone; it was reported that eyewitnesses had seen “another man, dressed as a soldier, handing him ammunition.” The Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat said that the attack was the work of up to 12 men, including Israeli troops. However, Israeli Army denied that and confirmed that Goldstein had acted alone without the assistance or connivance of the Israeli guards posted at the mosque.
News of the massacre immediately led to riots in Hebron (Al-Khalil in Arabic) and the rest of the occupied territories. Additional Palestinian Muslims were crushed to death in the panic to flee the mosque and in rioting that followed.
Now that was history, a bloody history that marked Feb 25 of every year with memorials of the Palestinian Martyrs massacred that day for nothing but being Palestinians. So, what are the lessons learned from this?
First we will look at the ideology behind this massacre (and all the Zionist massacres), then how it is treated among Zionists. And last but not least, how does the media look at Zionist (terrorists) and how do they handle such massacres compared to other terrorist acts and massacres.
The sympathy which Baruch Goldstein enjoys among the Gush Emunim, whose influence is more pervasive than that of the Kahanists, can only be explained by a shared ideology. However, Gush Emunim leaders enjoy Rabin’s friendship and strong influence in wide circles of the Israeli and diaspora Jewish communities. Therefore it is their version of this ideology which is more important. Gush Emunim’s thinking assumes the imminence of the coming of the Messiah, when the Jews, aided by God, will triumph over the Gentiles. Consequently, all current political developments call be interpreted by those in the know as destined either to bring this end nearer or postpone it. Jewish sins, the worst of them being lack of faith in Gush Emunim ideology, can postpone but not alter the predestined course of Redemption. The two world wars, the Holocaust and other calamitous events of modern history serve as stock examples of such a curative punishment for Jewish sins. Such explanations can go into a lot of specific detail. The rabbi of Kiryat Arba, Dov Lior (who attended Goldstein’s funeral and praised him), blamed Israel’s relative failure in its 1982 invasion of Lebanon on the lack of faith manifested through signing a peace treaty with Egypt and “returning the inheritance of our ancestors [i.e Sinai] to strangers”.[...]
The fundamental tenet of Gush Emunim’s thinking is the assumption that the Jewish people are “peculiar”. Lustick discusses this tenet in terms of their denial of the classical Zionist claim that only by undergoing “a process of normalisation”, by emigrating to Palestine and forming a Jewish state there, can the Jews become like any other nation. But for them this “is the original delusion of the secular Zionists”, because they measured that “normality” by applying non-Jewish standards. According to Gush Emunim, “Jews are not and cannot be a normal people”, because “their eternal uniqueness” is “the result of the covenant God made with them at Mount Sinai”. Therefore, according to Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, one of their leaders, “while God requires other normal nations to abide by abstract codes of â€˜justice and righteousness’, such laws do not apply to Jews”.
Harkabi quotes Rabbi Israel Ariel, who says that “a Jew who kills a non-Jew is exempt from human judgement, and has not violated the prohibition of murder”. The Gush Emunim rabbis have indeed reiterated that Jews who kill Arabs should be free from all punishment. Harkabi also quotes Rabbi Aviner, Rabbi Zvi Yehudah Kook and Rabbi Ariel, all three of whom say Arabs living in Palestine are thieves because since the land was once Jewish, all property to be found on that land “really” belongs to the Jews. In the original Hebrew version of his book Harkabi expresses his shock at finding this out. “I never imagined that Israelis would so interpret the concept of the historical right.”
Gush Emunim’s plans for governing non-Jews in Israel are also based on “theological” principles. According to Rabbi Aviner; “Is there a difference between punishing an Arab child and an Arab adult for disturbance of our peace? Punishments can be inflicted on Jewish boys below the age of 13 and Jewish girls below the age of 12…But this rule applies to Jews alone, not to Gentiles. Thus any Gentile, no matter how little, should be punished for any crime he commits.” From this dictum, it is only a short step to slaughtering Arab children.
Even Israel’s Supreme Court compared Kahane to the German Nazis. The prominent Orthodox dissident, Professor Yeshayahu Leibovitz, said that the mass murder in Hebron was a consequence of “Judeo-Nazism”. But Gush Emunim’s ideology is no less like that of the Nazis than Kahane’s.
Celebrating the Hebron massacre:
Why do we hate them?
When you see the Israelis and Zionists from different parties and sections of the Israeli society, including their army, as well from around the world, gathering annually at the grave of Baruch Goldstein to celebrate the anniversary of his massacre of Muslim worshipers in Al-Khalil (Hebron), how can you but “LOVE” them?
Here is a sample of the news stories from BBC –Graveside party celebrates Hebron massacre (21 March, 2000):
Militant Jews have gathered at the grave of Baruch Goldstein to celebrate the sixth anniversary of his massacre of Muslim worshippers in Hebron.
The celebrants dressed up as the gunman, wearing army uniforms, doctor’s coats and fake beards.
Goldstein, an immigrant from New York City, had been a physician in the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba.
Waving semi-automatic weapons in the air, the celebrants danced, sang and read prayers around his grave.
“We decided to make a big party on the day he was murdered by Arabs,” said Baruch Marzel, one of about 40 celebrants.
The tribute was a macabre twist on the Jewish festival of Purim, when it is a custom to dress in costume and celebrate.
Massacre in mosque
In 1994 on Purim, Goldstein stormed a mosque and fired on praying Muslims in the West Bank city’s Tomb of the Patriarchs – a shrine sacred to both Muslims and Jews.
Twenty-nine people died in the attack, and the angry crowd lynched Goldstein in retaliation.
Israeli extremists continue to pay homage at his grave in the nearby Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba, where a marble plaque reads: “To the holy Baruch Goldstein, who gave his life for the Jewish people, the Torah and the nation of Israel.”
About 10,000 people had visited the grave since the massacre, Mr Marzel said.
Note: the above news story is ten years old.
Not only that. The Israeli government allocated a special site for the grave, in the Tourist Park in Kiryat Arba settlement. Over the years, the grave has become a site of pilgrimage. Tens of thousand people from all over the world go to pray and honor this terrorist memory. The local religious council of Kiryat Arba settlement declared the grave site a cemetery. During the Feast of Purim, Goldstein friends celebrate the feast near his grave to honor him, in appreciation of what he did!
Last but not least, on the biased media side, Leon T. Hadar wrote:
Following the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York and the arrest of several Muslims who were charged with the crime, the American media were flooded with news stories, analyses and commentaries that warned of the coming “Islamic threat.” “Investigative reporters” and “terrorism experts” alleged on television talk shows and op-ed pages that the accused perpetrators of the bombing were part of an “Islamic terrorism network” coordinated by Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, or other Middle Eastern bogeymen.
Contrast those reactions with the media’s response to the massacre in Hebron. No analyst suggested that the event reflected the emergence of a global “Jewish threat. ” No terrorism expert was invited to discuss on “Nightline” or the “MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour” the rise of a “global Zionist terrorism” organization manipulated, say, by the Israeli Mossad. No scholar alleged that the massacre by a Jewish settler suggested that Western and Jewish values were somehow incompatible.
If one really had wanted to apply the journalistic methods that were used in the case of the World Trade Center bombing, it would not have been so difficult, after reviewing the biography of Rabbi Meir Kahane by Robert I. Friedman, to point to the strong ties between Baruch Goldstein and the other “fanatics” in the Jewish settlements and members of the Israeli political establishment, especially in the Likud party. One could even have reminded American readers that Kiryat Arba, where Goldstein resided, was actually the brainchild of a pre-1977 Labor government.
Any analysis of public statements and writings by some of the major political and spiritual leaders of the Jewish settlers, including the rabbis who head the movement, would reveal a fanatical hatred and racist attitudes toward non-Jews in general, and Arabs and Palestinians in particular.
Instead, most journalists and analysts adopted the official Israeli line and described the massacre as an “isolated” case of Jewish “extremism,” an act of a “lone gunman,” a “lunatic,” a “madman” who does not represent Israeli society or, for that matter, Jewish settlers in the occupied territories. Journalists, like the Israeli government, stressed that killing of innocent civilians violates the moral tenets of Judaism.
The above was originally posted by Haitam Sabbah six years ago.
By Tom Karlson
She is supported yes
Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Mother Jones, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Lucy Parsons,
and la rage des oublies
She stands, then sits and fifty thousand walk
(three hundred and eighty days)
CNN wants us to believe
this small framed seamstress…chosen by god…mother of the civil rights movement… humble… meek…tired
YES TIRED of Jim Crow, racism, lynching
but this is no stripped down fox-murdock retelling
her’s is no spur of the moment
forty-two years of forged steel
and three hundred years of chained ghosts
this is the time
joe mccarthy-j edgar hoover
and the Highlander Center
where Marx and Gandhi sing songs of struggle
and students, auto workers, and coal miners
are schooled on integration, sit-ins, boycotts and strikes
as the NAACP and A Phillip Randolph fight for freedom
half a century later
Rosa lies in state
and brings honor to the Rotunda
a smile to the great liberator
(where twenty three years before j edgar was deposited briefly before burial)
BUDAPEST — Hungary’s far-right Jobbik party unveiled a statue of wartime leader Miklos Horthy, who presided over the country’s alliance with Nazi Germany, in Budapest on Sunday, sparking protests and highlighting concerns about anti-Semitism in the country.
About a thousand Hungarians took to the streets of the capital to denounce the statue while the mayor of central Budapest and parliamentary leader of the ruling Fidesz party, Antal Rogan, warned the bust would provide an excuse to paint an unfair picture of extremism in Hungary.
Jobbik has stoked anti-semitism in the country, vilifying Jews and Israel in speeches in parliament, where it is the third-biggest party.
One of the organizers of Sunday’s ceremony was Jobbik’s deputy parliament group leader Marton Gyongyosi, who sparked outrage last year when he called for lists of people in Hungary with Jewish ancestry to be drawn up. He later apologised and said he had been misunderstood.
“As downtown mayor I consider the statue unveiling ceremony of Marton Gyongyosi a political provocation and I condemn it,” Rogan said in a statement. “This provocative action will obviously give the western European left-wing press an excuse to cry anti-Semitism and paint a malicious picture of Hungary.”
Protesters gathered in a light drizzle near a church in central Budapest where the large bronze bust of Horthy was put on display at the gates, a stone’s throw from the country’s neo-gothic Parliament building.
“It is outrageous that the new fascists erect a statue to Horthy, who is responsible for the Nazi rule and the Holocaust in Hungary,” said Bence Kovacs, a 22-year-old student who pinned a yellow Star of David to his chest in protest.
Hungary, which is struggling to return to growth after two bouts of deep recession in the wake of the global economic crisis, will hold parliamentary elections next April or May with Jobbik set to win 8-9 percent of the vote, according to latest opinion polls.
The far-right has held Horthy in high regard. He ruled Hungary for 24 years in an increasingly radical political era and, as head of state in the early years of World War II, entered an uneasy alliance with Nazi Germany.
In 1944 the Nazis occupied Hungary and with Horthy still in office about 437,000 Jews were deported over a period of 56 days, most to their deaths, according to Budapest’s Holocaust Memorial Centre. The total number of the Hungarian Jewish victims during the Holocaust exceeded half a million.
Horthy’s role in that process has been debated but no compromise has been reached yet about his place in history. The far-right credits him with saving Hungary after the disaster of World War I, while leftists consider him a Nazi collaborator.
“To call Horthy a war criminal is unjust and historically wrong,” Jobbik representative Lorant Hegedus told Reuters after the unveiling ceremony. “He was not treated as a war criminal in Nuremberg, so why treat him like one now?”
Horthy testified as a witness at the Nuremberg trials after World War II but avoided prosecution and eventually died in exile in Portugal in 1957.
Gyongyosi told the unveiling ceremony that Horthy was the greatest Hungarian statesman of the 20th century.
FACING THE PAST
The government has said that Hungarians had a role in the Holocaust and that the country would pursue a policy of zero tolerance against racial hatred and anti-Semitism.
Hungary still has one of the largest and oldest Jewish communities in Europe, mostly in the capital.
While there is a revival of Jewish culture, the far-right has remained strong and anti-Semitism, as well as hatred toward other minorities like homosexuals or the Roma, is still a serious problem.
“We have tried and failed so many times to face our past,” said former liberal lawmaker Imre Mecs, who protested against the statue. “This must happen for us to make any progress lest we will fall further behind the rest of Europe.”
“An economy can only be built atop a sound democratic foundation,” said Mecs, 80, who said the way Germany dealt with its own past after World War II was exemplary.
On the opposite side of the square near the church, pro-Horthy supporters shouted racial and anti-Semitic slurs at the opposition protesters. Lajos Molnar, 93, waved a photograph that he claimed showed that he served in Horthy’s police during the war.
“Horthy never hurt the Jews,” Molnar said. “It was Hitler not him who deported the Jews … Without Horthy Hungary would not exist today because the great powers of the world would have destroyed it like they planned to.”
Yesterday was 50th anniversary of the bombing of the church in Birmingham that killed the 4 little girls. Angela Davis made a good speech on the occasion saying that , in part, we are still using bombs so resolve situations that we don’t like and that racists, homophobics, zenophobics, etc are as violent today as 50 years ago.
Davey D speaks with activist, scholar and freedom fighter Angela Davis about the 50th anniversary of the 16th street Birmingham bombings of 1963.
Angela grew up in Birmingham when it was called Bombingham. This was due to the fact the Ku Klux Klan conducted a campaign of terror on Black people and frequently firebombed people’s homes. The gravity of that of that terrorism has not been fully appreciated or understood. Leading up to the 16th street church bombings, there are estimates that close to 80 bombs were set off in Birmingham.
Davis said Black people were under seige but were determined to fight back. The 16th Street Baptist Church had become a symbol of Black Resistance and was a key organizing center for the Civil Rights Movement. After the huge and very successful March on Washington a few weeks earlier, the historic church became even more of thorn in the side for white supremacists and was eventually targeted with fatal results.
On the morning of September 15th 1963, a bomb was placed in the basement of the church. 4 young girls, Denise McNair, who was 11 along with Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley who were all 14, were killed when that bomb went off. Davis who was friends with two of the girls Cynthia Wesley and Carole Robertson who she noted lived two houses down from hers.
In fact the day of the bombing Angela’s mother drove Carole’s mother to the church to pick up her daughter. They had heard about the church being bombed, but sadly didn’t know Carole was one of those killed.
Davis talked at length during our Hard Knock Radio show about how and why this incident was a key turning point in the Civil Rights Movement. It was a wake up call that moved everyone to get more involved.
Davis also noted that on that day two other Black teens, both boys Virgil Ware and Johnny Robertson were also killed. One by the Klan sympathizers and the other by police who sadly had a working relationship with the KKK.
She also noted that there was a rebellion , the largest of its kind in Birmingham, which has been erased from the history books. She also noted that because of all the bombings, her father and numerous other men in the community began patrolling their neighborhoods armed with guns.. That helped turn the tide on bombings in her neighborhood which was known as Dynamite Hill, but sadly it didn’t prevent the bombing of the 16th street Baptist church…
During our conversation, Davis made it clear that it was important to connect the struggles of 1963 and the tragedies of that day with the struggles and resistance to racial violence going on today. She drew parallels to the case of Oscar Grant and how that a key turning point for many in the Bay Area and how other cases including the one involving Trayvon martin were also key turning point incidents.
We also talked about how the 16th Street Baptist Church has in recent years been used as a staging area for protest in the fight to end discrimintaion agaisnt undocumented Latinos who now live in Birmingham. Last year thousands gathered at the church to protest an anti-immigrant SB 1070 type law known in Alabama as HB56. A strong coalition of Black and Brown leaders came together to show unity. Davis talked about the importance of connecting those dots between the Civil Rights struggle of the past with the current fight around immigration.
We concluded our interview with Angela Davis by talking about the plight of political prisoner Herman Wallace who was given 2 months to live and is one of the Angola 3. We also talked about the legacy of Attica and the huge uprisings that took place 41 years ago this week.
Below is our interview with Angela Davis. Also if you are in the Bay Area Angela Davis along with fellow Birmingham resident and Civil Rights attorney Margret Burnham will be speaking at First Congregational Church, 2501 Harrison St in Oakland from 5-7:30pm
Later in the HKR show we hear a commentary from political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal speaks about death row inmate James “Shorty” Dennis
Thousands rally to honour March on Washington
Attendees commemorate civil rights movement and demand more social justice in the US.
Washington, US - Martin Luther King Jr was quoting the words of a slave preacher 50 years ago, in 1963, when he said, “Lord, we ain’t what we want to be; we ain’t what we ought to be; we ain’t what we gonna be; but thank God we ain’t what we was.”
The tens of thousands of people who converged in front of the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday morning were commemorating a different speech – King Jr’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington the same year – but the theme for the five-hour-long “Realize the Dream” rally and march was largely the unfinished business of the civil rights movement. The event was organised by the National Action Network, a civil rights group founded by the Reverend Al Sharpton.
In the most striking evocation of that sentiment, the family of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old black teenager shot in the head in 1955 in Mississippi after he was accused of flirting with a white woman, spoke in the closing minutes of the rally, urging attendees to march for justice. Immediately after, the mother of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed Florida teenager who was gunned down, took the podium.
“Trayvon Martin was my son, but he’s not just my son,” said Sybrina Fulton. “He’s all of our sons, and we have to fight for him.”
There appeared to be as many buttons, T-shirts, and signs bearing the likeness of Martin, in a hooded sweatshirt, as there were of King Jr marchers lined the length of the reflecting pool, from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, all the way to the World War II memorial, almost a mile away.
Fifty years ago, then and now
Fifty years ago, Myrlie Evers was inside the house with her three young children when her husband, prominent civil rights activist Medgar Evers, was gunned down in his driveway by a member of the Ku Klux Klan. On Saturday, she told the crowd that “Stand Your Ground” – the controversial self-defense gun laws – needed to be a rallying cry for various social justice issues.
“Stand firm on the ground that we have already made and be sure that nothing is taken away from us, because there are efforts to turn back the clock of freedom,” she said. “Stand your ground in terms for fighting justice and equality.”
Fifty years ago, John Lewis, a 23-year-old activist with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, was the youngest speaker at the March on Washington, and re-wrote his address multiple times to avoid being too incendiary. On Saturday, he addressed the crowd as a congressman from Georgia, one of 43 black legislators in the House of Representatives, and saved particular outrage for the Supreme Court’s recent decision to strike down a provision of the Voting Rights Act.
“I gave a little blood on that bridge in Selma, Alabama, for that right to vote,” he said, referring to another civil rights landmark, the 1965 march from Selma that ended in police brutality so vicious it moved many members of Congress to support the Voting Rights Act. “I am not going to stand by and let the Supreme Court take the right to vote away from us.”
Fifty years ago, Bayard Rustin, instrumental in organising the march and a gay, black man, was widely considered an outcast in the civil rights movement. On Saturday, a rainbow pride flag flew above the reflecting pool.
“There have been many attempts to tell you that we cannot get along,” said Donna Payne, associate director of field outreach for the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT advocacy organisation. “Don’t believe in the hype. I am part of the fabric that weaves our destinies together.”
Paying homage to the unsung
Eric Holder, the first African American attorney general, used his time at the podium to pay homage to the untold millions who worked for civil rights and went unacknowledged, from freedom riders to women and LGBT activists.
“For them, I would not be attorney general of the United States and Barack Obama would not be president of the United States,” he said.
The list of grievances discussed by speakers, the large majority of whom were associated with progressive causes, was long and included an unemployment rate higher in 2013 than it was in 1963, the plight of low-wage workers, “a war on the poor masquerading as a war on drugs“, efforts in various states to impose restrictions on voting, fewer dollars flowing to public education, gun violence, and law enforcement techniques that disproportionately affect African Americans, such as New York City’s stop-and-frisk policy.
“There are no longer ‘whites-only’ signs,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “But there are signs of injustice everywhere.”
Several implored the younger generation to get as engaged in today’s social causes as their parents had been in civil rights.
“The same things we were fighting for in 1963, we’re fighting for now,” said 26-year-old Jasmine Sanders, a teacher. “It’s not our grandparents’ fight anymore. It’s our fight.”
“Our eyes are opening,” she added.
Patrick Robinson, 41, and Shavon Beans, 32, brought their eight-year-old son, Brent, to the rally so he would understand the history of how far black Americans had come, and all the things that they believed were working against him.
“We’ve come a long way,” Beans told him, after explaining who King Jr was. “We’re here so your children can have a better life.”
Everybody sees a difficulty in the question of relations between Arabs and Jews. But not everybody sees that there is no solution to this question. No solution! There is a gulf, and nothing can fill that gulf … I do not know what Arab will agree that Palestine should belong to the Jews — even if the Jews learn Arabic … And we must recognize this situation. If we do not acknowledge this and try to come up with “remedies,” then we risk demoralization … We, as a nation, want this country to be ours; the Arabs, as a nation, want this country to be theirs. The decision has been referred to the Peace Conference.
— Ben Gurion, Speech to Vaad Zmani, June 1919*
A viable peace process does not require either party to embrace or even recognize the legitimacy of the other’s narrative. It requires that both have an informed and non-reductionist understanding of what this narrative consists of, come to terms with the fact that it cannot be wished away, and recognize that elements of it will make their way to the negotiating table and have to be addressed.
In his March 2013 Jerusalem speech, President Obama offered the Israelis an astonishing bargain: history for peace. In return for his personal endorsement of each detail of the standard Jewish/Zionist narrative, the Israelis were asked to acknowledge the Palestinians as human beings with some human rights. They were then called upon to reconsider the occupation and do the right thing so as to help renew the peace process.
Obama’s speech was in many ways a reflection of, and a response to, the prevailing view of the conflict in Israel today, a view supported by many of Israel’s friends in the United States of America. The events of the past few years have fuelled Israeli suspicions of the Arabs, and furthered their doubts over whether there is a partner for peace. One concomitant of this has been the reassertion of ideological and narrative-driven policies, including a demand that Israel be recognized as a Jewish state by its Palestinian interlocutors.
It appears the president hoped that by addressing and appeasing these fears, he might gain the trust of the Israelis and create a space within which a genuine peace process could be launched. However, rather than validate one side’s view of history — “the story of Israel,” as the President called it — he might have suggested that if the Israelis hope to achieve any part of their dream of peace and security, they need to accept that their enemies have their own story to tell: one that is not merely about human rights’ abuses in the West Bank, and one that is not going away anytime soon.
The purpose of such a presidential injunction would not have been to encourage the parties to get mired in debates about the past, or “recognize the others’ narrative.” The battle over history is raging more bitterly than ever and will never be settled at the negotiating table. But while it is neither necessary nor possible for parties to accept each other’s version of the causes of the conflict, it is necessary for all parties to have a minimal understanding of how their adversaries’ historical perspective influences their approach to the negotiations in the present: their willingness to come to the table, the kind of peace process they can trust and embrace, the conditions or preconditions they can or cannot accept, and, perhaps most importantly, the deals and trade-offs they can or cannot sell to their people. Without this understanding on the part of both the public and policy makers pushing for a renewed peace process, the president’s hopes, and Secretary Kerry’s tireless effort, will likely go the way of Camp David 2000.
When it comes to the pro-Israel camp, the key issue that needs to be addressed is the blind spot regarding the pre-1948 origins of the Israel/Palestine conflict.
A remarkable number of Israel’s supporters from across the political spectrum share a common and unshakable article of faith: that the Israel/Palestine conflict was avoidable and unnecessary. If the Arabs of Palestine had accepted Zionism 130 years ago, there would never have been, and would not now be, any cause for bloodshed.
Arab rejectionism has thus served as the equivalent of a cosmological argument: “In the Beginning There Was the No.” The pro-Israel camp often traces the history of the conflict to 1947, when the Arabs said No to the UN partition plan, or to 1948, when the Arab countries said No by launching a war against the recently declared Jewish state. The underlying assumption is that the Arabs had no good reason to reject Zionism or the idea of Jewish self-determination in Palestine: rather, their rejection is interpreted as a consequence of their inherent anti-Semitism, natural tendency toward violence, or self-destructive intransigence. Recently this credo was succinctly articulated by Prime Minister Netanyahu: “The Palestinians’ lack of will to recognise the state of Israel as the national state of the Jewish people is the root of the conflict.”1
In one sense, Netanyahu is absolutely correct: the fact that the Palestinians have refused to recognize themoral right of the Jews to a state in Palestine is a source of conflict, even though the Palestinians may be ready to accept Israel’s de facto right to exist today. What is problematic about this view is that it mistakes the response for the cause. Palestinian rejection did not sprout Athena-like, fully formed from the head of Zeus, without reason or basis; and it is not the root cause of the conflict.
For over 70 years this credo has endured in the face of new thinking, new evidence and new circumstances. It has been sustained by a stunning lack of inquisitiveness about what caused the Original Arab No, and thus about the very nature of the conflict itself. It remains a mystery how otherwise critically-minded Jews and influential policymakers have repeated statements like Netanyahu’s for generations without asking why the Arabs refused to recognize the legitimacy of Zionism — engaging in a form of culpable ignorance that diminishes the quality of their arguments, weakens the credibility of their case, and creates a chasm between the public view of the conflict and the understanding needed in order to prepare the ground for a genuine peace process.
Admittedly, for loyal supporters of Israel, this journey into the origins of the origins — the period between the 1880s and late 1930 — is likely to be difficult. Even more than the thorny issue of the 1948 nakba and the refugee crisis, this early period poses elemental questions about the conflict that cannot be sidestepped via pre-prepared talking points on Palestinian rejectionism. These questions are not of merely historical interest; they expose the underlying patterns, mechanisms and impasses that define the conflict today, almost all of which were already in place by the late 1930s.
But while difficult, this kind of exploration into the core issues is unavoidable. Israel’s supporters can debate about the 1947 partition plan and the 1948 war ad nauseam, but without an understanding of the preceding 60 years they are barely talking about the conflict at all. By avoiding the early period they have denied themselves the knowledge and insight that would allow them to properly assess the positions of the Palestinians, effectively pursue their own people’s interests and recognize the opportunities for de-escalating the conflict if or when they arise. They have also ensured that the history and current state of the conflict will be increasingly articulated, and with greater persuasiveness, by Israel’s enemies.
In order to overcome these barriers and begin to build a space where genuine peacemaking might take place, the Jewish community and its allies must begin asking questions about the Original No: Why, in the period between the 1880s and 1948, did the Arabs of Palestine and the surrounding areas say No to Zionism? To what exactly did they say No? And how did they say No?
THE ARABS OF PALESTINE SAID NO TO THE JEWISH RIGHT OF RETURN
What confusion would ensue all the world over if this principle on which the Jews base their “legitimate” claim were carried out in other parts of the world! What migrations of nations must follow! The Spaniards in Spain would have to make room for the Arabs and Moors who conquered and ruled their country for over 700 years…
— Palestine Arab Delegation, Observations on the High Commissioner’s Interim Report on
the Civil Administration of Palestine during the period 1st July 1920 – 30th June 1921
The Palestinian Arabs said No to the idea that in the 20th century a people who last lived in Palestine in large numbers over 2000 years ago could claim, on the basis of a religious text, rights to the land where the current inhabitants had been living for a millennium and a half.
They did not base their rejection on a denial of Jewish historical and religious ties to the Holy Land. Rather, they said No to the idea that highly secularized Jews arriving from Europe, who seemed to abjure religious life, manners and practices, could use the Bible to support a political project of a Jewish state in an already populated and settled land.
Nor did they deny the suffering of the Jews, or the pogroms and persecution they were experiencing in Western and Eastern Europe at the time. On the contrary, many of the most vocal critics of Zionism were extremely aware of Jewish suffering, as they were unsettled by the impact it was having on the British support for the project of the Jewish National Home. What they said no to was the idea that the Jews’humanitarian plight granted them special political and national rights in Palestine, and that those Jewish rights should trump Arab rights. The Arabs said No to the idea that they should pay the price for longstanding Christian persecution of the Jews, and they expressed deep resentment at the hypocrisy of the Europeans, who were promoting a home for the Jews in Palestine as they closed their own doors to the victims of Christian/European anti-Semitism.
There is nothing shocking or strange about Arabs considering Zionist Jews coming from Europe an “alien implant” in Palestine, and resenting that.2 The logic of most national and proto-national movements — with Zionism hardly an exception — is that outsiders are a threat, and the definition of both “outsiders” and “threat” are influenced by the shifting needs and interests of each movement in its defining moments. In response to Zionism, the Arabs pointed out that the laws of territorial possession were accepted worldwide: had they not been, the Arabs could reconquer and reclaim Spain, a country they reigned over for longer and more recently than the Jews did Palestine. In the view of the Palestinian Arabs, regardless of whether Jews were genuinely attached to or had a history in Palestine, the appeal to the Bible was not strong enough to overturn the rules of a modern, secular world order.
The Arabs and Palestinians still today are taken to task for not having shown enough compassion for Jewish suffering and welcomed them to take refuge in Palestine. But while many Jews can make an intuitive connection between the predicament they faced between the turn of the century and the 1940s and their need for a state, there is no reason that for other parties compassion for Jewish suffering would naturally translate this into an acceptance of Zionism, either then or now. This is especially so in the case of the Arabs in the early years of the conflict, who knew that Zionism would negatively affect their lives in the future.
It is also difficult to sustain the view that opposition to Zionism in the early 20th century was by definition a form of anti-Semitism, given that the virtues of the movement were not always self-evident to the Jews themselves: not to Orthodox Jews, who considered it heretical and sacrilegious, arguing that a return toEretz Israel could only be hastened by divine rather than human will; not to many Diaspora Jews, a good number of whom remained “non-Zionists” until the 1940s; not to Marxist Jews, who considered it to be a retrograde move away from internationalism; and not to the local Palestinian Jews, many of whom felt alienated from the incoming Ashkenazim from Europe, and initially pinned their hopes for communal well-being onto the Ottoman government. And while it is true that Hajj Amin al Husayni — the Mufti of Jerusalem — and some of his followers’ anti-Jewish rhetoric and support for the Axis powers before and during World War II are legitimate targets of criticism, this does not change the fact that the Palestinian National Movement itself was not fundamentally driven by anti-Semitism. It was driven by a series of responses to the concept, implementation and long-term implications of the Zionist movement for the lives and identities of Palestinian Arabs.
This is not to deny that there were Arab anti-Semites in the early period, or that there are many in the Arab world today: there are good reasons for Jews to fear that the line between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism may be dangerously blurred. But it is in the Jews’ own interest to disentangle anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, and find a way to address rather than circumvent legitimate critiques of Israel. Because so few have grappled with the primary reasons why the Arabs of Palestine opposed Zionism, they only have access to one interpretative framework, applicable to both past and present: the critique of Zionism has no reasonable basis but was then — and still is today — propelled primarily by anti-Semitism. This reductive formula does little to help supporters of Israel understand what truly motivates the Palestinians today, or determine how best to negotiate with them in pursuit of Israel’s interests.
THE PALESTINIAN ARABS SAID NO TO EQUATING NATIONAL CONSCIOUSNESS WITH LAND RIGHTS
There is not a single Arab who has not been hurt by the entry of Jews into Palestine: there is not a single Arab who does not see himself as part of the Arab race… In his eyes, Palestine is an independent unit.
— Moshe Shertok, Speech MAPAI Central Committee, June 9th 1936
Whether there was such a thing as a “Palestinian” is one of the most common yet irrelevant debates regarding the origins of the conflict. It does not matter if the Arabs living in Palestine in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries considered themselves to be a part of Palestine, southern Syria, a greater Arab federation, or Ottomans, Jerusalemites, members of a tribe or clan, or Muslims. Whether they were “a” people or just “people,” they lived in and had profound religious, historical, cultural and sentimental ties to a particular area of land known variously and for centuries as “Palestine” and the Holy Land. The Arabs said No then, and continue to say No today, to being represented as people who were accidentally living on Jewish land, rather than human beings — in their vast majority Arabic speaking and Muslim by faith — who inhabited Palestine and the surrounding areas long before the Zionists arrived.
The reluctance on the part of many Israel supporters to accept that a large majority of Arabs lived and thrived in Palestine before Zionism affects their whole approach to the conflict today. For example, Israeli offers to the Palestinians are often presented as painful but magnanimous concessions in recognition of the fact that there are currently (and rather inconveniently) some people who live nearby and whose needs must be attended to. Witness Prime Minster Netanyahu’s 2009 Bar Ilan speech, carefully crafted to imply that the Palestinian “population” “now” lives on the land, as though they somehow magically appeared recently. [emphasis added]
But, friends, we must state the whole truth here. The truth is that in the area of our homeland, in the heart of our Jewish Homeland, now lives a large population of Palestinians… These two facts — our link to the Land of Israel, and the Palestinian population who live here, have created deep disagreements within Israeli society. But the truth is that we have much more unity than disagreement.3
This view aligns well with the growing tendency on the Israeli side to argue for a pragmatic approach to peacemaking, one that eschews “harping on the past” — a view implied in the bargain that President Obama offered the Israelis: I accept that you can continue to deny that other people lived here in the past, if you take into account the feelings of those who live here in the present.” But a peace process where only one party has had their history acknowledged, and thus has the luxury of “letting go” of the past, is not likely to come to fruition; and demands or conditions wrapped in a package that reduces or denies the dignity of the party sitting at the other end of the table are not likely to bear fruit. Unless elements of the Palestinians’ narrative are present in public perceptions and at the negotiating table, they will have no reason to trust the premise of renewed talks, or risk making concessions. And if the Jewish community continues to insist on seeing all Palestinian assertions of their existence as a manifestation of anti-Semitism, they will be unable to find ways to articulate their needs in a manner that allows for compromise rather than demands submission.
THEY SAID NO TO THE NOTION THAT PALESTINE WAS DESOLATE AND EMPTY
In our lovely country there exists an entire people who have held it for centuries and to whom it would never occur to leave…The time has come to dispel the misconception among Zionists that land in Palestine lies uncultivated for lack of working hands or the laziness of the local residents. There are no deserted fields.
— Yitzhak Epstein, “The Hidden Question,” 1907
The Palestinian Arabs rejected the concept that their land was uncultivated and uncared for, and that rights should be conferred on the Jews based on the latter’s superior technology agricultural methods. They said No to the idea that people do not love their land or have a special intimate connection with it because they do not cultivate it in the most modern ways. And they said No to the idea that newly-arrived Zionist Jews from Europe and elsewhere, for all their zeal and dedication, cared for the land more than the natives did.
Because of the power, persistence and harmful repercussions of the “desolate Palestine” refrain, the most disturbing (and utterly unnecessary) phrase of President Obama’s speech was his lauding the Israelis for making the “desert bloom.”
President Obama could have found many ways to express his appreciation for Israel’s many impressive achievements without recourse to that toxic phrase, laden with so many connotations. In conflict-speak it means that that the Arabs of Palestine did not exist in this wilderness when the Zionists began to arrive in the 1880s. Even if a small number of Arabs did exist, they lacked any real love for their land and thus did not deserve to keep it. And if either of these propositions were true, then the Jews deserved the land and should feel no remorse about taking it over then, or appropriating more of it now.
But most crucially, the desert-blooming imagery validates the notion that there is a moral link between means of cultivation and rights to ownership. In other words, the reason that the Israelis have a superiorright to the land is that at the time they were, and still are today, more modern and technically advanced than the Palestinians.
This concept has for decades been uncritically embraced by a large number of otherwise liberal, socially and environmentally conscious Jews, people who in most other contexts would contest the idea that advanced technology imported from the West into a colonized land is naturally superior to local, indigenous means of cultivation; or that aggressive agricultural development is always positive as an end in itself. It is perfectly possible for the Israelis to be proud of their achievements while recognizing that these achievements are not relevant as a justification for Zionism from the point of view of those who previously lived in and were attached to this land. And it is long past time for U.S. policy makers to recognize that mindlessly repeating old tropes will only serve to widen the gap between parties, rather than build a foundation upon which a peace process can be launched.
THEY SAID NO TO THE EXCHANGE OF POLITICAL FOR ECONOMIC RIGHTS
You say my house has been enriched by the strangers who have entered it. But it is my house, and I did not invite the strangers in, or ask them to enrich it, and I do not care how poor or bare it is if only I am master in it.
—1937 Royal Commission Report, paraphrasing the remarks of an Arab witness
The Palestinian Arabs said No to the idea that they should welcome Zionism because of the economic prosperity that the Jews were bringing to Palestine. They argued that economic benefits were not distributed equally among those residing in Palestine, and included policies that threatened the livelihood and undermined the rights of Arab peasants and workers. Even if benefits had been distributed more equally, as far as the Arabs were concerned economic prosperity would not have served as a compelling argument in favor of creating the Jewish National Home, or as the means to buy off their political rights.
It was for this reason also that Netanyahu’s 2009 vision of “Economic Peace” fell on deaf ears, as it was not matched with proposals that address Palestinians’ national and political aspirations. And the current U.S. attempt to pump money into the West Bank will be rebuffed if seen by Palestinians to be part of the Grand Bargain — your narrative for jobs, your political rights for economic prosperity. This bargain is likely to be seen as a re-packaged version of the original rationale for Zionism — that the project would be embraced by the Arabs because it would bring material prosperity to Palestine — which as far back as 1923 Vladimir Jabotinsky recognized as fallacious:
To think that the Arabs will voluntarily consent to the realization of Zionism in return for the cultural and economic benefits we can bestow on them is infantile. This childish fantasy of our “Arabo-philes” comes from some kind of contempt for the Arab people, of some kind of unfounded view of this race as a rabble ready to be bribed in order to sell out their homeland for a railroad network.4
Economic well-being in the West Bank and Gaza is of course desirable, but only widespread ignorance of the Original No can lead Israelis and third parties to repeat the same mistake time and again expecting different results. It would be more productive to learn why the Grand Bargain did not work in the first place, what it meant to the other side, why it is unlikely to work today and which alternative frameworks can be proposed that address the political and national aspirations of all sides, and search for realistic options for peacemaking.
THE ARABS SAID NO TO THE JEWISH SETTLEMENT ENTERPRISE
Land is the most necessary thing for our establishing roots in Palestine. Since there are hardly any more arable unsettled lands in Palestine, we are bound in each case of the purchase of land and its settlements to remove the peasants who cultivated the land so far, both owners of the land and tenants.5
—Arthur Ruppin, 1930
Would the fellahin (Arab peasantry) have embraced Zionism because of the economic benefits the Jews were bringing to Palestine had they not been incited to the contrary by the educated and political classes? One cannot know this for sure, but this often-repeated claim is by and large another avoidance-argument that fails to pass the test of common sense. The fellahin might not have articulated their rejection of Zionism as did the elites, or expressed a clear sense of national consciousness. But they had many good reasons to say No to Zionist policy once it dispossessed tenant farmers of lands they had been cultivating, or after the institution of “Hebrew Labor” policies that refused jobs to local Arabs in difficult economic times.
Long before illegal outposts or settlement expansion in the West Bank, the Arabs said No to the idea that land in Palestine should be transferred from Arabs to Jews, whether by force, partition schemes, or sales by local or absentee landlords. The Arabs’ own complicity in land sales raises important questions that they have yet to address fully. But Arab land sales were only one part of a broader process whereby land and population transfers were implemented or supported by the Zionists and the British. Arabs who recognized the historical and religious links of Jews to Palestine nevertheless said No to the “Judaization” of a land that had been overwhelmingly Arab and Muslim for a millennium and a half.
Today, although so many liberal (and even not-so-liberal) Jews oppose settlements and settlement expansion, few appear to grasp the reasons behind the depth of international rage against settlements. One reason might be that they perceive settlement activities as an unfortunate wrong turn taken after 1967, one that can be remedied through peace talks. But for the Palestinians, modern day settlements represent tendencies that they argue were central to Zionism from its inception — in their experience, Zionism was and is expansionist, encroaching on Palestinian soil against the will of the local population and in contradiction with the partition or two-state compromises that Zionist and Israeli leaders publicly embraced.
Without knowing how some of the early mechanisms of Zionism manifested themselves on the ground, it is difficult for Israel’s supporters to understand the extent of visceral opposition to settlements. But while they don’t have to buy into the vision put forward by anti-Zionists — that Zionist immigration to and settlement in Palestine was unjustifiable in any form — they must understand why from the Palestinian perspective settlement expansion was always considered to be the driving force of the Zionist movement, and experienced as a form of aggression.
THEY SAID NO TO THE RENEGING ON PROMISES, AND THEY SAID NO TO THE INCONGRUITY ENSHRINED IN THE 1917 BALFOUR DECLARATION
There is not one nation in the world that would accept voluntarily and of its own desire that its position should be changed in a manner which will have an effect on its rights and prejudice its interests … We as a nation are human beings with our own culture and civilization and we feel as any other nation would feel. It will have to be imposed on us by force.
— Awni Abd al-Hadi, Testimony to Royal Peel Commission, 1937
After World War I, the Arabs of Palestine argued that they had been offered independence by the British as a reward for rising up against the Turks by dint of the McMahon–Husayn correspondence of 1915-1916 — a position contested by many Zionists then and now.
In the Arab view, these promises of independence were consistent with the spirit of their time, in particular President Woodrow Wilson’s principle of self-determination as later enshrined by the League of Nations. They said No to the idea that, in the wake of World War I, independence and self-determination would be applied around the world and to their neighboring Arab brethren, but that they would be uniquely denied in Palestine because of a conflicting British commitment to a Homeland for the Jews as articulated in the 1917 Balfour Declaration. And they said No to the idea that the fate of Palestine would or could be decided without the majority people who lived in the area being consulted.
Although the Balfour Declaration is seen by many Jews as the magna carta of the Zionist movement, few have actually read it carefully today or reflected on how it would have been perceived by the people who lived on the very land that the British were pledging to the Jews. For the Arabs, it was not only this pledge that was problematic: in 67 short words, the document set the terms by which Jews and Arabs were identified and perceived by third parties and each other, in ways that have remained seared in the public consciousness to this day. The Declaration identified the approximately 58,728 Jews living in Palestine at the time as a “people” and recognized their rights to a National Home, while granting only civil and religious (but not political or national) rights to the majority, the approximately 688,800 Arabs. The latter were referred to almost incidentally in the Declaration, as the “non-Jewish communities” in Palestine. Moreover, in the text of the Mandate itself, which refers to the Jewish people, the Jewish population in Palestine, the Jewish national home and Jewish institutions, the word “Arab” is avoided, replaced with a variety of terms such as “inhabitants of Palestine,” “other sections of the population,” “natives” and “respective communities.”6
The conviction, held by so many of Israel’s supporters, that the Arabs always resisted compromise, must be seen in the light of the terms set in this document and others that followed, and questions about what compromise was offered, by whom, and under which conditions. One of the reasons that the Arabs said No to most British and Zionist “compromise” proposals was that these included the demand that the they should accept the terms of the Balfour Declaration (and the Mandate in which they were incorporated) as a precondition, thus acceding to the idea that their land would be bequeathed to another people, and to the view of themselves as people defined by their negative status as “non-Jews” rather than their positive status as Arabs.
This interpretation of the past is not intended to suggest that the Arab response was determined — that they could under no circumstances have taken a different approach, or that there were not some individuals who, at various times, considered arrangements based on the terms that had been set. But if there is any serious revisionism to be done on this issue, it will be the business of the Palestinians in due course. What it does mean is that from the perspective of the Arabs compromise never appeared to be what it was for the Zionists then, or in the form it has been portrayed in the standard Jewish version of history since the founding of Israel; and there were always multiple and comprehensible reasons for the Palestinian Arabs to reject the underlying preconditions that defined the compromises that had been put forward.
A similar situation is replicated today, where the Palestinians are being asked not merely to accept Israel’s “right to exist in peace and security” — something they have already consented to — but to validate the Jewish character of the land (“Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people”), either as precondition for any renewed negotiations or as a condition for peace. One does not have to deny that the Palestinian approach to peacemaking can be, and often is, uncompromising and obstructive also to recognize that this demand will be perceived as a modern day reiteration of the British approach during the mandate: in order to be considered a partner for peace, the Palestinians must first abdicate their view of history, and also embrace the narrative of their enemies.
Whether intentional or not, this message was embedded in President Obama’s Jerusalem speech. But if his man on the ground, John Kerry, adopts this approach, he will be repeating the failed pattern whereby Palestinians are asked to convert to Zionism before being considered as peace partners — something that is by definition impossible and thus counterproductive. Secretary Kerry would do better to shape a renewed process around proposals that can be perceived as compromises by both parties.
FINALLY, THE PALESTINIAN ARABS SAID NO TO THE “GENEROUS OFFERS” OF PARTITION, MADE BY THE ROYAL PALESTINE (PEEL) COMMISSION IN 1937 AND THE UN IN 1947.
This opposition [to partition] is based upon the unwavering conviction of unshakeable rights and a conviction of the injustice of forcing a long-settled population to accept immigrants without its consent being asked and against its known and expressed will; the injustice of turning a majority into a minority in its own country; the injustice of withholding self-government until the Zionists are in the majority and able to profit by it.
— Albert Hourani, Statement to the Anglo-American Commission of Inquiry, 1946
The most entrenched orthodoxy in the pro-Israel camp is that the Arabs said No to two perfectly legitimate partition plans — plans that could have secured a long lasting peace between two states living side by side. The origins of the conflict are often traced to these Nos, which are interpreted as signs of Arab intransigence, self-destruction, and disregard for international law.
This analysis is in great part based on an ignorance of what the partition plans looked like, an assumption that “compromise” solutions are always fair, desirable, and sustainable, and a retrospective analysis based on the view that the Arabs rejected much more land than they are bargaining for today.
But the very idea of truncating the land was anathema to the majority of Palestinian Arabs, the partition proposals were devised without their consent, and both had been drawn with little concern for the incongruities in land distribution and demographics. In 1937, the Jews owned no more than 6 percent of the land, but were offered 20 percent of Palestine; and, in 1947, Jews owned approximately 7 percent of the land and were offered 55 percent of the country. In 1937, the new Jewish state was to contain 396,000 Jews and 225,000 Arabs, with a proposition that those Arabs would be transferred, forcibly if necessary, to the new Arab state. In 1947, almost half of the Arab population was to come under Jewish sovereignty, so that 400,000 Palestinian Arabs would be forced to live in a Jewish state with a Jewish population of just over 500,000. And all this was to take place in the absence of any trusted mechanism of implementation, and with some prominent Zionists — who were well organized and had a superior military capacity — verbalizing their intention to move beyond the borders of partition in the future.
It is understandably difficult for anyone who considers Israel to be the homeland of the Jewish people to grasp the Arab rejection of the principle of partition. Given the urgent situation the Jews were facing at the time, their historical and religious ties to the land, the genuine passion with which they pursued their mission, and the relatively small amount of territory that the various partition plans offered them, it appears unreasonable at best, malicious at worst, for the Arabs to have refused the very concept of sharing the land.
However, it is quite incomprehensible that despite the importance attributed to the partition plans in justifying Israel’s perspective, an examination of both plans is so often neglected in favor of a simple reduction of the Arab response to an irrational No. One does not have to accept the Arab view (that the Zionists did not have the right to self-determination in Palestine) in order to recognize why they believed this at the time, and why the problem cannot be reduced simply to one of cartography — a map that in retrospect and from a purely visual point of view looks like a good deal for the Palestinians. The Israeli party line on this issue is repeated time and again by advocates, diplomats, academics, and policy makers — people who have an influence on how a peace process would be launched and run, and who are directly responsible for helping create parameters for a peace process today.7
Consider a statement from long-time presidential adviser to the Middle East, Dennis Ross, a person who still today is one of the key voices influencing the president’s approach to the conflict. In critiquing some revisionist histories, Ross offers the following understanding of the roots of the conflict:
Drawing from some of the revisionist histories on the origins of the Palestinian refugee problem, (Jerome) Slater basically ascribed full responsibility to Israel for the root of the conflict. That the Arabs and Palestinians simply rejected all possible compromises prior to the establishment of the state of Israel, including the Peel Commission Report of 1937, the Morrison-Grady proposal in 1946, and the UN partition plan in 1947 is basically immaterial to Slater.8
In response to critiques of Israel, Ross beats a swift retreat into the unexamined safety zone: Israelis might have made mistakes, but before these mistakes, there was The No. The idea is so universally absorbed and accepted by his audience that in order to defend this view Ross does not even feel the need offer any explanation beyond the mere mention that the Arabs “simply” said No to “all possible compromises.” One wonders if he knows which compromises were offered, what they included or why they were rejected. As one of the policy makers most devoted to the modern version of partition — the two-state solution — Ross and other influential U.S. advisers might learn more about why the Arabs rejected the plans then, and consider more carefully what conditions might be necessary for them to accept partition today.
Neither Jewish ethics nor Jewish tradition can disqualify terrorism as a means of combat. We are very far from having any moral qualms as far as our national war goes. We have before us the command of the Torah, whose morality surpasses that of any other body of laws in the world: “Ye shall blot them out to the last man.”…But first and foremost, terrorism is for us a part of the political battle being conducted under the present circumstances, and it has a great part to play: speaking in a clear voice to the whole world, as well as to our wretched brethren outside this land, it proclaims our war against the occupier.9
— Yitzak Shamir, 1943
While the first pillar of the pro-Israel view is that the Arab No was the cause of the conflict, the second pillar is that this No was expressed from the beginning through acts of unprovoked and unjustified violence. This is a crucial component sustaining the narrative, for all Israeli acts of violence are excused with recourse to Arab violence as the first action — “we would never have had to do this had they not started it, had we not been defending ourselves.”
That there was periodic brutal Arab violence against Jews in the early decades of the conflict is without doubt. Most took the form of spontaneous resistance to, and attacks on, Jewish settlers. Other more organized riots and assaults — especially the Hebron massacre in 1929 — randomly and ferociously targeted the old Jewish and non-Zionist community, reinforcing Jews’ fear that Arabs were new incarnations of previous oppressors, and shattering their belief that any non-violent solution to the conflict in Palestine was possible.
The Jews’ long experience of brutal and unprovoked persecution had taught them that these kinds of “causeless” acts of aggression against them were not only likely but possibly ubiquitous. This lesson was only reinforced by the betrayal of European nationalism, which rebranded Jews as outsiders at the very moment they believed their status as equal citizens would be validated. Thus, it is not surprising that many Jews in the 1920s and the 1930s, haunted by their experience of violent pogroms in Eastern Europe and escalating persecution in Western Europe, did not feel the need to interpret the behavior of the Arabs in Palestine, perceiving their words and actions to be an extension of the same type of causeless anti-Semitism: they hate us for who we are, not what we do.
But it would be false to claim that the Arabs said No through violent action without cause, in lieu of arguments and persuasion, or that violence was their predominant form of expression. The early Arab response to the Zionist challenge was largely characterized by a futile and repetitive attempt to appeal to Western conscience, law, and values. Between the late 1890s and the mid-1930s, this response was expressed in words rather than deeds: delegations were sent to Britain and Europe and hundreds of memoranda, petitions, articles and speeches attempted to explain the Arab case to the British, Americans and Europeans. Not unlike today, the Arabs believed that if the international powers truly fathomed what was happening on the ground, they would put a stop to it. These documents are often shocking to those who peruse them, as accustomed as they are to their inherited views that the Palestinian Arabs had no case to make, never made it to anyone, and were simply mindlessly and mechanically rejecting anything Jewish in their path.
Whether violence can be justified as a means to achieve a national struggle is a legitimate topic of debate, and one can condemn the Arabs’ response to Zionism then and to Israel after 1948 on many grounds. But understanding the multiplicity of Arab reactions to Zionism in the pre-1947/48 period should not be interpreted — and thus dismissed — simply as an attempt to justify whatever violence they did wage. Without an understanding of the context of both Arab and Jewish violence in Mandatory Palestine, or the other nonviolent means the Palestinian Arabs pursued in an attempt to achieve their aims, there is little in the way of a fruitful discussion that can be had about the origin of the conflict or its possible solution.
Nor is it helpful to place a universal ban on explaining what lies behind Palestinian violence today. Neither the Zionists in the early period, nor Israelis or Jews today, deny violence as a legitimate tool in the service of a national movement. They have used and glorified violence when it has suited their purposes, as in the early period when Jabotinsky’s Betar youth drew inspiration from quasi-fascist tropes of extreme nationalism about the purifying and liberating role of violence; or in the 1940s when terrorism against the British was considered a legitimate means to attain their goal of national self-determination. A puritanical approach to any violence that comes from “the other side” cannot substitute for real engagement with the reasons they pursue violence, the nature of their goals or demands, and a sober analysis of which of these are necessary to address if peace and security is the desired end.
Everybody sees a difficulty in the question of relations between Arabs and Jews. But not everybody sees that there is no solution to this question. No solution! There is a gulf, and nothing can fill that gulf … I do not know what Arab will agree that Palestine should belong to the Jews — even if the Jews learn Arabic … And we must recognize this situation. If we do not acknowledge this and try to come up with “remedies,” then we risk demoralization … We, as a nation, want this country to be ours; the Arabs, as a nation, want this country to be theirs. The decision has been referred to the Peace Conference.
— Ben Gurion, Speech to Vaad Zmani, June 1919
What is missing in the logic of the pro-Israel view of the Palestinian No is the disturbing prospect, articulated by Zionist luminaries such as Vladimir Jabotinsky and David Ben Gurion in the 1920s, that a nonviolent or satisfactory solution to the Arab-Jewish confrontation in Palestine might not have been possible.
This poignant and chillingly lucid appraisal was proposed by many Jews and Arabs in the early years of the conflict and has been acknowledged by many more since, but it is still largely absent from the current mainstream debates about the conflict or peacemaking. And yet accepting the Israel/Palestine conflict as an elemental clash grounded in overlapping and irreconcilable aspirations, rather than a chimera that could have been avoided had one party acceded to the wishes of the other, is necessary for understanding both the limitations of and prospects for peacemaking today. For if the Zionists perceived Jewish self-determination as a natural response to their predicament, the implementation of this mission in Palestine, a land where an Arab majority lived, was almost certain to provoke hostility from the native population.
Given the urgency of their situation, it is understandable that the Jews were not concerned with the response of the Palestinian Arabs to their project. After a tragically failed attempt to identify spiritually, emotionally or intellectually with the cultures and nations within which they resided, the Jews learned the hard way that the modern world was increasingly defining self-determination in exclusionist, not liberal, terms. The pogroms and persecution of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries did even more to shape the tenor and nature of the Zionist movement than the brutality of the Holocaust; it was that predicament which gave birth to what might be called “The Original Never Again” — the determination on the part of the Jews never again to be supplicants, dependent on the kindness of strangers, or feeble bystanders to their own persecution, waiting pitifully for the world to evolve beyond prejudice. Influenced by the character and tenor of nationalism as it evolved in Europe, where blood and soil were the hallmarks of legitimate belonging, the Zionists had concluded that they could only overcome their outsider status by settling in Palestine — a land where their “insider” status could be unearthed, and their physical and spiritual links with the past revealed.
But while Zionism was more multidimensional than the reductive formulas provided by today’s anti-Zionists, it is neither surprising nor strange that the Arabs in the early part of the twentieth century would reject the reasoning and rationale behind Jewish nationalism. They were engaged in their own pursuit of national self-determination, inspired by Woodrow Wilson’s proclamations, their own cultural, linguistic and religious revival, and the trends toward territorial independence taking hold in neighboring countries. Despite the fact that the Arab response is incessantly represented as aberrant, it is unlikely that any people anywhere would have said Yes to the prospect of becoming a minority in their own home, or to their land being offered to those they considered foreigners, even if they recognized that the latter had a historical presence and religious ties to the area, or that they faced mortal danger in their countries of residence. It is even more unlikely that any people would say Yes to the manner in which the policy of the Jewish national home was implemented — without their consent, enforced by foreign powers, and in contradiction to what they believe they deserved and were promised.
Finally, although there is controversy over the extent to which the leaders of the Palestinian national movement represented the views of the masses, or whether the “opposition” parties considered taking another course, even if a minority of Arabs was ready to accept some form of Jewish national rights in Palestine, this should not be reason to impugn the majority Arab feeling that the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine was unjust and unacceptable. Jews should resist the temptation to parade Arab “super-moderates” in triumph as vindication of their cause; the Arabs will not accept this any more than Jews accept Palestinians justifying their own positions by appealing to the views of a minority of Israeli or Jewish anti-Zionists.
Politically speaking it is a national movement…The Arab must not and cannot be a Zionist. He could never wish the Jews to become a majority. This is the true antagonism between us and the Arabs. We both want to be the majority.
— David Ben-Gurion, after the 1929 riots in Palestine
The appraisal of the early years of the conflict, advanced above, clashes fundamentally with the traditional pro-Israel view, which relies on the belief that the Arab opposition to Zionism was both immoral and unnecessary, and that the Jews had an absolute and incontestable right to create a Jewish state in Palestine: in other words, that Zionism was blameless in the creation of the Palestine problem and the Palestinians brought their nakba upon themselves.
To challenge this view is not to condemn the entire Zionist project as inherently sinful, but to recognize that it will always be seen as such from the Arab side, because from their perspective, Jewish Israel could only have come about at the expense of Arab Palestine. This common-sense view was the driving force behind Vladimir Jabotinsky’s rationale for the Iron Wall — a position grounded in the avowal that the Jews aimed to appropriate the land that the Arabs lived on, loved and believed was theirs. Jabotinsky maintained that it was only natural that the Arabs would resist Zionism, for “any native people — it is all the same whether they are civilized or savage — views their country as their national home, of which they will be always the complete masters.”10
Today, those who would be Jabotinsky’s heirs appropriate the Iron Wall as implicit policy, while abjuring Jabotinsky’s own rationale for that policy: his belief that Palestine was not an empty desert but that there were native inhabitants there who were deeply attached to their land, and therefore it was both reasonable and inevitable that they would resist Zionism, and resist violently. In contrast, today’s revisionists rally support for an Iron Wall policy while burying Jabotinsky’s interpretation under a now familiar if still peculiar specter: a people that did not exist on a land they never had and whose loss they resisted for no particular reason.
Despite its notable incoherence, this kind of reasoning still drives the standard pro-Israeli view of the conflict. The result is that those who wish to show their support for Israel have no tools to formulate their own response to Palestinian grievances or demands, or to properly interpret the growing opposition to Israel on the international scene. Thus, they risk marching blindly down a path that only aggravates their own dilemma and puts Israel itself in further jeopardy.
There can be no settlement, no final settlement, until the Zionists realize that they can never hope to obtain in London or Washington what is denied them in Jerusalem.
— Albert Hourani, Testimony to Anglo-American Committee, 1946
The paradox of any potential peacemaking between Israelis and Palestinians is that neither side is likely to be satisfied with the possibility of attaining the tangible dividends of peace, even in the unlikely event that these were attainable. Each side continues to demand ideological conversion from the other, despite the fact that neither can recognize (in the sense of validate or embrace) the other’s narrative without by definition repudiating its own. This is not only the case for the Palestinians, who are being asked to deny their history and experience for the sake of being validated as partners for peace. The Israelis too cannot and will not embrace the anti-Israel camp’s notion that their national movement was born in sin. And notwithstanding the power of the United States of America or President Obama’s recent pronouncements in Jerusalem, no third party can, or has the right to, issue a verdict on history. But while neither side should be asked to recognize the legitimacy of their adversary’s view of the conflict, they will have to find a way to accept that this view cannot simply be wished away, and that it will manifest itself in various ways at the negotiating table and in any peace deal.
Thus, although supporters of Israel need not embrace the Palestinian view of the causes of the conflict, they should recognize that the Arab’s rejection of Zionism was not irrational and cannot be reduced to anti-Semitism: and they need to move beyond the long-obsolete mantras about the origins of the conflict that prevent them from identifying genuine points of impasse or making the best of opportunities. This does not mean Israel is the sole responsible party — Israelis are justified in questioning whether the Palestinians are able or willing to fulfill their own side of a negotiated bargain, prepare their public for a compromised settlement or recognize that the Jewish narrative cannot be eradicated by an act of will. But the Jewish community should not hide its own rejectionism behind the Palestinians’ No, or behind rabid circular debates that all slam into the STOP sign of 1947.
For while many Palestinians have (in various agreements and public commitments) been saying Yes to Israel’s de facto existence since 1988, they will continue to say No to Zionism itself. Condoning it would require Palestinians swallow whole the major tenets of the Jewish “narrative” and sign on the dotted line affirming that the creation of a Jewish state on land they considered as their own was a legitimate enterprise; that their own rejection of that enterprise was irrational or morally wrong; and that the Arab’s 1400-year history in Palestine should be seen as a brief and inconsequential interregnum between two more important eras of Jewish sovereignty.
This will never happen. The sooner the pro-Israel camp accepts this and stops trying to change the unchangeable, the sooner they can determine what steps might be taken in the interests of their own peace and security. Schoolyard choruses — “they started it” and “they are worse than us” — cannot serve as an interpretive framework for a 130-year-old conflict, or form the basis of national policy. The Jewish community must breach the blockade that currently stands between moribund talking points and the actual origins of the conflict. An encounter with the Original No might release them from their dependence on the interpretations provided by the salesmen of the Jewish world, who for decades have been pitching an obsolete product to hapless customers in search of certainty — the very opposite of what is required in order to “prepare the public for peace.” And it might provide supporters of Israel with the tools they need to construct their own interpretation of what took place In The Beginning, and formulate their own vision of what, if anything, can be done to address the fallout today.
1 “Netanyahu: Root of Palestinian Conflict Is Not Territory,” Daily Monitor, May 2, 2013.http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/World/Netanyahu–Root-of-Palestinian-conflict-is-not-territory/-/688340/1799320/-/itkl53/-/index.html.
2 Benny Morris, “Israel under Siege,” Daily Beast, July 31, 2012,http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/07/31/israel-under-siege.html.
3 ‘Full text of Netanyahu’s foreign policy speech at Bar-Ilan’, Haaretz, June 14, 2009,http://www.haaretz.com/news/full-text-of-netanyahu-s-foreign-policy-speech-at-bar-ilan-1.277922. (emphasis added).
4 Vladimir Jabotinsky, ‘The Iron Wall: We and the Arabs,”http://www.marxists.de/middleast/ironwall/ironwall.htm.
5 Rashid Khalidi, Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness (New York, 1997), 102.
6 In Article 22, the word “Arabic” appears in the context of a clause relating to the official languages of Palestine.
7 See, for example, Hillary Clinton’s 2012 statement: “The Palestinians could have had a state as old as I am if they had made the right decision in 1947.” http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/rubin-reports/driving-in-neutral-hillary-clinton-explains-the-israel-palestinian-conflict/2012/12/05/
8 Dennis Ross and David Makovsky, Myths, Illusions and Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East(New York, 2009), 116.
9 Ian S. Lustik, “Terrorism in the Arab-Israeli Conflict: Targets and Audiences,” ed. Martha Crenshaw in Terrorism in Context (Pennsylvania, 1995), 527.
10 Vladimir Jabotinsky, op. cit.
*Dr. Gill is a research associate at Barnard College and a former professor of conflict studies at The New School University. She is the founder and director of TRACK4, which runs negotiation simulations for diplomats, mediators, journalists, policy makers, students and community leaders