Where the Extremes of Zionism and Anti-Zionism Meet

Haim Watzman

Many of the comments on my post First Sheikh Jarrah, Then Baka?, here and at The Forward, constitute textbook examples of how the mere mention of Israel acts like a gravitational lens that bends the rays emanating from extreme Zionism and anti-Zionism until they merge into a single image.

Let’s take, as an exhibit on the anti-Zionist side, Phillips Brooks. Brooks argues that the land on which the state of Israel was created belonged to the Palestinians. Therefore, it is stolen. Therefore, Israel is founded on a crime. Therefore there is no difference between the land Israel took in 1948 and in 1967; it’s all stolen and held illegitimately and the Jews should return whence they came.

Now, that might sound like a voice of conscience to the unthinking. But if you think it through, it’s based on a concept of originalism that makes no sense in the real world. In other words, for Brooks’ logic to work, there has to be some particular point in history in which the world’s territory was divided up fairly between different nations. Then bad nations started conquering peaceful ones to gain territory. Peace and justice can be regained if everyone goes back to where they came from.

But of course there was no such point in history. Brooks’ position also leads to logical absurdities. Where is the average Englishman, with his hopeless amalgamation of Celtic, Roman Saxon, Danish, and Norman French languages and gene pools, supposed to go? Should all the Arabs return to Arabia? Should India’s Aryan stock return to central Asia? What nation rightfully owns Malta? Istanbul? Honolulu?

On the Zionist side, Y. Ben-David get to the same point from a different direction. Like Brooks, YBD sees no difference between the War of Independence of 1948 and the Six Day War of 1967. In both cases Israel conquered land to which it has a historic and religious right. The fact that the Jewish people lived on this land in ancient times, and the fact that our sacred texts promise it to us, obviates all other claims and considerations. We have a right to take it, settle it, and do what we wish with it, at our sole discretion.

YBD’s absolutes lead him into the same fallacy as Brooks’ do. The only criterion for determining what a nation can do with a piece of territory is the fact that it held that piece of land at some particular time in history.

Let me outline a more complex set of principles. First, general ones:
1. Nations have a right to self-determination and to lands to which they have historic ties.
2. Where such claims conflict, a nation’s right to self-determination and a particular territories are not absolute. In exerting those claims, they must balance their own heritage and pressing needs with those of other claimants. The extent of self-determination and the extent of territory depend on the balance of pressing needs between the claimants, claims of justice and human rights, and practical considerations involving defense, natural resources, and the like.

Specifically, regarding Israel:
1. The Jewish nation has a right to self-determination.
2. The Jewish nation has a historic right to the Land of Israel.
3. A long history of persecution, even in supposedly enlightened polities, grants the Jewish people the right to demand self-determination in the form of a Jewish state, on the only territory to which it has a historic claim.
4. Another nation, the Palestinian Arabs, also claim this territory.

Here are my conclusions:
1. In 1948, the Jewish people fought to establish their state in the Land of Israel. Given the hostility of the other inhabitants of the territory, the Jewish people had no choice but to conquer the territory by force and create facts on the ground that would allow for the defense of the state and its ability to absorb the masses of Jews waiting to immigrate.
2. After 1948, the Jews already had a state. While its frontiers were far from advantageous and the state remained under threat from its neighbors, the state was viable and strong.
3. In 1967, Israel acquired, in the course of defending itself against attack, large territories to which the Jewish people also have historic claim. However, at this point, with a state already in existence, Israel was not at liberty to press its historic claims and pressing needs by conquest. Its interests, and its moral imperative, was to seek to dispose of those territories in such a way as to provide for the competing claims of the Palestinian nation. Israel was therefore fully justified in occupying these territories militarily until a peace agreement could be reached, but not in seeking to claim this territory as a place of settlement of its civilians.

44 thoughts on “Where the Extremes of Zionism and Anti-Zionism Meet”

  1. First of all, Brooks’ position as you state it here is perfectly reasonable if you assume the principle of prescription, which implies a “statute of limitations” on conquest of land. That seems to me the only reasonable model for legitimate ownership of “homelands.” The European conquest of the Americas was unjust and immoral (by our morality, of course), but now after centuries the descendants of European settlers have a prescriptive right to the land stolen by their ancestors. Legality aside, it’s arguable whether the State of Israel is old enough to be legitimate by prescription. Brooks obviously believes that it is not.

    I pretty much agree with your post-1948 analysis, but I think the pre-1948 Zionist project was barely justified, if it was justified at all. There is no national “right” to self-determination – that’s something that was made up in the 19th century. The Jews had no “historic right” to settle in the Land of Israel a hundred years ago either, much less to establish a national home there, much less to establish a sovereign state. Jewish presence in the Land of Israel for the preceding two thousand years was minimal in comparison with that of other people’s. And of course pointing to the existence of Jewish commonwealths in ancient history is exactly the “originalism” that you deride. The Jews’ claim to the land had long expired.

    If there’s any moral right involved, it was the right of the indigenous population to resist, by violence if necessary, the Zionist invasion and settlement of their homeland.
    The Zionists’ sole right – and it’s an important one – was a legal right: the League of Nations Mandate.

  2. The only problem with your analysis before 1967 is that historians like Tom Segev have demonstrated that Israel’s ethnic cleansing was a matter of policy even before the state was created; thus it is a colonial enterprise; and “the Jewish nation has a historic right to the Land of Israel” has many meanings in Israel, but most commonly the nationalist/messianist version, not the acceptance of the UN borders.

    I think you’ve arrived at something close to the right conclusion, that Israel has a right to some land in Palestine, but the magnitude of its land theft and violation of international law requires that these be not only stopped but reversed.

  3. IMO Phillip Brooks’ version of “anti-Zionism” is really just a Palestinian version of “Zionism”. Zionism is a form of nationalism; there’s no ray-bending necessary to make Jewish nationalism look like Palestinian nationalism (or British or Irish or Russian or whatever).

    You seem to arrive at historic claims by way of historic ties. If so, then the Jewish people has claims to territories other than Israel/Palestine as well, such as the former pale of settlement in what is now Ukraine(*). Stating that Israel/Palestine was “the only territory to which [the Jewish people] has a historic claim” is the same fallacy as that exhibited by Brooks and YBD, as you restrict your argument to a specific period of time. Do the Sinti and Roma people have a historic claim to India (whence they came), is that even their only claim, despite the fact that they’ve been living in Europe for many centuries (like the Jews, incidentally, and no less persecuted)?

    IMO the notion that every nation (or any at all) has a right to their own state is penultimately silly, the ultimate silliness being the notion of a priori distinctive nations in the first place.

    (*) I know Jews were restricted to the Pale by order of the Czar rather than of their own choice. But then again, the land of Israel wasn’t their own choice either, being led there under YHWH’s order, and punished when they failed to obey.

  4. “Jewish presence in the Land of Israel for the preceding two thousand years was minimal in comparison with that of other people’s.”

    I love unsubstantiated lines like these. This is an assumption with no basis in fact–there were no censuses until the mid 1800s; there is (to archeologists’ recent surprise) a notable number of synagogues and mikvaot dating to Byzantine and Islamic times, undermining the assumption that the Jewish communities were all dispersed; the Crusaders slaughtered thousands of Jews, so we were here then. Etc.

    But you are spot on about the League of Nation mandate–that is the legal basis on the Jewish state. And what is often overlooked is that lopping off 80% of that land to create Palestine-in-Trans-Jordan was totally illegal.

  5. I think the problem with your analysis is that you are grafting a nineteenth-century concept of romantic nationalism onto a classical liberal tradition of individual rights. But that graft will not take hold.
    The most general notion of ‘rights’ are those options to act which belong- and this is the key problem here- to individuals. For an individual to properly flourish in a society he must have, for instance, the option to act in accordance with his own beliefs, thoughts, convictions. Individuals are also material entities so they must have some option to interact with the material world. That is, all liberal notions of rights entail some form of right to property. But the main point here is that we have individual human beings, and we can generally speaking properly identify individual human beings as such.
    The problem comes in when we try employ classical liberal notions of rights to nations. But what are nations? The best definition for a nation, it seems to me, are a bunch of people who call themselves one. So, of course there is a Jewish nation, because a bunch of Jews think of themselves as one. But what if one bunch of those same Jews say that there is, for instance, a Satmar nation? It seems to me your logic would force you to recognize that people as a nation and grant them self-determination.
    Everybody seems to agree that there is an American nation. Fine. Is there a New York nation? Is there a New York City nation? How about a south Manhattan Island nation? If I pronounce myself a nation of one, why is it that I do not have a right to ‘national’ self determination? And why does every individual around me not have the right to pronounce himself an independent nation?
    The problem is, simply, that there is no evidence that nations exist except insofar as some people think there is one. And that is just not good enough to pronounce that that group has a ‘right’ to anything. There is simply no evidence of the existence of a nation of Israel as a rights-holding corporate entity. And the same is true for every single other nation in existence. None of them has a ‘right’ to exist- or indeed a right to anything else. Not the Jews as a collectivity, nor the Palestinians as a collectivity. As individuals, though, they do, and it seems to me the individual right we should be talking about here is the right to property. Some people have legitimate claims to land and those claims need to assessed. And if it is the case that a Palestinian or his descendants have a claim to a piece of property then they need to either get that property back or receive compensation.
    A separate but related point: even if you can provide a more or less unproblematic set of criteria for identifying when one group’s belief that they constitute a nation is true, and another group’s pronouncement of the same is false, by what standard of rights does that nation’s right to existence or self-determination or anything else trump the rights of a real live individual human being? I would say that even if you could conceivably develop a coherent notion of national rights there is still no reason why any individual human being should have to surrender his rights to this national ghost. But maybe that’s just because I’m kind of zealous in guarding my individual human rights.

  6. Your “principles” lack (at least) one: at the time of early conflict, did one side demonstrate, relatively, an attempt to solve the problematic situation? Solve it peacefully? Solve it by yielding up basic historic rights that they could have continued claiming?

    In this case, the Zionist Movement in 1919 suggested it be granted a large area (http://myrightword.blogspot.com/2009/07/borders-1919.html), was awarded territory on both banks of the Jordan, lost TransJordan in 1923, lost the Golan (the British got Mosul for handing it over to the French) in 1924, lost historic rights to the Kotel in 1930 due to some international commission, accepted Partition in 1939, accepted another Partition in 1947, returned Sinai in 1957, offered autonomy in 1978, 97% in 2000, etc., etc. Did the Arab side at any time accept the framework of territorial compromise?

    Of course, we could revert to the Jabotinsky example from Baba Metzia, he who yields on a 100% by claiming half (for the sake of peace) while the other side continues to claim 100%, will only be awarded 25%. Or, we all being moderates, we could suggest that the unwillingness of the Arabs to compromise simply works against them as seekers of peace.

  7. Haim,

    The whole idea of land belonging to one people or another is kind of absurd. Maybe that’s too philosophical to get into.

    I have no problem with your principles which claim some special consideration for Jews in the light of history. But as other comments here bring in we have to talk not only about an Israeli/Jewish narrative but about acceptance (on the part of Arabs) and international law. There is a bright line that represents what we have evolved to historically politically that is expressed in international law.

    What happened in 1948 was accepted among the community of nations by consensus with provisions that Israel would be peace-loving and would resolve the Palestinian refugee issue. Israel not only sought this recognition (within it’s green line “borders”), but it signed the UN Charter, accepted the terms and celebrated the achievement that this represented: that Israel is a legitimate nation/state in the eyes of the world. As such Israel, along with other nations, is subject to certain privileges, responsibilities and expectations.

    We don’t do conquest anymore.

    For me this makes the other arguments, including both Brook’s and YBD’s part of an endless useless butting of heads (in which I partake). We either accept the way things are now in this world order and go forward or we devolve, go back to barbarism, chaos and might makes right ( “we won, they lost”) mode. This latter would leave everyone everywhere vulnerable and after the most defenses they can muster.

    There is no going back even if there were some insane consensus to do that. The work is to bring everyone forward and on board. For people to see that, to let go of such ideas as the bent rays arguments described above, maybe there has to be a lot more of pain and suffering on both sides.

  8. Haim,

    Tomorrow I look forward to bulldozing my neighbor’s house and building one for myself where his once was.

    Given the hostility that he and his family will no doubt meet me with, I’ll have no choice but to take his land by force and create facts on the ground that will allow for the defense of said land. A very high wall seems like a wise option!

    Undoubtedly he will protest, saying I’ve stolen his land, plain and simple. Of course this is based on a concept of originalism that makes no sense in the real world. In other words, this presumes that there was some particular point in time in which our city’s housing was divided up fairly between citizens. Then bad citizens started stealing houses from peaceful ones. Peace and justice can be regained if everyone goes back to where they came from.

    Sadly, my neighbor is famous for spewing forth such logical absurdities as this.

  9. I think you have mistaken my position, although I dony deny being an anti-zionist. The reason that I decry a Jeiwhs state is supplied by one of your own historians, Shlomo Sand, who has proven that Jews do not constitute a real people, but a group of malcontents that have coalesced together. This is why I have no problems with new nations, like East Timor, but have great problems with fake nations, like yours. YBD spouts off nonsence that the land was divinely given to the Jewish people, but no one subscribes to that tribal nonsense anymore. Your entire history has been proved to be a falsehood, by your own historians- thats right-no Moses, no King David, no 1st or 2nd temples or 3rd temples, no ancient israel-all myths. No wonder people get upset with you-you consume a lot of resources stealing other peoples land based upon a fraudulent mythology. I used to accept the conventional zionist mythology until my eyes were opened by your own historians-Benny Morris, Ilan Pappe, Avi Shlaim and others who have proved that the only thing truthful about your enterprise is theft, pillage and ethnic cleansing. I thus dont distinguish YBD from Haim or Gershon because all of you want to hold onto stolen Palestine

  10. “We the People” only works in the U.S. because the people are not defined by sub-group (at long last) and the tie to the land comes with the money to buy a piece of it.

    Decades ago, when I bought my first house, the evening after moving in I lay down in the back yard and was filled with elation – I had my own property! It was MINE!

    In the years since, I’ve come to realize that any one of us, who last a century at the outside, making a claim of “mine” on a piece of ground millions, if not billions, of years old is laughable.

    However, were I to give up an individual claim to property, there would be others only too willing to take it from me to make it theirs, but only as one individual seen by the law in respect to another.

    This is where Lars makes the strongest case.

    Once we get into mysticism about a bond to the land and let emotion and group identity take us away into the mists of ancient times, there is little basis for coming to terms, but wide latitude for bloodshed. What a sorry history has nationalism, and at the very point when it might begin to wind down, here came a new claim – Israel and to match it, a modern Palestinian state beside it.

    I’d be the first to admit there are good things to group identity and a bond felt with others seen as “we”. But what a down side we’ve seen time and again. Was Europe reduced to a smoking ruin not enough of a lesson?

    I cannot go to a site where an ancient member of my tribe did such-and-such or where “my people” held off the forces of so-and-so. Three cheers for my ignorance! May my children enjoy it as well. It’s not where your ancestors come from that matters, it’s where you are going. Otherwise it too easily becomes adding more dead to the dead.

    Buying and selling of property and observance of the rule of law that goes with it is the only way we can deal with each other when it comes to the land. There can be no other claims that will stand without inviting conflict. The law must be blind to group identification.

    To the Arab and the Jew – come be my neighbors, buy the properties on either side of mine, settle for what the law allows to one and all who are able to make the purchase. Or, if you wish to stay where you are, see to it that individual property rights are honored. Don’t ask my country to come to the assistance of one of your groups over the other on the basis of “this is our land” because it has nothing to do with what the law should stand for – individual rights regardless of race or religion, no claims based on group identity.

    The Jews of history survived through all manner of suffering and eviction because they carried their values within their heads and hearts. Judaism survived. Isn’t that the primary wish of any group, that the philosophy and practices stand the test of time? Is this now so fragile that this piece of land or that one in the hands of one or another will be devastating?

    Carrying the values within is what is worth emulating, while defending the spread of individual rights to property under the law. History has little good to say about the bond of blood and soil. Does anyone suggest current events are about to turn this judgment around?

  11. Shlomo Sand hasn’t proven anything, or bubkas as some of us would say. His research is lousy, his logic is lacking, his sources are less than weak and only Jew haters are delighted. Even a mainstream Mapai Zionist like Anita Shapiro has torn him apart along with others: http://docs.google.com/gview?a=v&q=cache%3AhPS61Sr8GH8J%3Awww.isracampus.org.il%2FExtra%2520Files%2FAnita%2520Shapira%2520-%2520Shlomo%2520Sand%2520book%2520review.pdf+shlomo+sand+anita&hl=en&pli=1

  12. To aliya06: OK, I take back the word “minimal.” I should have said: Whatever the exact presence of Jews in Palestine over the past two millenniums, it comes nowhere near that needed to justify a Jewish settlement project in Palestine in 1922, much less a national home or a nation-state, given the demographics at the time.

    You’re dead wrong about Trans-Jordan, by the way. Creating Trans-Jordan out of Palestine was absolutely legal by Article 25 of the Mandate, which was written exactly for that purpose.

    Lars: you’re seriously confused. You invent an absurd definition of “nation” that no one would seriously consider using, you then derive absurd consequences from your absurd definition, and then you conclude that the ideology of nationalism is absurd. Instead you prefer some imaginary “individual rights,” a mystical concept that was conjured up out of thin air in 17th century Europe.

    For whatever it’s worth, consider that 19th-century nationalists tended to be liberals. The new nation-states they envisioned were to be liberal states based on the rights of man, replacing the old reactionary empires. And note the emphasis on nation in the bourgeois liberal French Revolution.

    Cut the Gordian knot of natural “rights.” A just solution will then be easier.

    To Steve Kelly: Well said. We all rationalize and special-plead for our own interests, and Haim Watman’s post is no exception.

  13. “Whatever the exact presence of Jews in Palestine over the past two millenniums, it comes nowhere near that needed to justify a Jewish settlement project in Palestine in 1922, much less a national home or a nation-state, given the demographics at the time.”

    Says who? Andorra has a population of 83,000 today; Abkhazia seeks independence from Georgia with a population of less than 200,000; Bhutan is a bit over 700,000; Montenegro has about 620,000 people– exactly what magic number is required before a people can have sovereignty? Besides, its mostly rhetorical–the State exists per League of Nation law and subsequent treaties. Wishing us away solves nothing.

    The original Palestine Mandate’s population by 1948 comprised approximately 1/3 Jews and 2/3 Arabs, the latter of which were demonstrably hostile to the idea of Jewish existence, much less equal citizenship and governance. If a Jewish state was not a necessity in 1922 it rapidly became one in light of Arab hostility which manifested itself in multiple pogroms and wars.

    And I stand corrected on Article 25–your comment prompted me to go back and reread materials on the British Mandate. Clearly the League of Nations and the Mandatory Power lawfully created two territories–one Arab and one Jewish–with the border at the Jordan River. As I read this, any further partition of the lands west of the Jordan is of questionable legality, which puts into issue the 1948 partition. I have always thought a two-state Palestine/Israel remedy was appropriate–now, I’m not sure there is a legal ground for such an entity as “Palestine” in the West Bank and Gaza given the lack of legal force in UN resolutions versus the binding treaties and legal status of League of Nation declarations. I have to rethink my position on the two-state solution in light of this.

  14. My two cents:

    The reason anti-Zionist and “Eretz Yisrael HaShlema” Zionism bend together is that they have a common ideological principle: rejection of the idea of partition, which was the basis on which the UN decided to solve the Palestine Question in 1947. Both those who deny a Palestinian right to a state and those who deny a Jewish right to a state will, if they get their wish, have to face the same problems the British did in the Mandate of Palestine: eternal revolt by one nation or the other (or both) depending on which feels overpowered in the resulting agglomeration.

    But if people insist on making the argument on the abstract right to properties held before 1948: yes, it would be nice to have my great-grandfather’s house in Hebron back; but I value an ethnically and culturally Jewish, democratic state more. This state cannot survive the absorption of large non-Jewish populations, either by annexation of the West Bank with its 4 million Palestinians, or by the immigration of similar numbers of refugees.

  15. aliya06: As you’re rethinking your position, note that you’re also wrong about UN resolutions. Yes, General Assembly resolutions, such as the one recommending partition, are nonbinding. However, Security Council resolutions, such as Resolution 242, are legally binding on UN members. If 242 is ever realized, it will supersede the Mandate in the territories relinquished by Israel, just as the international recognition of the State of Israel (not the partition resolution) superseded the Mandate on the state’s territory (whatever that is).

    On the supposed “historic right” of the Jews: obviously there’s no “magic number” required to win a national home. The issue is not the absolute size of the Jewish population in Palestine in 1922 (or 1917 or whenever), but the size relative to the total population there. Jews were a small minority.

    And it’s a lot more than just demographics. A minority might be socially-politically dominant, but the Jews were not. Palestine was a predominantly Muslim place, and had been for centuries. There was no “historic rights” justification for coming in and turning the whole damn place upside-down. Can you imagine how nice liberals like Watzman and Gorenberg would react if someone else did something like that to a settled, traditional society?

    I agree that by 1947, partition was probably a good idea. Jews were a substantial minority. It was too late to right the injustice of Zionist settlement without causing an even worse injustice against the Jewish population. Allowing Arab rule over the Jews would have been catastrophic, as it was in other new states such as Iraq.

    Remember that this Hundred Years War was clearly started by the Zionists when they began settling and dominating an already-populated land. This is not to deny centuries of Muslim anti-Semitism. There had been plenty of conflict and oppression under the Ottoman Empire, especially in the century preceding as the Empire waned. But this war, started by the Zionists in the early 20th century and now continuing into the 21st, is new.

  16. Aliyah06 : “If a Jewish state was not a necessity in 1922 it rapidly became one in light of Arab hostility which manifested itself in multiple pogroms and wars.”

    Arab hostility has justification. It relates to the increasing invasion of Jews (Europeans). To say that the just solution was partition and a necessity because of increasing Jewish colonization and the resultant increasing anger and hostility on the part of Arabs is , it seems to me from an Arab point of view, ramming in down their throats further and more injustice ( to be even further compounded through war).

    They did not agree to this nor would they until all that has passed until now- and then some not even now.

    This is why international law has to prevail.

    I agree with Ploni on this, well articulated.

    To me, it just feels better to acknowledge all this than to fight it. From there it’s easier to go forward. And this again ties into the discussion about acknowledging, accepting, the Arab narrative as Jews wish that Arabs accept the Jewish narrative instead of getting involved in returning blame for blame, hate for hate.

  17. I agree with many of the points here but disagree particularly with those that are taken out of context.

    The Arabs sought independence from the Ottoman Empire, just as the Jews sought an independent homeland. Emir Faisal, who as Sherif of Mecca spoke for the Arab Revolt and its adherents, was in favor of a Jewish homeland but stressed that any Arab agreement to whatever the European Powers propounded as a post-war settlement was predicated on Arab independence, NOT having the Arab territories cut up into French and British fiefdoms.

    Its historically inaccurate to blame “the Zionists” for “colonizing” the land when in fact the land was sold by Turkish and Arab landowners under legal process at the time; the Jews were welcome by the Sultan (until WWI) as citizens, and there was a great deal of Arab “colonizing” going on as well, as population groups from Iraq, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco and Arabia (as well as Chechens, Cherkassim and Bosnians from Europe) all moved into the neighborhood. This myth of some pure Palestinian folkhood stretching back in time is garbage–this area was always a melting pot of populations. [At one point, an Egyptian ruler complained that men were avoiding conscription by running to Palestine (different name but same place then) and he demanded that the Sultan order them to return…the Sultan’s response was that his was ONE empire, and his subjects were free to live wherever they wished–and no, he wouldn’t order them to return to Egypt.]

    If it was majority Arab Moslem, you need to credit various Moslem rulers for “convert-or-die” rules over the centuries, along with the Sharia law that makes converting OUT of Islam punishable by death. Sticking to minority status wasn’t healthy at times.

    Suzanne, are you suggesting that pogroms are justifiable? That the slaughter of unarmed civilians, many old men, children and women, is okay in the name of Arab nationalism? I hope that’s not what you’re suggesting. The riots were no different than the Tzar’s pogroms, a majority group being whipped into a religious/nationalist frenzy to kill an unarmed minority group.

    I disagree that this was “started by the Zionists” — I think it was started on April 4, 1920, when Haj Amin el Husseini screamed “the Jews are our dogs! Kill the Jews!” which made detente between Jews and Arabs unworkable in the foreseeable future.

  18. So far, Phillips Brooks appears to be winning. On his side are Ploni, Suzanne, Clif, Steve Kelley, Fiddler, David and Lars. No one has defended Haim, and YBD, Medad, and Aliyah are opposed. Here you have a common anti-semite spouting off, and Haim, despite three decades in Israel cannot answer him except compare him to a zionist. Haim, what exactly have you been doing for the last 30 years in Israel that you been rhetorically whipped by an ordinary Jew hater?

  19. Aliyah06- “Suzanne, are you suggesting that pogroms are justifiable? That the slaughter of unarmed civilians, many old men, children and women, is okay in the name of Arab nationalism? I hope that’s not what you’re suggesting.”

    All of my grandparents came to the US because of pogroms. I am glad they emigrated, but not happy about the circumstances. Pogroms are not “okay”.

    To understand the causes of the Israeli Arab conflict which reflect back to a certain period, you do have to put yourself in another time and place and try to see through those other eyes– unless you don’t want to understand. True some don’t. This is a problem if there is to be some breakthrough psychologically though-which needs to happen. It needs to happen on both sides.

    In Arab eyes it was justified even mandatory to resist… to today now with occupation. It is possible that Palestinians feel today as though they are in a modern day pogrom ( Gaza).

    Why it is so easy to misunderstand the difference between how I or you feel and how I or you understand how THEY feel on the other end?

    Simply expressing empathy for the opposing point of view does not make the suggestion that I am okaying heinous acts.

    And it’s not only about not how Arabs acted or reacted- they did not act in a vacuum. There were actions and reactions all the way around on both sides. This is simply trying to see things from another angle to help sort it out.

    The basis is, I suppose, taken for granted that we share a common humanity. For some this is not an easy to agree to… ie that somewhere inside the enemy lives a human being not very different and who stands in another vantage point/ time and who has a different frame of reference which makes for certain reactions. “Justifying” here is that within their frame of reference- it can be seen that they were acting reasonably. On the other side- within the Jewish frame of reference, Jews were also acting reasonably, justifiably. For me- both are true, but each only to a point before it gets unjustifiable and unreasonable…( where we are now in my opinion).

    N. Tal’s rays too bent for me. I don’t consider myself on Phillips Brooks “side” and don’t agree with Tal’s score keeping or branding.

  20. Suzanne, if you read all the posts again through a Manichaean lens there will remain two posters you’ll understand: Phillip Brooks and Nimrod Tal. And that’s how the latter could come up with such a bizarre scorecard.

  21. Fiddler, I guess I’ll have to put myself in each of their shoes to do that. When I try each way it hurts to find myself having to get into denying people’s existence or rights on each side.

    I erased a line on my last post -something about seeing a world that is of millions of colors though only black and white, good and evil lens.

  22. Sorry-if it quacks like a duck, it is likely a duck. As a zionist, I hate to say that Mr Brooks soundly whipped Haim’s butt, but it is true. The majority of the posters are closer to that of Mr Brooks than those of the zionist posters. Mr Brooks may represent either a clearer statement of what other posters here would like to say, or an evolution of the posters may feel in the next few months

  23. @Ploni – “claims” on land don’t “expire” like checks or something. what you did was admit that there had been a Jewish claim to the land, but then state that it had expired. by the same logic, the current palestinian claim, current because there were more palestinians there before 1900 say, will expire sometime in the next millenium, at which point Jews, or the next group, can take it over. that’s nonsensical.

    @Fiddler – you make an excellent point about historical claims/historical ties. i think that saying there are ‘historical palestinian ties’ to the land makes as much sense as speaking about historical jordanian/syrian/lebanese/libyan ties to their current land. yes, the ‘philistines’ of goliath and the arabic word ‘filistin’ are similar, but in making a ‘historical claim’ argument, you’d have to prove that these are exactly the same people: ethnically/ linguistically Arab, religiously Muslim, and so forth.

  24. Nimrod writes: “Haim, what exactly have you been doing for the last 30 years in Israel that you been rhetorically whipped by an ordinary Jew hater?”
    Answer: Making a living. Raising four Hebrew-speaking children. Serving in the IDF. Building a community of thinking, socially-conscious religious Jews. Other similar really Zionist stuff. Doesn’t leave much time for arguing with crazies who can’t read a sentence straight. Got a problem with my priorities?

  25. Haim-
    Yes, your answer is a good one. You are doing just like the Zionists in Baka, Tel Aviv, Kiryat Arba, Beit El, Kfar Tapuach, Elon Moreh are doing. You are doing just like the good Zionists in Gush Katif did also, yet either you or Gershom (I don’t recall which) compared them to the Ku Klux Klan (the posting about the Israel Post Office making a postage stamp commemorating Gush Katif). It is this confusion that is bothering me .

    (PS-just a reminder, the big patron of settlement in Gush Katif was Yitzhak Rabin…so if you consider Gush Katif to be like the Klan, that would mean that Rabin was a Klan-supporter, right?)

  26. Y. Ben-David: “It is this confusion that is bothering me .”

    The confusion is about what is over the line and not over the line, what was captured in ’67 (“Greater Israel”) and what is Israel proper (within the green line) and internationally recognized as such, between where you have to go through checkpoints and walls set up for security reasons and where you do not ( at the moment), between what is Tel Aviv and what is Elon Moreh ( which Rabin was against settling) , between what is to be Palestinian and what is unquestionably Israel. Once you get that straight- you may be okay.

  27. I’ve spent a lot of time becoming a good fiddle player (or so I like to think). There are many other fiddlers the world over, and I’m betting the farm there are some whose playing I could appreciate while despising their politics. There are also many brilliant players whose style just isn’t my cuppa tay.
    YBD, there are several different flavours of Zionism, and Haim’s isn’t the same as yours. Why is that so confusing?

  28. Dear Haim
    wonderful answer. These are great priorities. Why cant you give an answer justifying Zionism that could shut these crazies down (Brooks and his supporters on your blogsite). despite your laudable activities, you need to articulate clearly a need for a Jewish state. Your not doing it is worrisome (see Daniel Gordis new book)

  29. Suzanne, I don’t want to repeat arguments posted elsewhere in these comments, but that is exactly the problem: the Green Line is not sacred or determinative. You have your interpretation of international law, and there are other interpretations. There is the also in this mix the Fatah and Hamas declarations that they don’t recognize any line (don’t flame–I know we’ve covered this before and I know your position) but the situation is not nearly as black and white as some would have it.

  30. Kato, I think you’ve completely misunderstood me. I’m in no way disputing anyone’s historical ties to some place. I certainly have “historical” ties to the region (including portions of three countries) I grew up in – but that doesn’t mean I claim sovereignty over it.
    I was disputing Haim’s premise that 1) ties automatically lead to claims/rights and 2) that Israel/Palestine is the only land to which Jews have historical ties. Ploni made the point about “originalism” more eloquently than I.
    IMO such “historical claims” arguments are bogus; I agree with Erich Fromm’s best-known quote.

  31. No, I think I got your point. My bit about the Filistin thing was just my own example, not a re-summary of anything you had said. I was trying to point out that in many cases ‘historical ties’ that are cited as ‘clear’ are actually not and involve quite a bit of historical and logical maneuvering.

    I don’t know which of Erich Fromm’s quotes is the best-known.

  32. Aliyah06- “the Green Line is not sacred or determinative.”

    The green line may not be sacred, but it is “determinative” as far as international law and peace negotiations go. The Green Line is an important reference point, a starting point. It represents not only where the fighting stopped in 1949, but it marks the beginning of land captured in the 67 war. To the green line Israel has international legitimacy, beyond that no. Beyond the green line is variously called “occupied territory”, “occupied Palestinian territory” or “disputed territory” .

    This is not a matter of my interpretation.

    Regarding what Hamas and Fatah recognize or don’t recognize that still involves the Green line as a reference point.

    I don’t believe I “flamed” you in the past beyond what was coming at me and in defense. You can read who began what. Part of the problem on that thread was that you and Charlotte were super sensitive while being insensitive to your own flaming. But no we don’t need to go there.

  33. Sorry, I dont distinguish between “good” zionists like Haim and Gershon, and “bad” zionists like Nimrod, YBD and others. You are all ziothieves. I actually dont like “good” zionists who try to cover their theft with a gloss of morality, which as you can see, is not fooling too many people on this blog

  34. Responses:

    I appreciate that Zionist settlement was mostly carried out legally. That does not make it morally right. The Zionists were coming to displace and, in a sense, to dispossess the existing population. (Note, that’s a real population, not some mythical Palestinian Volk.) Sometimes one is justified in breaking the law, even by terrorism. I think this was one of those cases. This was an existential issue for the local population. The State of Israel similarly would be right to violate international law if its existence were at stake.

    I still don’t see what’s nonsensical about a prescriptive “right” of a people to land. I’m talking about actionable claims. Prescription cuts both ways: whatever you think of the settlements now, after some time Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria will be every bit as legitimate as those Jewish communities inside the Green Line, if they all still exist. Denying the principle of prescription entails endless war, exile, and dispossession.

  35. To Mr. Brooks is your basic Jew-hater. There is only one argument he respects: ƩF=0. It offends him not that he might argue successfully with Haim but that Haim would kick his ass in a back-street alley with one-Tehillim wrapped arm behind his back. That is Haim’s sin – to be strong.

    Mr. Brooks’s country’s policies helped starve my relatives out of northern Ireland in 1847 and now he’s weeps at the thought of injustices suffered by the Palestinians when in truth – he could care less about their situation.

  36. A little historical accuracy:

    1) The majority of todays so called Palestinian Arabs are immigrants, or descendents of immigrants, to the “land between the river and the sea” in the early 1900. Demographic records clearly showed the rate of Arab immigration was higher than the rate of Jewish immigration prior to the 1940’s. That is why they need a different definition of “refugee” from 99% of refugees in the world. That definition is based on a 2 (two) year residence in the land.

    2) Prior to 1948, when people referred to Palestinians, they meant Jews.

    3) What has been renamed the “west bank” by the Jordanians (during the Jordanian occupation and attempted annexation 1948-1967), historically is known as Judea. There are still Judean hills and a Judean dessert. Clearly, making a claim of being an Arab from Judea is quickly dismissed. Historically, prior to the 6th century, all Arabs lived in Arabia. The fact that they controlled much of Europe for 400 years gives them no more rights over Spain than over Israel. The only reason Spain is not predominantly Muslim today was Sharia in reverse…..the Inquisition (What a show…..)

    4) Nationality is based on language, culture, religion and geography. Jews are a nation based on Hebrew, Jewish culture, Jewish religion, and there longing return to their own country that was re-inforced yearly during Passover, in liturgy, and scripture.

    On the other hand, the Palestinian Arabs are an amalgamation of regional dialects of Arabic, a mixture of Christians, Muslims, and pagan practices, and have no historical allegiance to a nation, but rather to clan and family.

  37. For me, the old issues (who had the “right” to the land?) are painful but beside the point. There WILL be an Israel and there WILL be some sort of Palestine (presently there is the practical (for Israel) ONE-STATE (“Israel-Palestine” ?), UN-DEMOCRATIC, APARTHEID-LIKE, etc.). Later here may be something else. Not much I can do about it.

    However, there is the status quo which (for me) is unsatisfactory because in order to keep it going it is necessary for Israel and the US to cooperate in the setting-aside (dis-empowering) of the international law of occupation. Israel and the US have become and continue to be, in this regard, light-extinguishers-to-the-nations. And human-rights abusers, of course.

    For me, the “solution” to the present problem is to abandon the search for peace in favor of a search for a lawfully-conducted occupation — that is to say, an occupation without the wall or the settlers and an occupation in which the settlements and highways were either turned over to the PA for unrestricted use or, at Israel’s option, destroyed and the rubble removed behind the green line (with the rubble from the wall and with the settlers). And don’t forget the water. Never forget the water.

    Achieving this might not influence the search for peace, but it would re-enshrine international humanitarian law and make the US and Israel (in the sense that they had become to this extent law-abiding) “lights unto the nations”

    Is this a program which any Zionists could favor? Or does Zionism require illegality, as some have of course been saying.

  38. @Simon: And your point is?

    If every single Arab victim of the Naqba had been an immigrant, had that justified their violent expulsion any better – expulsion by people most of whose ancestors hadn’t set foot in the land for generations?
    If, hypothetically, tomorrow the US decided to expel all American Jews, they would not be refugees, according to your definition. After all, no one can claim ancestry in America going back to Moses.

    “Clearly, making a claim of being an Arab from Judea is quickly dismissed.” – By whom? Not me, no more than I’ll dismiss someone’s claim of being a Jew from Germany.
    The terms “Judea” and “Samaria” are contentious not because they’re historically inaccurate but because they are politically misused by the Gush Emunim crowd.

    The claim that the Arabs “controlled much of Europe for 400 years” is wildly overstated. Much of the Iberian peninsula, yes.
    The Ottomans who ruled part of SE Europe were Turks, not Arabs.
    And furthermore, the fact that Jews had a kingdom between river and sea some millennia ago gives them no rights over the land today either.

  39. Fiddler–
    Thanks for backing up my points. The reason there are any refugees from 1948 is because the arabs elected to start a war rather than accept a state. Nothing has changed in 60 years.

    The point I made was that historically speaking, the land has always been associated to Jews. Many other people may have transiently passed through (much like renters) but always looked to other lands as their home. The owners, who were forced out, mearly returned home to claim was has always been recognized as theirs

  40. Every single argument above is severely flawed, with the exception of the enlightened analysis by Lars. Every right granted confers at least one obligation – to abstain from its violation. The concept of property ownership, whether collective or individual, is untenable by the criteria of the universal imperative. Both political and commercial forms ownership are by nature exclusionary. The nationalist claim can neither be found quantitatively nor qualitatively egalitarian. The formation of the imagined national community (see Benedict Anderson’s book) is a recent phenomena, but communal claims of land ownership are very old. The original communities were ethnic in nature, and most often densely consanguineous. They varied in permeability, and justified their claims in a mythical process analogous to our own. Much like today, the justifying myths are post-facto, and the real determinant was violence and it’s the political expression of its dormancy. To conjure up this past as a superior or alternative to the present is foolish. Unless you subscribe to Hitler’s theories, the benefit of nationalism over these archaic ethnic communities is in the fluidity of the definition of its constituency. As a complete abstraction, it is free to define itself by ideas rather than race/ethnicity/kinship.

    Any focus on past migrations or historic injustices is a return to the ethnic paradigm of the fascists and their forbears. Any equitable solution must be considered only with regards to the needs and rights of those presently living, by whatever universal rights you profess, be they economic, socio-political or an awkward combination thereof.

  41. Very interesting. As an anti-Zionist liberal sympathetic to the nationalist idea, I guess I would start from some different premises:

    1. The world should be divided into clearly delineated, mutually exclusive “nation-states,” each one with a “government” having exclusive control.

    2. No nation-state should attack any other on the theory that the other has no right to exist. When one does, the subject of the attack has a right to defend itself.

    3. There should be no stateless people. In situations where stateless people exist, the governments of the world have a strong moral obligation to take them in, and, ceteris paribus, put them on a fast track to citizenship.

    4. Internally, every nation-state should grant its citizens the same set of rights, regardless of race, creed, or ethnic origin. (I use “creed” rather than religion to include secular ideologies as well.) This is generally called “equality before the law.” It does not require that all rights be the same in every country. (In one country, for example, alcohol might be forbidden for all citizens, while in another the government might deliver a free bottle of champagne once a year to everyone.)

    5. In the ongoing battle over which religion is the one true religion, or as some would have it, which religions are better than others, no government should take sides. Governments should remain above the fray, letting their citizens argue this out. In other words, no government should declare itself to be a “Christian state,” for example.

    6. Different countries may establish different immigration and naturalization policies, but these policies should conform to the “equality before the law” principal.

    7. No individual has the right to move to any particular part of the world simply because his or her ancestors used to live there. For example, although I am a German-American, the German government should be under no obligation to let me move to that country. (I can’t imagine why they would want me, anyway.)

    Principal 2 is a clear endorsement of the notion that the country called “Israel” has a right to defend itself. It is also clearly implies that any richer country dispensing foreign aid should give some to Israel, assuming Israel needs it and assuming the money is used for defensive purposes.

    Principals 4, 5, 6, and 7 are anti-Zionist principals. The fact that I believe them explains exactly why I am an anti-Zionist. I hope that someday, I could move Israel without having to check a box on the application form indicating that I’m not Jewish. More important, I hope that someday Israel ceases to be a Jewish state and becomes a place where all religions are treated with equal indifference by the state, and, most important of all,where Israelis have equal rights, including Arab Israelis. It may take a century to achieve this, but certain steps could be taken in the more immediate future.
    Before anyone rushes headlong into the argument that Israel needs to be a Jewish state in order for Jews to survive, or that Jews need a homeland in the Middle East, I would point out that Jews are surviving quite nicely in the United States, and have done so since the beginnings of this country. Jewish Americans have served as Justices on our highest court, as heads of some of our major businesses, as prominent labor leaders, as movers-and-shakers in the highest reaches of our political parties, and so on. Gentiles who have engaged in anti-Semitic violence have been punished to the full extent of the law. Opinion polls show no rising tide of anti-Semitism. The Jews who live in the so-called promised land are in greater danger of being wiped out by anti-Semitic thugs than are American Jews.
    I could be wrong, of course. Perhaps someday the Grand Kleagle of the KKK will get himself elected President of the United States. . . .

    Yours for the Diaspora,

    Mark Koerner

  42. re-reading my comments, I notice that I repeatedly confused “principles” with “principals.” To prevent me from looking semi-literate, could you possibly correct my error?

    –Mark Koerner

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