Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
Tags: Avigdor Lieberman, balfour, ben gurion, british mandate, gaza, history, intifada, israel, israelis, jeffrey goldberg, juan cole, league of nations, Mahmoud Abbas, mandates, Middle East, netanyahu, Palestine, Palestinians, roger hollander, settlements, west bank, zionism
On March 10, I posted on the humiliation heaped on Vice President Joe Biden by the Israeli government of far-right Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu. Biden went to Israel intending to help kick off indirect negotiations between Netanyahu and Palestine Authority president Mahmoud Abbas. Biden had no sooner arrived than the Israelis announced that they would build 1600 new households on Palestinian territory that they had unilaterally annexed to Jerusalem. Since expanding Israeli colonization of Palestinian land had been the sticking point causing Abbas to refuse to engage in negotiations, and, indeed, to threaten to resign, this step was sure to scuttle the very talks Biden had come to inaugurate. And it did.
The tiff between the U.S. and Israel is less important that the worrisome growth of tension between Palestinians and Israelis as the Israelis have claimed more and more sites sacred to the Palestinians as well. There is talk of a third Intifada or Palestinian uprising.
As part of my original posting, I mirrored a map of modern Palestinian history that has the virtue of showing graphically what has happened to the Palestinians politically and territorially in the past century.
Andrew Sullivan then mirrored the map from my site, which set off a lot of thunder and noise among anti-Palestinian writers like Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, but shed very little light.
The map is useful and accurate. It begins by showing the British Mandate of Palestine as of the mid-1920s. The British conquered the Ottoman districts that came to be the Mandate during World War I. (The Ottoman sultan threw in with Austria and Germany against Britain, France and Russia, mainly out of fear of Russia.)
But because of the rise of the League of Nations and the influence of President Woodrow Wilson’s ideas about self-determination, Britain and France could not decently simply make their new, previously Ottoman territories into simple colonies. The League of Nations awarded them “Mandates.” Britain got Palestine, France got Syria (which it made into Syria and Lebanon), Britain got Iraq.The League of Nations Covenant spelled out what a Class A Mandate (i.e. territory that had been Ottoman) was:
Article 22. Certain communities formerly belonging to the Turkish Empire have reached a stage of development where their existence as independent nations can be provisionally recognised subject to the rendering of administrative advice and assistance by a Mandatory [i.e., a Western power] until such time as they are able to stand alone. The wishes of these communities must be a principal consideration in the selection of the Mandatory.
That is, the purpose of the later British Mandate of Palestine, of the French Mandate of Syria, of the British Mandate of Iraq, was to ‘render administrative advice and assistance” to these peoples in preparation for their becoming independent states, an achievement that they were recognized as not far from attaining. The Covenant was written before the actual Mandates were established, but Palestine was a Class A Mandate and so the language of the Covenant was applicable to it. The territory that formed the British Mandate of Iraq was the same territory that became independent Iraq, and the same could have been expected of the British Mandate of Palestine. (Even class B Mandates like Togo have become nation-states, but the poor Palestinians are just stateless prisoners in colonial cantons).
The first map thus shows what the League of Nations imagined would become the state of Palestine. The economist published an odd assertion that the Negev Desert was ‘empty’ and should not have been shown in the first map. But it wasn’t and isn’t empty; Palestinian Bedouin live there, and they and the desert were recognized by the League of Nations as belonging to the Mandate of Palestine, a state-in-training. The Mandate of Palestine also had a charge to allow for the establishment of a ‘homeland’ in Palestine for Jews (because of the 1917 Balfour Declaration), but nobody among League of Nations officialdom at that time imagined it would be a whole and competing territorial state. There was no prospect of more than a few tens of thousands of Jews settling in Palestine, as of the mid-1920s. (They are shown in white on the first map, refuting those who mysteriously complained that the maps alternated between showing sovereignty and showing population.) As late as the 1939 British White Paper, British officials imagined that the Mandate would emerge as an independent Palestinian state within 10 years.
In 1851, there had been 327,000 Palestinians (yes, the word “Filistin” was current then) and other non-Jews, and only 13,000 Jews. In 1925, after decades of determined Jewish immigration, there were a little over 100,000 Jews, and there were 765,000 mostly Palestinian non-Jews in the British Mandate of Palestine. For historical demography of this area, see Justin McCarthy’s painstaking calculations; it is not true, as sometimes is claimed, that we cannot know anything about population figures in this region. See also his journal article, reprinted at this site. The Palestinian population grew because of rapid population growth, not in-migration, which was minor. The common allegation that Jerusalem had a Jewish majority at some point in the 19th century is meaningless. Jerusalem was a small town in 1851, and many pious or indigent elderly Jews from Eastern Europe and elsewhere retired there because of charities that would support them. In 1851, Jews were only about 4 percent of the population of the territory that became the British Mandate of Palestine some 70 years later. And, there had been few adherents of Judaism, just a few thousand, from the time most Jews in Palestine adopted Christianity and Islam in the first millennium CE all the way until the 20th century. In the British Mandate of Palestine, the district of Jerusalem was largely Palestinian.
The rise of the Nazis in the 1930s impelled massive Jewish emigration to Palestine, so by 1940 there were over 400,000 Jews there amid over a million Palestinians.
The second map shows the United Nations partition plan of 1947, which awarded Jews (who only then owned about 6 percent of Palestinian land) a substantial state alongside a much reduced Palestine. Although apologists for the Zionist movement say that the Zionists accepted this partition plan and the Arabs rejected it, that is not entirely true. Zionist leader David Ben Gurion noted in his diary when Israel was established that when the U.S. had been formed, no document set out its territorial extent, implying that the same was true of Israel. We know that Ben Gurion was an Israeli expansionist who fully intended to annex more land to Israel, and by 1956 he attempted to add the Sinai and would have liked southern Lebanon. So the Zionist “acceptance” of the UN partition plan did not mean very much beyond a happiness that their initial starting point was much better than their actual land ownership had given them any right to expect.
The third map shows the status quo after the Israeli-Palestinian civil war of 1947-1948. It is not true that the entire Arab League attacked the Jewish community in Palestine or later Israel on behalf of the Palestinians. As Avi Shlaim has shown, Jordan had made an understanding with the Zionist leadership that it would grab the West Bank, and its troops did not mount a campaign in the territory awarded to Israel by the UN. Egypt grabbed Gaza and then tried to grab the Negev Desert, with a few thousand badly trained and equipped troops, but was defeated by the nascent Israeli army. Few other Arab states sent any significant number of troops. The total number of troops on the Arab side actually on the ground was about equal to those of the Zionist forces, and the Zionists had more esprit de corps and better weaponry.
The final map shows the situation today, which springs from the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank in 1967 and then the decision of the Israelis to colonize the West Bank intensively (a process that is illegal in the law of war concerning occupied populations).
There is nothing inaccurate about the maps at all, historically. Goldberg maintained that the Palestinians’ “original sin” was rejecting the 1947 UN partition plan. But since Ben Gurion and other expansionists went on to grab more territory later in history, it is not clear that the Palestinians could have avoided being occupied even if they had given away willingly so much of their country in 1947. The first original sin was the contradictory and feckless pledge by the British to sponsor Jewish immigration into their Mandate in Palestine, which they wickedly and fantastically promised would never inconvenience the Palestinians in any way. It was the same kind of original sin as the French policy of sponsoring a million colons in French Algeria, or the French attempt to create a Christian-dominated Lebanon where the Christians would be privileged by French policy. The second original sin was the refusal of the United States to allow Jews to immigrate in the 1930s and early 1940s, which forced them to go to Palestine to escape the monstrous, mass-murdering Nazis.
The map attracted so much ire and controversy not because it is inaccurate but because it clearly shows what has been done to the Palestinians, which the League of Nations had recognized as not far from achieving statehood in its Covenant. Their statehood and their territory has been taken from them, and they have been left stateless, without citizenship and therefore without basic civil and human rights. The map makes it easy to see this process. The map had to be stigmatized and made taboo. But even if that marginalization of an image could be accomplished, the squalid reality of Palestinian statelessness would remain, and the children of Gaza would still be being malnourished by the deliberate Israeli policy of blockading civilians. The map just points to a powerful reality; banishing the map does not change that reality.
Goldberg, according to Spencer Ackerman, says that he will stop replying to Andrew Sullivan, for which Ackerman is grateful, since, he implies, Goldberg is a propagandistic hack who loves to promote wars on flimsy pretenses. Matthew Yglesias also has some fun at Goldberg’s expense.
People like Goldberg never tell us what they expect to happen to the Palestinians in the near and medium future. They don’t seem to understand that the status quo is untenable. They are like militant ostriches, hiding their heads in the sand while lashing out with their hind talons at anyone who stares clear-eyed at the problem, characterizing us as bigots. As if that old calumny has any purchase for anyone who knows something serious about the actual views of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu or Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, more bigoted persons than whom would be difficult to find. Indeed, some of Israel’s current problems with Brazil come out of Lieberman’s visit there last summer; I was in Rio then and remember the distaste with which the multi-cultural, multi-racial Brazilians viewed Lieberman, whom some openly called a racist.
© 2010 Salon.com
Juan Cole teaches Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan. His most recent book Napoleon’s Egypt: Invading the Middle East (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) has just been published. He has appeared widely on television, radio and on op-ed pages as a commentator on Middle East affairs, and has a regular column at Salon.com. He has written, edited, or translated 14 books and has authored 60 journal articles. His weblog on the contemporary Middle East is Informed Comment.
Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
Tags: american jews, american rabbis, amy goodman, Ban Ki-moon, ceasefire, christian zionist movement, Christopher Gunness, civilian targets, Democracy Now, gaza, hamas, hillary clinton, humanitarian aid, israel, israel bombs hospital, israeli army, israeli massacre, israeli military, juan gonzalez, Middle East, Moussa El-Haddad, Obama, Palestinians, phosphorus munitions, Rabbi Michael Lerner, red cross, religious leaders, rockets, roger hollander, security council, tikkun magazine, United Nations, white phosphorus, zionism
www.democracynow.org, January 15, 2009
AMY GOODMAN: We go directly to the Middle East to Gaza. Juan?
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Israeli forces are continuing to pound Gaza City, hitting civilian targets, including a UN building, a hospital and a building housing several media organizations, in some of the heaviest shelling in nearly three weeks. Israeli troops, backed by helicopter gunships, tanks and heavy guns, have pushed deeply into densely populated neighborhoods. Thousands of Gaza City residents are fleeing their homes.
The Palestinian death toll now stands at at least 1,045, at least half of them civilians. Another 4,860 have been injured. Thirteen Israelis have been killed, including four by friendly fire.
AMY GOODMAN: We go now to Gaza to speak with Dr. Moussa El-Haddad, a retired physician. He lives in Gaza City.
Welcome to Democracy Now! Tell us where you are and what’s happening right now, Dr. El-Haddad.
DR. MOUSSA EL-HADDAD: Well, I am in Gaza City itself. What’s happening is a state that is almost impossible to describe. The Israeli army has escalated the attack on civilians since last night. I did not have a single minute of sleep for the last probably eighteen hours. There have been bombardment every day, every minute, all night long. My house was rocking all the time.
And this morning, when the sun rose, we could at least look from the window, and I could see, as you probably have seen on the TV, smoke coming out buildings, civilian buildings, apartment buildings. Actually, two hospitals were bombarded this morning, the Al-Quds and the Al-Wafa Hospital. Al-Wafa Hospital is a hospital for handicaps, by the way, and old people. A media apartment was also hit this morning not far from my house. That’s Abu Dhabi news agency.
So, wherever, it’s extremely unsafe now, even inside our homes, smoke everywhere. I could see cluster bombs being fired this morning, and the phosphorus bombs now are used freely on the civilians. I’m sure you have seen it on the TV.
AMY GOODMAN: Dr. El-Haddad, we heard that white phosphorus was dropped on the UN compound, that hundreds of people, families were there taking refuge. We discussed white phosphorus yesterday with Human Rights Watch. Can you talk, as a doctor, about the effects of the burning? For example, they say it can’t be put out, the fires that it creates, just by pouring water on it. In fact, that exacerbates it.
DR. MOUSSA EL-HADDAD: No, no, no. You cannot, actually. If you pour water on it, it gets worse, if you get this burn. Number one, those people who get exposed to white phosphorus get severe respiratory distress. They can hardly breathe, and then the exposed skin gets burned. If you put water on it, the burning increases, becomes worse. So you cannot really do much about it. And if the affected area was exposed too much for white phosphorus, it burns the skin, muscles and deep to the bones. So, eventually, a lot of these patients will lose some of their limbs.
AMY GOODMAN: Doctor El-Haddad, we’ve just been joined by Christopher Gunness. He’s the spokesperson for the UN Relief and Works Agency.
Can you tell us, Chris Gunness, what has happened to the UN compound in Gaza?
CHRISTOPHER GUNNESS: Well, this morning, there were three rounds of white phosphorus which landed in our compound in Gaza. That set ablaze the main warehouse and the big workshop we have there for vehicles. At the time, there were 700, also, people displaced from the fighting. There were full fuel tankers there. The Israeli army have been given all the coordinates of all our facilities, including this one. They also knew that there were fuel tankers laden with fuel in the compound, and they would have known that there were hundreds of people who had taken refuge.
The Israeli Defense Minister apologized to the Secretary-General for this, but, for us, we need deeds, not words. We have to get on with our humanitarian task. Amazingly, our operations are continuing today, and I have to pay tribute to the extraordinary bravery and commitment of our staff in Gaza. We’re continuing with our food distributions. We’re picking up humanitarian goods from the crossings, and we are doing healthcare as best we can.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And from this latest strike, were there any casualties in your compound?
CHRISTOPHER GUNNESS: There were at least three, and that’s when I was last able to talk to office, but it’s possible there are more. But for the moment, three people injured. And it, again, tragically illustrates that when you have this [inaudible] on and off, the military machine, when you have rockets flying out of Gaza, humanitarian workers and innocent civilians are going to get caught in the crossfire. Of course, we condemn the rockets that come out of Gaza.
But the world has been revulsed by the pictures that have come out of Gaza, which is why today we’ve, on the ground, utterly endorsed and backed the call of the world’s top diplomat, Ban Ki-moon. [inaudible] he’s the conscience of the world. He’s come here with a Security Council resolution, which says stop the fighting. And those parties on the ground who are continuing to fight are doing so in defiance and in isolation.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And this use of phosphorus munitions, your response to that?
CHRISTOPHER GUNNESS: Well, I’m not a military person, but a colleague of mine said to me in Gaza today, who, you know, has a military background and knows these things, it looks like white phosphorus, it smells like white phosphorus, and it burns like white phosphorus. We weren’t able, initially, to put the fighting out, because we had only conventional fire extinguishers. White phosphorus needs sand, and we didn’t have sand in quantities. But I’m pleased to say that the Red Cross fire services have managed to make [unintelligible] a compound and are now fighting the blaze.
AMY GOODMAN: Chris Gunness, in addition to the three people you say that were wounded there, what about the thousands of tons of supplies? Is that right? Food, medical supplies, other aid in this building?
CHRISTOPHER GUNNESS: Yes, I don’t have a handle on exact quantities, but there’s no doubt that aid was destroyed, aid paid for with your tax dollars and mine. It’s a tragic piece of symbolism that the very pallets that we deliver humanitarian assistance on are on fire in Gaza. You know, what more tragic symbolism could there be of the situation that we find ourselves in today?
AMY GOODMAN: Ehud Barak said this was a mistake, the attack on the UN compound. Your response?
CHRISTOPHER GUNNESS: Well, we want deeds and not words. Our workers and, indeed, the civilians in Gaza have come in harm’s way too many times. This on-off with the pause, so-called, is not good enough. It’s woefully inadequate, because, of course, we have to preposition our aid before the actual pause takes place, where—there’s heavy fighting where I am—the booms—anyway, which is slightly distracting. There are—you know, we have to preposition our aid at our food distribution centers. We have to get our medical supplies to hospitals, which we are doing our best to supply. We have got to get fuel to hospitals, because most of the hospitals in Gaza today are running twenty-four/seven on emergency generators, so babies on life support systems, patients, the dying, the elderly, the sick, who need electricity, are in a life-threatening situation.
So, we are continuing with our work, but we say, “Please, will the parties on the ground listen to the call of the world’s top diplomat today?” On his first day of his peace mission to Israel, he has, again, endorsed the call of the Security Council for an immediate ceasefire. And this terrible attack on the United Nations headquarters is another tragic illustration of what happens when you don’t have a ceasefire. There has to be a permanent ceasefire.
JUAN GONZALEZ: I’d like to ask Dr. Moussa El-Haddad, who is still on the line with us—
DR. MOUSSA EL-HADDAD: Yes.
JUAN GONZALEZ: —the Israelis say that they keep notifying the population to flee areas that they are attacking. What does this mean to you? Where could you possibly go to flee to safety?
DR. MOUSSA EL-HADDAD: Well, number one, let me tell you that I’ve heard from many people whose houses have been demolished, bombarded, that no warning has been given. Some people were given warnings through the Red Cross, but many people were not warned. So, those who leave their houses, they just go out to shelters, UNRWA shelters—you know, it’s not actually shelters; it’s schools and—or to their relatives.
But let me just add a comment to what Mr. Ehud Olmert said, that he apologized, that it was a mistake. If that was one mistake—and I tell you right now on the air—that they have committed hundreds of mistakes during the last three weeks. You know, what about all these apartment buildings that only civilians occupy? Children and families are trapped in elevators and under the stairs. Children and women bleeding in the streets, and the Israeli Army tanks are not allowing Red Cross or humanitarian aid to go and help them. The ambulances are not allowed to go in. They bleed for hours. And we can hear them on the radio asking for help and somebody to come and help them and take them. Dead bodies are in the streets down in our area in the southwest of Gaza. It’s—I’ll tell you, this is a disaster on humans. This is a human disaster in the twenty-first century. And everybody is looking.
I’m a—as a physician, I am telling you. You know, even now, you know, I just hope they stop this, whatever you want to call it, massacre or what. But I hope that they just stop it [inaudible]. And even if they do, there will be, years to come, people suffering psychologically, handicap people. You know, we already started seeing things like this. So, I don’t know how long we have to take until this thing stops. And I just hope that Mr. Bush is enjoying his time playing with his cat or dog right now.
AMY GOODMAN: Doctor Moussa El-Haddad, we’d like to ask you to stay on with us. We’re going to go to break. But Christopher Gunness, if you haven’t left us yet, spokesperson for UNRWA—
CHRISTOPHER GUNNESS: No, I’m here.
AMY GOODMAN: —just a comment on UNICEF. It’s rare that it speaks out. Ann Veneman is the head of UNICEF, used to be the head of Department of Agriculture here in the United States. But UNICEF has condemned the Gaza attack. In a rare statement, it urged an immediate ceasefire, calling the deaths of children tragic and unacceptable. Final comments, Christopher Gunness?
CHRISTOPHER GUNNESS: Well, it is entirely unacceptable. And, of course, we’re very gratified and welcome the statement by Ann Veneman. Too many innocent children, too many babies, too many women have been killed. And, of course, in Israel too, there have been rockets which we condemn. The pictures have revulsed the world, and Ban Ki-moon has come here as the conscience of the world. He’s expressing the revulsion of the world and is calling for the rockets to stop and for the fighting in Gaza to stop. Enough innocent civilians have been killed. It has to stop.
AMY GOODMAN: Christopher Gunness, thanks for being with us, spokesperson for UN Relief and Works Agency.
CHRISTOPHER GUNNESS: Thank you very much.
AMY GOODMAN: Dr. El-Haddad will stay with us. When we come back from break, we’re joined by Rabbi Michael Lerner, an open letter to Barack Obama. Rabbis have taken out a full-page ad in the New York Times to make a statement about Gaza. Stay with us.
JUAN GONZALEZ: A coalition of American rabbis and other religious, cultural and community leaders bought a full-page ad in the New York Times on Wednesday calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and for President-elect Barack Obama to convene an international Middle East peace conference. The initiative was led by Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun magazine. Lerner said the group had to buy ad space because the nation’s major newspapers are not giving room for this perspective.
AMY GOODMAN: Rabbi Michael Lerner joins us in San Francisco.
Welcome to Democracy Now! You’ve been listening as we spoke to Christopher Gunness, UN Relief and Works Agency, as well as Dr. El-Haddad, who is trapped in his house in Gaza, observing what is happening outside. Rabbi Lerner, talk about your message, who put out this ad and what it says.
RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: Well, it was put out by Tikkun magazine, and we are actually trying now to get other liberal and progressive people around the country to help us. Go to tikkun.org, so that we can reproduce this in the Washington Post and in other major media. Unfortunately, the media, except for Democracy Now! and Pacifica and a few other places, are obliterating the message that many, many American Jews and other religious leaders, spiritual leaders and just American citizens are outraged at the immorality of what is happening.
So we’re demanding an immediate ceasefire, but we’re also asking for President Obama to take an immediate leadership in convening an international conference, because the direction that was laid out by Senator Clinton yesterday, that she said Obama and she agreed on, which would call for—would say that there are no negotiations with Hamas until Hamas recognizes the state of Israel, which, of course, is not going to happen—Hamas is going to be agreeable to a ceasefire, and maybe a long-term ceasefire, twenty or thirty years, but it’s not going to recognize Israel, so this policy is a non-starter. It’s a stupid policy. And it’s exactly in reverse of what Obama said he would do during the elections, when he was saying he would negotiate with people, including Iran and Syria, despite the fact that he abhorred their policies.
Why, in Israel, do we have the one time when he won’t negotiate, won’t talk to Hamas? Well, of course, the answer is obvious. It’s that the Israel lobby, combining extremely right-wing Jews in this country with a powerful Christian Zionist movement, have blocked out of public discourse all of the moral sentiments of the American public, which would be outraged at what’s going on in Gaza at this moment and, more generally, understand that the best interests of Israel and Israeli security lies in reconciliation with the Palestinian people, not in trying to wipe them out.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Rabbi Lerner, in your open letter to Barack Obama, you raise your concern that, having met him several times in the past, that you saw a great hope in terms of the Middle East in his policies, but that you were concerned, starting with the election campaign last year, that you saw a change in his direction. Could you elaborate on that?
RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: Well, you know, in my conversations with Obama—Obama came to a Tikkun conference in 1996, and I spoke to him about these issues in 2006. And he was very much aligned with the Tikkun perspective, which is a perspective that says that the best interest of Israel lies in peace and reconciliation with the Palestinian people.
But the pressures that have been brought upon him during the campaign and now afterwards are immense. You cannot underestimate the amount of push that is going on all around him. And remember that last week the Senate voted overwhelmingly—that is, unanimously—to support the Israeli position, and the House voted—I think it was 405-to-five in support of the Israeli position.
There is nothing coming from the other direction. And that’s why those of us who really care about the security of the Palestinian people and the Israeli people need to stand up and speak very loudly at this time and to ask President Obama to intervene, to intervene directly, and to not listen to all those forces that are saying to him, “Forget about the Israel thing. Don’t risk your political capital on Israel-Palestine. Turn to other issues.” Now, this is happening—as you see and you beautifully demonstrated, this is happening, this moral outrage, this violation of human rights, is happening on a daily basis right now, and we need leadership right now.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to end with Dr. Moussa El-Haddad back in Gaza, retired physician living in Gaza City, as best he can right now. Dr. El-Haddad, why don’t you leave your home? How far are the Israeli troops from your home?
DR. MOUSSA EL-HADDAD: Why don’t I leave my home?
AMY GOODMAN: Yes.
DR. MOUSSA EL-HADDAD: Well, number one, there is nowhere to go. As you know, all the borders are closed. And if I leave, all the places are unsafe now. As we mentioned in the beginning, the civilians are trapped into this, between—this is a game being played between the politicians, and the civilians are paying the price. Number one, all the borders of Gaza Strip are closed. As you know, also the sea is closed. You cannot leave.
And as a human being, I would like to leave when I want and where I want. I don’t want to leave because Israel wants me to leave.
So the Israeli army now is pretty close to me, the tanks. Nobody is safe in this area. And as you know, more than 300 children have been killed so far, and some of them are as young as five months old. Can you believe it?
AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Moussa El-Haddad, the program is ending now. I want to thank you for being with us—
DR. MOUSSA EL-HADDAD: That’s my pleasure, dear.
AMY GOODMAN: —and wish you safety, a retired physician living in Gaza City. His daughter, Laila El-Haddad, is the journalist who we’ve interviewed who writes the popular blog “Raising Yousuf.” Yousuf is Dr. Moussa El-Haddad’s grandson.
Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
Tags: diaspora, hamas, ira chernus, israel, israeli-arab wars, jewish homeland, jewish nationalism, judiasm, martin buber, Palestine, palestinian arabs, Palestinians, roger hollander, security, theodore herzl, war, zionism, zionist
Declaration of the State of Israel, 1948.
How do you evaluate a whole nation when it turns 60? Even a nation as small as Israel is far too complicated for any simple evaluation.
Do you judge it by its vibrant democracy and independent judiciary, which tells even the highest officials and their families that they are not above the law? Or by its four decades as an occupying army, whose soldiers are now confessing that they routinely and brutally violate civilians’ human rights? Do you judge it by its world-class universities and world-class science and technology? Or by its growing gap between rich and poor, as the utopian socialism of the kibbutz experiment collapses before the juggernaut of neoliberal corporate capitalism? Do you judge it by its vibrant avant-garde cultural scene, or by the way it marginalizes its Arab citizens and its growing population of Asian “guest workers”?
Perhaps the only fair way to judge any nation is by its own ideals. Israel makes that task easier for us as it was built upon explicit and well-documented ideals. While many nations have grown up organically, or even accidentally, Israel was a conscious project, a product of half a century of very intentional thinking and planning. Israel’s elderly founding fathers had been Zionists since the movement’s beginning. They imbibed their ideals from the movement’s founders, whose ideals were set forth at great length—there is no mystery about what the Jewish state was meant to achieve and signify.
In the first generation of Zionists, a large majority shared one overriding goal: They wanted to live as “normal” people in a “normal” nation. The Zionist project began when they asked why Jewish life in the centuries-long Diaspora had become so abnormal. Their answer was built into the question. As children of the mid-nineteenth century, the great age of European nationalism, they assumed that a normal nation has its own territory, is governed by its own people and institutions, speaks its own language, and thus shapes its own destiny. So the very fact of being in Diaspora was, by definition, an abnormal condition.
But their complaint was not merely that the Jews lacked a nation. The deeper problem, as they saw it, was that the Jews lacked nationalism. They had no movement, nor even any will, to become a nation. And the reason was plain enough to see: Centuries ago, under the pressures of Diaspora, the Jews had come to define themselves primarily by religion rather than national bonds. Torah (denoting in the broadest sense all of Jewish thought and practice) had come to take precedence over Israel, the national consciousness.
In fact for many of these first Zionists—most of them modernized, secular intellectuals—Jewish religion had become a burden. Seeing no other way to be Jewish except the religious, most might well have assimilated completely into their European environment. The first great leader of the Zionist movement, Theodore Herzl (himself a highly assimilated Jew), wrote in his classic pamphlet The Jewish State: “If only we were left in peace…” The ellipsis spoke more eloquently than words of the seemingly impossible dream of assimilation. Herzl immediately followed with the bitter premise of Zionism: “But we shall not be left in peace.” Anti-semitism, he argued, was a permanent fact of life for the Diasporic Jew.
Herzl’s close associate, Max Nordau, summed up their assessment for the First Zionist Congress: “The emancipated Jew… has abandoned his specific Jewish character [i.e., rejected traditional Jewish religion], yet the nations do not accept him as part of their national communities.” Further, Nordau implied, the nations would never accept him. Craving a normal life with a normal modern national identity, he had no choice but to create a secular nation of his own.
Thus the mainstream of Zionism assumed from the start that their “normalization” demanded not only independence and self-governing institutions, but a transformation of Jewish identity from a religious to a secular nationalist basis. As the famed Zionist writer Micah Berdichevski proclaimed: “Israel must precede the Torah, the human being before the religion.” This view was enshrined in 1948, when Israel’s Independence Proclamation promised to safeguard freedom of religion, and from religion, for every citizen.
These were the ideas and ideals that brought most of the early Zionists to Zionism—but not all. There was always a dissenting minority who saw Zionism as a way to not merely save Jews but, more importantly, Judaism. They expected the Jewish homeland (not necessarily a political state, but necessarily in Palestine) to be a platform from which Jewish renewal would be launched.
Proponents of a “spiritual Zionism,” like Ahad Ha’am and Martin Buber, hoped for a new kind of Judaism, maintaining those aspects of the tradition that could best be fused with the highest modern values. At the other end of the spectrum, “religious (i.e., orthodox Jewish) Zionists” hoped for a state that would establish halakhah—traditional laws for eating, praying, working, etc.—as the law of the land.
Both of these dissident wings agreed on one proposition: the Jews were a chosen people. God had chosen them not for special privilege but for a special responsibility to live up to a higher moral and spiritual standard than the rest of humanity. A Jewish homeland would give Jews a better chance to attain that higher standard. So “normalization,” far from undergirding the Zionist project, would undermine it. Martin Buber said bluntly: “If we want to be nothing but normal, we shall soon cease to be at all.” The great orthodox Zionist thinker Rav Kook said much the same thing.
From the beginning the secularists were clearly the majority. They remain so today. Judged against the ideal of transforming Jewish identity from a religious to a national basis, the state of Israel has been a smashing success. Certainly not all Jews understand their identity in nationalistic terms, but the idea that the Jews are a nation, and that one can be a “good Jew” without being religious or spiritual in any way, has now taken deep root throughout most of the Jewish community. Many in the orthodox minority may demur, but most orthodox Jews now embrace some modern nationalist values, even if they are not comfortable admitting it.
The logic underlying Zionism, however, has failed to play out as expected. A Jewish nationalism strong enough to overshadow religious identity has not made Jews in their own state feel fully normal. If anything, Israel has become an institutionalized mechanism for perpetuating a sense of abnormality. Why? Because the early Zionists, and most of their followers to the present day, overlooked the fatal flaw in their reasoning.
Zionism was born from the premise that anti-semitism is a permanent fact of life in the Diaspora—that in every land, sooner or later, gentiles will turn against the Jews living in their midst. Only in a country with a majority Jewish population could this fate be avoided. By this logic, the gentiles in the countries neighboring Israel had to be anti-semitic too. The neighbors did not have to demonstrate anti-semitic behavior to prove it, nor could they ever disprove it. Evidence was irrelevant. The neighbors’ anti-semitism had to be an unquestionable axiom—without it the whole Zionist enterprise would be called into question.
When Palestinians and other Arabs resisted the emerging Jewish state, most Jews viewed the conflict through the lens of Zionist thinking. They could not see opposition to Israel as the predictable result of political, economic, social, and cultural friction; but only as irrational anti-semitic hatred, which Jews had done nothing to stir up. So, the (sometimes unconscious) reasoning went, there was nothing Jews could do to remove or mitigate Arab antagonism.
All the Jews could do was to build up an invincible army and subordinate every other value to the overriding demands of Israel’s security. In the Jewish state all could be justified by the magic words bishvil bitachon (“for the sake of security”). Although it would take more than half a century for Israel to begin building a physical wall along its border (as determined by Israel itself), from the very start it had a psychological barrier separating it from its neighboring lands, a barrier symbolized by the ever-present military establishment.
If Israeli Jews truly believed that their military would keep them perfectly secure behind its barrier, perhaps they would have taken the risks and made the compromises necessary for peace. But, while they hoped for the best, most continued to fear the worst, just as their ancestors had in Diaspora. Six Israeli-Arab wars and two intifadas have proven that the state of Israel is secure against every plausible threat, yet the old myth of national insecurity still triumphs over present reality.
The early Zionists, filled with understandable fears of eternal anti-semitism, could not imagine a Jewish state with such predominant power that its existence would be absolutely assured. Most Israeli Jews today, haunted by the same fear of powerlessness, still cannot believe in that assurance.
People who are so preoccupied with their security—constantly on the alert for attackers, always fearing they might be “pushed into the sea,” feeling that their country is and must remain a psychological fortress—can hardly live a really normal life. Therefore, when judged by its own standards, the Jewish state fails to achieve its ultimate raison d’etre because it lives without “normalization.” So Israeli life remains trapped in a frustrating sense of failure; a failure compounded by the inability for most of its citizens and champions to understand how its own nationalist ideology has been largely responsible for it.
Yet the trap and the frustration run even deeper. Years ago, I heard one of the world’s most distinguished Jewish theologians say that, unfortunately, Israel had to maintain its huge military to fulfill the promise of “never again.” Someone in the audience was skeptical: Could Israelis really be sure that their soldiers would safeguard them against every threat? No, the famed speaker admitted.
But, he added, they could be sure of the most important thing: There would never be another Nazi-like holocaust, because the next time the Jews would go down fighting. The essential value was not security but nationalism and especially national pride, acted out in the willingness to die—and kill—for one’s nation. After all, in the modern world that’s what normal nations expect. So acts of military might would prove that Israel is indeed quite normal.
Surely not all Israeli Jews seek a sense of security and normality through the exercise of power. There is, in fact, a sizable peace movement in Israel which is deeply critical of its own militarism. But the majority of Israelis today, who do tilt toward power, block the path to peace. They see any genuinely conciliatory step by their government as a surrender, a return to political powerlessness, and thus a fatal blow to their sense of self-worth. So they want their government to continue on the path of confrontation as evidence of “normalization.”
Every exercise of Israeli power naturally evokes more Palestinian opposition and further enmity. Yet even when Palestinians offer clear evidence of change, like the recent announcement from Hamas that it is ready to accept a two-state solution, the Israelis reject it. Their axiom of eternal anti-semitism tells them that the Palestinians are and must always be their implacable enemy. The insecurity and violence tragically spiral on, deepening the sense that Israel is not yet normal.
Indeed, large numbers of Israelis seem convinced that the original goal of “normalization” is permanently beyond reach, or else a distant eschatological goal at best. Decades of war and occupation have forced them to confront the moral compromises they make to defeat their enemies. To ease their consciences, most reaffirm their conviction that none of this is due to Israeli policy; it is all forced upon them by irrational hatred from the other side of the border(s). Therefore, this thinking goes, they can do nothing to alter the sad situation. Ain breirah, they tell each other over and over again. “There is no choice.” Thus they convince themselves that they can never do anything to bring their nation closer to “normalization.”
Perhaps Israel would have been better off had all its people listened to dissidents like Ahad Ha’am and Buber, who rejected the whole idea of “normalization” because they wanted Zionists to live up to a higher moral standard. As early as 1892, Ahad Ha’am saw Jews committing violence against Arabs and warned that there would be terrible repercussions. In 1920, Buber told the Zionist Congress that Jews were far from powerless. Arabs would respond to the choices Jews made. “It depends entirely on us,” he declared, whether Zionists are greeted by Palestinian Arabs as hated conquerors or beloved friends.
There have always been Jews in Israel who recognized the prophetic wisdom in such words. Now they are being joined by growing numbers of Jews in the US and around the world, who are acting on the principle that it is never too late to change a nation’s goals, to put ethical striving above “normalization.”
Yet another wing of this Jewish peace movement argues that “normalization” is still a worthy goal. But 60 years of conflict shows that Israel has been pursuing the goal in self-defeating ways. Acknowledging Palestinian (including Hamas’) gestures of conciliation, and responding with conciliatory moves by Israel, is the only way to bring peace and security for Jews, and thus escape the trap of abnormality.
The one thing all sides do agree on is the uncertainty of the future. Israel at 60 is still a fledgling nation, a set of experiments, and a debating arena wherein many diverse voices insist that they know best how the next experiments should be carried out. Up until now, the majority’s experiments have led only to an abnormal situation marked by an endless round of violence and killing—the vast majority of it on the Palestinian side of the border.
The good news is that a growing awareness of futility is, slowly and painfully, pushing both sides to take more radical experimental steps toward peace. Only by traveling a new path of peace and reconciliation can Israel some day achieve its original goal: a homeland where Jews can feel like normal people leading normal lives.
Posted by rogerhollander in Political Commentary.
Tags: aggression, christian, egalitarian, flag, individualism, lee drutman, materialism, muslim, natinalism, national superiority, old glory, oppression, patriotism, prejudice, psychology, religion, roger hollander, superiority, warfare, zionism
19 December 2008
by: Lee Drutman, Miller-McCune.com
initial reluctance to wear a flag pin caused some opponents to question his patriotism. After all, some conservatives argued, the flag is the quintessential symbol of American patriotism, and by not wearing it on his lapel, well, one could only assume … Markus Kemmelmeier, a professor of social psychology at the University of Nevada, Reno, and colleagues show that gazing upon the red, white and blue actually does very little to stoke feelings of patriotism. an article Kemmelmeier co-authored with David G. Winter, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan. The study describes two specific experiments, one in which undergraduates responded to a survey with and without a large American flag in the room and one in which undergraduates responded to a questionnaire with and without three American flags printed on the paper. lost letter study in which handwritten and stamped but undelivered letters were left on car windshield wipers, all with the same post office box. Half of the letters were addressed to a fictitious Muslim charity; half were addressed to a fictitious Christian charity. Among each group, half had an American flag on them, and half didn’t. David A. Butz (formerly a graduate student at Florida State University and now a postdoc at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst), E. Ashby Plant (a professor of psychology at FSU) and Celeste E. Doerr (a psychology graduate student at FSU) recently administered word identification tests to undergraduates to measure how long it took them to discriminate between real and nonsense words that came up on a computer screen. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. ‘real-life’ overt political behavior.” In his experiments, participants – all Israelis – who saw the flag flashes answered questions with a more “mainstream Zionist” tilt than those who didn’t. Carey Baker Freedom Flag Act) that mandates flags be placed in every public classroom – kindergarten to college – in the state. (A similar law also recently passed in Arizona.)
Early in the presidential campaign that was, Barack Obama’s
But are the stars and stripes as much a symbol of patriotism as many make them out to be? Probably not, according to some new research on the effects of exposure to the American flag. Experiments conducted by
But it does make people more individualistic, more materialistic and – perhaps most troublingly – more nationalistic.
Researchers tend to define patriotism as love of one’s country; nationalism, on the other hand, tends to measure feelings of superiority. “Nationalism takes into consideration that there are others and that your own country is not just only loveable but also different and better than others,” Kemmelmeier explained.
Originally from Germany, Kemmelmeier said he was struck by the omnipresence of the American flag when he arrived in the United States in 1994. “Every plumber has one on his plumbing uniform; churches even have flags in them,” he said. “This is strange to people in other countries.”
Ten years ago, Kemmelmeier and colleagues at the University of Michigan (where he was then getting his Ph.D. in social psychology) were trying to prime feelings of patriotism by showing people the American flag, testing the conventional wisdom that the flag made people more patriotic. But try as they might, the only feelings they were able to elicit by showing people the flag were feelings of national superiority (i.e., nationalism).
The nationalism-eliciting findings are published in the October issue of Political Psychology in
In both cases, according to the article, “the flag not only prompted participants to think about their own country as superior to and dominant in the world, but also induced a mode of hierarchical thinking as evidence in elevated group-dominance scores.” In other words, according to Kemmelmeier, the flag makes people think that some people and some countries are better than others, a mode of thinking, he said, that makes people “feel more entitled to express prejudice.”
The paper also notes that “nationalism has been implicated in aggression, oppression, and warfare.”
Kemmelmeier is now in the process of writing up two other sets of studies on exposure to the American flag. In one group of experiments, he found that seeing the stars and stripes elicits stronger feelings of individualism and materialism and much less collectivist feeling. “It brings forth an idea of ‘I’m my own person; I am free here; I have the freedom to enjoy these inalienable rights,’” Kemmelmeier explained.
The other group of experiments (also in the process of being written up) is a
The return rate for the letters without a flag was consistently between 50 and 60 percent, regardless of whether the charity was Christian or Muslim. But when the American flag was on the envelope, a remarkable 90 percent of the letters addressed to the Christian charity consistently came back to the post office, while only between 30 and 40 percent of the Muslim charity letters were returned.
”As soon as there was a flag sticker, that changed the meaning completely,” Kemmelmeier explained. “Adding the flag shapes how you should interpret what religion somebody is.”
But while Kemmelmeier’s studies point to a somewhat unsettling take on what Americans take away from seeing the flag, another set of studies offers a more positive perspective, suggesting that the presence of Old Glory primes egalitarian concepts and also may make Americans less hostile to Arabs and Muslims.
Participants who saw a flag before the test more quickly identified words associated with egalitarianism than those who didn’t. Exposure to the flag also elicited more favorable attitudes toward Muslims and less nationalism in a survey. The findings were reported in 2007 in the
”What we show is that the flag is associated with egalitarian concepts,” Butz said. “This is true for both high- and low-nationalism people. It’s not moderated by political party. What it means is that through socialization experiences, we gain these egalitarian concepts with the flag.”
However, Butz speculated that “perhaps this is a surface meaning.” He was actually a little surprised by the egalitarianism-priming findings, given other research suggesting that exposure to the American flag increases nationalism and the hierarchical, anti-egalitarian feelings that come with that.
”The flag has a complex range of associations,” he said. “Symbols like the flag can be multireferential. They can mean different things to different people. It shows how tricky it is to study the symbols.”
In Israel, cognitive scientist Ran Hassin studied the association that subliminal flashes of the Israeli flag had on discussions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and found that “subliminal presentation of a national flag can bring about significant changes not only in a citizen’s expressed political opinions within an experimental setting but also in their
Whether that meant the flag drew viewers to the political center, as Hassin theorized, or that symbols primed people based on their pre-existing associations was a question he left for future research – such as that of Kemmelmeier and Butz – to answer.
Butz got interested in studying the flag in light of a 2004 Florida law (the
These laws worry Butz. “We don’t know a lot about the potential for symbols to influence behavior,” he said. “It’s scary to think that there are laws out there on the thinking that flags influence patriotism, and there’s no evidence for that.”
Another reason for concern comes from some research that Butz has done on student performance in the presence of the American flag. With a flag in the room, he found, white students perform about 10 percent better on math tests than they do otherwise. But non-white students perform at the same level.
”What we find in studies – and this is now being replicated – is that whites are getting a performance boost, and that’s disturbing,” Butz said. He speculated that it might have something to do with whites feeling more included in the presence of the flag.
Both Kemmelmeier and Butz stress that the psychology of the American flag is complicated. It can prime a wide range of emotions, depending on the person and the situation. There may also be regional differences. And while the flag is not necessarily the pure symbol of inspired patriotism that some might make it out to be, neither is it necessarily a pure symbol of nationalism and individualistic materialism. A lot depends on the context.
”It can have a negative impact, but nowadays there is a real opportunity to re-interpret what it means to be an American,” Kemmelmeier said. “The flag is always amorphous, and the meaning is always dependent on how it is used.”