Persecution, Compromise And Arising Problems

The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict – Yet Another Attempt For Understanding: Part 1 – The Early Days

This is about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A conflict easily raising emotions nearly everywhere around the world. I have been in steady contact with a friend of mine in the UK, a fierce fighter for minority rights – may it be LGBTIQ* rights or immigrant rights. Still following public debate in the UK a bit, I know that the UK perspective is coined by its past and the misdoings during the time of the British Empire. As the League of Nations gave Britain a newly created de-facto colony called Palestine as a mandate, Palestine and thereby what would 38 years later would become the state of Israel are also seen through the lens of the Empire’s atrocities (I will dig deeper into this point later on).

As I am not British but German, my perspective differs. It is not coined by the Empire’s misdeeds, but by the claim „dass Auschwitz nicht noch einmal sei“ (that Auschwitz shall never be repeated again, Theodor W. Adorno). I think the British debate largely to be bordering on antisemitism and coined by severe misinformation, whereas my friend thinks my positions to be excusing large atrocities committed by Israel. I will try to show that many twists and turns in the in fact terribly difficult history of Israel and Palestine are forgotten, repressed and turned around. By showing that, hopefully a more clear picture will emerge.

Zionism as a observable political force within Europe’s Jewry started in the late 19th century. The Austrian Theodor Herzl was one of his founding fathers. It propagated Jewish settlement in those areas that were seen as the historic homeland of Jews, i.e. the roman provinces Jews were expelled from in 80 B.C.

It spread all over Europe and the US but up until the Nazis taking over power in Germany, World War II and the Shoa, Zionism was a minority position amongst Jews worldwide. Still, small numbers of European Jews (who were, by the way, not read as white by Europaean racists and antisemites, but as a non-white „parasite race“) settled in Palestine under then Ottoman rule.

The reason being most European Jews disapproved Zionism was their comprehensible argument that Zionists helped the case of Antisemitism by helping to evict Jews from Europe, thereby trying to make it Jew free instead of helping the emancipation of Europe’s Jewry. Early Zionist leaders mostly were aware that Palestine at the time was not an empty land but a land populated with Arab people. Therefore many of them propagated a distinguishable Jewish community in Palestine, not necessarily a Jewish state. The latter notion was propagated largely only in later decades.

We will now turn away from Europe and take a look at what today is Israel and Palestine, but at the time, in the 1860s, was the Ottoman province of Syria – to be more precise the sub-provinces of Nablus, Akkon and Jerusalem. Around 700.000 people lived in all of then Syria – mostly Arabs of Muslim faith. This started to change soon.

In several waves Jews from all over Europe left their former homes because of rising antisemitism, pogroms and other atrocities. Most of them fled to the North and South Americas, a much smaller number to today’s Israel and Palestine. They founded Tel Aviv and other settlements and generally tried to live in good spirits with their Arab neighbours. Most Jewish organizations of the time did not favour a Jewish state but at best some kind of cultural autonomy. The situation in the area also included hostile acts from both Jewish and Arab communities, but was on a whole, peaceful. As Jewish settlements grew, more Arabs also began to settle in the area as it became more wealthy.

In 1920, Britain obtained Palestine als a mandate from the League of Nations, thereby betraying Arab leaders. During the Great War, Britain hoped for Arab support against the Central Powers, i.e. the Ottoman Empire, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria. In exchange they presented the Arabs the prospect of one united Arab nation, freed from Ottoman rule. Instead, Britain and France divided up Arabia, tailored new mandate areas which later became Israel/Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq etc. This, understandably, lead to tensions in the Arab world. But that was not all: in 1917, Lord Balfour appears on the Middle Eastern stage.

On November 2nd 1917 Lord Balfour, then British foreign secretary, declared Britains Middle East policy to be in accordance with the Zionist World Organization. This meant that in what would soon become the British colony of Palestine a national homestead for Jews should be established – while preserving the rights of the non-Jewish population. The British did not do so because of a special sympathy for the Zionist movement, but because of the simple fact that they had intelligence that Germans and Ottomans were also in talks with the Zionists. Both sides tried to use them as a tool against the enemy. After the war, in 1922, the Balfour declaration became part of the League of Nation’s mandate for Palestine.

In the beginning, the Balfour declaration was not opposed by all Arab factions and leaders. Faisal I., short term king of Syria and son of Hussein bin Ali, Sharif of Mecca and Hashemite king of Hejaz, declared in 1919 that Jews and Arabs are „related by blood“ and that there would be no conflict by character. He is quoted in the Jewish Chronicle saying that the Arabs demanding freedom would be not worthy of it if they would not also welcome the Jews back home. He described the Jewish movement as national, but not imperialist and that there would be enough space in Syria „for all of us“.

Faisal was at the time in negotiations with one of the Jewish leaders, Chaim Weizmann, who became Israels first president. Faisal only had one condition for agreeing with the Balfour declaration: Arab independence. The one condition Britain was not willing to meet.

However, it must be said that Faisal was one (even though important) voice at the time. Another one, equally important, were Arab nationalists, declaring in 1919 that there should be no place for a Jewish homestead in southern Syria.

As was to be expected, Britian’s denial of Arab independence lead to tensions in the newly formed mandate of Palestine (in its first years it included today’s Israel, Palestine and Jordan and was later reduced to today’s Israel and Palestine). This put the Jewish migrants between a rock and a hard place: A first pogrom happened on Easter 1920, more were to follow. Jewish groups retaliated, they both fought against British forces.

British High Commissioner Samuel then stopped Jewish migration, but London revoked that order. Samuel made more and more concessions to the Arab side and sadly agreed to Mohammed Amin al Husseini as Mufti of Jerusalem. Al Husseini was not only an Arab nationalist, but also a staunch antisemite, a later ally to Hitler.

After the Arab uprising against Jewish migrants in 1936, the British Peel Commission turned down the Balfour declaration once and for all and came up with a division plan. The larger part of Palestine should be Arabian, the smaller one Jewish while Jerusalem and the coast line should remain British. Chaim Weizmann and the WZO agreed to this plan so to save as many Jewish lives as possible – it was already clear that the Hitler regime in Germany had evil plans for the Jews living there. The Arab side declined, demanding all of Palestine should be an Arab nation. The British reacted and minimized the area that should be under Jewish control.

Finally, in 1939, the British government decided that the Balfour declaration had already been implemented and Jewish migration to Palestine should be restricted to 75.000 Jews for the next five years. Neville Chamberlain even tried to convince the WZO to refrain from a Jewish homestead in Palestine. Meanwhile, after Hitlers explicit annaouncement that he would enforce the annihilation of „the Jewish race“ in 1939, the British turned away many Jewish refugee boats from the coasts of Palestine. Jewish underground organizations became more and more popular – terrorist attacks on British personnel and institutions included. The British reacted as was to be expected and tried to restrict pro Jewish actions further. Meanwhile, 50.000 to 100.000 Palestinian Jews were fighting on allied frontlines against the Fascists, while millions of Jews where killed in the Holocaust.

Now let us now take a closer look to the incidents that preceded the Israeli declaration of independence. The years from 1945 to 1948. Spoiler: It wasn’t the US, that enforced the foundation of the Jewish state. It were not the British. It was – surprise, surprise – the Soviet Union. Sorry lads: no US imperialist project here. Not British settler colonialism. And there is one more nation Israel owes thanks. Thanks for the delivery of huge amounts of weapons. Weapons that were crucial for Israel to win its first war – imposed onto them by the surrounding Arab nations: Czechoslovakia. Let’s start in 1945.

To Follow Soon: The Situation from 1945 Up Until Now – Plus Several More Parts

5 Kommentare zu “Persecution, Compromise And Arising Problems

  1. HI there Stefan, I finally read with interest the first part of your perspective on Israel. Have you got round to writing the rest of it? Thanks

  2. ISRAEL, SETTLER COLONIALISM, RACISM AND EUROCENTRISM

    Here I give my response to Stefan’s engaging blog piece. As an anti-racism, pro equality campaigner from a BAME background, my position is that Israel’s ongoing anti-Palestinian discrimination and the historical record of the way Israel was colonised, certainly DOES have clear parallels with “the British Empire’s atrocities” and ongoing racism BAME people face. Secondly, and rather ironically, given Stefan’s claim that British BAME critics of Israel have a “distorting lens”, I believe that the “distorting lens” is actually held by Eurocentric commentators who are unaware of their own biases and assumptions. I certainly see Eurocentrism in this blog, which ends up distorting the Israel-Palestine issue.

    I will turn to the immediate present and come to the history later.

    1. ISRAEL AS ETHNOCRATIC STATE

    Israel does not stand for equality

    As a reference point for my argument here I refer people to the Human Rights Watch report “A Threshold Crossed – Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution” and also a 2017 report commissioned by the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) co-authored by former U.N Special Rapporteur for the region Dr Richard Falk, Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University, “Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid”. These are just two of many reports over the last decade that paint a similar picture.

    Of course, Israel attempts to portray itself as a democratic, enlightened state that somehow mirrors western aspirations around human rights. Putting aside the purely strategic value of Israel for the West, let us examine this. Is the recent inclusion of an Islamist party in the coalition government a sign of greater inclusivity? This is tokenism rather than progress and more truly progressive Israeli Palestinian (and Israeli Jewish) political parties who would not engage in horse trading when it came to real and meaningful structural reform of the Israeli state so that Israeli Palestinians and Jews would be truly equal citizens, were left out. The frustration of the 20% of Israel’s Palestinians at this charade in the face of ongoing discrimination, was shown by the unprecedented riots which united Palestinian in Gaza, West Bank, and Occupied Jerusalem and Israel despite Israeli policies of divide and rule. Such , which were very definitely a feature of British imperial policy, for example, in British India.

    Racial basis of legal discrimination in Israel – Law of Return, Nation State Law and Reunification Law

    It is important to understand that rights in Israel are determined not by Israeli citizenship, but by ethnicity. So an Israeli Palestinian and an Israeli Jew, while both citizens, enjoy different rights and privileges determined by their ethnicity. Another way of expressing this would be to say that Israeli Palestinians are second class citizens.
    Discriminatory laws include the Law of Return, which gives ethnic Jews anywhere in the world the right to settle in Israel over and above the right of Palestinians living in Haifa, Ramla or Acre. The discriminatory laws mean that if an Israeli Palestinian marries a non-Israeli Palestinian, their spouse will not be given full Israeli citizenship, and neither will their children, but only “residency” (and even “residency” status was only granted this year). Discriminatory Israeli marriage laws remain more draconian than any right-wing anti-immigration law in any European country. And all this, of course, comes on top of the completely disproportionate restriction placed on the movement of Palestinians between Gaza, Israel, the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem which make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for Palestinians to leave their enclaves, which have been likened to Bantustans.

    As a Palestinian, you are basically seen as a demographic threat to the very existence of Israel as a Jewish state. Israel as a Jewish state was built on the original exodus of 750 000 Palestinians who fled in 1948 as war loomed. Israel does not allow these people back on the specious reasoning that they fled, as if their fleeing from threat of war and potential injury or death morally disqualifies them from returning home. Those Palestinians still in Israel who did not or could not flee, are grudgingly tolerated at best and subject, not just to discrimination in practice, of the kind which affects racialised minorities everywhere (including in European countries), but discrimination by law.
    Jews’ ethnic privileging in Israel was recently emphasised by the Jewish Nation State Law, which undervalues the Arabic language and says it is no longer an official language of the state. This is despite it having been the majority language (also spoken fluently by indigenous middle eastern Jews) for almost 1400 years before being displaced by Hebrew when Jews from Europe decided to resurrect this largely liturgical language and make it the state language of Israel. This denigration of Arabic is a sure sign of the ethnic privileging of Jews in Israel, since language is a key aspect of ethnicity. It echoes the way colonisers the world over have denigrated the language and culture of indigenous people. The move will certainly disadvantage Palestinians, most of whom cannot speak or write Hebrew.

    The Jewish Nation-State Law, passed in 2018, designates the constitutional identity of the state on racial grounds, as serving one ethnic group. Perhaps the closest example would be apartheid era South Africa.

    In 2013, 21 Israeli Jews wanted to define themselves as Israeli rather than Jewish, arguing that the country’s Arab minority faces discrimination because certain policies favour Jews and that a shared Israeli nationality could bring an end to such prejudice and unite all of Israel’s citizens. The Supreme Court rejected such an idea on the grounds that it would “undermine Israel’s Jewishness”. Such reasoning can only lead to the conclusion that Israel is an ethnocratic state.

    Discrimination in land ownership and settling

    Most land inside Israel is off limits to Palestinian citizens of Israel, either the 13% of land owned by the Jewish National Fund (JNF), or the so-called regional and local councils, which account for the vast majority of land. In a Statement submitted by Habitat International Coalition and Adalah to the United Nations, it was estimated that almost 80% of the entire country is off limits to lease for Palestinian citizens of Israel.

    Racial socio economic inequalities and under resourcing of Palestinian municipalities

    Almost half of all Palestinian citizens of Israel live below the poverty line. They also have a considerably lower life expectancy, a higher infant mortality rate, less access to education and resources as well as less municipality and government funding. Part of the reason for these inequalities is the under-resourcing of Palestinian municipalities. Local Palestinian councils in Israel recently went on strike to protest against discrimination in the distribution of the state budget for local councils. The vast majority of Palestinians in Israel, comprising over 20% of the total population, live in around 139 towns and villages. They received only 1.7% of the state budget for local councils.

    How it feels to be a Palestinian in Israel

    Imagine being a Palestinian doctor (Palestinians form a disproportionate percentage of the healthcare sector in a racist job market). You are pressurised to act as if you work in an apolitical space when you work in an Israeli hospital. But how to react in the face of the war on Gaza? Would you feel able to go on strike? And how would you feel when pressurised to centre stage and told , whenever Israel attacks Gaza to hold placards saying “peace”, “we choose life”, or “Arabs and Jews refuse to be enemies”? If you refuse, your careers could suffer. So, you become part of a charade celebrating co-existence when you actually face systemic discrimination in a racialised state.

    Palestinian staff have to stand at graduation ceremonies for the national anthem – an anthem that refers to Jewish hope for a ‘return’ to the land of Palestine rather than giving any kind of recognition to the multi-ethnic character of Israel since 1948 and its overwhelmingly Arab character before then. Or stand annually in a moment of grief for fallen Israeli soldiers who were fighting your kin to displace you from your land. This is a form of ritual violence that belies the very real violence Israel continues to inflict on Palestinians. In this way, Israeli Palestinians have to adapt in order to survive, just like other oppressed indigenous people around the globe have had to. This should not be seen as a sign of progress, but of adaptation for survival in the face of discrimination, colonialism and racism.

    Co-option of some Palestinians does not equal equality

    Does this mean that Israel will reject any co-option of Palestinians solely on racial grounds? Obviously not. After all, most colonialist enterprises have co-opted some elements of local populations in one way or other for some advantage they could gain and arguably also to gain credibility and acceptance, but that did not remove the fundamentally colonialist and oppressive character of such regimes.
    Maybe the legacy of empire and ongoing discrimination DOES give BAME people in Britain referred to at the beginning of the blog, some insight into the Israel – Palestine situation after all, by providing a template with which to see beyond the façade of Israel as an enlightened democracy, and which those with a Eurocentric lens lack.

    2. ESTABLISHMENT OF ISRAEL THROUGH SETTLER COLONIALISM

    This brief historical overview only comes up to 1948, in line with the blog. I rely on the Decolonise Palestine website for this overview.

    Jews a small minority with little land till 1948

    Jews have had a continuous presence in the land of Israel for thousands of years, but their numbers were below 10% until the interwar years. A large Ashkenazi Jewish community of European origin had been growing since the 1860s and made up the bulk of the 30% Jewish population by the interwar years. These communities had been fleeing the renewed persecution in the Pale of Settlement.

    The argument is raised that these Jews (not the indigenous middle eastern Jews, who did not feel the need to do this) had been buying strips of land for the creation of a Jewish homeland from the Ottoman authorities and that this would somehow provide the moral legitimacy for the later creation of Israel. But the percentage of land that had been bought by Jews in this way, was just 1.5%. And of course, even that 1.5% was not given with the idea that it would form the nucleus of a future Jewish state.

    No consultation with Palestinians on fate of their homeland

    The blog mentions that some Arab leaders (not all) said they would welcome European Jews. But this was certainly not with the idea of creating ethnically based nation states, resulting in 750,000 Palestinians being ethnically cleansed from their homeland. Not even King Faisal, who was open to Jewish immigration, would have signed up to the latter.
    There was no consensual process in which Palestinians as a people were meaningfully engaged to determine the shape or character of their homeland. Had there been one, maybe the subsequent history would have been far less bloody and troubled.

    Palestinian resistance to Zionist colonialism and racism and the communal violence of 1936

    There is ample evidence -recorded by the Zionist pioneers themselves – that the native Palestinian population was welcoming of the first Zionist settlers. They worked side by side, and the Palestinians even taught them how to work the land, despite Zionists seeing the Palestinians as inferior and uncivilised. Only after it became clear that these settlers did not come to live in Palestine as equals, but to become its landlords as the Jewish National Fund Chairman Menachem Usishkin said, did Zionism come to be perceived as a threat. For example, Zionist leadership went out of their way to sanction settlers employing or working with Palestinians, calling Palestinian labour an “illness” and forming a segregated trade union that banned non-Jewish members.

    Consequently, as with every colonial situation, there was resistance by the native population; in this context, some of this resistance was aimed at the British and some at the Zionist settlers themselves. A prominent example of this is the 1936 revolt.
    The violence needs to be understood contextually. Not only was there a large influx of culturally very different European Jews, but more importantly, it was quite obvious from the beginning, that they came, not with the idea of co-existence, but the intention to rule. They also carried themselves with a European sense of superiority over the natives, despite having been outcastes themselves in Europe. This was bound to create friction in a turbulent region where the local Arab population was being promised independence after the long period of Ottoman rule after having sided with the Allies in the first World War, and make the local population even more antagonistic to separatist Jewish ‘homelands‘.

    Zionism never interested in co existence

    While today some Israeli Jews and their supporters might recoil at the brutal reality of colonialism, the early Zionist settlers were far more honest, Vladimir Jabotinsky, in his infamous Iron Wall (1923) stated that:

    “A voluntary reconciliation with the Arabs is out of the question either now or in the future……. Zionism is a colonization adventure and therefore it stands or falls by the question of armed force. It is important… to speak Hebrew, but, unfortunately, it is even more important to be able to shoot – or else I am through with playing at colonizing.”

    Historically, Palestine has always been a place of refuge for many populations fleeing war and famine; it is home to Palestinians of diverse origins, such as Armenian, Bosnian and even Indian Palestinians. They all came to Palestine for different reasons, and to this day form an integral part of its society. From the outset, the Zionist movement was not interested in coexistence.

    The British historical records monitoring the tensions erupting all over Palestine show that the distrust between the Palestinian and Zionist populations intensified after the issuance of the Balfour declaration. The Haycraft report for example, concluded that despite Zionist accusations the actions of the Palestinians were not at all motivated by anti-Semitism, but rather by the British military administration favouring the Zionist settlers to the detriment of the Palestinians. The Shaw report stated that there had been no such tension for nearly a century prior.

    However, this was not the first partition scheme to be presented. In 1919, for example, the World Zionist Organization put forward a ‘partition’ plan, which included all the territory which would become mandatory Palestine, as well as parts of Lebanon, Syria and Transjordan. At the time, the Jewish population of this proposed state would not have even reached 2-3% of the total population. Naturally, such a colonial proposal would be unjust regardless of the population disparity, but it is an indication of the entitlement of the Zionist movement in wanting to establish an ethnic state in an area they had no claim to, and where they were so utterly outnumbered. This type of entitlement is in the mould of European settler colonialism.

    The bulk of the Zionist population arrived in Palestine during the 4th and 5th Zionist immigration waves between 1924-1939, many narrowly escaping the horror of the Holocaust by so doing. That means that the majority of those demanding partition of the land had barely been living there for 20 years at the most. To make matters worse, the UN partition plan allotted approximately 56% of the land of mandatory Palestine to the Zionist state, including most of the fertile coastal region.

    It was much more convenient of course, to transport the problem of European anti-Semitism to faraway Palestine, which was a “land without a people for a people without a land”. By this, what was meant, was not (as it is commonly misunderstood) that the British and the Zionist settlers thought that Palestine was empty, but that they believed that the indigenous population – the Palestinians – did not constitute a people but were part of a wider Arab space and in any case, of little consequence – whereas the Jews were seen as a people.

    Palestinians, of course, rejected this proposal. They were being asked to give away most of their land to a minority of recently arrived settlers. The rejection of this ridiculous premise is still cited today as the Palestinians being intransigent and refusing peace. In more recent times, this has been elided with a world wide and undifferentiated Muslim mass that is seen as atavistically belligerent and dangerous (this incidentally ignores the fact that there are also Christian Palestinians).

    3. IMAGINED THROUGH A ‚DISTORTING LENS‘ – BUT WHOSE?

    Misleading use of the word “pogrom”

    How can the blog, written by a progressive campaigner and former local councillor in Germany, end up unintentionally whitewashing racism and settler colonialism? I believe the root cause lies in unacknowledged Eurocentrism and the pervasive legacy of the holocaust, which are felt particularly strongly in Germany.

    One word succinctly highlights the entrenched, myopic Eurocentrism. And that is the word “pogrom”, which is used to describe communal violence and killings of Jews in Palestine in the interwar years. This word is not used to describe equally vicious and harrowing killings of Palestinians by the then recently emigrated European Jewish settlers, like the massacre at Deir Yassin , for which the Israeli military documents still remain classified. Retaliatory action or pre-emptive strikes by Jews are not something one hears about in the European context, where they were helpless and massacred in very real pogroms and were never able to retaliate by massacring Christian European civilian populations back. Pogroms were, by their very nature, attacks on helpless Jewish communities who were not welcome, and had no recourse to revenge.

    It is quite incorrect to use the historical resonance of this word in a Palestinian context, since middle eastern Jews had coexisted harmoniously with Arabs for over a millennium before the creation of Israel. “Pogrom” is a Russian word used to describe the systematic state sponsored ethnic cleansing and killings of Jews from Czarist Russia and is now widely used to describe systematic ethnic cleansing and massacres of Jews in earlier centuries in Europe as well.

    These were religiously and politically motivated and prevalent in almost all part of Europe with Jewish populations (with some notable exceptions, such as medieval Poland at times). They relied on a seemingly inexhaustible well of church and state led hatred that meant Jews could never feel truly at home or welcome in European countries. The history of Jews in Christian Europe, is, with a few exceptions, the history of extortion by the state and uneasy toleration, followed by slander, and expulsion or massacre, until a local ruler needed them to fill his coffers again. Then the whole cycle would begin again. This pattern was certainly not the norm under Muslim rule, including in Palestine, until the the creation of Israel, when it must be acknowledged, there were some appalling massacres perpetrated against Jews in some Arab countries. My view does not seek to exonerate anyone of crimes and atrocities, but to expose systemic and one sided bias where it exists.

    It goes without saying that being part of a community – whether Jewish or Palestinian – subject to communal massacres is a terrible and scarring experience. A pogrom always includes horrific violence, but not all communal violence is a pogrom. And if it is, then why not call the massacres of Palestinians by Jews “pogroms” as well? Why not then call Hindu massacres of Muslims (or vice versa) or Hutu massacres of Tutsis (and vice versa) pogroms also? But then, it would become a redundant description. “Communal massacres” is the more appropriate term to use, if we are not blinkered by a Eurocentric lens and an historical background with a succession of very real pogroms going back a thousand years and culminating not so long ago in the worst genocide in world history. Sadly, this example of ahistorically superimposing the Jewish experience in central Europe to the middle east reveals the blog to be thus blinkered.

    Reductive Eurocentric conceptualisation of Jew as perpetual ‘victim’ who must be defended

    The belief that critics of Israel must be anti-Semitic rather than rightfully highlighting real Israeli oppression, is widespread. I believe it taps into that part of the Eurocentric narrative which sees Jews as being victims par excellence. And of course, for much of their existence in Europe, they were victims. But an overly reductive view serves to erase the complexity and multi-faceted nature of Jewish experiences, both positive and negative, through the ages in different parts of the world, particularly outside Europe. It even forgets the often glorious history of Jews on the European continent itself in Moorish Spain and the Ottoman empire’s European lands for much of their history there. It also erases the largely harmonious relations between Palestinians and Jews up until the interwar years and replaces it with intractable ethnic hatred and conflict which demands that communities be separated behind barbed wire and mines.

    These Jews were not the communities of poverty-stricken Jews, cowering from unrelenting pogroms in the Pale of Settlement or living an emotionally precarious existence in the cities of Gentile Europe, where their very Jewishness was seen as problematic. Whilst there are some records of communal killings in the nineteenth century in Palestine, with the rise of nationalism and migration from Europe, these Jews were more likely to be proud Jewish men and women, with a respected place in their diverse societies. The Eurocentric narrative of Jews erases all this and conflates Jews with victimhood.

    Criticising the legitimacy of Israel not anti-Semitic,

    The idea of Jew as Victim is strongly present throughout the blog. It may be behind the blog’s eliding, in the first paragraph, an anti-Zionist critique of Israel with anti-Semitism – an outrageous slander made without any kind of supporting evidence. Anti-Semitism is an odious form of racism that led to systemic persecution of European Jews over more than a thousand years, reaching its nadir in Nazi Germany’s genocide. Of course, it is far less emotionally unsettling to label critics of Israeli as anti-Semites, than to acknowledge that both Nazi Germany and Israel centre on ethnic privileging (though to wildly varying degrees), since it does so much conceptual violence to the idea of Jews as perpetual victims.

    The startling characterisation of “the British debate largely bordering on anti-Semitism” flies in the face of the UK government position, and that of the mainstream media, which is increasingly pro-Israeli. Indeed, there have even been attempts to silence free speech around the debate by trying to legally equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, and making, for example, university funding dependent on keeping to the narrow and controversial IHLR definition of anti-Semitism.

    The law has to be careful and not simply ban views with which people disagree. It is reasonable and should be legal to promote the view that Israel is structurally racist, and that it was set up as a settler colonialist enterprise, even to the extent of revealing the dubious ethical basis of the state – unless one whitewashes the historical reality. But it is a conceptual leap from this to saying that Israel should be destroyed. That is certainly not my position. But semantically, even that extremist position should be classed as promotion of terrorism rather than anti-Semitism, unless there is actual evidence of anti Semitic belief

    After all, MANY current states were set up in a morally dubious way, such as Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Canada and so forth. But we do not call for their destruction. The law as it currently stands, is overkill.

    This is not for one moment to deny that anti-Semitism exists in Britain – along with very potent Islamophobia which discriminates against Arabs and Muslims more generally. Nor should we do anything other than unreservedly condemn real anti-Semitism wherever it occurs. Many Islamic and Jewish religious leaders – for all their faults – work together tirelessly to promote dialogue between communities in the UK, and some of the recent outrageous actions of a few anti-Semitic individuals, do not advance the cause of justice in Israel and Palestine one jot, and instead, needlessly create fear amongst communities in the UK. But this should not be used as an excuse to slander critics of Israel as anti-Semites, in order to whitewash the far greater systemic violence imposed daily on Palestinians.

    Many Jews also condemn Israel as an ethnocratic settler colonialist enterprise

    The fact that people in many countries, including many prominent Jewish intellectuals and human rights groups, are scathing of Israel, suggests that criticism of Israel is not all due to a distorted “UK perspective” or anti-Semitism that the blog characterises as the “UK perspective”. The intimate knowledge and understanding of some of these figures about the history and current set up of Israel, also cast into doubt the assertion by the blog that criticism of Israel is sustained by “severe misinformation”.

    Jewish critics of Israel include historian Illan Pappe, a former Israeli who left his homeland for the UK as a result of the hostility he faced, when his search through historical archives led him to the conclusion that the expulsion of Palestinians in 1948 was a systematic ethnic cleansing, rather than the result of ad hoc actions on the ground. They also include the physician and Holocaust survivor Gabor Mate, born in Hungary and now a Canadian citizen and world-wide authority on childhood trauma. He was an early Zionist – understandable given the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust – who now has no love for Israel because of the treatment of the Palestinians that he witnessed first-hand.

    They also include Harvard academic, linguist and campaigner Noam Chomsky who should need no introduction, but hardly seems the kind to be led astray by misinformation and anti-Semitism. He has spoken out steadfastly for the Palestinian cause and condemned Israel over decades for being an ethnocentric state in the service of, latter day imperialism of the American kind.

    Then there are numerous religious and secular Jewish groups, such as Neturei Karta and Satmar Hasidim, and Jewish Voice for Peace, which describe the process of the creation of Israel and its current behaviour in similar terms to the ones I have used.
    A number of human rights groups including Amnesty, and also Jewish human rights groups within Israel, have condemned the systemic disadvantage and mistreatment of Palestinians. Young American Jews – not known for their virulent anti-Semitism, are also increasingly seeing parallels between the Palestinian experience and that of Black Americans. There is also condemnation by many Palestinian writers, but these are invisibilised by western commentators who tend to see things through an Israeli Jewish perspective because of their own eurocentrism.

    Of the Occupied Territories, even Ilan Baruch and Alon Liel – two former Israeli ambassadors to Israel who presumably know a thing or two about the subject – have said that “It is time for the world to recognize that what we saw in South Africa decades ago is happening in the occupied Palestinian territories too”. The state that perpetrates that grave injustice also perpetrates racist policies against Israeli Palestinian citizens in Israel proper.

    It is now time for all anti racist campaigners including the blog author, to unite and criticise Israel on anti-racist grounds and to support a dialogue which acknowledges past and present injustices and aims at rapprochement, in the hope that Palestinian and Jew can live a more equitable and harmonious existence in the future.

    • Phew!

      A comment longer that the original piece. I therefore will also need some space to answer.

      A piece about the years before the creation of Israel, being part of a longer series on Israel as a counter-speech to the position proposed by you that Israel is a non-democratic, apartheid and settler colonialism state. A position that is clearly anti-zionist. And as you write yourself, you use openly anti-zionist positions. Unfortunately there seem to be no checks if these positions are also anti-semitic as anti-zionism is the modern day version of transporting anti-semitic viewpoints. Blaming Jews openly for whatsoever is – thank goodness – today seen as rather barbaric, so today’s anti-semites mostly aim at Isreal to indirectly hit out at Jews.

      I don certainly not think you to be an anti-semite. But I think you have fallen for many anti-semitic positions. Most certainly because you fight against discrimination. But your fight seems distorted in this point.

      I will simply test your positions with the 3D test. A simple measure so to see if you have fallen for anti-semitic arguments.

      The fist test is: do you use double standards when it comes to Israel compared with other countries?

      In a time when Afghanistan is run over by Islamist Fascists called the Taliban, in a time when the climate summit in Glasgow will not bring about the climate action urgently needed, in a time when peace in Northern Irleand is on the edge again, in a time when [please name a conflict of your choice. There are so many: Kurdistan, the Jezidi population of Syria, Mali or why not the climate crisis?], it seems to you of great urgency to discuss Israel and Palestine. A in comparison small conflict. Did I hear outrage about the three Hamas terrorists gassed by Egyptian forces last month? No, I did not. No Jews involved, no interest it seems.

      Yes, I know, my next piece on the Israel Palestine conflict is still not out. But you also know that a severe illness had to be fought in between. That took some time. It must have been really pressing for you as this is already your third answer to my first piece (the first one on the blog though).

      In many countries of the world, minorities are supressed. This is obviously a bad thing. Kurds in Turkey face far more supression than Israeli citizens of Palestinian descent – or even an inhabitant of the West Bank (Gaza though is self governed – the atrocities there are atrocities committed by fascist islamist terrorists masked as a government. We know them as Hamas). Atrocities against minorities living in Mynmar were terrible. The Chinese atrocities against the Uighurs are – to my knowledge – on a far worse level than everything ever happened in Israel.

      Therefore: Yes, I would call that double standards. You even state it yourself: „Young American Jews – not known for their virulent anti-Semitism, are also increasingly seeing parallels between the Palestinian experience and that of Black Americans.“ Yes, black American communities in the US still face various levels of discrimination and suppression. But would you also agree that the US is no liberal democracy? If it is: Why is Israel judged much more harsh than the US?

      The second test: do you delegitimize Israel, i.e. say that it has no right to exist and the further existence of a Jewish populace will only be secured due to humanitarian reasons?

      That is quite obvious a yes. You describe Israel as a white colonial settler state. Non of it is true. Here’s a step by step explanation why:

      Are Jews white?

      Jews were not and in many circles are not read as white. Their skin color is of no interest for those obvious anti-semites stating this. It seems that you conclude from your middle class environment in Kent – where Jews are not or at least not openly discriminated against and therefore can from this point of view be seen as white – that this has to be the case everywhere and any time. Nothing could be more away from the truth.

      Jews were not seen as white in large parts of Europe as very small numbers started to migrate to Palestine in the early 20th century. I can understand that for the Arab population it seemed that other whites came to settle in their lands. But many Arab leaders at the time did recognize the problems Jews were facing in Europe.

      Today two thirds of Israels Jewish populace are descendents from those Arab Jews that were driven out of their native lands in the 1950ies – mostly at knife point or close to it. The European influence is dwindling. The largest number of immigrants to Israel are from Ethiopia at the moment (and sadly do face racism in Israel). Not white at all.

      Were Jews colonial settlers?

      Quite obviously not. For being colonial settlers you need a home state that pursues settlements of its own people in a foreign territory controlled by this home state.

      There was no Jewish home state before Israel. No settlements were pushed by any European government in today’s Israel. Lord Balfours more positive stance was soon to be turned into its opposite, the British government declaring that no more Jewish immigrants were allowed into today’s Israel.

      The third test: Is Israel demonized?

      The most stupid demonization of Israel certainly is that they are no better than the Nazis. As there are no signs of concentration camps or crematories firing all day and all of the night this is pretty obviously bullshit and can be done away with. Only hard core anti-semites would still use this kind of demonization.

      Today’s anti-semites are much smarter.

      They use the UN to put the pressure up. Most Arab state in the General Assembly hold anti-semitic positions. It is quite obviously wrong that most discriminatory practises in this world in the last 70 years have been committed by just one state alone. Many more vile and openly evil deeds were not conemned by the General Assembly. Every single thing in Israel is. And oil buys the votes of the poorer member states.

      The most ingenious move was to take the term Apartheid and thwart it in such a way that basically any state with discriminatory pratctises against minority groups could be called an Apartheid state. Using this definition, it is easy to call Israel an Apartheid state. Or the US. Or Germany. Or the UK.

      The wrong Apartheid argument is used as an agent of demonization. And sadly you disseminate it.

      You are in muddy waters with those allegedly anti-racist campaigners. There are other Voices more sane than them. Give them a try. And please stop listing all thos who are in favour of these mostly anti-zionist and anti-semitic positions. Most of them are of good will. But they are a small minority Plus: The IHRA definition of anti-semitism is a really good one. And seen as valid by the vast majority of social science. Try it.

      • I was a little disappointed by this response, which does not seem to address any of my points at all, or else misunderstands them.

        The first point you make seems simply to be that that there are other worse human rights abuses going on in the world and the fact that someone does not talk about those and chooses to focus on Israel is an anti-Semitic stance to take By definition then, if I choose to continue talking about this topic, I hold an anti-Semitic position! Do you see the absurdity of such a position?

        This would mean, logically, that if one chose to speak about atrocities committed by the Taliban, you could immediately be accused of being „anti Taliban“ because the atrocities that the Chinese appear to have committed against the Uighurs appear to be much greater!

        If one has a strong argument on an issue, one doesn’t argue in this way by saying something else is more important. One simply states one’s own arguments and facts to back up one’s case. Which I don’t see evidence of thus far.

        All you have done is largely focus on ‚tests‘ to see if my position is allegedly anti-Semitic (you don’t say I am anti-Semitic which is a small mercy I suppose for which I am extremely grateful). But this is tautological because you don’t define anti-Semitism anywhere and offer a definition of anti-Zionism. You equate the two together despite my argument that the two are separate. It is for you to argue that they are NOT distinct but I see no evidence of this beyond stating that you believe in the IHLR definition. This is just an OPINION, not an argument.

        BTW, I certainly DO think that the USA has fundamental structural issues around racism that derive from its past. And the UK – I have in fact, written at length about structural racism in the UK, and I find it bizarre that you think I would be blind enough to deny that. But the situation in Israel is on a different scale and discrimination is formally part of the law of the land in a way that it isn’t in any other western country as far as I know.

        It is this discrepancy that interests me in the Israel issue – the fact that a claim is being made which is widely accepted in western countries (that Israel is progressive and believes in equality and so forth). Whereas the barbarism of the Taliban, for example, is widely understood (but not the support they received from the US) and therefore doesn’t need to be argued. The argument in that case moves to strategic arguments about what to DO about it.

        My point about young Jewish Americans criticising Israel increasingly was not an argument as such (there are plenty of actual arguments in what I wrote ) but was to alert you to a sea change that is happening in a constituency where maybe one would not expect it. You need to address your claims of „anti-Semitism“ to them. How do you explain it?

        Your belief that I say Israel has no right to exist as a state is certainly not supported by what I have said or believe. A fierce critique of how a state is historically set up and currently run is not the same as saying that state should be destroyed or its citizens harmed in any way. Yet this seems to be the black and white thinking that permeates much of your response.

        After all, many states are set up in pretty awful ways. We would not argue that the USA – a White colonial settler state – should be destroyed. But it needs to be clear about the historical record and correct any current discrimination or disadvantage being inflicted on indigenous populations, for example.

        In the case of Israel, I have identified some of the discriminatory laws (there are many more) but you have not mentioned ANY counter arguments to my claims. SO does this mean you implicitly accept there ARE discriminatory laws against the Palestinians? At least if you believe this, you should acknowledge as much. These laws need to be changed and yes, that would mean that being privileged because of being racially Jewish, would have to end. That is the principle. I’m not going to pretend that change will be easy. But the White rulers of South Africa also feared that there would be a bloodbath if the Blacks took over. But it didn’t because of some inspired leadership and a truth and reconciliation commission. Now South Africa has huge problems for sure with corruption and the like BUT there was no racial bloodbath.

        Regarding the term „White“ – what I meant by this was, that when European Jews (not middle eastern Jews already having lived in Palestine for millennia) moved to Palestine to colonise the land, they were acting with the same racism and disdain towards the indigenous inhabitants of Palestine (largely Palestinian Arab but also some Jews) as White people did to the indigenous inhabitants of America, Canada, Australia and so forth. This is a CULTURAL legacy of White imperialism which Zionists shared due to having lived in Europe for over a thousand years. Whether European Jews were considered „White“ or not by Europeans is irrelevant. They were of course demonised by many Europeans but only a REAL anti-Semite would contest that (and I point out the tragic and horrific treatment of Jews in Europe often in my account).

        In a Palestinian context, the the Zionist settlers took those racist colonial settler ideas of superiority with them. It was, after all, part of the moral justification for their treatment of Palestinians.

        Regarding the term „apartheid“, you must surely know, that this is more than just systemic attitudes of racism in society (which more or less every society has, including the US and the UK and I am sure, Germany too) – this is not to say it is a small thing at all, and in fact, much of my campaigning has been to highlight that such discrimination is far more deeply rooted and damaging than is generally supposed. Three years of my life – much more time than I have spent on the issue of Israel – were spent on a manifesto for social change which would counteract the negative effects of racism on BAME populations‘ mental health in the UK. Apartheid though, is state sponsored discrimination that forms the fundamental basis of a state. Why not actually argue against my definitions with counter ARGUMENTS rather than just OPINIONS?

        Phrases like „The IHRA definition of anti-Semitism is a really good one. And seen as valid by the vast majority of social science“ is just uncritical OPINION. It would make a much more compelling case to argue one’s points.

        Finally, when you state that some people use anti-Zionist arguments disguised as anti-Semitic points. you are of course factually correct. But does this mean that one then dismisses all anti-Zionist arguments as being anti-Semitic? That’s absurd. I could similarly pose the belief that all people who oppose Palestinian rights, are not doing it because they love Israel, but because they hate Muslims (Palestinians can of course also be Christian or other religion but vast majority are Muslim).

        Finally, I am of course, saddened that I apparently disturbed you during your period of healing, I can promise you that my eagerness which seems to have perhaps irritated you, was not due to some kind of vendetta against Israel, but an eagerness for some kind of communication which was ill thought out and inconsiderate but not badly intended (in fact at times you seemed very keen to have this exchange).

        Peace, salaam, shalom, Frieden

  3. A factual clarification please – you claim that a majority (in the sense of a numerical majority intake it) of Israeli Jews are descended from Jews fleeing Arab countries. Please quote source with figures.. thanks

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