Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)

Tags:

The Burden of History
October 12, 2006 11:42 AM   Subscribe

"As the Arabs see the Jews" by His Majesty King Abdullah, The American Magazine, November, 1947. This fascinating essay, written by King Hussein’s grandfather King Abdullah, appeared in the United States six months before the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
posted by four panels (92 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
this is interesting, thanks
posted by matteo at 12:17 PM on October 12, 2006


Interesting is the word. Maybe even compelling. I read it a few months ago. Very prescient. And I've wondered since just how much of it is propaganda and how much of it is just flat related fact.

"We have hurt these people terribly," cries the West to the East. "Won’t you please take care of them for us?"
posted by grabbingsand at 12:25 PM on October 12, 2006


"The astounding truth is that nobody on earth really knows where these unfortunate Jews really want to go!"
posted by punkfloyd at 12:25 PM on October 12, 2006


nice post...thanks....
posted by Groomz at 12:25 PM on October 12, 2006


Great post four panels. Never read this before, or even heard of this speech by King Abdullah. It is prophetic and reveals how one nation was destroyed and another was born--the nation born so very recently that defines how many in this part of the world view the Middle East today; but as history has amply demonstrated, no empire, nation or imperial outpost endures forever. The latter, I reckon, is most true for imperial outposts.
posted by Azaadistani at 12:30 PM on October 12, 2006


It is significant that the Philistines—not the Jews—gave their name to the country: "Palestine" is merely the Greek form of "Philistia."

Um. No. "Philistia" is the name the Romans gave the region after making it Judenrein.

But please, your majesty. Don't let history get in the way of spinning your lachrymose tale.
posted by felix betachat at 12:31 PM on October 12, 2006


From this source:

Palestine Look up Palestine at Dictionary.com
from L. Palestina (name of a Roman province), from Gk. Palaistine (Herodotus), from Heb. Pelesheth "Philistia, land of the Philistines." Revived as a political territorial name 1920.
posted by cell divide at 12:35 PM on October 12, 2006


Perhaps another reason he did not want Zionists around "his" area was because of his larger dreams--dreams distrusted by neighbor Arab rulers:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abdullah_I_of_Jordan
posted by Postroad at 12:41 PM on October 12, 2006


Um. No. "Philistia" is the name the Romans gave the region after making it Judenrein.

Both statements are correct. The romans named the land Palestine, after they conquered it, and they named it after the original inhabitants, the philistines, whom the Israelites had conquered before that.
posted by delmoi at 12:42 PM on October 12, 2006


Wow. That's a bit of perspective.
posted by ddf at 12:44 PM on October 12, 2006


Given the history of Palestinians in Jordan, I think it's clear what he was afraid of.
posted by Krrrlson at 12:45 PM on October 12, 2006


His article seems very reasoned and cogent. Its his perspective, nothing more or less and is very prescient in its historical context. If you insist on taking sides, you're kind of missing the point.
posted by dobie at 12:51 PM on October 12, 2006


Interesting essay, but I get the sense that nowadays many Arabs see Jews as the hook-nosed vermin of Nazi caricatures.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:51 PM on October 12, 2006


The unimaginable persecution of the Jews was not done by the Arabs: it was done by a Christian nation in the West. The war which ruined Europe and made it almost impossible for these Jews to rehabilitate themselves was fought by the Christian nations of the West. The rich and empty portions of the earth belong, not to the Arabs, but to the Christian nations of the West....We are a generous people: we are proud that "Arab hospitality" is a phrase famous throughout the world. We are a humane people: no one was shocked more than we by the Hitlerite terror. No one pities the present plight of the desperate European Jews more than we."

From the autobiography of Robert Fisk (himself no great friend of Israel):

"...[A]mid the evil of the Holocaust [Grand Mufti of Jerusalem] Haj Amin's moral position seems untenable. There is, too, in the archives of the wartime BBC Monitoring Service, a series of transcripts from Nazi radio stations that cast a dark shadow over any moral precepts Haj Amin might have claimed. Here he is, for example, addressing a Balfour Day rally at the Luftwaffe hall in Berlin on 2 November 1943: 'The Germans know how to get rid of the Jews...They have definitely solved the Jewish problem.' And on Berlin radio on 1 March 1944: 'Arabs, rise as one man and fight for your sacred rights. Kill the Jews wherever you find them. This pleases God, history and religion.' On 21 January that year, Haj Amin visited Ante Pavelic's ferocious Fascist state of Croatia--which included present-day Bosnia--where he addressed Muslim recruits to the SS with these words, so sharply in contrast with the sentiments expressed in his postwar memoirs: 'There are also considerable similarities between Islamic principles and National Socialism, namely, in the affirmation of struggle and fellowship...in the idea of order.'"
posted by felix betachat at 12:53 PM on October 12, 2006


He glosses over the fact that, under dhimma, non-Muslims were occasionally treated quite horribly during the Muslim and Hashemite empires. Anti-Jewish and anti-Christian movements (including the occasional state-sponsored pogram over the "blood libel") happened throughout this era. It wasn't all roses and sunshine.
posted by joseph_elmhurst at 12:56 PM on October 12, 2006


Both statements are correct. The romans named the land Palestine, after they conquered it, and they named it after the original inhabitants, the philistines, whom the Israelites had conquered before that.

Actually no, delmoi. The philistines ruled a Pentapolis on the coast in the area around modern-day Tel Aviv down as far south as the Gaza strip. They were never able to project their control with certainty into the Judean highlands.

The Romans gave the region the name Philistia because these were the non-Jewish peoples in the region with whom they were most familiar. It would be wrong to imagine that, before the period of Hadrian, Aelia Capitolina (formerly Jerusalem) would have been in a territory known as "Philistia".
posted by felix betachat at 12:58 PM on October 12, 2006


especially interesting in light of the immigration debate in the united states. anyway the essay is a rather good piece of propaganda and i am politically sympathetic. but i think it is important to point out that the essay is a kluge of the nature of jewish immigration into palestine, and a more general point, which is that the story of the palestinians is one of being fucked over by europeans and the zionists on one side, and exploited by the arab powers on the other.

1) it leaves out that jewish immigration into palestine was primarily into urban communities, whereas arab settlement was rural/agricultural in nature. so the two populations were not being forced together, and in fact, their segregation (and competition with eventual jewish domination) has been the unfortunate story ever since. the jews were not settling/using/in need of the land of the palestinian arabs at the time they instigated for control of that land (and to this day, there are plenty of those destroyed arab villages just sitting around dotting the israeli landscape, overgrown with weeds).

2) the kings suggestion is that palestine belongs to "us, the arabs". the king is a hashemite (they have the throne in jordan) and is not of the same descent as the palestinians, and the kingdom of jordan was being carved out about the same time as israel and palestine were being carved up, and its development was not independent. the hashemites had designs on territory (particularly the fertile westbank, which they seized after the war in 1948). they were working on carving out control of land back then and they had no problem making their fortune (and they did) on the backs of palestinians - (to this day, hashemites/bedouin, as a minority, have political control jordan and profit largely off palestinians who are there as a result of the zionist wars and drive the economy...).

3) realistically, the economy/society of the whole middle east was rapidly changing and growing in the period in question (circa 1945), and both palestinian arabs and jews inside of what was mandate palestine could have coexisted with mutual benefits if the ideologies of control and segregation (mostly zionist, but also "pan-arab") had not been in play. the area should not have been thought of as stably ruled by arab powers, containing really solidly established arab states, nor of not having the resources to accomodate the jewish immigration (clearly, it did/does) or the at least 6x growth in population that has happened since. there was a lot of growing prosperity in a multicultural environment with a sort of benevolent anarchy under decaying UK colonial rule, until a flurry of statist land grabbing messed everything up.

sorry if this is scattered, but i thought it should be said.
posted by mano at 1:01 PM on October 12, 2006 [2 favorites]


felix betachat, I'm respectfully curious about what point you're trying to make.
posted by dobie at 1:02 PM on October 12, 2006


Actually no, delmoi. The philistines ruled a Pentapolis on the coast in the area around modern-day Tel Aviv down as far south as the Gaza strip. They were never able to project their control with certainty into the Judean highlands.

That's really splitting hairs. "Force projection" is a relatively modern thing in human history. And the historical records of the time are hardly conclusive.
posted by delmoi at 1:03 PM on October 12, 2006


That's really splitting hairs. "Force projection" is a relatively modern thing in human history. And the historical records of the time are hardly conclusive.

Actually, no, delmoi. For the region of the Levant, during the Iron Age, even during the period of the great empires of Assyria, Babylon and Persia, "force projection" was all there was. You had an army, which could directly control territory only for a short period of time. The rest of the time, you depended on ideology and fear to maintain your control over a region.

So the much vaunted monarchy of David and Solomon was more likely a series of bandit raids and intimidation that gradually led to a process of state formation. Without that initial ability to "project force", you would have had no eventual monarchy. Thus, without the ability to attack decisively in the Judean highlands, the Philistines would have had no basis to control the region.

The historical records are silent on the subject of Philistine domination of the Judean hills. As a matter of fact, I visited recently the area of Tel Afek and Izbet Sarta. Afek is on the coastal plain and Izbet Sarta is a few miles away in the hills. At roughly the same historical moment in the Iron Age, the Philistines had a grain processing facility at Afek, and Philistine writing has been discovered at the site. At the same time, there is a settlement at Izbet Sarta in which an abecediary, an alphabetic list which was probably a student's exercise, was found in a granary showing a very early example of the archaic Hebrew alphabet. The geographical separation between the two regions is mirrored by an apparent linguistic, economic and cultural divide.

So...there is solid archaeological evidence that the Philistines were confined to a sphere of influence on the coastal plain and the ancestors of the Jews were settled in the Judean highlands. It doesn't get any more conclusive than that.
posted by felix betachat at 1:15 PM on October 12, 2006


dobie: I assume you're asking about the point of citing Fisk on the Haj Amin al-Husseini. Just to illustrate that, despite what the Hashemite King might have wanted his audience to believe, there were prominent Arabs who supported the Nazis both ideologically and materially in their project to exterminate the Jews. It puts his claim that: "no one was shocked more than we by the Hitlerite terror. No one pities the present plight of the desperate European Jews more than we." in rather a different light.
posted by felix betachat at 1:18 PM on October 12, 2006


The comment b y felix is correct: the Jews in the area fought with the British (and the Brits were seen as enemies of Zionism) to engage in the larger battle against the Nazis whereas the Arabs were sympathetic and helped the Axis, in their dislike of the Zionists. If anyone truly believes that Christians and Jews were treated as equals under Muslim rule then they have not read up on the subject. In passing: After the state of Israel came about, 750 thousand Jews were thrown out of arab lands, without being allowed to take anything they owned. Is that an example of Arab friendliness? There are over a million Arabs living as citizens in Israel proper.
posted by Postroad at 1:52 PM on October 12, 2006


Felix, there were American companies that happily helped the Nazis. Does that automatically make all Americans anti-semitic?

You're trying to discredit this message, but I think your arguments so far are very poor.

On preview: Postroad, that was AFTER the Israelis took over Palestine, not before. People tend to be less friendly to those they perceive as invaders.
posted by Malor at 1:55 PM on October 12, 2006


Does that automatically make all Americans anti-semitic?

Well no, but it does indicate that the Americans weren't of one happy, hospitable and pitying mind on the matter. Which is what the King was implying (or stating, depending on how you want to interpret his prose).

...and Americans weren't, as it happens. Neither were the palestinian/hashemites/arabs, as the King would claim.
posted by aramaic at 2:11 PM on October 12, 2006


I didn't read that he wasn't implying that at all; he mentioned how few jews the Americans and other Allied countries allowed to immigrate. I think he was speaking to his perception that Palestine was being forced, under Britain, to solve the Allies pity.
posted by dobie at 2:19 PM on October 12, 2006


And yet, to ease their consciences, these Christian nations of the West are asking Palestine—a poor and tiny Moslem country of the East—to accept the entire burden.

King Abdullah is helping to establish an historical misconception which has been quite damaging.

The Allies didn't actually want Jewish emigration to Palestine, certainly not during the war -- when there was enormous need to maintain an alliance with millions of Arabs under various rulers with different points of view. The British, for example, blockaded Palestine to the extent of their ability, depositing untold refugees back at Cyprus (where many escaped to try again).

After the war the official policy was repatriation of refugees to their home countries (although in some cases the borders had moved ...). The Jewish Brigade, an ethnic regiment of the British Army, was instrumental in bringing tens of thousands of refugees by clandestine means to Palestine.

Now, at the blind-eye level, there's a grain of truth here -- Jews unwilling to remain in Europe had few options, and the US was not as welcoming as it would like to remember. But there was never a formal policy in favor of Zionism by the Allies (even though many Americans -- such as myself -- grew up with the impression that the West "created" Israel for the Jews).
posted by dhartung at 2:38 PM on October 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


I was liking this piece (while holding some reservations) right up to the threat at the end:

And what would be your action if, in spite of your refusal, this outside agency began forcing them on you?

Ours will be the same.

But I have to admit, the piece did change my view on the matter to an extent, or at least got me thinking.
posted by Citizen Premier at 2:48 PM on October 12, 2006


Jews unwilling to remain in Europe had few options, and the US was not as welcoming as it would like to remember.

This point is very true. And it was not unreasonable for Jews to be unwilling to remain/return to Europe. See the Kielce pogrom to get an idea of what it meant for Jews to stay. And the US should have opened its doors more to refugees, but most Jews after the Holocaust were unwilling to trust anyone else to govern them but themselves. Most of the refugees arriving in Palestine were Zionists, who would most likely not accept American citizenship even if it were offered.
posted by SBMike at 3:05 PM on October 12, 2006


And yet, to ease their consciences, these Christian nations of the West are asking Palestine—a poor and tiny Moslem country of the East—to accept the entire burden.

Dhartung: I believe he is talking about the post-Balfour time, not the middle of the war when other alliances were more important. His point seems to be that Europe created the Jewish refugee problem, and Europe should take care of it. As well as I can see, the majority if people who made the Jewish state a reality did not come at the height of WWII, but after or near the end of the war.
posted by cell divide at 3:15 PM on October 12, 2006


This is propaganda for a simple reason: not because (as Felix rightly points out) it lies about the contemporary anti-semitism in the middle east, and not because it is so ridiculously coy, but because it appeals to Americans by painting Americans as kind, affable, good, yet uninformed, Palestinian Arabs as a coherent, besieged nation, and Palestinian Jews as spoiled, heartless, ignorant invaders. Just about none of those characterizations is correct. Moreover, they are designed to make the (american) reader feel good.

It would be nice if somebody would quote some perspectives of Palestinian Jews of the era. Nobody seems to. It's hard to believe that people as spoiled and ignorant as the King portrays them (subtly, and without a hint of anti-semitism, of course) would do as much as they seem to have to build the only economic and agricultural powerhouse in the Middle East.

It would also help settle this kind of thing if people would talk about actual figures, like population numbers. But it seems almost impossible to get a good source on that kind of thing; all sides are so skewed.
posted by koeselitz at 3:46 PM on October 12, 2006


on preview: SBMike: "And it was not unreasonable for Jews to be unwilling to remain/return to Europe. See the Kielce pogrom to get an idea of what it meant for Jews to stay. And the US should have opened its doors more to refugees, but most Jews after the Holocaust were unwilling to trust anyone else to govern them but themselves. Most of the refugees arriving in Palestine were Zionists, who would most likely not accept American citizenship even if it were offered."

This is a very important point. Nowadays, nobody (in the USA) seems to know what the word "Zionism" means. It means: the idea that the west will never accept Jews, and that Jews must therefore make their own place. Many desolate, empty, distant places were considered; Brazil was the first idea, if I'm not mistaken. Zionism isn't racism, and it isn't a sense of entitlement (necessarily); it's just an attempt to solve the perennial problem of anti-semitism. After the Holocaust, it was suddenly pretty clear that a solution was needed badly.

The King is being a bit disengenuous when he calls Palestine a 'country' of 1.2 million. I wonder if there were that many people there when he wrote this. And I wonder what they called themselves, beyond 'Muslims' and 'Jews.'
posted by koeselitz at 3:53 PM on October 12, 2006


His Majesty forgot to mention the Ottoman Empire and it's progeny like Haj Amin al-Husseini.

And while His Majesty avers...

In any event, the great Moslem expansion about 650 AD finally settled things. It dominated Palestine completely. From that day on, Palestine was solidly Arabic in population, language, and religion.

... how was that expansion accomplished? By the good word and arguments of well meaning individuals? One has to wonder if His Grace would would stand up for any aggrieved Spanish or French Catholics should his paridigm have prevailed?

Spare me the propaganda of racist Nazi and Soviet collaborators.
posted by w_boodle at 4:04 PM on October 12, 2006


w-boodie,

for most of human history, land was not given out of generosity but was taken. That's how the Israelites conquered their land, at least in scripture. That's how God works - justifying invasion.

What of haj Amin? One person who hated Jews. Kind of like half the British Royal Family. You offer simply one gasp: "what about... what about" some irrelevant fact with a speculative ploy. Would he have stood up for French Catholics? Probably not. Do we stand up for Muslims? Most of us don't.

We love our friends, and hate our enemies.
posted by john wilkins at 4:17 PM on October 12, 2006


koeselitz,

what historians do you know of that disagree to a significant extent about population figures? sounds like you are muddying the issue, rather than loking for clarification.

also, your and felix's suggestion that contemporary anti-semitism in the arab/muslim world is the cause of, rather than caused by, zionist immigration and israel's establishment, is rather ahistorical as well.

the kings historical points may be in service propaganda (welcome to the world of politics), but that does not make them incorrect. antisemitism is largely a western manifestation and its fiercest examples are all european, which is precisely the context in which jewish zionism was produced.
posted by mano at 4:28 PM on October 12, 2006


koeselitz

The King is not being "disengenuous" when he cites Palestine as containing a majority of 1.2 million Palestinian arabs. Cite us a few historical sources that disagree significantly with those numbers.

He is being disingenuous when he calls Palestine a country.
It was under British control, and to this day the Palestinians have not experienced real self-rule or a funcitoning state.

You should sort these things out before you write about them, there is enough confusion out there, it doesnt need to extend to basic facts.
posted by mano at 4:44 PM on October 12, 2006


also, your and felix's suggestion that contemporary anti-semitism in the arab/muslim world is the cause of, rather than caused by, zionist immigration and israel's establishment, is rather ahistorical as well.

mano, I don't think that koeslitz or felix were suggesting that Arab anti-semitism caused Zionist immigration. I'm pretty sure that any anti-semitism that they were talking about as an impetus for Zionism was a European phenomenon. This is demonstrably true, and I don't think anyone is claiming otherwise.

However, claiming that Arab anti-semitism is caused by Zionist immigration and Israel's establishment really only has a grain of truth to it. Arab anti-semitism is largely caused by a persistent and vicious campaign of lies, propoganda, and indoctrination that corrupt governments use to make scapegoats of the Jews. Israel's creation could maybe account for anti-semitism in Palestine, but it doesn't explain it in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Pakistan, etc., places where Israel doesn't really have much of an effect at all.

It also wouldn't explain Arab attacks on Jews worldwide. We hear a lot about how being anti-Israel isn't the same as anti-semitism, but if that's the case, why would Muslims plan to attack a Synagogue in Prague, or stab Jewish youths in France? Or for that matter, how would you explain The Palestine riots in 1929, 19 years before the state of Israel was established? Especially when the attacks were directed at the established Jewish communities in Palestine rather than at recent immigrants?

The creation of the state of Israel is a convenient excuse to rally the masses. However, it didn't raise Arab anti-semitism across the middle east as a natural reaction. It has taken a coordinated, steady stream of lies from corrupt Middle Eastern governments to convince their people to hate the Jews. In this way, they can keep their citizens afraid of "Israeli agression" much in the same way that George Bush keeps Americans scared of the terrorists to justify taking away fundamental rights.
posted by SBMike at 4:48 PM on October 12, 2006


"Arab anti-semitism is largely caused by a persistent and vicious campaign of lies, propoganda, and indoctrination that corrupt governments use to make scapegoats of the Jews."

This characterization clearly suggests that arab anti-semitism is a conspiracy of unscrupulous arab governments. Was it concocted before Jewish immigration began, or after? And what exactly, are Jews/Israelis being scapegoated for? If they are being scapegoated for disenfranchising Palestinians, well, duh.

Also, to what end is the conspiracy scapegoating Jews? Because usually, a conspiracy has a goal. So what do you see as the goal of this conspiracy?

PS: As far as I can tell, the destabilization of the middle east hurts arab governments, and helps the US more than anyone. And it keeps all of the govts in the region (israel included) beholden to the US.

PPS: If your problem is the equivalence being made between Israel and all of the Jewish people, thats a pet peeve of mine too (I'm a Jew who is unhappy with Israel). But thats an equivalence that Israel and most Zionists work hard to promote as well.
posted by mano at 5:23 PM on October 12, 2006


This characterization clearly suggests that arab anti-semitism is a conspiracy of unscrupulous arab governments. Was it concocted before Jewish immigration began, or after?

I'd make a distinction between passive anti-Semitism and active anti-Semitism. In that anti-Semitism existed in the Arab world prior to Israel's creation, but didn't generally result in widespread violence or extreme tensions (with a handful of obvious exceptions), and wasn't much more extreme in nature than attitudes towards any other group of outsiders or infidels. Much like the tensions that exist in any multicultural society. In certain small incidents, these tensions might flare up, but overall the level of anti-Semitism wasn't exceptional. After the creation of the state, however, the Arab governments took advantage of this existing sentiment and kicked it up about a thousand notches, making Jew-hating a national priority. So in some senses, it existed before, and in some senses it was created by the governments after.

And what exactly, are Jews/Israelis being scapegoated for? If they are being scapegoated for disenfranchising Palestinians, well, duh.


Um, everything from 9/11 to peddling drugs in the Arab world, to trying to conquer the entire ME, to trying to poison the Palestinians with Nutrasweet.

Also, to what end is the conspiracy scapegoating Jews? Because usually, a conspiracy has a goal. So what do you see as the goal of this conspiracy?

Scapegoating an external population is a useful tool for dictators to stay in power. Read just a chapter of human history and tell me it's not true.

posted by SBMike at 5:52 PM on October 12, 2006


Also, to what end is the conspiracy scapegoating Jews? Because usually, a conspiracy has a goal. So what do you see as the goal of this conspiracy?

Look up Middle Eastern oil revenues, and then look up how much of this money makes it to the general population.
posted by Krrrlson at 6:23 PM on October 12, 2006


He succinctly expresses himself, for sure. Even still Palestinians are wondering what the Jews are doing in their country.

I have as much claim to Jerusalem as any Jew. I am descended directly from a Crusader.
posted by Sukiari at 6:47 PM on October 12, 2006


"After the creation of the state, however, the Arab governments took advantage of this existing sentiment and kicked it up about a thousand notches, making Jew-hating a national priority."

So, some Jews invade a land they have no legitimate claim to, and it's surprising that the locals have a problem with them?
posted by Sukiari at 6:48 PM on October 12, 2006


The article is a puff-piece, official propoganda from the Kingdom of Jordan. King Abdullah was a puppet king of the British; his son was an arch-murderer of the Palestinians, and the present king is ... well, less accomplished than Prince Charles of the UK.

King Abdullah made those ahistorical claims about Arabs because he was an Arab (his father ruled over a large part of what is now Saudi Arabia) and he wanted to cement his claim to the region. Although the Palestinians have become increasingly Arabised, they're still ethnically and culturally distinct from the Hashemite Arabs.

King Abdullah claimed that "For nearly 2,000 years Palestine has been almost 100 per cent Arab". In fact the Arabs conquered it from the Persians around 630 CE. The Persians had conquered it from the Byzantines a few decades earlier. The Byzantines were the last gasp of the Roman Empire. This is all ancient history and is irrelevant to anything except demonstrating that Abdullah's article is false.

The region had a significant Jewish population pretty well continuously. We don't have as many historical records from some periods as we would like: continuous wars will do that to you. None the less, there are records by historians and travellers, as well as synagogues and things like that.

I don't accept that people have the right to live in a particular place just because their great-great-grandfather did. I think that's a racist argument. King Abdullah thought that way, and his article is actually a plea for ethic cleansing. He didn't want any Jews in what he considered to be "his" territory. My understanding is that Jews are still not allowed to buy land in Jordan, any more than they can set foot in Mecca.

The fact is that the region is ethinically mixed; it has always been ethnically mixed; and the reason that the British divided it up between Jews and Palestinians is because there were large groups of each and they were sick of trying to keep the peace between them. King Abdullah's article is the sales pitch of a brutal despot who was trying to get the United States to extend his franchise. It is beneath contempt.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:58 PM on October 12, 2006


So, some Jews invade a land they have no legitimate claim to, and it's surprising that the locals have a problem with them?

It's not just the locals Sukiari. The Jews occupy a country smaller than the state of New Jersey in a region roughly the size of a continent. There are 5 million Jews to hundreds of millions of Muslims in the region. Spit in the ocean really. I can see an Arab who originally lived in Palestine having a legitimate grievance, but the creation of Israel affected the average person in the region not at all. You wouldn't know it though, from the vitriolic hate that pours out of the Mosques, the state-owned press, the schools, etc. in the Middle East.
posted by SBMike at 7:05 PM on October 12, 2006


That was a good speech by King Abdullah, and he clearly knows more about his local history than some of the propagandists in this thread! I particularly like his analogies for zionists historical claims to the area.

Prior to 1880, I think that there were only at most a couple of thousand jews in Palestine, mostly in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem.
posted by wilful at 7:29 PM on October 12, 2006


King Abdullah claimed that "For nearly 2,000 years Palestine has been almost 100 per cent Arab". In fact the Arabs conquered it from the Persians around 630 CE. The Persians had conquered it from the Byzantines a few decades earlier. The Byzantines were the last gasp of the Roman Empire. This is all ancient history and is irrelevant to anything except demonstrating that Abdullah's article is false.

no ... what you've just described here is who the arabs and others in the area got to pay taxes to ... it wasn't as if there were massive movements of peasants every time an army came into the area

I don't accept that people have the right to live in a particular place just because their great-great-grandfather did.

but then some make the argument that because their ancestors lived there 2,500 years ago, they do

King Abdullah thought that way, and his article is actually a plea for ethic cleansing.

yes, it is ... but then the end result was ethnic cleansing of the other side ... and now, the possibility of more

there's no good guys here that i can see ... and the u s has nothing to gain from meddling with it
posted by pyramid termite at 8:09 PM on October 12, 2006


Very interesting piece, for its historical context, cultural background and propaganda purposes.

Remember, when the original Zionism began -- and it was very much a "let's get the fuck out of Europe before they kill all of us" -- the Arab people were also getting screwed from all sides. Ottomans, British and other such foreign interests ruled the nomadic "primitive" Arabs.

The more I read and learn about the Zionist v. Arab Palestine situation that began more than a century ago, the more I realize industrialized Europe and America just wanted to get rid of these problems, move them down to the Third World of Palestine / Israel.

Remember, when Hitler's monsters were gassing Jews (and Catholics and homosexuals and anyone else pegged as a "deviant," even though most were Jews), Washington didn't want 'em unless they could build bombs or make movies.

Victorious Europe and the USA dumped a problem they didn't want on what they thought was an unimportant part of the world. (Yes, some knew the importance of the Gulf's oil fields, but remember America was producing the vast majority of its oil at that point.) Europe/Washington despised both Jews and Arabs.

The King is right in describing the Holocaust as a Christian crime. Yeah, Muslim armies kicked 40 kinds of ass, but if you're looking for Jewish civil/human rights, Europe only had it in Moorish Spain & Sicily before Hitler was defeated.
posted by kenlayne at 10:17 PM on October 12, 2006


and Amsterdam
posted by SBMike at 11:02 PM on October 12, 2006


Back in college I used to rail on, by habit almost, about the numerous crimes of the Israeli government, and amlsot all of my Jewish friends (including a good number of Israelis) would eventually capitulate that they didn't agree with the government's actions, but what else were they supposed to do? Since then I've cooled down significantly, as the more vocal and more violent Muslims in the region have heated up. But there's a difference between being Anti-Israel and Anti-Semetic, and citing the actions of some ignorant and violent Muslim youth is the same tactic that Bush used by looking towards Linde to prove that being anti-Bush was to be anti-American.

As for pro-or-anti-Israel, I think it's irrelevent. There's nothing that can be done now, and the best way to describe it is irreparable. We're at just enough generations down the line where we can't, with any conscience, claim that the Jews don't have claim to the land now. At the same time, and I'm open to hearing any argument on this, I can't think of a single ligititamte reason why they had a right to take it sixty years ago. And now, the move has shaped modern Arab foreign policy in the nuclear age, which had already began at the time of modern Zionism. This leaves two horrid truths in its wake:

1. In a hundred years, our descendents (if we're lucky) will read about Israel as the seed from which grew a nuclear WWIII, much as we read that WWII grew out of the Posst Great War sanctions against Germany.

2. If America abandoned Israel today, and let it twist in the wind, it would be the most significant step possible towards peace in the region.

Now, I don't endorse abandoning Israel; again, they at this point have every right to be there and to defend themselves, and we need to help them secure some sense of pluralism in the region. But we're now committed to a world war that isn't an "if," but a "when," and Israel is where it all begins.

(Clearly it doesn't help that our ruling body is hoping for an armageddon to begin with Israel, but that's another story.)

Shameless propaganda or not, Hussein's article demosntrates the vast difference between the state of the middle east then and now, if only for two irrefutable reasons: He aknowledges the holocaust and the plight of the Jews, and he seeks a peaceful, global solution.

For an interesting parallel, here's a thread from a blog I regularly contribute to.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:27 PM on October 12, 2006


Let's simplify this down: Today, what are we to do, what side are we to take?

I tell you this, if you rule with religion and use propaganda to incite violence, you don't get my vote.

I wonder why some parts of the Arab world are so "media quiet". Could it be that they have the most stable economies?
posted by ewkpates at 3:32 AM on October 13, 2006


Thanks, four panels. Excellent post. It is indeed a fascinating and educational read.

Sure a lot's been learned since 1947 about history, but I think most of the essay still stands fairly well; especially the King's own viewpoints.
posted by rmmcclay at 5:31 AM on October 13, 2006


Great post, and it was a good discussion until the usual ignorant "Arabs suck!" types showed up to start whining about irrelevant straw men. ("Haj Amin was an anti-Semite who liked Nazis, so we shouldn't pay any attention to anything any Arab says!")

It would be nice if somebody would quote some perspectives of Palestinian Jews of the era.

Ooh, good idea! Here's what Elie Eliachar had to say in Life Is With the Palestinians:
During the days of the Ottoman Empire, leaders of the Zionist movement were accustomed to take counsel with Sephardic [i.e., local] leaders in the Land of Israel. After the British occupation, this practice ceased, particularly as the Anglo-Saxon and Eastern European basis of those parties increased. Apparently, their reasoning went like this: since authority has passed from Turkey to Britain then the authority of the Sephardic Jewish leadership has also passed on to Anglo-Saxon, Eastern European and Western European Jewry. Their opinion, due to the fact that they were the "haves," was also quite antagonistic...
And to give an example of that antagonism, here's a charming quote from Yosef Haim Brenner, a Zionist novelist and critic who moved from the Ukraine to Palestine in 1909:
Have you ever paid attention to the faces of some of our predatory Jews who haunt the cities of the Orient... I mean those cocky, energetic, wolfish ones with their oily black hair and their sharp little mustaches that curl up at the edges? Have you noticed how they prowl when they walk, as though stalking prey? I tell you, I can spot at a glance which of them are merely pickpockets and sharks, and which also deal in human flesh...
(That's the narrator of a novel speaking, so the sentiments should not be attributed to Brenner, but they obviously reflect a common reality.)

Just in case anyone was thinking of "Palestinian Jews" as some kind of unified bloc. There are different Jews and different Arabs: who knew?
posted by languagehat at 6:52 AM on October 13, 2006


languagehat: I defy you to find a place ever, in any thread to find a place where I say "Arabs suck". Or anything like it. This is not my opinion. Quite to the contrary, I struggle to negotiate hard-fought Zionist principles with my deep and abiding respect for my Arab friends.

It is clear you take some satisfaction in caricaturing my arguments in these threads the more easily to dismiss them. That's your prerogative and I usually let it pass without comment. Frankly, it just makes me feel sorry for you.

But slander is something else altogether. Shame on you.
posted by felix betachat at 7:05 AM on October 13, 2006


I walked away from this seeing the Arab side of the situation in a whole new light. I also forwarded a link to the speech to Mrs. Doohickie (a world history high school teacher).

She pointed out several valid criticisms of the speech. One of the most memorable was this:

"King Abdullah states, 'we are as yet unskilled in the technique of modern propaganda.' But what is this speech if not a skilled use of modern propaganda technique?"
posted by Doohickie at 7:14 AM on October 13, 2006


So, lh is not refering to you then, felix. Perhaps you are a little thin skinned.
posted by asok at 7:36 AM on October 13, 2006


Perhaps you are a little thin skinned.

I think maybe so.

(I love it: "How dare you call me two-headed? I have only one head!" Well, then, when I talked about two-headed people I probably wasn't talking about you!)
posted by languagehat at 7:51 AM on October 13, 2006


umm...you referred to Haj Amin al-Husseini, a point which I had introduced.

So, pray tell, who are "the usual ignorant 'Arabs Suck!' types"? You've got a lot of authority around these parts; if you're going to start trolling, you should at least have the integrity to back up your statements.

On a more general note (and to keep this thread on topic), I fail to see how anyone can see this piece as anything other than bald Hashemite self-justification. These are the words of a man who would attack the nascent state of Israel in less than a year, in defiance of the will of the United Nations and the rest of the world. We may debate the integrity of the Zionist project all we want. We certainly must critique the immorality of the state of Israel when it is evident. But why are we obliged to give this history-obfuscating and self-aggrandizing piece of propaganda any respect at all?

The Palestinians have long been ill-served by the Arab powers, including the Jordanian royal family. Giving credence to the pablum that Abdulla spouts here does not do them any favors.
posted by felix betachat at 8:04 AM on October 13, 2006


felix, we're not talking about giving credence, we're talking about gaining perspective.
posted by dobie at 10:51 AM on October 13, 2006


er, Krrrlson and SB, if your point is that Arab govts manage/manipulate sentiment around the conflict for their own ends, then yes, thats true. but thats what you expect unscrupulous politicians to do. its peripheral to the larger question of why the conflict came about.

SB is suggesting that anti-semitism in the middle east is the reason why the israeli palestinian conflict exists, that it is a creation of conspiratorial arab governments, who inflamed the passions of palestinians and their own people, rather than a legitimate internal israeli/palestinian conlict over land, resources, and control. his frame makes the conflict one between israel and its neighbors "the arabs".

this frame is completely ahistorical, the conflict arose for really good reasons, just because political forces in neighboring states didnt act all like mother teresa doesnt allow you to outsource the blame or the origin of the conflict to them. the conflict is with 1-6 million people whose homes are or were on land israel now controls. they have very legitimate grievances, the same grievances that have motivated every legitimate conflict in human history: deprival of land, autonomy, resources.

hate, on all sides, thats a symptom / byproduct of the conflict. not the cause.
posted by mano at 10:56 AM on October 13, 2006


The Palestinians have long been ill-served by the Arab powers, including the Jordanian royal family

that is certainly true. thank Allah/YHWH/God/Baal/etc that the Israeli government is looking after them, and the US is a fair and balanced broker of the forthcoming peace, then
posted by matteo at 11:14 AM on October 13, 2006


a legitimate internal israeli/palestinian conlict over land, resources, and control

There are no legitimate or illegitimate conflicts over land, resources, and control. There are only conflicts. The only thing different about the establishment of Israel as a country is that it's a recent one.

This was 1,815 years ago, and yet the Jews solemnly pretend they still own Palestine! If such fantasy were allowed, how the map of the world would dance about!

Indeed it would and how well stated. However, one wonders, did the King feel his own area and his own family would be exempt from this judgement? As though there were no blood on his own ancestors hands to gain the position of worldly power he inherited? Is there any innocent people group, however defined? Any whose current existence did not require violence on the part it's ancestors to gain control over land and resources?
posted by scheptech at 11:39 AM on October 13, 2006


On a more general note (and to keep this thread on topic), I fail to see how anyone can see this piece as anything other than bald Hashemite self-justification. These are the words of a man who would attack the nascent state of Israel in less than a year, in defiance of the will of the United Nations and the rest of the world.

Another way to describe "nascent Israel" would be "invading armed force," but then again, since criticizing zionism is apparently tantamount to znti-semitism, I guess we won't do that.

And this letter was a call to end the situation by something other than military conflicts, and to work with the western world to find another solution. The western world ignored him, and so, a year later, he ended up exactly where he said he would. That's how I can see the piece as "something else."
posted by Navelgazer at 11:45 AM on October 13, 2006


These are the words of a man who would attack the nascent state of Israel in less than a year, in defiance of the will of the United Nations and the rest of the world.

having a will to do something is not the same as having a moral right to do it ... you need a better justification than the "will of the united nations"
posted by pyramid termite at 12:21 PM on October 13, 2006


but then again, since criticizing zionism is apparently tantamount to znti-semitism

Nobody here is saying that. The truth is that sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't. Making broad statements like anti-Zionism isn't ever anti-semitism or anti-Zionism is always anti-Semitism really dumb down the debate.
posted by SBMike at 12:31 PM on October 13, 2006


Navelgazer: At the same time, and I'm open to hearing any argument on this, I can't think of a single legitimate reason why they had a right to take it sixty years ago.

It's simple, really: where else could they go?

I thought Abdullah's article was excellent in describing the Arab point of view. The conflict really started in the 1930s:
In the 1920s, Arabs were annoyed and insulted by Zionist immigration, but not alarmed by it. It was steady, but fairly small, as even the Zionist founders thought it would remain. Indeed for some years, more Jews left Palestine than entered it—in 1927 almost twice as many.

But two new factors, entirely unforeseen by Britain or the League or America or the most fervent Zionist, arose in the early thirties to raise the immigration to undreamed heights. One was the World Depression; the second the rise of Hitler.

In 1932, the year before Hitler came to power, only 9,500 Jews came to Palestine. We did not welcome them, but we were not afraid that, at that rate, our solid Arab majority would ever be in danger.

But the next year—the year of Hitler—it jumped to 30,000! In 1934 it was 42,000! In 1935 it reached 61,000!

It was no longer the orderly arrival of idealist Zionists. Rather, all Europe was pouring its frightened Jews upon us. Then, at last, we, too, became frightened. We knew that unless this enormous influx stopped, we were, as Arabs, doomed in our Palestine homeland. And we have not changed our minds.
Exactly. But what were the Jews to do? Stay in Europe to be slaughtered by Hitler? At the time they were regarded as undesirable, unassimilable aliens. They couldn't emigrate en masse to the United States or Canada. See the story of the S. S. St. Louis.

So the Jews didn't have much choice but to emigrate to Palestine and attempt to establish a Jewish state. In turn, the Arabs didn't have much choice but to fight. (In theory they could have compromised, I suppose, but I suspect any Arab leader who attempted to compromise would have been overthrown.) The Arabs lost, which was and continues to be an enormous humiliation, considering the disparity in both numbers and military tradition between the Arabs and the Jews.

If this essay gives people a better understanding of the Arab view of the Arab-Israeli conflict, I think that's great. But it doesn't indicate what the solution should be, or should have been. (My own view is that once both sides have been exhausted, a compromise along the pre-1967 border is the only hope for a settlement, but prospects don't look very good these days.)
posted by russilwvong at 12:36 PM on October 13, 2006


"I can see an Arab who originally lived in Palestine having a legitimate grievance, but the creation of Israel affected the average person in the region not at all."

SBMike, you forget about all the Palestinians who fled an advancing army and were told that they had thereby 'abandoned' their right to their property and land. Hundreds of thousands of them are still living, landless and disenfranchised, in refugee camps in their own former country, and Israel will not allow many to become citizens of the land they and their ancestors for a thousand years were born in.

Part of the grievance that the surrounding Arab countries have is out of compassion for their oppressed fellow Muslims, and part is that (despite Israel's urging) they don't want the refugees. I suppose they figure that as long as Israel is busy focusing their army inwards, against the former owners of the land, they won't be able to project power as effectively and grab more land. Note the recent failed Israeli land grab in southern Lebanon at Shebaa Farms.
posted by Sukiari at 2:17 PM on October 13, 2006


"I tell you this, if you rule with religion and use propaganda to incite violence, you don't get my vote."

It's difficult to know if you're talking about radical militant Islamic regimes or Israel here. In Israel, the laws are crafted in the interests of the Jewish, and the kind of violence inciting propaganda that comes out of much of the Israeli press is shocking.
posted by Sukiari at 2:20 PM on October 13, 2006


"anti-Semitism"

That term has been bandied about for so long, as an epithet and not a useful descriptive, that it's no longer meaningful or relevant for me. The term "anti-semite" is what one yells in impotence if they have nothing better to say to refute an opposing viewpoint.
posted by Sukiari at 2:27 PM on October 13, 2006


"So the Jews didn't have much choice but to emigrate to Palestine and attempt to establish a Jewish state."

The emigration maybe was not so much a choice, but the decision to create a "Jewish" rather than a democratic state over Palestine was certainly not necessary...
posted by mano at 5:37 PM on October 13, 2006


mano: The emigration maybe was not so much a choice, but the decision to create a "Jewish" rather than a democratic state over Palestine was certainly not necessary...

Not sure what you're saying. You're thinking there could have been some kind of power-sharing agreement between the Jews and the Arabs, without partitioning the land between Jews and Arabs? I don't see how this would have worked--as King Abdullah's article makes clear, the Arabs saw Palestine as their land, period. Why would they have shared power with the Jews? And they certainly wouldn't have allowed further Jewish immigration into Palestine; again, it's clear from the article that the Arabs were vehemently opposed to ongoing Jewish immigration.

Of course, the various commissions' attempt to partition the land all failed, because of the ongoing conflicts between the Jewish and Arab communities. Eventually the boundaries were established by war.
posted by russilwvong at 5:53 PM on October 13, 2006


A much earlier comment:

koeselitz: it appeals to Americans by painting Americans as kind, affable, good, yet uninformed--

Believe it or not, that's pretty much how Americans were perceived back then, before the Vietnam War. And that's also how Americans perceived themselves. See this 1942 guide to Iraq for US soldiers.
posted by russilwvong at 6:01 PM on October 13, 2006


complete derail: isn't it "emigrate from" and "immigrate to"?
posted by dobie at 6:38 PM on October 13, 2006


Did I get that wrong? I meant that European Jews fleeing Hitler emigrated (from Europe) to Palestine.
posted by russilwvong at 9:53 PM on October 13, 2006


This would never have happened if the Jews had accepted Muhammad (saw), they say. Is it true that there's little difference between day-to-day Islam and the "Middle Eastern" Judaism of the 7th century CE/AD?
posted by davy at 8:56 AM on October 14, 2006


er, Krrrlson and SB, if your point is that Arab govts manage/manipulate sentiment around the conflict for their own ends, then yes, thats true. but thats what you expect unscrupulous politicians to do. its peripheral to the larger question of why the conflict came about.

So according to you, the Arab governments would not do this if there were no Jews in the area?
posted by Krrrlson at 9:54 AM on October 14, 2006


Krrrlson: if there was no Israel/large scale jewish immigration and conflict/war, they, like most govts, would have to find something else to manipulate.

History has your answer for you, too. There were Jews in the area, in their countries before, for hundreds of years. Arab govts didnt leverage what little specific anti-semitism there was until later, with jewish immigration into palestine.

russilwvong:

Not sure what you're saying. You're thinking there could have been some kind of power-sharing agreement between the Jews and the Arabs, without partitioning the land between Jews and Arabs?

uh, first of all, all of the partition plans were/are retarded. look at them. nations in several pieces? please.

also, you are clearly framing this in terms of the land: ownership over it. land ownership and control are two different things. in 1948 the arabs owned something like 90% of the land (they were agricultural) whereas the jews owned tiny amounts (they were more urban). the area had developed just fine, with neither group exerting serious control over "the land" or the political will of the other. the conflict arises when jewish zionists decide they need physical land for a nation, and they need a favorable jewish majority demographic on that land, which means arabs living on that land and owning most of it are fucked.

I don't see how this would have worked--as King Abdullah's article makes clear, the Arabs saw Palestine as their land, period.

No, this is a misreading of reality, and a problem with your reasoning/worldview. The Arabs are not a monolithic group, just like jews arent. Abdullah clearly had designs on controlling the land. He isnt Palestinian and doesnt speak for them. You cant have an intelligent discussion of this conflict if you are goign to lump "arabs" together into one interest group.

Why would they have shared power with the Jews?

I dont think thats the issue. Neither group (no group) wants the other group to have power over them. Palestinian arabs owned virtually all the land. The Zionists wanted to dispossess them of some (or all) of it. The conflict was over ownership of the land.

As for sharing power, the relevant sphere of cooperation - and there was much - between Arabs and Jews was economic, and resulted in a mutually beneficial relationship that drove immigration on both sides. This is a sufficient basis for a multi-cultural, democratic state, or for a creative bi-national arrangement. It does require that both groups be comfortable not dominating the other - an equality that was more of a problem for the zionists than the arabs.

And they certainly wouldn't have allowed further Jewish immigration into Palestine; again, it's clear from the article that the Arabs were vehemently opposed to ongoing Jewish immigration.

again, you are confusing the "arabs" with abdullah. the article doesnt speak for palestinians, most of whom benefitted greatly from jewish immigration and were opposed to zionism, rather than the presence of jews.

Of course, the various commissions' attempt to partition the land all failed, because of the ongoing conflicts between the Jewish and Arab communities. Eventually the boundaries were established by war.

yes, thats a historical fact, along with the fact that establishing boundaries by war is not permissible under international law (does anyone care anymore), and the fact that 90% of the land was owned by palestinians and they have been losing it ever since, and the fact that this loss of land is what leads to conflict. it seems to me that it is your kind of thinking -- when you accept the logic of partition and segregation as a necessary goal -- that makes inevitable the conflicts we are seeing now. its probably not going to end pleasantly, but it will finish with one of two outcomes: a large scale massacre of jews and/or arabs, or coexistence (meaning really living together in a fairly integrated fashion). id prefer the latter.
posted by mano at 7:33 PM on October 14, 2006


mano: again, you are confusing the "arabs" with abdullah. the article doesn't speak for palestinians, most of whom benefitted greatly from jewish immigration and were opposed to zionism, rather than the presence of jews.

I don't see how it's possible to separate the two issues, Jewish immigration and Zionism. My understanding (based largely on William R. Polk's The Arab World Today, highly recommended) is that the Arab population of Palestine--not just Abdullah--was violently opposed to both.

In the 1920s, Jewish immigration was at low levels. Polk:
[In the 1920s] the worst fears of the Arabs had not been realized. The country had not been "swamped" by Jews, a Jewish state seemed no nearer to establishment than in 1922.... From 1925 to 1928 no meetings of the Palestine Arab Congress were held, and no protests were voiced over Jewish immigration. The immigration figures themselves provide an index.

The year 1925, when a series of Arab protests were made to the mandate authority, was the largest immigration year to that date, with a net Jewish immigration increase of 31,650. In the next year, however, only about one sixth as large a net immigration was recorded. The Arabs reached the conclusion that with their high birth rate they were not in danger of losing their majority of the population. In 1927 the Jewish community had 2358 more emigrants than immigrants. By the Arabs this was taken as a sign that the National Home had failed, the Jews were leaving, and the Arabs could relax in victory.
But this didn't last:
In the following year, however, the trend was reversed; a very slight net gain was made. And in 1929 the net gain was 3503. The optimism of the Arabs was shattered....

The relative calm of the middle years of the 1920's was ended by a riot in 1929, begun when a number of Zionists organized a demonstration at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem in the course of which the Zionist flag was raised and the Zionist anthem sung. Within two weeks of violence 472 Jews and 268 Arabs were among the casualties. The commission which investigated the disturbances noted: "The Arabs have come to see in the Jewish immigrant not only a menace to their livelihood but a possible overlord of the future ... and the result of Jewish enterprise and penetration have been such as to confirm that they will be excluded from this soil."

... with the rise to power in Germany of the Nazis in 1932, a new sense of urgency and, eventually, desperation was felt by the Zionist organization, and its ability to act was stiffened by the increasing scale of immigration from Germany. Between 1932 and 1933 the number of immigrants tripled. As the subsequent royal commission pointed out: "As the National Home expanded from 1933 onwards, so the Arab hate and fear have increased." The attitude of the Arab leaders became more hostile toward the [British] government, and the tone of the Arab press more bitter. In the autumn of 1934 the Arab executive submitted to the high commissioner a formal expression of its view that the safeguards for Arab interests embodied in the mandate had broken down. In the single year of 1935, 61,854 Jewish immigrants arrived. This figure was as large as the total immigration of the first five years of the mandate, and in the four years from 1932 to 1936 the Jewish population of Palestine quadrupled.
The Arab response:
Meanwhile, in other Arab countries, notably Egypt and Syria, the British and French governments appeared to give way before violence and nationalist demonstrations. So once again, the Palestine Arab community resorted to direct and violent action. On April 13, 1936, a series of terrorist attacks began throughout the country. Violence bred further violence between the Jewish and Arab communities. Throughout Palestine committees were formed in the Arab towns to demand the establishment of a representative government, prohibition of sales of land to Jews, and end of Jewish immigration. ... This time, the government refused to submit to pressure and on May 18 issued an immigration schedule which was somewhat higher than in any previous year. The general strike quickly developed into a civil war. Two trains were derailed, a bridge blown up, and guerrilla bands which included soldiers from Syria and Iraq began to operate in the hill country. On May 23 mass arrests of Arab leaders were made, and in June members of the Arab Higher Committee were interned in a concentration camp.

In June 1936, 137 Arab senior officials and judges in the Palestine government presented a memorandum in which they set out their contention that the disturbances were caused by the fact that "the Arab population of all classes, creeds and occupations is animated by a profound sense of injustice done to them. They feel that insufficient regard has been paid in the past to their legitimate grievances, even though those grievances had been inquired into by qualified and impartial official investigators, and to a large extent vindicated by those inquiries. As a result, the Arabs have been driven into a state verging on despair; and the present unrest is no more than an expression of that despair." ...

Coming as this did from the most moderate, committed, and responsible members of the Arab community, the memorandum made a considerable impression ...
Based on this, I would suggest that Palestinian Arabs were indeed opposed to further Jewish immigration, supposed economic benefits notwithstanding. It wasn't just King Abdullah.

With regard to the possibility of some kind of creative political solution short of partition:
A royal commission, appointed to investigate the underlying causes of the disturbance, arrived in Palestine in November 1936. After careful study of the situation the commission decided that the mandate was unworkable in its existing form. Their conclusions, published in 1937, are still worthy of attention.
Polk provides the following quote:
An irrepressible conflict has arisen between two national communities within the narrow bounds of one small country. About 1,000,000 Arabs are in strife, open or latent, with some 400,000 Jews. There is no common ground between them. ... [Their national aspirations] are the greatest bar to peace ... The [First World War and its aftermath] have inspired all Arabs with the hope of reviving in a free and united Arab world the traditions of the Arab golden age. The Jews similarly are inspired by their historic past ... In the Arab picture the Jews could only occupy the place they occupied in Arab Egypt or Arab Spain. The Arabs would be as much outside the Jewish picture as the Canaanites in the old land of Israel. The National Home ... cannot be half-national ... This conflict was inherent in the situation from the outset. The terms of the Mandate tended to confirm it [and] the conflict has grown steadily more bitter ... In the earlier period hostility to the Jews was not widespread among the fellaheen. It is now general ... The intensification of the conflict will continue ... it seems probable that the situation, bad as it is now, will grow worse. The conflict will go on, the gulf between Arabs and Jews will widen.
Polk continues:
The recommendation of the royal commission was that Palestine be partitioned between the two communities since the only alternative appeared to be a rule of repression which would lead nowhere.
mano: it seems to me that it is your kind of thinking -- when you accept the logic of partition and segregation as a necessary goal -- that makes inevitable the conflicts we are seeing now.

I'm just trying to be practical. In theory Jews and Arabs could live together in a binational state. In practice I think you're underestimating both the force of nationalism since the French Revolution, and the impact of the Holocaust.
posted by russilwvong at 9:22 PM on October 14, 2006


Oh let's never forget the impact of the Holocaust, that the Zionists are always victims. "He should stop making me bash him with a hammer! My poor arm is getting tired!"
posted by davy at 9:57 PM on October 15, 2006


davy: Oh let's never forget the impact of the Holocaust, that the Zionists are always victims.

Believe it or not, I'm not taking sides here, nor am I claiming that the "Zionists are always victims." Only that having experienced the Holocaust, Jews are acutely aware of their vulnerability as a national minority, given their small numbers and their visibility. They believe that they need their own state and their own army; they can't rely on other governments to protect them. I can't really disagree. (As I understand it, German Jews were pretty well integrated into German society before the First World War, the Great Depression, and the rise of the Nazis led to their being hunted down and exterminated as if they were cockroaches instead of human beings.)

Hence I don't think Israeli Jews will ever accept minority status within an Arab-majority state. It's just not going to happen. Nor was it possible back in the 1930s or 1940s.
posted by russilwvong at 12:29 AM on October 16, 2006


russilwvong: your statements are ahistorical. perhaps they are based entirely on your (mis?) reading of Polk, perhaps not.

"Hence I don't think Israeli Jews will ever accept minority status within an Arab-majority state. It's just not going to happen. Nor was it possible back in the 1930s or 1940s."


The term "Israeli Jews" is meaningless here, because by definition, Israeli Jews never have had to accept minority status in an "Arab majority state". Also, they didn't exist as "Israeli Jews" in the 1930's and 1940's. Also, the majority of Israeli, and Jews, throughout history, have lived as diaspora, by definition minorities in Arab-majority states. Zionism was not popular among Jews until post 1945, and it was even relatively unpopular post WWII. The popularity it enjoys todays is largely a post hoc process which really kicked in when Israel established its military might and stability in 1967...

Anyway, the point is, that for many many years, Zionists, as well as what would later become Israeli Jews, lived as diaspora minorities in majority arab states, and in fact, experienced less harrasment than they did in european host nations. Likewise, the core of the zionist movement itself was content with being a minority inside Palestine and encouraging immigration into an mostly arab state for 50 years. This speaks to the comfort level of zionist Jews in their "historical and future" homeland even when they had no hope of exerting control over it.

This claim of the inevitability of Zionism and impossibility of coexistence is ahistorical and is a way of projecting back onto history the inevitability of the current outcome.

Two key things you leave out in your quote of Polk above, but Im not sure whether its his oversight or yours:

1) The Jewish Zionists fought the Brits on Palestine much harder than your monolitihic "the Arabs". Several of the original Jewish militias were later disbanded as "terrorist" after Israel was founded, and their leader assimilated into the top echelons of Israeli government. The descent into the violence of 48 was purposefully triggered by Zionists as part of their strategy to unseat the British administration.

2) Heres a good concise description of what was going on with Zionism in the 1920s and 1930's.

Once Arab opposition to the Zionist movement became overt, as it did during the 1920s and 1930s, two distinct approaches to relations with the Arabs developed in Zionist circles. One was the concept of “bi-nationalism”, the other Jabotinsky’s doctrine of the “iron wall”. What both approaches had in common was the assumption that Jews would always remain Jews and Arabs would always remain Arabs. The bi-nationalists envisioned some kind of power sharing arrangement between Jews and Arabs, while the followers of Jabotinsky felt that the Arabs had to be put in their place and shown the futility of opposition to Jewish rule in the land of Israel.

The riot you mention in 1929 at the wailing wall was a resonse to a provocation by Jabotinsky's Betar Youth movement, which was in turn capitalizing on the tensions that existed surrounding the western/wailing wall. See the quote below - its a progressive source but the nature of the provocation by Betar that led to the riot is not disputed (e.g. )The hawks in the Zionist movement at that time were beginning to provoke the conflicts that they needed as pretexts in order to start exerting military power in the region.

The early Zionists were wiser than their children and grandchildren. Like most European nationalists of the liberal school they were opposed to religious authority. Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, never bothered to have his only son circumcised. He advocated the internationalization of Jerusalem. For the capital of his proposed secular Judenstaat (a "state for Jews" as distinct from what later came to be called a Jewish state) he preferred Haifa, overlooking the Mediterranean sea. Jerusalem, he felt, was redolent with fanaticism and superstition, the musty deposit of "two thousand years of inhumanity and intolerance.... The amiable dreamer of Nazareth has only contributed to increasing the hatred."

Chaim Weizmann, Israel's first president, shared Herzl's feelings. An eminently rational man, Weizmann disliked Jerusalem. He was revolted by rabbis imposing themselves on politics and by politicians playing with religious fires. When the first Palestine partition plan was mooted in 1937, he suggested that only some of the modern parts of Jerusalem, inhabited mostly by Jews, be included in the proposed Jewish state. As for the Old City, "I would not take [it even] as a gift." Too many "complications and difficulties" were associated with it.

Even as he wrote these words in a letter—preserved in the Weizmann Archives—brown-shirted members of Betar, a right-wing paramilitary Jewish youth movement, were clashing with Arab fundamentalists in Jerusalem not far from the Wailing Wall. They were fostering lethal Arab fears —at the time still based only on pure myth—that the Zionists were planning to tear down the mosques on the Haram and rebuild the Jewish Temple there. Freud referred to these clashes in a letter to Einstein. He was unable to muster sympathy, he wrote, "for the misguided piety that makes a national religion out of a piece of the wall of Herod, and so challenges the feelings of the local natives." The early Betar extremists (forerunners of Begin's Likud) were decried at the time as fascists by most Palestinian Jews. As far as we know, no one, not even Betar, contemplated at this time the possibility that the Jewish state they were fighting for would one day claim sovereign rights over the Haram, a site which for the past fourteen centuries had been the third-holiest place in Islam.


Anyway, the point of all of this is that binational and egalitarian arrangements were neither impossible then, nor are they impossible now. They were the product of political machinations that were given active support by external powers with agendas, and tacit ideological support by attitudes such as the one you expressed that frame the violence as inevitable.

Moreover, and importantly, regardless of what happens in the WBor GS, given the birth rates of the respective populations, in the long run a binational democracy is evitable in Israel unless there is another round of violence/ethnic cleansing. Meanwhile the outrages against humanity and basic decency (not to mention international law and human rights) continue, and they are by no means inevitable.
posted by mano at 11:55 AM on October 16, 2006


sorry 2cd to last PP should read:

Anyway, the point of all of this is that binational and egalitarian arrangements were neither impossible then, nor are they impossible now. The unfortunate history and current situation is the product of political machinations that were given active support by external powers with agendas, and tacit ideological support by attitudes such as the one you expressed that frame the violence and conflict as inevitable.
posted by mano at 12:01 PM on October 16, 2006


also, you are clearly framing this in terms of the land: ownership over it. land ownership and control are two different things. in 1948 the arabs owned something like 90% of the land (they were agricultural) whereas the jews owned tiny amounts (they were more urban). the area had developed just fine, with neither group exerting serious control over "the land" or the political will of the other. the conflict arises when jewish zionists decide they need physical land for a nation, and they need a favorable jewish majority demographic on that land, which means arabs living on that land and owning most of it are fucked.

This is a bit skewed. The history of how the Jews came to own the land is often mispresented in arguments about the creation of the state. Your framing seems to imply that most of the land the Jews now own (pre-1967 anyway) was acquired by forcibly evicting the Arab occupants. The truth is that most of the land was bought fair and square from Arab landowners. Much of the land was undeveloped when it was bought, and it was only through the backbreaking work of the Jewish settlers that the land became at all productive and valuable. Check out this site for more details:

Despite the growth in their population, the Arabs continued to assert they were being displaced. The truth is that from the beginning of World War I, part of Palestine's land was owned by absentee landlords who lived in Cairo, Damascus and Beirut. About 80 percent of the Palestinian Arabs were debt-ridden peasants, semi-nomads and Bedouins.18

Jews actually went out of their way to avoid purchasing land in areas where Arabs might be displaced. They sought land that was largely uncultivated, swampy, cheap and, most important, without tenants. In 1920, Labor Zionist leader David Ben-Gurion expressed his concern about the Arab fellahin, whom he viewed as "the most important asset of the native population." Ben-Gurion said "under no circumstances must we touch land belonging to fellahs or worked by them." He advocated helping liberate them from their oppressors. "Only if a fellah leaves his place of settlement," Ben-Gurion added, "should we offer to buy his land, at an appropriate price."19

and

The Peel Commission's report found that Arab complaints about Jewish land acquisition were baseless. It pointed out that "much of the land now carrying orange groves was sand dunes or swamp and uncultivated when it was purchased....there was at the time of the earlier sales little evidence that the owners possessed either the resources or training needed to develop the land."24 Moreover, the Commission found the shortage was "due less to the amount of land acquired by Jews than to the increase in the Arab population." The report concluded that the presence of Jews in Palestine, along with the work of the British Administration, had resulted in higher wages, an improved standard of living and ample employment opportunities.25

and

The Jews were paying exorbitant prices to wealthy landowners for small tracts of arid land. "In 1944, Jews paid between $1,000 and $1,100 per acre in Palestine, mostly for arid or semiarid land; in the same year, rich black soil in Iowa was selling for about $110 per acre."28

By 1947, Jewish holdings in Palestine amounted to about 463,000 acres. Approximately 45,000 of these acres were acquired from the Mandatory Government; 30,000 were bought from various churches and 387,500 were purchased from Arabs. Analyses of land purchases from 1880 to 1948 show that 73 percent of Jewish plots were purchased from large landowners, not poor fellahin.29 Those who sold land included the mayors of Gaza, Jerusalem and Jaffa. As'ad el­Shuqeiri, a Muslim religious scholar and father of PLO chairman Ahmed Shuqeiri, took Jewish money for his land. Even King Abdullah leased land to the Jews. In fact, many leaders of the Arab nationalist movement, including members of the Muslim Supreme Council, sold land to Jews.30

posted by SBMike at 4:39 PM on October 16, 2006


sorry 2cd to last PP should read:

Anyway, the point of all of this is that binational and egalitarian arrangements were neither impossible then, nor are they impossible now. The unfortunate history and current situation is the product of political machinations that were given active support by external powers with agendas, and tacit ideological support by attitudes such as the one you expressed that frame the violence and conflict as inevitable.


It's also worth noting that a one-state solution doesn't have the support of all but a handful of Israelis and Palestinians, whereas most folks on both sides support a two-state solution. Not that a one-state solution isn't a theoretically just and egalitarian solution , it's just not a very practical one.
posted by SBMike at 4:47 PM on October 16, 2006


I wrote: Hence I don't think Israeli Jews will ever accept minority status within an Arab-majority state. It's just not going to happen. Nor was it possible back in the 1930s or 1940s.

mano: your statements are ahistorical.

Sorry, you're right, I'm getting a bit sloppy. I'm making two different assertions, one regarding the past, one regarding the present:

(1) In the 1920s and 1930s, Arabs were opposed to Jewish immigration into Palestine (contrary to your assertion that King Abdullah's article wasn't expressing the feelings of the general Arab population in Palestine).

I'm not saying they're to be blamed for this; from their point of view, it's entirely natural to resist being dispossessed. Conversely, though, the Jews trying to flee Nazi Germany didn't have much choice either: where else could they go? The US and Canada were basically closed, because the Jews were regarded as undesirable aliens.

I thought the title the original poster used, "The Burden of History," was apt. To me, neither party in the conflict had much choice.

(2) Today, a one-state solution isn't feasible. Israeli Jews aren't going to accept minority status in an Arab-majority state; remembering the Holocaust, they believe that they need their own state and their own army.

mano: Anyway, the point of all of this is that binational and egalitarian arrangements were neither impossible then--

I don't see how anything you've posted supports this. The Arabs were violently opposed to continued Jewish immigration. (Again, I'm not saying they're to be blamed for this.) And there were certainly extremist and terrorist organizations among the Zionists (as the Polk quote indicates, the 1929 riots started after a Zionist demonstration). There may have been Zionist elements which believed in a binational state, but they were weaker than their rivals.

Yes, I know that historically, the Muslim empires were more hospitable to their Jewish minorities than the Christian kingdoms. But that doesn't mean that Palestinian Arabs in the 1920s and 1930s were willing to accept unlimited Jewish immigration into Palestine, which is what the Jews needed at the time.

Hence I think the conflict was unavoidable. The only way I can see the conflict being avoided would have been if there was some other refuge for the Jews, which there wasn't.
posted by russilwvong at 5:05 PM on October 16, 2006


SBMike: It's also worth noting that a one-state solution doesn't have the support of all but a handful of Israelis and Palestinians, whereas most folks on both sides support a two-state solution.

On the Palestinian side I think it might be more accurate to say that Palestinians have reluctantly accepted a two-state solution, because they realize they're not going to be able to reclaim all of their land. (Or at least, they did at one time; the lack of progress, the ongoing violence, the continued expansion of Israeli settlements, and the perception of Israeli weakness will all tend to weaken support for compromise.)

Avishai Margalit, writing in 2001:
If there is one thing that gets on the Palestinians' nerves, it's the talk about Barak's "generous offer" at Camp David. Palestinians--all Palestinians--regard this expression as a deep contradiction. Just why they do needs explaining.

Palestinians view the Palestine that existed during British rule between 1918 and 1948 as theirs--100 percent theirs, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River. They see themselves as the indigenous population of this region and hence the natural owners of the entire land of Palestine. Any part of the land that they yield as part of an agreement is, for them, a huge concession. Recognizing the State of Israel as defined by its 1967 borders--the so-called green line--and thus yielding some 77 percent of British mandate Palestine is to them by itself a colossal concession, a painful historical compromise. By recognizing the Israel within the green line they give up their claim to redress what they see as the wrong done to them by the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. If they accept any deal that recognizes Israel they will have succeeded at most in redressing the wrong done to them in 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza. Thus to ask them to compromise further after what they already regard as a huge compromise is, as they see it, a historical outrage. To call any such compromise "a generous offer" is to them sheer blasphemy.

The Israeli perception is of course diametrically opposite. And by "the Israeli perception" I do not refer to the idea of "Greater Israel," according to which the entire biblical land of Israel belongs to the Jews, who are the historical indigenous population that was forced out of the land but never gave it up. What I mean by the Israeli perception is something very prosaic and unbiblical. Following the two wars that were forced on Israel, in 1948 and 1967, Israel conquered and held on to the entire land from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River. So the Israelis say that any territory we yield to Palestinians is, to us, a concession. And if Barak was willing to offer them almost all of the territories occupied since 1967--an offer that no previous Israeli leader was willing to entertain, let alone to make--it is entirely apt to see this as a generous offer.
posted by russilwvong at 5:11 PM on October 16, 2006


SBMike: The [Peel] report concluded that the presence of Jews in Palestine, along with the work of the British Administration, had resulted in higher wages, an improved standard of living and ample employment opportunities.

The Peel report also included the following, indicating that displacement was a real problem:
The Commission point to serious difficulties in connection with the legislation proposed by the Palestine Government for the protection of small owners. The Palestine Order in Council and, if necessary, the Mandate should be amended to permit of legislation empowering the High Commissioner to prohibit the transfer of land in any stated area to Jews, so that the obligation to safeguard the right and position of the Arabs may be carried out. Until survey and settlement are complete, the Commission would welcome the prohibition of the sale of isolated and comparatively small plots of land to Jews. They would prefer larger schemes for the rearrangement of proprietorship under Government supervision.
posted by russilwvong at 5:23 PM on October 16, 2006


SBMike: you misunderstood, thats prolly my fault for being unclear.

first things first... about land acquired prior to 1967... you are right about how pre-1948 land was acquired. up until then, jews owned very little land and id say that their land ownership, per se, was completely legitimate and uncontroversial.

you are wrong, however, in saying that most of the pre-1967 jewish lands were acquired through purchases. most was acquired through the creation of the state of israel and transfer/ethnic cleansing and the war of 1948.

the point i was making is that the conflict was about political control, not land ownership on its own. there were not significant conflicts or competition prior to the 1948 period that had to do with land ownership. zionists werent competing with the palestinians for lands. they bought a lot, and palestinians remained owners of most of the land.

what zionists were competing for was political control over a nation state. this nation state, as conceived would necessarily dispossess the palestinians, because ownership of the land would become the domain of the jewish state, administered by zionists, with the likelihood of dispossessing palestinians.
posted by mano at 5:48 PM on October 16, 2006


russil, you seem fixated on the idea that "The Arabs were violently opposed to continued Jewish immigration." and you stick to it. i disagree strongly. the arabs were not being dispossessed by jewish immigration, not under the british mandate, they were in fact being helped by it. arabs had nothing concrete to worry about from jewish immigration - with one exception - the zionist tendency that existed among the immigrants.

there were differences in both arab and jewish communities. those who saw coexistence as impossible were nbot representative of all. jabotinsky and his folks, who wanted to prompt the conflict that would allow them to dominate the arabs, and folks like Abdullah who wanted to figure out how to get his hands on the land, these were not representative of average citizens. that these people succeeded in manipulating their way into armed conflict is a great shame for human history.

what i have posted here is the tip of an iceberg of good evidence that it was NOT Jewish immigration but rather than the specific behavior of certain zionist elements that mainstream arabs rebelled (predictably) against, and this further solidified the tendencies toward social segregation/isolation that would lead to the war of 1948.

your claim that the extremists like Betar in pre-israeli jewish society were stronger than the non-extremists, or represented a mainstream political opinion is totally off. extremists, by definition, are fringe elements. even zionism, itself, was still a fringe ideology among jews in the 1940s. as a fringe of a fringe, people like jabotinsky needed to convince new immigrants that they couldnt coexist with the arabs, because those new immigrants didnt know better. as you well know, they came for sanctuary, not for zionist ideals.

virulent nationalists like jabotinsky are not powerful unless they can manipulate the center. this is what happened, in fact, by provoking they exploited the greed of people like abdullah and the fears of the mainstream arabs in order to generate anti-jewish riots. these played into their hands because they put the center (israeli defense forces, for example) in the position of fighting the enraged arabs and edging everybody closer to war. for their part, people like abdullah who foolishly wanted the war b/c they thought they could win, also did their part to encourage the conflict.

the story of the formation of the jewish state is a really interesting textbook example of a successful political fringe and extremist (and literally a terrorist) movement that was able to capitalize on unique historical context to produce a successful campaign. its the opposite of inevtiability, its all strategy and intention.
posted by mano at 6:17 PM on October 16, 2006


for both sbmike and russil:

obviously a one state solution is pie in the sky unworkable at present. it wasnt, previous to 1948, but that is a pretty pointless debate to have, so ill stop arguing the point.

a more timely point is that a two state solution can only be thought of as a way station to a real long term solution.
just some of the key reasons? birthrate, water resources, and the importance of Jerusalem.

the real long term solution is either integration and equality of citizenship, or ethnic cleansing. and the path the israeli state is following is really wiping out the basis for even a temporary two state solution, meaning that a gradual transition of peaceful solution to integration is being made almost impossible, and making it more likely that any transistion to the preferable long term solution (integration) will end up being preceded by an ugly, prolonged civil warlike event.

many people, like russil, are fond of concentrating on how israelis and arabs coudnt or cant now get along, so ill relate a story that was told to me by a palestinian reporter (mainstream press) in the occupied territories.

he had been covering the Taba summit in 2001, nice fancy hotel, international press corps, casino, fancy cars, the works you know. so the first day he is there, he and the other palestinian reporter go downstairs early to get the breakfast that the hotel laid out. they sit down at a table across from a pair of reporters and say hi, where are you from. turns out, the folks at the table are israeli. the two pairs ask each other who they work for, and start up a friendly conversation. slowly, the press corps from the rest of the arab countries filters in, and notice the palestinians, so they say hi and sit down. but then these other reporters realize that the people the palestinians are eating with are in fact israelis. to a person, the other arab reporters get up, scowl, and leave the palestinians and israelis sitting alone at the table by themselves. to a person, the only arab press willing to eat at a table with the israeli reporters were palestinian.

the point of the anecdote is Arabs are not a monolithic bloc, and palestinians hold LEAST of all to the rhetoric you hear so often of arab vs jew. which is interesting, because of all of the arab groups, they certainly have the most to hold israelis accountable for. This is a theme that I experienced many times with Palestinians in general, and is why I cringe when I get the sense that people are so convinced of the strength and necessity of the animosity between palestinians and jews in israel/palestine.

basically:

1) palestinians and jews hate each other a lot less than you think
2) hardline zionism and arab separatism are much weaker than you think (the biggest proponents of those tendencies tend to be inexperienced with or outsiders to the conflict)
3) arabs and jews in israel/palestine have a huge amount in common culturally
4) arabs and jews in israel/palestine represent each others best hope and key to a decent future in the middle east.
posted by mano at 6:42 PM on October 16, 2006


This is only tangentially relevant, but I know people who lived in Arab countries before 1948. They were treated like crap. They were tolerated the same way that middle-class blacks were tolerated in the USA South at the same time, or twenty years earlier. I only say this because I'm sick of the "Jews under Islam were treated well" nonsense.

Incidentally, one of my best friend's mother survived the Hebron massacre of 1929. I don't know how many generations her family had been living there, something between "several" and "many". Other posters here have said that Palestinian Arab animosity was caused by Jewish immigration. Let's suppose that that's true (although I doubt it). The Palestinian Arab reaction to Jewish immigration was to engage in a race riot that killed sixty seven people. After that time no Jews lived in Hebron. It would have been suicide. So, please, don't talk about Arab anger at Jewish immigration. That's just an excuse for the lynch mobs who didn't want those uppity Jews in their neighbourhoods.

You can go look it up on Wikipedia if you like.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:04 PM on October 16, 2006


1) palestinians and jews hate each other a lot less than you think

You may be right about this. I certainly hope so. However, it doesn't really do the Israelis any good that the Palestinians don't hate them if nobody on the Palestinian side can say so. The official line, spouted from the mosques, the schools, the summer camps, the official government TV is that the Jews are vile, treacherous, pigs (I'm not exxagerating here, these are the words they use), and woe onto anyone who claims otherwise.

If a Palestinian is smart enough to see past the lies, open-minded enough to believe that the Jews are fellow human beings with a right not to get blown up on a bus or in a mall, and strong enough in his convictions to ignore the terrible things his neighbor is saying about the Jews, he still cannot say anything to that effect. Not inside of Palestine anyway. People who do question the official line have an unfortunate habit of getting labelled as "collaborators" and hung in the nearest public square. The goodwill you are talking about may exist, but it has been effectively castrated by instilling people with fear.

Incitement to violence is pervasive in Palestinian society to an extent that doesn't really have a full parallel in Israeli society. Streets are named after martyrs. Suicide bombers are celebrated in songs. Children are dressed up as suicide bombers and paraded around. Take a loook at some Palestinian TV:

This interview with Palestinian children

or

This page from the Israeli ministry of foreign affairs has a lot of clips. Check out some of the Friday sermons.

This attitude of hatred is the only acceptable one towards the Jews. Children hear this over and over again from the earliest age. If somebody grows up not hating the Jews, they are incredibly lucky, since the deck is stacked against peaceful coexistence from the beginning. It's not surprising that your friend, a reporter who is exposed to lots of foreign media was able to get along with the Israelis. However, for any hopes of peace to blossom, such attitudes need to occur on the "Palestinian street" as well.

Now, mano, I'm sure we'd agree that there are a lot of obstacles to peace, some natural, some imposed by the Israelis, and some imposed by the Palestinians. I'm sure that we'd even agree that the occupation is a capital-O obstacle imposed by the Israeli side. However, we hear a lot about the occupation and almost nothing about incitement, what I would call the other capital-O obstacle. I mean, can you claim that peace is at all possible while such filth is omnipresent? No matter what Israel does, there are still generations of Palestinians who won't stop thinking of the Jews (and notice how often Jews and Israelis are used interchangably) as pigs and liars.

You claim that the Palestinians hate the Jews a lot less than conventional wisdom would dictate. Such a statement seems to necessarily ignore both the endless propoganda and the ruthless crushing of dissent in the territories. Maybe the Palestinians don't hate the Jews but it doesn't help anyone if they don't have a voice. It especially doesn't help anyone if even those Palestinians willing to co-exist with the Jews are reluctant to teach their children tolerance for fear of them saying the "wrong thing" at school or at the Mosque. In order for peace to occur, not only must both sides want it, but both sides need to be able to make it clear to the other that they want it. The Palestinians have yet to fulfill the second condition if not the first.
posted by SBMike at 11:44 AM on October 17, 2006


2) hardline zionism and arab separatism are much weaker than you think (the biggest proponents of those tendencies tend to be inexperienced with or outsiders to the conflict)

It depends what you mean by both terms. Hardline zionism (if by that you mean the "expel all the arabs from the land" "There's no such person as a Palestinian" Jewish supremist crowd) is indeed a fairly weak tendency in Israeli politics. It is mostly the Israel Beytenu (Our Home Israel) party that supports this kind of rhetoric. They hold 11 out of 120 seats in the Knesset, so while far from being insignificant, they still don't represent the dominant thinking on the Israeli side. It is a tendency that has been gaining steam recently, and this worries me a great deal.

I'm a bit confused by "Arab separatism." You're equating it with hardline zionism leads me to believe that you mean an extremist streak in the Palestinian statehood movement. If Arab separatism means the desire to abolish the state of Israel and establish a Muslim Palestinian state, I would think that such a tendency is the dominant one in the Arab world. Hence the Arab boycott, the UN security council's obsession with Israel in spite of more pressing problems in Darfur, etc., the non-recognition of Israel as a state by all but a handful of Arab countries. Most Arab countries aren't shy about their desire to see Palestine "liberated."

If you mean something else by arab separatism (i.e. the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel) then yes, I'll agree that such a tendency is unfortunately weak.

3) arabs and jews in israel/palestine have a huge amount in common culturally

This is true to a certain extent. Israelis and Palestinians share a lot of what I would call shallow cultural values. They both like to smoke hookah, eat falafel, etc. The languages aren't terribly different, and for that matter, neither are a lot of people's physical appearances. These cultural similarities are certainly a good thing in that they do form some common ground. However, until they start sharing deep cultural values, such as respecting the lives of their own children, tolerating dissent, and embracing self-determination, these shallow cultural values are really only window dressing. Once this big divide is bridged, these cultural similarities will become an important framework in reaching a situation of mutual respect and understanding. Until then, they really don't mean a lot.

4) arabs and jews in israel/palestine represent each others best hope and key to a decent future in the middle east.

Can't argue with that.
posted by SBMike at 12:18 PM on October 17, 2006


mano: obviously a one state solution is pie in the sky unworkable at present.

Okay, we agree there.

it wasn't, previous to 1948, but that is a pretty pointless debate to have, so i'll stop arguing the point.

I think it's an interesting debate, but that's fine -- maybe this isn't the right forum for it.

For anyone who wants to look into the historical background of the conflict in more detail, William Polk provides a good summary in The Arab World Today, and Benny Morris provides a detailed history in Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-2001. Obviously the history of the conflict is extremely controversial--there's a lot of partisan misinformation floating around--but I think these two sources are good starting points.
posted by russilwvong at 10:05 PM on October 17, 2006


« Older The hard drive celebrates its 50th birthday...  |  Leonardo comes to life.... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments