The People Of Palestine
By Noel Ignatiev
18 June, 2004
as a political movement developed in the late 19th century. Its founder,
Theodore Herzl, was influenced by two phenomena: the extent of French
anti-Semitism revealed by the Dreyfus Trial, and nationalist ideals
then popular in Europe. Herzl held that Jews cannot be assimilated by
the nations in which they live, and that the only solution to the "Jewish
question" was the formation of a "Jewish state" in which
all the Jews would come together. The early Zionists contemplated as
the site of the future state Argentina or Uganda, among other locales.
Herzl favored Palestine, because, although an agnostic, he wanted to
make use of the custom, widespread among Jewish mystics, of going on
pilgrimages to the "holy land" and establishing religious
In 1868, there were
13,000 Jews in Palestine, out of an estimated population of 400,000.
The majority were religious pilgrims supported by charity from overseas.
They encountered no opposition from the Muslims, and their presence
led to no clashes with the Arab population, whether Muslim or Christian.
In 1882, Baron Rothschild,
combining philanthropy and investment, began to bring Jewish settlers
from Eastern Europe to build a plantation system along the model the
French used in Algeria. They spoke Yiddish, Arabic, Persian, and Georgian.
Significantly, Hebrew was not among the languages spoken. The outcome
of Rothschild's experiment was predictable: Jews managed the land, while
Arabs worked it. This was not the result the Zionists had in mind; a
Jewish society could not be based on Arab labor. Consequently, they
began to encourage the immigration of Jews to work in agriculture, industry,
In 1917 British
Foreign Minister Lord Balfour, seeking support for Britain's efforts
in World War I, issued his famous declaration expressing sympathy with
efforts to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The Zionists immediately
seized upon this statement, which they interpreted to mean support for
a Jewish state. At the time of Balfour's declaration, Jews comprised
less than 10% of the population and owned 2.5% of the land of Palestine.
The problem of building
a Jewish society among an overwhelming Arab majority came to be known
as the "conquest of land and labor." Land, once acquired,
had to remain in Jewish hands. The other half of this project, known
as Labor Zionism, called for the exclusive use of Jewish labor on the
land acquired by the Jews in Palestine. The Labor Zionists maintained
this dual exclusionism (or apartheid, as we would now call it) in order
to build up purely Jewish institutions.
To achieve the conquest
of the land, the Zionists set up an arrangement whereby land was acquired
not by individuals, but by a corporation, known as the Jewish National
Fund (JNF). The JNF acquired land and leased it only to Jews, who were
not allowed to sublet it. Thus land was acquired in the name of "the
Jewish people," held for their use, and not subject to market conditions.
The idea was for the JNF to gradually acquire as much land as possible
as the basis for the expected Jewish state.
Naturally, in order
for the land to serve this function, Arab labor had to be excluded.
Leases from the JNF specifically prohibited the use of non-Jewish labor
on JNF plots. One way to achieve this goal was to lease land only to
those Jews who intended to work it themselves. In some cases, when land
was bought from Arab absentee landlords, the peasants who resided on
and worked the land were expelled. Jewish landholders who refused to
exclude Arab labor could lose their leases or be faced with a boycott.
The conquest of
labor pertained not only to agriculture but also to industry. The Labor
Zionists formed an institution to organize Jewish labor and exclude
Arabs: the Histadrut. The Histadrut was (and largely is) an all-Jewish
combination trade union and cooperative society providing its members
with a number of services. From the beginning it was a means of segregating
Arab and Jewish labor and bringing into existence a strictly Jewish
economic sector. Even when Arab and Jewish laborers performed precisely
the same job, Jewish workers were paid significantly higher salaries.
These policies were the death knell for any attempt to organize labor
on a non-racial basis. The "laborism" of Labor Zionism killed
and continues to kill efforts at building a unified labor movement.
Despite these policies
and even with the encouragement of the British government, in the thirty
years following the Balfour Declaration, the Zionists were able to increase
the Jewish-owned portion of the land of Palestine to only 7%. Moreover,
the majority of the world's Jews showed no interest in settling there.
In the years between 1920 and 1932, only 118,000 Jews moved to Palestine,
less than 1% of world Jewry. Even after the rise of Hitler, Jews in
Europe did not choose Israel: out of 2.5 million Jewish victims of Nazism
who fled abroad between 1935 and 1943, scarcely 8.5% went to Palestine.
182,000 went to the U.S., 67,000 to Britain, and almost 2 million to
the Soviet Union. After the war, the U.S. began to encourage Jewish
settlement in Palestine. Aneurin Bevin, postwar British Foreign Minister,
publicly blurted out that American policy mainly arose from the fact
that "they did not want too many of them in New York." The
Pakistani delegate to the UN was to make the same point sarcastically:
Australia, an overpopulated
small country with congested areas, says no, no, no; Canada, equally
congested and overpopulated, says no; the United States, a great humanitarian
country, a small area, with small resources, says no. This is their
contribution to the humanitarian principle. But they state, let them
go into Palestine, where there are vast areas, a large economy and no
trouble; they can easily be taken in there (Weinstock, 226).
The U.S. limitation
on the number of Jews allowed into the country coincided with Zionist
policy, as enunciated by David Ben-Gurion, first prime minister of Israel:
"If I knew that it would be possible to save all the children in
Germany by bringing them over to England, and only half of them by transporting
them to Eretz Yisrael, then I would opt for the second alternative.
For we must weigh not only the life of these children, but also the
history of the People of Israel." (Yoav Gelber, "Zionist Policy
and the Fate of European Jewry (1932-1945)" Yad Vashem Studies,
vol. XII, 199.)
This policy of attaching
more importance to the establishment of Israel than to the survival
of the Jews led the Zionists to collaborate with Nazism and even be
decorated by Hitler's government. The best known case was that of Rudolf
Kastner, who negotiated the emigration to Palestine of some of Hungary's
most prominent Jews in return for his help in arranging the orderly
deportation of the remainder of Hungary's Jews to the camps. For his
efforts, Kastner was praised as an "idealist" by no less an
authority than Adolf Eichmann. (The best study of Zionist-Nazi relations
is Lenni Brenner, Zionism in the Age of the Dictators.)
The Zionists knew
they had to rid themselves of the Arab majority in order to have a specifically
Jewish state. Although 75,000 Jews moved to Israel between 1945 and
1948, Jews still constituted a minority in Palestine. The 1948 war afforded
the Zionists an excellent opportunity to rectify this; as a result of
the war, more than three-quarters of a million Arabs fled their homes.
The case of Deir Yasin, in which Israeli paramilitary forces, under
the command of future prime minister Menachem Begin, massacred over
250 civilians, sending a message to Palestinians that they should depart,
is the most well known example of how this flight was brought about.
In his book, The Revolt, Begin boasted that without Deir Yasin there
would have been no Israel, and adds, "The Arabs began fleeing in
panic, shouting 'Deir Yasin'" (quoted in Menuhin, 120). Recent
writings by Israeli revisionist historians have refuted the longtime
insistence of Israeli officials that the departures were voluntary.
Some of the refugees went to neighboring Arab countries; others became
refugees in their own country. Those 750,000 expelled from their homes
and their descendants, who together total 2.2 million people, make up
the so-called refugee problem. Although the United Nation has repeatedly
demanded they be allowed to return, the Israeli government has refused
to agree. The war ended with the Zionists in control of 80% of Palestine.
In the next year, nearly 400 Arab villages were completely destroyed.
This was no accident but the result of deliberate policy, as shown is
the following statement by one of the most authoritative officials of
the Zionist state:
it must be clear that there is no place in our country for both peoples
together The only solution is Eretz Israel, or at least the western
half of Eretz Israel, without Arabs, and there is no other way but to
transfer the Arabs from here to the neighboring countries, transfer
all of them, not one village or tribe should remain
Joseph Weitz, Deputy Chairman of the Board of directors of the Jewish
National Fund (JNF) from 1951 to 1973, former Chairman of the Israel
Land Authority (Davis, 5).
Moshe Dayan, former
Defense Minister, stated in a famous speech before students at the Israeli
Institute of Technology in Haifa in 1969:
were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names
of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because geography books
no longer exist. Not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages
are not there either. Nahial arose in the place of Mahlul; Kibbutz Gvat
in the place of Jibta; Kibbutz Sarid in the place of Huneifis; and Kefar
Yehushua in the place of Tal al-Shuman. There is not a single place
built in this country that did not have a former Arab population (Ha'aretz,
April 4, 1969, quoted in Davis, 21).
It is a mistake
to draw a moral line between Israel and the Occupied Territories; it
is all occupied territory. The 1967 war, as a result of which Israel
conquered and occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank of the Jordan River,
and the Sinai Peninsula, was a continuation of the process that began
in 1948. It will be drearily familiar to any who know the history of
the displacement of the Indians from the lands they occupied in North
America. Today it would be called "ethnic cleansing."
The first census
of the state of Israel, conducted in 1949, counted a total of 650,000
Jews and 150,000 Arabs. The legal foundation for the racial state was
laid down in two laws passed in 1950. The first, the Law of Return,
permitted any Jew, anywhere in the world, the right to "return"
to Israel. This right did not apply to non-Jews, including the Palestinian
Arabs who had recently become refugees. In addition, the Absentee Property
Law confiscated the property of Arab "absentees," and turned
it over to the Custodian of Absentee Property. Arab refugees within
their own country were termed "present absentees" (what a
phrase!), and not allowed to return to their property. A number of refugees
who attempted to do so were termed "infiltrators," and some
were shot in the attempt. Confiscated property accounted for the vast
majority of new settlements. These confiscated lands, in accordance
with the procedures that were established in the Mandate period by the
JNF, have become Israel Lands, with their own administration. This administration,
controlling 92.6% of all of the lands in Israel, only leases these lands
Unlike many countries,
including the United States, the Israeli state does not belong, even
in principle, to those who reside within its borders, but is defined
as the state of the Jewish people, wherever they may be. That peculiar
definition is one reason why the state has to this day failed to produce
a written constitution, define its borders, or even declare the existence
of an Israeli nationality. Moreover, in this "outpost of democracy,"
no party that opposes the existence of the Jewish state is permitted
to take part in elections. It is as if the United States were to declare
itself a Christian state, define "Christian" not by religious
belief but by descent, and then pass a "gag law" prohibiting
public discussion of the issue.
If one part of the
Zionist project is the expulsion of the indigenous population, the other
part is expanding the so-called Jewish population. But here arises the
problem, which has tormented Israeli legal officials for fifty years,
what is a Jew? (For a century-and-a-half U.S. courts faced similar problems
determining who is white.) The Zionists set forth two criteria for determining
who is a Jew. The first is race, which is a myth generally and is particularly
a myth in the case of the Jews. The "Jewish" population of
Israel includes people from fifty countries, of different physical types,
speaking different languages and practicing different religions (or
no religion at all), defined as a single people based on the fiction
that they, and only they, are descended from the Biblical Abraham. It
is so patently false that only Zionists and Nazis even pretend to take
it seriously. In fact, given Jewish intermingling with others for two
thousand years, it is likely that the Palestinians-themselves the result
of the mixture of the various peoples of Canaan plus later waves of
Greeks and Arabs-are more directly descended from the ancient inhabitants
of the Holy Land than the Europeans displacing them. The claim that
the Jews have a special right to Palestine has no more validity than
would an Irish claim of a divine right to establish a Celtic state all
across Germany, France, and Spain on the basis that Celtic tribes once
lived there. Nevertheless, on the basis of ascribed descent, the Zionist
officials assign those they have selected a privileged place within
the state. If that is not racism, then the term has no meaning.
The Zionist commitment
to racial purity has led to expressions of bigotry at the highest levels
of Israeli society that would inspire outrage in respectable circles
in the U.S. An Israeli company has required thousands of Chinese workers
to sign a contract promising not to have sex with Israelis. A company
spokesman said there was nothing illegal about the requirement. Israeli
law forbids the marriage of a Jew with a non-Jew. (Associated Press,
December 23, 2003)
arrogance: this past January the Israeli ambassador to Sweden destroyed
an art installation in a Stockholm museum which he found offensive.
The work commemorated a young Palestinian woman who killed herself and
nineteen others in an attack in Haifa. (It does not become Americans,
who learn as schoolchildren to recite the last words of Nathan Hale,
"My only regret is that I have but one life to give for my country,"
to denounce Palestinian patriots as "suicide bombers.") The
museum director pointed out that if the Ambassador did not like the
exhibit he was free to leave. (Agence France Press, 17 January 2004)
The Zionists are
so desperate to increase the loyal population of the state that they
are willing to admit hundreds of thousands of people, mainly from the
former Soviet Union, who do not meet the official definition of a Jew
because they have only a male grandparent or are merely married to a
Jew. Since there is no such thing as Israeli nationality in Israel (there
being only Jewish nationality and "undetermined"), these people,
who do not qualify as Jews, are therefore registered as "under
Those whom the gods
would destroy they first make mad. Recently the Israeli press reported
on a group of Indians from Peru who had converted to Judaism and moved
to Israel, where they were relocated on what was once Palestinian land.
Nachson Ben-Haim (formerly Pedro Mendosa) said he had no problem with
that. "You cannot conquer what has in any case belonged to you
since the time of the patriarch, Abraham." Ben-Haim said he was
looking forward to joining the Israeli army to defend the country. Ben-Haim
and his coreligionists had moved to Israel with the agreement of the
Jewish community in Peru, which did not want them because of the Indians'
low socioeconomic status." (Ha'aretz, 18 July 2002.)
The Peruvian case
points to the second criterion for being recognized as Jewish: conversion
by an approved religious official, which means Orthodox rabbis only.
In Israel today, Conservative and Reform rabbis are prohibited from
leading their congregations, there is no civil marriage for Jews, and-in
a measure reminiscent of medieval Spain-all residents support the established
church, in this case the Orthodox rabbinate. The stranglehold of organized
religion in a state where the majority of the Jewish population is secular
and even atheistic is the price paid to maintain the Biblical justification
for Zionist occupation. "God does not exist," runs the popular
quip, "and he gave us this land."
Israel is a racial
state, where rights are assigned on the basis of ascribed descent or
the approval of the superior race. In this respect it resembles the
American South prior to the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights
acts, Ireland under the Protestant Ascendancy, and, yes, Hitlerite Germany.
But in its basic structures it most closely resembles the old South
Africa. It is therefore not surprising that Israel should have developed
a close alliance with South Africa when that country was still under
apartheid. After the first talks held in 1970 between Shimon Peres and
South Africa's defense minister, Botha, cultural, commercial, and military
cooperation between the two racial regimes developed. These relations
were publicly celebrated during the visit of South African Prime Minister
Vorster to Israel in 1976-the same Vorster who held during the Second
World War the rank of general in the pro-Nazi organisation Ossewabrandwag
Of course Israel's
greatest support comes from the United States, $3 to $5 billion a year,
more than what the U.S. gives to any other country and exceeding the
total of U.S. grants to the whole of Africa south of the Sahara. Every
shell fired into a Palestinian village, every tank used to bulldoze
a home, every helicopter gunship is paid for by U.S. dollars.
Is one permitted
to say above the level of a whisper that U.S. policy toward Israel has
something to do with Jewish influence in the U.S.? Perhaps Nobel Peace
Prize winner Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa can get away with it:
"The Israel government," he observed, "is placed on a
pedestal [in the U.S.] People are scared in this country to say wrong
is wrong because the Jewish lobby is powerful-very powerful" (Guardian
29 April 2002).
Not only does Zionism
shape U.S. policy, it stifles discussion of alternatives. To cite a
personal example: Two years ago a PBS reporter interviewed me on the
eve of the UN-sponsored conference on racism about to be held in S.
Africa. I made some remarks about Israel, and afterwards I asked her
if she would use what I said. "Of course not," she replied.
"I agree with you, and so do all the journalists I know, but we
can't run any criticism of Israel without following it by at least ten
refutations." Harvard Professor Daniel Pipes and Martin Kramer
of the Middle East Forum have begun a website, Campus Watch," to
denounce academics deemed to have shown "hatred of Israel."
Students are to inform on professors.
The greatest ideological
weapon in the Zionist arsenal is the charge of anti-semitism. Students
and faculty members at Harvard begin a campaign to make the university
sell off its stock in companies that sell weapons to Israel (modeled
on past campaigns seeking divestment from South Africa), and the president
of Harvard denounces the organizers of the campaign as "antisemitic
in effect, if not in intent." A faculty committee at the Massachusetts
College of Art invites eminent poet Amiri Baraka to deliver a lecture,
and members of the Critical Studies faculty circulate a petition calling
upon the college president to denounce Baraka as an antisemite, citing
as its main evidence a poem he wrote about the historic oppression of
black people in which he refers to reported actions by the Israeli government
prior to the World Trade center attack. As the Israeli commentator Ran
HaCohen points out:
attack soldiers of Israel's occupation army in their own village, it's
anti-semitism. When the UN general assembly votes 133 to 4 to condemn
Israel's decision to murder the elected Palestinian leader, it means
that every country on the planet except the U.S., Micronesia, and the
Marshall Islands is antisemitic.
This is ironic,
he says, given present reality:
With one revealing
exception (Israel, where non-orthodox religious Jews are discriminated
against), Jews enjoy full religious freedom wherever they are. They
have full citizenship wherever they live, with full political, civic
and human rights like every other citizen..
Nowadays, an Orthodox
Jew can run for the most powerful office on earth, the president of
the United States. A Jew can be mayor of Amsterdam in "anti-semitic"
Holland, a minister in "anti-semitic" Britain, a leading intellectual
in "anti-semitic" France, a president of "anti-semitic"
Switzerland, editor-in-chief of a major daily in "anti-semitic"
Denmark, or an industrial tycoon in "anti-semitic" Russia.
[A]nti-semitic Germany gives Israel three military submarines, anti-semitic
France has proliferated to Israel the nuclear technology for its weapons
of mass destruction, and anti-semitic Europe welcomes Israel as the
single non-European country to everything from football and basketball
leagues to the Eurovision Song contest, and has granted Israeli universities
a special status for scientific fund-raising.
"The use of
alleged anti-semitism is morally despicable," says HaCohen.
. People abusing
this taboo in order to support Israel's racist and genocidal policy
towards the Palestinians do nothing less than desecrate the memory of
those Jewish victims, whose death is meaningful only inasmuch as it
serves as an eternal warning to the human kind against all kinds of
discrimination, racism, and genocide ("Abusing 'anti-semitism'",
Sept. 29, 2003; some of Ran HaCohen's writings can be found at www.antiwar.com).
If I accomplish
nothing else in this talk, I hope to create space for some who are repelled
by Israeli actions but are held back from condemning Zionism by a desire
not to be antisemitic.
Does what I have
just said mean that I dismiss the possibility of a revival of anti-semitism?
No, it does not. History shows that anti-semitism ebbs and flows, and
that it may return. Time prevents me from exploring that history in
any depth; let me instead recommend two books: The Jewish Question by
Abram Leon and The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt (in particular
the first part, "anti-semitism"). For now I will say only
that anti-semitism (or more accurately anti-Jewish sentiment) is rooted
neither in human nature or Christian theology; it is the product of
social relations, including the historic concentration of Jews as representatives
of commerce in non-commercial societies. The peculiar occupational distribution
of European Jews led members of the dispossessed classes among the non-Jewish
population to direct their animosity toward the Jews as the visible
agents of oppression. "anti-semitism," as the 19th-century
German Socialist August Bebel put it, "is the socialism of fools."
It is not beyond historical explanation (as is implied by a term like
"The Holocaust," which takes anti-semitism out of history
and relocates it the realm of natural phenomena).
But of course the
Jews by themselves could not determine U.S. Middle East policy, any
more than the Florida Cubans by themselves could determine U.S. Caribbean
policy. By no means does all the organized support for Israel inside
of U.S. politics comes from Jews. Aside from imperialist interests-and
it is not clear whether Israel is an asset or a liability in this regard-Israel
has gained support from a surprising quarter. From the Guardian, Feb.
At first sight,
the scene is very familiar: one that happens in Washington DC and other
major American cities all the time. On the platform, an Israeli student
is telling thousands of supporters how the horrors of the year have
only reinforced his people's determination. "Despite the terror
attacks, they'll never drive us away out of our God-given land,"
This is greeted
with whoops and hollers and the waving of Israeli flags and the blowing
of the shofar, the Jewish ceremonial ram's horn. Then comes the mayor
of Jerusalem, Ehud Olmert, who is received even more rapturously. "God
is with us. You are with us." And there are more whoops and hollers
and flag-waves and shofar-blows.
But something very
strange is going on here. There are thousands of people cheering for
Israel in the huge Washington Convention Centre. But not one of them
appears to be Jewish, at least not in the conventional sense. For this
is the annual gathering of a very non-Jewish Organization indeed: the
Christian Coalition of America.
[T]here is little
doubt that, last spring, when President Bush dithered and dallied over
his Middle East policy before finally coming down on Israel's side,
he was influenced not by the overrated Jewish vote, but by the opinion
of Christian "religious conservatives"-the self-description
of between 15 and 18% of the electorate. When the president demanded
that Israel withdraw its tanks from the West Bank in April, the White
House allegedly received 100,000 angry emails from Christian conservatives.
Not the Book of Genesis
What has really
changed is the emergence of the doctrine known as "dispensationalism",
popularized in the novels of the Rev. Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins.
Central to the theory
is the Rapture, the second coming of Christ, which will presage the
end of the world. A happy ending depends on the conversion of the Jews.
And that, to cut a long story very short, can only happen if the Jews
are in possession of all the lands given to them by God. In other words,
these Christians are supporting the Jews in order to abolish them.
Oh yes, agreed Madon
Pollard, a charming lady from Dallas who was selling hand-painted Jerusalem
crystal in the exhibition hall at the conference. "God is the sovereign.
He'll do what he pleases. But based on the scripture, those are the
guidelines." She calls herself a fervent supporter of Israel
began with a videotaped benediction straight from the Oval office. Some
of the most influential Republicans in Congress addressed the gathering
including-not once, but twice-Tom DeLay [majority leader of the House
of Representatives, arguably the most powerful man on Capitol Hill].
"Are you tired
of all this, are you?" he yelled to the audience.
they roared back. "Not when you're standing up for Jews and Jesus,
that's for sure," he replied.
Ariel Sharon, the
Israeli prime minister, [was] reportedly greeted "like a rock star"
by Christian evangelicals in Jerusalem last month.
DeLay was followed
by Pat Robertson, the coalition's founder, sometime presidential candidate
and the very personification of the successful American TV evangelist.
Robertson cites the stories of Joshua and David to prove Israel's ownership
of Jerusalem "long before anyone had heard of Mohammed".
These are the people
my grandfather warned me about-the people who want to ban Darwin from
the schools, who want to send to camps people who have sex with members
of their own sex-and antisemeets (as he used to say), Jew-haters to
the backbone of their souls.
was telling no more than the truth when he said that the Muslim world
is facing an alliance of Zionists and Crusaders.
Before I get around
to proposing solutions, I want to address the present state of the Israeli
peace movement. As everyone knows, there are forces inside of Israel
who oppose the government now in office. Some of these people, particularly
the soldiers who refuse service in what they call the occupied territories
or who refuse to carry out atrocities such as bombing civilians, and
those who encourage them, are people of exemplary courage. Yet all of
them, with one notable exception (to which I shall return), are handicapped
and in the long run rendered ineffective by their acceptance of the
fundamental premise of Zionism, the legitimacy of the Jewish state.
"Land for peace" implies the permanent partition of Palestine.
It was under the leadership of the Labour Party, with which much of
the opposition is affiliated, that the initial dispossession and exclusion
of the Palestinian people from their homeland took place and the expansion
into the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights was carried
History has shown,
in Ireland, India, and everyplace else it has been tried, that partition
of a territory along lines of descentæwhether called "racial"
or "religious"æis a guarantee of permanent war. It is
understandable that some Palestinians, having been subjected to torture
for over two generations, have reluctantly agreed to accept as a substitute
for justice a Palestinian State built on less than a fourth of their
original land. But they are making a mistake. Such a State, if it is
ever established, will be a Bantustan, a reservation where the only
attributes of a free nation will be a flag and a national anthem. I
am no more a Palestinian Zionist than I am a Jewish Zionist.
What solution, therefore,
do I propose? A simple and moderate one: within historic Palestine,
the area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, live ten
million people. I propose that there be established there a single state,
in which every person who declares his intention to live there and adopt
citizenship be recognized as a citizen and have one vote. I propose
further that the special advantages given to Jews be terminated, that
the Palestinians who were forced into exile after 1948, and their descendants,
be granted the right to live there, and that the state undertake practical
measures to make it possible for them to do so by building housing and
extending to them to right to rent or buy, if necessary providing funds
to help them. I propose further that both Hebrew and Arabic be declared
official state languages to be taught in the schools, that all residents
be granted the right to publish newspapers and maintain cultural institutions
in any language they choose, that the special position of Orthodox Judaism
be ended and that the state declare freedom of worship and make no law
respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise
It is a simple and,
I repeat, a moderate program. It does not entail driving anybody into
the sea, and it recognizes the elementary right of people to live where
Some might object
that such a thing is impossible, that after all the blood that has been
shed and the bitterness that has accumulated, it will not be possible
for Jews and Arabs to live peacefully together. To that argument I have
three responses: the first is the experience of South Africa, a place
whose history of bitterness is no less than Palestine's; there the establishment
of majority rule did not cause the gods to weep or the earth to open
and swallow the people. My second response comes from Sherlock Holmes:
after you have eliminated all the impossible solutions, Watson, the
one remaining, no matter how improbable, must be the right one. My third
response is to cite recent indications that the idea of the single democratic
secular state-once the official goal of the PLO and then abandoned under
U.S. pressure-is once again emerging as a pole of discussion. Its reemergence
is in part a response to Israel's gobbling up so much territory that
nothing is left for a Palestinian state. The new reality is acknowledged
by no less than columnist Thomas L. Friedman, who quotes a prominent
lose their dream to have an independent state, then the only thing that
might guarantee for them a dignified life will be asking to live in
one state with the Israelis. When this struggle starts, it will find
allies among the one million Palestinian Arabs inside Israel We will
say, 'Don't evacuate even a single West Bank settlement. Just give us
the vote and let us be part of one community.'
a poll showing that 25 to 30 percent of Palestinians now support the
idea of one state-"a stunning figure, considering it's never been
proposed by any Palestinian or Israeli party." He calls it "the
law of unintended consequences." (New York Times, Sept. 14, 2003)
The one exception
to my earlier generalization about the Israeli opposition is a fraction
of Orthodox Jews in Israel, who reject the State of Israel on religious
grounds; according to them, the exile from the holy land was divinely
ordained, and therefore the Jews are to live among the nations in every
corner of the earth and not attempt to establish a State before the
coming of the Messiah. Allow me to read from a statement by one of them,
Rabbi Mordechi Weberman:
It is precisely
because we are Jews that we march with the Palestinians and raise their
flag! It is precisely because we are Jews that we demand that the Palestinian
peoples be returned to their homes and properties! Yes, in our Torah
we are commanded to be fair.
We are called upon to pursue justice. And, what could be more unjust
then the century-old attempt of the Zionist movement to invade another
people's land, to drive them out and steal their property?
We have no doubt
that would Jewish refugees have come to Palestine not with the intention
of dominating, not with the intention of making a Jewish state, not
with the intention of dispossessing, not with the intention of depriving
the Palestinians of their basic rights, that they would have been welcomed
by the Palestinians, with the same hospitality that Islamic peoples
have shown Jews throughout history. And we would have lived together
as Jews and Muslims lived before in Palestine in peace and harmony.
To our Islamic
and Palestinian friends around the world, please hear our messageThere
are Jews around the world who support your cause. And when we support
your cause we do not mean some partition scheme proposed in 1947 by
a UN that had no right to offer it.
When we say support
your cause we do not mean the cut off and cut up pieces of the West
Bank offered by Barak at Camp David together with justice for less than
10% of the refugees.
We do not mean
anything other than returning the entire land, including Jerusalem,
to Palestinian sovereignty!
At that point
justice demands that the Palestinian people should decide if and how
many Jews should remain in the Land.
We have attended
hundreds of pro-Palestinian rallies over the years and everywhere we
go the leaders and audience greet us with the warmth of Middle Eastern
hospitality. What a lie it is to say that Palestinians in particular
or Muslims in general hate Jews. You hate injustice. Not Jews.
Fear not my friends.
Evil cannot long triumph. The Zionist nightmare is at its end. It is
exhausted. Its latest brutalities are the death rattle of the terminally
We will yet both
live to see the day when Jew and Palestinian will embrace in peace under
the Palestinian flag in Jerusalem. And ultimately when mankind's Redeemer
will come the sufferings of the present will long be forgotten in the
blessings of the future.
I am not a believer,
but I find Rabbi Weberman's words moving.
One last point:
I spoke earlier about the possibility of a resurgence of anti-semitism
in the United States. In 1991 George H.W. Bush, the father of the man
who sits in the White House and the only member of his family ever to
have been elected president, demanded that the Israelis stop building
new settlements in Palestinian territory. Unlike previous presidents,
Bush sounded serious, threatening to block billions in loan guarantees
if Israel disobeyed. As might have been predicted, the dominant voices
among American Jews were outraged, and Bush responded by complaining
at a press conference that "Jews work insidiously behind the scenes."
On another occasion he reminded critics that the U.S. gives "Israel
the equivalent of $1,000 for every Israeli citizen," a remark that
detractors took as antisemitic. Later on Bush's Secretary of State James
Baker made his famous "fuck the Jews" remark in private conversation,
noting that Jews "didn't vote for us anyway." And it was true:
when he lost to Bill Clinton in 1992, Bush got smallest percentage of
the Jewish vote of any Republican since 1964.
The present occupant
of the White House seems for the time being to have recouped much of
his party's loss of favor among Jews, in part due to his appointment
of so many to positions of power and influence in his administration.
But I will go out on a limb and make a prediction (something I rarely
do because I hate to be wrong): one-sided support for Israel, while
it may win votes among American Jews and some fundamentalist Christians,
is not necessarily wise from the standpoint of U.S. oil interests, and
may even cost votes among that increasing number of Americans who can
pick up the newspaper almost any day and see another story about Israeli
tanks surrounding the residence of the Palestinian president, or massacring
children, or assassinating a crippled half-blind cleric. I predict that
if Dubya manages to extend his control of the White House in 2004, he
will present the bill to whoever is in power in Israel, and that bill
will include withdrawal from some of the territories occupied after
1967. If the Israelis respond negatively to this demand, which there
is every reason to believe they will, and are supported by American
Jews, which there is every reason to believe they will be, the younger
Bush, already born-again, will be reborn yet one more time and will
start making remarks about special minorities with divided loyalties
and so forth. In other words, he will stoke up anti-semitism, carefully
of course, as befits the leader of the free world. And he will find
a tremendous response, more than anyone anticipates, from many ordinary
people who are tired of picking up the tab for the number one outlaw
state in the Middle East, the state that has defied scores of United
Nations resolutions, been condemned by the UN more than any other member
or non-member, the only state in the Middle East that possesses actual
weapons of mass destruction.
Afro-American Congresswoman from Atlanta, was the most outspoken critic
in Congress of U.S. Middle East policy, including unconditional support
for Israel. As a result, Jewish groups around the country targeted her
and, by channeling money to her opponent, succeeded in defeating her
bid for reelection in 2002. Were they within their legal rights to do
so? Of course they were; there is no law barring people in one district
from contributing to a campaign in another. But do they think their
intervention went unnoticed by black voters in Atlanta and around the
If American Jews
insist on identifying themselves with Israel, equating anti-Zionism
with anti-semitism, should they be surprised if others make the same
is author of How the Irish Became White, cofounder and coeditor
of Race Traitor: Journal of the New Abolitionism, and a teacher at the
Massachusetts College of Art. This essay is based on a talk he delivered
this past March at the Massachusetts College of Art.