How the Palestinians were expelled from their homes


In the west and especially in the US, one of the least known elements of the story of the Israel-Palestinian conflict is the ugly story of how the Palestinians were uprooted from their land and homes leading up to and through the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. The heroic story of how the Jews, ‘a people without a land’ came to occupy ‘a land without a people’, was always based on a false premise. Palestine, far from being a largely unoccupied wasteland, was a bustling place, home to many people whose ancestors had lived there for millennia.

This ended in 1948 with their forcible expulsion when over 700,000 indigenous people (about three-quarters of the population) were expelled by the armed Zionist militia that later became the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) to make room for the influx of Jews from Europe and create a purely Jewish. This event is referred to as the ‘Nakba’ (that means ‘catastrophe’ in Arabic) and its details are little mentioned in the western press, which has developed into an art the suppression of inconvenient truths.

But truth is stubborn and those who seek it can find it. Take the case of Miko Peled. He is the son of Mattiyahu ‘Matti’ Peled and Zika Katsnelson-Peled. Both his parents came from families who were ardent Zionists, his father born in Haifa in 1923 and his mother in Jerusalem in 1926. Matti Peled became one of Israel’s top generals in the IDF, fighting in the 1948 and 1967 wars and at one time was the military governor of the Gaza strip.

Miko Peled has written a memoir The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine (2012) which has been reviewed by Alice Walker.

He has also written a long article, undoubtedly based on his book, that was published in late 2013 in The Link that is published by the organization Americans for Middle East Understanding. Peled’s piece is aimed at the US audience and is titled What Israel’s Best Friend Should Know and in its subtitle he says that “I would like Americans to know what my mother told me.”

Peled’s article begins by describing how his mother, who was an eyewitness to the Nakba, told him the disturbing story about what it was really like and in the process undermined his own beliefs about his history.

In the spring of 1948, the Haganah (the Zionist militia which later became the Israeli Defense Forces, or IDF) took the neighborhoods of western Jerusalem, including Katamon, Talbiye, and Bak’a, among others.

The inhabitants of these neighborhoods, like hundreds of thousands of Palestinians across the country, were forced to leave their homes and go into indefinite exile. The homes in these neighborhoods still stand, impressive houses built with distinctive Jerusalem stone. They generally have wide balconies overlooking front yards, a lemon tree in the backyard, high arched ceilings, and oftentimes an inscription with the date that the home was constructed. These were the homes of well-to-do Jerusalemite Palestinians who were all forced to leave, and never allowed to return.

The invading Zionist militia looted the furniture, rugs and other valuables such as rare books and manuscripts and, according to a 2013 documentary film by Benny Brunner, “The Great Book Robbery,” the Zionists even had a special librarian unit that followed the forces to collect and index the books they found. As the daughter of a member of the Zionist elite and the wife of a captain in the Haganah’s Giv’ati brigade, my mother was offered one of these looted homes, as were a handful of other Israeli families. She refused.

At this point my mother would add:

I knew the Palestinian families as a child growing up in Jerusalem. How could I take the home of another mother knowing full well that the rightful owners of these homes were now refugees?

And she would continue:

To see how the soldiers looted these homes, taking the rugs and furniture. How were they not ashamed? And you know, when the soldiers came into the homes, the coffee was still warm, sitting on the breakfast table.

And that was it. That was the story. We forced people to leave, we stole their possessions and we took their homes. How that story bothered me, for years. It bothered me because, in my mind, it couldn’t be true. I was taught that we are Israelis, we are the Jewish people, and we are righteous. We accepted the U.N. partition resolution of 1947 even though it only gave us a portion of Eretz Israel and not all of it, as we deserved. We wanted peace yet Arab bandits who wanted to kill us viciously attacked us and we acted humanely towards them, making sure not to harm women and children. We miraculously survived the war of 1948, defeated the advancing Arab armies and were able to establish a Jewish state in the land of Israel after 2000 years in exile.

So what was my mother saying? Why was my mother presenting a moral dilemma where there couldn’t be one?

He describes how the journey prompted by his mother’s disturbing remembrances led him to re-examine what he thought he knew about his own history and discovered that much of what he had been taught, and is still believed by many people in the US and the world, is false.

One aspect of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict that makes it unique is that the disagreement is not merely over land rights, or an interpretation of history, but rather over the facts themselves. The Israeli and Palestinian narratives are diametrically opposed in that they claim two separate sets of historical facts, creating a situation where no middle ground, no “balance” can be found. If two opposing histories are presented, then one of them must be wrong. And indeed one of them is wrong.

The Israeli narrative begins with the right of Jewish people to “return” to their ancestral homeland. This so-called “return” is their right because the Jewish people of today claim to be the descendants of the ancient Hebrews who resided on that piece of land some two or three thousand years ago. In response to intolerance by regimes in Christian Europe towards their Jewish population, the Zionist movement was established and took on the task of recreating a state for the Jewish people in their ancient homeland. After decades of diligence, and what can only be described as diplomatic ingenuity, Zionist leaders like my grandfather managed to convince the world that this was a valid argument. Their hard work and dedication paid off and, on Nov. 29, 1947, the United Nations passed Resolution 181 that called for the partition of Palestine, and the allocation of the larger part of the country for a Jewish state.

According to the Zionist narrative, the Arabs rejected the resolution and immediately Arab forces began attacking the Jewish community in an attempt to destroy what the Zionists were trying to build. This narrative claims that the Jewish community prevailed, despite being smaller and weaker than the Arabs, resulting in the establishment of the state of Israel on May 15, 1948. The war continued until cease-fire agreements were signed between Israel and the neighboring countries in January of 1949.

The Zionist version of the story claims that the Arabs of Israel, the Palestinians, were asked by the Zionist leadership to remain but that, prompted by their leaders, they opted to leave, which led to nearly one million Palestinians ending up in exile. If all this were true then why did my mother describe this as though taking an Arab home was a moral dilemma? They themselves chose to flee, did they not? There could be no moral dilemma if the story as I knew it were true.

This story is not only romantic and heroic, but it is also unbelievable. As a child I remember reading about battles won by the Zionist forces, tough battles which my father fought and won alongside his comrades in arms, men whom I knew and who had become living legends by the time I was old enough to meet them.

But as one grows older, hopefully, maturity sets in. One aspect of maturity is close examination of the stories we heard as children, and a close examination of the story of the birth of Israel reveals the following: by 1947 the Jewish community in Palestine numbered close to half a million people, mostly immigrants like my grandparents, and their children, my parents’ generation. The Palestinian community, numbered close to 1.5 million. This explains the Palestinian rejection of a plan that was to give a small community of Jewish immigrants the lion’s share of Palestine. While both communities had already begun developing institutions of state, one thing in which the Jewish community had invested heavily, while the Palestinians had not, was an armed militia.

By 1947 the Zionist militia numbered close to 40,000 armed, well-trained men, many of whom were trained by the British. There was no Palestinian equivalent to the Zionist militia. So the question that begs to be asked is: if the Palestinians had no armed militia, who then were the Arabs who attacked the Jewish community? Armies of neighboring countries intervened in Palestine, but that wasn’t until the fighting had been going on for months, and mostly after the British had left Palestine in May of 1948.

So, it turns out that the Zionist claim that Arabs attacked after rejecting the partition plan is false. Once the United Nations passed the partition resolution, the Zionist forces began an all out campaign that can best be described as an unprovoked terrorist attack for the purpose of destroying the indigenous Arab Palestinian community in Palestine through ethnic cleansing. My mother’s story was the first hint that what I was taught in school was not entirely true.

Families and nations try to pass on to their youth the version of history that puts themselves in the best light. As the children grow up, they tend to ignore those hints that what they learned while young may not be true. Peled is unusual in that as maturity set in, he took those hints seriously and made a close examination of the stories he heard as a child to try and uncover the truth. Many prefer to continue to wallow in their comforting mythical childhood beliefs, becoming increasingly rigid over time.

So what now? How can this seemingly intractable problem be addressed? In the next post, I will examine this question.

Comments

  1. readysf says

    Mark Blumenthal’s excellent new book “Goliath” describes how this process of expulsion has corrupted Israelis and turned them into racists.

  2. cgauthier says

    To be fair, readysf, the whole “Yahweh’s most awesome all-time favorite chosen people” philosophy predates the modern state of Israel by a smidge. The run-of-the-mill racism of yester-millienia has been exacerbated and given considerable military might since 1948, for sure though. Not to single Jews out as the only racist people (far from it), but there is a historical (or mythological) pattern of proudly remembered genocides in their case.

  3. thewhollynone says

    The Israelis also have an internal political/economic problem with their fundamentalist orthodox Jews who wish to maintain the culture of the Bronze Age. And then they have the external pressures of being surrounded–literally– by Islamist states whose culture and religion command them to be intolerant of any dissent from the cult of Mohammed. To the Arabs the Israelis are the Philistines. This is middle eastern tribal warfare with modern weapons; too many people fighting over too little land and water.

    I’m curious to know what will happen to the land of Canaan when the Earth warms a couple of more degrees and the sea level rises another ten feet. For sure there will be a lot less to fight over.

  4. DsylexicHippo says

    There is something fundamentally racist about a group of people who call themselves as the “chosen people”. Is it then shocking to see discriminatory behavior toward the “not-so chosen ones”?

    What I do find shocking is the timing of this event in history, being so soon after being at the receiving end of a maniac with a small mustache.

  5. Wylann says

    It worked so well for the US wrt the native population here. I guess we just figured it would work in Palestine as well….

  6. doublereed says

    There is something fundamentally racist about a group of people who call themselves as the “chosen people”. Is it then shocking to see discriminatory behavior toward the “not-so chosen ones”?

    Honestly I don’t see how it’s much different from Christians thinking they’re the ones going to heaven and everyone else is damned. It’s just some religious nonsense like any other religious nonsense.

    What I do find shocking is the timing of this event in history, being so soon after being at the receiving end of a maniac with a small mustache.

    Well yea. It’s shocking if you completely ignore the other point of view, which is that the Holocaust revealed that the Jews needed a land to call their own that they would be accepted in. Don’t forget that it wasn’t just Hitler. Most countries rejected Jewish refugees constantly over the course of the Holocaust. Anti-Semitism was rampant in America and France. There was extremely few places in the world where Jews were safe.

    Is it really that shocking that, in their zeal and fervor, they would’ve displaced people themselves?

  7. wtfwhateverd00d says

    Global Warming will impact all of the Mediterranean with flooding and yet the solution for the Mediterranean, unlike most of the rest of the world is particularly simple, a small matter of engineering.

  8. wtfwhateverd00d says

    That said, I think thewhollynone’s question is interesting and makes me wonder if various negotiators have or should take global warming into account.

    It might (and I don’t think it does), explain the stealth importance of the land where the settlements sit, or even why Hamas and Gaza might be ignored by Fatah when the West Bank proposes the arab peace initiative over, apparently, Hamas’ opposition.

  9. DsylexicHippo says

    @#8: “Is it really that shocking that, in their zeal and fervor, they would’ve displaced people themselves?”

    Yes, it still is shocking. Precisely, because of all the sanctimonious BS claims about being “righteous” and being ostensibly “better” than others. It is not unreasonable, therefore, to expect the bar to be slightly higher than the one used by a psychopath.

    As for Christians going to heaven and the others being damned – that deals with their view of afterlife. Nonsense like that does not bother me one bit since I am more concerned about the quality of my current-and-only life. I know, there may be an unstated but implied vein of superciliousness there but at any rate it is not as blatant as the nonsense of being “chosen people” by birth, and therefore, inherently superior to others.

  10. wtfwhateverd00d says

    @DsylexicHippo

    “There is something fundamentally racist about a group of people who call themselves as the “chosen people”.”

    While it is easy to say that and it seems true on it’s face, it might not be so true as you think it is, once you do some research into what is meant by that phrase.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jews_as_a_chosen_people

    And after all, it is a discussion about a god, is there any surprise people who believe in a specific god think that god favors them?

    But mostly, you should show its relevance to the conflict. Are you saying that this sort of tribalism and nationalism is non existence in other conflicts?

    So what have you said apart from “most conflicts involve two or more parties all of whom assume they are themselves infallible and the opposing part is often dehumanized”?

  11. doublereed says

    As for Christians going to heaven and the others being damned – that deals with their view of afterlife. Nonsense like that does not bother me one bit since I am more concerned about the quality of my current-and-only life. I know, there may be an unstated but implied vein of superciliousness there but at any rate it is not as blatant as the nonsense of being “chosen people” by birth, and therefore, inherently superior to others.

    But it’s not like only Jews say they are the chosen people. Christians do too. It’s in the Bible. Christians just additionally believe that they rejected Jesus which makes them traitors to God, usually tying in with claims of “deicide.” And that is just as much a racial claim as being the chosen people in the first place.

    You are completely ignoring the actual real-world context of what being the ‘chosen people’ actually means, and how it has been interpreted both by Jews and Anti-Semites.

  12. DsylexicHippo says

    @doublereed, #13:

    Actually, I will concede that you have a point there. But that’s somewhat tangential since mine was not a Jew vs Christian argument in the first place. To sum it up, it is fair to say that all three monotheistic Abrahamic religions have this superiority thing baked-in. Just that the phrase “chosen people” irks me in a -in-your-face way.

    @wtfwhateverd00d, #12:

    Tribalism and nationalism can be traced to almost all conflicts. But I am talking about tribes that are bound by “my god has a bigger stick than yours so I am better than you” claims. I am not sure if non-Abrahamic religions take this approach of exclusivity regarding their sky-daddies (or mommies).

  13. doublereed says

    Yea, I mean, I’ve mostly heard the “chosen people” thing used as goofy self-deprecating humor (like “gosh, the inquisition and the holocaust? I guess we’re the chosen people, but what exactly did God choose us for?“). However, I have heard Anti-Semites use it to claim that all Jews are racists – way more racist than Anti-Semites.

    So yea, the whole “chosen people” thing is pretty stupid which is why non-crazy Jews don’t take it seriously. It’s like any crazy religious thing. Non-crazy people don’t take it seriously. And that includes Israelis.

  14. DsylexicHippo says

    @wtfwhateverd00d, #12: You are right, I was perhaps reading the words at face value. Based on what you linked, the phrase has a different meaning.

    Having said that, I also saw this in the Conservative Judaism views section:

    It (i.e. being chosen people) obligates us to build a just and compassionate society throughout the world and especially in the land of Israel where we may teach by example what it means to be a “covenant people, a light unto the nations.

    What’s the takeaway from that quote when juxtaposed with Prof. Singham’s article? That as a concept, it is just a bunch of empty words, nothing but a joke?

  15. doublereed says

    Having said that, I also saw this in the Conservative Judaism views section:

    It (i.e. being chosen people) obligates us to build a just and compassionate society throughout the world and especially in the land of Israel where we may teach by example what it means to be a “covenant people, a light unto the nations.

    What’s the takeaway from that quote when juxtaposed with Prof. Singham’s article? That as a concept, it is just a bunch of empty words, nothing but a joke?

    My answer personally would be yes. It is nothing but empty words.

    But I’m confused on how you’re relating it to Mano’s article. Are you saying that Israel shouldn’t try to build a just and compassionate society and teach by example? You completely reversed the argument. Before you were saying that being the chosen people is bad, but now you’re saying they need to act more like it.

  16. says

    And then they have the external pressures of being surrounded–literally– by Islamist states whose culture and religion command them to be intolerant of any dissent from the cult of Mohammed. To the Arabs the Israelis are the Philistines.

    That’s a textbook example of one of the big lies that is told about the arab/israel conflict: that it is primarily a religious conflict. Yes, religion is interlaced throughout, on both sides, but the reality is that the struggle is political and economic. The states surrounding Israel had to become homes to millions of refugees and the resulting political and economic destabilization that comes with that. The arab world couldn’t just shrug and pretend nothing had happened because it’s a challenge to any state’s legitimacy when new neighbors show up and start destabilizing the region. Add to that the very real hatred that pervades a community of displacees, and the ongoing violence that results. It’s bordering on disenguousness to say that the arabs motives are religious when there’s plenty of reason for ethnic hatred as a result of the land-grab. What, do you think that the 2nd generation dwellers of refugee camps are angry at Israel because of the koran, or is it because every single one of them knows people or has family members that were killed or driven from their land?

    The nations surrounding Israel also do not hate Israel because “it’s religion” – that’s simplistic and naive. They hate Israel for perfectly reasonable political reasons – a militaristic state appearing in the region, with massive economic support and backing by US and European powers, willing to go to war (and scarily good at it, too!) with unlimited military and economic support, including having nuclear weapons proliferated from the US, France, and Canada – ummmmm, no nation would want such a neighbor, regardless of what the Koran says. Then, add the fact that Israel, with tacit support from the US, engages in assassination at will and nuclear blackmail against its neighbors to reduce their sovereignty. They react about the same way anyone would, having a rogue nuclear power appear in their back pocket and repeatedly kick their asses.

    When someone trots out the purely religious narrative for what’s going on, I suspect them of dishonesty (at worst) or ignorance (at best) because it sets the discussion up immediately as a simple way to dismiss the very real and very legitimate concerns of Israel’s neighbors. It also infantilizes those concerns because we all “know” that rational people don’t take the Koran seriously – though apparently still taking the Torah and Bible seriously enough not to want to piss off their adherents. It sets up a dismissal of real concerns about nuclear blackmail, because “mad mullahs” sovereignty must be suppressed to protect Israel from nuclear blackmail, in order to protect Israel’s ability to engage in … nuclear blackmail, with impunity. It’s easy to see that the purely religious narrative that you voiced is a lie because it’s one-sided; you say the arabs hate Israel because of islam but ignore that the Israelis’ claim to the land and Jerusalem is biblical.

    The purely religious narrative is, finally, insulting because it assumes the listener is gullible enough to overlook serious political issues, militarism, racism, and ethnic cleansing in favor of a simplistic narrative based on childrens’ fairy tales. Yes, many arabs yell religious slogans while they fight, but when you listen to their other words, the narrative is largely political: they want the land back, they resent having an ultra-powerful US client state asserting dominion over them – it’s not islam, it’s politics. And you either know that (which makes you a liar) or you don’t (which makes you brainwashed or ignorant, or both). You may rest assured that aside from a lunatic fringe which is equally present on both sides, everyone involved is focused on the politics not the religion, and those that try to re-cast the problem as being purely religious are serving the interests of the powerful.

  17. DsylexicHippo says

    @doublereed, #18:

    Are you saying that Israel shouldn’t try to build a just and compassionate society and teach by example? You completely reversed the argument. Before you were saying that being the chosen people is bad, but now you’re saying they need to act more like it.

    Why did you disregard the first couple sentences I wrote before I said that? I quoted specifically in that context. I first admitted that my understanding of “chosen people” might have been incorrect after researching deeper into its meaning from a Jewish point of view. I took their definition and went by how they defined it and then tried to see if it made any sense in light of the article above.

  18. doublereed says

    The nations surrounding Israel also do not hate Israel because “it’s religion” – that’s simplistic and naive. They hate Israel for perfectly reasonable political reasons – a militaristic state appearing in the region, with massive economic support and backing by US and European powers, willing to go to war (and scarily good at it, too!) with unlimited military and economic support, including having nuclear weapons proliferated from the US, France, and Canada – ummmmm, no nation would want such a neighbor, regardless of what the Koran says. Then, add the fact that Israel, with tacit support from the US, engages in assassination at will and nuclear blackmail against its neighbors to reduce their sovereignty. They react about the same way anyone would, having a rogue nuclear power appear in their back pocket and repeatedly kick their asses.

    Israel going to war? Did you just say Israel willing to go to war? You want to talk about Nakba, but you’re completely forgetting the other one: Naksa.

    I’m sorry, I don’t remember Israel being the aggressor in the Six Day War or the Yom Kippur War. If you’re going to talk politics, geopolitical politics no less, let’s not pretend that Israel has invaded its neighbors constantly. That would be the reverse. Let’s not forget that ever since the Yom Kippur War, countries like Iran have been deliberately funding terrorist organizations to attack Israel because they figured out that a conventional war is ineffective.

    No, you don’t get to wipe the Arabs’ hands clean like that. Enough of your BS one-sidedness.

  19. wtfwhateverd00d says

    @Dyslexic Hippo

    It (i.e. being chosen people) obligates us to build a just and compassionate society throughout the world and especially in the land of Israel where we may teach by example what it means to be a “covenant people, a light unto the nations.

    What’s the takeaway from that quote when juxtaposed with Prof. Singham’s article? That as a concept, it is just a bunch of empty words, nothing but a joke?

    When I was a kid, I first learned that Jews were God’s chosen people. Hooray us!
    As I grew older, I learned that that meant more than the simplistic view, that it meant an obligation as described in the quote you found.

    I think Professor Singham has exchanged one simplistic view for another. I think the truth lies in between, in understanding the context of the region, and what was happening throughout the world, and the distortions of all origin stories as well as the pendulum swings of various revisionists and reforms.

    And to the extent that a people fails to live up to the moral values they claim as their guiding principles, you can label that hypocrisy and proof of empty words, or understand everyone and even groups of people are fallible.

  20. says

    No, you don’t get to wipe the Arabs’ hands clean like that. Enough of your BS one-sidedness.

    I’m not and I would never attempt to wipe anyone’s hands clean of violence. The situation, however, is extremely one-sided, violence-wise and conquest-wise, so it’s not surprising that anyone trying to look at it dispassionately is going to find Israel to be consistently aggressive.

    Should I bother to mention that Israel was the aggressor in the six day war, launching an incursion into the west bank, and airstrikes on Syria, then a general first strike when Egypt mobilized? I hate to break it to you, but the highly propagandized version of little Israel being ganged up on by the whole arab world is at best embellished and at worst outright propaganda. I absolutely do not excuse jordanian/plo provocation (though, hint: plo want their land back and see Israel as an invader/occupier) Israel’s actions on the Syrian DMZ were pure provocation. Strategically, the six day war looks like the Israelis caught the arabs flat-footed and sucker punched them after setting them up for it. Perhaps you should review your history of that war, you appear to be hewing to a “party line”…

    The yom kippur war was an attempt to avoid getting sucker-punched again. Yes, the arab league was “aggressive” in that they initiated hostilities, though once again one could easily argue that an objective was to recapture occupied lands from the six day war. Of course that has strategic import!

    Also, remember, the arabs’ view is that they are resisting an invader/occupier. In that situation, you don’t need an engraved invitation to resist courteously.

    You accuse me of being one-sided but it appears that your perspective begins and ends with Israel being right. That’s a hard position to justify for an occupying power that gained most of its lands through ethnic cleansing and military conquest. It’s like calling someone an “aggressor” for trying to expel an invader. Talk about one-sided!!!

    Lastly, Israel regularly stomps on the sovereignty of their neighbors in the region, ranging from assassinating resistance leaders, targeted bombings such as the nuclear facilities at Osirak, or whatever it was that Israeli bombers recently blew up in Syria, assassinating Iranian physicists, and stampeding the US into tightening sanctions against Iran.

    Let me talk briefly about the latter and why the religion narrative is so important. The argument (we’ve heard it here) is that the “mad mullahs” in Iran would immediately mutually suicide with Israel if they had a nuclear weapon. Because, um, they’re religious nuts. Never mind that Israel is also beholden to religious nuts. Never mind that Israel actually did produce nuclear weapons including the most vile sort – neutron bombs – and furthermthat Israel proliferated nuclear techniques to South Africa.

    One-sided? You are calling me “one-sided”?! What the hell are you, if I am one-sided?

  21. doublereed says

    All right, fair enough. It just sounded like you would be fine with Canada if they started supporting terrorism against the US, because after all, we do all those things too when it comes to sovereignty.

    I’m not exactly sure how you could possibly claim Israel is the warlike one in either case of the Six Day War or the Yom Kippur War. Just because the Arabs see Israel as an invader/occupier has very little bearing on the fact that they were aggressors in both wars (and continue to be the aggressors with funding terrorist groups). Just because Israel sucker-punched them really doesn’t change that. By that kind of argument, Israel is the aggressor simply by existing. A successful two-state solution wouldn’t even change that.

    I’m not exactly sure what propagandized version you’re talking about. The Israel propaganda demonstrates pretty fully that Israel immediately responded and pushed everything way further back. The country’s not actually that big, you know. Arguing that Israel is the aggressor takes a pretty big leap, though.

    And how are you not being one-sided? You admit in the beginning of your post that the “situation is one-sided’ and then get offended that I’m calling you one-sided later in the post. You’re being absolutely ridiculous.

    But okay whatever fine. I think this is a minor spat when I agree with your main point with it not being primarily a religious feud and not buying into the mad mullah narrative that often goes around.

  22. doublereed says

    You accuse me of being one-sided but it appears that your perspective begins and ends with Israel being right. That’s a hard position to justify for an occupying power that gained most of its lands through ethnic cleansing and military conquest. It’s like calling someone an “aggressor” for trying to expel an invader. Talk about one-sided!!!

    You’re right, Israel should’ve just let them rain bombs on them and politely been wiped off the face of the Earth. Again, this is an argument that Israel simply does not have the right to exist.

    Honestly that seems to be the argument you’re going for. So I am confused on what you actually want here. Please clarify. What would be an ideal solution to you?

  23. says

    Wylann (#6) –

    It worked so well for the US wrt the native population here. I guess we just figured it would work in Palestine as well….

    A more apt comparison is the scene in Schindler’s List, where one man says, “It could be worse,” after his family is thrown out of their home. Then Neeson’s Schindler says, “It couldn’t be better,” as he lies back on a bed in the house taken away from the same family.

    Norman Finkelstein has been reporting on these facts for years, and Nakba deniers like Dershowitz try to prevent historians from telling the truth. Read the part entitled, “The Catastrophe” at the link below:

    http://www.ifamericansknew.org/history/ref-nakba.html

    Count Folke Bernadotte, a former official of the Swedish Red Cross who saved thousands of Jews during World War II and was appointed U.N. mediator in Palestine, said of the refugees: “It would be an offence against the principles of elemental justice if these innocent victims of the conflict were denied the right to return to their homes.” Bernadotte was assassinated by a Zionist organization * led by future Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir.

    * Lehi, or Stern Group

  24. says

    All right, fair enough. It just sounded like you would be fine with Canada if they started supporting terrorism against the US, because after all, we do all those things too when it comes to sovereignty.

    Of course not. Terrorism is immoral. Two wrongs don’t make a right and all that.

    If Canada started arguing for “regime change” in the US and supporting native American’s rights, and were doing a bit better about their own genocide/native American rights, I’d probably be supportive of that, FWIW. As a matter of fact, my property is entailed to The Nature Conservancy when I die but now I am wondering if there are any “give your land back to the native Americans” organizations and I am exploring that. It might be a good idea.

    I’m not exactly sure how you could possibly claim Israel is the warlike one in either case of the Six Day War or the Yom Kippur War.

    Really? Are you serious? Or are you just playing ignorant? What do you want me to do, give you some personal history lessons or something? I certainly gave enough information in my initial comment regarding the 6 day war. Succintly, Israel had been engaging in incursions into Jordan and had been engaging with Syrian troops and doing armed overflights into Syrian air space. One might reasonably call incursions into Jordan “provocative” no? The Israelis claimed they were responding to PLO actions but, once again, if A attacks B, it doesn’t justify B attacking C unless B can do a pretty good job of showing that C was using A as cover, or something like that. That follows a fairly long-term pattern of Israeli military response: you kick me in the shins, I’ll shoot your neighbor. It’s aggression with intent to suppress a response. One might call it “terroristic” but I don’t like that term so I try to avoid it. So, Israel was getting embroiled in conflict with 2 arab states and Egypt mobilized, and told the UN troops in the area to leave – in effect warning everyone that they were going to act — which triggered a massive pre-emptive strike from Israel. It is not the case (as it was with the Yom Kippur war) that Israel was sitting around and suddenly was viciously attacked by surprise. The six day war was a pre-emptive strike after a period of considerable ratchetting up of tension thanks to Israel’s military engagements on their borders with their neighbors.It was not the Jordanian military invading Israel. It was not the Syrian air force flying armed incursions into Israeli air space. The Egyptians mobilized but were pre-empted before they attacked Israel. The six day war was a surprise attack – a surprise attack by Israel, which resulted in significant land-grabs, displaced hundreds of thousands more arabs, and set up the scene for the yom kippur war.

    It’s probably also worth noting that Israel even attacked a US ship, the Liberty, a signals intelligence boat that was trying to keep an eye on what was going on. I suppose that was also a justifiable response to US aggression?

    The yom kippur war was definitely a surprise attack from the arab states. Having themselves suffered a surprise attack during the six day war, do you then expect engraved invitations and pursuit of the code duello?

    I am not saying any of this was right; war is a crime no matter how you slice it as far as I am concerned. However you appear to be glossing over extreme aggression and land-grabs as “defensive” That’s bizzare.

    By that kind of argument, Israel is the aggressor simply by existing. A successful two-state solution wouldn’t even change that.

    Well, since Israel was founded through a bunch of land-grabs and violent displacement, I do think the very existence of Israel has a very shaky justification. I certainly reject the idea that god gave Israel the land, or that there was a 2,000 year-old right to come and kick people off the land who had nothing to do with bronze-age events. So, um, … yeah.. What you’re saying is tantamount to a burglar smashing in my window, taking up residence in my living room, and chiding me for being “aggressive” when I try to get him to leave. He hasn’t done a very good job of justifying his right to be there in the first place and if he kicks the shit out of me when I ask him to leave he’s still the aggressor unless he’s got a very good claim to owning my house and my land.

    As I said elsewhere, I don’t think there will be a successful two state solution.

    I don’t think Israel’s going to last, really, but that’s not my problem and it’s going to take longer than I’ll probably live to see. More to the point, it’s not my fault this Israel exists and I also don’t have any claim to any land or property that has been grabbed by Israel, so I personally have not been harmed by Israel though it’s my opinion that the existence of Israel became a criminal enterprise at the point when the settlers stopped purchasing land and began displacing its residents by force. It’s my guess that eventually the arab world will cough up its version of Ho Chi Mihn and Israel will either disappear or learn to negotiate with its neighbors and yearn for the days when it could have stopped the settlements and returned some conquered territories. But that’s my opinion and prognostications, obviously. The historical facts, however, are less subject to interpretation.

    You admit in the beginning of your post that the “situation is one-sided’ and then get offended that I’m calling you one-sided later in the post. You’re being absolutely ridiculous.

    Read for comprehension, would you? I was referring to the fact that the violence has been very one-sided: violence and aggression coming from Israel and that it’s hard not to sound “one-sided” when you’re talking about a situation in which the use and effectiveness of violence has been so lopsided.

    You’re right, Israel should’ve just let them rain bombs on them and politely been wiped off the face of the Earth. Again, this is an argument that Israel simply does not have the right to exist.

    Read for comprehension: where did I say Israel has a right to exist? Maybe you should be explaining why an invader’s got a right to keep what they conquer, and kill anyone who argues with them, not presupposing that because Israeli land-grabs have been successful that they are morally or politically justified.

    What you’re saying is that Israel’s conquests are so justified because, ummmmm, reasons, that it’s immoral to try to stop them. The “right of conquest” is a dangerous argument to make because it justifies any use of main force whatsoever, whether by the romans, the nazis, the umayyads, Israel, the US, or whatever. I don’t believe that absolute power is the only metric by which people should judge eachothers’ actions.

    Why don’t you explain again why Israel’s existence is justified?

  25. wtfwhateverd00d says

    I think the Declaration of Independence of Israel of 29 November 1947 justifies Israel’s right to exist, just as the Declaration of Independence of 2 July 1776 justifies the US right to exist.

    I think the recognition of the State of Israel on 29 November 1947 by the US, Iran, Guatemala, Iceland, Nicaragua, Romania, Uruguay and the Soviet Union justifies Israel’s right to exist along with the subsequent recognition of her by Poland, Yugoslavia, Ireland, and South Africa.

    I think the admission of Israel to the UN on 11 May 1949 justifies Israel’s right to exist.

    I think the 1949 Armistice agreement between Israel and her neighbors, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon justifies Israel’s existence.

    In 1988, the PLO used the 1947 UN Resolution 181 as the basis of their claim that the resolution continues to provide international legitimacy for the right of the Palestinian people to sovereignty and national independence (Palestinian Statehood). I would say that that that justifies Israel’s existence.

    I think the 1993 statement by Yasser Arafat as part of the Oslo accords recognizing the State of Israel justifies her right to exist.

    I would say the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002, reendorsed in 2007 justifies Israel’s right to exist.

  26. readysf says

    Other countries may be worse in some respects, but we are directly underwriting the Israel government…so, we can do something about it. That’s the difference.

  27. says

    I think the Declaration of Independence of Israel of 29 November 1947 justifies Israel’s right to exist, just as the Declaration of Independence of 2 July 1776 justifies the US right to exist.

    Really? A declaration of independence says “we exist” – it doesn’t necessarily say “we have a right to exist”
    There’s a bit of a difference between an established colony declaring its independence from its founder, and a new country establishing itself on top of occupied territory, don’t you think? I don’t think anyone would argue that Israel exists, but are you saying that the mere fact of existence confers a right of existence?

    But, to an extent I think you’re on one point – both the US decl and the Israeli decl were made in the context of a civil war; the British certainly contested the US’ right to exist as a separate country and the arab league (and other parts of the jewish settlers in Palestine) contested Israel’s right to exist as well. In both of those cases, that “right” was decided by force of arms. Is it your opinion that what justifies a nation’s right to exist is force of arms? If a nation declares its independence and it’s contested, and it wins, does the fact that it’s militarily superior give it the “right”? That sounds suspiciously like “might makes right” to me!

    If you accept the idea that what gives a state the “right” to exist is force, then can you explain why force doesn’t equally remove that right? In other words, does your argument boil down to that a state has the “right to try to exist”?

    As an anti-nationalist, I am somewhat in a quandary since I don’t see any good argument for the legitimacy of any state other than a completely democratic collective. Personally, I’d say a state had a “right to exist” if there was pretty much no objection to it. That’s kind of hard to imagine but I suppose it’s possible.

    I think the recognition of the State of Israel on 29 November 1947 by the US, Iran, Guatemala, Iceland, Nicaragua, Romania, Uruguay and the Soviet Union justifies Israel’s right to exist along with the subsequent recognition of her by Poland, Yugoslavia, Ireland, and South Africa.

    No, I won’t buy that. Those recognized that Israel exists. That’s a far cry from saying that it recognizes a “right” to exist.

    I would agree with you if the list of countries recognizing the existence of the state of Israel included those that contested the creation of that state. Oddly, that list contains none of them. Oddly, the arab league states that initially contested Israel’s right to exist continue to contest it. So you list a bunch of Israel’s economic and military sponsors, allies, and clients that recognize its existence. Yes, it’s a fact that Israel exists.

    I think the 1949 Armistice agreement between Israel and her neighbors, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon justifies Israel’s existence.

    I see. If I agree with you to stop punching me in the face, that justifies your right to have been punching me in the face? I think not. This simply shows that Israel’s neighbors wanted to stop fighting. Which puts us back to the question of “right” — is it due to force of arms or is there anything more to it?

    I can imagine that if I were able to purchase most of, say, Florida, peacefully, and I and a supermajority of the other inhabitants of the area asked the US to acknowledge our right to leave the union and become a separate nation, and that request was uncontested, then there might be a “right” to exist as an independent nation. In that case, even if the US were to employ force contesting it, and fail, I’d question the “right” to exist and acknowledge that we were dealing with a brute fact brought about by main force.

    I’m also rather anti-colonial. I wouldn’t say that Rhodesia had a “right” to exist, being a European colony carved out of existing nations by force of arms. Would you?

  28. says

    Upon further reflection, I reject any nation’s “right to exist.” A nation is nothing more than the people who live within its borders, who consent to be identified under that collective set of laws. Any other state is not legitimate and amounts to coercion or occupation. The only state that has a “right to exist” would be one in which all its citizens agreed that they were going to act unanimously as a collective. Since such a state has never and probably will never exist, I remain unconvinced of any state’s “right to exist” though I acknowledge that many states are “prepared to do violence in order to continue to exist” and exist through coercion and main force. Being coercive thieves does not, of course, confer any rights over what has been stolen or compelled.

    Tell me more about Israel’s right to exist.

  29. Dunc says

    the Holocaust revealed that the Jews needed a land to call their own that they would be accepted in. Don’t forget that it wasn’t just Hitler. Most countries rejected Jewish refugees constantly over the course of the Holocaust. Anti-Semitism was rampant in America and France. There was extremely few places in the world where Jews were safe.

    You could say exactly the same thing about the Roma… But they’re still getting persecuted all across Europe to this day. I can’t help but suspect that the principle difference is that Israel is in a strategically important location.

  30. doublereed says

    Upon further reflection, I reject any nation’s “right to exist.” A nation is nothing more than the people who live within its borders, who consent to be identified under that collective set of laws. Any other state is not legitimate and amounts to coercion or occupation. The only state that has a “right to exist” would be one in which all its citizens agreed that they were going to act unanimously as a collective. Since such a state has never and probably will never exist, I remain unconvinced of any state’s “right to exist” though I acknowledge that many states are “prepared to do violence in order to continue to exist” and exist through coercion and main force. Being coercive thieves does not, of course, confer any rights over what has been stolen or compelled.

    Tell me more about Israel’s right to exist.

    I was talking about a ‘right to exist’ in a more pragmatic context, not some theoretical construct.

    That is, what do you think happens when Egypt or groups acting from Iran take over Israel? You think they’ll just play nice with the Israeli Jews there? Happy little society? Really?

    Which is why I’m asking what you want. I would actually like peace in the middle east, which yes, implies that the arabs and jews need to play nice with each other. That, at the very least, implies they need to recognize each other’s right to existence.

    Quite frankly, I don’t think it matters much that sixty years ago such and such happened unless we’re talking specifically about the situation of the Palestinians. Trying to argue “who orginally owns the land” or whatever personally I’d say is way fuzzier than any right to existence. And it brings up old-fashioned ideas of “the sins of the father inherited by the son” which is generally considered immoral in today’s society.

    But certainly, Israel needs to recognize the rights of the Palestinians, not just for the Palestinians’ sake, but for their own political sake. And if you have any desire for peace (which frankly it doesn’t sound like you do), I think that’s the only way to do it.

  31. doublereed says

    the Holocaust revealed that the Jews needed a land to call their own that they would be accepted in. Don’t forget that it wasn’t just Hitler. Most countries rejected Jewish refugees constantly over the course of the Holocaust. Anti-Semitism was rampant in America and France. There was extremely few places in the world where Jews were safe.

    You could say exactly the same thing about the Roma… But they’re still getting persecuted all across Europe to this day. I can’t help but suspect that the principle difference is that Israel is in a strategically important location.

    Yes, you could also say the same about the Kurds. I think the main argument against something like that seems to be the exact situation that Israel has turned into. In Israel, having Jewish blood confers very real advantages and Israel is doing politics based on the idea that they need to retain a Jewish Majority. I’m not sure how it can work without becoming an ‘ethnocracy.’

    I don’t think the strategic location matters as much as that part.

  32. Dunc says

    Oh, absolutely. My point about the strategic location was that the reason we carved out Israel after WWII had less to do with either the rights or the suffering of the Jewish people than it did with the strategic goals of the Western powers. They were merely a convenient excuse.

  33. readysf says

    Israel will stay as a political entity, the big question is what the borders will be.

    What is self-destructing is Zionism. It is proving to be just as extremist as the other -isms. Hiding behind Jews and the Jewish experience has stopped working, since the brutality of Zionists towards Palestinians is now well documented.

    John Kerry pointed out that BDS will gain steam, and it will. Only harsh economic feedback will give the Zionist taliban the wake-up call that they need. Blackmailing the US won’t work, yelling anti-Semitism won’t work, and it is time for the US to cut the aid pipeline and set conditions for continued support.

    And Israels high-tech miracle? Most of these people already have second passports, and the rest can be given green cards.

  34. says

    I was talking about a ‘right to exist’ in a more pragmatic context, not some theoretical construct.

    Ah, yes. You were using the word “right” incorrectly in a deliberate attempt to spin the conversation – knowing you were not actually talking about “rights” at all? Is that what you mean?

    Rights are a very practical concept and not at all theoretical. People have things like the right to life, property, belief, etc. These rights are often trampled. When that happens, many neutral people (not involved in the conflict or crime) correctly assess it to be a crime, or an abuse of human rights. That is why some of us are concerned about the rights of Palestinians, who have been displaced, millions of whom are living in refugee camps, or who are subject to draconian Israeli military policing based on ethnicity/race – and we think that’s “wrong” What I am getting at is that Israel may not have a “right” to exist at all. You haven’t done a convincing job of arguing for it. In the situation we are discussing Israel appears to be an occupying power, depending on main force and arguing that its existence depends either on biblical land-grants (absurd) or the status quo. The problem with the status quo argument is that it’s appallingly short-term.

    I’d like to assume you actually understand these things because that would mean you’re not a flat-out moral monster like Colnago “15 MT Nuke” who advocates racism and genocide. But if you pretend not to understand these things then you’re left in the unusual position of advocating that a thief should be allowed to enjoy their ill-gotten gains because, um…. thiefly reasons. Or something. You’ve done a pretty bad job of defending that, as well, frankly.

    Note that I am absolutely not defending other states build on genocide or territorial conquest, such as the US (which is also a horrible crime) or Canada, etc. So please no “tu quoque” arguments. And, especially please no “but waah waah [whoever] sucks worse therefore it’s OK” arguments like Colnago favors. A moral crime must be examined in isolation, and the simple facts of the matter is that Israel is an invading/occupying power, built on and expanded with violence, displacing people who had lived on the land for generations, ‘justifying’ their right to do this because – Europeans were mean to them. As I said elsewhere, I would find it far more reasonable if Balfour had suggested giving the victims of the holocaust a chunk of, say, Bavaria or Mecklenberg-strelitz, than exporting European racial hatred and extremism to the middle east.

    That is, what do you think happens when Egypt or groups acting from Iran take over Israel? You think they’ll just play nice with the Israeli Jews there? Happy little society? Really?

    So now you’re asking my opinion? Which is irrelevant at worst and a red herring at best. But I’ll play along, why not? Elsewhere I have opined that “it would be better if Israel had never happened at all.” Indeed, that matches my paragraph above. Israel is a European problem that has been exported onto people who had nothing to do with it. Antisemitism in Germany and Russia and France (and England and the US, etc) is a serious issue and it’s something I absolutely do not approve of. But the moral calculus that “If A is mean to B, B therefore can go kick the shit out of C” is unacceptable. Israel, right now, is like a house-burglar who is caught in the living room of his victim’s house and is saying “Well, now that I’m here, it’d be mean to make me leave.” Yeah. Right.

    It is my opinion that Israel will eventually fall, whenever the arab word coughs up its equivalent of Ho Chi Mihn, or some Palestinian studies the Vietnam conflict (and survives the inevitable Israeli assassination attempts) and begins a total war like the Vietcong offered the USA. Israel would be unable to cope with that. I’m amazed (and underwhelmed) that the arabs haven’t figured that out, yet, but that’s perilously close to victim-blaming. So, if I were an Israeli, I would rather quickly and quietly move to the USA or someplace safer. I would work within the pseudodemocratic framework of the US to protect myself from the holocaust ever happening again. One thing I certainly would do is try as hard as possible not to do anything, myself, remotely like what the nazis did. Unfortunately, the Israelis are currently engaging in many of exactly the same actions that the nazis engaged in. I keep asking Colnago80 “if you think what Israel is doing to the Palestinians is acceptable, does that mean that what the nazis did to the Jews was acceptable?” The only answer to that must be “yes” or “I think what Israel is doing to the Palestinians is wrong.” What is your answer?

    I would actually like peace in the middle east, which yes, implies that the arabs and jews need to play nice with each other.

    I think your premise is backwards. European colonialists need to stop invading the middle east. The arabs in Palestine didn’t have a problem with jewry until they were invaded, as a consequence of events in Europe. There were a few racist/wrong arabs who joined SS units in the axis army, because of their own racism and tribalism, and we are right to decry those actions — but it hardly justifies invading their relatives and neighbors’ lands and displacing them in a bizzare act of collective punishment.

    One of the reasons I speak my mind about these matters is because I don’t have a dog in this fight, at all. If you step back and look at it, the rational arguments for the creation of Israel in the first place are pretty ridiculous. Thus the arguments for preserving Israel amount to doubling down on the awfulness.

    The reason I feel that people who voice views like yours are intellectually dishonest is because you’re transferring blame inappropriately. If you had written:
    “implies that the russiand, germans, and jews need to play nice with each other.”
    you might have a rudimentary argument. But what you’ve done is accepted that what is a European problem is now an arab problem. And, why? Don’t you get it? The Europeans need to play nice with eachother, and it’s not acceptable for them to export their racist hatred to destabilize the middle east. Your position tacitly places some kind of responsibility for being invaded and ethnically cleansed on the arabs. Niiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiice. Hitler would approve. I do not.

    That, at the very least, implies they need to recognize each other’s right to existence.

    Why? Why not recognize the jews’ right to exist in the US or Europe or whatever? I certainly recognize that. Whatever. I would certainly have recognized the jews’ right to recompense for what the Germans and Austrians and Russians did to them – but let the Germans and Austrians and Russians pay that price. But, no, what happened was doubly racist – “fuck the arabs” the British and Americans said, and supported the creation of a violent apartheid state in another part of the world, as – ummmmmmm – punishment for something that the victims of that creation didnt do? That’s all wrong.

    (PS – I wouldn’t want to move to the middle east, personally, when there’s someplace awesome like London or NYC to live in. I mean, WTF!? Unless it was that I could steal cheap land from the current inhabitants or something like that?)

    I don’t think it matters much that sixty years ago such and such happened unless we’re talking specifically about the situation of the Palestinians.

    How terribly convenient. The Palestinians who have been living in fucking refugee camps since being displaced from their lands – ask them how much it matters. Go ahead. It’s so kind of you to completely dismiss them like that.

    Trying to argue “who orginally owns the land” or whatever personally I’d say is way fuzzier than any right to existence.

    I agree with you. So now that you’ve rejected the basis for zionism, what’s left other than to acknowledge that Israel has no business being there at all?

    That was why I asked you what you thought about the “right” of Rhodesians to exist as a nation. Um… People show up with guns, chase the inhabitants out, hoist a flag, say “it’s ours, now!” and start consolidating their hold on power. What a bunch of assholes, right?

    And it brings up old-fashioned ideas of “the sins of the father inherited by the son” which is generally considered immoral in today’s society

    You appear to be talking out of both sides of your face simultaneously. Israel’s “right” to be situated in the middle east is based on some rather sketchy historical claims going back 2000 years. The Palestinians who were displaced weren’t even the descendants of the Romans who displaced the tribes of jews that went to Europe and farmed resentment for generation after generation, then went back and kicked what would have been their ancestors’ ancestors’ neighbors asses for something the Germans did. Do you have any kind of concept of morality, or are you simply blowing smoke to justify a colonial land-grab rooted in main force? Do you even read what you’re writing?? Yes, “the sins of the father” is an immoral position. So, if there was going to be a jewish state formed, maybe it should have been formed in Berlin or Moscow in the 1930s!

    (General note: the idea of a “jewish state” is as repugnant to me as a “white state” or any other state built on ethnic racism or religion; I am simply introducing the idea because it’s critical to the moral argument that was going on surrounding establishing an ethnic state. Short form: I don’t approve at all, but at least I could understand that one.)

    Israel needs to recognize the rights of the Palestinians

    Like, the right to all the land of theirs that was seized? And the political oppression they have suffered? And the fact that Israel has been engaged in collective punishment? I.e.: if your neighbor shoots at an Israeli, they bomb an entire neighborhood in response?

    As you pointed out – and it’s about the only thing I think you’ve gotten right – if Israel is actually expected to respond morally to the situation, it amounts to asking Israel to cease existing.

    Frankly, why not? If the US cares so much, offer everyone in Israel citizenship and let them have a chunk of the land we stole from the native Americans, now known as “Colorado” or whatever. Or let them come buy land like normal non-criminal non-invaders do.

    The status quo amounts to a burglar standing in my living room, yelling at me and saying “NOW THAT I AM HERE, NEGOTIATE WITH ME!” Um, no. Get the fuck out of my living room.

  35. says

    In Israel, having Jewish blood confers very real advantages and Israel is doing politics based on the idea that they need to retain a Jewish Majority. I’m not sure how it can work without becoming an ‘ethnocracy.’

    They are already an “ethnocracy” – that’s what “having jewish blood” means. Because if we treat humans as the same, and equal, there’s no such thing as “race” or “blood” at all; it means nothing.

    To me, the biggest irony about Israel is that the “jewish blood” argument vindicates Hitler’s ridiculous racist idea that there actually is a racial “jewishness” If there’s such a thing as “jewish blood” then the nazis actually had something that they were trying to eradicate, they were right in principle but failed in their methods. If there’s no such thing as “jewish blood” then the nazis were wrong in principle, not merely in their methods.

  36. says

    PS – the last bit of my last comment was paraphrased from Richard Feynman, from one of his collections of letters. He was asked by a writer to allow his picture and bio to be included in a book of “Famous jewish scientists” and refused to do so, pointing out that arguing there was something somehow special about his jewish descent vindicated the racial theories of Hitler. After that, the author ceased asking him to contribute. If anyone wants me to, LMK and I’ll find it and type it in; it’s typical Feynman awesomeness.

  37. says

    Balfour declaration:

    His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

    I do not think the British are free of blame. Racist fucks, what what? No doubt they though they’d let the wee woggies sort it all out, haw, haw, haw.

  38. anat says

    Marcus Ranum re: #19, the nations surrounding Israel attacked the nascent state upon its declaration of independence. Egyptian convoys were eventually stopped close to Ashdod, Syrian tanks were stopped outside kibbutz Degania, and it was the Transjordanian Arab Legion that captured the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City. We can argue about what their motivation was, but it wasn’t because of Palestinian refugees. (I agree with you that religion had little to do with it, at most it served as one more marker of identity, but any marker would have served just as well.)

    As for the six-day war – ahem. With Syria – yes, the skirmishes over water and the demilitarized zone were Israeli provocation (though the War on Water was about an existential threat). But I disagree with you on the other fronts, Israel had no wish to engage the Egyptians. The Soviets provoked Egypt and the response was an existential threat to Israel. And Israel explicitly tried to keep Jordan out of the war while Jordan was shelling Jerusalem from the ground and other sites from the air. It was only after Hussein explicitly communicated he was staying in the war that Israel invaded the West Bank.

    Countries often get formed by land grabs. Have a look at eastern Europe from the post-Napoleonic era until the post-Soviet era. Bits of real estate changed identity and ownership many times over. That was the model for political Zionism, a movement founded by a Hungarian Jew.

    I don’t particularly like the idea of countries either, but humanity has yet to find a better way to run modern societies. So assuming countries are going to exist, the formation of Israel is as legitimate as any, considering it was approved by a vote of the UN General Assembly. There is no need for further justification. But yes, Israel’s Declaration of Independence (from May 14th 1948) is a document that details why Israel should exist, according to its founders. You may disagree with the reasoning, but that’s what it says.

    Quoting you: As I said elsewhere, I would find it far more reasonable if Balfour had suggested giving the victims of the holocaust a chunk of, say, Bavaria or Mecklenberg-strelitz, than exporting European racial hatred and extremism to the middle east.

    You got your timeline confused. Balfour’s declaration came in 1917, with the purpose of giving Britain justification to control the lands it was capturing (or freeing) from the crumbling Ottoman Empire. It had nothing to do with the Holocaust. Earlier Britain offered Cyprus, Sinai or ‘Uganda’ (actually bits of Kenya) as alternatives.

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