Sunday, May 25, 2008
More from Leon R Kass
Thursday, May 8, 2008
So Messrs Fry, Rose, Pinter et al (Letters, April 30) will not be celebrating Israel's independence. Were this gesture to have meaning, it should be made in an Israeli newspaper. Expressing such sentiments in the Guardian is the secular Jewish version of preaching to the choir.
Indeed one wonders if the real point here is to establish that the signatories of this letter are not like "those Jews", us bad ones, who will always defend Israel's right to exist, and celebrate the survival of our families there. Yes, we would like to see a different Israel and an end to occupation: however, strutting and fretting this point on an English left-liberal stage, however satisfying, has no impact on Israeli opinion save to alienate the very people who must consent to an eventual peace settlement. It is the politics of "not in my name" - which recent history suggests to be a message easily ignored, most of all when delivered by diaspora liberals (among whom I count myself) to an Israel facing daily attack.
British Jews, being subjected to less anti-semitism than any other European Jewish population, are in no position to lecture those of our cousins in Israel who can say: "I have no other country."
The Jews who signed the Guardian letter were in such a hurry to tell us how much they are not celebrating the 60th birthday of Israel that they stampeded through the truth.
There was no "massacre" at Deir Yassin. The New York Times said more than 200 Arabs were killed and quoted Arab survivors who said only 110 of 1,000 were killed. The attackers left open an escape corridor from the village and more than 200 residents left unharmed. And there were evacuees - which does not tend to happen in "massacres".
Plan Dalet did not "authorise the destruction of Palestinian villages and the expulsion of the indigenous population outside the borders of the state". It was a defensive strategy, to counter the expected pan-Arab assault on the emergent Jewish state. And the invasion of the armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq duly occurred, on May 15 1948.
Israel was not "founded on terrorism, massacres and the dispossession of another people from their land". In defiance of the UN resolution of November 29 1947 (No 181), the Arabs launched hostilities against the Jewish community in Palestine in the hope of aborting the emergence of the Jewish state and perhaps destroying that community. But they lost; and one of the results was the displacement of 700,000 of them from their homes.
Contrary to the claims in this letter, Israel was not built on the ashes of centuries of persecution. Zionism was a response to the trends prevalent in the enlightenment era of the 19th century when other peoples also wished to be allowed to determine their lives based on their unique ethnic characteristics. Pre-Zionist thought took shape around the middle of the 19th century and this ultimately led to the creation of the Zionist movement in 1897.
Further, no one has ever found evidence of an ideology of ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. In relation to Plan Dalet Benny Morris states: "It was governed by military considerations and geared to achieving military ends. But, given the nature of the war and the admixture of populations, securing the interior of the Jewish state and its borders in practice meant the depopulation and destruction of the villages that hosted the hostile militias and irregulars". Finally, UN resolution 194 gives no unconditional right of return but is predicated, inter alia, on returning refugees wishing to live in peace.
The signatories of your letter assert that "what the Holocaust is to the Jews, the Naqba is to the Palestinians". I am puzzled by this. The Nazis murdered most Jews in the many lands they controlled and expropriated and expelled the rest, in all many millions. When did the Israelis do this to the Arabs? The letter's only detail as to deaths is that "hundreds" died on a death march in 1948. Hundreds, not thousands, not tens of thousands, still less millions.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
I wish that instead of focusing on the answers, we spent more time on questions. This generation's answers might not satisfy the next generation, but the questions are likely to be similar. We understand ourselves so much better when we give time to thinking about our questions. Surely this is the key to understanding each other, and finding the unity that so many say is lacking.