Finkielkraut on Why the Left has “Chosen” the Palestinian People

I had intended to put this piece up with some commentary. No time for that, as I leave tonight for three week trip in which I will leave my laptop behind. (Those who know me are probably gasping at this news.) So instead let me just post it. It’s not a new essay, about two years old, but Finkielkraut is exceptionally perceptive, and his analysis of why the Palestinians are the “chosen people” of the Left strikes me as particularly significant.

Perhaps one of the greatest travesties of the current situation is that the “progressive” camp, filled with concern for the “other” should turn to the Israeli-Arab conflict and assault the Israelis for being insensitive and closed to the “other.” A brief conversation with Arabs and Muslims that has the courage to probe rather than ingratiate, will rapidly reveal how little the Jewish/Israeli “other” has any value when it’s a matter of “face.” For the Islamist, the “other” is “to be converted,” and when he refuses, he clearly designates himself as an enemy.

There is a woman in an Israeli prison cell who brought the suicide terrorist who blew up Sbarro Pizza in August of 2001. She expresses regret at the loss of the terrorist — “I was just with a human being and now he’s gone” — but none for his victims, families, children. “They are not Muslim.” In terms of sensitivity to the human “other” very few ideologies and people rank lower on the modern scale of values than Muslims and Palestinians. But Israel gets blamed for this particular sin.

Perhaps the most striking element of the modern progressive concern for the “other” — and one of the great ironies of our “other”-oriented post-modern age — is that the “other” is really an abstract. He or she has no face, no autonomy, no concrete presence and personality — a mental construct. And so despite all the concern in Western thought about meeting, experiencing, and dialoguing with the “other” — itself an exceptional (and civic) cultural development — the most prominent practitioners seem the least ready to really meet, really experience, and really speak with the Muslim “other.” And anyone who dares suggest that the experience might not be very pleasant is banished as an Islamophobe.

We may be committing suicide with our lack of willingness to have the courage to live up to our own values and actually encounter the “other” as an “other” and not as a pleasing projection onto the cosmic coffin of our narcissistic souls.

The Religion of Humanity and the Sin of the Jews

“I am a man,” the old-time humanist used to say, “and nothing that is human is foreign to me.” By bringing what was once remote within reach, mass media has made this timeless maxim seem like a cliché. Yet today’s humanist nonetheless seems foreign or indifferent to everything human save for the suffering of the Palestinians. Palestine torments him, obsesses him, preys on his mind. And if his attention should stray, it is only to focus instead on conflicts or calamities that can be related, through correlation or causality, to this basic drama. As the French philosopher Étienne Balibar has put it, Palestine is now a “Universal Cause.”

To what does Palestine owe this extraordinary privilege? What is the source of this unequaled, unprecedented fixation? Why has the keffiyeh become a universal symbol of rebellion? And finally, why the Palestinians, and not the Chechens, the Tibetans, the Bosnians, the Tutsis, or the Sudanese?

A letter I received recently helped explain things. “How can a sensitive, intelligent people that has suffered and that knows what it means to be decimated,” my correspondent asked, referring to the Jews in a tone more afflicted than vindictive, “inflict upon another people, in no way responsible for its condition, fifty years of brutality, murder, and despoliation?” Both the accusation and the dating of it are telling: A persecuted nation that has been persecuting in turn for half a century. It is the Holocaust, then, that makes the territories occupied by Israel the locus of crime; it is the trauma of the destruction of European Jews that inexhaustibly fuels international sympathy for the suffering of the Palestinians. I would even say that for my correspondent to have so readily dated the scandal of the “occupation” not from the Six Day War, but from the creation of the Jewish state, the post-Hitlerian impulse to ignore all that came after Auschwitz must be deeply ingrained indeed. “Fifty years of brutality,” the correspondent declared. So did an angry caller to the French radio program Là-bas Si J’y Suis in June 2001:

What kind of murderous state is this, that gets its kicks out of mutilating and assassinating children, that justifies the unacceptable with criminal impudence, and then has the despicable arrogance to accuse us of racism when we gingerly protest against such disgraceful conduct? What kind of hypocrites are these people, who wield the shield of anti-Semitism when all we’re trying to do is remind them that for fifty years now they’ve been reproducing in small doses the horrible injustice that they themselves suffered?

Fifty years: Between the terror-stricken face of the boy in the Warsaw Ghetto and the death of little Mohammed al-Dura, there is nothing. History has vanished. In one broad stroke, the duty to remember has swept everything else away. “An excruciating memorial highway,” writes Alain Brossat, “leads directly from Auschwitz to Jerusalem via Deir Yassin, Hebron, Beirut, and Shatila.” Nothing demonstrates the relationship between the universality of the Palestinian cause and the genocide of the Jews more clearly than the directness of this highway, and the correlative definition of state Zionism as that which converts the “capital of victimhood” into the “capital of power and violence.”

To today’s humanists, this definition is gratifying. For if the extermination of the Jews is perpetuated through the Jewish oppression of Palestinians, then the inveterate blamers turn out to be blameworthy themselves. And if those toward whom we behaved shamefully are now behaving shamefully themselves, then there is no more need to feel ashamed. Put differently, if the eye watching Cain is also the eye of Cain, then Cain has no more need of a bad conscience. He can rest easy. In short, the Palestinian cause has provided a humanity weary of apologizing for having abandoned six million Jews to their deaths the unhoped-for opportunity to relieve itself of the burden of repentance. The malicious indignation, the enthusiastic contempt, and the hardly surprising use of economic terminology certainly lend credence to this explanation.

But it seems to me that we cannot leave it at that. After all, the most zealous advocates of the Palestinian cause are on Abel’s side, not Cain’s. As such, they have nothing to atone for; they have always maintained innocence. Indeed, it is on the strength of their disgust for colonial, collaborationist, and fascist Europe that they now defend those whom they call “the victims of victims.” Their indictment of the Jewish state goes hand in hand with their denunciation of Europe’s old demons. Convinced that a civilization that forgets its past is doomed to repeat it, these vigilant humanists speak of nothing but the Holocaust. “Remember Auschwitz,” they say, “so that it will never happen again.” They say this sententiously; they say it everywhere–they even teach it to children in school.

And suddenly the Jews, lulled into a false security by the seeming impeccability of this formula, are stunned and terrified by an unexpected turn of events: Not the return of intolerance on account of forgetting, but rather on account of the reversal of memory. Those two magic words, “Never again,” have ceased to sanctify their initial beneficiaries; now, they work to accuse them. As in all tragedies, fate strikes through the very course of action intended to ward it off. In the end, nothing contributes more implacably to making the dreaded thing happen than all the efforts invested in averting it.

In his eulogy of Edward Said, the Bulgarian-born writer Tzvetan Todorov, author of numerous works on the Holocaust, cites admiringly the following astounding statement by the Palestinian thinker: “I’m the last Jewish intellectual. You don’t know anyone else. All your other Jewish intellectuals are now suburban squires. From Amos Oz to all these people here in America. So I’m the last one. The only true follower of Adorno. Let me put it this way: I’m a Jewish Palestinian.” Said’s logic is simple: The Jew used to be the Other. But now that Jews have an Other of their own, the true Jew is the real Jew’s Other.

These are strange times for real Jews. Not long ago, they were on the lookout, ready to strike down anti-Semitism wherever it dared rear its head. They were determined never again to succumb to hatred, and to clip the wings of anyone who spoke of them as “dirty Jews.” What they weren’t expecting–and what makes it all the more disconcerting–was to be faced with a grievance that is in its form moral and not brutish, virtuous and not vile, an altruistic grievance, sure of its legitimacy, full of kindness, and steeped in concern. While they are used to hearing themselves denounced as Jewish traitors, they did not expect to be denounced as traitors to their Jewishness. The last thing they expected, surely, was for the watchdogs of memory to confer upon them the insulting appellation “dirty un-Jewish Jews,” and to hear behind the cries of hate the slogan, “Down with the Jews, no longer Jewish at all!” They have almost come to regret the good old days before there was a duty to remember. Because the Jews breathed far more easily before the Holocaust became an obsession.

Indeed, this obsession is recent. In discussing the enthusiastic German reception of Daniel Jonah Goldhagen’s book Hitler’s Willing Executioners, the historian François Furet aptly observed:

The radical transformation in German opinion over two or three generations, from passionate nationalism to the cult of democratic universalism, brings it to condemn the Nazi episode with extreme intransigence and, with it, everything in the country’s past that can be regarded as preparing the way for it. As time goes by, the crime of Auschwitz has not faded. On the contrary, it stands out in ever more sharp relief as the negative accompaniment of the democratic consciousness and the embodiment of evil to which this negation leads.

In other words, if there is an Auschwitz trauma, it is a belated one. To the war-wounded, war-haunted nations, the Holocaust–as the embodiment of the desire to destroy the very idea of a common humanity–has been turned into the foil for democracy. For the Holocaust to overshadow war, the democratic sentiment had to erode national boundaries. This is precisely what has happened. There is no mistaking it: Under the glorious banner of democracy, what our era is actually contrasting with the absolute evil of Hitler is not the political theater of human plurality, not an open forum for the exchange of ideas, a world receptive to multiple perspectives or the process of sharing responsibility for public affairs. Rather, it is the march of History, the end of the Dark Age of division and discrimination and hierarchy, the progressive abolition of all barriers, the inexorable advance of equality, and the leveling of all authority by the self-evidence of sameness and the universal right to dignity. With the rejection of Auschwitz as its supreme principle and constant source of justification, this version of democracy forges ahead, ignorant of ignorance and unconcerned with modesty. It does not tremble; it charges forward. It does not question; it flies like an arrow. No enigma shakes its self-assurance. No bewilderment, no hesitation, and no nostalgia can check its triumphant progress.

For we are no longer talking about democracy as a system of government.It is, rather, an express train, racing full tilt toward the recognition of man by his fellow and the global patchwork of identities. Getting off is not recommended–be it to stretch your legs or your mind. Case in point: The day of the baccalaureate philosophy exam, a French anchorwoman could not conceal her distaste for the fact that “there was not one question this year on such topical issues as religion, tolerance, or differences.” This is hardly surprising: With the democratic process as the sole horizon, there is no room for timelessness. The contemporary reigns supreme. In the era of human rights, all thinking that is not focused on human rights is itself seen as an intolerable infringement on human rights.

Presumably our defender of democracy would have been delighted if last year’s baccalaureate had asked students to analyze a page from Anne Frank’s diary or a text by Primo Levi. The stronger the feeling of humanity becomes, the more the denial of humanity to which the Jews were subjected occupies the public consciousness. But the Jews are not simply human beings whose basic human rights were denied. They are also Jews. And that’s where the shoe pinches, even before any discussion of their alleged wrongdoing begins. After all, doesn’t this very appellation, “Jews,” bespeak exclusion and intolerance? Doesn’t it introduce a caesura–that is to say, a discrimination between some types of humans and others? The same religion of humanity that views Jews who are singled out and attacked because they are Jewish as symbols of innocence pronounces the Jewish state guilty–for being Jewish.

According to Balibar, “the definition of Israel as a Jewish state” is precisely what undermines Israel’s legitimacy in the eyes of much of the world. And deservedly so, because the state thus defined “is not only expanding by expelling Palestinians but, within its own borders, it grants them only second-class citizenship, depriving them of many basic rights and excluding them from symbolic equal rights on their common land, which are reserved for ‘real Israelis’–Jews.” We hear the same melody, the same indictment of Israel as a Jewish state, from the jurist Monique Chemillier-Gendreau. “Sticking to the idea of a Jewish state…,” she writes, “means building an apartheid society and accepting in return the construction throughout the world of ‘pure’ states. Such follies are always in close contact with extermination and sometimes put it into practice.”

These two left-wing intellectuals share with the liberal historian Tony Judt a triumphant historicism and an enthusiasm for the democratic march of humanity toward intermingling and fluidity. “In a world where nations and peoples increasingly intermingle and intermarry at will; where cultural and national impediments to communication have all but collapsed; where more and more of us have multiple elective identities and would feel falsely constrained if we had to answer to just one of them; in such a world,” Judt proclaims, “Israel is truly an anachronism.” According to the author of Past Imperfect: French Intellectuals, 1944-1956, this anachronism is not just a folkloric or even moving testimony to days gone by. Rather, it is the formidable relic of a state that uses “ethno-religious criteria” to “denominate and rank its citizens.”

It is the awareness of such criteria, combined with the belief that all men have an equal right to manage their own communal affairs, that has led a growing number of Israelis to decide that the boundaries of their state must not coincide with those delineated in the Bible. To them, the word “Jewish” is not a rallying cry for segregation and conquest. On the contrary, drawing on the twofold Zionist requirement that Israel be a state in which there exists a majority of Jews as well as non-Jewish citizens, they call for a territorial compromise with the Palestinians despite terrorist attacks.

Yet the renunciation of parts of the biblical land of Israel by these Jews, who place equality alongside identity at the foundation of living together, does not sway Judt, Chemillier-Gendreau, and Balibar in the least. You cannot be both Jewish and democratic, they conclude; you must choose between these two loyalties. These lovers of the human race will not be satisfied with a peace that separates peoples. They pin their hopes on a bi-, multi-, or post-national state that would cleanse the stain, remedy the injustice, and redress the offense to the universal brought about by Israel’s Jewishness, and by Jewishness, period. In much the same way as Christianity used to pit Jews of the spirit against Jews of the flesh, our secular clerics contrast the persecuted Jew–an ethical being–with the ethnic Jew, who is intolerable. And thus do the Jews, in their perfidious obstinacy, once again find themselves at odds with the course of history.

But they are not alone. This point was driven home at the commemoration of the sixtieth anniversary of D-Day last June. At the close of a moving ceremony during which gratitude to British and American veterans, many of whom will not be around for the seventieth anniversary, was expressed with solemnity and sensitivity, Patricia Kaas sang Edith Piaf’s “Hymn to Love”:

If the sun should tumble from the sky
If the sea should suddenly run dry
If you love me, really love me
Let it happen, I won’t care
If it seems that everything is lost
I will smile and never count the cost
If you love me, really love me
Let it happen, darling, I won’t care….

You can set me any task
I’ll do anything you ask
If you’ll only love me still….

If you love me, really love me
Let whatever happens
I won’t care

There is something enchanting about this passionate readiness to sacrifice everything for love. After all, what characterizes us as modern individuals is not just a concern for our own preservation or a bourgeois aspiration to security and well-being. It is also love, and the love of love. The homo sentimentalis in us rebels against the dreary industry of homo economicus. We are not just one, then; we are two, even three: Ever since rock ’n’ roll surprised the world with its own hymn to lust, homo sexualis has come out in the open, as well. No longer afraid of the light of day, he shamelessly campaigns for the satisfaction of his needs and the respect for his rights.

But Patricia Kaas’ song was supposed to pay homage to an enterprise in which none of these three protagonists had a part. It was not an enterprise of bourgeois, bohemian, or desperate men. People from far away, isolationists like all the rest, ran the risk of dying for something that did not concern them personally. The world simply mattered enough to them that they silenced their personal interests and impulses. Countering the propensity to focus exclusively on their own affections and cravings, they responded to the appeal of occupied Europe because their country asked them to. It is as simple and inscrutable as that.

To throw the “Hymn to Love” in the face of these veterans was thus a huge blunder, if not an affront. Yet the blunder went unnoticed, and while all the media were there, no one objected. The incongruity was blatant, but not a single person was shocked.

What this means is that oblivion now holds memory’s reins. We no longer know how to commemorate what we are commemorating. By “we,” I mean the independent, volatile, democratic individual who owes nothing to the past, cares nothing for the future, and has no ties to the present besides the ones he himself establishes; the individual who has been released, by human rights, from the grips of origins, legacies, and that which is not freely chosen, who has been relieved of obligations to anything that might transcend him. He is free, like Edith Piaf or the Rolling Stones, to abandon himself to his own inclinations, passions, interests, follies, and infatuations; the individual who looks at history and sees only the obstacle-ridden, corpse-strewn road leading up to him. The pathetic farewell to the veterans was thus also a mindless farewell to the humanity they embodied.

Has the die been cast? Is the duty to remember doomed to absurdity and ridicule? With the destruction or dissimulation of that part of us that resists the antithesis between discrimination and human rights, has humanism had its final word? Perhaps not. But the only way to salvage something–and to rescue the Jews in the process–is to be as bold and determined in divesting the democratic ideology of its sacred aura as we were in dissipating the charms of the communist ideology in the past. It will not be easy. The prevailing ideology has replaced the uncertainty of the democratic debate with the peremptory monism of a struggle between the anachronistic and the pleasant. It denounces as the sworn enemies of democracy anyone unprepared to join the march of history that invincibly sweeps us along. Whereas the communist ideology lied and could thus be confronted with its failures, the democratic ideology moves in real time with society, and has been scoring victory upon victory.

To be sure, hope is necessary if we are to persevere. But it is difficult to persevere when every effort is made to convince us that nothing will ever stop the bulldozer of penitent democracy.


Alain Finkielkraut is a lecturer in the social sciences at the École Polytechnique in Paris, and the author of some fifteen books, including In the Name of Humanity: Reflections on the Twentieth Century (Columbia University Press, 2000). A version of this essay originally appeared in the French journal Le Débat.

91 Responses to Finkielkraut on Why the Left has “Chosen” the Palestinian People

  1. Eliyahu says:

    Those whom Finkielkraut quotes are very smug, having triumphed over the Christ-killers and infidel Jews, who musn’t be allowed any moral one-manship over the true believers.
    What is also obvious is that they are grossly ignorant of real history and of contemporary social reality. If they knew about the Arab collaboration in the Holocaust, particularly of the British-appointed Mufti of Jerusalem, they could not regard the Arabs in general or Palestinian Arabs in particular, as innocent victims of the Jews. Not to mention the history of Jewish-Arab relations during the period of British rule and the Arab genocidal threats during the Israel War of Independence [29 Nov 1947-1949 armistice accords at Rhodes]. Azzam Pasha, secretary general of the Arab League, threatened the Jews with a repetition of “the Crusades and the Mongol massacres.”
    On the side of sociology, these people overlook, deliberately no doubt [because they could not bear it psychologically], the inferior status of non-Muslims in Saudi Arabia, and in Muslim states generally. They also overlook the plight of foreign workers in Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf emirates.

    The topic that AF discusses can be talked about for hours without exhausting it.

  2. Eliyahu says:


  3. Michael B says:

    Finkielkraut’s brief essay is extraordinary; in its wider application it effectively presents the soul of the world, the root challenge before us. Too, it’s nicely crafted throughout and his final two graphs represent a superb, densely packed summary.

  4. Lynne T says:

    “To what does Palestine owe this extraordinary privilege? What is the source of this unequaled, unprecedented fixation? Why has the keffiyeh become a universal symbol of rebellion? And finally, why the Palestinians, and not the Chechens, the Tibetans, the Bosnians, the Tutsis, or the Sudanese?”

    In his Apr. 16/07 Washington Times Op-Ed, Victor Davis Hanson recently put it down to:


    Oil — the huge profits it provides and the insidious influence it gives those selling it — explains most of the world’s worries over the Middle East.


    The Palestinian problem is illustrative. Since Israel’s occupation of land taken after the 1967 war, much of the world has seen this issue as a threat to regional and global peace.

    Such old territorial disputes are, of course, common — and go relatively unnoticed — throughout the world. Japan’s Kurile Islands are still held by Russia. Tibet has been absorbed by China. Nuclear Pakistan and nuclear India fight over Kashmir. The list goes on.

    Yet it’s the anger over the tiny West Bank that in the past caused the Arab patrons of the Palestinians to embargo oil to the West and create long gas lines in Europe and America. As a result, a single suicide bomber from Jericho earns more press than anonymous thousands slaughtered in Darfur.

    Today, terrorists operate from East Timor to Peru. But global anxiety has been continually focused on Middle Eastern terrorists, from the Palestinian assassins and hijackers of the 1970s to al Qaeda’s suicide bombers. These killers alone have had the means to disrupt the Western way of life. Take away Hezbollah’s Iranian petrodollars and it could never afford weapons and foot soldiers to slaughter Westerners in the Middle East and beyond.


    as for the Left’s embrace of the Palestinian cause (and possibly also the extreme Right’s), Phyllis Chessler and two or three other respected feminists in a Front Page Symposium put this phenom down, at least in the case of “feminists” to an attempt to validate their own sense of victimhood by identifying with the preceived victims in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

  5. Abu Nudnik says:

    A heady précis with a puzzling ending. In what way is this “democracy” (the ideology, not the political system) penitent? On the contrary, it is because it is not penitent, because it refuses to be penitent that it perverts the victim into the oppressor, that it fails to see in Israel a delivery of the Jews from oppression, that Israel is a defensive state, that they fail to see that elective multiple identities are both demanded of the Jews of Israel and at the same time denied them.

    Not enough credit for all this goes to the sheer laziness that the thoughtless apparently enjoy. But otherwise a great essay. The Edith Piaf bit reminds me that the Canadian Governor-General felt it to be her duty to tell soldiers on their way to Afghanistan “don’t hate.” An extraordinarily insensitive comment to people about to risk their lives for their country, or, rather, for something more than that, as has been pointed out above.

    The problem is that the disease is deep. Even the Bush administration felt it necessary to fight a surreal boy-scout war, sending parcels of food with daisy cutters and being criticized that the set designer hadn’t properly color-coordinated the war. If that doesn’t leave even the clearest and most level-headed shaking their heads, I don’t know what would.

  6. Eliyahu says:

    Prof Paul Eidelberg came up with the theory of demophrenia. That is, since democracy holds that everything or everybody is equal, whereas things and people are not equal to each other, then one who holds to the belief in equality no matter what, develops a form of partial madness or split-mind which Eidelberg calls demophrenia. He knows that things are not equal, while telling himself that they are. Eidelberg points to high rates of schizophrenia specifically in democratic countries.

    Now, the demophrenia condition may affect some of those that Finkielkraut mentions. But I think that the phenomenon is a profound problem of the Western mind, related to traditional Judeophobia, as well as to the Judeophobic notions of Kant & Hegel. To this must be added the Middle Eastern policies of Western governments and their influence over the press/media in their countries, economic interests of Western firms and states, etc., gullibility of intellectuals, etc.

  7. N00man says:

    Just a thought… While I want to agree with Finkelraut, I’m not sure this is an effective tactic to take in dialogue with progressive supporters of Palestine. I’m suspicious of this kind of totalizing explanation of their motives; it reminds me of Marxist’s “false consciousness”, because it can’t be disproved (see Karl Popper). If we accuse all progressive supporters of Palestine of being motivated by the “PCP” or the secular replacement theology described in your letter to Jostein Gaardner, we alienate the people of good will whom we would wish to persuade. “You can’t see the truth because you are blinded by your ideology”: This is effective rhetoric in confirming your allies in their beliefs, but not in persuadeing your opponents. I usually find, unfortunately, that chatter in the “blogosphere” favors the former over the latter.

  8. Michael B says:

    I very much doubt Finkielkraut intends this in a “totalizing” sense, rather this essay probes along thematic lines. For example it is (obviously) not a summary of a contemporary ethnographic study wherein individuals (qua individuals) are carefully delineated along sought-after lines and thereafter generalized/categorized; rather it arcs across societal and civilizational lines thematically, imo it remains (highly) probative in that thematic, even suggestive, sense.

    (Btw, Kierkegaard’s third and concluding chpt. in his “Two Ages” approaches much the same leveling theme Finkielkraut addresses herein. The first two chpts. are no longer of much interest, but the concluding third chpt. remains incisive and telling.)

  9. rlandes says:

    to Nooman,
    i’m interested in your comment. i’m constantly thinking of how to appeal to “progressives” whom i find astonishingly foolish in their support for the palestinians given the grip that a mercilessly exploitative elite has on these people and how their “support” strengthens that elite.

    what i find so troubling — and in a sense your comment highlights this problem — is how hyper-sensitive to criticism these progressives are. if you criticize them, they shut down and accuse you of being essentialist or something else, rather than respond. how do you reach people who won’t self-criticize, but do so well criticizing others (especially, when they’re jews, criticizing “their own”?

  10. chevalier de st george says:

    Interestingly this raises the issue of the differences between religious guilt and secular guilt , for want of better terms.
    Maimonides describes a woeful world of Judaism under the yoke of Islam.
    Forgetting for a moment the rewriting of much of these periods as “a golden age” by 19th and twentieth century romantics, he does bemoan the lack of resistance to this oppression.
    however extremely dangerous such actions would have been for all Jews under the yoke, it seems to me that these are not the main reasons the Jews accepted their fates as dhimmies.

    If God has banished me from Israel and forced me to live for generations as an oppressed slave in the land of barbarism, it is because i have sinned against Him.
    Even if I do not know now what these sins consist of, i will perhaps through pious learning and wisdom discover them during my lifetime.
    God has chosen to punish me through the proxy of these barbarians who are merely following God’s will. If they appear merciful, do not be fooled -for it is God himself who is being merciful. if they are not merciful it is the same situation.
    If i speak up against them in their torture and oppression of my people. i am speaking up against god himself. So i must stay silent and take punishment from those that God has chosen to administer it.
    Is there any truth in some of this?

  11. Jeff B says:

    Finkielkraut loses me when he waxes philosophical about democracy and oblivion, but I do pick up a number of his themes: Victimization. Genocide. Holocaust. Guilt. Palestine. Two related issues strike me.

    The first involves Finkelkraut’s view of the Jewish Holocaust. In his mind, the world is “weary of apologizing for having abandoned six million Jews to their deaths”. Some paragraphs later Finkelkraut observes how offended WW II vets must have been when an inappropriate song was sung in their honor at an anniversary ceremony. But what could be more offensive to the millions who gave their lives fighting Germany than to be told that they “abandoned” the Nazi victims? What could be more arrogant than stating that the world “stood by” when the entire economy and population of Britain, America and the USSR were dedicated to fighting Hitler? European Jews may have been abandoned by Jews elsewhere who did not actively fight the Nazis, but my father and the others who put their lives on the line to fight Germany didn’t abandon anyone. That Jews bore the particular animosity of a madman and suffered proportionately greater losses than others was an unfortunate twist of fate, as was the proportionately greater losses suffered by the Russians compared to other nations.

    According to Finkelkraut, progressive condemnation of Israel revolves around guilt over the Jewish Holocaust. Perhaps. But perhaps there is another source of guilt that drives progressives, particularly progressives in former colonial powers. For centuries the European nations held a large fraction of the earth’s population in virtual serfdom, ruthlessly exploiting their resources and denying them the most basic of human rights and freedoms. Tens of millions died, hundreds of millions suffered to keep Europeans prosperous and powerful decade after decade. From Mexico to Morocco to South Africa to India to Vietnam the Europeans actively and cruelly suppressed the desire of the colonial peoples for self-determination. Perhaps a less arrogant, less self-absorbed person than Finkelkraut could look beyond his own group’s recent tragedy and see that progressives are motivated by a much older, much more universal guilt. Perhaps he would see that colonialism in the twentieth century, no matter how democratic, no matter how much the colonizers have suffered, can not be accepted.

  12. Joanne says:

    This is in response to JeffB’s comment above:

    It is true that Britain bravely fought the Nazis in WW2, standing up to Hitler alone in the early stages of the war; no one is denying that. I’ve seen that point made elsewhere in response to Jewish accusations of abandonment. And I’ve seen it made in similarly hostile and emotional tones that Jeff displays above. This does not gainsay, however, the fact that the British government made the explicit decision not to bomb the camps, even though they were located near other easily targets that the Brits and Americans did bomb. Recently released British government papers include a document, I believe from the Foreign Office, that shows that the British knew what was going on fairly early on. The document clearly states the danger the Jews faced and then said that helping the Jews should have the “lowest priority.”

    Gee, the death of one third of all the Jews in the world (most of the Jews of Europe) was indeed an “unfortunate twist of fate.” Uh huh. I guess that way of putting it is better than Le Pen’s saying that the gas chambers were a “detail” of WW2.

    The Soviets did indeed bear the military brunt of the war, losing over 20 million, by most accounts. But Russian or Ukrainian or Baltic civilizations did not come to an end as Ashkenazi Jewish culture did. They died not as a result of industrialized genocide, but rather fell in war or as a result of Stalin’s brutish policies and tactical incompetence. I don’t want to get into a numbers game, or a competition of suffering, but I’d like to remind you that the Soviets at least had an army that succeeded in defending themselves, the Jews did not.

    As for the point about post-colonial guilt, I think that being sensitive about the curse of imperialism is commendable, but it can lead to a reductionist mode of thought in which everything is seen through that lens, whether a particular situation fits that mold or not. Your last sentence indicates that you see Israel as another colony, pure and simple. I think that the specificity of this history is more complicated than that. By the way, it is not ethnocentric to point out that ambivalence to post-Holocaust guilt is a factor shaping Europeans’ attitudes toward Israel. That’s not saying that it is the only factor. Many people also refer to the fact that Europeans see Israelis merely as Europeans colonizing land that belongs to indigenous people. I think both are factors, along with Israel’s unfortunate but necessary association with the United States.

  13. Eliyahu says:

    Let’s take the notion of guilt over colonialism seriously. If the Western Leftist really does feel guilty over that phenomenon, then perhaps he has been looking for someone on to whom to displace or shift that guilt. Perhaps some of the Leftists have found the Jews –this time under the name “Zionists” or “Israelis”– as a scapegoat for Western guilt over colonialism. If this is what the Western Leftist is doing [or only some of them], then it wouldn’t be the first time that Jews were scapegoated by Europeans.

    Now, one of the problems with that, BESIDES scapegoating being contemptible/morally unacceptable, is that Before the Holocaust the Europeans on the whole did not accept the Jews in Europe as Europeans. Do we have to go over the whole history of the Jews in Europe since Roman times –or over the whole history of Judeophobia in Europe since Sejanus of Rome? At one time it was notorious that Jews were rejected in most of Europe as members of the various European nations. This attitude was one of the causes of the Holocaust or a cause of its acceptance or tolerance in so much of Europe. So how all of a sudden did the Jews become “Europeans” just like “us” after the Holocaust?

    Just to illustrate the rejection of Jews in various European countries –leaving aside Germany and the lands of Eastern Europe, including Russia– look at the regular depiction of Jews in British literature. It has not been all hostile to Jews [i.e., Byron’s Hebrew Melodies], but consider Shakespeare’s Shylock character, Dickens’ Fagin and Svengali in George DuMaurier’s novel Trilby, as well as John Buchan’s treatment of Jews in the same era in his 39 Steps. These depictions are very clearly Judeophobic. Further, they come from mainstream British authors. In Trilby, a swarthy Jew [Svengali] mesmerizes and dominates/violates a pure white maiden, Trilby. Here the Jew is clearly alien and belongs to an alien race. His very skin color makes him alien, to Britain at least, where Jews were often and openly considered Oriental even after WW2, although this was not necessarily hostile. By the way, Victor Gollancz, a British Jewish Leftist, openly called himself an Oriental, because he was Jewish.
    Now, isn’t there something wrong when those who [or whose traditional culture] viewed the Jews in Europe as alien now view the Jews in Israel as alien to the Middle East??? What has occurred other than shifting the locus of the Jew’s alien nature from Europe to the Middle East? Whereas the interwar Judeophobes in Poland, for example, considered the Jews alien to that country, now the European Israelophobe views the Jews in Israel as alien to Israel.

    Anyhow, were the Jews living in Europe before Israel [or Judea] was reestablished as a state, were they merely descendants of Poles or Germans or Austrians who had taken an interest in an interesting Oriental religion, Judaism, sometime in the Middle Ages, and had taken a correspondence course for conversion to this religion?? In fact, conversion to Judaism was forbidden in Christian Europe. So where did the ancestors of the Jews in Europe come from [albeit I don’t suggest that Jews, or Arabs for that matter, are a pure race]??

    In Muslim lands, Muslims were forbidden to convert to any religion, that is, they were forbidden to apostasize to Judaism or Christianity, although Christians could become Jews, or vice versa, which was a rare event. Now, Jews [and Christians] were oppressed, exploited, and humiliated in Muslim lands as dhimmis. So why should Jews feel guilty about migrating to a country that was Jewish long and for long before the Muslim/Arab conquest?? And how were Jews treated in the Islamic lands since the Arab conquests? Jews coming from Islamic lands are approx. half of Israel’s population. Are they to be regarded as colonists? As for the Polish or Russian or German Jews, do they belong to Poland or Russia or Germany?
    Yet Jeff insinuates that Israel is a “colony.”

    And then, as to the countries in the Fertile Crescent, including Israel, how long were they under European colonialism?? Syria and Lebanon were under France for only about 25 years. The period since independence is much longer. Now, would Jeff blame all of Syria’s problems on France? Iraq was under the British only up to 1932. Here, I would blame some of Iraq’s problems on the British precisely for creating the Iraqi state with such diverse, latently hostile groups within it. But by creating a unified Iraqi state, the British were promoting pan-Arab nationalism. Does Jeff oppose pan-Arab nationalism?

    For all Israelis and all of our friends, A Happy Israel Independence Day!!

  14. Joanne says:

    Eliyahu, these are good points, but they sidestep JeffB’s main point: That, whatever they have suffered, the Jews have no right to land that had been long inhabited by others. I believe there are points to counter his point, but they have to speak directly to his point.

  15. rlandes says:

    to Jeff (and others on this thread)

    what i don’t understand (without recourse to the kind of scapegoating theory that Eliyahu articulates), is how the “progressive left” can look at the middle east and, as penitence for their own culture’s imperialism past, not identify arab and muslim imperialism as the great enemy (esp. since it threatens to devour the west at this point)?’

    to look at a jewish national liberation movement that is unacceptable to the arabs/muslims because it threatens their sense that they should rule in the arab world/dar al islam, that all minorities and non-muslims should be dhimmi, subordinate to their dominion, and claim that, because it is successful in defending itself it is the imperialist aggressor, strikes me as nothing short of folly.

    if this is not scapegoating, and displacing their own guilt on the israelis, then why would the french (for example):

    a) compare the Israelis’ relationship to the Palestinians unfavorably with theirs and the Algerians (when the French killed over a million Algerians and the population of Algeria dropped precipitously under their tender mercies) and

    b) show much more interest and outrage for the Palestinian dead and injured than they have for the Algerians who suffer in a civil war that can — if one wanted to be so mean-spirited — be directly linked to French legacies.

    why would the “progressive left” which despises the USA for, among other things, its death penalty, then turn to the ME and lionize a movement that executes people in the street for collaboration without trial, and despise the only country without a death penalty?

    the notion that the jews are colonialist imperialists, and that the anti-zionism of the european left (and its epigones in the usa) are somehow “consistent” with their own anti-imperialism, strikes me as so profoundly simplistic and lopsided as to be dishonest. it makes much more sense as displacement and scapegoating. and given the current situation, in which such scapegoating blinds them both to arab/muslim imperialism — something much older than european imperialism — which targets them, as well as to the profound commitments of both jewish culture and israeli society to the values of civil society — and hence the western progressives’ natural allies — makes such an error of moral judgment not only foolish and immoral, but suicidal.

  16. Joanne says:

    Again pursuant to JeffB. He said that the Jews are “arrogant” to say that the Brits, Americans, and Soviets stood by while they were in fact fighting Hitler. This sentence is breathtaking. I guess he never heard of the Bermuda and Evian conferences, about the quotas that blocked the way for potential refugees.

    I’ve pasted in this and the next paragraph parts of a comment on another site by someone named Sophia. It’s about Britain’s history regarding the Jews before and during WW2. She says it so well:

    “I wonder how much of the bitterness in the modern Middle East we owe to our friends across the pond. A study of the Mandate Era years is illuminating to say the least – perhaps shocking is a better term. We are conditioned to respect, even revere Britain – yet the story of “the Great Game” and the influence of what can only be termed a combination of self-interest combined with sheer bigotry have left deep wounds on millions of people.

    “Unfortunately, this history, and the texture of what’s assumed to be the pinnacle of culture in the English speaking world, isn’t widely known and it isn’t widely taught. Holocaust studies focus on the Nazis themselves but seldom mention the blockades before, during and after the horror, the refugee ships, the Bevin government, the White Papers, the broken promises; the desperate attempts to escape the hell of postwar Europe, the disarming of Jewish soldiers who’d fought valiantly for the King. Somehow, in the Israel narrative, we get magically from the Holocaust to the dread, omnipotent IDF – and even discussing those years opens one to accusations of “industrializing” the Shoah.”

    All accolades to this gentleman’s father for fighting the good fight. He helped to save Europe from the Nazis. But his fighting did nothing to save the Jews, as that was not a British war aim. That’s why most of the Jews were killed by the war’s end. No one lifted a finger in time to help them. Britain was not an ally of the Jews; it just happened to be fighting the same enemy.

    I am not used to employing strong language in my comments, but JeffB’s statement that “European Jews may have been abandoned by Jews elsewhere who did not actively fight the Nazis” is beneath contempt. [He’d probably heard of Segev’s book The Seventh Million and thought he was making a sharp point here.] In fact, his whole comment is…well, never mind. As I said, I hate to use strong language.

  17. Eliyahu says:

    JeffB, It was not the average soldier in the Allied armies who “abandoned” the Jews. It was the governments, including the UK, USSR, and USA, that did not want the Jews to be rescued. By the way, my father fought in an Allied army against the Axis powers, as did my mother’s brother, my wife’s uncle, my mother’s two cousins who died at the battle of Stalingrad, and other family members. As to Allied policy which avoided helping Jews by design, see the site of the Wyman Institute at
    Also see posts on my blog about the BBC, about British policy during the Holocaust, Anthony Eden, Shmul Zigelboym, etc.

    Joanne, I do not believe that JeffB was making the point that you infer from his post. He might very well agree with the recent Arab and pro-Arab propaganda that claims the existence of a “palestinian” Arab people going back to the Stone Age or to pre-history [some folks believe that the Arabs are still in the Stone Age].
    Nevertheless, if he was making the argument that you infer, then it is rather easy to demolish. The argument seems to be that, Maybe the Jews lived in “palestine” long ago, but since the Arabs have lived there as a majority for a long time, then it is theirs and the Jews have no right to return. This means that even if the Jews had lived in the Land before the Arabs, then –no matter how the Arabs had gained control of the Land and replaced the Jews– after a long time has passed, the Jews lost their right to the Land. This rule, if it is such, could be applied to the USA, Canada [inc. Quebec], Argentina, Haiti, Cuba, Chile, Guyana, etc., not to mention Australia & New Zealand. That is, the native peoples of those places –called Native Americans or American Indians or Eskimos– do not have the right to return. The problem with applying this rule to Israel is that now the Jews are here, in fact, Jews have always lived in the Land. Jews have been a majority in Jerusalem since 1853. Jews have been in Safed since Roman times, it seems, and in Hebron since the defeat of the Crusaders, if not continuously since before the First Temple [if the Crusaders allowed Jews to remain there and did not break the continuity of Jewish settlement]. In any event, the Jews are now a majority, and –according to the rule enunciated above– it does not matter how they became a majority. The State of Israel has been a fact on the ground since 1948. The Jews have been a majority in Jerusalem since 1853, as said before. In other places in the country, Jews have lived continuously at least since the Crusader defeat. So just how long do Jews have to have inhabited the Land as the majority before the rule takes effect??

    On the other hand, if it does matter how some people or nation became a majority or took control of some land or other, then how did the Arab/Muslims become the majority in Israel? How about their oppression of pre-existing non-Muslim peoples [Jews & Christians in
    Israel] as dhimmis? The dhimma [or dhimmitude] involved economic exploitation, regular oppression, limitation of rights, regular humiliation [as per Quran 9:29], etc. To this was added the massacre of many or most of the Jewish population in the Land in the early years of Crusader rule [1099 to ca. 1115], according to Moshe Gil, the authority on that period.
    Then, how did the Arabs/Muslims treat the Jews who returned to the Land? They generally allowed Jews to return, whether from Christendom or Islamic lands. But they were treated as dhimmis, indeed, I believe that Jews were usually treated worse than the Christians, which I can document from various non-Jewish accounts for various periods, especially the early 19th century. These conditions on the ground discouraged Jews from returning to the Land, although such endeavors were often made. So that’s how Arabs-Muslims became an overwhelming majority in Israel, which did not occur on the ground until after the Crusades. By the way, how does the record of Arab imperial conquest compare with Western colonialism?

    Now, if JeffB is making the arguing that: Well, the Arabs were in “palestine” [not the usual Arab name for the Land which was traditionally seen as an indistinct part of Bilad ash-Sham (Syria or Greater Syria) after the Crusades] for a long time and they were a majority in Herzl’s time [although not in Jerusalem], then the answer is that Jews have been in Israel for a long time. The Arab claim is no better than the claim of descendants of Spanish settlers to Argentina –or of Yankees to America. So the remaining issue is, Just how long is long enough? The Arabs/Muslims have only been a solid majority here since the end of the Crusades. Is the 606 years from the defeat of the Crusaders at Akko by the Mamluks in 1291 up to the First Zionist Congress in 1897 long enough?? As said above, Jews were already a majority in Jerusalem in 1897, in fact before Herzl was even born. Is it relevant that Arab rule in Israel began as imperial conquest [ca. 634-640 CE] and that the Arabs –at the time of the Conquest– explicitly lived off of tribute paid by the dhimmis, and that Arab-Muslim oppression actually grew worse with the passage of time? Is it relevant that Jews fled Arab oppression in the Land, including unbearable taxes? Is it relevant that in the 20th century the Arab nationalist movement was pro-Nazi, that some collaborated with the Nazis [i.e., Anwar Sadat], and that the chief leader of the palestinian Arabs, Haj Amin el-Husseini [Husayni], actually collaborated in the Holocaust?

    On the other hand, maybe JeffB believes the invention of the Arab nationalists and their Western friends that
    Arabs/palestinians are the autochthonous people of the Land going back to the Stone Age. If he wants to believe that lie, then there are other arguments to make. However, many people are very comfortable with the lies that they believe in and cannot be persuaded by fact or reason.

    Anyhow, Joanne, I think I have answered the argument that you inferred that JeffB was making.

  18. Eliyahu says:

    Joanne, I read your post # 16 above only after posting my post # 17. You make some good points there. It seems that JeffB’s historical knowledge is lacking or –as they used to say– skewed.

  19. Joanne says:

    Thanks Eliyahu,and you make some good points, too.

    JeffB’s arguments seem to have come out of a Guardian/BBC playbook. I suspect that he considers himself sophisticated and progressive, but he is just as narrow as the narrowist of Republicans from the reddest of red states. Only, his narrow views happen to be different. One thing that makes him and others like him worse, however, is the arrogance of his tone.

    I’m sure that the argument I infer is the one he’s making, hence his reference to colonialism in his last sentence. What he means is very clear.

    Alas, however much I want to be convinced by your arguments, I still find them to be weak. [Not that it matters on a practical level.] The Jews were a majority only in Jerusalem, but they were a small minority everywhere else in the country (maybe 10 percent). Even if Palestine was mostly desolate in the 19th century, that still means that there was only 1 Jew for 9 Arabs living there. So, I’m afraid that, however precious the land was to the Jews in our own minds, it was de facto Arab territory for 13 centuries. The Arabs really do have a case here. It doesn’t matter that they haven’t been there since the stone age, they’d been there in greater numbers for over a millennium.

    The fact that the Arabs and their own political masters, the Ottomans, were not nice rulers is beside the point. To say that the Mufti favored the Nazis is also beside the point. It’s looking for post-hoc rationalizations.

    To say that the Jews always considered the land their home, always maintained a presence there, but were prevented from returning in greater numbers is a stronger argument but it won’t convince everyone. And anyway, that argument can be turned against the Israelis. For instance, it could be used to justify the Arab right of return. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

    To say that the Jews own the land because they own it now is not a strong case at all. When you make a case for Israel by comparing it to what European settlers did to the native Americans, you are certainly not putting Israel in a great light. Also, the conquest of Native Americans is done and irreversible. The Arabs are far more numerous, have powerful backers, and seem determined to reverse recent history. If you’re going to argue that might makes right, that argument can again be turned the other way and can justify the Arabs’ trying to win by the gun what they lost by the gun. What’s good for the goose…

  20. Eliyahu says:

    Joanne, I am not comparing what Israel did to what the European settlers did in the Americas, Australia, New Zealand. I compare the Arab conquests to what the Europeans did. And on this, see Bat Ye’or and Joseph Schumpeter’s Imperialism. If JeffB denies that the Jews preceded the Arabs in the country, then he accepts an Arab big lie supported by their Western sympathizers and promoters. If JeffB says that, Yes, the Jews preceded the Arabs, but the Arabs inhabited the Land for a long time [no matter how they came into possession of it], therefore it belongs to them, and Jews shouldn’t try to retake their land. Then it is inconsistent of him to support the Arabs now, even supposing that Israel cruelly drove the Arabs out, as the Arabs say. In fact, the Arabs started the 1947-1949 war, driving Jews out of their homes in Jerusalem and South Tel Aviv, etc., as early as December 1947. Azzam Pasha, secretary general of the Arab League, threatened the Jews with massacres like “the Mongol massacres and the Crusades” in March of 1948.

    By the way, I heard an Arab in the United States explicitly make this argument back in the 1950s, explicitly comparing the Americans settlers with the Arabs, and the Jews with the native American Indians. So the Arabs have changed their argument since then. Now, the Land of Israel has not been Arab for 13 centuries. First, recall that the Arabs started as a conquering minority. They were not the solid majority in the country until after the Crusades. This means that before the Crusades, they were still a ruling imperial minority, living off tribute as much as possible. Their system can fairly be described as imperialism –or colonialism if you like. On this see Bat Ye’or, Norman Stillman’s books on Jews in the Jews in Islamic lands, and Joseph Schumpeter’s sociological description of Arab imperialism in his book, Imperialism.

    Again, recall that the Jews were always oppressed and exploited under Arab/Muslim rule in the country, although the harshness of conditions varied from time to time. Further, Jews were a substantial part of the population until the Crusaders came in 1099 and massacred many or most of the Jews in the country. That is less than a thousand years ago. That the Crusaders massacred Jews does not mean that Muslim didn’t massacre Jews too, although those killings seem to have been less systematic and more sporadic.

    As to interpreting JeffB’s comment re “colonialism,” I do not see any recognition on his part that Jews preceded Arabs in the Land. He seems to accept the Arab historical falsifications in toto. It is important for you to understand that Jewish resettlement/return to the Land was not “colonialism.” Before the mid-19th century, Jews were regularly humiliated by Arabs in the Land. Before WW One, Jews were about 14% of the country’s population. The Ottoman Empire deported about 30,000 Jews who were not Ottoman subjects, during the war.

  21. Michael B says:

    Informative thread and good recommendations, such as Schumpeter’s Imperialism. Finkielkraut’s In the Name of Humanity and The Defeat of the Mind are good recommends as well, the former is something of an expansion of the argument in the original post, the latter as well, if from the perspective of a more negative critique of some competing claims.

    Finkielkraut is highly eruidite w/o forcing his erudition per se front and center, his classical liberal instincts and formulations are solid and he’s able to apply critiques against pomo and other deteriorations that are always mindful – rich in the resources of the mind – while also avoiding the labyrinths of a hyper-rationalism and a distended rationalism, a rationalism disengaged from a better and more humane gravity. I disagree with him vis-a-vis some particulars, but imo he’s rather consistently sound, consistently offering well grounded, cogent appeals.

  22. Joanne says:

    “[The Arabs] were not the solid majority in the country until after the Crusades.”

    Eliyahu, the Crusades were a long time ago.

  23. Sophia says:

    Hi guys.

    Can I take a shot at answering Jeff, in other words the question of why should the Jews be allowed to live in Israel since the Arabs had been the majority there for a long time.

    I think the answer lies essentially in the honorable intent of the returning Jews, in their idealism as well as their desperation. And, it lies in the mores of the times.

    We can’t go back through time and impose our rules, the rules of the 21st century, on the rules of the 19th and 20th. We can’t retroactively create an independent Arab state of Palestine, heavily populated and prosperous, and claim retroactively that the Jews invaded on a British aircraft carrier. That isn’t what happened.

    And, we can’t impose our 21st century distaste for colonialism/imperialism on 19th and 20th century people, for whom it was the natural state of political affairs throughout most of the world – in the East as well as the West. Don’t forget China was still an Empire, an ancient one, there were several European empires – including Russia – and of course the Ottoman.

    As far as Zionism is concerned, there was no intention to displace the Arab population nor to subjugate it. Land wasn’t stolen, rather it was purchased, often at outrageous prices, and frequently what was purchased was wasteland reclaimed with enormous effort. In subsequent defensive wars, land was acquired by force of arms and with the sacrifice of life – as indeed I’d bet most of the nations on this planet were formed at least in part. But initially, and right up until the creation of Israel by the UN, every attempt was made to operate legally and ethically and above board (even the Irgun had rules and the Jewish terrorist groups – the despair of the majority in the Yishuv – were disarmed when the state was created – their primary targets weren’t the Arabs but the British.)

    The sparse population during the 19th century is most certainly a factor when considering the permissability of Jewish immigration. Nobody could have foreseen the dramatic increase in the Arab population. In fact, the Ottomans, according to Benny Morris, were so concerned about the underpopulation of 19th century Palestine that tens of thousands of people were imported from throughout the Ottoman Empire. The economy was very poor. People suffered from poverty and disease. Land was not owned by small farmers, certainly not by Bedouin, but by large (often absentee) landowners, many Turkish. It was a feudal system within an imperial system, and the returning Jews dealt within that system as honorably as they could. This continued under the British mandate.

    The lack of modern culture was one reason Arab leaders initially welcomed the Zionists – to wit the Faisal-Weitzman Agreement. Indeed, the economy of the area improved greatly and the Arab population rose along with the Jewish population, aided almost certainly by continuing immigration from neighboring areas.

    Therefore I think it’s important to recognize that the Jews weren’t the only immigrants either to Ottoman Palestine or to the Mandate, nor were they universally despised; and in fact, improved economic, medical and social conditions almost certainly contributed to the dramatic increase in the Arab population during the Mandate Era. At the same time, Morris points out that traditional ties to the land were weakening and many people moved off the farm into the towns – I think this also contributed to the subsequent refugee problem during the war of 1948. Things were in a great state of flux.

    One of the problems with demanding that Israel not exist is that it presupposes the notion that things don’t change, that people don’t move around. In fact entire populations move around and they do it all the time. Look at Turkey for example – the Turks actually migrated west all the way from Mongolia! Shall we declare human population migration and transfer officially moribund? If so, why? Has something essential changed, that humanity will now be limited to life within existing national boundaries? Most people, and that would especially include the progressive community, would be horrified at the suggestion that immigration into Europe or America, for example, cease. So why was it wrong for Jews to go to the Middle East? And why is it wrong for them to stay there and live in peace?

    In any case, one factor that pressurized the small area that became modern Israel, was the dismemberment of the Mandate at the hands of the British. The large majority of the land that was to become the Jewish homeland, according to the League of Nations, was given to the Hashemites and became Transjordan, today the Kingdom of Jordan. The essential problem there, apart from the economic damage this did to the future Jewish state, is the fact that Jewish settlement was not allowed and sales of land to Jews remains a crime to this day. This drastically limited the space available to Jewish immigration and continues to pressurize the entire area. This became dramatically obvious when pogroms broke out against Jewish populations throughout the Middle East, which is now practically judenfrei outside of Israel. Yet Jordan, which is three times the size of Israel, has a smaller population.

    In any case, there was nothing about the influx of people to the area – whether Jewish or otherwise – that in and of itself created conflict, or was “wrong” in and of itself. In fact the opportunity presented itself for Palestine to become a modern, progressive, cosmopolitan region, whether that took the form of an actual Jewish state or merely a heavily Jewish “homeland”, political makeup TBD. But, a combination of factors emerged and violence against the Jews broke out relatively early in the process, even before the Mufti gained power.

    Those factors are manifold and warrant a separate discussion. But I don’t think that there was anything either “wrong” or “unnatural” about Jewish immigation to the Middle East and to retroactively condemn it strikes me as intellectually dishonest – certainly highly selective.

  24. Eliyahu says:

    Joanne, it seems that there is a certain discord between us. You point out that the Crusades were long ago. I was saying that there was no solid Arab majority in the country until after the Crusades. Joseph Drory writes [“Jerusalem during the Mamluk Period,” in L Levine, ed., Jerusalem Cathedra, v 1 (Jerusalem: Ben Zvi 1981), p 203] “The invasions from the steppe also caused a massive flow of [of Muslim] emigration toward Syria and Egypt” in addition to the flow toward the Land of Israel. He is referring to the Mongol invasion of the Middle East in the mid-13th century and Tamerlane’s invasion in the 14th century. Yes, the year 1260 was long ago. But I think that 1948 was long ago too, 59 years to be exact.

    In the 1947-49 war, the Arab side was trying to drive out [and was successful in some places] the Jewish population, which had been living in some places in the Land for a very long time. This process of driving Jews out of their homes, out of whole cities [like Hebron], out of neighborhoods, had begun in 1920 with British encouragement. Are expulsions OK if carried out by majorities against minorities?? If done by Arabs specifically to Jews in Israel? For instance, the Hebron Jewish community, which suffered massacre in 1929, immediately followed by expulsion [“evacuation”] at British hands, had existed continuously there at least since the end of the Crusades, if not continuously since the time of Joshua [in case that the Crusaders had allowed Jews to stay and live there, which is not certain]. So the practice of population expulsion was not a practice foreign to the Arabs in the Land –nor to the British who were silent partners in Arab attacks on Jews in the Mandate period. Now, JeffB, who may be British, does not seem aware of this history. But he should learn it. And you too.

    Getting back to Jeff, I see that I did not pay enough attention to some of the historical distortions and falsehoods that occupy his mind. For instance, Jeff writes:
    “According to Finkelkraut, progressive condemnation of Israel revolves around guilt over the Jewish Holocaust. Perhaps. But perhaps there is another source of guilt that drives progressives, particularly progressives in former colonial powers. For centuries the European nations held a large fraction of the earth’s population in virtual serfdom, ruthlessly exploiting their resources and denying them the most basic of human rights and freedoms. Tens of millions died, hundreds of millions suffered to keep Europeans prosperous and powerful decade after decade. From Mexico to Morocco to South Africa to India to Vietnam the Europeans actively and cruelly suppressed the desire of the colonial peoples for self-determination.”

    Note that Jeff begins with “For centuries.” Somehow he forgets or is simply ignorant of the oppression of Jews both in Christendom and Islamic lands “for centuries.” I suppose I’m pedantic in mentioning that Rome –a European empire– suppressed several Jewish revolts. Tacitus, the Roman historian, reports that Arab auxiliary troops served Rome in crushing the first Jewish revolt [ca. 70 CE]. See:
    Now, if it’s proper for Jeff to go back “centuries” in the history of colonialism, then it’s proper for me to go back centuries in the history of the oppression of Jews. The Arabs “centuries” ago imposed the dhimma system, or dhimmitude, on the Jews in Israel, Egypt, Iraq, Morocco, Yemen, etc. This system was quite similar to “virtual serfdom.”

    In fact, in Morocco in the 19th century, before the Spanish & French occupations, Jews were held in virtual slavery in many locations in the hinterland. Such was reported by local North African Jews to the Alliance Israelite Universelle and by such a traveler as the Frenchman Charles de Foucauld. In Yemen too, Jews were held in a form of servitude. By Arab Muslims. Not by Europeans. On the other hand, in Europe, Jews were long oppressed and restricted in rights by Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and Protestants. In fact, medieval Jews sometimes were kept in the status of kammerknecht, that is, slaves of the royal treasury. So if the European “progressives” that JeffB speaks of want to go back “centuries,” then they should examine their own countries’ treatment of Jews over the centuries. Now, if guilt for colonialism goes back “centuries,” as Jeff says, then the guilt of both Christendom and Islam for oppressing Jews goes back centuries. Further, if guilt can persist for centuries, why can’t the Jewish title to the Land of Israel go on for centuries, especially when the rival claimant to ownership of the Land is the Arab-Muslim, the centuries-long oppressor of Jews??

    Just by the way, European control of the Levant countries, including Israel, began only towards the end of WW One, in 1917. In those countries, European control does not go back centuries. It ended in Iraq in 1932, in Syria and Lebanon circa 1945, and in Israel in 1948. Moreover, in Israel, the British favored the Arabs over the Jews, although the international commitment that the British had accepted which gave them the right to rule the country, the Mandate, was that they foster development of the Jewish National Home. They fulfilled this commitment only partially at best, while in fact working to undermine the National Home surreptitiously and not so surreptitiously, while encouraging the Arab leadership [such as Amin el-Husseini] to instigate attacks on Jews, while restricting Jewish immigration to the internationally designated Jewish National Home when the Jews most needed a home [the 1939 White Paper, found in violation of the Mandate by the League of Nations Permanent Mandates Commission]. British behavior in the territory mandated for the Jewish National Home was much different from that in Black Africa, and British guilt for oppression in Zimbabwe, for example, cannot justify an anti-Israel position, especially since the favored group in Israel was in fact the Arabs. If Jeff thinks otherwise, maybe he can explain why British officials in the palestine administration socialized with Arab notables and intellectuals at the Jerusalem home of Katy Antonius [widow of George, who himself came to the country as a British civil servant] from which Jews were almost uniformly excluded. The Antonius home, where Katy held her salon, was geographically very close, by the way, to the poor Jewish neighborhood of Shim`on haTsadiq in Jerusalem [north of the American Colony Hotel & Orient House] from which Arabs drove out the Jews towards the end of December 1947. On Antonius see:

  25. Lynne T says:


    You can take a shot at responding to JeffB and the vast number of people who see the issues as only one of a “native” population of Arabs with a long connection to the lands between the Jordan and the Med being cruelly displaced by Jewish refugees from Europe, but they are seldom moved by the actually history and demography of the region, because he sees all of the misery in the east as the product of colonizing white men and none of it as the outgrowth of societies that are kept illiterate, barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen by the tradition of hereditary ruling classes who are accountable to nobody and/or cliques of theocratic fascists.

  26. JeffB says:

    Wow! I certainly intended to put forth some controversial points and stimulate discussion, but not to offend or antagonize. I’m a bit overwhelmed by the responses, but will try to address some of the points raised. Correction: I was wrong to say my dad fought Germany – he didn’t enter the war til 1945 and served in the Pacific, though his big brother did fight in Europe.

    1. Jews were “abandoned” by the world.

    This is understandably an emotional issue, both for those who feel that Jewish lives were deliberately sacrificed by the Allies, and those accused of “standing by” after risking all to fight the Nazis. Let’s agree that the Allied command put a low priority on bombing concentration camps. Let’s even say that they were fully aware of what was taking place and felt indifference or even active hostility toward Jews. What else could they do? The camps were in the center of Nazi-controlled territory. There was no way to whisk thousands/millions of people to safety. Bombing the camps would at best have killed the guards and released thousands of prisoners into the heart of hostile territory, where they would be killed on sight. There was a low priority on bombing Allied prisoner of war camps for similar reasons. Resources were best put toward destruction of Nazi military capability. A cruel choice, but a clear one. If there was a realistic military course of action that could have saved significant numbers of Jewish lives, let’s discuss it. Otherwise, let’s accept the fact that humans have limited control over the acts of others, whether they be in Armenia, Germany, Cambodia, Rwanda, Croatia, or Virginia. The argument can be made that the world “stood by” in each of these cases, though what is gained by such an indictment is not clear to me. It would be more productive to seek understanding and control of the forces that drive humans to such actions.

    2. Opposition to Israel is based on anti-colonialism

    Joanne has stated this argument better than I: “whatever they have suffered, the Jews have no right to land that had been long inhabited by others”. This is the central issue. Some historical context is required, of course. To avoid getting caught up in endless debates, I hope we can agree on a brief history such as this:

    Skeletal History of “Palestine” (a convenient label for the territory under discussion – nothing more): The general area was occupied by Philistines, Canaanites, Hittites and other groups prior to the arrival of the Israelites/Jews under Joshua ~1200 BCE. The Israelites proceeded with the conquest of the area (e.g. Jericho), and uninterrupted Israelite rule continued several hundred years until the conquests of the Assyrians, Babylonians and Persians. These were not genocidal conquests – the Israelites were exiled/made captive and ultimately regained full control of the area ~500 BCE. Conquests by the Greeks and Romans followed in ~300 BCE, finally ending in the destruction of Jerusalem and the genocide/enslavement/exile of Jews ~130 ACE. Jews were generally a minority and often persecuted in the area over the next 18 centuries. In 1880 or so a movement aimed at reestablishing a “Jewish state” began. Real progress toward this goal began in 1920 with large scale migration from Europe and it was essentially completed by 1940, culminating in formal statehood in 1948. The native population was largely expelled (“transferred”) and a state having a Jewish majority (nearly all of whom had been born in Europe) in control of most of the land and resources was established. The natives ended up in refugee camps or as second class citizens in their former land.

    To supporters of Israel these basic facts form part of a narrative that holds Israel’s formation as a just, legal, and ethical act with the misfortunes of the natives due to their own actions.

    Two postulates form the basis of this narrative. 1. Jews had once been the dominant group in the area, some Jews had continued to live in the area continuously, therefore Jews had the right to take control again. 2. Natives willingly fled from the fighting that broke out in 1947, therefore Israel had the right to seize their homes and property and deny them return, while offering all Jews worldwide the right to live on the seized land. Many additional factors are also invoked. These include the economic and political contributions of Jews, the attacks on Jews by the natives, and need for a safe haven for Jews after the Holocaust. Eliyahu, Dershowitz, and others can provide these at length.

    To opponents of Israel, these basic facts show one group imposing its will on another group by use of force, with clear parallels to earlier colonial events. It is an inherently unjust, illegal act, and its nature is not altered by the virtues of the Jews or the perfidy of the natives.

    Opponents reject the basic postulates of the pro-Israel narrative as having no logical, ethical or historical basis, and the additional factors as irrelevant to the central issue.

    3. Guilt

    Guilt as a motivating force seems highly overrated in these discussions. Guilt about the Holocaust did motivate westerners to ignore their ethical qualms about Israel in the early years, but that era has ended. I don’t think guilt is much of a driving force for me or most Americans. Maybe we don’t feel guilty about slavery because our ancestors fought against it in the civil war. Maybe we don’t feel guilty about the Holocaust because our parents fought Hitler. I support civil rights for blacks because it’s the right thing to do, not to salve my concience. I support justice for Palestinians because it’s right, not because I feel guilt over the actions of the Germans 60 years ago or the discrimination Jews experienced two generations ago. I do feel guilt for wrongs done by my country in my lifetime – the wars waged to support oppressive regimes because they were strategically valuable. I am resolved to oppose such ethical compromises in the future. Many see Palestine as the last European colony, an ongoing, in-your-face exhibit of might-makes-right injustice. Attributing opposition to Israel to anti-semitism or displaced guilt and scapegoating seems merely an attempt to evade the core issue involved. It is not a productive way to understand or confront the criticisms leveled at Israel.

  27. JeffB says:

    Reply to Sophia – #25

    I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but your post seems to repeat the standard pre-1980 Israeli mythology that has been discredited by recent historians.

    You do close with a excellent point about immigration: “I don’t think that there was anything either “wrong” or “unnatural” about Jewish immigration to the Middle East and to retroactively condemn it strikes me as intellectually dishonest”.

    There was something dishonest about Jewish immigration to the Middle East – it was colonization under the guise of immigration. Consider two “immigrants” arriving today in New York.

    Immigrant 1:
    I am moving to the US with the intention of becoming a citizen, fully participating in the social, legal, educational, economic and political life of this country. We will speak arabic in our home and practice Islam, bu my children will learn english and be encouraged to integrate into our new culture and society. We will use our talents and resources for the betterment of all.

    Immigrant 2:
    I am moving to the US to help establish an Islamic State – a new nation with its own social, legal, educational, economic, military and political structures. I and my children will speak arabic and make no effort to learn english or otherwise integrate into the native culture. I will seek to make my language and religion the dominant one, and create a Muslim majority to assure that dominance. I will use my petrodollars to buy land and provide jobs for fellow Muslims, though I might employ some natives in low-paying jobs if they are cooperative.

    I’m exagerrating to make a point, but not much. Is there something wrong or unnatural about Immigrant 2? Is he an immigrant or a colonist? Would the native Arizonans justifiably have a problem with him? Does Immigrant 2 have a right to enter the US? Does he have a right to establish an “Islamic State”?

  28. Eliyahu says:

    Apparently you have not carefully read my previous responses to you, particularly in regard to the nature of Arab-Muslim society and how Jews were treated in it. Further, you admit that the Jews preceded the Arabs in the Land. Yet, you want Jewish immigrants to Israel to adapt to Arab ways, when the Jews were coming to their own homeland and the Arabs should have adapted to Jewish ways.
    You also have disregarded the historical information that I presented about the Jewish presence in the Land as a sizable body of the population up to the Crusades, and the oppression of Jews by Muslims in the Land before and after the Crusades. Then, I also mentioned the Arab-Palestinian collaboration in the Holocaust, particularly in the person of Haj Amin el-Husseini.
    Another point, which I may not have made before, so I make it now, is that at the time of independence about one-quarter of the Jewish population in the country were not immigrants from Europe or their children, but were Oriental and Sefardi Jews. As if that should make any difference to our rights to the Land. At this point, I want to make it clear that the Jews were not coming to drive out Arabs. Rather, Arabs started driving Jews out of their homes with British sponsorship in 1920 and were continuing that effort in 1947-1949. A further point is that nobody ever heard of a “palestinian people” before the 1960s, least of all the Arabs. Spokesmen for the palestinian Arabs before the Anglo-American Commission of Inquiry in 1946 denied that there was such a place as “palestine.” It was all Syria, they said. In my informed opinion, the notion of a “palestinian people” somehow distinct from the Arabs was an invention of Western psychological warfare experts, not of Arabs. This notion was invented after Israel was established. Hence, the very notion was a tool of a genocidal campaign against the Jews, in which the Arabs today called “palestinians” are tools of Western Judeophobes, albeit their own culture and religion are Judeophobic.

    Finally, your father or uncle or your favorite aunt may have fought the Nazis in the US Army. But neither the US nor the UK nor the USSR tried to save Jews suffering under Hitler, which they could have done. Your comments on the Allied refusal to bomb the death camps or the railroad tracks to them, or to support the Jewish partisans and Ghetto fighters with weapons and food, are contemptible. Nor did the American Left at that time try to persuade Roosevelt to save Jews [although a few individual Leftists may have supported efforts at rescue of Jews]. So by what moral right do you preach to us? If you call yourself a Leftist, recall that the Communist and Trotskyist parties at that time avoided calling for the rescue of Jews as an Allied war aim. Indeed, Trotskyists opposed fighting the Nazis. As I think I said before, you need to study a lot of history, ancient, medieval and modern, before sounding off in your smug way.

  29. Eliyahu says:

    Of course, since Arabs and other Muslims controlled the country before and after the Crusades up to 1917-18, the Jews were compelled to obey Muslim law under penalty of death. Indeed, non-payment of the jizya tax on dhimmis [Jews, Christians, and others in Muslim society] was punishable with death. And when the burden of Muslim-imposed taxes and humiliations grew too heavy, some dhimmis left the Muslim domain, the Dar al-Islam. That’s one of the sources of Jewish immigration to Europe in the Middle Ages.

  30. Jeff B says:

    Reply to Eliyahu #13, #17, #18, #20, #24, #28, #29

    I have been slow to respond to your comments because they are lengthy and somewhat difficult for me to organize and understand. It is not my intention to preach or be smug, only to present my current views clearly and firmly. I apologize for failing to convey that.

    Much of what you have written regards the despicable treatment of Jews by Europeans and Muslims (#13, 20, 24). As Joanne has pointed out (#19), however, such crimes are not germane to the question of the legitimacy of dispossessing the Muslim population of Palestine. Nor is colonialism by Arabs germane to the issue of European guilt (or lack thereof) regarding regarding colonialism or the Holocaust.

    You are quite right to question whether Jews can be called “European” when they were not accepted as such by parts of Christian Europe. Perhaps the term “Jewish residents of Europe” would be more precise. And I’m willing to call the area in question Palestine, Israel, Canaan, Judea, or whatever label you wish to apply. We can call the non-Jewish people who lived there in 1948 and their descendants Palestinians, Canaanites, Arabs, Cave Men, or any other label you choose.

    Another theme of your comments is the claim that Palestine is “Jewish” land. My historical knowledge is far smaller than yours, but I do not believe that detailed chronological and demographic data is necessary to understand and judge the basic issue at hand. Joanne pointed out in post #19 that claims to the land favor the Palestinians based on generally accepted historical facts and (informal) principles. It seems that we are just exchanging unproductive claims about who was where first. What we need is a formal, logical principle or test that can be applied to land disputes between ethnic groups. Such a principle should be applicable to the Jewish/Palestinian dispute as well as the American Indian/European and other disputes. This principle should be consistent with the following facts:
    -Non-Jews were living in Palestine before the arrival of the Jews.
    -Jews took ownership from these people through force of arms.
    -Jews lost ownership to (a series of) others through force of arms.
    -Some Jews lived in Palestine at all times.
    -Jews made an oral claim to Palestine at all times.
    -Non-jews constituted a the vast majority in Palestine for several centuries before Jewish efforts to retake the land.
    This would allow a productive discussion based on fact and logic.

    A final theme is the failure or refusal of the enemies of Germany to aid Jews militarily or through immigration. It was asserted that the US could have saved Jews suffering under Hitler and deliberately chose not to do so. I explained why I disagree. What is contemptible about my remarks?

  31. Eliyahu says:

    before responding to your counter-claims and your proposed historical outline, I am waiting for you to acknowledge the Arab role in the Holocaust, particularly that of Haj Amin el-Husseini. You can do a google on him, spelling his name either el-Husseini or al-Husayni.

  32. BDE says:


    Lets assume for a moment your claims about the Mufti or Jerusalem are true. How does this reduce the rights of other Palestinians?

    If one Jew murders a goyim does that mean all Jews aer guilty of murdering Goyim?


  33. Jeff B says:

    Reply to Eliyahu

    I acknowledge that Haj Amin el-Husseini and some of his followers were involoved in the Holocaust, as described in the Wikipedia article on the Mufti.

  34. Eliyahu says:

    BDE, the Mufti was the acknowledged chief leader of the Palestinian Arabs in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, up to about 1950 when Jordan and Egypt curtailed his influence. During the Holocaust, the Mufti broadcast in Arabic over Radio Berlin to the Arab countries. He called on the Arabs to, among other things: “Kill Jews wherever you find them. . .” These broadcasts were listened to. So the Arabs, including Palestinian Arabs, knew what he stood for. Yet, after WW2, he was allowed by the Allies [UK, France, USA, and USSR] to leave Europe and return to the Arab world. The Arabs in general acclaimed him as a hero, while the Palestinian Arabs acclaimed him as their leader. He was in fact the leader of the Arab Higher Committee on Palestine which was the political and military high command of the Arabs living in the country. No doubt that not every Arab supported him or agreed with his collaboration with the Nazis in WW2 and the Holocaust. But from all indications, these were a small minority. Also bear in mind the leadership role of his family members, Abdul-Qadr Husseini [Husayni] and Jamal Husseini. By acclaiming him as their leader after the Holocaust, the Palestinian Arabs expressed their support for his Holocaust collaboration, which they knew about. I suggest doing a google or yahoo search for “arabs and nazis” + husseini .

    To JeffB, I have to go out now, but I suggest reading the latest post on my blog, which I believe that you can access by clicking on my name below.

  35. Lynne T says:


    Up until the collapse of the former USSR, more than half of Israel’s Jewish community came from other than the European diaspora.
    Do you consider the hundreds of thousands of Jews who fled to safety from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Morocco, etc., leaving all of their wordly goods behind, “colonizers”?

  36. JeffB says:

    Reply to Lynne T

    Good question. My definition of immigrant and colonist is not formal or final. My working definition is that an immigrant is a person entering a territory with a) the consent of the native population and b) the intent to assimilate into the existing “society”. A colonist is a person entering a territory a) without the consent of the native population or b) with the intent to create a new social structure which would limit or deny the native population their property, sovereignty, or self-determination.

    This classification hinges on the definition of “native population”. One could argue that the native population within Israel in 1948 was predominately Jewish (due to “transfer” of most of the Arabs), so Oriental Jews entering after 1948 would be considered immigrants.

    There is something that doesn’t seem right about this, and my gut feeling is that the Oriental Jews certainly did not have the consent of the “legitimate” native population, and hence could not be classed as immigrants. Only the illegitimate acts of colonization and ethnic cleansing by the Europeans lend apparent legitimacy to the immigrant status of the Orientals.

    I’m using a hypothetical example to help me think this through. A group of Mexicans enter a sparsely populated area in the southwestern US, declare a “Mexican state” in which they have a (local) majority, and then declare a right of return for all Mexicans. To Americans, any Mexicans entering the new state would be considered colonists, while the new state could certainly argue for their immigrant status under my definition.

    With this in mind, I consider all persons who have entered the region without the consent of the native (Palestinian) population colonists, or at least “non-immigrants”.

  37. Lynne T says:


    The “Oriental Jews” as you would describe them weren’t immigrants. They were refugees from very intense persecution in countries where they dwelled for as many as 2500 years (Iraq and Iran), leaving Iraq in particular with a severely decimated middle class. Why this is seen as any less tragic than the disposession of however many Arabs from the lands between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, is as difficult to understand as the “logic” in demonstrating rage against the dispossession of Arabs from “Palestine” by dispossessing half a million or more “Oriental Jews” in retaliation.

    And your view of a native population of longstanding is equally ridiculous. A large portion of “Palestinian refugees” were nothing of the sort, but rather recent immigrants from other Muslim countries in the region who came to settle primarily because of the vastly improved economy in the region that attended the arrival of the Ashkenazic settlers.

    BDE asks what relevance the Mufti’s support for the Nazis has with respect to the rights of Palestinians. Well, siding with the losers bears its consequences as does centuries of persecuting a religious or ethnic minority. Frankly, considering that the original mandate to the Jews took in not just Israel and the “occupied territories”, but Jordan as well, the grievances nursed by the Arab world are pretty pathetic.

    both of you are clearly of the opinion that the rancour is about the loss of a homeland. Were it so simple, there would have been a (bi-national)resolution years ago. No less staunch a defender of Palestinian rights than Christopher Hitchens acknowledged that there has been no settlement because of the fanatical religious movement that not only cannot abide in the existence of a Jewish state in their midst, but also hates Christians (who are leaving the PA areas in massive numbers) and liberal Muslims.

  38. JeffB says:


    “Why this is seen as any less tragic than the disposession of however many Arabs from the lands between the Jordan and the Mediterranean…”
    The persecution and expulsion of the Oriental Jews was tragic and wrong. As you say, it was a direct result of the dispossesion of the Palestinians, and apparently conceived as a sort of retaliation.

    “And your view of a native population of longstanding is equally ridiculous”
    My understanding is that the demography of the region was roughly constant for several centuries preceeding the Zionist settlement, with a 1:9 ratio of Jews to Muslims, yielding a longstanding native Muslim population. That numbers of non-Palestinian Muslims entered the region after the Ashkenazic settlers arrived does not legitimize the disposession of the native inhabitants by European settlers.

    “considering that the original mandate to the Jews took in not just Israel … but Jordan as well, the grievances nursed by the Arab world are pretty pathetic.
    Neither Britain nor the League of Nations had the unprecedented right to take land from the indigenous population and give it away to European settlers (or anyone else).

    “both of you are clearly of the opinion that the rancour is about the loss of a homeland.”
    Isn’t that enough? If I take your wallet, should I wonder that you are angry at me? Would it make sense to insist that you hate me because I’m Christian? Would it make sense to insist that you must be anti-Christian because I’ve offered to give half your money back and you won’t accept?

  39. Michael B says:


    Could you name three or four, or at least a couple, of your primary sources that inform your view of the relevant history and anthropology? (In part, am attempting to understand why you sanction Roman and Muslim imperialism, conquest, plunder and dispossession, also some Christian elements during the Crusades. E.g., are you aware of works such as Moshe Gil’s “A History of Palestine 634-1099,” which is but one example, if a noteworthy one in terms of scholarship, which covers one of the earlier, pivotal periods?)

    Likewise, could you name a couple or more of your primary sources that inform your relevant political and ideological views/sensibilities?

  40. Jeff B says:

    Michael B

    Let me clearly state that I do not sanction, endorse, or approve of any imperialism or aggression by any party. My criticism of 20th century Zionist actions stems from a belief that human behavioral standards have changed over the past two millenia – it is no longer the norm to kill or sell into slavery the populace of a conquered city. It is no longer acceptable to colonize or violate the sovereignty of any land, etc. There is a great deal of injustice in the world – I’m focusing on this one because it’s interesting and I feel that there is still a chance that some semblence of justice resolution can be achieved.

    I’m a scientist but not a scholar of the humanities. I have read most of my local library’s ~25 books on the history of the area/conflict over the years. These include authors such as Morris and other new historians, pro-Israel types like Dershowitz, a few anti-Israel tomes (“Israel, Colonial-Settler State”), and a number of generic Arab/Israel stuff. No detailed, academic/scholarly books on history or anthropology.
    Sources of poitical views – need the wayback machine for that one. My leftist-egalitarian views seme to have been formed organically (thanks mom). I studied the American Labor movement in college – the only real extended reading that I would call political. Don’t remember any titles/authors.

  41. Cynic says:


    As you say, it was a direct result of the dispossesion of the Palestinians, and apparently conceived as a sort of retaliation.

    Where on earth have you been reading this?
    Up until the 1948 war all land the Jews possessed was purchased.
    Bought with hard currency.
    You need to do some reading. Try some British and Turkish archival material.
    Dispossessed were the Jews,for example the Jews of Hebron where they had lived for centuries when the British pulled them out after the massacre in the 20s.

    BY any chance do you also use the moniker “calzone”?

  42. Jeff B says:

    Reply to Cynic

    Up until the 1948 war all land the Jews possessed was purchased.

    Agreed, seizure of land by force of arms did not occur until the war. However, the validity of such purchases may be questioned. Much land in North America, India, and other British colonies was purchased or ceded by treaty, but this did not alter the colonial nature of these enterprises.

    In any event, I’m talking about dispossession that occured during/after the 1948 war. It was the loss of the war, the refusal to allow Palestinian refugees to return to their homes/land, and the seizure of those homes/land by Israel that stimulated persecution of Jews in the Middle East and their migration to Israel, right?.

    Never heard of calzone.
    war. It was the loss of the war, the refusal to allow Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, and the seizure of those homes by Israel that stimulated persecution of Jews in the Middle East and their migration to Israel, right?.

    Never heard of calzone.

  43. Michael B says:


    You may well, even with overwhelming and admirable conviction, believe you do not sanction the imperialism, conquest, plunder and dispossession alluded to, but in point of historical fact and by direct (and obvious) implication, you do so sanction.

    Perhaps you mean to say you do not sanction it presently and within some arbitrary span of time that reaches into the past, then sanctioning it once that arbitrary span of time into the past is superceded. (This is about acknowledging historical realities and their ramifications, not about our feelings.) But even if this statement begins to more accurately reflect your beliefs there remains all manner of more recent historical and contemporary developments which greatly erode the validity of your comprehensions and analysis (***). Perceptions are not apperceptions.

    *** The following is certainly not a treatment in the meticulous, scholarly, highly conscientious sense Moshe Gils “A History of Palestine 634-1099,” referenced above, is, but it’s documented nonetheless and does, absolute bare minimum, provide indicators/directions for additional research for those who care:

    Big Lies (small pdf)

  44. Eliyahu says:

    Jeff is inconsistent in his principles. On one hand, he recognizes [I believe] that there was an Arab conquest of a land populated by non-Arabs. Then he argues that the Jews were wrong to come back because the Arabs had been there so long as a majority. In saying this, he overlooks how Arab/Muslims became a majority in the country [probably about 70-75% of the population in the mid-19th century, with circa ca. 20% Christians, ca. 6% Jews]. He also overlooks how the Arabs governed the Jews and other dhimmis in the country. This had much to do with how they became a majority. But we agree that they were a majority. On the grounds that Arabs/Muslims had long been a majority, JeffB says that it was wrong for the Jews to return and take back a land that had long before belonged to them. My question is why Jeff doesn’t apply that logic to the present situation. The Jews are the majority. They have been the majority for almost 60 years. I think that that’s a long time. So why doesn’t the same principle apply??

    Further, Jeff overlooks the guilt imputing to the Arabs on account of Arab, particularly Palestinian Arab, colloboration in the Holocaust. By acclaiming Amin el-Husseini as their leader after WW2, they took his guilt in the Holocaust on themselves. They also bear guilt in other ways. I don’t want to forget that Jews were oppressed in Arab lands and Muslim lands generally before 1948. Indeed, oppression/exploitation/humiliation of the non-Muslims is part of Muslim law.

    Jeff’s analogy to the stolen wallet does not work here. The question is: Whose wallet was it in the first place?

    It seems to me that Jeff is poorly informed about events in the country during the period of British rule. Benny Morris is a poor, incomplete source. Tom Segev is much worse. Arab writers are generally unreliable. I recommend reading books from the pre-1948 period like Pierre van Paassen’s Days of Our Years, Forgotten Ally, That Day Alone; Albert Londres’ Le Juif Errant est arrive; William Ziff’s Rape of Palestine; Horace Samuel’s Revolt by Leave; Arthur Koestler’s Promise and Fulfillment; John Roy Carlson’s Cairo to Damascus; Herbert Pritzke, Bedouin Doctor, etc. The books by Pritzke and Carlson describe the 1947-49 war from the Arab side of the fighting. Bear in mind that the Arabs in the country began attacking Jewish civilians within hours of the UN General Assembly partition plan recommendation on 11-29-1947. Jews were driven out of their homes in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in December 1947, long before the Deir Yassin battle, which Arab propagands describes as a massacre.

    My main advice to him is to go back to books written around the time of the 1947-1949 war. Also read the press for that period, including the British press which was generally hostile to the Jews.

    Moshe Gil is an authority on the Arab conquest of 634-640 CE and on the subsequent period of Arab-Muslim rule, as Michael B notes above. Much of Gil’s work, but not all, is available in English. On my blog I quote from one of his articles on how the Muslim officials in the country squeezed taxes out of the Jews. Although there is a published English version of that article, I made my own translation from the Hebrew original because I was not satisfied with the published translation. Jeff, you can search my blog for “Moshe Gil” .

  45. Jeff B says:

    Reply to Michael B

    I don’t understand what point you are making. Could you be more explicit? (the frontpagemag site is down right now) I’ll throw out a guess ithat you are equating support of Palestinian rights with sanctioning historical abuses of Jews, such as those described in Gils book. If so, I don’t accept that equation is valid.

  46. Jeff B says:

    Reply to Eliyahu

    I don’t see how the history you refer to is relevant. The Israel/Palestine issue hinges on the legitimacy of the “retaking” of Palestine by Jews who had lived for centuries in Europe and other nations.

    If the Zionists had a legitimate right to enter the land and create a Jewish State without the consent of the people living there, then the actions of the Palestinians before or after are irrelevant.

    If the Zionists did not have a right to enter, then earlier actions of the Palestinians are irrelevant and actions taken by the Palestinians after entry need to be judged on whether they were legitimate responses to colonization.

    Can you provide a brief, objective justification for the right of foreign-born Jews to enter the land and create a Jewish State? One addressing the common objections/critiques raised? Your knowledge would be very valuable.


  47. Michael B says:

    Not even close, never mind though.

  48. Eliyahu says:

    Jeff, Your moral reasoning does not seem consistent or logical, at least not to me. Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that the Jews were wrong to come back to their land, because a people loses its right to come back if too much time has passed. You do not apply the same principle to the Arabs who now make war in order to retake the Land, a Land that originally was not theirs.

    I now move to two other points:
    — I do not accept the notion that there is a “palestinian people” distinct from Arabs. Indeed, the PLO and other Arabs do NOT accept that notion either. On this, study carefully the PLO charter, in particular Article One which says: The Palestinian Arab people is part of the Arab nation and Palestine is part of the Great Arab Fatherland [the Arabic word is watan; translate it as homeland if you like]. So the “palestinians” consider themselves Arabs, which means that non-Arabs living in the country do not truly belong to it. Further, the notion of “palestinians” as a small, pathetic people, friendless in a cold, cold world, is false. They belong to the Arab nation, as their representative movement says, and the Arab League champions them. The Arab nation is some 250 million people, with huge capital resources, that is, mucho dinero. The Saudis have trillions. Then, because there are so many Arabs and because Arabs control so much of the world’s petroleum resources, then the European Union sides with the Arabs, right or wrong, to the point of falsifying history on the Arabs’ behalf. Of course, we could also view EU support for the Arabs as a derivative of traditional European Judeophobia, as a way of cancelling Euro guilt over the Holocaust, etc. In any case, the EU gives billions to the so-called “palestinian authority” while neglecting the much poorer Africans, who in some cases suffer Arab aggression [as in the Sudan]. If Arabs in Gaza or elsewhere are poorly housed, or have poor heath care, then it is not due to lack of money as both the Arab states and the palestinian authority have much money. Rather, the PA has had almost 13 years since it was set up in 1994 to build houses for the poor, to move their people out of refugee camps. They had the funds to do so. If they didn’t do so then that was the PA’s own political decision. Israel is not to blame.

    Now, the second point to discuss is what seems to be your notion that Jews from Europe didn’t have a right to migrate to Israel, because they were “Europeans.” Haven’t I gone over that point over and over? Then, the Arabs/Muslims are not innocent with regard to the Europeans, since they were continually at war with them for centuries. The Barbary Pirates, who have gotten renewed attention because of Michael Oren’s new book, were attacking European coastal settlements as far north as Iceland, destroying what property they could not steal and taking captives as slaves. This went on for centuries. Cesar Famin, a French historian and diplomat, of the mid-19th century correctly described these pirates as the vanguard of a holy war which aimed at ultimate conquest. The Arabs are not/were not/ innocent with regard to the Europeans whom they assaulted for centuries.

    By the way, the various Arab/Muslim governments that ruled Israel from 640 CE to the Crusades and then after the Crusades did not stop Jews from migrating and settling in the country. On occasion, they even invited Jews to come. It was OK for Jews to come as long as they accepted dhimmi status and paid their taxes.

    It seems that you read a book about Israel as “a colonial state” and since then you don’t let facts change your thinking.

  49. Eliyahu says:

    I believe that British policy during the period of British rule, 1917-1948 did much to exacerbate conflict between Jews and Arabs. If the British had allowed Jewish refugees in during the Holocaust, I believe that the Arabs would have accepted this with little conflict and that today there would not be the war against Israel that we see.

    I believe that over the years Western and Communist powers have instigated conflict between Jews and Arabs over Israel. The current propaganda/psychological warfare assault against Israel today is also –in part– the work of Communists and Western powers.

  50. Cynic says:

    It was the loss of the war, the refusal to allow Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, and the seizure of those homes by Israel that stimulated persecution of Jews in the Middle East and their migration to Israel, right?.

    The borders from the result of the 1948 war are the armistice lines but the Arabs, especially the 5 countries that went to war have refused to Israel’s security, peace and borders.
    Research the “Three No’s” of the Arab League.

    Obviously you have read nothing about the Middle East beyond the MSM.
    What about persecution of Jews from before 1948?
    Have you read anything about the conditions of Jews in the Arab World prior to the Second World war?
    Iraq is a place to look at in the late 30s and early 40s. Hebron in the 1920s. By the way in the late 1800s Jews were a majority in Jerusalem.

    And as for the Palestinian refugees and their camps why not try reading UN documents on resolutions condemning Israel for building housing and laying water and elctricity infrastructure in Gaza to remove the refugees from the squalid camps that they had been confined to because the Arab world was too intransigent to sit down and discuss a settlement.
    For example UN General Assembly Resolution 31/15 of Nov. 23, 1976:UNGA Resolution 34/52 of November 23, 1979

  51. Cynic says:

    #48 Eliyahu said : Now, the second point to discuss is what seems to be your notion that Jews from Europe didn’t have a right to migrate to Israel, because they were “Europeans.”

    So then Jeff B must explain how come the Turks during Ottoman rule were able to move those Europeans they forcefully converted to Islam in Bosnia and surrounds to the area under discussion.
    Maybe JB could then discuss the origins of the friction between those “Arabs” and the local Bedouin?

  52. Jeff B says:

    Getting back on topic…. Why the Left has “Chosen” the Palestinians

    Finkielkraut asks why the Left has “Chosen” the Palestinian People, and “not the Chechens, the Tibetans, the Bosnians, the Tutsis, or the Sudanese?” It is humanity’s guilt and shame over the Holocaust that makes Palestine different, he says. Fate has given humanity a way to shed this shame: ” … the Palestinian cause has provided a humanity weary of apologizing … the unhoped-for opportunity to relieve itself of the burden of repentance.” , and the Left has seized it. The stain of the Holocaust can be removed simply by accusing the Jews of behaving badly : “…if those toward whom we behaved shamefully are now behaving shamefully themselves, then there is no more need to feel ashamed. ” This formula for guilt removal may seem suspiciously simple, but Finkielkraut points out that “The malicious indignation, the enthusiastic contempt, and the hardly surprising use of economic terminology [by the Left] certainly lend credence to this explanation.”.

    I have said before that this thesis doesn’t hold water as an explanation for Leftist sympathy for Palestinians. The Holocaust-guilt of the WWII generation is dying with them, and certainly can’t be carried by those who opposed the Nazis from the start. If guilt, rather than justice, is the driving force for the Left, it is guilt over crimes that we have been complicit in (e.g. colonization). And if there is Holocaust-guilt, why evade it with self-delusion and ethical sleight-of-hand? Why not relieve ourselves of the “burden of repentence” by simply repenting? We did wrong, we’re sorry, we’re doing our best to make amends and keep it from happening again.

    If Finkielkraut’s thesis has any application, it is to the Israelis and their supporters. Their guilt is not recalled once a year at a Holocaust service, it is hammered home daily in newspaper and tv reports around the world. Theirs is not the shared guilt of those who viewed the Nazis from afar or fought against them. It is the guilt of people who directly participate in and benefit from the subjugation of the Palestinians. Their guilt is not diluted by time, it is here and now, passed from generation to generation of settlers and conscript soldiers. Repentance is not an option for them, because it would require admitting the illegitimacy of the initial occupation of Palestine (and all its fruits), and threaten the existence of the Jewish state in its current form. It would require concessions and reparations that are unacceptable.

    For Israelis and their supporters, Finkielkraut’s logic works: “…if those toward whom we behaved shamefully are now behaving shamefully themselves, then there is no more need to feel ashamed. ” . The world has rejected the Zionist mythology of underdog idealists settling a “land without a people”. The world has rejected the notion of unending occupation to preserve the “security” of a nation with tanks, planes and nuclear weapons facing gangs armed with rocks and rifles. A new justification for Israeli actions must be created, and the only basis it can have is the wrongdoing of the Palestinians (or Muslims in general). Catalog their crimes and let the “… malicious indignation, the enthusiastic contempt …” sweep away the guilt.

    I’m very leery of psychoanalyzing from afar to attribute motive. I not sure what motivates my own feelings and actions, so how can I presume to understand those of others? But if there is a ring of truth to Finkielkraut’s thesis, it resonates far more strongly with the the detractors of the Palestinians than with their supporters.

    Jeff B

  53. Lynne T says:


    the persecution and dispossession of “Oriental Jews” was a continuing fact that reached its apex after 1948, but went on for centuries. I’m sure you’ve heard of Deir Yasin, but doubt you know of the massacres of the Jewish populations of long-standing at such places as Safed in the early 19th century and Hebron in the early 20th century. And I question your statistics. Jerusalem, Safed, Hebron and one other large “urban” area were always predominently Jewish. When the “refugee counts” by UNRWA were brought into question in the early 1950s by, among others, Al Gore’s father, it was clear that there was a reason why they spoke not of Palestinian refugees, but rather “Arab refugees”.

    You proclaim your concern to be a Christian one, and of righting the wrong of a simple theft. By we keep pointing out to you that lands were purchased, either from largely absentee landlords or through the British government that had every legal right to sell these lands, many of which were vacant and desolate. At times the Jewish settlers paid not only an exhorbitant purchase price, but a second payment to move squatters from the land.

    Your problem, whether you care to recognize it or not, is that you see the Arab population as powerless victims and the Jewis population as evil colonists by virtue of the fact that they brought with them industry and modernization. You ignore my point altogether about the migration of Arabs and others to Israel for the purpose of enjoying the better economic opportunities. What makes it OK about Turks or Berbers or Bedouins migrating to Israel, but somehow, Jews, wherever they come from are some unwelcome, imperialistic foreign entity. The drive for a Jewish state may never have emerged had certain reactionary elements like the Mufti of Jerusalem not feared that the example of the Jews would create all sorts of problems for the sort of society that he favoured.

  54. JeffB says:

    Lynne T:

    “By we keep pointing out to you that lands were purchased, either from largely absentee landlords or through the British government that had every legal right to sell these lands, many of which were vacant and desolate. At times the Jewish settlers paid … a second payment to move squatters from the land.”

    I understand you perfectly. Ottoman landlords and the British Colonial Authorities were the rightful owners of the land, and the Europeans who bought land from them to create a Jewish state were settlers. The people who had lived on the land for generations were “squatters”, who could be “transferred” for a fee. It was outrageous that poor Jewish settlers had to pay twice because those ungrateful sandmonkeys wouldn’t abandon their crops, orchards and wells and move on!

    You couldn’t provide a better example of the colonial nature of the Zionist enterprise and the utter disregard of the settlers for the rights of the natives. Colonial powers have always viewed the native populations of their colonies as “wogs” or “squatters” with no rights to the land that the colonizers want to settle or modernize. Their actions have always been utterly legal and often utterly immoral.

    “Your problem, whether you care to recognize it or not, is that you see the Arab population as powerless victims and the Jewis population as evil colonists by virtue of the fact that they brought with them industry and modernization.”

    I see the European Jews as colonists because they came to a land populated by others to establish their own state, without regard for the consent or rights of the indigenous population. Whether they brought industry and modernization or plague and pestilence is immaterial. Had Turks, Berbers, Bedouins, or any other group carried out a similar program of colonization, I would be equally critical of them. As for being powerless, the Muslim population of Palestine was overwhelmingly and vehemently opposed to Jewish nation-building, yet they were unable to stop it. I’d say that pretty much defines being powerless.

  55. Michael B says:


    Hardly “no rights.” Of the original, post-WWI Palestinian Mandate, 80% of it was used to form the state of Jordan, another 10% of it was to be used to form yet another Arab state (“Palestine” or whatever they might have chosen) and only the remaining 10% was used to form the state of Israel, and this in the post-Holocaust environment, among other factors you fail to apply to your calculus.

    Much of this reflecting a nettlesome problem, one recalling, for example, why land swaps were an issue with Clinton’s 2000 initiative, an initiative refused because it isn’t a state they’re interested in, it’s the elimination of the state of Israel and the elimination of Jews. There are occasional exceptions, though those exceptions, within the Arab refugee camp, have often been dealt with ruthlessly, very much in a totalitarian mold, from the Mufti of Jerusalem, to his protege Arafat, continuing now with Hamas and supportive Arab and Persian Muslim interests.

    And that’s the tip of the iceberg only.

  56. JeffB says:

    Lynne T:

    I’ve been speaking abstractly (annoyingly, self-righteously?), but I wonder how you feel on a concrete, personal level. I imagine you could have bought land in India in 1920 (legally) from the British government or an English landlord. If you arrived and found that the land was occupied by people who regarded it as their own long before the British arrived, what would you do? Help them get legal title to their homes and farms? Ask for your money back? Pay bandits to drive them away?

  57. Michael B says:

    JeffB, too, what type of scientist r u, if I might ask?

  58. JeffB says:

    Michael B.

    Ph.D. in analytical chemistry, but now do microbiological assays.

  59. Eliyahu says:

    In #52, Jeff wants to get back to Finkielkraut’s introductory question: Why did the Left choose the “palestinians”??

    If Jeff is representative, I would answer that this “Left” that he represents is ignorant, susceptible to influence by crude lying propaganda, looking for excuses to hate/harm Jews and to continue old Judeophobic themes in a new dress, old [Judeophobic] wine in a new [“palestiinian”] bottle, as it were.
    Furthermore, I reject the notion of Arab innocence towards the Europeans, and even more so Arab innocence towards the Jews, throughout history.
    His view of Jews as alien to the Land of Israel [which the Arabs themselves did NOT traditionally call “palestine” or Filastin], is a continuation of the theme common among European Judeophobes that Jews were alien to various European lands, whether Spain or France or Britain or Poland or Russia or Germany, etc.

    On the issue of Jews being alien to the Land, I would point to the practice of Jews in the Diaspora for many centuries sending money to support the Jewish communities in Jerusalem, Safed, Hebron, and Tiberias, especially. The Jews in these places were not only subject to the usual Islamic pecuniary exploitation of dhimmis, the jizya & kharaj taxes, but were harassed by local Muslims/Arabs with demands for all sorts of irregular payments, fees, exactions, bribes, “gifts,” etc., payments not required by the shar`iah. Now, without contributions by Diaspora Jews, the Jews in the country could not have made these payments, which –in the case of jizya & kharaj– gave them the right to live another year in the Islamic domain. These contributions were regularly collected from Jewish Diaspora communities in the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe. Indeed, an emissary from the Jewish community in Hebron came to America before US independence and raised money among Jews in Philadelphia, New York, Newport, etc. This emissary, Rabbi Hayim Karigal, was introduced to Ezra Stiles, future president of Yale, and actually became rather friendly with him. In short, Diaspora Jews were indirectly paying taxes and other moneys extorted from Jews in the Islamic domain, particularly in Israel, both to the central Muslim government [Mamluk, later Ottoman] and to local Muslim strongmen and officials. Hence, I feel that the Diaspora Jews over the centuries purchased their rights to live in the Land –with compound interest.

    Now, there was an implicit theme in some of what I wrote in my earlier posts on this thread, a theme that Jeff did not pick up. That is, that Western views of Jews are unreliable and as often based on old prejudices as not. That goes for many of the anti-Israel or anti-Zionist views now commonly expressed. I for one do not see that labelling these views as “leftist” gives them any more credence than if they were expressed by Pat Buchanan or Father Coughlin or Louis-Ferdinand Celine, and called “rightist.” Or by Jimmy Carter, who can fairly seen as part of the Establishment.

    One of the defining traits of what is today called “leftist” is the relative lack of interest in the concerns of the Left fifty or sixty or seventy years ago. Nobody seems to care about the working class anymore, except when giving lip service. Today’s remaining “marxists” have little –as far as I know– to say about “class struggle,” “class interest” and “class nature of the state,” and those other old concerns of the Left. If today’s Left cared about workers, then they might have to look at the condition of the millions of foreign workers in the oil rich Arab states, from Saudi Arabia to all the Persian Gulf sheikdoms and emirates. Then, if the Left still defined imperialism as finance capitalism, then it might have to apply that label not only to the United States, UK, and EU, but to Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, etc. All of these rich Arab states have major investments in Western capitalist enterprises and own valuable Western real estate. Yes, there are poor Arabs. Saudi Arabia, for one, does send money to Gaza. But not for the purpose of improving the living conditions of Arabs there, but in order to help those Arabs fight Israel and shoot rockets at Israeli towns and villages.

    As for Jeff, he seems impervious to information contrary to his own prejudices and seems not to want to acknowledge his own ignorance or the implications of that ignorance. We have been mainly going around in circles with him. Michael asks what sort of scientist he is. Indeed.

  60. Eliyahu says:

    Before I forget, let’s get back to the Sudan where Arab/Muslim aggression –indeed genocide– against non-Muslim tribal Blacks in the southern Sudan, and more recently against Muslim Blacks in Darfur [western Sudan], has been going on off and on since Sudanese independence in 1956. Where is Jeff’s moral high dudgeon about the mass murder perpetrated by Arabs in the Sudan, not just recently but over a fifty-one year period [intermittently, to be sure]???

    Otherwise, I don’t perceive any true dialogue with Jeff who simply returns to the same accusations against Israel over and over. Finkielkraut’s question is of high moral importance and ought to be kept in mind. Jeff’s answers to that question are not satisfactory.

  61. JeffB says:

    Michael B:

    “Of the original, post-WWI Palestinian Mandate … only the remaining 10% was used to form the state of Israel”

    The question is: what right did Europeans have to even 1 square inch of Palestine? Why should a single Palestinian (Arab or Jew) be displaced to provide a state for people who had lived in Europe for centuries? Do African-Americans have a right to move to Nigeria and establish a state of their own, against the will of the current population? Do Irish-Americans have a right to set up an independent nation in Ireland and displace people living there now?

  62. Michael B says:

    I offered but two brief, summary graphs only. You failed to quote my references to 1) the post-Holocaust era, 2) the totalitarian and eliminationist policies of Arafat and his mentor, the Mufti of Jerusalem and 3) also the allusion to “other factors you fail to apply to your calculus” and “the tip of the iceberg only.”

    But in general, it is hugely and vastly more complex – and more substantively complex – than referring to “Europeans” having some abstract right. You effectively deny, effectively occlude or elide, historical, social and in general anthropological enormities. Historically Jewish peoples are much more indigenous to the area of Judea, Samaria, etc. than are Arabs; they are not indigenous to Europe, they are transplants to Europe and elsewhere; this is historical, and historic, reality. “Palestine” itself, its very etymology, is from an imperial source, Roman, then subsequent imperial incursions, tribal and Muslim, stem from Arab orientations.

    (I am certainly susceptible to critiques of contemporary Jewish polities; for example, various aspects of Jewish assimilationist and anti-assimilationist interests and initiatives. I am not at all one-dimensional in this respect and have even been caustic with some of my criticisms, as I have been, differently, with Arab and Persian Muslim polities as well. But that is a tangent to the topic at hand.)

    You and likeminded want it all – and you want it all via highly selective historical, social/political, etc. references while occluding and eliding other historical, etc. realities (not abstract rights).

    I’m not attempting to simplify anything. You and likeminded are, and you’re doing so in a manner that comports with our own, contemporary, politically correct orthodoxies and heterodoxies. In that vein, we’re repeating ourselves and we’re not moving forward.

    Congrats on your doctorate though.

  63. Jeff B says:

    Michael B.

    I’m trying to digest all the comments posted here, especially yours, replying to those that strike a nerve and that I can articulate a position on (civilly!), and mulling over the others.

    In contrast to you, I am striving desperately to simplify issues, hopefully in a way that comports with the (T)truth. My thinking is broad and literal, not deep, and reduction via analogy with simpler examples is the only effective way for me to understand complex phenomena. I have to pare away issues that seem non-essential to stay focused. I posit that there were just a few critical points in time where Arabs and Jews had relative freedom of action, unconstrained by external forces or concerns for self-preservation, and I’d like to focus on those. I think those choices were largely driven by immediate concerns, so the impact of historical forces can initially be assessed from summarized accounts. I also believe the path of the conflict was already set by the mid-30’s, so detailed consideration of later events can be postponed. My calculus involves aiming for an approximate, first order solution by ignoring higher order effects. If you’re a lousy mathematician you have to hope that works, or at least gets you close enough to an answer that a real mathematician can help you.

    I’ve benefitted greatly from reading and responding to comments, but as you point out I’m spewing the same stuff unproductively.

    Thanks for the congrats.

  64. RL says:

    i’m writing from a cybercafe in guilin, china, and don’t have the time to process all these comments right now. i just want to thank everyone for their contributions, and for the informative rather than vituperative tone they’ve taken with each other. i think this debate is extremely valuable and will write a post about it when i get back next week.

    in the meantime, let me ask JeffB if he has read my posts on the issue of paradigms. my sense is that much of your processing of the data is skewed by a systematic projection of your own liberal sensibilities on the palestinians, and as a result, you mistake their motivations because you misunderstand them. i’d be interested in your comments on the paradigm essays.

    the overall point is the following: if you are being very generous with the palestinians (and correspondingly harsh with the israelis) in your reading of the conflict, that may “work” in terms of your moral universe, but it may fly in the face of the real factors at work in making this conflict so intractible. (indeed, it might even aggravate it by encouraging irredentist behavior on the part of palestinians who can get you to “buy” their complaint, when their hatreds and violence come instead from motivations which, were they to acknowledge them, might turn you off profoundly.)

    the payoff here, is that if you go with the wrong paradigm (in terms of real factors) because it makes you feel virtuous (siding with the victims of imperialism), you may actually be making the situation worse rather than better from the perspective of your own values.

    i’d be very intersted in your read of the paradigm essays.

    again, thanks to all the commentators for their imrpessive efforts to reason through a very difficult issue.

    rl, in guilin, on may 1, national holidy in (still nominally communist) china.

  65. Michael B says:

    JeffB, it’s a difficult set of topics and dynamics, like watching the movie “Syriana,” excepting instead of four plot lines, there’s forty or four-hundred and the viewer – together with their perceptions, knowledge and values – comprises one of those plot lines. (an analogy which is a bit light-hearted and can’t be taken too seriously, but it at least hints at the dynamics and complexities and multi-dimensional qualities involved and also underscores the fact that our own values/priorities, knowledge, perceptions, etc. is all part and parcel of what is “in the mix” and being tested.)

    too, to be sure we all simplify and generalize, otherwise it’d be difficult to communicate. but we also have to plumb the variety of subject matter to proper depths before we conceptualize, simplify and generalize, otherwise critical pieces of the puzzle will in fact be denied their part, will be (naively or otherwise) elided/occluded out of our individual attempts to properly frame it all. i enjoyed our exchange.

  66. nancy says:

    Hi Richard:
    I’d like to make a suggestion that besides the paradigm articles, have a look at this:
    which discusses this article:
    White Guilt and the Western Past
    Tuesday, May 2, 2006

    These issues are at the heart of the problem with the Israelis & Palestinians and also holds it’s solution, not who lived where when and therefore who the land belongs to.

    Understanding the moral implications of supporting the present Palestinian society’s demand for “peace” first requires that we all be very clear within our selves what our values are, and what our motivations are in getting involved in finding a solution. Because the present society is very troubling to any person who professes to hold humanistic values.

    That is what I understood from Alain Finkielkraut
    but I don’t completely agree with his conclusion.
    And if I ever get any free time! I will try to get down what I think is going on with the “left”, part of which David Pryce-Jones brings up in his book “The Closed Circle” which I’m in the middle of reading.

  67. JeffB says:

    Reply to RL:

    I have read the section in which you define the nominal western anti-Zionist paradigm (PCP**) and the nominal Palestinian/Muslim paradigm (HJP) (and find flaws). Where is the pro-Zionist paradigm defined? It’s impossible to compare/contrast the available paradigms without it.

    I avoid projecting my own sensibilities, or pretending to know what other’s motivations are. My moral universe is very simple. I make judgments based on what I would do in the same situation. Would I keep slaves if I lived in Virginia in 1850? No. It’s a simple decision (not necessarily easy), and I don’t need to know every cultural nuance, every detail of ante-bellum history, to make it. I don’t need to understand the sufferings and aspirations of the slaveholder, I don’t care how much better off the slaves are on the plantation than on their own, I don’t care what murderous villains the slaves might be or what horrors they might visit on me if freed.

    While I’m on the subject… If I found that land I had purchased from an absentee colonial landlord was occupied by people who had lived on it for generations, would I drive them from their homes and crops? No. Would I prevent civilians who had sought refuge during war from returning to their homes? No. Would I move from a safe home in the US to a settlement that caused the daily deprivation and suffering of other human beings? No. These decisions do not depend on guilt or bias or projection – just a simple sense of decency and justice.

    **I think you have the politically-correct part ass-backwards. There is virtually no limit to the breadth and depth to which it is admissible to defame Muslims in current discourse. Every form of opprobrium is acceptable, and the norm is to take the words or actions of a few individuals and impute them every Muslim on the planet. Rather than take up space with examples, just take any pejorative phrase or statement from your site, replace Palestinian/Arab/Muslim with Jew, and count the nanoseconds until Abe Foxman is screaming for your head. In contrast, the range of discourse permissible to the critic of Israel is greatly, and inappropriately, constrained.

  68. Michael B says:

    Endless, mobius strip loop Jeff, and even more superficial than I had previously imagined. Where is criticism of Israel “constrained” pray tell? At the U.N., where they are, in so many practical terms, blinded to practices in the Arab Muslim world, yet devote commissions and agendas to Israel, for example as reflected in the UNHRW? In the media? In legislatures and executives throughout the world? On the street in Europe, in the Arab or Persian Muslim world? I regret the note about any “enjoyment,” yours is endlessly looped, unreflective myopia. Then, when opposed, a whine …

    I’m curious, what do you regard as your most single, most salient and substantive point in this thread?

  69. Michael B says:

    Melanie Phillips summarizes and takes note of but the most recent statement from within “Palestine,” within Hamas, of their annihilationist interests. A long, perduring history, this, from the 7th century, or differently viewed, from the 20’s and 30’s, the MB, the Mufti, etc., etc. No mind though, Spielberg/Kushner, Judt, et al. imagine otherwise, throw in some Finkelsteins and Chomskys as well (they’re all so comfortably assimilated, sophisticated moderns, doncha know) and a naive and more willfully ignorant and self-blinded world – with supreme irony – takes note: it isn’t the culture of autocracy and nihilism and eliminationist interests from within the “Palestinian” camp and the Arab and Persian Muslim world more generally – it’s the Joooos.

  70. JeffB says:

    Michael B:

    “I’m curious, what do you regard as your most single, most salient and substantive point in this thread?”

    Questioning Finkielkraut’s Holocaust-guilt motive for Leftist support of Palestinians, I suppose. But it doesn’t seem like any point I’ve raised has actually been discussed – rather I am ignorant, biased, myopic, projecting, contemptible; I must first address some other issue or injustice; I must consider events that occurred 1000 years before the settlement of Palestine or events that occurred well after a Jewish State was a fait accompli.

    “Where is criticism of Israel “constrained” pray tell?”

    To be precise, I said discourse is constrained, not criticism. But criticism is constrained in the US, certainly. A person expressing an opinion at odds with Zionist interests, e.g. Jimmy Carter, is not a human being with a different point of view, he is an anti-Semite. The opinion is not challenged on the basis of fact or interpretation, it is simply rejected as hate speech.

    “culture of autocracy and nihilism and eliminationist interests from within the “Palestinian” camp”

    Put human beings in a pathological environment (slavery, prison, concentration camp) and they will behave pathologically. It would be foolish to expect people living under a 40 year military occupation, exposed to daily attacks by troops, tanks and helicopters, to think well of their occupiers, to be optimistic about their future, or avoid fantasies of retribution. It would be foolish to expect people whose leaders have been systematically murdered to develop a coherent system of governance and strategy. It would also be foolish to extrapolate the probable future behavior of people from their behavior under extremely pathological conditions.

    “endlessly looped, unreflective myopia”

    Palestinians behave pathologically, which justifies settling their land and driving them into refugee camps, which causes pathological behavior….

  71. Michael B says:

    Questioning? Your most salient and substantive point is to question something? In all you’ve typed in this thread that’s what you deem to be your most salient and substantive point? Good grief. A two-year can question his mother’s motives at every turn. Then again, those moms, they sure can be crafty!

    And no, criticism of Israel in the U.S. receives counter-criticism. Two different things. Volumes upon volumes have been written/published and criticisms of all type and kind have been forwarded in all manner of fora. That doesn’t mean that all criticisms are equally fair or that some of it isn’t entirely unfair, far from it, but this is the real world – if you can’t stand the heat …

    Then too, I disagree that Carter is an anti-Semite, but exceedingly few people have forwarded that criticism, same with your “hate speech” assignation and dismissiveness, which I have never heard. Too, while I don’t believe Carter is an anti-Semite he published all manner of deceits in that volume and it’s not entirely surprising some would suspect him of a form of anti-Semitism. I posted an Amazon review and was far too kind giving him two stars. Far too kind.

    And again, endlessly looped, unreflective myopia. It isn’t that you don’t agree, it’s the fact you don’t incorporate any new information into your ledger. You’re bankrupt, all funds have been embezzled, all employees have left the company, no product is being produced, the manf. plant has long been in decay and all properties have been subjected to liens in repayment of long overdue debts – yet you proceed to tally up your ledger as if nothing adverse has transpired and the company is flush with funds. For another parallel, see Twilight Zone episode “To Serve Man.”

    (And that Big Lies link, previously noted, has now long been available. Again, it’s certainly not a treatment in the highly conscientious, scholarly sense Moshe Gils “A History of Palestine 634-1099” is, but it’s documented and does, absolute bare minimum, provide indicators/directions for additional research. For those who care.)

  72. JeffB says:

    Reply to Michael B 05-07-07

    I have read BigLies.pdf. Nothing I haven’t read elsewhere, but it is aptly titled.

    You brought up a very good point in your Amazon review of “Palestine: Peace not Apartheid”. You accuse Carter of dismissing critics “in order to avoid more honestly confronting trenchant, cogent criticism – i.e. in order to avoid matching thought for thought, idea for idea, etc.” “…it’s no surprise that his epigones … very often adopt similarly evasive, dismissive, dissimulating, diffusive, etc. tactics rather than more honest, more transparent and therein more fruitful exchanges.

    An honest, transparent exchange matching thought for thought, idea for idea, is exactly what I’d like to have.

  73. RL says:

    Joanne had difficulty posting this comment and asked me to post it for her. RL

    This is in response to JeffB’s comment #26: I won’t answer his second point because others have already done so, especially Lynn and Sophia. I will add just one thing: I understand that, in 1948, UNWRA allowed any Arab to identify himself as a Palestinian if he’d been living in the area for a minimum of two years. Aside from the immigration of Arabs to the area, this probably also served to muddy the issue.

    His first point struck me as curious. In strong language, he says that the decision not to bomb the camps was a cruel but necessary one because “there was no way to whisk thousands/millions of people to safety. Bombing the camps would at best have killed the guards and released thousands of prisoners into the heart of hostile territory, where they would be killed on sight.”

    This smacks of post-hoc rationalization. I am skeptical that the prospect of killing guards was a consideration. As for the inmates, the surrounding territories were a good deal more manageable in terms of hostilities than the camps themselves, where the Jews and others were being killed industrially. Also, the initial argument in favor of bombing the camps wasn’t that it would help the inmates, but rather that it would prevent or stall the delivery of new prisoners. As I mentioned before, the British Foreign Office explicitly gave helping the Jews “lowest priority,” and it wasn’t it was worried that escaped inmates would have more to fear from Polish peasants than they would from the gas chambers. JeffB notes that there have been later occasions where the world has stood by (although I think including Virginia was obnoxious). Yes, these situations were also reprehensible, though I can understand Clinton’s initial hesitation with Bosnia, because he really did fear another Vietnam. However, that’s neither here nor there. Britain did not care about the Jews (Churchill was a notable exception), and was not swayed by any considerations for their welfare. I don’t think there were any compelling reasons NOT to bomb the camps. After all, they were near factories that were themselves accessible targets. I suspect that the British government didn’t even bothered to look into the matter.

    JeffB’s depiction of the history of the region strikes me as formulaic and sketchy, edited to conform to currently fashionable views. I’m sorry he quoted me, but I was just stating what I felt was his basic point. As I said, I think that the history is far more complicated than it is often portrayed, and far more complicated than he portrayed it here.

    It seems to me that a lot of progressive people who grew up in the wake of colonialism and the Vietnam war view the whole world through a single boilerplate, in which the West is bad and the Third World is good; capitalism is bad and socialism (or at least socialist rhetoric) is good; and so on. They’ll apply this boilerplate simplistically to every conflict in the world, oblivious to the fact that many conflicts have roots that predate colonialism or American hegemony, or simply have little to do with them. I think that this is the case with Israel/Palestine. As JeffB said: “Many see Palestine as the last European colony, an ongoing, in-your-face exhibit of might-makes-right injustice.“ I think that by „many people,“ he includes himself. In any case, if that’s what „many people“ see, then we’re in deep trouble.

  74. JeffB says:

    Joanne (via RL) 05-07-07

    I agree with you that the British/Allied planners and strategists failed to do everything possible to aid concentration camp prisoners, and it is truthful and respectful of those who sacrificed to say so. But I think Finkielkrauts’s accusation that humanity abandoned six million people to their deaths is both untrue and deeply insulting to the tens of millions who fought and died to defeat the Nazis.

  75. Michael B says:

    No Jeff, I unambiguously pointed to “Big Lies” as being indicative, not as final/authoritative in an ultimate sense or anywhere close to it – e.g., pointedly contrasting it with another, vastly more meticulous, more scholarly and, as such, more authoritative work, albeit one addressing a different era. Still, it (Big Lies) remains broadly indicative and choosing to wave your hand at it all, being broadly dismissive, directly contradicts your profession that “An honest, transparent exchange matching thought for thought, idea for idea, is exactly what I’d like to have.” JeffB

    Well, so you profess, but that profession is belied by blatantly incurious lapses at critical and convenient junctures. In general terms it’s belied by your use of various forms of sweeping dismissiveness, by simplistic and stylized reductions and tendentiousness, by allowing large scale inconsistencies in your historical calculus, for example when you merely wave your hand and relapse into proto-Marxian or neo-Marxian “boilerplate” and categories. (I’m somewhat reluctant to use the term, but in fact it is vastly more complex than such glosses allow. Indeed, one reason, among several, I referenced the Moshe Gil volume was due to the fact that his meticulous scholarship is meticulous for a very good and very necessary reason, i.e. the evolving and motley character of the non-Arabic, Semitic populations of Palestine during the Byzantine, Persian and immediately pre-Islamic era positively requires such a meticulous, ethnographic treatement. Absent that, all manner of critical detail is conveniently glossed. As well with subsequent historical developments.)

    Likewise with your non-engagement or dis-engagement of anything presented in the review of Carter’s recent publication, beyond the rhetorical flourish and profession used in a contrarian sense. Not that this is about that review as such, but, for example, do you so much as allow that the opening reference to Carter’s statement – on al-Jazeera no less – that “most of the condemnations of [his] book came from Jewish-American organizations” perforce serves to demonstrate why some are at least highly suspicious of anti-Semitic motives/interests in Carter’s defenses (which statement doesn’t begin to broach other suspect aspects reflected in Carter’s volume)? Or is that to be conveniently and broadly dismissed, placed in the memory hole, as well?

    Yet your avowal, your professed stance, is one that is desirous of serious engagement. Problem is, too much of the evidence belies that profession, runs counter to it. Reminiscent, btw, of Carter’s avowals, while he omits more transparent methods from his volume (e.g., a lack of citations, cross-references) and too often relies upon his opaque, presumptively “authoritative” voice and patronizing, paternal assurances.

    I.e. there is much intellectual work required to more seriously address the various and sundry aspects of all the history and anthropology. Part of that work involves the ability to transcend some proto-Marxian and neo-Marxian and other stylized categories when the empirical/historical and rational evidence presents itself – and additionally to apply them consistently when they are more valid (e.g., imperial/oppressive conquests of Arabic/Muslim incursions over against Semitic populations, both nomadic and more sedantary populations, mixed with Judaic, Christian and other religious interests still).

    Glosses, reductions, tendentiousness, vast and pivotal omissions of critical detail – all that and more in order to conform to ideological, political and other prejudices and “boilerplate” – don’t cut it. And again and for emphasis, Israel ended up being composed out of roughly 10% of the post-WWI Palestinian Mandate, Jordan 80% of that Mandate. The remaining 10%, if they had genuninely desired co-existence, would have gone to yet another Arab and Sunni Muslim state. Then there’s the roughly 900,000 Jewish refugees from Arab and Persian Muslim lands, etc. Oh well, fortunately, they’re only Jews.

    If they were Wahhabi and Sunni or Shi’ia Muslim, autocrats and totalitarians ready to summarily execute dissidents, ready to chop off the heads of infidels, ready to subserve the Ummah and jihad, well, then we’re all too happy to give them our attention and regard. After all, there are principles to uphold, no?

  76. JeffB says:

    Michael B

    Mea culpa. Put forth a single idea or proposition and I’ll attempt to respond without being evasive, dismissive, etc.

  77. Joanne says:


    “But I think Finkielkrauts’s accusation that humanity abandoned six million people to their deaths is both untrue and deeply insulting to the tens of millions who fought and died to defeat the Nazis.”

    But Finkielkraut isn’t accusing the millions who fought against the Nazis. You’re setting up a straw man here.

    Sure, there were some among those millions who didn’t give a fig for the Jews and were happy to see them carted off, for instance, the right-wing Polish partisans, among others. But there were also some among them who helped the Jews. Mostly, they were busy fighting for themselves and their countries, and there was nothing wrong with that. But the Jews were still abandoned by many, by churches and governments and, yes, armies. The British Foreign Office referred to the Jewish deaths as being of the “lowest priority.” That could be said to have been the attitude of others, as well.

    No insults to the millions are intended here. Sorry, but that’s a bit of smoke and mirrors on your part.

  78. JeffB says:


    Maybe I’m being too literal. I read “humanity”, which I interpret to mean all human beings, barring any qualification or context that would indicate otherwise (which I don’t see in the essay). I’m reluctant to put my own qualifiers or exclusions around the man’s statement.

  79. Eliyahu says:

    Jeff, please don’t forget the Jews who fought in the Allied armies, including my mother’s cousins who died at the battle of Stalingrad.

  80. Michael B says:

    Jeff, given our lack of progress I’ll bid you a fare-thee-well for now. As far as Finkielkraut’s piece, there may be areas where you need to give it a generous vs. a less generous treatment, but it’s a poignant commentary, something of a lodestar, in terms of its primary initiative and it’s particularly rich in terms of what can be further mined from it.

  81. chevalier de st george says:

    AN insight into the possible reasons the Allies did not bomb Auschwitz or the Railway and its surrounding “Industrial complexes” until there was no doubt they would fall into Soviet hands, can be gained by reading this article about IG Farben.

  82. RL says:

    From Eliyahu to Jeff B:
    Jeff, about Ireland and Africa. Ireland does welcome Irish-Americans and several African countries welcome African-Americans.

    Another point to stress, in my view, is that your claim that because some of the Jews in Israel came from Europe or were living in Europe, they were not entitled to repatriation to Israel is not justified. First, I pointed out that Jews were never fully accepted as “Europeans.” Just as significant is that the Arab record in regard to their treatment of Europe is one of repeated aggression, conquest of Sicily, Spain, southern Italy, southern France by Arabs, and later the conquest of southeastern Europe by the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Empire was still ruling over non-Muslim peoples in Southeastern Europe into the 20th century. This rule was always exploitative and often very oppressive. Then there was the continuing Arab piracy from the Barbary Coast ports against Europe –from Italy up to Iceland– which lasted into the 19th century. So your point about Jews-living-in-Europe not being entitled to migrate or return to the Land of Israel is not justified. Then, half of the Jewish population in Israel is from Arab and other Muslims lands, anyhow.

    Jeff, in the late 19th century, August Bebel, a German socialist leader, defined antisemitism as “the socialism of fools.” Today, anti-Zionism and Israelophobia are the preferred forms of Judeophobia. They are ideologies manipulated by powerful and wealthy forces/persons/institutions that are capable of deploying superior psychological warfare strategy and tactics. Today we could say that anti-Zionism and Israelophobia are “the anti-imperialism of fools.” Jeff, don’t be a fool.

  83. JeffB says:

    Michael B

    As far as Finkielkraut’s piece … it’s a poignant commentary, something of a lodestar, in terms of its primary initiative and it’s particularly rich in terms of what can be further mined from it.

    I must respectfully disagree. To the simple question “Why does the Left focus on the suffering of the Palestinians?” Finkielkraut offers a lengthy, convoluted answer involving the Holocaust, shame, Edith Piaf, D-Day, the Rolling Stones, the Holocaust, “the march of humanity toward intermingling and fluidity”, and the “bulldozer of penitent democracy”. He plucks so many notes that he’s bound to strike a chord somewhere with the sympathetic reader, who is free to mold Finkielkraut’s vague words to his own pre-existing notions. Anything of substance beyond the unsupported assertion that Holocaust-guilt motivates the Left eludes me.

    With apologies for repetition, let me give the short, direct answer to Finkielkraut’s question. Western taxpayers do not annually provide billions in aid and weapons to the parties oppressing the Chechens, Tibetans, Bosnians, Tutsis, or Sudanese. No Western think tanks and lobbying groups work tirelessly to defend their oppressors. No Westerner credibly claims that criticism of their oppressors is motivated by racism or prejudice or a desire to evade the critic’s own guilt. In the twentieth century, the Palestinians are the only people (newly) colonized by Westerners, the only refugees prevented from returning to their homes after a conflict with a modern liberal democracy, the only citizens of such a democracy with second class citizenship due to their ethnicity. In short, the situation of the Palestinians is unique in that it directly involves Western actions and is susceptible to change by Westerners, including Leftists.

  84. JeffB says:


    “Jeff, about Ireland and Africa. Ireland does welcome Irish-Americans and several African countries welcome African-Americans.”

    True, and welcome is the operative word. Irish/African-Americans have the consent of the (majority of) current residents to immigrate in limited numbers, providing they respect the rights and sovereignty of the current residents. They have absolutely no right to settle in unlimited numbers, to set up their own government, or dispossess the current residents.

    “…your claim that because some of the Jews in Israel came from Europe or were living in Europe, they were not entitled to repatriation to Israel is not justified.”

    First, let’s be very clear that the vast majority of adult Jews in the region as of 1948 were born in Europe.

    I have a very simple-minded view of this issue. If I get out of line at the movie theater, I go to the end of the line and wait with everyone else. My friend can’t hold a place for me because we’re both Irish or Catholic. If I live in Europe for centuries, I’m a European. I got out of line, and I have no more claim to land in the Middle East than any other European. End of story. That Jews were not accepted in Europe or that Arabs or Turks were nasty rulers hundreds of years ago is unfortunate, but immaterial.

  85. Eliyahu says:

    Jeff, I’d rather not keep on going around in circles with you. I agree with Finkielkraut that the urge to divest the Western conscience of Holocaust guilt is a motivator for Israelophobia, and not just on the part of what is called the Left. Various Establishment personalities and institutions in the USA, like ANERA [American Near East Refugee Relief] have joined in the Israelophobic dance. Back in the Fifties, the argument was made that the Arabs were innocent of any prior hostility or unkindness to Jews. Well, that argument was false, although you might claim it irrelevant by your 2007 standards. The Arabs did oppress Jews terribly and did collaborate in the Holocaust. Now, Jews have been returning to the Land of Israel throughout the centuries. It is not a new 20th phenomenon. Indeed, Jews were the majority in Jerusalem in the mid-19th century already.

    Now, are your standards perhaps just too convenient, since they allow you to condemn Israel and not the USA, New Zealand, Canada [including Quebec], Australia, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, etc. After all, can you restrict your rejection of states allegedly founded by settlers to those founded in the 20th century?? Why not Canada that was founded in the 19th century as a state, although colonized by French and then British just a few hundred years ago??? Australia wasn’t colonized before 1820 if I not mistaken. Do they have to get out too?

    What about the suffering of the Jews over the centuries because they were in Exile and others [Arabs] had usurped the Jews’ land? As far as who drove out whom in the War of Independence, such acts were perpetrated by the Arab forces by the beginning of the war and Jews were driven out of their homes in December 1947 in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Indeed, Jews were driven out of their homes in a series of British-supported pogroms starting in 1920. Many of those Jewish communities had had a continuous existence of hundreds of years, perhaps thousands in the case of Hebron.

    Now, you are inconsistent in your use of the notion of a “majority of current residents”. Today, the majority in Israel do not want the grandchildren or great-grandchildren of Arabs who left in 1948 to settle in Israel. You object to that majority but then when you speak of Ireland you say that there is majority consent for a return by Irish-Americans. So a Jewish majority of current residents does not have the same rights as other majorities.

    Then you insinuate that Israel “dispossessed the current residents.” As I point out two paragraphs above, Arab forces began to dispossess Jewish current residents in December 1947. Indeed, Arabs pogromists had driven Jews out of their homes with British collaboration as early as 1920 and then repeatedly throughout the Mandate period.

    I find out both that you are unwilling to consider evidence of which you seem to have been previously unaware, and that you use your arguments and ostensible principles inconsistently, in such a way as to undermine the Jews’ position in Israel but not the position of the Arabs or of others who colonized or settled or whatever word you like to use.

    I remind you that the Norwegian Nansen got the Nobel Prize for facilitating the expulsion of population in 1922-23 and for obtaining the consent of the two sides to mutual expulsions. I further remind you that the Jews whom you so blithely call “Europeans” were treated in many European countries with the same contempt for their right to live in those places as you now display towards the right of the Jews to live in Israel, although many years have passed since the departure of many Arabs from the Land, whether they were forced by Israel or by Arab forces to leave [as in Haifa in 1948].

    Since you apply standards of judgement and moral standards inconsistently, indeed falsely in some cases [perhaps because of your ignorance of history which sometimes seems wilful], I must conclude that your attitude reflects a profound hatred of Jews. Bear in mind that hatred can be harmful to the hater too.

  86. Eliyahu says:

    1st paragraph:
    … a new 20th CENTURY phenomenon…

    3rd paragraph:
    … perpetrated by the Arab forces AT the beginning of the war…

    In re your claim that Jews as “alleged” Europeans had no right to settle in the Land of Israel without the consent of the Arab majority, I pointed out that Arabs and then the Ottoman Empire had no compunctions about invading European lands. Furthermore, prominent Arab families in the Empire had family members who served in high posts in the Ottoman Empire. These included Yusuf Diya al-Khalidi [of Jerusalem] who served as Ottoman consul in Vienna. Faisal Husseini’s grandfather, Musa Kazim al-Husayni, who officiated as the governor or various Ottoman districts/provinces. The Husseinis were based in Jerusalem. Members of the Nablus-based Abdul-Hadi family also took high imperial posts. So on and so forth. My point is that palestinian Arabs [in fact, the Arabs DID NOT traditionally use the geographic term “palestine” or “Filastin”] had imperial authority over Europeans and in an empire which ruled over European non-Muslims.

    Your argument about Jews being disqualified for settlement in Israel as “Europeans” is groundless and without merit and without morality. I am aware that others think like you. Ignorance and bigotry are indeed widespread nowadays. We may be moving back into a new dark age of civilization, with the help of people like you.

  87. JeffB says:

    Eliyahu 05-15-07

    “Now, are your standards perhaps just too convenient, since they allow you to condemn Israel and not the USA, New Zealand, Canada [including Quebec], Australia, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, etc. “

    This is a good question. Is it valid to impose different ethical standards in different times? Yes, because ethical standards progress over time. It was legal and acceptable for Americans to hold slaves in 1865. It was acceptable to force blacks to sit in the back of the bus in the 1950’s. It was acceptable for Europeans to colonize other parts of the world in the 17th, 18th, and early 19th centuries. But standards progressed, and at least those living in Western societies were very well aware by the early 20th century that settlement, colonization, and interference with the self-determination of other people were ethically wrong actions. Myths such as “a land without a people for a people without a land” were created to sidestep such ethical concerns.

  88. […] raeli Conflict — RL @ 10:49 am — Print This Post Jeff B, who has stimulated so much discussion here over Finkielkr […]

  89. […] aeli Conflict — RL @ 12:23 am — Print This Post In my effort to explain the virulent anti-Zionism of the “Left,& […]

  90. Michael B says:

    “… ethical standards progress over time.” JB

    They do? Out of historical necessity? A type of Marxian or some other historicism? Such a proposition may be arguable, but it’s hardly a simple, factual statement. I’d argue otherwise.

    Ethical standards certainly ebb and flow over time, they progress and regress. There are both broad and narrower historical sweeps wherein the evolution is a progressive one, but there are broad and narrower historical sweeps wherein the evolution is regressive as well. Too, technological progress, applied science, should not be confused with social/political and moral/ethical progress, even if there are attendant factors (e.g., medical science) which would seem to suggest otherwise.

    The center does not hold, excepting where a generation chooses. The center does not hold out of any default historicism or historical necessity, Marxian or otherwise.

  91. […] increasingly been held in thrall to one tenet that seems trumps all others – the adoption of the Palestinian people as the “chosen people” and the corrolary demonization of Israel as the imperial/colonialist/racist oppressor holding them […]

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