Was 1948 a Jihad? Gelber reviews Morris

I recently posted a piece by Benny Morris on the false notion of “secular” when applied to Palestinian identity, intentions, or ideology, and a commenter, sshender, sent me to a review of Morris’ recent book, 1948, in Azure, by Yoav Gelber, the director of the Herzl Institute for the Research and Study of Zionism at the University of Haifa, who criticizes Morris’ claim that 1948 was a Jihad. Relevant excerpts below, with my comments throughout.

Autumn 5769 / 2008, no. 34

The Jihad That Wasn’t

Reviewed by Yoav Gelber

1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War by Benny Morris
Yale University Press, 2008, 523 pages.

The basic facts of the first Arab-Israeli war are well known but worth repeating.

[snip]

These are the basic facts regarding the 1947-1948 war, known to Israelis as the “War of Independence” and to Palestinians as the “Nakba”—the catastrophe. About these facts there is almost no dispute. About everything else to do with the war, however, from the smallest details to the grandest strategies, there is nothing but dispute. In this ongoing controversy over the events of 1948, which for both peoples residing in the Land of Israel touches the rawest of nerves, a unique place is reserved for Benny Morris.

A professor of history in the Middle East studies department of Ben-Gurion University, Benny Morris published his first book, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949, in 1987 and immediately caused a firestorm of controversy. The book’s impact shifted the public and academic spotlight from Israel’s victory in 1948 to the suffering of the Palestinians during the war and its aftermath. In the years since then, Morris has been attacked by Jewish and Arab historians alike, to say nothing of the vicious criticisms leveled against him by those who have not even read a single one of his works.

It is not difficult to understand why: The book profoundly undermined the Israeli narrative of the war, which held that the Arab leadership was responsible for the creation of the refugee problem by calling for the Palestinians to flee, assuring them that they would be able to return in the wake of the victorious Arab armies. This being said, Morris also repudiated the Arab narrative of 1948, which claimed that Israel intentionally expelled the Palestinians according to a prearranged plan. Regrettably, Morris’s Jewish critics ignored this aspect of his work. Arab readers, for their part, did the same, quoting only those select portions of Morris’s book that reinforced their version of events.

Although Morris was at first identified with Israel’s “new historians”—who take a critical and generally pro-Palestinian view of the Arab-Israeli conflict—he gradually integrated into the mainstream of Israeli historiography. Some post-Zionist historians, from whom he has since distanced himself, claim that Morris has changed his political spots in the wake of the second Intifada. These scholars, captive to the post-modern idea that there is no such thing as objective history, refuse to accept the possibility that a true historian relies on the facts to reach his conclusions and does not impose his own convictions or ideology on the evidence, as they themselves tend to do. Morris has not undergone a sudden conversion. Like any good historian, he has simply been influenced by the accumulated source material.

I’m not in a position to judge here, since I have little expertise, but I don’t think the two arguments are mutually exclusive. I suspect that in his work up to 2000, Morris was involved in what might be called “therapeutic history” — if we Israelis self-criticize for what we’ve done to you Palestinians, maybe we can get the ball rolling. This might explain why some of his work in this period is so shoddy (see Ephraim Karsh’s Fabricating History: The “New Historians”). Hence his shift after 2000, his empirical response to “the accumulated material” may well represent a response to a wake-up call.

I personally, being pomo in my own fashion, think historians inevitably have passions and commitments that drive their work — few are so bloodless as to do antiquarianism out of some pure commitment to “just the facts, ma’am.” The issue is not so much their driving passions, but their respect for the evidence, especially the refractory evidence. Hence, part of the accumulation of evidence that may have influenced Morris, appropriately, was the failure of the Oslo Process.

In his most recent book, 1948, Benny Morris returns to the War of Independence and examines it from a comprehensive perspective. The book lays out the political and diplomatic background of the war, analyzes the aims and strategy of the belligerents, and describes the development of the refugee problem. Most prominently, it deals with the military aspects of the confrontation: the balance of forces between the rival armies; their organization, training, and strategy; and, above all, the story of the war itself—the actions and operations of the forces in the field. Morris’s aim in 1948 appears to have been to write the definitive account of the War of Independence. And indeed, he almost succeeds in doing so—with emphasis on the word “almost.”

The first concerns the political struggle that took place behind the scenes at the UN before and during the November 29, 1947, vote on partition.

[snip]

The second innovation offered by Morris is a pioneering attempt to put the war of 1948 in the context of the “clash of civilizations” between Islam and the West. In order to prove this, Morris quotes from the public statements of Arab leaders, such as the Saudi king Ibn Saud; representatives of the religious establishment, such as the ulamah (a council of religious scholars) of al-Azhar University; and spokesmen for popular Islamic movements, the Muslim Brotherhood foremost among them. During 1948 and even before, all of these figures made explicit references to the prevailing hostility between Muslims and Jews that has marked their relationship since the seventh century. They emphasized the holiness of Palestine and exalted the righteousness of the “martyrs” who volunteered to die for it. To strengthen his claim, Morris also quotes comments by Western diplomats like Alec Kirkbride, the British envoy to Transjordan, who reported on the eve of the Arab invasion that “no Muslim can contemplate the holy places falling into Jewish hands.”

On the basis of this evidence, Morris argues that the 1948 war was not a struggle between competing nationalisms, but, in fact, a Muslim holy war against the hated agents of the West. Many in the Arab world, he claims, saw the assault on the Yishuv as a jihad intended to save the holy places of Jerusalem from the infidels. According to Morris, most historians tend to ignore this aspect of the war and the religious rhetoric that accompanied it. They prefer, he claims, to present it as a solely national struggle—which it was not.

Undoubtedly, this is a daring and provocative idea. There may be something in it, but Morris raises it only in the concluding chapter of 1948, and, as a result, his analysis of the supposedly jihadist nature of the war is decidedly limited. Put bluntly, the evidence he presents to support his thesis is simply insufficient.

Emblematic of the problem is Morris’s reliance on statements made by Ibn Saud regarding the Jews and Zionism. While it is true that Wahhabi Saudi Arabia has long been known as the most extreme of the Arab states in its relationship to Zionism, it is important to note that the Saudis did not take part in any of the Arab-Israeli wars. It appears, therefore, that despite his rhetoric, religion played at best a secondary role in Ibn Saud’s foreign policy. His interest in Palestine stemmed more from his desire to constrain his rivals, the Hashemites, than from his opposition to the Jewish Yishuv. It is therefore difficult to see a letter he sent in 1943 to President Roosevelt as convincing proof of the essentially religious character of a war which broke out five years after it was written.

As if, in five years, the religious element might have faded? What on earth can a five year gap mean to religious motivation?

The other statements Morris quotes also fail to tip the scales in his favor. A single comment on the issue by Transjordanian politician Samir al-Rifa’i to the effect that “the Jews are a people to be feared…. Give them another twenty-five years and they will be all over the Middle East” is particularly slight evidence considering al-Rifa’i’s involvement in the negotiations between the Jewish Agency and King Abdullah of Transjordan both before and after the war. Nor was al-Rifa’i in any way opposed to the West.

The fear expressed by al-Rifa’i is not necessarily religious so much as it’s cultural, but it reflects at once the enormous fear and cultural inferiority that the Arabs feel vis-a-vis the Jews — who after all, mastered Western technology and science in ways that had eluded the Arabs and Muslims for centuries — and their attraction to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. And personally, I doubt there’s any major Arab figure in this period about whom one can safely assert that they were “not in any way opposed to the West.” I may be wrong, but I suspect a problem here.

Moreover, King Abdullah’s two proclamations about liberating the holy places—issued in February and April 1948 and reported by Kirkbride—can be easily explained by motivations other than religious zeal. The second declaration, for instance, was directed at his Arab allies no less—and perhaps more—than the Jews.

This logic escapes me. What does it mean that the second declaration about liberating the holy places “was directed at his Arab allies no less — and perhaps more — than the Jews”?

One cannot escape the feeling that, in general, Morris grants far too much importance to the militant Islamic rhetoric of the period in question. If, as the Muslim Brotherhood declared in 1938, the fight for Palestine was the inescapable duty of every Muslim—an obligation which the mufti of Cairo reiterated ten years later—there is no way to avoid the conclusion that the Muslims of the time were not particularly zealous. There appears to have been a wide discrepancy between the fiery rhetoric of Muslim religious leaders—particularly in Egypt—and the practical response of the faithful. Indeed, one suspects that Morris’s interpretation of this particular aspect of the war is somewhat anachronistic and is perhaps unduly influenced by current trends in the Muslim world—specifically the rise of Al-Qaida, Hamas, Hezbollah, and other radical Islamic organizations.

Well, that leaves us with an interesting historical question. Is it more likely that the current surge of religious passion is something that only recently appeared on the scene, or a resurgence of something that had been there all along. Given the history of Jihad in the Muslim world, I think it takes a Rube Goldberg machine to take Gelber’s position.

Indeed, what is Gelber’s position? What does he think motivated the Arabs who took arms against Israel — not necessarily the politicians who may have declared war and mobilized armies, but the people who took up arms and those who cheered the on?

Let me postulate the following position: the burden of proof that the motivations for 1948, no matter how powerful at the time or not, were not religious, lies with the historian who wishes to make the claim. Despite some evidence in the “Arab nationalist” movement during the early 20th century, that some elites wanted to shift the focus from religious issues, there is little to no evidence that such an effort made headway anywhere but among Arab Christians and some Muslim elites educated in the West.

But the notion that somehow the Arab world was motivated to war in 1948, to wipe out the nascent Israeli state by some commitment to either Palestinian nationalism of a secular nature, or that Arab nationalism at the time had any power that was not linked to Muslim sentiments, strikes me as unlikely in the extreme.

The only “counter-argument” I can conceive one might make concerns “honor-shame” culture. And of course the overlap between definitions of how a Jewish state was an insult to Arab (imperial) honor, and how a Jewish state was a blasphemous challenge to Muslim honor are so great that I would find it difficult to distinguish them.

39 Responses to Was 1948 a Jihad? Gelber reviews Morris

  1. E.G. says:

    Historians are “doomed” to use hindsight. Knowledge of the consequences might (and probably does) affect the way the acts that had led to those consequences (but which, at the time, were carried out with only forecasts of the outcomes) are studied, analysed and interpreted.

    Another difficulty is that, among the traces that can be studied (“evidence”), one can at best find some diary in which a person consigned his/her thoughts, considerations etc. – too often thinking of such a piece as a document that would sometime go public, hence editing it rather carefully. It is impossible to know what people actually thought.

    but it is possible to know some of the things they very likely didn’t think, and secular palestinian nationalism fits nicely into that category. the idea that in 1948, arabs are not thinking in muslim terms, even as they may use the language of arab nationalism to get the christians to join in the slaughter, strikes me as something close to impossible. -rl

    I fail to see the importance of determining whether the 1947 attack was motivated by either national or religious considerations. I’d be grateful for a clarification of the relevance of such a conclusion to the present or the future view of the ME. While we’re at it, how would you classify 1929? and 1936?

    the whole fabric of oslo logic was predicated on the idea that the palestinians had gone beyond their irredentism. in nationalist terms, that’s imaginable — even if you do have to engage in some “House”-like hallucinations to make it happen. After all, land for peace is a viable negotiating strategy if the land you give forms a nation that recognizes your right to the land you keep.

    if you realize that the irredentism comes from the religious paradigm, articulated by Hamas in 1988, but there from the beginning of zionism — that all the land the brits call palestine is part of dar al islam, indeed, it’s holy waqf, then any compromise is impossible.

    much of the afterlife of oslo, including its current currency in the white house and on the pages of the nyt, is based on the idea that we were almost there, and if only we cd get back to the deal, then the violent religious fanaticism that we see will subside. if you realize that the religious fanaticism was what broke oslo, that it was never viable, you realize that this move will have the opposite impact on the basic forces at work in the arab world.

    to paraphrase, the greatest achievement of islam was to make us believe that the palestinian movement is secular and all they want is the same human rights we have in western countries. it’s all a question of paradigm. -rl

    From the little I know, I suppose that both national (Ummah) and religious (Jihad) factors were interwoven, and that at times, one or another, deemed more efficient for achieving specific results, was more relied upon.

  2. obsy says:

    It appears, therefore, that despite his rhetoric, religion played at best a secondary role in Ibn Saud’s foreign policy. His interest in Palestine stemmed more from his desire to constrain his rivals, the Hashemites, than from his opposition to the Jewish Yishuv.

    Moreover, King Abdullah’s two proclamations about liberating the holy places—issued in February and April 1948 and reported by Kirkbride—can be easily explained by motivations other than religious zeal. The second declaration, for instance, was directed at his Arab allies no less—and perhaps more—than the Jews.

    That is exactly the point!
    The interests of a few Arab leaders does not say anything about the Arab population. It is the fact that those leader choose exactly those words for the Arab audience, that tells us what had been important to the Arab population.
    That Arab leaders had other interests only clarifies that addressing religion was not due to their personal perspective, but only to believes of the population.

    Yoav Gelber comes so close to that point in the last sentence I quoted. I think he does not what to understand. He probably wrote it down together with a weird conclusion so that there won’t be a need to think about it again.

    I mean no disrespect here. Historians are people too.

    Projecting your own secularism (real world Zionism does not look religious) onto others may be tempting and who knows what other personal reasons there might be to demand more evidence for the “more religious than nationalism”-thesis while outright accepting the “more nationalism than religious”-thesis.

    interesting suggestion that obscurity serves other functions. certainly holds for “post-colonial” discourse. i agree, i think this is classic zionist projection — “we’re a modern, secular movt, they claim to be one, they are one.” i wonder if he realizes the mistake this view represents and its role in fueling Oslo optimism… -rl

  3. obsy says:

    it is important to note that the Saudis did not take part in any of the Arab-Israeli wars.

    Sorry, that is just not true!
    Saudi Arabia threatened and used oil-embargos to force Israeli troops to stop. (Against their own economical interest!)

    That is a point that no serious historian should ignore. There is not much room for speculation here. Maybe I was to quick not to disrespect Yoav Gelber.

    this is interesting. it shows the inadequacy of both the zionist and the post-zionist schools of historical thought. Gelber’s thinking and argumentation are familiar to me since they’re the same quality (poor) and depth (none) that medievalists mobilize in order to dismiss apocalyptic expectations. it’s a sign of a blind spot. -rl

  4. obsy says:

    If, as the Muslim Brotherhood declared in 1938, the fight for Palestine was the inescapable duty of every Muslim—an obligation which the mufti of Cairo reiterated ten years later—there is no way to avoid the conclusion that the Muslims of the time were not particularly zealous.

    Your commitment to a cause does not show in how fast you jump to weapons. I have never taken up a rifle to fight.

    Let’s look at the situation more closely:

    At first there was no reason to believe that the Arab armies would not crush the Jews. So why should a Muslim thousands and thousands miles away leave wife and children to fight for a sure cause in a land he had never seen?

    Then there was news that the mighty Arab armies were crushed by the Jews. So why should a Muslim leave wife and children to fight in a land he had never seen against an enemy who crushed the mighty Arab armies?

    There appears to have been a wide discrepancy between the fiery rhetoric of Muslim religious leaders—particularly in Egypt—and the practical response of the faithful.

    True. But there is a lot of space between the fiery rhetoric of Muslim religious leaders and secularism.
    To say, “because the Muslims were not lining up for suicide missions, they must have been secular”, is simply wrong.

    By the way, at least some religious leaders must have been religious themselves. The fact that they did not rush into war themselves does not mean that they were not religious.

  5. obsy says:

    Actually, the whole Palestinian nationalism perspective does not make sense. Why would the Arab nations fight for Palestinian nationalism?

    If anything, it would have been Arab nationalism. And if it is Arab nationalism, there would be no reason to demand a state for the Palestinians. They would have Arab states they could have gone to. Which these states actually forbid. What is nationalistic about forbidding your own people to be part of the nation?
    So it can’t be Arab nationalism, either.

    having eliminated the logical, we move to the psychological. the story of arab interest in “palestine” (including the locals) is a tale of mimetic desire. the jews love the land, we love the land; the jews treasure jerusalem, we treasure jerusalem; the jews want a nation, we want a nation. none of it is real, so any logical consequences — create a palestinian state whenever and wherever possible (eg btw 1964-67), move palestinians into decent housing once we get some territory to work with (1993-2000) — doesn’t even occur to the players.

    the driving force is islam, islamic identity, and the blasphemous implications of a jewish state — a state of independent dhimmis — in the heart of dar-al-islam, is unbearable.

    zionism, like the dreyfus affair for the french, is the painful passageway to modernity — and hence civil relations with others — that the arabs and muslims need to pass through. no israel, no possibility of islam modernizing and joining a world of tolerant others. -rl

  6. oao says:

    The interests of a few Arab leaders does not say anything about the Arab population. It is the fact that those leader choose exactly those words for the Arab audience, that tells us what had been important to the Arab population.

    bingo!

    it is important to note that the Saudis did not take part in any of the Arab-Israeli wars.

    but they thoroughly funded them, including now. had the arabs not had saudi resources one may even surmise they would not have fought so many wars and might have given up by now.

    To say, “because the Muslims were not lining up for suicide missions, they must have been secular”, is simply wrong.

    this is so trivial that it should have been obvious and there should not be a need to even say it.

    The fact that they did not rush into war themselves does not mean that they were not religious.

    as far as i can tell islamic leaders never fight themselves. it’s rather convenient to send the masses to die. that’s one of the conveniences of religion, which was invented to control and manipulate the masses.

    Why would the Arab nations fight for Palestinian nationalism?

    they did not. in 1948 there was no concept of palestinians. it came about after 1967.

    And if it is Arab nationalism, there would be no reason to demand a state for the Palestinians.

    there wasn’t. they all wanted pieces of the land for themselves. but it’s hard to ignore the dimension of muslim land and jihad to get it back. had that not been the case, the arab states would have at some point made peace with israel.

  7. JD says:

    Benny got caught up in the quasi-marxist fashions of the “New Historians”, actually dumb Jews who fell for anti-zionist fashion in the West. He’ll have to make up for it forever, he’s trying at least. From what I can tell Israeli lefties are about 15 years behind world fashions. Only they, plus some cranks like Tony Judt, hold onto the certain eventuality of anti-nationalist conventions in two decades where the nation is seen as desirable and rising.

    The scholarship about “why” the Palestinians “left” is some of the shoddiest in primary work I’ve encountered. Foremostly, there’s no surveys of the victims. What do they say why they left? This is wholly left out from the Palestinian side. Because the best you will get is “of course we had to leave, they would have killed us.” This is problematic in the Palestinian narrative because 100,000s remained and were not touched.

    this is a very good point. all those still-live witnesses, altho it is late. most of the old folk today wd have been fairly young at the time, and just know what their parents told them. and of course, there’s the problem of getting honest testimony. but asking the question, “is it possible your parents were wrong, after all, the arabs who stayed have done much better than you guys…” is interesting. of course go imagine the places where palestinian refugees remain prisoners allowing you to sow such seeds of doubt in the minds of their sacrificial beasts. -rl

    The second generation around the 1970′s explained there parents’ acts with the “Deir Yassin” incident, raised to a foundational Palestian national myth. Apparently, that meme is failing as the standard response because recently the High Priest of the Palestinian Narrative, Rashid Khalidi, nervously invoked something like “The Israeli Army chased all of us down the road.” Nope. The truth of the matter is too weak of a basis to build a national myth. It is also embarrassing, for one, because accepting truth means you made the wrong choice.

    wd you consider spelling this out with references? i’d happily post it if you can make the argument well. -rl

    The most problematic matter for Western egocentrism is the idea that the Arabs in the area may think differently than the Jews. It is incomprehensible for them to consider that the Palies that fled thought the victorious Jews would do to them what they would have done to the Jews had they won.

    precisely. we project our secular tolerance on them, they, their murderous intentions, on us. -rl

    By the way, fleeing wasn’t necessarily the wrong choice at the time. By recent example, it was often a very good choice during WWII. Yes, the Arab propaganda warned to move, turns out both sides had rinky dink armies. As wars go, it was pretty clean, civilian wise.

    Another reason for fleeing is not wanting to live under the rule of the other, let alone the lowest of the low, The Jews, part of the humiliation of it all. 300,000 fled the West Bank after ’67. I don’t hear that talked about. Palestinian certainly don’t, that hurts the narrative. A history where they fled, it was a mistake, there were some fears, but most remained and were ok–what can you build on that? Then there’s the matter of not wishing to give up the UN dole…

    In end, the “scholarship” on “why” is extremely weak on primary research on the fleers, and certainly is not going to be highlighted by the Palie historians.

  8. oao says:

    Benny got caught up in the quasi-marxist fashions of the “New Historians”, actually dumb Jews who fell for anti-zionist fashion in the West.

    apparently so much so that he actually falsified the records and in some cases reversed the meaning of what jewish leaders in israel actually said. this was documented thoroughly by efraim karsh, but has been completely ignored, as everybody was pleased with his conclusions about the refugees. he never admitted or corrected the record, but i would not be surprised if that record had something to do with his current attitude towards the pals and their objectives.

  9. Eliyahu says:

    Both Morris and Gelber lose credibility with me by writing of a “palestinian people” which did not exist in 1948. At that time, the Arab leadership in the country –in the Land of Israel– were claiming that the country was part of Greater Syria [bilad ash-Sham], cf. the testimony of Arab expert witnesses before the Anglo-American Commission of Inquiry in 1946. The notion of a palestinian people was being worked out, elaborated, and refined throughout the 1950s, apparently by British psywar, cogwar, experts. The PLO was founded in Jan 1964 in Egypt, a supposedly “radical” state under Western protection [with Soviet military aid].

    obsy is right to point out that the Arab leaders, whatever their own degree of religious belief, were saying what the masses needed to hear in order for them to support the elite policies. About 1962, Muhammad Hassanain Haykal, Nasser’s close friend and leading Egyptian journalist, complained in an article published in the Egyptian Gazette and Le Progres Egyptien, that the masses in Egypt were much too wedded to their religion and were willing to fight only for it, not for Egypt or for Arab nationalism.

    Be that as it may, I think it is simplistic for Gelber, or anyone else, to separate the religious motives from the secular motives. I once had a disagreement [a polite, civil disagreement] with an Armenian historian who wanted to blame the Armenian genocide strictly on Turkish [or Pan-Turanian] nationalism, in a lecture in Paris. He did not want to ascribe any blame to Islam, although many Armenians whom I know do blame Islam. He allowed that I might have a point in saying that “le fait religieux” cannot always be separated from “le fait laic”.

    this is classic current european/french double-talk. le fait laic can rarely be separated from le fait religieux, and to paraphrase pascale, the more you try to be lay, the more you end up religious (robespierre). -r

    One problem with Morris’ first book was that it omitted the fact that the first people driven from their homes in that war were Jews, as in south Tel Aviv and the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Shim`on haTsadiq, Nahalat Shim`on, and Siebenbergen Houses [west and north of Orient House and the American Colony Hotel]. These Jews were fleeing attacks on their homes, streets, and neighborhoods starting in December 1947.

    very impt point. it’s only because israel won that we don’t have much evidence of the murderous intentions and (would be) actions of the arabs. -rl

  10. Sophia says:

    I think there were religious issues long before the war of 1948, for example some of the reaction against the Zionists had to do with the fact that the Jewish women were wearing shorts.

    It doesn’t really matter if this was specifically religious or social custom or both – there was conflict simply because of dress and comportment and it continues to be a source of trouble imo, only now it’s an entire region – entire regions – resisting Western/modern influences.

    i do think that one of the key elements of modernity is the ability to tolerate other styles (many of which have religious implications).

    For example Zionist attempts to organize trade unions were not a roaring success although unions do provide some means of communication and solidarity today, across the Israeli/Palestinian divide. This is also true of arts groups, performing groups – slowly, overriding cultural and social issues may bridge a seemingly impossible divide.

    this has a great deal to do with the ways that various cultures define the us-them divide. trade unions fail the arab world over because the clan loyalty is much stronger than the horizontal loyalty with what are, essentially, strangers united in a common interest. whenever the crunch comes, clan loyalties will trump others. idem attempts at nationalism that challenge islam.

    Once violence breaks out though, it victimizes everybody.

    The religious, indigenous Jews in the 1920′s and ’30s were attacked and killed in pogroms along with the kibbutznikim – we can see in Iraq and Pakistan and Afghanistan and Lebanon, in Africa – how violence afflicts everybody once it starts, it is totally irrational.

    At that point it doesn’t matter who you are – if you were a handicapped Muslim child on a certain bus in Pakistan today you are dead because of a religious/political civil war. It doesn’t matter who you are if you’re in range of a terrorist’s bomb or if the most sophisticated precision missile misses its mark.

    Regardless – I don’t think religious bias against Jews can be solely relegated to Muslims. Some of the worst terrorists against Israel were Christian, some were Soviet agents, some were inspired by Nazis – and I think some of the worst bigots against Jews are Eastern Christians.

    Other bias in Eastern Europe, in Greece for example, may stem partially from religion and partially from hatred of the US for empowering the junta and other misdeeds as we struggle for power in the Eastern Med.

    After WWII socialism and Soviet interests played a large role in Middle Eastern politics as they struggled with the West for dominance; and even today there are secular parties and even Communists in the Middle East, in Kurdish Iraq for example. Some of them are in fact the most progressive in regard to breaking religious taboos, educating women and so forth – ironically, the Left that now seems to identify with “jihad” were the original targets of the fundamentalists.

    yes. it’s a sign that the left has no learning curve, but rather still lusts after revolution (disruption) at all costs. the past experience of the left with islamism shd have distanced the left from islamists decisively. but apparently self-preservation and the real pursuit of their egalitarian goals is not strong enuf to overcome that libido perturbandi.

    That doesn’t mean underlying religious influences aren’t still present even among apparent secularists – like Turkey – just as they are present in the Western Left – anti-Jewish bigotry is a left/right problem because both stem from the same culture which is anti-Jewish on religious grounds as well as on the later “racial” grounds (per the Nazis et.al.) or simply the more universal fear of people who are different.

    Aren’t all these factors to some degree present in the East as well especially as it has absorbed Western antisemitic memes? This began in modern times with the influx of Westerners in the late 19th, early 20th centuries as they began to seek control of the oil fields – the Middle Eastern Jews got caught in a larger modern struggle but were – are – victims also of ancient prejudice and fear.

    judeophobia can take many forms, and it’s almost always a bizarre twist on the honor-shame dynamic: honor-shame cultures hate the jews for having given up the honor-shame model — you’re a man because you’ve killed another man — and prospered as a result. in the current case, the most virulent manifestations come from the culture which still hasn’t made the most elementary steps towards civility, and feel shamed by the greater success of virtually everyone else.

  11. Sophia says:

    The issue of “Arab nationalism” is interesting from several angles.

    Isn’t Arab nationalism partially a modern British construct? And hasn’t it at times appeared to be a mirage, dissolving into tribal, clan, ethnic and religious conflicts and struggles over resources and power? At other times, pan-Arabism has been a practical political application – vis a vis the UAR – but that was short-lived –

    Regardless, some Arabs were helpful in obliterating the Turkish (Ottoman) Empire during WWI – and Egypt was a colony – but to go from there to the 22 huge Arab League states and stereotype all the people who live within them is to make a huge mistake not only by Westerners but maybe by the Arabs themselves – and I think it reflects ignorance of the many peoples, tribal and ethnic groups and religious groups living in those giant, sometimes artifically-created countries – who are often in conflict with each other and internally.

    Conflict with Israel in this light might be just another conflict in a region fraught with conflict and struggles over power and scarce resources – water being a primary concern – but also transportation routes – land and sea – control of oil too now.

    Look at Morocco for one example, Algeria, Libya, Egypt – the desperate state of Somalia – for years wracked with famine, totally dysfunctional – war in the Sudan is at least partially over control of land and water though clearly it also has religious and ethnic aspects as well.

    In terms of the struggle between conservative and modernizing forces, a friend of mine refers to Arab League politics in general as a reflection of “a slow civil war” within Saudi Arabia – which makes sense when you think about it – there are progressives, highly educated people in KSA – but there are also the religious police – fundamentalists – people who seem to be living in another time. This is true of Pakistan also, is it not?

    In fact internecine violence was a problem in Mandate Palestine, Arab factions were murdering each other, which Morris writes about in his updated version of The Palestinian Refugee Problem; and much of the violence was clan-oriented and maybe still is, at least as much as ideologically or religiously based.

    That doesn’t mean there is “no such thing” as Palestinian Arabs. Filistini is a term describing local Arab people that has been in use for a long time and there was/is identification with Jerusalem as a cultural center and with home, town, land, farm.

    Beyond that who are we to say that people don’t have a peoplehood?

    Anyway, it is now 2009 and we still don’t have a solution, probably because we are in the process of trying to impose the concept of nation-state on a region still linked to family, clan and tribe.

    Maybe going back to the WWI era is not a bad idea, if in studying from that point forward we can find the bones of a disaster maybe we can find a way to help fix it.

    On that score it is both amusing and frustrating that the US is being lectured to force Israel to accept the Saudi Peace Plan, given the history of Jordan’s creation.

    Don’t misunderstand – Jordan is a relatively moderate and enlightened state and I am glad they have a peace treaty with Israel and are a US ally – but it was created by the British who also played a role in the development of Saudi power, the Hashemites are from the Hijaz, not transJordan and the Jews have an ancient history in the region which must be respected but isn’t.

    Indeed a popular construct has the Palestinians recast as the Jews but that isn’t uncommon in Christian theology as well.

    Trying to eliminate Jewish people and suppress Jewish religion is at least 2000 years old, since the conflict with Rome and Hellenization and especially since Christianity became the state religion of Empire and Jews were recast as murderers of its god – and we should look at Israel’s problems from this aspect too. Indeed Tamimi, during the Pope’s visit, called for Muslims and Christians to unite against the Jews –

    Maybe, studying 1948 we aren’t going back far enough or looking at the right angles including the British rationale for attacking the Ottomans as well as the fact that many of the 22 Arab League nations have substantial populations that are not Arab – like the Berber.

    And, I think the religious aspects of the Arab/Israeli and OTHER Middle Eastern/Central Asian and African conflicts are highly important even if they’ve been somewhat masked through our own lens of nationalism – we don’t see things the same way people who live in these regions do so how can we really understand history and motive?

    I have spoken with Palestinians and Egyptians who don’t feel that they are “Arab”, they speak Arabic but do not identify with people from the Hijaz, like the Kuwaitis – and take a good look at Lebanon, at Iraq – there is also a resurgent Berber movement –

    Turkey itself is highly complex and highly conflicted and Iran has so many different peoples, different language and ethnic groups – in Afghanistan some 56 languages are spoken.

    We don’t know nearly enough about the people themselves – the Jews alone are so highly diverse – yet we try to stereotype the Arabs and other primarily Muslim groups and vice-versa when understanding motive and history.

    It’s a mistake.

  12. JD says:

    About the new book, I don’t discount the idea of “Jihad” informing opposition to Israel and the disapproval of the partition plan. I think the main unifying force was Arabism, Arab Nationalism, ring ’round the wagons, what have you. Second is bigotry. Jihad could inform the idea of attacking an intrusion into previously conquered Ummah lands. (I think the Israelis wish the Egyptians had a bit of this and would take Gaza back).

    nice point, altho i’m not sure it makes your point about it being nationalism not jihad. the target is israel, the palestinians are sacrificial pawns, and even the normal logic of dar al islam — take back whatever you can — fails before the importance of destroying israel. hence, leave the palestinians under occupation. it delegitimizes israel. surely you don’t expect us to take care of these folks, do you?

    So, for this author I’d be interested in reading his new stuff despite prior wasted time. And, I believe, it is time for these generation of writers to finally face facts, drop the blinding light of wanting to be a light to the world, drop the Soviet shit, and to accept the simple truth–to paraphrase Sally Field, “They hate us. They really, really hate us.”

    they do. the question is, why? some — the MOS crowd — ask, “what did we do to make them hate us?” i take the depth and fury of the hatred not as a sign of israeli misdeeds, but the opposite. in comparison with what other arabs and muslims do to their fellow arabs and muslims, israel’s behavior is indeed the mildest and least offensive. that’s where the fury comes in. it is too humiliating.

    the psychological insecurity that the pervasiveness of anti-zionism in the arab and muslim world reveals — there’s not a dissident voice of philo-judaism that doesn’t tremble and fall silent — is profound. we’re talking levels of aggressive insecurity that may never have been registered before in the history of civilizations… and the longer they’re frustrated, the worse they get.

    how to get islam to turn the modern corner: the challenge of the first century of the third millennium.

  13. Diane says:

    Sigh. I just got my June issue of National Geographic. Apparently, even this grand old periodical can’t escape the Moebius strip of cognitive egocentrism. On the cover: “The Christian Exodus from the Holy Land.” Lot’s of unhappy Christians in Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank complaining about how hard their lives are, primarily because of Israel’s inhumanity but also because of the perfectly understandable anti-Christian feelings that modern-day Western “crusaders” have kindled in the hearts of area Muslims.

    Some choice passages:

    This is the first Easter, ever, that Mark has been allowed to spend with the family in Jerusalem. He is from Bethlehem, in the West Bank, so his identity papers are from the Palestinian Authority; he needs a permit from Israel to visit. Lisa, whose family lives in the Old City, holds an Israeli ID. So although they’ve been married for five years and rent this apartment in the Jerusalem suburbs, under Israeli law they can’t reside under the same roof. Mark lives with his parents in Bethlehem, which is six miles away but might as well be a hundred, lying on the far side of an Israeli checkpoint and the 24-foot-high concrete barrier known as the Wall.

    Mark finds it depressing that “80 percent of the Christian guys I grew up with have left for another country to find work.” Yet he understands why. A trained social worker with a degree in sociology, Mark has been looking for a job, any job, for almost two years. “You’re surrounded by this giant wall, and there are no jobs,” he says. “It’s like a science experiment. If you keep rats in an enclosed space and make it smaller and smaller every day and introduce new obstacles and constantly change the rules, after a while the rats go crazy and start eating each other. It’s like that.”

    and another…

    “On Easter morning, Mark and Lisa make a handsome couple in their Sunday clothes, leading Nate and Nadia by the hand up the sidewalk to the family car, a middle-aged, maroon Honda. It’s a proud moment, their first Easter together in the Holy Land, and Lisa, noticing the thick coat of dust on the car, asks Mark to give it a rinse. He fetches a hose and connects it to a faucet they share with their neighbors, who come out on the porch and stand, watching, in their kaffiyehs and head scarves. In an animated voice, Lisa explains to the kids that Daddy’s giving the car a bath for Easter. Right on cue, with a playful flourish, Mark squeezes the nozzle on the hose. Nothing comes out. He checks the faucet, squeezes again. Still nothing. So there he stands, empty hose in hand, in front of his kids, his neighbors, and a visitor from overseas. “I guess they’ve opened the pipes to the settlements,” he says quietly, gesturing to the hundreds of new Israeli housing units climbing up the hills nearby. “No more [water] for us.” Lisa is still trying to explain this to the kids as the car pulls away from the curb.

    “I hate the Israelis,” Lisa says one day, out of the blue. “I really hate them. We all hate them. I think even Nate’s starting to hate them.”

    Like I said. Sigh.

  14. oao says:

    that the masses in Egypt were much too wedded to their religion and were willing to fight only for it, not for Egypt or for Arab nationalism.

    that’s true of almost all arabs and is obvious given that the countries were artificially designed by the colonial powers. and it’s true to this day.

    Both Morris and Gelber lose credibility with me by writing of a “palestinian people” which did not exist in 1948.

    they project from today back to 1948. but that’s nothing compared to falsifying the records to mean the opposite of what they actually meant.

    One problem with Morris’ first book was that it omitted the fact that the first people driven from their homes in that war were Jews

    minor detail, nobody cares about that. it disturbs the narrative.

  15. obsy says:

    Diane: “Lot’s of unhappy Christians in Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank complaining about how hard their lives are, primarily because of Israel’s inhumanity”

    If they would complain about Islamic pressure, they wouldn’t live much longer …

    Very dangerous development that you write about. With the recent decline of the Muslim image in some western subcultures, new victims are needed to malign Israel.

    It is the advantage of defamation. You can write a specific story for each target group. Different stories can even contradict.

    It is easy to ruin the image of a people.
    It is hard to build it up again.

  16. E.G. says:

    Sophia,

    Beyond that who are we to say that people don’t have a peoplehood?

    Are you asking seriously or is it a tongue-in-cheek post-something attitude you’re mocking?

  17. Eliyahu says:

    Sophia & EG, if you’re referring to “palestinians” then the founding charter of “palestinianism” states clearly [PLO charter, Article One] that the Palestinian Arab people is part of the Arab nation and that Palestine is part of the great Arab fatherland [= watan] (quoting from memory). Arafat repeatedly made it clear in his speeches that the “palestinians” were Arabs and part of Pan-Arab nationalism.

  18. oao says:

    It is easy to ruin the image of a people.

    particularly when the target audience is already predisposed to accept the bad image, which is reinforced by jihad terror and making it believe that it’ll go away if the jews were eliminated.

    Beyond that who are we to say that people don’t have a peoplehood?

    so anybody can wake up one morning and claim he is a people deserving peoplehood that must be automatically accepted by everybody?

    turns out that when that happens in ANY country in the west, east and even islamic countries, it is not only not accepted, but actually buried pretty fast and often literally. it’s only when the country is israel that that such an invention is accepted.

  19. oao says:

    it was jihad then and it’s jihad now:

    40 Percent of Israel’s Arab Citizens Deny Shoah
    http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/131404

  20. E.G. says:

    oao & Eliyahu,

    Sophia must have been joking.
    She’s surely aware there are objective criteria (historical, sociological juridical etc.) distinguishing a people from a gang.

  21. E.G. says:

    Eliyahu & RL,
    (with many thanks for your contributions)

    I’m not clear with this:

    Be that as it may, I think it is simplistic for Gelber, or anyone else, to separate the religious motives from the secular motives. (..) He did not want to ascribe any blame to Islam, although many Armenians whom I know do blame Islam. He allowed that I might have a point in saying that “le fait religieux” cannot always be separated from “le fait laic”.

    this is classic current european/french double-talk. le fait laic can rarely be separated from le fait religieux, and to paraphrase pascale, the more you try to be lay, the more you end up religious (robespierre). -r

    (ça vole trop haut/vite pour ma compréhension and knowledge)
    Could you please explain and clarify?

  22. Rich Rostrom says:

    Gelber wrote “the Saudis did not take part in any of the Arab-Israeli wars.”

    This is false. Saudi troops took part in the 1973 war (though only a small number).

    JD: The scholarship about “why” the Palestinians “left” is some of the shoddiest in primary work I’ve encountered. Foremostly, there’s no surveys of the victims. What do they say why they left? This is wholly left out from the Palestinian side. Because the best you will get is “of course we had to leave, they would have killed us.”

    This motive is not falsified because the belief was (largely) mistaken. It’s what many actually thought at at the time. The lurid publicity given to the Deir Yassin incident by Arab media was tacitly welcomed by some Zionists, because it encouraged the Arab population to flee Israeli forces.

    Of course this motive was also mixed with the natural desire to get out of a combat zone. It seems likely, though, that after the fact, fear of the crossfire and suspicion of Israeli intent was elided entirely into the latter. That is, people who at the time said “Let’s get clear before the shooting starts, and besides, the Jews might kill us all”, said later “The Jews were going to kill us all.” Thus a not absolutely unfounded suspicion retroactively morphed into a certainty, and displaced other motives.

  23. E.G. says:

    Rich Rostrom,

    Sounds plausible. Why weren’t there similar reactions to at least as atrocious events on the Jewish side?

  24. Eliyahu says:

    EG, what I mean is that you can’t always separate the secular motives/intent/deed from the religious motive/intent/deed.

    c-a-d, On ne peut pas separer le fait religieux du fait laic. That is, Gelber makes an argument about the Arab motives in the 1947-49 war being “secular” or “nationalist.” Of course, the chief leader of the palestinian Arabs at the time was a Mufti, that is, a superior Muslim judge, a very influential position vis-a-vis the Muslim masses. Further, the Jews were described at the time by Arab leaders as hopelessly weak and militarily ineffective compared with the mighty Arab/Muslim warriors. Now, this prejudice is right out of Muslim history, tradition and prejudice. The Jews, in the tradition, lost all of their battles with the Muslims led by Muhammad. So it must always be that way. Further, religious leaders were declaring jihad in those days too.
    So how does Gelber get to a “secular, nationalist” war effort?? I like Obsy’s point about the Arab leaders speaking to their masses in Muslim jihad rhetoric. This was because that was what the masses listened to, not to “secular, nationalist” rhetoric which did not interest them. I have that on the word of Muhammad Hassanayn Haykal [diff spellings exist], not of Obsy. Haykal complained that in 1948 the Egyptian masses were not interested in the nation or the fatherland; they were not patriotic. They were loyal Muslims. Then we can get into the volunteers for the Arab war from Egypt who came as part of groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood.

    I also differed with an Armenian historian who wanted to see the motives for the Armenian genocide by the Otttoman empire as “secular, nationalist,” even “secular, racist” [pan-Turanism]. Most Armenians that I have spoken to about the genocide blame Islam. I think that that view is simplistic. As I said to him after his lecture: On ne peut pas separer le fait religieux du fait laic.

    On Deir Yassin, the Israeli historian Uri Milstein wrote what is probably the definitive book on the incident. He also used research –interviews– which some Arab academics at Bir Zeit U had done with Arab survivors of the incident. The survivors said that the number of those killed was only about 110, not 250. Further, there were no rapes or suchlike events, as falsely reported by Jacques Reynier of the Red Cross. Milstein’s book may have been translated into English.

  25. oao says:

    Thus a not absolutely unfounded suspicion retroactively morphed into a certainty, and displaced other motives.

    well, you know, when all your elite runs away first, THEN prompts you to run away too and you’re part of a honor/shame society indoctrinated with the superiority of muslims over those darn pigs and monkeys–what else can you come up with to obscure the shame?

  26. E.G. says:

    Eliyahu,

    Yes, one can argue separation.
    Mobilise your hoi polloi on religious grounds (“naturally” understood) and the Intl. community on secular arguments.
    Doublespeak? it’s a cultural thing, you know.

  27. E.G. says:

    oao #25
    Bingo! x3

  28. Joanne says:

    Just a few points:

    1. Regarding National Geographic, I’ve had the impression that it is not very sympathetic to Israel. Several years ago, a very left-wing friend of a friend praised the magazine as giving a progressive slant to its articles. As one example, he said that it has articles like “Jerusalem or Palestine through the eyes of Edward Said.” That article may have existed or not, and my memory may not be totally accurate, but the gist is accurate. I do remember one article later on that made very hostile references to Israel, about its policy on water use, though I don’t think it’s the same one mentioned above by Diane. Whether the author’s statements were justifiable or not, I couldn’t say.

    2. As for the Post-Modernist view of reality, I’m a skeptic. I think “PoMo” must have started with the very valuable insight that any observer, no matter how scholarly, cannot escape biases due to his or her culture, ideology, class, or period. Granted. But it seems that Post-Modernism takes it a step further, saying that there is no objective reality. Please correct me if I’m wrong in my understanding of Post-Modernism.

    I’ve mentioned this before on this site, but I’ll say it again: I think that there is an objective reality pertaining to any history, but that any such reality is very difficult for observers to grasp. I also think that “reality” (for instance that pertaining to the 1948 war) is very complex, consisting of the actual concrete actions by all the participants, plus the perceptions of everyone’s actions by all the participants, plus the actual intentions of all the participants, plus the participants’ perceptions of everyone else’s intentions, and so on.

    Complicated, yes. But that’s not the same thing as saying that there is no distinction between what is real and what isn’t, that there are only “narratives.” It’s only to say that the real history is complex, with large parts of it probably inaccessible to later scholars, who have access mostly to accounts heavily influenced by perspectives, motives, emotions, ideologies, and myths. But there must be historical records as well that could count as empirical evidence, inasmuch as they were gathered without any agenda, without any foresight as to how they would influence later historians.

    In any case, I’ve often wondered why it is that so many on the left say that there is no objective truth, only narratives that are equally valid or invalid, yet favor the Palestinian narrative as true and the Israeli one as false. They seem to be contradicting their own philosophy.

    3. I am unsure as to who’s right or wrong when it comes to the fundamentals of the Arab-Israeli conflict. There are so many questions that seem to elude answers: What proportion of the Palestinians had been there from “time immemorial” and what proportion were themselves recent immigrants? What were the real reasons for maintaining the Palestinian cause for so long? What really happened at Deir Yassin? How many villages did the Jews really destroy in that war, and for what reason? How “empty” was the land of Palestine originally—not totally, obviously, but was the land under-populated, with large areas unpopulated? And, yes, what were both the Arab and Jewish contributions to the decision of so many local Arabs to flee?

    The simple story that the Jews were largely (though not completely) European newcomers to a land that was undeveloped but still with a people there, a land that had belonged to the Jews only in the distant past, and remained Jewish only in the imagination of the Jews…. Well, it’s not a syllogism I want to believe. But it’s one that’s hard to argue against when I’m talking to non-Jews, especially when one doesn’t have hard numbers at hand about population statistics.

    To one friend who said that the Palestinians got a raw deal, I tried to explain that it was made gratuitously “raw” when the British lopped off 85% of Palestine, an area that, together with their part of the remainder, would have given the “Palestinians” the lion’s share. The argument simply did not register.

    It’s frustrating: I sense that there were so many aspects of the reality back then that have since been lost. But I don’t know how decisive those aspects really are. In other words, I want the Jews to have been in the right, but I’m not totally sure we were.

  29. obsy says:

    Joanne: “I am unsure as to who’s right or wrong when it comes to the fundamentals of the Arab-Israeli conflict. There are so many questions that seem to elude answers”

    There so many questions that may distract you from reality. You could even philosophically ask what “right” or “wrong” is. But when it comes to survival, you’ll see that some questions dominate all others.

    One distraction comes from our system of law:
    The defendant is innocent when (and as long as) his guild is not proven.
    That clearly is a system that distorts reality.

    The Muslims were not in power to mass murder the Jews this time. The Jews were in power and did not. Even when they were attacked, terrorized, humiliated and vilified. Show me an other people in history that ever endured such as Israel without going berserk when it had the power!

    To attribute the Palestinians the same virtues distorts reality – no matter how many questions are asked or whether this system could be preferable in a court.

    Or look at how the Jews cultivated the desert to a high-tech nation in a few years, while the Islamic nations are cultivating apartheid Dhimi systems with extremely poor populations.

    What is “right” or “wrong”?
    I don’t know, but I prefer that what betters the living conditions of the people over the one that enslaves them.

  30. Richard Landes says:

    Joanne: In any case, I’ve often wondered why it is that so many on the left say that there is no objective truth, only narratives that are equally valid or invalid, yet favor the Palestinian narrative as true and the Israeli one as false. They seem to be contradicting their own philosophy.

    because unlike the israeli narrative, which is modulated, and gives voice to the palestinian narrative, the palestinian narrative is totalistic and makes no room for the existence of israel, or for her narrative. in order to “sympathize” with the palestinians, you cannot sympathize with the israelis — or, at best, only with israelis who have adopted the palestinian narrative.

    this may seem facile, but it’s similar to the idea that zero times anything is still zero.

    but it’s also because, esp. in the case of the arab israelis conflict, people take sides based not on evidence but on emotion-driven desires, in the case of the left, the indescribably delicious taste of moral Schadenfreude at being able to dump on the Jews/Israelis.

  31. Richard Landes says:

    Joanne: The simple story that the Jews were largely (though not completely) European newcomers to a land that was undeveloped but still with a people there, a land that had belonged to the Jews only in the distant past, and remained Jewish only in the imagination of the Jews…. Well, it’s not a syllogism I want to believe. But it’s one that’s hard to argue against when I’m talking to non-Jews, especially when one doesn’t have hard numbers at hand about population statistics.

    there are 10 million people now living rather well in a territory that once held less than a million who had no sovereignty. there was room for all, and sovereignty for those who wanted it.

    the jews came, not as the european colonialists, after conquest, but without warfare, by offering their neighbors advantages that many appreciated, including the large number of arab immigrants to Palestine during the first half of the 20th century.

    only in a remorselessly zero-sum universe are the jews interlopers. as one arab rioter, asked by the Peel Commission why, if the jews had enriched the arabs, the arabs rioted, put it:

    “You say we are better off: you say my house has been enriched by the strangers who have entered it. But it is my house, and I did not invite the strangers in, or ask them to enrich it, and I do not care how poor it is if I am only master of it” (Weathered by Miracles, p. 207).

    israeli zionism stands as unique in the history of “colonization,” one that begins in peaceful, positive-sum relations.

    if you want an example of the kind of “demographic warfare” that the Arabs accuse the Zionists of conduction, try what’s going in in Eurabia today. When they establish sovereignty, it will not protect the rights of the infidels.

    as for Jewish association with the land, it was far more than merely their imagination — which is a strange word to use for a religion whose very liturgy makes Jerusalem and the land of Israel a major focal point of identity and future hope. there was a continuous jewish presence in the land from ancient times, despite ethnic cleansing by both the Romans and the Arabs.

    when people give you a hard time, try invoking the parable that Natan gave David about Bat-Sheva: there was a king who had everything (say 300 million arabs with 5 million square miles/14 million square kilometers, and vast oil wealth) who had a poor neighbor (say 5 million Israeli Jews, with 8 square miles/20 square kilometers) who had a precious lamb that he loved above all else (Jerusalem). Note also, if you wish, that the king (Islam) owed his very existence to the beliefs of his tiny neighbor, whose stories the king had liberally adopted to his own glory. Indeed the neighbor’s land and precious lamb (Israel and Jerusalem) were only important to that king because of his neighbor’s beliefs.

    And yet that king, rather than at the very least, leave his neighbor alone, or at best, show him honor and appreciation, insists on having his neighbor’s lamb for himself and driving the small man from his home.

    And this is justice?

  32. E.G. says:

    Joanne & RL,

    I think that PoMo handles or is able to accomodate contradictions because basically it is founded on dialectic logic and imperfect synthesis. It judges people, deeds, ideas etc., while preaching that being judgemental is verboten.
    Relativism is Marshmallow-like : everything sinks and melts inside the amorphous stuff. Things (anything) are considered complex (often instead of just complicated) without really being analysed down to the components and their multiple interactions. Because, hey, why would one yardstick be privileged over any other one?
    So we hear and read discourses starting nicely with “I/we firmly condemn” immediately followed by the killer “but/however”, justifying what’s just been condemned. Firmly.

  33. Cynic says:

    oao,

    part of a honor/shame society indoctrinated with the superiority of muslims over those darn pigs and monkeys–what else can you come up with to obscure the shame?

    Just to add heat to the fire; The Muslims always decry that this or that is against the will of Allah. So if that is true why does this or that continue?
    Will they ever consider that what they decry as bad is actually the will of Allah and that they have it back to front? Too shameful to admit?

  34. [...] issue of post-modernism has arisen a number of times at the blog (most recently here), and since I’ve been meaning to put up David Thompson’s conversation with PoMo critic [...]

  35. oao says:

    The Muslims always decry that this or that is against the will of Allah. So if that is true why does this or that continue?

    ah, well, you’re touching on a core problem with any religion: it permits any rationalization in the book that as long as it does not defeat the dogma: it continues because muslims sinned. so if they “go back” to allah and become even more violent, allah will reward them.

    as to joanne — can you pls enlighten us as to why you, not to mention anybody else–are so concerned with the jews being wrong, but not with, for example, americans? after all, there is no way you can compare what the americans did to the indians to what the jews did to the palestinians.

    perhaps it may occur to you that the jews are the target precisely to obscure and distract the much worse things most of the world has done? and by inducing you to be concerned about the jews, they actually got you where they want.

  36. Rich Rostrom says:

    RL: Remember what Jabotinsky wrote in The Iron Wall:

    …there has never been an indigenous inhabitant anywhere or at any time who has ever accepted the settlement of others in his country.

    and

    To think that the Arabs will voluntarily consent to the realization of Zionism in return for the cultural and economic benefits we can bestow on them is infantile. This childish fantasy of our “Arabo-philes” comes from some kind of contempt for the Arab people, of some kind of unfounded view of this race as a rabble ready to be bribed in order to sell out their homeland for a railroad network.

    OAO: “…why [Joanna], not to mention anybody else-are so concerned with the Jews being wrong, but not with, for example, Americans?” Because what happened 150 years ago is beyond our control, but what is happening now is our responsibility? Because Israel’s claim to exist is a moral one?

    “there is no way you can compare what the Americans did to the Indians to what the Jews did to the Palestinians.” The natives of North America were a comparative handful of preliterate savages whose demographic collapse left most of the country vacant. Many – perhaps most – were absorbed into white society through intermarriage. The natives of Palestine were very different.

    “Perhaps it may occur to you that the Jews are the target precisely to obscure and distract the much worse things most of the world has done?” This is one of the most damning things a friend of Israel could say; it tacitly admits to injustice by Israel, with the traditional villain’s excuse that others are worse. Besides which it is an implausible bit of paranoia – the same intellectuals that condemn Israel are equally scathing about the “crimes” of “white” colonialism and imperialism.

  37. obsy says:

    Rich Rostrom,

    Because what happened 150 years ago is beyond our control, but what is happening now is our responsibility?

    What happened 60 years ago is beyond our control as well.

    Because Israel’s claim to exist is a moral one?

    Is it?
    I thought it was about religion to the one and about survival to the others. Remember what happened when there was no country in the world that wanted to accept more Jewish refugees during WW2?

    it tacitly admits to injustice by Israel, with the traditional villain’s excuse that others are worse.

    Actually it points out double standards and gives a feedback to reality.
    I don’t know any other procedure that could improve Israels image in the world (including the Jewish communities). Do you?

    Do not tell me that you plan to live up to moral standards that nobody else has ever lived up to.

  38. obsy says:

    I forgot to comment that:
    “Besides which it is an implausible bit of paranoia – the same intellectuals that condemn Israel are equally scathing about the “crimes” of “white” colonialism and imperialism.”

    So what?
    You can’t impress leftists with reason anyway. Does that mean that we should stop to think reasonable or that we should stop to talk to people who still can use their brain – just because the leftists won’t understand?

  39. oao says:

    RR,

    give me a break.

    Because what happened 150 years ago is beyond our control, but what is happening now is our responsibility?

    1st, you’re wrong: much more horrible things are happening TODAY and yet nobody seems to care.

    2nd, you’re wrong: the jewish “sin” does not happen today, it happened 60 years ago.

    3rd, the arabs took their revenge on the jews and kicked them out and stole everything they had in a larger number; at worst they’re even.

    4th, you mean nothing happens to the US indians today that one should be concerned with?

    5th, is morality just a matter of time? how convenient.

    Because Israel’s claim to exist is a moral one?

    In reative terms to all history and world behavior, israel’s claim is moral. that’s precisely why the west is so focus and delegitimizing it–to distract from that.

    The natives of North America were a comparative handful of preliterate savages whose demographic collapse left most of the country vacant.

    and you had the nerve to call others here infantile????
    so economic benefits ARE a justification when it’s convenient, isn’t it?

    i dk if joanne is jewish. if she is, then it’s her right to be concernd with the morals of israel, although that’s playing into the anti-semites’ hands.
    certainly no american goy has any right to moralize, let alone demand that israel commit suicide.

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