What can one say about Zionism’s crimes against the Arabs

Regular and valued commenter at this blog, Joanne, asks an agonizing question:

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.

There are many ways to respond to this, and I welcome further comments. But here’s my immediate response.

There are 10 million people now living rather well in a territory that once held less than a million who had no sovereignty and the vast majority of whom lived at the very margin of subsistence. There was, therefore, room for all, and sovereignty for those who wanted it.

The Jews came, not as the European colonialists in other parts of the world, after conquest, but without warfare, by offering their neighbors advantages that many appreciated. This included the large number of Arab immigrants to Palestine during the first half of the 20th century, and those who took the side of the Jews in the war of Independence.

Only in a remorselessly zero-sum universe are the Jews interlopers. As one Arab rioter in 1936 responded, when asked by the Peel Commission why the Arabs rioted against the Jews, when the Jews had so obviously improved the economic situation for everyone:

“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).

Zionism stands as exceptional in the history of “colonization,” one that begins in peaceful, positive-sum relations. Of course supporters of the Palestinian Arabs insist this was all done as a planned invasion to subvert Palestinian rights. Aside from the fact that there were no “Palestinian rights” — no sovereignty, no constitutional right to organize, much oppression — this argument is a classic case of projection.

If you want an example of the kind of “demographic warfare” that the Arabs accuse the Zionists of conducting, try what’s going in in Eurabia today. And when Muslims establish sovereignty, don’t look for a document about equality before the law for all citizens, like the Israeli Declaration of Independence.

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 (something that cannot be said about Islam, whose sacred Qur’an never mentions Jerusalem once). 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 about the intrusiveness of the Jews in Israel/Palestine, try invoking the parable with which the prophet Natan rebuked King David about Bat-Sheva:

    There once was a king who had everything (say 300 million Arabs with 5 million square miles/14 million square kilometers, 22 Arab Muslim nations, and vast oil wealth) who had a poor neighbor (say 5 million Israeli Jews, with 8 square miles/20 square kilometers, one nation, and no precious few natural resources) who had a precious lamb that he loved above all else (Jerusalem).

    Note also, if you wish, that the king (Islam) owed his very origins 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), leaving his neighbor alone, or at best, showing him honor and appreciation, insists on having his neighbor’s lamb for himself and driving the small man from his home. And when that small neighbor resists, the rest of the world screams at him for daring to resist the just demands of the king.

    And this is justice?

    Let me know how they argue that this is a bad analogy.

30 Responses to What can one say about Zionism’s crimes against the Arabs

  1. abu yussif says:

    leave justice out of the equation – there can never be any. and especially in light of demands that justice under palestinian definitions where justice = the situation prior to ’48, as well as the fact that the price of “justice” grows exponentially with the passage of time.

    both need to accept losses as the situation stands today. assuming that both desire peace, that is.

  2. E.G. says:


    The problem with using the poor man’s lamb parabole is that (thanks to Cogwar) the premisses got inverted.

    Even a post-Zionist “historian”, Tom Segev, seems uncomfortable.
    The Making of History / A postmodern Samson

  3. Cynic says:

    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,

    Jews were a majority in Jerusalem in the late 1800s.
    There was a constant Jewish presence in the land through the centuries so distant past is a bit of a misnomer.
    Also one must take into consideration that many of the few Arabs who were in the area at the time the “European Jews” arrived were fallaheen who worked the land of absentee landlords.
    One must also take into consideration the situation under Turkish rule where none of the current states existed in the Ottoman Empire and that the area the British were given in their mandate to create a homeland for the Jews was practically deserted (just read some of Mark Twian’s comments on his sojourn). Only when the British took people, Arabs from what is now Syria and Egypt, and moved them into the area did the Arab population grow.
    Of course many of those “Arabs” under Turkish rule were East Europeans from Bosnia etc., who had been forced to convert and used to create, in forced migration, a taxable proletariat in the barren areas of the region.

  4. Eliyahu says:

    Joanne & Cynic, Jews have been the majority in Jerusalem since at least 1853, the middle of the century, according to Cesar Famin, a French historian and diplomat [see about him on my blog]. There was a steady stream of Jews from elsewhere in the Ottoman empire, from Morocco, Georgia, Bukhara, Persia etc. to the land of Israel [undefined as a separate country, province or district in the Ottoman empire] in the 19th century, before Herzl.

    Oriental Jews made up about 25% of the Jewish population in 1947 before independence.

    Now, I for one do not accept the simplistic Europe/Orient [Middle East] dichotomy. The Muslim Ottoman empire, a Sunni Muslim state, held large parts of Europe in the Balkans into the 20th century, after Herzl’s death in 1904. Moreover, both Turkish and Arab historians/scholars have called the Ottoman empire a Turkish-Arab state, since many Arabs held high posts in the empire, including palestinian Arabs [although there was no “palestine” or “Filastin” in the Ottoman empire].

    Next, in view of the above, let’s take up the case of Aaron Aaronsohn, one of the most famous Jews in the future Israel before WW One and son of a Zionist pioneer. He was also an Ashkenazi Jew. Aaron was born in Rumania while it was part of the Ottoman empire. Rumania got independence in 1878 at the Congress of Berlin. Aaron and his family left Rumania a few years after independence and returned to live in the Ottoman empire, in the Land of Israel of that time. Likewise, the Ottoman Empire actively and officially moved to the future Israel thousands of Bosnian Muslims who did not want to live under Habsburg [infidel] rule in the same period. Further, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says [article 13?] that people have the right to move freely within their own state. Well, the Aaronsohn family were moving from one part [ex-part] of the Ottoman empire to another that was still within Ottoman sovereignty. Were the Aaronsohn family “european colonialists” or former Ottoman subjects trying to stay within their state?

  5. E.G. says:


    Aronson (Sarah’s brother?) is an excellent case. Thank you!

  6. oao says:

    In other words, I want the Jews to have been in the right, but I’m not totally sure we were.

    i would have accepted this argument had it been applied not just to the jews, but to all people now residing on land taken from others by force. say, the americans.

    be that as it may, a vast majority of the others who took land from others did not ever suffer from any equivalent to the holocaust, did not get the permission from the intern’l community to take the land, did not fail to exterminate large numbers of the natives (even america) and had NO connection whatsoever to the land they took.

    so please: except for heaven, which does not exist, there are no absolute morals in the real world. they are only survival morals and on that subject jews seem to have been superior to everybody else.

    so please, enough to the breast-beating in the middle of an ignorant, stupid and utterly immoral world.

  7. obsy says:

    I have written earlier today about a different aspect of Joannes comment here:


    I think the topics overlap.

  8. obsy says:

    What can one say about Zionism’s crimes against the Arabs?

    Basically this:
    Show me a people that behaved nicer and better under those conditions than the Jews did!
    Show me!

    Todays hypermoral is a completely unrealistic peace of garbage that only “works” as long as it is applied selectively.

  9. RfaelMoshe says:

    It seems that the current trend among the Palestians and their naive appologists is to re-write the events of history in order to create a more favorable under-pinnig for their baseless demands and assertions. Its very interesting that the re-written, mythic Palestinians history is so compelling to the Palestians and their naive appologists that they dis-believe real history and actual events! In the currently popular version, per the Palestians and their naive appologists, Palestinians have always been in Israel despite no one noticing them until 1964)and are nsometimes (depending on the audience and their need for fantasy)the descendants of Phillistines,Canaanites, Jews or Christians. As the story continues into modern times, Jews from Europe were magically, instantly transformed from starving, impoverished Shet’l dwellers into the most fierce, brutal, blood thirsty army ever seen,militarily driving off these mythic Palestinians who were for some un-explained reason, unable to defend themselves nor “Palestine”, even with the assitance of five Arab armies. If one were to really think out the myths of the “Palestinian narrative”, it becomes so far fetched as to be comical.

  10. obsy says:

    Another question:

    What can one say about Zionism’s good deeds towards the Arabs?

    Even if the Palestinians were there first – so what?
    I personally hate every indigenous movement!
    It is extremely childish if someone’s only argument is that he has been somewhere first.
    If you want to judge if something is good or bad – you have to look at whether it is good or bad for the people.
    “I was there first,” doesn’t tell you anything! That is not only stupid child’s play – it delays progress in civilizations.

    I suggest an excellent article that had been linked here before:


  11. Sophia says:

    Joanne, apologies in advance for this long winded post:)

    But I struggle with ethical questions too and also with changing perceptions of Israel and the Jewish people, not least among college-age students.

    I am also getting worried because in simple historical discussions about music I am getting dirty looks if I mention that the Yemenites, for example, are Jewish – or if this or that singer is Israeli or if certain lyrics are in Hebrew.

    I have had people walk out of my class for that reason alone. Some of my students have expressed disgust with musical choices if they happen to be Sephardic or have verses descending from the Song of Songs.

    These issues are beginning to impact everyday and academic life. I have Jewish students, both partly of North African descent, who agonize about Israel and the struggle with the Arabs – which reflects an internal conflict but also the effects of nonstop propaganda. I’ve had Arab and Turkish and Iranian friends – I study Middle Eastern art/art history – write about, perform and teach aspects of it – but am becoming concerned about being Jewish – it’s starting to feel unsafe – I really live with this.

    So here goes.

    Benny Morris writes that the Sultan imported many people to “Southern Syria” from throughout the Ottoman Empire because it was so underpopulated (as reported by Mark Twain) and also it was economically moribund.

    These included Turkmen, Bosnians, Arabs and Kurds – people from all over the Ottoman world.

    Simultaneously and subsequently, there was a “loosening” in Morris’ terms, of “people from the land” – as the immigrants from throughout the Ottoman world entered and established themselves, other, long-term residents – farmers, pastoralists – began to drift to the towns.

    The whole area was in flux, and the immigration of Jews was only part of the picture. Another part of course was the influx of Europeans – Germans, French, Brits – and the impact of modernity too – modern weapons, railroads – clocks – there was great stress and change just as there was throughout the rest of the world which saw enormous progress but also terrible wars.

    The Hashemites recognized the underdevelopment and poverty of the area and Faisal met with Zionist leaders and attended the League of Nations meetings after the war. There are letters between him and Zionist Jews in the West – clearly he understood their situation and realized that Jewish immigration could help the entire Arab world.

    Opposition to the Jews was by no means universal – the idea of a Jewish homeland was acceptable to many Arabs – some on religious grounds, some of pragmatic. However the idea of Jewish self-determination became a problem, remains a problem – let alone the idea the Jews would be sovereign over Muslims.

    I don’t think Arab nationalism let alone Muslim ideas about Jewish self-determination are well-enough understood today let alone then.

    We don’t sufficiently understand Christian opposition to Jewishness or Israel’s existence either. This affects discourse about Israel, as we have seen in the Pope’s visit and certainly in the behavior of Anglicans and other Protestant groups and in academia.

    In the Middle East, there were and are internal struggles within the Arab world that were underestimated and which persist today – to some degree – a great degree – the Jews got caught in that.

    The Hashemites themselves were deposed in the Hijaz – it is now Saudi Arabia and the religious aspects of that are far from progressive though many Saudis are open-minded and well-educated. But religious issues were and are a problem for us.

    In the Mandate the Husseini clan prevailed over its enemies some of whom were moderate, Western-looking and some were Christian, others got along fine with the Jews – and the Mufti became entangled with the Nazis. There was strife between Bedouin and fellahin. Faisal was made King of Iraq but his government fell; Abdullah remains King of Jordan – his great grandfather was murdered in Jerusalem by a Palestinian Arab and Jordan has been attacked by PLO and other terrorists.

    At no time did Egypt or Jordan attempt to create a Palestinian state, at several times one was proferred including during the 1930’s – it’s important to understand this historically as well as other economic and social factors I think, otherwise the current situation makes no sense.

    There were and remain huge class differences – the effendi and the poor lived in different worlds.

    This was reflected in the fact that the Jews bought land from landlords not from the farmers themselves, who had no real rights as we would understand them today.

    It was a feudal system and an imperial system – many landlords were Turks. It also explains to some degree why the effendi class fled even before the war of 1948 – they had homes in Beirut, in Cairo. About 200,000 people left before the shooting started; British records reflect the fact that the Jewish leaders begged them to stay, tried to forestall the civil war and the subsequent war in which Israel was attacked by the Arab armies.

    In short I don’t think it is right, in hindsight, to blame the Jews for playing by the rules of their time. They bought land from the people who owned it. This is not “theft”. They built a community, enriched the area, the Arab population grew enormously.

    But – there were misunderstandings regarding tenant rights to the fruit of the olive trees; also attempts to organize trade unions and modernize the area ran into problems.

    The modern, in some cases Socialist view of things wasn’t at all the Eastern view of things and this was also true in areas the Soviets attempted to influence – most notably Afghanistan. Now we are stuck with the aftermath, with extremism and poverty, with war and civil war. Millions of people are affected by the simple conflict between old and new, between tradition and rapid change.

    People talk about how parts of modern Israel and other parts of the Middle East look “just like it must have in the days of Jesus” – there is resistance to change and romanticization of this resistance is a problem in the modern world and I think Israel gets it in the neck for being modern. Jimmy Carter complained to Golda Meir that Israel isn’t religious enough in his opinion.

    So-called progressives in the West admire “indigenous cultures” regardless of how impoverished the people are and I also think there’s a drive to preserve the world of Jesus’ time for sentimental or religious reasons – that’s a problem for Israel which is emphatically modern.

    Indeed one wonders why Israeli desalinization and irrigation techniques aren’t avidly sought around the world – especially throughout the Middle East.

    Much of the land purchased – now productive farmland -was wasteland, desert or swamp, and reclaimed by the Zionist farmers. Today they grow fish in the desert, in ponds.

    I don’t see how this makes the Jews wrong in any sense; also they were attacked and sometimes murdered by the same people who’d sold them the land.

    Can the Jews be blamed for this?

    Maybe in hindsight we exhibited a degree of blindness. This does not excuse murder.

    I think, having read some notes from rabbis who lived through this time, they should have taken the Arabs more seriously – they just didn’t believe the Arabs were serious about nationhood, I don’t think there was sufficient attempt to understand religious issues, cultural issues.

    In many cases we didn’t try to understand especially the Arab nationalists, and we should have believed them, should have tried to understand that they too were motivated and didn’t want to be subject people. This is just as true today. The contempt expressed for Palestinian Arabs by some of us is shameful.

    I think racism and in the case of some Azkenazim, a sense of European cultural superiority played a role in this blindness, it was the common way of seeing things then – and that is certainly true from the other side as well. There was and is prejudice and fear of “the other” and outright disdain in some cases.

    I don’t think some of the Jews here or in Israel have any respect at all for the Arabs and that upsets me enormously. This we can control. We may not be able to control how people think of us – and I think there’s no excuse for antisemitism nor for the endless violence – but we can work within our own community, fight for the ideals of our heritage, and point out raw bigotry and stupidity when we see it.

    Also from the Jewish perspective there were and are both idealism and desperation.

    In the past and maybe to some extent today the Jews were so desperate they didn’t/don’t want to think too much about the Arabs, though Zionism is idealistic about sharing the land with them; and also there had been/is Arab violence against the Jews and more was/is promised, so real anger emerged and finally, the Jews started arming themselves in self-defense.

    That said Arab desire for self-determination was not and is not just a Muslim/Jewish thing, it was an Arab-newly-freed-from-Ottoman Turk thing – and a desire to reestablish the Arab world as independent and strong and creative – who can blame them for not wanting some Frenchman or Brit or anybody else telling them what to do?

    And imagine the shame of seeing a once-great culture reduced to sand – yet elements of it remain, in song, in poetry, in art – elements that overlap with our own – with Jewish heritage: it lives in magnificent horses and camels and falcons, in silver, in embroidered robe, in the memories of lost alhambra. Sephardic Jewish poetry sings of “la morena” – the dark one, the daughters of Arabia –

    The song venerating Hitler, “Abu Ali”, includes the verses, no more Mr., no more monsieur – the Germans proposed to rid the region of British and French influence – they had been assiduously courting the Turkish world since the 19th century and were popular in the area. And – much as the British tormented the Yishuv and denied succor to Holocaust victims and drove ships of survivors back to Europe – even though Israel fought the Empire – Israel is seen as a colonial project of the Brits.

    Indeed a primary cause for British intervention against the Ottomans was the railway the Germans were building from Mosul to Istanbul to the heartland of Germany – the British regarded this as a huge threat although there is some documentation to suggest that the Germans offered to share the railway and the oil with the British. However I don’t think the British industrialists wanted to empower their rivals or permit them easy access to oil.

    For a myriad of causes including probably unseen struggles over such resources, WWI broke out with its subsequent consequences including Hitler.

    This exacerbated the problem for Palestinian and other Middle Eastern Jews because Hitler’s rise and also Czarist and other European propaganda against Jews helped inflame Arab anger, ultimately in violence; and continues to do so to this day.

    It’s a problem for Arabs too of course because they have been afflicted with nonstop war as well, with repressive regimes, and cannot be overjoyed about the combination of Nazi ideology and extremely repressive religious ideology that threatens progress and peace alike.

    On the Jewish side there was and sadly still is plenty of cultural insensitivity. That I think we can cop to and I think it persists among some of us to my great sorrow.

    Many Jews do not want to learn about Middle Eastern culture PERIOD and are disdainful of Arabs, full stop. This is regardless of the fact that we came from the Middle East and Israel is in the Middle East and our music, our poetry, our language is permeated with the flavors of the Orient – thus this disdain for our own roots is a problem, one I think we can control with a little common sense, humility and creativity.

    Zionism is idealistic about living with the “Oriental” people but maybe not so sensitive in practice – it is within our control to change this.

    Balancing that – the absolutely desperate situation of the Jews and the long-standing hunger for a home – not just any home – but for Judea, for Jerusalem. This is so much a part of Jewish culture it is inseparable from us as people.

    There were and are some Jews who do not share Zionist politics or Zionist ideals, some for religious reasons, some ideological and some are just being reactionary against their parents probably – but Israel, Zion runs through our poetry, our culture, and so does our dreadful history as exiles, powerless, and the destruction of our Temples and homeland. This fact cannot be argued away in simple terms of right/wrong.

    Meanwhile, the Arabs, however much they resented the British and the French, who had been subjugated by the Ottoman Turks for centuries and also colonized by Britain and France and courted by Germany, did benefit from British/French intervention and from the destruction of the Ottoman Empire.

    They obtained 22 gigantic nation-states with vastly rich resources after WWI. Most of the putative Jewish homeland was lopped off and given to the Hashemites (transJordan) and this was off limits and is off limits to Jewish settlement as is Gaza and the P.A. controlled territory.

    But – resources were not and are not distributed evenly, there is poverty, lack of opportunity; government was not and is not democratic, there were and are puppets, dictators and kings and great corruption.

    Arabs in Israel are still not really treated equally let alone on the West Bank. And regardless of Gaza’s dreadful ruling party – what about the people? Again – we can’t control what others do or think but we can control our own behavior.

    As for the rest of the region – very slowly, things are changing but I think it’s safe to say government in the Arab League isn’t ideal.

    The P.A. is a prime example. There were and are vast economic and social disparities. There are violent, well armed “political parties”, great internal stress.

    This is reflected, I think, in anger against the Jews and also on Maronite Christians in Lebanon to name a couple of instances.

    I have also read studies suggesting that British and French colonization resulted in a great flowering of minority cultures in the area and perhaps this is also a source of resentment. There are also civil wars we don’t hear much about – in Algeria for example – in the Western Sahara – the Berber people want to study their ancient language; the Copts are oppressed.

    It should be also noted that the Turks, portrayed as enemies and to some large degree dehumanized in Western history because our affiliation with the British and also because of their own misdeeds (vis a vis the Armenians for example) nevertheless were not inhuman and suffered horribly under the British attack in WWI and also had been attacked repeatedly by the Russians.

    In our historical narrative (vis to wit “Lawrence of Arabia”) the Arabs are the good guys and the Turks the bad; this belies the humanity of both and also the fact that the Arabs were the primary beneficiaries of WWI – along with the Anglo-American oil companies.

    The Turks were robbed not only of their empire in the sense of territorial and economic control but also of the connection to the Turkic people in the East – the main body of their people is not in Turkey but in Central Asia, and they lost trade routes, territory, resources and ease of communication with the East. They were also attacked, with British instigation, by Greece in 1920.

    On the other hand Ataturk recognized the possibilities of Western culture and a European alliance, and Turkey modernized rapidly.

    The Arabs however obtained control not only of these formerly Ottoman regions and resources (with of course “supervision” by the Seven Sisters and the “great powers”) but also of the people, including huge populations which are not Arab.

    This includes of course the Kurds, Turkmen, Druze, Berber, Assyrians, Armenians, Maronites, Copts, Jews, etc. and the region remains fraught along religious and ethnographic lines.

    Israel is the focal point but what of all these other peoples, not least in Africa, or the dreadful strife in Lebanon, in Iraq, Darfur?

    Aren’t they all reflecting struggles for dominance but also struggles to confront and implement the idea of tolerance in real-world terms? Take the situation of women alone!

    And what of the conflict between the modern world and the ancient? All over the MENA/Central Asia, including Iran, nomadic and pastoral people who have lived traditionally for many centuries are now confronting 747’s, tractors, electricity, cities, cars, and modern war with all its horrors.

    The Iran/Iraq war killed about a million people, there were WMD’s used against Iranians and against the Kurds – the weaponry is modern but the fault lines are ancient.

    Israel is part of this world, not unique though it’s seen as unique – or uniquely bad – which I don’t understand.

    So – as to whether “the Jews were in the right” – I think we are confronting a basic issue that only apparently in the case of Jews IS an issue and that is the fact that people evolve, migrate, move to safety, establish colonies, build cities, share tribal and other social affiliations, religious affiliations, and sometimes fight over those and over territory and resources, and at no time in human history has this not been the case.

    Is there something special about Jews that we are not allowed to seek sanctuary, defend ourselves, find a better place to live?

    By the same token is there something about the Palestinian Arabs that prevents them from having been resettled by now or granted citizenship in situ or in deciding as a group to lay down the bomb and pick up the computer and the plow? The conflict should be over already! But it’s being driven by factors that afflict the rest of the region PLUS incitement from the outside world.

    Do people have the same problem with the nations of the Western Hemisphere as they do with Israel?

    Or what about the the Eastern empires, with Russia, with travel, migration, colonization between the Mongolian world and Western Asia, India and Persia, China and the world on its edges?

    What about with the old Arabian empire that we now see etched in the borders of the Arab League, which stretches from West Africa to the Persian gulf?

    If the “artificiality” of Israel is the issue, is there anything natural about Lebanon, the Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, the borders of Syria or Iraq?

    Here’s what I think: if the Jews are wrong then so is everybody else. So is everybody who ever moved a tent or built a city, so is everybody who got on a ship and immigrated to another land.

    In other words, Israel reflects a human struggle, the struggle to survive, and if we are going to say Israel is wrong, then we have to completely rethink human behavior and determine that nobody should ever move again nor seek a better life anywhere else. This includes people coming across our borders seeking work or sanctuary.

    People should change their basic behavior patterns; all should remain static. Borders, class, economic condition should be frozen in time and if this means entire peoples become extinct then so be it.

    Or – we should look honestly at human history and how we have judged other peoples, other nations, other times and we should figure out how to accomodate people(s) whose existence becomes untenable for whatever reason.

    And – we should not judge Israel by one standard and the rest of humanity by another.

    Descendants of the Mayflower are enshrined both historically and socially in the US – yet they came to the New World with no ties to it whatsoever – and it most certainly was inhabited.

    Should we send them “home”? Were they not facing dreadful conditions there? Would it have been “more right” had they died in Europe?

    What about the rest of us? What about the Irish who suffered from famine and would have died without America, what about all the other people suffering religious persecution, famine, poverty in Europe?

    Were they – were our ancestors – wrong to come here?

    And, in the “right/wrong” equation – what was or is right about Middle Eastern intolerance and hatred of the Jews that began long before the 20th century?

    The “iron wall” did not emerge overnight and it was born of violence against innocent Jews.

    Were they wrong to fight back?

  12. Manny says:

    Joanne, its a lot simpler than that: in this world filling again with antisemitism, your own survival depends on the survival of Israel.

    Everything else is garbage.

  13. oao says:

    Its very interesting that the re-written, mythic Palestinians history is so compelling to the Palestians and their naive appologists that they dis-believe real history and actual events!

    not really. the pal culture and religion does not value factual truth, only self-serving claims.

    some of their appologists are naive and have not been educated to well-regard historical truth. some of them are not naive, but anti-semitic and they sure are not gonna care much for history.

  14. JD says:


    The vague “creation of the State of Israel caused…” paradigm is slanted to ignore closer examination of causation.

    The Jews were given measley portions of land in the partition, and the Negev with Bedouin who will go with whatever side leaves them alone.

    The Arab rejection of the partition, the initiation of war, and losing the war, is more the “cause” of the not then yet named Palestinian problem.

    And half of Jews are of Arab/Similar origin. You’ll note their stories are never, never told in anti-zionist discourses.

  15. Rich Rostrom says:

    There are several peculiar theses being put forward here.

    One is that because the Arab inhabitants of Palestine had been subject to arbitrary rule by Ottoman Turkey, it was therefore just for Britain to exercise arbitrary rule over them. This strikes me as very similar to the claim of slavery apologists that these people had already been enslaved in Africa.

    Another is that because it was just for large numbers of Jewish immigrants to be settled in Palestine over the objections of the existing residents, because they brought economic benefits. To quote Ze’er Jabotinsky:

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

    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.

  16. obsy says:

    Rich Rostrom,

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

    That is false.
    I am.

    (To be understood from the start:
    I only disagree with the generality of your statements. Arabs are different then us and most Arabs might think they way you think.)

    What about people who give up their homeland to move as minorities in other countries?
    There are lots of them and they are willing to do this based on some benefits that they see. Often they see new culture as main benefit. The USA attracts people not only by its economy, but also as the country of the free – the culture most correlated to freedom.

    Talking about homelands:
    Even in Europe today most people who are worried about Muslim colonization started to worry when they realized that Muslims are not enriching our culture (as promised!) but burden our economy and self-determination.

    Also, you will find many indigenous Europeans living gladly in Muslim neighborhoods.

    Actually when you look at elections, you will see that by far the most votes go to parties that do not complain about colonization.

    Could it be that in indigenous movements throughout history most people were not against being colonized after seeing the benefits, but that those people who moved into resistance were extremely radical?
    Such that historians are distracted by the impact?

    And what about America?
    Do you want to tell me that the Americans do not accept China Town and the like?

  17. Sophia says:

    Respectfully Mr. Rostrum I don’t get the ugly sense you propose from any of the comments.

    I think you wrongly accuse other posters, perhaps myself, of “infantilizing” the Arabs.

    And, you do not suggest why they shouldn’t (in time) accept the presence of Israel, not only for its value but for its people, nor do you address the broader issues of human migration and the integration and exchange of populations. My comment at least acknowledges the problem of Jewish and Western bias – what about that of Arabs against Jews? That is important too.

    Other regions of the world have assimilated newcomers, and have highly diverse populations because of it. Why shouldn’t this one be the same?

    Often war results but wars usually end eventually. Why shouldn’t this one?

    One a more fundamental level are opponents of Israel suggesting that nobody should move? That people should not try to save their lives? Or the observe: that xenophobia is natural but immigration is not?

    Alas it’s easy to be critical, hard to offer solutions.

    Further: Ottoman history and British intervention in the Middle East is mentioned by me at least not as an excuse for the British presence there but as historical note and also in the context of economic and political interests that formed the modern world, including the borders of the Arab League states. Both are extremely important when discussing modern Israel, which reflects and embodies both ancient and modern history.

    I also think it is important to note historical fact, understand the consequences of history and not make tut-tutting value judgements about what in fact did happen.

    It doesn’t matter whether one is “anti-imperialist” or not or if one thinks the British Empire was good or bad. The Ottoman, Arab, Russian, French, German and British empires existed and their shadows loom over our own time.

    And, I think you are misreading my comment about the railroad from Mosul to Berlin.

    The primary beneficiary of that was the Brits, I think it was a cassus belli for Britain and explains from some angles WWI itself – which otherwise makes no sense at all.

    Subsequently the Nazis were after the Middle Eastern oil fields as well.

    This should have been clear but you apparently didn’t read my comment carefully or think about what I am saying from a broader perspective.

    Regardless, it is a fact that the Arabs inherited from the Turks, via the Brits, not a railroad network but an empire and that is no small potatoes. As I also mentioned, it did not come without strings attached. The strings are also reciprocal.

    The tiny area called the “Palestine Mandate” – yes that remained under British control for a few years, because the Brits wanted to keep a hand in the area mostly; because Christian Zionists wanted to “liberate” the “Holy Land”; because the League of Nations didn’t know what else to do with The Jewish Problem, because Zionist leaders also didn’t know what else to do, because the Jews were obviously desperate, but also because Hashemite and other other Arab leaders approved although many local residents did not (some did – there was more cooperation and better relations than is commonly understood but obviously there was also violence).

    The idea of allowing Jewish immigration to open a window to the modern world was not a stupid one. And, there was historical precedent for it. The Ottomans for instance were happy to take the Spanish refugees.

    I think Faisal was a visionary but the Husseinis, whose power increased thanks to the British, obviously had other opinions and also, the Hashemites were not living in the same world as the fellahin. Therefore the idea that the Jews would be accepted not at all or only through violence is simply incorrect: there were many opinions on the subject. I think it’s incorrect to stereotype Arab reactions in the past let alone predict future behavior.

    Anyway if people feel it was “unjust” for the Jews to go to Palestine and buy land and make farms, so be it. I happen to think it was more unjust to trap millions of people and doom them to extermination.

    I also think blind xenophobia is unjust and it really is infantilizing people to expect them to be violent and intolerant ad infinitum.

    Instead of saying this is natural behavior why not point to examples of kindness and tolerance and say that is natural behavior?

    Further: a tragedy of the global and especially the Left’s and the “unaligned nations'” inability to deal with Israel’s existence is the linkage between Jewish migration to Israel and the British Empire, when in fact there was at times open war between the Yishuv and Britain.

    Certainly before, during and after WWII Britain was doing its level best to keep Jews out even as they were being slaughtered by the millions.

    In any case focus on one tiny area of this enormous region whilst ignoring the rest of it really does reflect bias and it limits understanding of what happened and why there is so much war and resentment, not just in Israel but all over the region. And, it’s vital to see the modern Middle East in the context of the outside world and its proxy wars.

    In any case I don’t see why the Arabs shouldn’t accept Israel.

    You say they won’t regardless of the many benefits that would derive therefrom – well why not?

    A second question: how long do you think it will be before other ethnic and religious groups decide they aren’t “Arab”?

    I have seen blog posts from Egyptians declaring they aren’t Arab and others from Berber people echoing the same idea. The Kurds remain without a homeland and they’re one of the oldest and most widely dispersed peoples in the region.

    In other words I think the whole situation is in flux, there are hundreds of millions of individuals involved, the industrialized world has a huge stake in the area and will continue meddling; there are both progressive and reactionary forces; and I think it would be wise not to make sweeping generalizations as you have done.

    Meanwhile, with respect, you do not speak to ethical and moral questions confronting people who migrate to other lands in search of survival, nor have any of us offered an antidote for xenophobia, which we are seeing here in the US (vis a vis Mexico) as well.

    Last I heard the Eagle Scouts were training to “fight terrorists and act as Border Patrol” and this included some really violent scenarios. Truthfully this scares me.

    So – what to do – what can people do to avoid endless conflict, fear of others, and squabbling over resources? Those are the really important questions – Israel is a paradigm of sorts isn’t it?

  18. oao says:

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

    may well be. but then why is it that everybody focuses on the jews and nobody on the settlements on others? to reiterate, when the americans start whipping themselves over the indians and start returning the land to them I will start considering returning the lands to the pals.

    anyway, it was not mainly the local arabs who had problems with the settlers, but the artificial arab countries created by the colonial powers who incited, because they wanted the land for themselves.

    btw, there WERE jews in israel at all times and not all arabs there were against them.

    incidentally, your generalization is not 100% accurate. i don’t recall, for example, the austrians complaining about the annexation by hitler. and those who better know should correct me: i am unaware of the so-called pals rebelling against the british.

    no, what is infantile is your misinterpretation that economic benefits is THE BASIS, if not the sole one, for the pals accepting israel. there are historical, political and moral, not to mention pragmatic, basis for accepting israel. the economic benefits are just a major bonus GIVEN acceptance on those grounds.

    it is not really the land and nationalism that fuel the pals. it is arab religion and culture.

  19. oao says:


    in my #18 the last paragraph in italics is my comment.
    my last comment is in response to the following RR comment which I did not post:

    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.

  20. oao says:

    King then considers a number of possible explanations for the media’s disproportionate focus on Israel, and concludes:

    Gaza for breakfast, back to the pool at the American Colony Hotel in time for tea, and pick up an attractive girl or strapping lad at a bar after dinner. Same again tomorrow, please. Just try doing that in Darfur.

  21. […] have occasionally expressed the feeling that if the Arabs could muster some positive-sum, reciprocal sentiments, they might look at Israel […]

  22. oao says:

    U.S.: Airstrike deaths ‘likely’ accidental

    this is happening now. why we don’t see any outrage and UN inquiries?

  23. Rich Rostrom says:

    OAO: “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.”

    is not my statement. It is a direct quote from Jabotinsky. Argue with him. (I didn’t format the second paragraph as a blockquote.)

  24. oao says:


    is not my statement. It is a direct quote from Jabotinsky. Argue with him. (I didn’t format the second paragraph as a blockquote.)

    i was referring to your own earlier statement impugning infantility to any of the commenters here who you thought justify israel on the grounds of economic benefit to the pals.

    as to the blockquote, read my correction: it was an error.

  25. […] time for Mohammedans to prove their claim to Jerusalem is long overdue.  From Augean Stables: The parable with which the prophet Natan rebuked King David about […]

  26. obsy says:

    Rich Rostrom: is not my statement. It is a direct quote from Jabotinsky. Argue with him. (I didn’t format the second paragraph as a blockquote.)

    But, you certainly have found it expressive and relevant to the discussion for some reason.

    I don’t believe that you just wanted to show that Jabotinsky made some dull statements. In this case I would like to see more of the context in which they were made.

  27. Eliyahu says:

    Rich R, unfortunately Jabotinsky was not knowledgeable about Middle Eastern history or the Arab-Jewish relationship throughout history since the Arab conflict. It is wrong to call the Arabs indigenous to the Land when the Arabs as such conquered that land, oppressing the remnants of the earlier population.

    Further, members of the leading Muslim Arab families formed part of the governing class of the Ottoman Empire. These included Husseinis and Khalidis from Jerusalem and Abdul-Hadis from Nablus [Sh’khem]. This means that members of leading palestinian Arab families were — imperialists. The Ottoman Empire ruled over Jews, both in Europe [esp. Rumania[] and the Middle East. So this “indigenous” argument does not fit.

  28. Joanne says:

    I’m sorry I didn’t respond before this, but there was so much here, I haven’t had time to come up with an in-depth answer. So the following will have to do.

    I want to thank RL for making my question into a post, and I’m grateful to all the commentators who responded to my questions, especially Sophia, who evidently put so much time into her comments and had a lot of value to say.

    I’m guessing that, even if the land was not empty, it was emptier as the anti-Zionists would have it. Also, even if Arabs had already been there, not all the Palestinians were there “from time immemorial.” I guess the real answer lies in how many Arabs were there originally and how many arrived there from elsewhere around over the same decades as the Jews. To say that the Arabs arrived in the 7th century hardly weakens their case; in fact, it strengthens it enormously. The Angles and Saxons arrived in Britain around the same time.

    The Jews were apparently a slight majority in Jerusalem but a minority in the area called Palestine as a whole, but what proportion were the Jews of the land that later came to be called Palestine (i.e., west of the Jordan) and in the area that came to be Israel?

    I don’t know why we can’t seem to get straight answers to these questions, even if the Ottoman figures were sketchy or non-existent. I don’t know if it even matters anymore, though finding out that the Jews had more solid claims than is generally thought would help Israel’s political position today.

    Oh well, that’s it, I guess.

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