Deutscher saw the future before he died in ’67

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
on 26 Comments

Tariq Ali, quoting Isaac Deutscher in the Guardian (some years ago). Note that Deutscher died shortly after the ’67 War:

In his last interview – after the 1967 six-day war – the historian Isaac Deutscher, whose next-of-kin had died in the Nazi camps and whose surviving relations lived in Israel, said: "To justify or condone Israel’s wars against the Arabs is to render Israel a very bad service indeed and harm its own long-term interest." Comparing Israel to Prussia, he issued a sombre warning: "The Germans have summed up their own experience in the bitter phrase ‘Man kann sich totseigen!’ ‘You can triumph yourself to death’."

France, by the way, ended its arms deals with Israel out of anger that it had initiated hostilities in 67; DeGaulle felt betrayed– I just read in Sasha Polokow-Suransky’s great new book.  And of course the U.S. is a potted plant. We swallow anything.

26 Responses

  1. Gellian
    August 18, 2010, 12:19 pm

    Interesting comparison. I have made the point several times in the past, that Israel is Prussia redux. No one ever engages me on that, mostly, I would guess, because the average reader doesn’t know anything about Prussia. But the two countries really are the same: ethnic fortresses on permanent guard against the rest of the world, both deeply believing in the greatness and destiny of their own ethnic group.

    • tree
      August 18, 2010, 12:38 pm

      Uri Avnery has made the same point:

      Prussia in Palestine

      • lysias
        August 18, 2010, 1:10 pm

        Avnery sums up in one paragraph the first chapter of Shlomo Sand’s book:

        The Zionist movement would have been impossible were it not for the work of Heinrich Graetz, the historian who created the historical image of the Jews which we all learned at school. Graetz, who was also born in the Polish area of Prussia, was a pupil of the Prussian-German historians who “invented” the German nation, much as he “invented” the Jewish nation.

    • lysias
      August 18, 2010, 1:05 pm

      Famous saying about Prussia:

      Minister Friedrich von Schrötter remarked that, “Prussia was not a country with an army, but an army with a country”.

      By the way, a small nitpick on spelling: “Man kann sich totsiegen”, not “totseigen”.

      • potsherd
        August 18, 2010, 2:54 pm

        What a great word!

    • Keith
      August 18, 2010, 1:33 pm

      GELLIAN- No doubt that Israel can be thought of as the Prussia of the Middle East. Likewise, there should be little controversy in referring to the US as the super Prussia of the planet. Both are warfare states relying heavily on military Keynesianism to stimulate their economies, and on constant warfare to achieve political objectives, both internally and externally. Perhaps it would be appropriate to quote Benito Mussolini that “Modern fascism should be properly called corporatism, since it is the merger of state, military and corporate power.”

    • Tuyzentfloot
      August 19, 2010, 4:46 am

      and Einstein compared the attitudes of the zionist statebuilders to ‘nationalismus a la prussienne’.

    • Koshiro
      August 19, 2010, 5:17 am

      I still contend say this comparison is very unfair to Prussia. Prussia, especially Frederician Prussia, was heavily militarized, ruthlessly interest-driven and didn’t care at all about international law – so far the comparison is apt. But it was not at all an “ethnic fortress”. It didn’t even really have a concept of ethnicity. Frederick the Great had no love for German culture or for the nascent German nationalism of his time; he and the Prussian elite preferred the culture of France, one of their country’s long-standing enemies. Can you imagine Israeli leaders preferring Iranian culture and inviting Iranian cultural figures to enrich Israel’s vulgar Jewish culture? Yeah, me neither.

  2. Rowan
    August 18, 2010, 12:43 pm

    It was Deutscher in that same interview who came up with the simile of the man jumping from the window of a burning house and crippling someone by landing on him, then treating his victim with contempt; this in spite of the fact that the zionist mass colonisation of Palestine got under under way in the 1920s, not the 1930s. Ali has seen fit to reprint the entire Deutscher interview as an appendix to his “Clash Of Fundamentalisms” too. The fact is that Trotskyism has always had sympathies with zionism. Half the US and UK Trotskyites became neocons, and the other half became utopian hand-wringers. Ali’s comprehension of the Muslim world is distinctly limited; he comes from a high society family in Pakistan and prefers to talk about the tiny poetry-reading middle class there, rather than the masses.

  3. Tuyzentfloot
    August 18, 2010, 12:59 pm

    But if you take for instance Jeff Halper, what does he say(more or less)? Political zionism is the product of 19th century pangermanism and panslavism. It’s not just a similarity, it’s just where the whole idea originated. It was the kind of thinking that fit into the time and the place.

    Wouldn’t the reason people staying clear of the comparison be that Prussia is a kind of pre-nazi, and the Nazis were the ultimate evil and we (whoever that is) are not evil and therefore any comparisons should be forbidden? Or is Prussia far enough into the past to be usable again?
    It’s regretful that so much of the warning value of german history is eliminated by this ultimate evilness.

    • lysias
      August 18, 2010, 1:25 pm

      I think at least some Israelis glory in the comparison of their state with Sparta. Prussia used also to be compared with Sparta.

  4. hophmi
    August 18, 2010, 1:36 pm

    What’s the definition of a “great book?” I think Michael Oren’s “Six Days of War” is a great book. You think it’s a terrible book, of course, because you don’t agree with its conclusions.

  5. Richard Witty
    August 18, 2010, 1:53 pm

    In 67 Degaulle’s decision was experienced as a large betrayal, a broken promise.

    And, in 67, without the French arms, Israel was desparate, and when desparate, one survives.

    • lysias
      August 18, 2010, 6:10 pm

      Israel didn’t attack because France had cut off arms. France cut off arms because Israel had already attacked.

    • andrew r
      August 18, 2010, 7:21 pm

      Desperation would explain Israel’s alliance with Argentina during the Dirty War and apartheid South Africa. Maybe Israel wouldn’t be so desperate if it wasn’t bent on the survival of an unsavory pet project.

    • thankgodimatheist
      August 18, 2010, 7:29 pm

      “large betrayal, a broken promise.”

      There was no “betrayal” neither were there “broken promises”…
      De Gaulle was advising moderation (reminds me of someone here) and detente as he had stated in his press conference after the 67 war. Also he had awakened to the nature of the Israeli enterprise after the tri-nation war of aggression on Egypt in 1956..Here:

      It must be said that these psychological factors had somewhat changed since 1956. The Franco-British Suez expedition had seen the emergence of a warrior State of Israel determined to increase its land area and boundaries. Later, the actions it had taken to double its population by encouraging the immigration of new elements had led us to believe that the territory it had acquired would soon prove insufficient and that, in order to enlarge it, it would seize on any opportunity that would present itself. This is the reason why the Fifth Republic had disengaged itself from the very special and close ties with Israel, established by the previous regime, and instead had applied itself to favouring detente in the Middle East. Obviously we had maintained cordial relations with the Government of Israel, and even continued to supply for its defence the weapons it asked to buy, while at the same time we were advising moderation. Finally, we had refused to give our official backing to its settling in a conquered district of Jerusalem, and had maintained our Embassy in Tel Aviv.
      link to

      • thankgodimatheist
        August 18, 2010, 7:31 pm

        The quote above is part of his answer to a question on the 67 war..

    • Chaos4700
      August 18, 2010, 8:00 pm

      So only Jews are entitled to act out of desperation? But not Arabs?

    • Chaos4700
      August 18, 2010, 8:01 pm

      Anyway, it’s nice to see a self-declared “liberal humanist” taking the “freedom fries” stance toward France. Looks good on you.

    • Sumud
      August 18, 2010, 9:59 pm

      Stop blowing bubbles.

  6. wondering jew
    August 18, 2010, 10:15 pm

    A superficial perusal of the history of French Israeli relations seems to reveal that de Gaulle announced an arms embargo on June 3rd 1967, two days before Israel attacked its Arab neighbors in reaction to the events of May. De Gaulle’s November 1967 speech in which he solidified his pre war embargo decision, included his famous reference to the Jews: they are an “elite people, sure of themselves and domineering”.

  7. Rowan
    August 19, 2010, 4:54 am

    If one wants to understand the Muslim world from a Marxist point of view, one is rather stuck with Trotskyites. Maxime Rodinson is the classic author for this: he wrote “Islam & Capitalism,” “Islam & the Russian Empire,” and “Marxism & the Muslim World,” all of which seem to be good starting points. He also wrote a number of books about Israel and the Jews, which are probably not so useful except as apologetics.

  8. Donald
    August 19, 2010, 12:49 pm

    I googled “DeGaulle Israel” and found this–


    DeGaulle warned Israel of the consequences of declaring war, in particular, what the long term consequences would be and he was right. They should have listened. Of course so far it’s been innocent Arab civilians who have paid the biggest price for Israeli arrogance.

    • wondering jew
      August 19, 2010, 8:46 pm

      Donald- The effect of the six day war in fact was at first a widespread arrogance. But in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War and the change of power from Labor to Likud, the war against Egypt of 67 in fact led to the peace treaty with Egypt in 78. (It also led to extensive financial outlays by the US to both Israel and Egypt, but leaving that aside for now.) (Also leaving aside for now the fact that there has been no peace treaty between Syria and Israel, although reportedly the gap between the two sides was less than a kilometer in 2000.) The primary outcome of the Six Day war which was overwhelmingly negative was the capturing of the West Bank.

      I think the crisis of May ’67 was ultimately to blame for the war. Israeli actions that helped bring about the May crisis could be considered an even “deeper” cause. I don’t know how long Israel could have maintained its state of called up reserves without going to war. Certainly once Eshkol delivered his disastrous radio address and was forced to call up Moshe Dayan to replace himself as Defense Minister there was little chance that the war could be avoided, no matter what de Gaulle had to say.

  9. wondering jew
    August 19, 2010, 3:45 pm

    A superficial perusal of the history of French Israeli relations seems to reveal that de Gaulle announced an arms embargo on June 3rd 1967, two days before Israel attacked its Arab neighbors in reaction to the events of May. De Gaulle’s November 1967 speech in which he solidified his pre war embargo decision, included his famous reference to the Jews: they are an “elite people, sure of themselves and domineering”.

  10. Schmok
    August 20, 2010, 1:17 am

    The quote is wrong:

    I must be: “Man kann sich totsiegen.”, not totseigen.
    Just a hint.

Leave a Reply