My grandfather sparked my interest in debate over Zionism

Israel/Palestine
on 77 Comments

 Blogger and commenter Sheldon Richman recently wrote about a young family member who moved to Israel to join the army. (See the comments section here.) In an 1989 article in The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Richman wrote about his anti-Zionist grandfather, an orthodox Jew from Lithuania. We reprint it here with permission. –Editor

I have vivid childhood memories of collecting money to plant trees in Israel. I recall as well the frequent accounts provided by Hebrew school teachers of Jewish heroism and devotion in the midst of a hostile sea of Arabs. And I’ll never forget the day my school mates and I were taken downtown in 1960 to see the eagerly awaited movie “Exodus.”

Mine was a childhood that in large part revolved around Israel. Ben-Gurion, Moshe Dayan, and Golda Meir were heroes. My parents, Conservative Jews, were not Zionists; moving to Israel, or seeing their children do so, was unthinkable. But they were loyal Israelists, committed to the Jewish state as necessary for the existence of Judaism and for the victims, present and future, of ubiquitous anti-Semitism.

I have another memory, which stands in sharp relief to these pro-Israel images. It is the memory of my paternal grandfather, Sam Richman, a joyous, tolerant Orthodox Jew and a shomos (sexton) at a little synagogue. Every Saturday afternoon, after Shabbat services, we’d visit Zadie and Bubby at their apartment. The conversation would often turn to the Middle East. I would sit quietly and listen. There, and only there, did I hear criticism of Israel. I think this became particularly pronounced after the six-day war in 1967.

“The Jews in Israel are causing all the trouble,” he would say repeatedly. “The Arabs want peace. “

My father would counter: “How can you say that? Israel wants peace. It is one little slice of land. The Arabs have so much, but they won’t sit down and talk.” He would suggest that my grandfather visit Israel and see the situation for himself.

Zadie wouldn’t budge. “I will never go,” he’d say. Each year, as he led our Passover seder, when he was supposed to say “next year in Jerusalem,” he’d improvise with a smile, “next year in Philadelphia.” The family always regarded Zadie as the venerable patriarch. But on this issue he was treated as uninformed and stubborn. It was confusing. Little did I know then that he represented an important position in the original Jewish debate over Zionism. To him Zionism was counterfeit Judaism and the Zionists charlatans. His Orthodox belief held that the re-establishment of Israel was a matter of God in the messianic future. He would have agreed with Yehoshofat Harkabi, a former chief of Israeli military intelligence, who said “The Jews always considered that the land belonged to them, but in fact it belonged to the Arabs. I would go further: I would say the original source of this conflict lies with Israel.”

At the time of the six-day war I was 17 years old. Aside from this one dissenter, I never imagined there was another side to the Israeli-Arab dispute. As I understood it, the Jews had a Biblical and legal right to the land and were eager to live peacefully with the Arabs. But the Arabs hated the Jews because they were Jews. So there was no peace. I don’t think I’d heard the word Palestinian.

My parents and teachers sincerely believed what they taught me. They bore no ill will toward the Arabs. But like many of us, they were too busy with their lives to research the question themselves, so they relied on the people they trusted, namely, the Jewish and Israeli leaders, who were Zionists.

In the early 1970s I had stirrings of dissatisfaction with what I had been taught. I began to wonder how European Jews came to own land in Palestine when an indigenous population lived there. My teachers said the Jews bought the land. That satisfied me at first. Meanwhile, I made two trips to Israel, during the 1973 war and a year later. By this time I was a journalist looking for adventure. I put my reservations on hold.

Whose Land Was It?

In 1978 I began hearing the land question discussed and for the first time I came across the argument that most of the land bought by the Zionists was sold by absentee feudal landlords, whose “tenants” were then run off by the purchasers. In my view of property this was illegitimate. The real owners were the people actually working the land: the homesteaders, the Palestinians.

Since my libertarianism puts me on the side of the victims of the state, I began to understand that the Palestinians were the latest in a long line of groups oppressed by political power. Jews, of course, have been similarly oppressed in many places; now some Jews, the Zionists, were in the role of oppressor. My childhood view of Israel was unraveling.

I belatedly began investigating the real story of the founding of Israel. I read Elmer Berger’s Memoirs of an Anti-Zionist Jew and the writings of Alfred Lilienthal, Noam Chomsky, Edward Said, and others. I revised my views on the relationship of Judaism and Zionism, on the Arab-Israeli wars, and on the Zionist agenda for Eretz Yisroel. I “discovered” the Palestinians. I became satisfied that what my parents and teachers told me was mistaken and that what Zadie had said was right.

He died in 1974. I’m painfully sorry I didn’t know then what I know now. He was a wise man, a prophet unsung in his own land.

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77 Responses

  1. CitizenC
    August 19, 2012, 12:17 pm

    Very interesting Sheldon. Not to deprecate religious anti-Zionism, but it’s important to keep in mind the secular sources, like Marxist internationalism. In this fascinating 2006 interview Jeff Blankfort describes how he learned internationalism from his parents in the 1940s. Jeff’s father was one of the Hollywood screenwriters blacklisted in the 1950s.

    http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2006/12/350717.shtml

    • American
      August 19, 2012, 3:18 pm

      What Jeff relates below about how Bush I ”took it to the American people” is one day going to happen again over a Israel issue much larger and more damaging. There will either be a President elected with a America first ideology at his core (even he doesn’t campaign on it and most likely a conserative) or one with the ‘personal ego or temper’ to finally lose it over the US Israel bullies, including his own congress.

      ”When 240 senators and congressmen wrote a letter to Bush, telling him to pass the loan guarantees for Israel, at a time when America’s economic situation was terrible, Bush realized that if he vetoed the legislation, he’d be overridden. So what did he do? When a thousand Jewish lobbyists were on Capitol Hill, Bush went on national television, and he said there are a thousand lobbyists up here “against little old me. But I have to do the right thing.” And he says, US boys are over in Iraq protecting Israel and every Israeli man, woman and child gets so much money from the American taxpayer. No one’s ever done that before.

      What were the polls the next day? Eighty-five percent of the people supported Bush. A month-and-a-half, two months later, only 44% of the American public supported aid to Israel, while 70% supported aid to the former Soviet Union, and 75% to Poland.

      Now these figures are totally erased from Left history thanks to Mr. Chomsky, who does not refer to them in all of his writing. He did refer to that press conference, right afterward, and he said, “It took slightly more than a raised eyebrow for the Lobby to collapse.” Now a presidential press conference attacking the Israel Lobby is a little bit more than a raised eyebrow.

      In fact, the Lobby had to retreat, because they realized the American public was not going to go for it. Senator Barbara McKulskie, a good liberal Democrat, was speaking to a group of Jewish lobbyists, when she’s handed a piece of paper, and according to the Washington Jewish Week, her face “went ashen.”

      She said, “I’ve just been informed that the President is taking the issue of the loan guarantees to the American people.”
      The American people!?! The last people that the Lobby wants to have concerned with anything about Israel. ”

      • yourstruly
        August 19, 2012, 5:45 pm

        Since his father, George Bush the elder, had done much the same thing a decade before (for the same reason) and had garnered public support, Bush the younger must have been confident that his criticism of Israel, likewise, would meet with the public’s approval. Had both men kept up the pressure on Israel and its U.S. lobby, the settler entity might not be so brazen today. Alas, just like the father, the son let up on Israel & its lobby, which in part accounts for their criminal behavior today.

      • Sheldonrichman
        August 19, 2012, 6:00 pm

        That’s the only thing I admire about GHWB.

      • ColinWright
        August 19, 2012, 7:07 pm

        “…Senator Barbara McKulskie, a good liberal Democrat, was speaking to a group of Jewish lobbyists, when she’s handed a piece of paper, and according to the Washington Jewish Week, her face “went ashen.”

        She said, “I’ve just been informed that the President is taking the issue of the loan guarantees to the American people.”…”

        Them’s war the days…

  2. Sheldonrichman
    August 19, 2012, 12:49 pm

    Funny thing: He called himself a “socialist,” yet he was a small businessman until he got too old (painting and paperhanging), hated FDR, and voted Republican. I wonder if he was one of those old Jewish anarchists I’ve seen a documentary about. In their way, they were individualists (like Emma Goldman). I should have asked more questions.

    • RoHa
      August 19, 2012, 8:48 pm

      “He called himself a “socialist,” yet he was a small businessman”

      Not necessarily a contradiction here. The term “socialist” covers a wide spectrum of positions, and small businessmen can easily fit into many of them.

    • Theo
      August 20, 2012, 11:23 am

      Your grandfather must have been a smart and hones man anyone could be proud of, you must wish you listened to him earlier.

      Being a “socialist”, a dirty word in the USA, does not mean that one must belong to a certain occupation or group of people, a socialist is someone who wants all humans to have equal access to the riches of this world. Your grandfather did not just think of himself, like most capitalists in the USA do, but must have cared for others who perhaps did not have the same luck in life.
      Marx and Engels came from wealthy families, yet they paved the ground for socialism and eventual communism.

      • RoHa
        August 20, 2012, 8:52 pm

        “Marx and Engels came from wealthy families, yet they paved the ground for socialism and eventual communism.”

        There were plenty of socialists of one sort or another before Marx and Engels. Here are some of the big, pre-Marx, names of British socialism.

        John Ball (1338 – 1381)
        Thomas More (1478 – 1535)
        Winstanley (1609 – 1676) and the True Levellers, immediately after the Civil War.
        Thomas Paine (1737 – 1809) (Paine is usually thought of as a liberal rather than a socialist, but in the Rights of Man he describes a welfare state, and in Agrarian Justice he gives an account of property rights that has a distinctly socialist flavour.)
        Robert Owen (1771 – 1858)

        And that is just Britain.

      • Theo
        August 21, 2012, 8:37 am

        Roha

        The intention of my comment was not to define who came up with the idea of socialism first, but was a response on Mr. Richman´s writing:” my gradfather was a socialist, although he was a small businessman”, illustrating that among the upper class there are also individuals who care for the masses.

        Although you may call your list of englishmen socialists, however Marx and Engels are counted as the fathers of that movement, leading eventually to the violent upheavals in several european countries and the russian revolution with millions of victims.
        I am sure even the greeks and romans had liberal citizens, but none of them is known as a socialist leader.

      • Sheldonrichman
        August 21, 2012, 8:53 am

        Sam Richman did not reside in the “upper class.” He was a working man.

      • RoHa
        August 21, 2012, 8:55 pm

        “Although you may call your list of englishmen socialists, however Marx and Engels are counted as the fathers of that movement”

        Depends who’s doing the counting.

        Robert Owen, the co-operative movement, the trade union movement, the Chartists, the Christian Socialist movement of F. D. Maurice, and John Ruskin are all counted as the sources of British socialism. Marx and Engels were not very important there. As straightline pointed out, more Methodism than Marxism.

        And Robert Owen was Welsh, not English. Paine was an American by the time he wrote Rights of Man but he wrote it in Britain.

        (Psst: Either
        “Although you may call your list of Englishmen socialists, Marx and Engels are counted as the fathers of that movement,…”

        or

        “You may call your list of Englishmen socialists, but Marx and Engels are counted as the fathers of that movement,”)

      • Sheldonrichman
        August 22, 2012, 6:39 am

        Let’s be fair to Paine. He defended property and income inequality if it results from free exchange: He understood that people would have differing success at serving consumers in the marketplace. He certainly did not support State ownership of the means of production. He was an individualist, even if he supported some income maintenance. I’m confident he would have learned that this is an opening to government control of society and the suppression of liberty. No one was more eloquent at expressing society’s ability to run itself–without the State (the anarchist’s insight). From Rights of Man:

        “Great part of that order which reigns among mankind is not the effect of government. It has its origin in the principles of society and the natural constitution of man. It existed prior to government, and would exist if the formality of government was abolished. The mutual dependence and reciprocal interest which man has upon man, and all the parts of civilised community upon each other, create that great chain of connection which holds it together. The landholder, the farmer, the manufacturer, the merchant, the tradesman, and every occupation, prospers by the aid which each receives from the other, and from the whole. Common interest regulates their concerns, and forms their law; and the laws which common usage ordains, have a greater influence than the laws of government. In fine, society performs for itself almost everything which is ascribed to government.”

      • Theo
        August 22, 2012, 8:58 am

        RoHa

        On your insistence I looked up Robert Owen. With his ideas you could call him the father of kibutzi, israeli way to work and live, but he was a local patriot without any international signification.
        Just for fun I Googled and Wikid socialist leaders and always came up with Marx and Engels as the significant ones. Just go into a good library and see whose works will you find in greatest number.

        Thanks for the correction of my bad english grammar. It may come from that my mother tongue is not english and during the past 45 years I lived in a country where english is not the common language and with my family we do not converse in english. On the other hand we all speak several languages fluently.
        I certainly hope you are perfect in a foreign language.

  3. Mooser
    August 19, 2012, 12:59 pm

    “Funny thing: He called himself a “socialist,” yet he was a small businessman until he got too old (painting and paperhanging), hated FDR, and voted Republican.”

    He sounds, from your brief description, like a lot of the right-wing hippies we have out here. But more capable, and probably more stable.

    • Sheldonrichman
      August 19, 2012, 1:50 pm

      I have to smile at the term “right-wing hippie.” It doesn’t fit him at all. He was petit bourgeois/em> in every respect. In earlier times a socialist could be anyone who opposed capitalism, which was regarded as the system in which the State privileges owners of capital at the expense of everyone else. Thus there were in fact free-market socialists (Proudhon and Benjamin Tucker, for example). It was no contradiction in terms back them. It simply meant someone who despised the State system of capitalist privilege that effectively forced most people to work for others in an exploitative relationship, but who saw the solution in the complete separation of State and economy. (They were anarchists, of course.) My grandfather might have roughly fallen into the category, through he was not a political philosopher.

      • Mooser
        August 20, 2012, 11:44 am

        Well, me, I can’t see any objection to bourgeois hippies, we got lots of those, too. (Wait a minute. Bourgeois hippie? That could be me.)
        My family is very shortlived, the males, anyway. I’m glad you got a chance to know your grandfather, you are lucky. And we never know the right questions to ask and the answers we should make sure of noting until it’s too late.

  4. upsidedownism
    August 19, 2012, 1:23 pm

    There are lots of businessman who consider themselves socialist, especially in Europe. The Labour in Britain still considers itself socialist, even though it doesn’t use the ‘s’ word often. It has many prominent business men and women who support it, as does the Socialist Party in France, and other parties on the left in Europe. Are there no businessmen and women who vote for left leaning parties in israel? Of course there are.

    • Mooser
      August 19, 2012, 1:57 pm

      A guy, no matter what his political leanings, or no matter what his idea of a better political system may be, has gotta make a living. There’s not really an option to opt out of eating (not to mention the wife and kids) until a better system comes along.

      • Sheldonrichman
        August 19, 2012, 3:07 pm

        True, but he wouldn’t have wanted government owning everything and bossing him around.

      • Theo
        August 20, 2012, 11:34 am

        Socialists do not want to nationalize all businesses, those are the communists, a radical political party.
        In Europe there are countries with social capitalism, meaning, the owners of the business are private people, but they pay decent wages, have medical insurance for the employees, sufficient paid sickleave and 4-6 weeks vacation. As matter of fact, lately they start paying year end bonuses to all employees, (not just the big shots), when the business was good.
        You will never find such capitalists in the USA, the owners want all, saying: you cannot run a business under such conditions.
        Really? Germany, Austria, Holland, Norway, Danmark, etc. the business is good, much less unemployment than in the USA, so it can work, because employees work harder when they know they are not unnecessary expenses who are easily fired.

      • Mooser
        August 20, 2012, 11:46 am

        “True, but he wouldn’t have wanted government owning everything and bossing him around.”

        I agree! That’s why I got married!

    • straightline
      August 19, 2012, 5:37 pm

      The former General Secretary of the Labour Party in Britain Morgan Phillips said, sometime in the 1950s, “Socialism in Britain owed more to Methodism than to Marx”. Indeed Labour was strongly influenced by the non-conformist movement in the UK. Now Labour describes itself as a “social democratic” party and tends to eschew the term “socialism”.

  5. Blake
    August 19, 2012, 1:51 pm

    You had an epiphany. Your grandfather sounded like a great admirable character.

    • Sheldonrichman
      August 19, 2012, 3:06 pm

      You can see his picture here.

      • Annie Robbins
        August 19, 2012, 8:13 pm

        thanks sheldon, appreciated.

      • Citizen
        August 20, 2012, 5:41 am

        Ditto here, Sheldon. Much appreciate your sharing.

      • Shingo
        August 21, 2012, 9:32 am

        Indeed Sheldon, a wonderully moving and inciteful peace. Bery though provoking.

      • Blake
        August 20, 2012, 6:14 pm

        Thanks Sheldon. I see Richard Witty whining at you on there (banned by Mondoweiss).

      • Sheldonrichman
        August 20, 2012, 10:38 pm

        Yes, who is he and why was banned?

      • Blake
        August 20, 2012, 11:07 pm

        Unsure Sheldon – it was before my time on here. I just know about him through comments made by other commentators after he was banned. Phil Weiss or any of the mods could probably inform you more. I think he was a Nakba denier of the highest order and Mondoweiss do not allow that (rightfully so I may add).

      • Shingo
        August 21, 2012, 9:33 am

        who is he and why was banned?

        No one you would want to know and it doesn’t matter.

      • Sheldonrichman
        August 21, 2012, 10:04 am

        I’m getting to know him. He’s commenting at my blog.

      • Mooser
        August 21, 2012, 1:59 pm

        “I’m getting to know him. He’s commenting at my blog.”

        Ah, you have a rare pleasure in front of you. Cleave to him, Sheldon, treat him nice, and you could replace Phil Weiss in Witty’s estimation. And the job is open, so far as I know.

      • Shingo
        August 21, 2012, 7:16 pm

        I’m getting to know him. He’s commenting at my blog.

        Oh boy. If you don’t already enjoy swallowing razor blades, you might consider taking it up Sheldon. Pretty soon it might seem an attractive alternative to trying to reason with the hypocritical, dishonest, incoherent troll.

  6. yourstruly
    August 19, 2012, 7:14 pm

    My experience with Sheldon’s grandfather’s generation (which also happened to be the generation of my parents), was that many of its members were indifferent (some, like Sheldon’s grandfather), even opposed) to the Zionist experiment. Perhaps this has to do with conditions during the depression years, with the struggle to make it here in America consuming most of our energy. At family gatherings (very large ones too, since, including my parents it consisted of 13 siblings, 3o nieces & nephews (my cousins), not to mention in-laws and close friends. What I remember most vividly is the Passover dinners (mostly at our home), especially the tremendous sense of humor of my uncles and aunts who, rising to the occasion, had to have been among the best and earliest stand-up comedians. For what it’s worth I can’t recall even one occasion at these gatherings where Israel* or Palestine was mentioned. Why would it have been? We were preoccupied with the things that involved most Americans at that time, WW II (& its aftermath), school, jobs & when our loved ones would be returning from the war (my two brothers served overseas, one a decorated hero from the Battle of the Bulge). That’s not to say that Palestine wasn’t a topic of conversation among members of other Jewish American families, just not mine. So when the epiphany came (see archives), the transition from my previously quite nominal support for Israel to the Palestinian people hit me like a flash of light.

    *presumably next year in Jerusalem was recited, but can’t remember even that.

    • YoungMassJew
      August 20, 2012, 1:16 am

      @ yourstruly,
      I had no clue that you were from a Jewish background. I didn’t expect that. But then again you’re not tribal so there would be no need to mention this :)

      • Annie Robbins
        August 20, 2012, 3:57 am

        ? what does that mean, he isn’t tribal? everybody’s tribal to an extent.

        he’s like totally jewish..he’s as jewish as jewish can be..can’t you tell?

      • Mooser
        August 20, 2012, 11:48 am

        Annie, maybe YMJ hasn’t gotten the app installed? I think you can download it from the web, but I’ve forgotten the address. What was the name of that program?

    • Sheldonrichman
      August 20, 2012, 7:38 am

      I don’t recall discussion of Israel during family gatherings either. My grandfather loved America, to which he had come before the first world war. His children, including my father, valued patriotism highly. I believe they saw Israel as a place for persecuted Jews–not American Jews–to go for safety, and in that spirit, they gave as much financial help as they could and visited several times.

    • ColinWright
      August 20, 2012, 11:47 pm

      “…My experience with Sheldon’s grandfather’s generation (which also happened to be the generation of my parents), was that many of its members were indifferent (some, like Sheldon’s grandfather), even opposed) to the Zionist experiment…”

      According to David Fromkin (‘A Peace to End All Peace’) in 1917, of the then three million Jews living in the United States, a total of 12,000 (0.4%) belonged to groups participating in the Zionist Federation, and the movement had an annual budget of $5200 or less. The New York City branch had five hundred members.

      • Mooser
        August 21, 2012, 2:03 pm

        “1917, of the then three million Jews living in the United States, a total of 12,000 (0.4%) belonged to groups participating in the Zionist Federation, and the movement had an annual budget of $5200 or less. The New York City branch had five hundred members.”

        And why would they need any more? That was, apparently, enough, wouldn’t you say. After all, who was going to tell them “no”? And, more importantly who was going to tell them they could not say they represented almost every one of the other 2,988,000? So why take them on, if they weren’t needed?

  7. GibsonBlock
    August 19, 2012, 8:31 pm

    Shelley, Zadie might have been smart — but not that smart.

    He was obviously wrong when he said that the Arabs wanted peace.

    Just like him, they didn’t consider Israel to be a legitimate state and they were ready to fight to dismantle it.

    • Sheldonrichman
      August 20, 2012, 7:31 am

      GibsonBlock, he wasn’t wrong. The many Arab attempts to accept Israel and make peace have been documented. I mention some here.

      • GibsonBlock
        August 20, 2012, 1:21 pm

        Shelley, I couldn’t find any sources online for your claims about Nasser except for your article — but I did find an opposing view.

        Here’s a review by Benny Morris – http://www.tnr.com/book/review/kai-bird-mandelbaums-gate?page=0,2

      • Sheldonrichman
        August 20, 2012, 1:53 pm

        First, I have never been known as “Shelley.” It’s rather presumptuous and condescending for you to call me that.

        Second, read Elmore Jackson’s book Middle East Mission.

      • Blake
        August 21, 2012, 2:49 pm

        The Palestinians were willing to compromise (not that they needed to mind you – it was their country).

        Ilan Pappe, Israeli historian: “My own research shows that it was Palestinian side which was willing to reach a compromise according to UN guidelines which were very simple: Divide Palestine into 2 states, allow refugees to return to their homes & internationalize city of Jerusalem. Pres Truman supported Palestinian position & for a while exerted pressure on Israel to accept what Americans deemed at time was a very sensible solution. Israelis refused. Opportunity for peace was missed mainly for Israeli intransigence.”

        Those were not the findings of Ilan Pappe only but of other Israeli historians like Benny Morris, Shlomo Sand, Avi Shlaim, Tom Segev, Hillel Cohen, Simha Flapan amongst others.

        Read a book released in the summer of 2010, The Plight of the Palestinians, published by Palgrave MacMillan, or about Israeli intransigence in negotiating peace, “The Problem with Israel,” by Dr. Jeff Halper, an article that recounts 19 different proposals rejected by Israel.

      • Sheldonrichman
        August 21, 2012, 3:21 pm

        Thanks for the Halper reference!

    • Mooser
      August 20, 2012, 11:51 am

      “Shelley, Zadie might have been smart — but not that smart.”

      My oh my, this is just great. Running down a guy’s passed away grandfather, who you didn’t know, because he wasn’t Zionist enough for you? Better be careful, I’ve always heard speaking ill of the departed is like a red flag to the Evil Eye Such wonderful manners and social instincts you Zionists have. Remind me to go everywhere with you.

      • Mooser
        August 20, 2012, 11:56 am

        Oh, sorry GibsonBlock, I forgot, a Zionist has the option to chastise any other Jew, even those who are in their grave, for insufficient Zionism, and we’re supposed to bend over and spread ’em for you.
        Hey Gibson, why don’t you rate my father’s and grandfather’s and mother’s Zionism? But please, do it when we are out in the same street. Please, that’s all I ask.

        At rehearsal the other day, when I innocently asked what the words “skull-f–k” meant in a song, I was advised to “look it up on Google”. Maybe I don’t have to now. What I just saw is a good enough definition for me. You’re a real charmer, GibsonBlock.

      • GibsonBlock
        August 20, 2012, 1:14 pm

        Your grandfather’s Zionism was a little too salty. Your father’s Zionism was a little too bland but your mother’s Zionism was just right so I ate it all up.

      • Bumblebye
        August 21, 2012, 10:19 am

        So you shoulda been called GoldieBlocks (or GoldieLox). If we can’t come up with worse!

      • Mooser
        August 21, 2012, 2:09 pm

        Yes, sir, GibsonBlock, Zionism sure made a mensch out of you! So a Grandfather wasn’t enough, you’re going right to “mother” jokes? Okay GibsonBlock, you asked for it:

        ” Gibson, Yo Momma so Zionist, she thinks giving a neighbor a ride means dropping you off east of the Jordan River

        Yo Momma so Zionist, she thinks flushing the toilet means diverting sewage lines to Palestinian farm fields

        Yo Momma so Zionist, she thinks giving you water means returning the ‘missing’ parts to the desalination plant

        Yo Momma so Zionist, she thinks ‘youth activities’ means breaking the arms of Palestinians

        Yo Momma so Zionist, she thinks target practice involves tear-gas canisters and the faces of human protesters

        Yo Momma so Zionist, she thinks ‘home shopping’ is picking which house you want to force Palestinians from”

        (Thanks Radii

  8. David Samel
    August 19, 2012, 9:37 pm

    Sheldon recalls that when he was 17 in 1967: As I understood it, the Jews had a Biblical and legal right to the land and were eager to live peacefully with the Arabs. But the Arabs hated the Jews because they were Jews. So there was no peace. My recollection as well. What is remarkable is that to this day, most American Jews still have this simplistic view. They cannot understand any other explanation for Arab rejection of a Jewish State other than Jew-hatred. The ignorance and willful blindness are simply baffling.

    • Citizen
      August 20, 2012, 5:48 am

      @ David Samel
      A very recent example of this willful blindness is last Friday’s statement by the spokesman for the Simon Wiesenthal Center regarding the main Canadian Church’s joining BDS of goods made in the settlements-he suggested the interfaith disharmony was due to anti-semites in the Church.

    • Sheldonrichman
      August 20, 2012, 7:29 am

      I just read a forthcoming review of a new biography of Judah Magnes, founder of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and an opponent of the partition of Palestine. The book documents that from the start Jewish critics of political Zionism attacked the Zionist movement for its callous nationalistic attitude toward the Arabs of Palestine. Magnes and others (e.g., Martin Buber) pleaded for Jews to adopt a policy of cooperation and coexistence. They were rebuffed and condemned as “traitors” by Zionist officials and activists.

      • David Samel
        August 20, 2012, 10:32 am

        A commenter here, MRW, has repeatedly linked to a fascinating 1919 petition to Wilson, printed in the NYTimes, from dozens of prominent Jews opposing Zionism.
        transcript is here: http://home2.btconnect.com/tipiglen/statement.html
        original article here: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9E02E7DF1E39E13ABC4D53DFB5668382609EDE
        It cannot be stressed enough that the anti-Zionist point of view, condemned today as extremist and antisemitic, was much more mainstream back then, and that this petition appears not only wise but prescient.

      • CitizenC
        August 20, 2012, 10:38 am

        Sheldon, what is the new bio of Judah Magnes and where was the review? Thanks.

        I believe that the common view of Buber/Magnes binationalism as seeking compromise with the Arabs is incorrect, regrettably. Binationalism was Zionism by other means. In 1945-47 Jews were 30%+ of the Palestine population. The binationalists of Ihud–Buber, Magnes, Hashomer Hatzair et al, wanted increased immigration leading to demographic parity, and ultimately majority, subject to fanciful agreements with the Arabs. Binationalism was racialist demography, replete with busy calculations of immigration quotas and birth rates.

        The Palestinian Arabs were willing to accept the Jewish minority on liberal terms, including education and public services in Hebrew, and a share of the administration. The binationalists didn’t want this, which was why binationalism found no takers on the Arab side.

        Magnes did protest Zionism bravely; he called the Biltmore Program a “declaration of war on the Arabs”. He left Palestine for his own safety at the urging of the British. I think he was naive and stupid enough—blinded by Zionist idealism—to think that the Palestinian Arabs would actually voluntarily relinquish their country.

        I think Buber was smart enough to know better. He insisted that a peaceful outcome was possible, knowing full well that the Arabs could hardly be expected to relinquish any more of Palestine than they already had.

        My piece “When Palestine Was at Stake” has some references.

        http://questionofpalestine.net/2011/06/19/when-palestine-was-at-stake/

      • Sheldonrichman
        August 20, 2012, 11:03 am

        I was wrong. The review of Kotzkin’s biography, by Allan Brownfeld, has already been published: here.

        It is clear from Brownfeld’s review that there was a fatal contradiction in Magnes’s philosophy. He wanted nationalism without the sharp edges, which I don’t think is possible.

      • CitizenC
        August 20, 2012, 12:02 pm

        Thank you Sheldon. I read the review. All the blather about Judaic idealism and the spiritual center in Palestine comes down to a single principle which vitiates it entirely: you cannot take what doesn’t belong to you. And that is what Zionism proposed to do.

        The contradictions are blatant and risible; Zionism will take over Palestine (“build a society with the Arabs”) to demonstrate alternatives to chauvinism nationalism. See my piece on Palestine in the 1940s cited above, and references like Susan Hattis’s book on binationalism.

        http://questionofpalestine.net/2011/06/19/when-palestine-was-at-stake/

        The American Council for Judaism, on whose web site the review appears, is discussed in my article. They were the only Jewish anti-Zionists in the 1940s and rejected exactly this demographic engineering of the binationalists. Despite their sympathy for Magnes for his rejection of statehood, the ACJ saw Palestine Jews as a religious minority and would have been satisfied for them to enjoy that status in an Arab majority state.

        The review mentions Hans Kohn, Zionist official and a binationalist in Palestine in the 1920s, and a Buberite from the Bar Kochba group in Prague before 1914. His Zionist idealism was ended by the Arab uprising in 1929. He resigned from his official position and denounced Zionism in a public letter to Buber, which was a major embarrassment.

        In 1931 he emigrated to the US and became a scholar of nationalism; the distinction between the legal, inclusive nationalism of the French revolution and the ethnic nationalism of German romanticism was his invention. He placed Zionism in the German camp.

        The position of the ACJ and of Kohn, their affirmation of classical liberalism, not the faux-idealist mystification of binationalism, is the relevant precedent today.

      • Sheldonrichman
        August 20, 2012, 12:17 pm

        Thanks for the link, CitizenC. I have fallen into idealizing the binationalists, and I know better than that. We are on the same wavelength. Do you know Yoram Hazony’s book The Jewish State. He’s trying to turn back “post-Zionism” in Israel, but despite his mission, his book presents the anti-Zionists’ case in the early days.

      • CitizenC
        August 20, 2012, 12:29 pm

        Hazony’s book sounds like something I need to read, thanks. Boas Evron proposed secular Israeli Hebrew nationality in “Jewish State or Israeli Nation”. This defines the rights of the “Jewish nationality” now in Palestine in modern terms, makes it accessible to non-Jews who wish it, locally or through a normal immigration regime, and rejects extraterritorial claims.

      • Shmuel
        August 20, 2012, 12:38 pm

        Do you know Yoram Hazony’s book The Jewish State. He’s trying to turn back “post-Zionism” in Israel, but despite his mission, his book presents the anti-Zionists’ case in the early days.

        My impression of Hazony (from a couple of articles and interviews) was that he is a self-absorbed fifth-rate hack who only got funding and attention because the Zionist right desperately wanted to show that it has its own “intellectuals”. The Shalem Center (and Azure) are a joke. It figures that Hazony would unwittingly provide a platform for arguments he is incapable of refuting.

      • Sheldonrichman
        August 20, 2012, 12:52 pm

        Nevertheless, it could be a valuable book. I’m learning about critics of Zionism, contemporary and historical, whom I had not heard of before. I’ve read only a little, but he seems to treat them fairly. I haven’t gotten to the historical section yet. Imagine being able to cite a book by a former Netanyahu aide!

      • American
        August 21, 2012, 4:06 am

        The zionist kneecapped any Jews who opposed them, they were a ‘organized crime’ like operation and non zionist Jews didn’t stand a chance.

      • notatall
        August 21, 2012, 8:53 am

        This is one of the most thoughtful and rewarding exchanges I have seen on MW. By “secular Hebrew nationality” do Citizen C (and Evron) mean to imply partitioning Palestine into Hebrew- and Arabic-speaking self-governing districts, or simply recognizing the right of minorities to religious, language and cultural autonomy?

      • CitizenC
        August 21, 2012, 10:30 am

        Evron doesn’t address that, he is concerned with the history of the idea, which goes back to the Canaanist movement, a kind of ur-Zionism which sought to disavow all connections with Europe, all connections with anything other biblical Canaanite sovereignty. It was a far-right development but on its terms indigenous. He uses it and other things as precedents for modern, secular Israeli nationality, one accessible to other (Arab) indigenes, and thru a normal immigration regime, but not extra-territorial. To replace “Jewish nationality”.

        The English translation is 26 yrs old; the Hebrew came out in 1984 I think. These ideas aren’t better known in the US because of the blackout by the Jewish left, led by Chomsky, self-acknowledged Zionist, partisan of Jewish nationality and the Zionist “Hebrew revival”.

      • Mooser
        August 21, 2012, 7:17 pm

        “Magnes and others (e.g., Martin Buber) pleaded for Jews to adopt a policy of cooperation and coexistence. They were rebuffed and condemned as “traitors” by Zionist officials and activists.”

        Well, it might have been more effective to condemn them as “traitors” but that doesn’t mean they were right. Zionism could not have prevailed, could not have accomplished the things it did, won the victories it has one, if it acted the Magnes and Buber wanted it to.
        Are you saying that everything would have been all right if the Zionists had been a little nicer?
        Zionism could have been nothing other than what it was. There was a minimum amount of dispossession necessary for the Zionists to take over. Without that minimum amount Israel would just have been a few National Homeland areas in Palestine.

  9. The Hasbara Buster
    August 20, 2012, 10:44 am

    In 1978 I began hearing the land question discussed and for the first time I came across the argument that most of the land bought by the Zionists was sold by absentee feudal landlords, whose “tenants” were then run off by the purchasers. In my view of property this was illegitimate.

    This is the kind of moral argument that won’t pass the Zionist test, in which plausible deniability is all that counts. If the Jews have a piece of paper granting them rights to a territory, then it’s Jewish territory, whatever the wishes of the people actually living and working there.

    A stronger rebuttal to the “the Jews bought the land” argument, however, is that they didn’t. They bought some of the land — about 1,800 sq km out of Israel’s current land area of 22,000 sq km. If ownership automatically translates into sovereignty (itself a very dubious claim), then the Zionist Jews only had the right to establish a state on less than 10% of the territory they currently control.

    • Sheldonrichman
      August 20, 2012, 11:07 am

      I agree that Jewish land purchases were well below 10 percent. But it’s worth pointing out that even many of those purchases constituted injustices. It helps explain Arab resistance to Jewish immigration in the 1920s. With Palestinian farmers being expelled from the purchased feudal landholdings, other Palestinians saw the handwriting on the wall.

      • ToivoS
        August 20, 2012, 5:14 pm

        I recently read “Crusades through Arab Eyes” and was struck by one anecdote. The Christian owners of Palestinian land applied medieval land law to their holdings which included, among other rights, the right of the “serfs” to continue living and farming the land. They couldn’t be expelled. (This came up in the context that upper class Arabs deeply resented the fact that many of these Arab serfs were quite satisfied with their Christian rulers. Under the rule of the Caliphate these people had no rights).

        It is quite amazing to think that 12th century crusaders treated their subjects in a more just way than 20th century Zionists.

      • ColinWright
        August 21, 2012, 12:09 am

        “The Christian owners of Palestinian land applied medieval land law to their holdings which included, among other rights, the right of the “serfs” to continue living and farming the land…”

        This actually seems to have been the normal pre-modern model. One has a class society, and one group lords it over others, but this doesn’t mean they ‘own’ the land in any sense we would understand.

        A piece of land isn’t seen as transferable in its entirety; different people have different rights pertaining to it. One has the right to graze animals on it, another to keep bees, another to collect taxes…but none of them ‘own’ it. You could quite likely transfer some particular right over a particular parcel to someone else — perhaps sell your lordship for example — but that wouldn’t affect somebody else’s right to keep bees on it. As long as he paid whatever was due to you as the lord, he would continue to have the right to keep bees on it.

        In the Scottish Highlands, when the English definitively subdued the region after Culloden, all the clan leaders suddenly became ‘landlords’ — and their erstwhile followers their ‘tenants,’ and suddenly, the ‘landlords’ could evict the ‘tenants’ (in favor of sheep) and hence the Highland Clearances. Of course, this whole way of looking at the relationship — and the legal consequences — was a complete novelty.

        I suspect a similar transmogrification may have happened in Palestine. When the Nineteenth century Ottomans attempted to apply Western law codes to their empire, I would guess the local gentry suddenly became ‘landlords’, and the peasants their ‘tenants.’ Whether that was actually an accurate description of the arrangements in place before then, I don’t know — but I don’t see any especial reason to assume it was. Obviously, the Palestinian peasants were outraged at the notion that somebody had in some way acquired the right to drive them from the land they had ‘always’ farmed. The land may not have been ‘theirs’ exactly, but they were the ones who had the right to farm it. That probably went without saying.

        To try to illustrate what I am driving at here, it is as if someone bought your house — and your assumptions notwithstanding, it turned out he had acquired title to your wife and children as well. There’s no reason to think the traditional patterns of land rights and use in Palestine conformed to post-medieval practice in the West. The peasants would have gone with the land, not off it. To the traditional mind (I really am just speculating here, I admit) all the Jewish buyer would have acquired would have been the right to extort certain traditional dues and privileges. He would have acquired the right to style himself lord of _________, not to physically drive out all the inhabitants and bring in someone else. In the ordinary course of affairs, that would have simply been something it never would have occurred to anyone to do.

    • talknic
      August 20, 2012, 12:12 pm

      The Hasbara Buster August 20, 2012 at 10:44 am

      “If the Jews have a piece of paper granting them rights to a territory, then it’s Jewish territory”

      They bought ‘real estate’, not ‘territory’. The Jewish people were granted the ‘territory’ for a Jewish Homeland State completely gratis!

      I ask this question of those who present the sh*te argument: If folk’re returning after 2,000 years to their rightful land in the land of Israel, WTF do they have to pay some developer for it?

      The Hasbara is simply bullsh*te for people who haven’t stopped to think. Even the JNF , completely against the basic tenets of Judaism, perpetuates blatant lies on behalf of the Jewish State. How much further from Judaism can one get?

  10. Mooser
    August 20, 2012, 12:28 pm

    I have a question, which I hope is not too OT for this thread. When the early proponents of Zionism were trying to instill the Zionist “vision” (hey, they say that where there is no vision, the people perish, you know) in supporters and suckers (potential colonists) what did they use for examples? Did they say: ‘We will get our country back, and have our own government, like the ______ did in ____’. Which “self-determination” examples did they point to (if any)? Which “national ingatherings” did they use to say ‘We can do this, too’? Was it the unification of Germany? Something in Italy? A shuffling of determinations in the Balkans?
    People usually try to supply an example.

  11. Nevada Ned
    August 20, 2012, 1:30 pm

    Thank you, Sheldon Richman, for your portrayal of your grandfather.

    As Norman Finkelstein has documented in his recent book, Knowing Too Much, American Jews had a love affair with Israel that started after the 1967 war. Before 1967, many American Jews ignored Israel. So your grandfather’s views were not as unusual as you think, at least if you go back far enough.

    Many decades ago, many rabbis made the argument that God would restore the ancient kingdom of Israel some day, but it would happen when the Messiah shows up. And it would follow God’s timetable, not the timetable of a bunch of politicians.

    It’s like religious Christians, believing that Jesus will return some day to judge the quick and the dead. Can a bunch of politicians and a package of legislation speed up the process? Of course not – only God knows the hour, etc..

    In the 1970’s, the Palestinians started to publicize their side of the story. The PLO did a miserable job at public relations (for a long time they had no public spokesperson who spoke English), but the 1974 publication of Edward Said’s The Question of Palestine was an important contribution. In recent years, the books by Jimmy Carter (Palestine: Peace not Apartheid) and by Mearsheimer and Walt have put the Zionists on the defensive, not to mention the establishment of the Electronic Intifada website.

    • ColinWright
      August 21, 2012, 1:02 am

      Nevada Ned says: “It’s like religious Christians, believing that Jesus will return some day to judge the quick and the dead. Can a bunch of politicians and a package of legislation speed up the process? Of course not – only God knows the hour, etc..”

      You don’t hang with the Evangelicals much, do you?

      The timing of this event is entirely a matter of restoring Israel and packin’ all the Jews into it (I dunno if it has to reach it’s full imaginary extent as well, but probably).

      That done, Jesus comes back, converts all the Jews, and ushers in the Rapture or whatever it is that is supposed to happen. Why do you think they’re such big Israel buffs?

    • American
      August 21, 2012, 3:46 am

      @ Ned

      Actually Ned, Jewish zionism in the United States began way before 1967 or the German holocaust.
      And also after the establishment of Israel, those exposed to what was going on in Israel, religious leaders, journalist, were very vocal and opposed to it. The US press in those days carried many reports critical of and condemning the Jewish zionist actions in Palestine.
      Allison Weir at If Americans Knew has put together a good chronology, drawn from official reports and political insiders at the time, on how the zionist defeated all efforts in the US to halt what they doing and outlines exactly how they took over the US politically and propagandized the US public.

      http://www.ifamericansknew.org/us_ints/history.html#_ftn29

      Political Zionism in the U.S.

      In the 1880s groups advocating the setting up of a Jewish state began popping up around the United States.[8] Emma Lazarus, the poet whose words would adorn the Statue of Liberty, promoted Zionism throughout this decade.[9] A precursor to the Israeli flag was created in Boston in 1891.[10]

      In 1887 President Grover Cleveland appointed a Jewish ambassador to Turkey, which at that time controlled Palestine. Jewish historian David G. Dalin reports that presidents recognized the importance of the Turkish embassy for Jewish Americans, “…especially for the growing number of Zionists within the American Jewish electorate, since the Jewish homeland of Palestine remained under the direct control of the Turkish government.”

      Every president, both Republican and Democrat, followed this precedent for the next 30 years. “During this era, the ambassadorship to Turkey came to be considered a quasi-Jewish domain,” writes Dalin. [11]

      By the early 1890s organizations promoting Zionism existed in New York, Chicago, Baltimore, Milwaukee, Boston, Philadelphia, and Cleveland.[12] Reports from the Zionist World Congress in Basle, which four Americans had attended, gave this movement a major stimulus, galvanizing Zionist activities in American cities that had large Jewish populations.[13]

      In 1897-98 numerous additional Zionist societies were founded in the East and the Midwest. In 1898 the first annual conference of American Zionists convened in New York on the 4th of July, where they formed the Federation of American Zionists (FAZ).[14]

      By 1910 the number of Zionists in the U.S. approached 20,000 and included lawyers, professors, and businessmen. Even in its infancy, when it was still considered relatively weak, Zionism was becoming a movement to which Congressmen listened, particularly in the eastern cities.[15]

      The movement continued to expand, and by 1914 several additional Zionist groups had cropped up. The religious Mizrachi faction was formed in 1903, the Labor party in 1905 and Hadassah, the women’s Zionist organization, in 1912.[16]

      By 1922 there were 200,000 Zionists in the U.S. and by 1948 this had grown to almost a million. [17]

      From early on Zionists actively pushed their agenda in the media, one Zionist organizer proudly proclaimed in 1912 “the zealous and incessant propaganda which is carried on by countless societies.”[18] The Yiddish press from a very early period espoused the Zionist cause. By 1923 only one New York Yiddish newspaper failed to qualify as Zionist. Yiddish dailies reached 535,000 families in 1927.[19]

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