Lessons from Finkelstein: a response to Seth Anderson

Middle East
on 40 Comments

In an article last month, ‘Lessons from Finkelstein: International Law and equal rights should be the focus for Palestine solidarity,’ Seth Anderson maps out a strategy for the Palestine solidarity movement by drawing on the analysis and prescriptions of Norman Finkelstein.

There is no doubt that the movement owes Finkelstein an enormous debt of gratitude for his incisive polemics and analysis.  There is no one who did a better job in deconstructing and destroying Joan Peter’s fraudulent From Time Immemorial, which claimed that the Zionists colonised an empty Palestine.[1]

When Daniel Goldhagen wrote his execrable book Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust, which argued that the Germans, not Nazis, killed Jews because they were a sadistic and cruel nation that had imbibed eliminationist anti-Semitism with its mother’s milk, Finkelstein took him apart. So devastating was Finkelstein’s criticism, that Goldhagen threatened to sue him for libel initially rather than reply to the substance of the criticism.

The problem with Finkelstein’s analysis of Zionism and his proffered solutions is that they exist in intellectually watertight compartments, ne’er the twain shall meet.  Finkelstein’s devotion to the Two State Solution, or 2SS, has entirely distorted his understanding of the relationship of power both inside Palestine/Israel and internationally.

I can remember attending, at the Institute of Education, London University in November 2011, a two-hour lecture from Finkelstein on how a 2SS was around the corner.[2] Over two years later and he was even more certain that the solution to the Palestine question was about to be resolved. In an interview for the New Left Project Finkelstein declared that:

A “framework agreement” will shortly be reached, and a final settlement will probably be signed in the last six months or so of President Obama’s term in office. When the Kerry process was first announced I was virtually alone in predicting that it would actually go somewhere; now, it’s widely assumed. Many respected Israeli commentators now take for granted that an agreement is just a matter of time.[3]

By way of contrast I wrote, after the 1993 Oslo Accords that:

this agreement will lead not to an independent state but to further misery and defeat. The one concession, recognition of the PLO by Israel, means little when all that the PLO symbolised is now forsaken. Maybe a biblical analogy is most appropriate: Esau selling his birthright to Jacob for a mess of pottage.[4]

Finkelstein’s repeated prediction of a settlement cannot be divorced from his basic premises.  Finkelstein fails to understand not only the dynamics of Zionism but the world’s power relationships and the political order.

Seth Anderson asks, “Who are we talking to?”.  The answer to that is simple. We are talking to all those who can be won to support for the Palestinians and the struggle against Zionism.  We are campaigning against Israeli Apartheid and its practical application.

Zionism might be the name of a hairspray or cologne “for most people,” Finkelstein has said, but it isn’t for Palestinians or Israeli Jews. Zionism is a political movement and ideology, based on the doctrine of racial supremacy, that functions as the Israeli state’s principal guide. Zionism is the backdrop to the Israeli State’s day to day assumptions and practice.

When Netanyahu urges opposition to the immigration of even a single refugee (or ‘infiltrator’), he does this by appealing to the Zionist axiom of a Jewish majority state and Jewish identity. [5]  When Ayelet Shaked, Israel’s Justice Minister, attacks the Supreme Court for not recognising that universal values and human rights take second place to Jewish nationalism and racism she does it in the name of Zionism. [6]  When the Jewish National Fund responds to a Supreme Court decision that the JNF cannot refuse to allocate land to non-Jews, by saying that “a survey commissioned by… JNF reveals that over 70% of the Jewish population opposes allocating… land to non-Jews, while over ‘over 80% prefer the definition of Israel as a Jewish state, rather than as the state of all its citizens” — this is done in the name of Zionism. [7]

Zionism is not an ideological construct or a perfume. It is a lived reality for the Palestinians.  Our task is to persuade people through our campaigns that Israel is not just another example of human rights abuses.  It is because of Zionism that the Israeli state has developed a unique system of institutionalised discrimination found historically in such countries as apartheid-era South Africa and Nazi Germany.

Seth argues that we should be ‘pragmatic’ in the way we go about creating a ‘broad public opinion in favour of the Palestinian cause’.  I’m not opposed to pragmatism but I don’t believe you should subordinate your principles to it.  We need to argue that Israel cannot be reformed precisely because it is a settler colonial state. Would our task have been easier if we had simply concentrated on South Africa’s human rights abuses and ignored the structural discrimination and racial segregation inherent in Apartheid?

Far from making our job easier, Seth’s and Norman’s answer makes it more difficult. South Africa’s response to criticism was to say ‘what about the Black African states’. Israel’s response is not dissimilar – it points to the gross human rights violations in the surrounding countries. Of course our criticism of Israel must encompass its human rights violations but in arguing for equal rights we cannot avoid the question of Israel as a Jewish state. The Palestinian issue is not fundamentally a human rights one.  It is a political question.

International Law

Seth justifies Finkelstein’s reliance on ‘international law’ by asking us to engage in a false choice. He counterposes ‘feel(ing) good about myself’ to wanting Palestinian children to go to school unharmed. Of course presented like this, who would not choose the latter?  Not content with this rhetorical device, Seth then offers us a non-sequitur. Choosing Palestinian children going to school also means him having to put aside his own moral standards.

I’ll let Seth into a secret.  I am not an anti-Zionist in order that I can assuage my conscience.  If I thought that it was really possible to force Israel to comply with ‘international law’ and grant equality between Israeli Jewish children and Palestinian children, then I wouldn’t have a second thought.  However my anti-Zionist politics tell me that Israel, because it is a Zionist state cannot grant equality to non-Jews.  That is the whole point of a state which defines itself, not as a state of all its own citizens but as a Jewish state.

According to Finkelstein, we have to work ‘within the existing framework’ and ‘the law is the framework’.  But don’t despair, because, as Finkelstein points out, the law is completely on our side. Seth reels off a list of examples – the Occupation, the Siege of Gaza, the Annexation, the Wall.  As regards the Right of Return, Seth disagrees with Norman. This too is guaranteed by UN resolution 194. What could be simpler? How could a Jewish Marxist dogmatist impose his beliefs on the Palestinians and thus delay their day of redemption?

The key here is ‘within the existing framework’.  Given the existing constellation of forces in the Middle East, with Israel as the United States strategic watch-dog and with its de-facto alliance with the most repressive regimes in the region, no solution to the Palestine crisis is possible.  Without a thaw in the political permafrost no change is possible, either for the Arab masses or the Palestinians. When Netanyahu says that no settlements will be removed or Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely states that ‘This land is ours. All of it is ours. We expect as a matter of principle of the international community to recognize Israel’s right to build homes for Jews in their homeland, everywhere.[8] which part of these statements does Seth or Norman not understand?

But I forget the law is completely on our side in this matter. The Palestinians won in every aspect.’ The International Court of Justice voted unanimously in favour of the Palestinian cause. Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, are Palestinian territory under International Law.’

Of course if this was Britain or France or even Donald Trump’s United States, once the highest court in the land had thus ruled one would expect the Wall to crumble along with the settlements.  But here is the rub.  Although ‘international law’ is indeed on the Palestinians’ side, it makes not a blind bit of difference.  True, the Palestinians have a President of the make-believe Palestinian state, but no one is deceived.

International law is a strange beast. There is no one body of law which is accepted by all. It consists of a series of conventions, treaties and UN Security Council resolutions.  There is the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice, but they apply primarily to states not individuals.

There is no single Supreme Court and more importantly there is no enforcement mechanism.  In other words International Law only works where the United States is in agreement.  Most people would agree that the pre-emptive attack on Iraq in 2003 was a war crime according to the Nuremberg Trials in Germany.  Yet neither George Bush nor Tony Blair were indicted at The Hague. Who was going to arrest them?  Or prosecute them?  I suspect Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman sleep fairly soundly knowing that they are unlikely to be arrested for defiance of international law.

If within a state the application of the law reflects the class nature of that state, in that it falls most heavily on the poorest and weakest in society, it does at least formally apply to rich and poor alike.  Both rich and poor alike are prosecuted should they steal food, but of course the rich have no need to steal!  It is not surprising that the ICC has only prosecuted African or Serbian dictators.  International law is only enforced against the weakest.

If it is the case that we must work within the existing framework we can never win.  There is an old Zionist saying.  ‘The facts come first and the law comes after.’  Zionist strategy in Palestine operated on the basis of creating facts on the ground.  First establish the settlements and the law will adjust accordingly.

Of course most states, the USA excepted, adhere to the notion that the settlements are illegal.  But the hypocrisy of these same states can be measured in the degree of their opposition to Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS).  If the European states were at all serious about their opposition to the colonisation of the West Bank or the illegal blockade on Gaza then they would not be granting Israel most-favoured-nation trading status.

Finkelstein is correct that the return of the refugees would mean the end of the Israeli state as it currently exists.  It is arguable whether the UN in 1947 intended for Israel to become an apartheid state via the expulsion of the majority of the Palestinians but that was the effect of the decision. Here however is the conundrum. As long as Israel remains an ethno-religious state then there will be no dismantling of the settlements, nor will there be any equality of rights.  The Right of Return does indeed spell the end to Israel as we know it but that is an essential precondition to a Palestinian/Israeli state of all its citizens.

I disagree with Seth that a 2SS represents the best or indeed any hope for the Palestinians.  Given the disparity of power, a Palestinian state could only be a fiction, not even a Bantustan.  But if Israel were forced to de-Zionise, why would one want to repartition the area?

Seth says that decolonization has to come from within and the idea that it could come from the outside ‘is a colonial idea in itself’.  So presumably when we supported decolonisation in South Africa we were being colonialists?  Or those who supported Indian independence were also colonists in disguise?  This is a mere playing with words.

Finkelstein bases his schema on international world opinion as represented by the United Nations.  He places his faith in the basket of the ‘international community’. It has as much relation to reality as Alice’s Wonderland. The UN is a body whose Human Rights Council was chaired by Saudi Arabia!  It is a gang of thieves and imperialist cut throats.  The Security Council represents the interests of the major powers, no less and no more.  In practice the UN is under the thumb of the United States, as we saw when the UN Secretary General insisted that the Report of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, which defined Israel as an Apartheid state, headed by Professors Virginia Tilley and Richard Falk had to be ditched.[9]

The intellectual edifice that Finkelstein has constructed in support of a 2SS is built on sand.  It fails to comprehend the unique features of the Israeli state and why it is unique. The position of Israeli Palestinians, a population that is seen as a potential fifth column and temporary non-Jewish residents of a Jewish state,  is also unique. Finkelstein sees a rational world order.  I see one in which the United States maintains a world empire through deceit, corruption and military might. Only a mass movement from below will be able to change the political geography of Palestine and the Middle East.

Footnotes: 

[1]              Norman Finkelstein on Joan Peters legacy (and Dershowitz’s legal troubles).
[2]           Norman Finkelstein –A Wasted Opportunity & Self-Indulgence, http://azvsas.blogspot.co.uk/2011/11/norman-finkelstein-wasted-opportunity.html
[3]           The End of Palestine? An Interview with Norman G. Finkelstein, by Norman Finkelstein, Jamie Stern-Weiner, 11 January 2014,
[4]           Birthright sold for mess of pottage, Labour Left Briefing, November 1993.
[5]           Israel PM: illegal African immigrants threaten identity of Jewish state

[6]           The Justice Minister Versus Democracy – Alarm bells ring when the minister appointed to defend Israel’s courts announces that Zionism will ‘no longer bow its head to a system of individual rights’, Ha’aretz, 30.8.17
[7]              Jewish People Land

[8]           The Guardian, 22/5/15.

[9]           Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid Palestine and the Israeli Occupation, Issue No. 1 E/ESCWA/ECRI/2017/1 (ESCWA)

About Tony Greenstein

Tony Greenstein is a longstanding Jewish anti-Zionist and an anti-fascist activist from Brighton. In 1982 he was a co-founder of Britain’s Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Tony was suspended from the Labour Party a year ago as a result of the Anti-Semitism witch-hunt. Tony is the author of The Fight Against Fascism in Brighton and the South Coast. He has written extensively on Palestine and Zionism for, amongst others, the Guardian’s Comment is Free, the Journal of Holy Land and Palestine Studies, Tribune and the Weekly Worker. Tony was the child of an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi and when young a member of the religious Zionist Bnei Akiva, now part of the Greater Israel movement.

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40 Responses

  1. Ismail
    September 8, 2017, 5:40 pm

    Absolutely brilliant piece. I say this with ambivalence, because for me, the analysis is as decisive as the solution is hopelessly vague.

    After pointing out, with unassailable logic and a firm command of history, that the forces aligned against Palestine are of Death Star proportions, and that the solution must be radically different from the anodyne bleats proposed by the Negotiations Industry, Tony leaves us with a call for…a mass movement from below.

    This reminds me of a major problem with psychoanalysis. After analyst and patient together produce a creative, radical, non-intuitive picture of where s/he is and how s/he got there, the patient is left with “working through” the conflict to arrive at a solution. No one agrees about what “working through” consists in, but, after the thrilling clarity of one Aha! after another, that’s all there is.

    I mean no impertinence to Tony, who clearly has enough passion, intelligence and knowledge for any ten of us, and with whose analysis I completely agree. It’s just that the argument seems so much more vivid than the solution.

    Maybe I am too tired, maybe my activist imagination is too limited…I just find myself both edified and dejected after reading this piece. What is to be done?

    • Nathan
      September 9, 2017, 4:29 pm

      Ismail – I think that Tony Greenstein was rather clear as to what, in his opinion, is to be done. He argues that there shouldn’t be a Jewish state. He says it in so many words (“The Right of Return does indeed spell the end to Israel as we know it…”), and he says it by way of undefined terminology (“if Israel were forced to de-Zionise…”). Mr Greenstein also suggests how to reach this goal (“Only a mass movement from below…”). So, what is to be done, according to this article? A mass movement is needed to undo the Jewish state. It’s quite simple.

      There are, obviously, a few issues that are never mentioned in an anti-Zionist article. For example, there is no mention of “peace” or “an end of conflict”. Actually, it’s quite obvious that the conflict would continue even after the dismantling of the Jewish state. It’s asking just a bit too much that the Jews should end the existence of the Jewish state AND to live in conflict.

      • Paranam Kid
        September 11, 2017, 2:59 am

        The Jewish state has absolutely no legitimacy whatsoever because its state ideology is Zionism, which is predicated on racism, with 1 ethnic group holding sovereignty & keeping another ethnic group subjugated & separate (= apartheid). FYI, Apartheid is the 2nd most serious crime against humanity, just behind genocide. Israel is even carrying out covert genocide, a Slowocaust.

        Therefore Israel in its current form needs to be dismantled & rebuilt from the ground up into a truly democratic state with EQUAL rights for ALL its citizens.

    • Danaa
      September 9, 2017, 6:30 pm

      Tony leaves us with a call for…a mass movement from below.

      This is indeed a bit vague – more like begging the question than giving an answer.

      But, given Greenstein’s arguments about the powerlessness of International law when all the Western, and much of the Middle eastern – world is held captive to a single Empire, one that’s completely intertwined with the infrastructures of zionist ideology, the meaning of the vagueness is actually clear, and he does say it, in fact, in a few places.

      basically, it’s no use waiting for International law to exact justice because the law itself is administered according to the whims of one Empire, in which zionism is embedded both by hook and by crook. IOW, the “International Law” as it is presently conducted is mostly an empty academic construct that serves only to assuage the guilt felt by some members of The Empire. Waiting for this “Law” to deliver either justice or solutions to deep international problems is something academics do by definition, as they debate the merits ever so capably.

      Greenstein’s answer is not so hidden, even if it is not entirely realistic – for palestinians to get their day in court, the Empire that must fall first from its power pedestal. because it is The Empire that props up the racist ideology known as zionism, giving it teeth, preventing effective challenge. As for the “movement from below” this clearly alludes to masses of people rebelling against the existing power structure. The really relevant questions are therefore when and how are such masses to be cobbled together.

      Of course, the answer to that is not exactly hopeful, especially as everywhere we look The Empire – now turning itself over to the Corporate State – is flexing its muscles through wars and economic pressures and propaganda everywhere. Yet we know that declining empires do just that – they first become extremely arrogant, they overreach, and then they fall. We just don’t know ahead of time what the inflection point is. Therefore, we must be prepared for when the time is right.

      And this is where BDS comes in – not as a movement that can bring rights and justice to palestinians overnight – but as a challenge to the power structure. Not only to Israel. Not only to “organized/established Jewery” which is fighting it tooth and nail. But to the entire existing power structure of Empire itself. An Empire which depends on various legalistic distortions to get its way, then claims to have done its evil deeds through the “power of law”, so they can’t possibly be evil. BDS is a people’s revolt, just as occupy was. Our job is to see to it that it doesn’t get easily squashed as occupied was and continues to grow – both above and under the ground (underground is what BDS has to do in Israel already).

      • Keith
        September 10, 2017, 3:26 pm

        DANAA- “basically, it’s no use waiting for International law to exact justice because the law itself is administered according to the whims of one Empire, in which zionism is embedded both by hook and by crook.”

        That is correct and one of the reasons I avoid getting into these discussions about international law. It provides the self-serving illusion of activism which ultimately accomplishes nothing. International law in the age of empire is little more than a club with which the strong beat up on the weak. Power determines who wins and who loses.

        DANAA- “As for the “movement from below” this clearly alludes to masses of people rebelling against the existing power structure.”

        Good luck with that! The rebellion of the “proletariat” is a Marxist delusion. Americans can’t even bring themselves to revolt at the polls, much less man the barricades! And now, instead of confronting the 1%, the 99% is fighting among itself as the elites promote a form of sectarian conflict with the alt-left (antifa, etc) doing battle with the alt-right, fighting in the streets as if this will accomplish anything. The 99% seems to be rather easily manipulated. I am not sure what can be done in any event since the power relations are so one-sided.

        I hate to sound so glum, but if there are reasons for optimism I would love to be convinced.

      • Mooser
        September 10, 2017, 5:55 pm

        “I hate to sound so glum, but if there are reasons for optimism I would love to be convinced.”

        Stick with pessimism, “Keith”, that way there’s always something worse to hope for.

      • Keith
        September 11, 2017, 1:30 am

        MOOSER- “Stick with pessimism, “Keith”….”

        Sound advice under the circumstances.

  2. JosephA
    September 8, 2017, 11:00 pm

    Tony, I thank you for your analysis and your years of dedication.

  3. Annie Robbins
    September 9, 2017, 12:17 am

    thanks tony!

    Only a mass movement from below will be able to change the political geography of Palestine and the Middle East.

    exactly. for my thoughts on creating/sustaining that mass movement, my comments are in seth’s thread.

  4. Paranam Kid
    September 9, 2017, 7:50 am

    Indeed, with 600k settlers now in the Stolen Palestinian Territories, the 2SS is dead: there is nothing in the world that will remove those “people”.

    The parallel with former apartheid South Africa & today’s apartheid Israel is made frequently, but there is 1 major difference: SA was alone in its stand against the world, whereas Israel is backed unconditionally by the world’s most powerful country. The US’s “backing” for SA when BDS was already in place on a massive scale was a passive backing, which collapsed eventually.

    Palestine has no such backer and as long as the US remains the top dog in the world, it can bully any country or group of countries into dropping opposition against the nazi-onist state. Proof: the EU formally is against racism & territorial theft, is for human rights, but in practice it is supporting Israel in every way it can for fear of the Kosher Nostra across the Pond & in the ME.

    The best hope for change in the status quo is rot from within. That rot, which already in progress, will be accelerated by the failure of the social manipulation & demographic engineering that the “country” needs to do to artificially maintain it Jewish numerical majority. The concomitant “incremental genocide”, as Ilan Pappé calls it, or the Slowocaust as someone else termed, will need to accelerate, and that, together with the rot will bring down the nazi-onist state. A mass movement helps, but on its own it will not do the trick.

    Israel will continue to exist, like SA & former Nazi Germany, but not in its current form.

  5. Nathan
    September 9, 2017, 3:37 pm

    The major point of Joan Peter’s book “From Time Immemorial” was that the UN definition of Palestinian refugees was “persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.” She claimed that, ordinarily, a refugee is one who fled his homeland in which his family has been living “from time immemorial”. She expresses her surprise that for the Palestinians the definition of refugee includes also those who were living in Palestine for only two years.

    Tony Greenstein gives in his footnotes a reference to Norman Finkelstein’s attack on Joan Peter’s book (which is fine), but he should also footnote the quote from her book in which she supposedly stated that “the Zionists colonised an empty Palestine”. Obviously, in journalism, one doesn’t have to give academic footnotes in the first place. But since Mr Greenstein does give footnotes anyway, I’d like to see the quote in question. It’s really hard to believe to anyone following the conflict would claim that Palestine was an empty land. It’s simply poor journalism.

    • Paranam Kid
      September 10, 2017, 9:11 am

      It’s really hard to believe to anyone following the conflict would claim that Palestine was an empty land.

      Not sure what point you are trying to make here, but that claim has been a major claim by the Zios: “a land with no people for a people with no land.”

      Incidentally, the Israel-Palestine issue is not a conflict. As explained by an American Anthropological Association task force, the word “assumes that the parties involved have comparable access to resources (including material resources, freedom of movement, freedom to express oneself, as well as the forces of violence), but that they clash because their interests are mutually incompatible”. Rather, “one is dealing with an occupation, which
      consists in one party controlling, militarily or otherwise, the territory, time, liberty, and other resources deemed to be under the rightful control of the other party”.

    • Talkback
      September 10, 2017, 1:39 pm

      Nathan: “She expresses her surprise that for the Palestinians the definition of refugee includes also those who were living in Palestine for only two years.”

      Yes, even if they were Jews! But Joan Peter was not a hypocrite. She was even more surprised that the League of Nations sanctioned the Mandate for Palestine and allowed enforced immigration of Jewish settlers. Or that the UN recommended partition allthough it violated its principle of territorial integrity. Or that the UN accepted Israel into the UN despite its annexations beyond partition borders and refusal to allow the refugees to return. Right?

      • Paranam Kid
        September 11, 2017, 3:00 am

        Talkback, as usual you hit the nail on the head.

  6. JoeSmack
    September 9, 2017, 6:57 pm

    I stopped following Greenstein’s crappy blogging after he attacked Counter-Punch, but it was amusing to see him once again blubbering about things he knows very little about.

    First of all, the ICC does not target states. At all. It *only* targets individuals, because international criminal law only targets individuals. The ICJ on the other hand primarily produces advisory opinions on IL disputes, usually between states. He lumps them together.

    As for Bush’s war, although wars of aggression are arguably illegal based on the UN Charter and the Kellogg-Briand Pact, those do not create criminal liability for individuals. Greenstein cites the Nuremberg Trials as an example of individuals being held criminally accountable for wars of aggression, but even this is a very weak claim. In retrospect, the Nuremberg Trials were so obviously a matter of the victor’s justice that future international criminal tribunals have tried to mend its excesses (the ICC was one attempt to do so). Although there is proposed language making wars of aggression into a crime prospectively under the Rome Statute, it does not have retroactive effect. So suggesting that Bush could be tried as a war criminal for his war of aggression is, legally, a stretch. Not all unlawful conduct / violations of IL / breaches of IL constitute international crimes. Bush could, alternatively, be tried as a war criminal for torture that took place *during* the war.

    Beyond that, I don’t know why Greenstein is wasting his time trying to litigate things Finkelstein says. The point is simply that IL is a good rallying point. Finkelstein is wrong about whether or not these are the things people want to hear, but as far as IL goes as an area of law, it sounds like Greenstein is purposely muddling different areas of law into a single mass. Poor research.

  7. Tony Greenstein
    September 9, 2017, 8:35 pm

    I’m not sure I understand Nathan’s point. I only referenced Joan Peter’s revisionist history in so far as I was pointing out Finkelstein’s brilliant demolition of her book. I stated that:

    ‘There is no one who did a better job in deconstructing and destroying Joan Peter’s fraudulent From Time Immemorial, which claimed that the Zionists colonised an empty Palestine.’ why should I need to quote what Peters said when I had accurately summarised her argument? Is anyone disputing what I said? I only reference NF’s article in order that people could (& should) go to it. I would not recommend anyone reading Peter’s turgid forgery.

    As for the last sentence I think Nathan has got the wrong end of the stick. No one to my knowledge who knows anything about the conflict or struggle, to be more accurate, would suggest that Palestine was an empty land.

    • JosephA
      September 10, 2017, 12:03 am

      Tony,

      Imagine my surprise when I was talking to an (otherwise) educated older Jewish man who said to me “Did you know that these people they call Palestinians never lived in Israel? They were brought in by the Ottomans from Saudi Arabia to build the train/railroad system less than 100 years ago.”

      I was speechless for a few moments, then I said to him “No, I believe that’s a myth, there are Palestinians who have lived in Palestine for many generations”, but he didn’t like that. He said it’s propaganda and they are an invented people.

      I am talking about a man that I regularly interacted with for two weeks straight. We were in a tour group together and he had a very good grasp of politics, history, etc, even a great sense of humor, with the exception of this myth that Palestinians did not originate in Palestine.

    • Annie Robbins
      September 10, 2017, 12:14 am

      tony, i wouldn’t give it too much thought. if you click on nathan’s name you access his archives. it doesn’t take long to figure out his MO.

    • Jackdaw
      September 10, 2017, 4:45 am

      No. Finkelstein demolished one or two chapters of Peter’s book. The remainder of the book has value, a fact lost on the book burners.

      • festus
        September 11, 2017, 11:02 am

        Yes. Except for the underlying premise of the book, it’s very valuable! Wow.

    • Nathan
      September 10, 2017, 11:34 pm

      Tony Greenstein – If you claim in your article that Joan Peter’s position is that “the Zionists colonised an empty Palestine”, I must assume that you have actually read her book. So, you should be able to footnote that claim. It’s just a silly argument that you wouldn’t want to recommend her book (after all, you do mention the book in your article, and someone might try to find it in the library). We all read books by authors with whom we don’t agree, and we still manage to survive.

      Paranam Kid – It’s really silly to argue that the “empty land” is a “major claim” of Zionism. Arab resistance to Jewish immigration and political ambitions was obvious from the very beginning. However, this is not the issue that I raised. I am questioning the veracity of the quote given by Mr Greenstein. Do you believe that any author, writing a book about the conflict in the late 20th century, would argue that “the Zionists colonised an empty Palestine”? I don’t think so.

      By the way, you might want to find an old book entitled “Evidence of the Truth of the Christian Religion Derived from the Literal Fulfillment of Prophecy”, written by a Church of Scotland clergyman, Alexander Keith, in the 19th century. There he wrote: “A people without a country even as their own land, as subsequently to be shown, is in a great measure a country without a people.” The anti-Zionist argument (propaganda) attributes this concept to the Zionists (the late Edward Sa’id, for example, claimed that Zangwill created the slogan), but in reality this is an idea of Christian theologians.

      • Paranam Kid
        September 11, 2017, 9:07 am

        Do you believe that any author, writing a book about the conflict in the late 20th century, would argue that “the Zionists colonised an empty Palestine”?
        Joan Peters did, and I have no reason to doubt Mr. Greenstein’s statement, seeing the kind of character Peters is.

        Arab resistance to Jewish immigration and political ambitions was obvious from the very beginning.
        That is not true: the Arabs did not mind immigration but objected to the ultimate goal of that immigration, which was the establishment of a Jewish state, run by & for the sole benefit of the Jews. In fact, until Israel’s fraudulent creation the Arabs consistently argue for 1 state in Palestine with equal rights for all, but the Zios always rejected it.

        …..in reality this is an idea of Christian theologians.
        The Zionists love it & have been using it.

      • Nathan
        September 11, 2017, 10:12 am

        Paranam Kid – It’s simply not true that the “the Arabs did not mind immigration”. However, again, it’s not the point. The point is that everyone knew that the country is inhabited. No one claimed that it’s an empty country. What is interesting about the anti-Zionist position is the fact that any silly claim about Zionism can be made, and everyone in the anti-Zionist camp will repeat it. It’s even more interesting to note that the claims can even be self-contradictory, and that always seems to be quite fine. So, you can read in the anti-Israel literature that the evil Zionists from the beginning plotted to remove the Arab population from the country to make room for the Jewish state AND you can read that the Zionists claimed that the country was empty. Even in Mr Greenstein’s comment to me he writes that “no one to my knowledge who knows anything about the conflict or struggle, to be more accurate, would suggest that Palestine was an empty land” – yet, he claims that Joan Peter wrote in her book that “the Zionists colonised an empty Palestine”. It’s not by accident that he didn’t footnote that strange claim.

        Theodore Herzl wrote an idealistic novel about the future Jewish state – “Altneuland” (Old-New Land). Here’s a surprise for you: The author is very much aware of the Arab presence in the country (and the possibility that they might not be happy with the rise of a Jewish state in Palestine). Since Herzl expected (wrongly) that Jews and Arabs would live in harmony in his proposed state, one of the characters in the book (an Arab named Rashid Bey) expresses the theme of harmony. Since the book was published in 1902 by the very founder of the Zionist Movement, you can rest assured that that it was obvious to the Zionists that the country is inhabited from the very beginning.

        It’s okay to present an anti-Zionist or an anti-Israel position. You could claim, for example, that the Jews are not a national community, and hence “bla-bla-bla…” But there’s no reason to accept uncritically all the propaganda that has been floating around for 100 years. The conflict is already a century old (the first Jewish self-defence organizations, “Bar-Giora and Ha-Shomer” were founded already in the first decade of the 20th century), so obviously everyone was aware that there’s another side.

      • Keith
        September 11, 2017, 10:41 am

        NATHAN- ” It’s even more interesting to note that the claims can even be self-contradictory, and that always seems to be quite fine. So, you can read in the anti-Israel literature that the evil Zionists from the beginning plotted to remove the Arab population from the country to make room for the Jewish state AND you can read that the Zionists claimed that the country was empty.”

        There is nothing contradictory about the early Zionists planning to ethnically cleanse the Palestinians from their homes to permit a Jewish super-majority while simultaneously claiming to the world that Israel was “a land without people for a people without land.” This is not a demonstration of anti-Zionists contradicting themselves, rather, it is a demonstration of Zionist hypocrisy and self-serving dishonesty. And yes, Joan Peters book was a shoddy attempt to construct a false history of Palestinians as opportunistic camp followers of Jewish pioneers who made the desert bloom. Garbage which was initially lauded by American Zionist Jewry. And your comment more pilpul from you.

      • Nathan
        September 11, 2017, 8:29 pm

        Keith – You claim that the book of Joan Peter is “shoddy” and “false history”, but you didn’t come out and say in clear terms that she actually claims in her book that “the Zionists colonised an empty Palestine” (as she is “quoted” by Mr Greenstein). Did she make that claim in her book?

        Already in the 1920’s, there were terrible riots throughout the country. Are you suggesting that the Zionists (in their “self-serving dishonesty”) claimed that “the country is empty” during these riots? Could it be that the Jewish community in Hebron (for example) was slaughtered in 1929 (and it was reported throughout the world), and at the same time time Zionist propaganda told the world that it’s a “land without a people”?

        No one claimed that the land was empty. Palestine was on the tourist map already in the first half of the 19th century, and scores of books described the country and its inhabitants. Mark Twain wrote a wonderful book about his visit in the 1850’s (you’d enjoy reading it). Theodore Herzl, the founder of Zionism, wrote about the Arabs in his writings, as well.

        Whenever a grievance against Zionism/Israel is placed on the list of grievances, it can never be removed from the list. The passage of time or the absolute absurdity of a grievance will not change a thing. Anyway, I’d be curious to know which book you have read – written by a Zionist – in which the claim of an empty land appears. Please, there’s no need to bring to my attention a book written by an anti-Zionist in this regard. The claim is uncritically repeated all the time in the anti-Zionist world (as demonstrated by Mr Greenstein above).

      • RoHa
        September 11, 2017, 11:21 pm

        Marmaduke Pickthall wrote a wonderful book about travels in Palestine.

        Oriental Encounters: Palestine and Syria, 1894-6

        And yet I only see people mention the Twain book. Why is this?

      • Keith
        September 12, 2017, 1:22 am

        NATHAN- “Keith – You claim that the book of Joan Peter is “shoddy” and “false history”, but you didn’t come out and say in clear terms that she actually claims in her book that “the Zionists colonised an empty Palestine” (as she is “quoted” by Mr Greenstein). Did she make that claim in her book?”

        Yes, I claimed that Peters book was shoddy and a false history. My claims are based upon a review of the book in “Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict,” by Norman Finkelstein. If you can demonstrate that anything Norman said was false, please do so. To give our fellow Mondoweissers some idea of what we are talking about, I provide a quote from Finkelstein’s book.

        “That a scholarly work meets with critical acclaim would hardly be news, were it not for the fact that “From Time Immemorial” is among the most spectacular frauds ever published on the Arab-Israeli conflict. In a field littered with crass propaganda, forgeries and fakes, this is no mean distinction. But Peter’s book has thoroughly earned it.

        The fraud in Peter’s book is so pervasive and systematic that it is hard to pluck out a single thread without getting entangled in the whole unravelling fabric. To begin with, the fraud falls into two basic categories. First, the evidence that Peters adduces to document massive illegal Arab immigration into Palestine is almost entirely falsified. Second, the conclusions that Peters draws from her demographic study of of Palestine’s indigenous Arab population are not borne out by the data she presents. To confound the reader further, Peters resorts to plagiarism.”

        NATHAN- “No one claimed that the land was empty.”

        A “land without people” isn’t a claim that the land was empty? You are a propagandist who continues to deny reality. The entire history of Zionism is to deny the history of the Palestinian people. Why else destroy all of those villages and plant European forests on top? And don’t tell me you are unaware of Moshe Dayan’s statements about Israeli towns on top of destroyed Palestinian villages. You are incredibly dishonest.

        NATHAN- ” Mark Twain wrote a wonderful book about his visit in the 1850’s….”

        When all else fails, quote that old Mark Twain story. You are shameless, a person without honor or intellectual integrity. A purveyor of BS.

      • Talkback
        September 12, 2017, 11:02 am

        Nathan: “Mark Twain wrote a wonderful book about his visit in the 1850’s (you’d enjoy reading it).”

        Joan Peters, Mark Twain … it’s getting more and more ridiculous.

        But please quote your most favourite part from Twain’s book. I like the one about Greece where he “saw no ploughed fields, very few villages, no trees or grass or vegetation of any kind, scarcely, and hardly ever an isolated house. Greece is a bleak, unsmiling desert, without agriculture, manufactures, or commerce, apparently”. That’s gotta be even more objective than the bible.

      • Mooser
        September 12, 2017, 11:44 am

        Oriental Encounters: Palestine and Syria, 1894-6

        Looks like the text is on the web in several places.

      • MHughes976
        September 12, 2017, 3:45 pm

        Thanks for the quote about Greece, Talkback. Either MT was a biased witness who wouldn’t see any good anywhere in the benighted East or he was objective, in which case we see that this sort of evidence doesn’t matter. Even if the Greeks had been poor and wretched at that time that would not mean that they had to give up Thessaly to any advanced people who wanted it.

      • Keith
        September 12, 2017, 5:44 pm

        MHUGHES976- ” Either MT was a biased witness who wouldn’t see any good anywhere in the benighted East….”

        A while back, the Mark Twain quote came up and a commenter maintained that it reflected typical Mark Twain parody. Perhaps so. I haven’t read it nor do I intend to. It is rather irrelevant in any event.

      • Mooser
        September 15, 2017, 2:00 pm

        “The point is that everyone knew that the country is inhabited. No one claimed that it’s an empty country.”

        Exactly! And common sense tells the Zionists they will have to use force to take it away from its inhabitants. And so they did.

        Yeah, that’s right “inhabitants”. I don’t care when the Palestinians got there. They were there, and they are people.

  8. Jackdaw
    September 12, 2017, 10:48 am

    @Keith

    The quote is, ‘a land without a people’. not, “a land without people”.

    http://www.meforum.org/1877/a-land-without-a-people-for-a-people-without

    Do you see the difference?
    Keith?

    • MHughes976
      September 12, 2017, 3:08 pm

      Shaftesbury’ s influential 1875 address to the Palestine Exploration Fund talks of a land ‘almost without an inhabitant’, making it seem as if ‘without a people’ meant something very close to ‘without a population’, which is what led to Zangwill’s statement in 1921 that in a literal sense (only) Shaftesbury had exaggerated. Both Shaftesbury and Zangwill (most of the time) agreed with many others that there was no population whose rights might reasonably stand in the way of the Restorationist project.
      Whether the verbal difference between ‘without people’ and ‘without a people’ makes a moral difference depends on whether there are populations which are insufficient in numbers, prosperity and specific connection to the place to give them the rights which peoples normally have. Whether there are significant numbers of people who are not a people.
      I suppose one might argue that if people are really so few and so miserable that by themselves they cannot expect to survive or live a life that even they would consider tolerable or to form any functioning social organisation then perhaps they are not in a state where political rights exist. Perhaps – but surely we should not accept the claim of outsiders that this situation exists and that they are entitled to go marching in. This would be to accept judgement in seriously self-serving form as if it were objective. Furthermore it is obvious that nothing like this degree of misery prevailed in Ottoman Palestine even if we took Mark Twain’s judgement as true at double strength.
      There remains the odd idea that people whose home is one province, rather than the whole, of some large polity can be excluded from their homes with no wrong done because their loyalty was not to the whole, not the specific part, and they still ‘have’ the rest. This (what is implied rhetorically by calling the Palestinians only ‘Arabs’ ) is a) monstrous and b) completely paradoxical because the argument can be iterated until the people concerned have in effect lost everything.
      So I think that there is no morally relevant difference here between ‘people’ and ‘a people’.

    • Keith
      September 12, 2017, 5:34 pm

      JACKDAW- “Do you see the difference?”

      Yes, the correct quote has an “a” in front of people. It is a difference without substance, the type of argument of someone engaging in pilpul. The early Zionists, and apparently you, wish to pretend that there was no ethnic cleansing because there was no one there to cleanse. That is the rather obvious intent of the phrase which, in turn, is consistent with the actions of the Zionists in destroying villages and other evidence of Palestinian history.

      • Jackdaw
        September 13, 2017, 12:44 am

        “The early Zionists, and apparently you, wish to pretend that there was no ethnic cleansing because there was no one there to cleanse. ”

        Blather.

  9. Mooser
    September 15, 2017, 2:03 pm

    “Blather.”

    Exactly “Jackdaw”! It would be absurd to posit that the Zionists did not plan from the first to use violence and terrorism, to take Palestine from it’s inhabitants.

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