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Natives and the blessings of progress

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Before there were Israelis, there were Zionists and Zionism. Heirs of the project are living out the literal foreignness of the Zionist nationality—overlaid on the human Palestine map.

The secular, Ashkenazi theoreticians of the pre-state Zionist movement contrast with their progeny, Naftali Bennett and “hilltop youth,” Hebrew-speaking religious Zealots, looking to cast adrift from the democratic tradition in favor of an atavistic Jewish kingdom.

It’s a wise child that knows his own father. The state of mind of Israeli Zionists is now such that they feel Zionists of the wider world are alien to them.

“Equal suffrage is obviously inadvisable in so backward a civilization as that of the Arab…”

So pioneer American Zionist, Jerusalem Post founder and future Tel Aviv Mayor Gershon Agronsky (later Agron) observed in a 1927 report on Jewish “reclamation” of Mandate Palestine.

The occasion of Agronsky’s report was an extraordinary international conference —-under United States sponsorship, improbably enough in Honolulu in 1927, “The First Pan Pacific Conference on Education, Rehabilitation, Reclamation and Recreation.”

(Presumably, Mandate Palestine’s touching of the Gulf of Aqaba made it a territory of the Pacific.)

Royal Hawaiian Hotel, Waikiki. (Photo: Lantern slide/The University of Hawaii at Manoa Libraries)

That conference, which opened at the newly built landmark Royal Hawaiian Hotel, gives us a view of the times, and a valuable picture of the role that “advanced” nations were seen to play in the lives of the “native.”

For Agronsky, personally attending the conference was an occasion to share the story of Zionist settlement of Palestine, with steady advances in dunums irrigated and number of Jewish schools and hamlets.

For appointed Hawaii Territorial Governor Wallace R. Farrington and the Japan government representatives—in their lights “advanced” parties—it was an opportunity to discuss indicators of progress for indigenous Hawaiians and Koreans.

The Japanese proudly reported improved education and rice production since the 1911 annexation of Korea by Japan, and the Hawaii Territorial government representatives described the efforts to educate and set native Hawaiians in homes on land in trust for them. 

For Agronsky, the Jewish Agency representative, his theme was “Jewish Reclamation of Palestine,” and mention of non-Jews in Palestine was less than secondary.

In the pioneering pre-state period, a portion of the Zionist intelligentsia—personified by Judah Magnes—understood the danger of what was being constructed.

Jewish settlement-building followed Ben-Gurion’s principles of Jewish self-sufficiency and “Hebrew Labor,” and had the effect of building two societies at odds with each other.

Herzlian philosophy was that Jews—in the main Jews of Eastern Europe—would become a “normal” people by doing all the functions that a people do, such as tilling the soil, in a Jewish land.

“Jewish agriculture is the base for the reconstruction of Palestine, and a Jewish peasantry the foundation of a new Jewish Commonwealth,” said D. Arthur Ruppin, a Zionist presence in Palestine since the First Aliyah.

To the Zionist pioneers, this meant minimizing interdependence with non-Jewish Palestinians. There was an unavoidable European sense of superiority.

In a February 1918 American Jewish Committee board meeting, AJC board member Cyrus Adler illustrated the all-too-frequent contempt for Arabs that poisoned foreign plans for Palestine, when he observed that, to him,

It is  difficult  to  imagine  how  Jews, who have lived  in  the  great  world,  in  the  great  modern cities  of  Europe  and  America, and  who  should  go  back  to Palestine, could take a place side by side with  the Arabs who are 2,000 or 3,000 years behind the Jews in civilization.”

That  February comment is echoed in a May 1918 letter from Chaim Weizmann in Tel Aviv-Jaffa to British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour, complaining that British administrators of Palestine were ignoring the

fundamental qualitative difference between Jew and Arab….The present system tends on the contrary  to  level down the Jews to the status of a native, and in many cases the English Administrator follows the convenient rule of looking on the Jews as so many natives.”

Weizmann was pointing out the special status that Jews were to have in Mandate Palestine, as living in their intended homeland by “a right and not on sufferance,” as Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill put it in 1922.

(In a theme that recurs in discussions of Zionism, Churchill said in 1920, “The struggle between the Zionist and Bolshevik Jews is little less than a struggle for the soul of the Jewish people. In this case, redeeming the land is saving the Jews for the good of the nations.”)

In the periods of Zionist settlement in Palestine before statehood, the management and force of the Zionist movement was from the technological, “advanced,” European world. 

When waves of Mizrahi (eastern/Arab Jewish) olim arrived in Israel, in the trauma to the Arab world of the partition of Palestine, the “civilizing” mission was felt by the arriving “backward” Arab Jews, the Mizrahim, in contempt and tutelage.

The Mizrahim experienced the phenomena of children stolen for adoption, and forced “Western” education,  as experienced by Aboriginal Australians and North American First Peoples.

Arabs do appear in Israeli self-conception when convenient. Constitutional and human rights lawyer Mazen Mazri comments that in Israel’s May 1948 Declaration of Independence, “In the tradition of the civilising mission, the settlers also brought ‘the blessings of progress to all the country’s inhabitants’. The motifs of immigration, settlement, building and benefits for the other ‘inhabitants’ reverberate throughout the Declaration.”

Crucially, the Jewish nation that was created was based on the idea of separation from other inhabitants of Palestine in culture, language, labor, and economy. Even when geography and demographics did not support it, the notion of a separate Jewish society was essential to the political Zionist conception of returning to Palestine.

Now, in really what should be noted is a short time, an Israeli nationality exists fully formed, with an anthem and a founding origin story. Its culture has very much its Mizrahi component — a fact of Arabness with little acknowledgment. Even public speaking of Arabic is a suspect activity threatening societal status and personal safety.

We approach the 100th anniversary of the November 1917 Balfour Declaration, the British Foreign Secretary’s expression of support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine.  

New York Herald, Dec. 11, 1917; Gen. Allenby entering Jerusalem, Dec. 11, 1917. (Photo: Library of Congress)

It will be interesting to see how and whether the Israeli nationality endures. Ministers now in power openly tout Arab expulsion plans. Likud eminence Israeli President Reuven Rivlin is proposing a radical rethinking of the occupation, with Israel taking Arabs in as citizens along with the land it covets.

From the time of the November 1947 UN General Assembly vote in Palestine, sectarian Jewish militias began the removal of the half of the residents of the proposed “Jewish” state, and land beyond, who were not Jews, beginning the Nakba (catastrophe).

It is frequently asked whether, if the Jewish “return” to Palestine had been conducted in a different spirit, the situation would have developed as poisonously.

It may not have made a difference.  As the whites in Hawaii could not accept being equal citizens in a Kingdom of Hawaii ruled in part by native Hawaiians, would the emigrating Jews have accepted the same with Arabs of Palestine?

The doctrines of Zionist state-building and Jewish self-sufficiency argued against that, and waves of new immigrants from Europe who imagined, to repeat Cyrus Adler, Arabs “2,000 or 3,000 years behind the Jews in civilization.”

Now, central to many Jewish Israelis is the belief that they are home. Literally, permitting citizenship of Arabs remaining in Israel is seen as an example of Zionist magnanimity—or, as Israeli “New Historian” Benny Morris expressed it, failure to “finish the job” of expulsion.

This article was originally published on Feb. 17, 2017 by the LA Progressive here. 

Abba Solomon

Abba A. Solomon is the author of “The Speech, and Its Context: Jacob Blaustein's Speech ‘The Meaning of Palestine Partition to American Jews.’” His website is

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12 Responses

  1. eljay on February 23, 2017, 11:07 am

    “Equal suffrage is obviously inadvisable in so backward a civilization as that of the Arab…”

    …. For Agronsky, the Jewish Agency representative, his theme was “Jewish Reclamation of Palestine,” …

    “It is difficult to imagine how Jews, who have lived in the great world, in the great modern cities of Europe and America, and who should go back to Palestine, could take a place side by side with the Arabs who are 2,000 or 3,000 years behind the Jews in civilization.”

    1. From the very beginning, Zionists were supremacists pushing a supremacist ideology.
    2. It’s funny how Zionists can’t seem to decide whether Palestine existed or never existed.

    • Maghlawatan on February 23, 2017, 12:29 pm

      I would love to see a comparison of Israeli Jew vs Palestinian on

      1. Domestic violence
      2 Child abuse
      3 Substance addiction

      to see who is civilised

  2. JLewisDickerson on February 23, 2017, 12:22 pm

    RE: “It is difficult to imagine how Jews, who have lived in the great world, in the great modern cities of Europe and America, and who should go back to Palestine, could take a place side by side with the Arabs who are 2,000 or 3,000 years behind the Jews in civilization.” – AJC board member Cyrus Adler in February of 1918

    Collective narcissism
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia –

    [EXCERPT] Collective narcissism (or group narcissism) is a type of narcissism where an individual has an inflated self-love of his or her own ingroup, where an “ingroup” is a group in which an individual is personally involved.[1] While the classic definition of narcissism focuses on the individual, collective narcissism asserts that one can have a similar excessively high opinion of a group, and that a group can function as a narcissistic entity.[1] Collective narcissism is related to ethnocentrism; however, ethnocentrism primarily focuses on self-centeredness at an ethnic or cultural level, while collective narcissism is extended to any type of ingroup, beyond just cultures and ethnicities.[1][2] Some theorists believe group-level narcissism to be an extension of individual narcissism, though others believe the two to be independent of each other.

    ● Development of the concept
    In Sigmund Freud’s 1922 study Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, he noted how every little canton looks down upon the others with contempt,[3] as an instance of what would later to be termed Freud’s theory of collective narcissism.[4] Thereafter, Wilhelm Reich and Isaiah Berlin explored what the latter called the rise of modern national narcissism: the self-adoration of peoples.[5] “Group narcissism” is described in a 1973 book entitled The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness by psychologist Erich Fromm.[6]

    In the 1990s, Pierre Bourdieu wrote of a sort of collective narcissism affecting intellectual groups, inclining them to turn a complacent gaze on themselves.[7] The term “collective narcissism” was highlighted anew by researchers Agnieszka Golec de Zavala, Aleksandra Cichocka, Roy Eidelson, and Nuwan Jayawickreme in 2009 in their study “Collective Narcissism and its Social Consequences”.[1]

    Noting how people’s desire to see their own groups as better than other groups can lead to intergroup bias, Henri Tajfel approached the same phenomena in the seventies and eighties, so as to create social identity theory, which argues that people’s motivation to obtain positive self-esteem from their group memberships is one driving-force behind in-group bias.[8]

    ● Characteristics
    Collective narcissism is characterized by the members of a group holding an inflated view of their ingroup.[1] It is important to note that collective narcissism can be exhibited by an individual on behalf of a group or by a group as a whole.[1] Fundamentally, however, collective narcissism always has some tie to the individuals who make up a narcissistic group.[1] Collectively narcissistic groups require external validation, just as individual narcissists do.[9] Organizations and groups who exhibit this behavior typically try to protect their identities through rewarding group-building behavior (this is positive reinforcement).[9] According to Golec de Zavala and colleagues, collective is an alternative form of narcissism, not altogether connected to individual, where most characteristics of individual narcissism apply, but are manipulated to include the word “group” where “self” might be found. Golec de Zavala et al. state some parallels between individual and collective narcissism . . .

    P.S. ■ Erich Fromm: The Anatomy Of Human Destructiveness (PDF, Text, Torrent) –

    • Misterioso on February 24, 2017, 10:44 am

      Speaking of Sigmund Freud:

      When approached to sign a petition to support the settlement of Jews in Palestine, Freud politely declined: “I cannot do as you wish…. I do not think that Palestine could ever become a Jewish state….It would have seemed more sensible to me to establish a Jewish homeland on a less historically-burdened land. But I know that such a rational viewpoint would never have gained the enthusiasm of the masses and the financial support of the wealthy…. I concede with sorrow that the baseless fanaticism of our people is in part to be blamed for the awakening of Arab distrust.  I can raise no sympathy at all for the misdirected piety which transforms a piece of a Herodian wall into a national relic, thereby offending the feelings of the natives.” ((Freud’s Letter to Dr. Chaim Koffler Keren HaYassod, Vienna: 26 February 1930). 

  3. Ossinev on February 23, 2017, 12:35 pm

    “fundamental qualitative difference between Jew and Arab….The present system tends on the contrary to level down the Jews to the status of a native, and in many cases the English Administrator follows the convenient rule of looking on the Jews as so many natives.”

    So that is the real”qualitative edge” which the US $3.8 billion per annum is paying for.

    BTW didn`t Himmler & Co incorporate the QD philosophy into their Final Solution blueprint?

  4. Maghlawatan on February 23, 2017, 12:44 pm

    Most Jews ignore the effect that relentless violence has had on the Sabra psyche. It’s not just Palestinians who have been damaged.

  5. Maghlawatan on February 23, 2017, 2:03 pm

    The Palestinians have an ancient culture. The Sabras decided they didn’t need one. And they don’t know who they are.

  6. Misterioso on February 24, 2017, 10:54 am

    For the record: The Zionists’ master plan to expel Palestine’s indigenous Arab inhabitants and create an exclusivist, expansionist “Jewish state” was well in place decades before WWII and the Holocaust.

    To wit:
    “We shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border….Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly.” (Theodor Herzl, diary entry, 12 June 1895)

    Israel Zangwill, the influential Anglo-Jewish essayist and Zionist, 1901: “[W]e must be prepared to either drive out by the sword the [Arab] tribes in possession…or to grapple with the problem of a large alien [sic] population….”

    In May 1911, Arthur Ruppin, one of early Zionism’s leading figures proposed to the Executive of the Zionist Organization, a “population transfer” of the Arab peasants from Palestine. 

    In the February 1919 issue of the League of Nations Journal, Zangwill proposed that the Palestinians should be “transplanted” in Arab countries and at a public meeting in the same year he declared that “many [Palestinians] are semi-nomad, they have given nothing to Palestine and are not entitled to the rules of democracy.” (Jewish Chronicle, Dec. 12, 1919).

    In 1918, David Ben-Gurion, described the future borders of the Jewish state as: “to the north, the Litani River; to the northeast, the Wadi’Owja, twenty miles south of Damascus; the southern border will be mobile and pushed into the Sinai at least up to Wadi al-`Arish; and to the east, the Syrian Desert, including the furthest edge of Transjordan.” (Teveth, “Ben-Gurion and the Palestinian Arabs”)

    Unfortunately, the Truman administration ignored the wisdom of Albert Einstein expressed in his testimony before the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry in January, 1946. When asked if refugee settlement in Palestine demanded a Jewish state, he replied: “The State idea is not according to my heart. I cannot understand why it is needed.  It is connected with narrow-mindedness and economic obstacles.  I believe it is bad. I have always been against it.” 

    Renowned historian and eminent Jewish American, Dr. Alfred Lilienthal, related a personal conversation with Einstein: “Dr. Einstein told me that, strangely enough, he had never been a Zionist and had never favored the creation of the State of Israel. Also, he told me of a significant conversation with [Chaim] Weizmann [leader of the World Zionist Organization.] Einstein had asked him: ‘What about the Arabs if Palestine were given to the Jews?’ And Weizmann said: ‘What Arabs? They are hardly of any consequence.'” (What Price Israel? p. 131)

    To again quote Professor Einstein: “Should we be unable to find a way to honest cooperation and honest pacts with the Arabs, then we have learned absolutely nothing during our 2,000 years of suffering and deserve all that will come to us,” he wrote, adding, “Should the Jews not learn to live in peace with the Arabs, the struggle against them will follow them for decades in the future.” (Quoted by Gili Tzkovitch, Haaretz, February 3, 2015.)

    • Maghlawatan on February 24, 2017, 11:30 am

      “Should we be unable to find a way to honest cooperation and honest pacts with the Arabs, then we have learned absolutely nothing during our 2,000 years of suffering and deserve all that will come to us,”

      is about to come true. Einstein was too smart to be a Zionist. Zionism is just groupthink.

      • Misterioso on February 24, 2017, 2:59 pm

        I agree.

        The only good thing about Zionism is that it contains the seeds of its own demise.
        Rapidly increasing numbers of people around the world, including Americans and righteous Jews everywhere, are now comprehending the inescapable truth that Zionism is racism, Zionism is theft and its creation, Israel, is falling faster and deeper into the pit of fascism.

      • Maghlawatan on February 24, 2017, 4:15 pm

        I have been reading Ha’aretz since 2000 and the rightward drift of Israeli society since then is so obvious . There is no psychological stability in Israel

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