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Fighting the Cruel Demand that Palestinians Forget Their History

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Donate to Mondoweiss As a regular reader of Mondoweiss, I’m pleased and privileged to write to you today and urge you to donate as I do, so Mondoweiss can persist in exposing injustice and spreading truth.

I began my journey to Palestinian solidarity in the late 1980s as a Jewish student in the library of Manchester University. I struggled to follow the First Intifada through the limited newspapers and magazines then available. My final break with liberal Zionism didn’t come until Israel’s 2008-9 Operation Cast Lead assault on Gaza. My journey could have progressed much faster if Mondoweiss had existed in the 90s and early 2000s.

You know as I do that every day, through its on-the-ground reporting and promotion of Palestinian voices, Mondoweiss confronts the world’s indifference and holds up the truth from Palestine. Every day, Mondoweiss exposes the hypocrisy of politicians and the media elite that dominates American debate on Israel.

But Mondoweiss does something else too—beyond just offering an “alternative narrative” on Israel/Palestine. By publishing Jewish dissent on Israel, it disrupts the dominant discourse that makes possible the ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people.

Of course, Palestinians themselves must and will be the agents of their own liberation. But there are roadblocks before them that others can help clear. And that’s where Jewish dissent becomes important.

Edward Said wrote in 1979 that Palestinians have had “the extraordinarily bad luck to have a good case in resisting colonial invasion of their homeland combined with, in terms of the international and moral sense, the most morally complex of all opponents, Jews, with a long history of victimization and terror behind them.”

He explained, “The absolute wrong of Settler-colonialism is very much diluted and perhaps even dissipated when it is a fervently-believed-in Jewish survival that uses Settler-colonialism to straighten out its own destiny.”

The Palestinian people are the true victims of Zionism. It’s their land that’s been stolen, their villages destroyed, their lives lost. But Jewish history and the seamless merger of Zionism with Judaism have become the great stumbling blocks on the road to Palestinian liberation, so a distinctly Jewish response is not just appropriate but essential for progress to take place.

Persuading other Jews that there has to be a better way than colonization, annexation and siege to “straighten out our destiny” is the reason why I started to write and speak about Israel/Palestine.

Jewish listeners and readers thank me frequently for providing the words to articulate the contradictions and injustices of Zionism without having to abandon their sense of Jewish identity. I know I must continue. Mondoweiss helps me to do that. Not only has it shared my work to a global audience, but also has shaped my thinking through access to some of the most incisive and engaging writing on the web or anywhere else for that matter.

Talking to students recently, I reflected on the Jewish insistence on remembering our history and connection to what we are told is “the land of our ancestors”—and the cruel contrast of this insistence with the demand that Palestinians forget their history and “move on.”

As the Great March of Return and its protests have shown, of course, the Palestinian people have not forgotten. They will not move on.

And during this time, Mondoweiss reporting has charted the depths to which Israel and its advocates have sunk by casting every Palestinian—woman, man or child; journalist or paramedic—as a terrorist. To refute these lies, we must invest in the truth—the words and images Mondoweiss publishes every day.

The stakes are getting ever higher and anti-Palestinian rhetoric is ratcheting up. That’s why supporting Mondoweiss’s journalism and commentary becomes ever more important. Space for voices of Jewish resistance and opposition—as well as for voices of Palestinian self-determination and resistance—will continue to be essential.

Donate to MondoweissPlease join me in contributing to Mondoweiss, a unique and vital part of the broad movement that will one day enable Palestinians to secure their liberation.

May that day come soon.

Robert Cohen

Cohen is a British writer. He blogs at Micah's Paradigm Shift.

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15 Responses

  1. Maghlawatan on July 24, 2018, 9:30 am

    That Said quote is superb.
    Zionism is bullshit. There is no Jewish future in oppression. There will be some awful cataclysm. The only way to defeat Nazism was with total war. The only way to defeat imperial Japan was with nuclear weapons. It may be similar with Zionism.

    • Keith on July 24, 2018, 10:41 am

      MAGHLAWATAN- “The only way to defeat imperial Japan was with nuclear weapons.”

      Wrong and a dangerous myth to boot! Japan was defeated and seeking to surrender when the atomic bombs were dropped on two essentially non-military civilian targets. The intent was twofold. First, to show the Soviets that we had this hugely destructive weapon and the will to commit mass-murder even when not necessary to achieve military objectives (ultimate terrorism). Second, a field test of the weapons, Hiroshima had a uranium core, Nagasaki a plutonium core. In his memoirs, Eisenhower decried the use of the atomic bombs, as did most of the other top military brass at the time.

      • Boomer on July 25, 2018, 1:38 pm

        It was still a contested issue many years ago, when I was in college. I take Eisenhower’s judgment as dispositive, but opinions at the time probably differed. Truman’s diary entry describes Hiroshima as a “military target.” I’ve always suspected that he knew better, that he knew he was writing for history, and that he was writing disingenuously to protect his legacy. He certainly didn’t hide his negative feelings about the “Japs,” but that was a common feeling and term during the war. I’m not a historian, but there are those who argue that Truman was misinformed initially.

        This is all something of a tangent to the subject of this site. Still, it prompts reflection on the burdens of history and on the moral responsibility of each generation. Modern Zionism started long before Hitler assumed power, but I can muster sympathy for those Jews in Europe who felt, after the rise of the Nazis, that they had to flee and fight for a new homeland. As Said described in the quote above, it was an unbearably tragic situation. But as the years passed after WWII, the moral calculus looks different. At some point, now long past, there could and should have been an end to the continuing dispossession and oppression.

      • Keith on July 25, 2018, 4:45 pm

        BOOMER- “It was still a contested issue many years ago, when I was in college.”

        That it was contested was due to an effective propaganda system. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were selected because they had not yet suffered significant bomb damage unlike Tokyo which had already been completely destroyed, therefore, unsuitable to test the effects of the A-bombs. They had not been targeted for conventional bombing because there was nothing of military value in either location. The bombs were dropped in the center of each city to better gauge the effects on the buildings and people. Truman was a liar and war criminal. Diana Johnstone summarizes:

        “The atom bombs were not dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki ‘to save lives by ending the war’. That was an official lie. The bombs were dropped to see how they worked and to show the world that the United States possessed unlimited destructive power.
        The decision to destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a political not a military decision. The targets were not military, the effects were not military. The attacks were carried out against the wishes of all major military leaders. Admiral William Leahy, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote in his memoirs that “the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender…” General Eisenhower, General MacArthur, even General Hap Arnold, commander of the Air Force, were opposed. Japan was already devastated by fire bombing, facing mass hunger from the US naval blockade, demoralized by the surrender of its German ally, and fearful of an imminent Russian attack. In reality, the war was over. All top U.S. leaders knew that Japan was defeated and was seeking to surrender.”
        (Diana Johnstone)

      • Boomer on July 26, 2018, 7:08 am

        Keith, thanks for the excerpt from Johnstone: it seems cogent and convincing.

        When I read a biography of Jefferson, I’m struck by what a different world he inhabited. I can see him as a man of his time, a man who transcended the era to some degree, though he failed to do so to the extent we wish had been the case. It’s harder for me to take such a distanced view of Truman. Those events were very nearly in my lifetime. Yet that was a different world too, in some important ways. The passions of war distorted and demeaned. Yet, as you point out, the military leaders were not so swept up by those passions: they were capable of making the better judgment. In my mind, Truman can’t be excused entirely.

        Of course, my judgment of Truman–and history’s judgment more broadly– doesn’t matter to him, or to the people who died then. But how we think about such matters may affect our own choices in the present. To come back to the main topic of the site, regardless of how we assess the actions of an earlier generation, the U.S. can and should do better for the Palestinians today.

      • Boomer on July 26, 2018, 8:46 am

        PS: The conclusion of Johnstone’s essay addresses the United States and its global role, but it might also be applied to Israel vis-a-vis the Palestinians:

        ” The illusion of possessing limitless power removed any need for critical self-examination . . . “

  2. Boomer on July 24, 2018, 10:29 am

    I agree that the Zionist have won, and that fact is unlikely to change. Given that, and given the role that the U.S. played in creating this situation, I think that the U.S. should offer passage to the U.S. and citizenship here to all Palestinians who wish to avail of the offer. Of course, that is also unlikely, at least while Trump is in charge.

    I agree that the demand that Palestinians forget their history is cruel, though let us not forget that the underlying cruelties are the dispossession and oppression that drove them from their homes and homeland. I agree as well that supporting Mondoweiss is a worthy action.

    Beyond that, given U.S. complicity in those crimes and cruelties, it seems to me that there should be a tangible memorial and reminder on U.S. soil, something comparable to the Holocaust Museum in DC. After all, the U.S. did not perpetrate the Holocaust, or support it with our financial, diplomatic and military aid. Instead, the U.S. mobilized all its resources in a total war against the perpetrators.

    On the other hand, we did help, in many ways, in the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. That is all the more reason for there to be a lasting, visible reminder in a prominent place on U.S. soil. I’d support such a museum, but I don’t know of one. Is there something similar in the U.S.?

    • Generalist on July 24, 2018, 11:59 am

      @Boomer, check out We ran a story on their first exhibit,

    • Maghlawatan on July 26, 2018, 3:01 pm

      The Zionists have a system of apartheid. That is not winning. It means they have no way forward.

      • Boomer on July 26, 2018, 3:48 pm

        Maghlawatan, from an ethical or moral perspective, I can’t argue with you. In terms of Realpolitik, here in the U.S. they command overwhelming majorities in the Congress, in the state legislatures, and among the executives of mainstream national media. I speak of the situation in the United States only: I don’t have firsthand knowledge of Israel.

      • Maghlawatan on July 27, 2018, 4:17 am


        The next economic system will be focused on the needs of working class people. Zionism is of no concern to most blue collar Americans. It is an elite project.

  3. Maghlawatan on July 27, 2018, 4:15 am

    Maybe the NYT will eventually shaft Israel and abandon Zionism.
    But for that to happen all the truth will be required.

    Mr Boehm writes that “of the 11.8 million people who live in Israel and the west Bank, roughly 56% are Jewish and 40% are Arab
    That would imply 6.6 m Zionists and 4.7 m Palestinians. Still a Zionist majority.
    But Gaza was left out. Gaza has 2m Palestinians.
    Now it looks different. 6.6m Zionists and 6.7 m Palestinians.

    The NYT has a long way to go before it can look justice in the eye.

    • Boomer on July 27, 2018, 10:14 am

      re: “But Gaza was left out. Gaza has 2m Palestinians.”

      Interesting. Now that you mention it, I seem to recall reading commentary back when Israel pulled settlers out of Gaza that this demographic trick was part of the rationale. If playing such games is important to Zionists, I guess they can repeat it as necessary by creating a few Bantustans and ignoring them. And the game does seem important to some of them. Tom Friedman, for example, has often written about the “demographic threat” of a majority of non Jews in Israel, as if it were ok to rob and oppress 49% of the population. It’s a distinction I don’t really see.

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