Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Let Israel's People Go

Rushed off my feet today, I have not had time to check the comments in response to my last post on Israel. But I'll wager that someone will have upbraided me for suggesting that the Ashkenazim and the Sephardim were not a single people. Well, they are not.

The Ashkenazim (of Israelite descent through the male line only, an interesting example of how definitions of Jewishness can and do change) are a people. The Sephardim are a people. The Falashas are a people. And so forth. But there is no single people called "the Jews", and only two groups have ever suggested that there was. One of those groups was, and is, the Zionists. Can you guess the other one?

And even in the Zionist case, they didn't mean it. When they said and say "Jews", they meant and mean Jews like themselves, i.e., Ashkenazim, and secular or not-very-religious Ashkenazim at that. Such were the founders of the State of Israel, and such are the people who have always run it. They have never attempted to hide their disgust at the Sephardim, an integral part of the Arab nation as defined by pan-Arabism (itself founded by Levantine Christian Arabs), or, indeed, at their own ultra-Orthodox, ultra-fecund relatives, who vary from extreme unhappiness with the State of Israel as she exists to extreme hostility to whole idea of such a state at all.

Neither the ultra-Orthodox nor the Jews of say, Yemen, or Morocco, or Iran were ever supposed to be part of the plan, at least in anything like any practical sense. Indeed, on arriving from those and other such countries, Jews used to find that they were hosed down like imported cattle.

But the Asheknazi elite was too arrogant to reproduce (and that is always why a people dies out - hubris of that kind). So the ultra-Orthodox, the Sephardim, the non-Jewish Arabs, and the not very Jewish Russians of more recent arrival now account for most of the population of Israel even within her pre-1967 borders. The Sephardim and the non-Jewish Arabs between them account for more than half of what is, therefore, an Arab country, an integral part of the single society, one might even say the single nation, comprised at least of Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon and, crucially, Syria. Just as, if the old German-speaking Europe of many states had a capital, then that capital was Vienna, so, if the Arab Levant of which Israel is now a part has a capital, then that capital is Damascus.

And Israelis should give thanks that this is so. Pan-Arabism is already beginning to revive in reaction against the creation of a Hamas state in the Gaza Strip. And, in pan-Arab terms, Israel is now indisputably an Arab country, which can and should appeal for solidarity in those terms against Hamas, Hezbollah, and the like. She would never have been so secure. All that she has to do is to clear out the hose-wielding Ashkenazi elite, which most of her people would love to do, and which is voluntarily dying out anyway.


  1. David,

    As always, you have your own version of facts. You might, before you find too much confidence in your view, note this:

    Yes, there are differences between the two main Jewish group, Sephardim and Ashkenazi, but there are also very substantial similarities as well.

    In any event, what binds Jews is religion, victimizing by both of Christians and Muslims and overlapping political ideologies. That, frankly, is more than ties many people on this Earth.

    Jews as much of a people as the English. That is true whether or not the Sephardim and Ashkenazi are the same or completely different. What makes people into a "people" is primarily self-definition.

  2. You've changed your tune! It was all about genetics before...

    "Primarily religion"? "Self-definition"? How on earth does any of that add to a people such as might be entitled to a state?

  3. "Add UP to", of course. Sorry.

    And the "primarily religion" bsuiness would certainly have been news to the early Zionists, as it still would be to the most fervent Zionists in Israel today. Zionism is, and has always been, an atheistic and idolatrous substitute for Judaism.

  4. David,

    I never said it was all genetics or all anything else. You need to read more carefully.

    You might remember that Israel's atheist fathers spoke of a Jewish soul, as in the Haktikvah. Such was the belief even of the great atheist ben Gurion.

    Atheistic Zionists did not deny being Jewish. They, instead, denied the existence of God and did not follow Judaism, a somewhat different thing but not inconsistent with believing, as they did, in their religious heritage. They would not, accordingly, deny being united by religion. In fact, just the opposite.

    You also seem to think that a people or collection of different peoples or different groups require a justification to be a state. What about the US? The justification is that it exist. What is the justification even for Britain, which is not the state of a single group but of an amalgam of different groups?

    Now, in the case of Israel, one reason the issue of justification comes up is because there are those who think that Jews must wander the Earth for rejecting Christian religious beliefs - about as perverse, immoral and hateful a reason as can be imagined.

    As things go, it seems to me that Israel's justification is the same as mostly every other country, namely, it exists and has yet to be overthrown. Were it the case that morality had something to do with justification, then places like Great Britain - which colonized large swaths of the world - and Germany, which caused untold suffering through its war making history, would be in the dustbin of history. They are not. So, case closed. By standards of morality, Israel certainly outshines Britain.

    The interesting question here is why it matters to you whether or not Israel exists. Is it religion? or, do you hate Jews? or, do you love Arabs? or, do you oppose the right of migration to a place of available refuge? or, do you not believe that Jews ought have political rights? What is it, in plain English, David?

  5. You are right that Israel is becoming more Levantine - that is because half its Jews are Sephardim. But Sephardim are not Arabs. Strictly speaking - they are pre-Arabs. Jewish communities existed 1,000 years before the Arabs ever invaded the Middle East and N Africa. These regions do not by rights belong to the Arabs - the Muslim Arabs from the Arabian peninsula forcibly colonised, conquered and converted the indigenous peoples - Copts, Berbers, Assyrians and Jews. Much to the envy of these peoples the Jews are the only indigenous people to have succeeded in establishing a non-Muslim, non-Arab state - Israel. Sephardim and Ashkenazim actually have more in common than they have differences - a remarkable fact considering they lived isolated from each other in different corners of the world. But both lots kept the Hebrew language alive and observed traditions and festivals rooted in the pre-Arab Middle East. The fact that Sephardim spoke Arabic does not mean that they were Arabs.

  6. "Strictly speaking", all the peoples of the Levant are pre-Arab: they all adopted Arabic over much the same period; and speaking Arabic is the pan-Arab definition of an Arab, pan-Arabism being a Levantine invention, and looked at rather askance by the "pure blood" Arabs down in the Peninusla.

    Whence came, of course, the Hashemites (which explains a lot...), and which is the answer to the recurring Zionist question of why the oil-rich Gulf States have never tried to re-house the Palestinian refugees.

  7. David,

    Strictly speaking, not all people living in the Levant are pre-Arab. That is not even close.

    The Ottoman Empire had the habit of moving entire communities from place to place and colonizing, settling and resettling people, as a matter of short term and long term need, as noted by historian Bernard Lewis.

    Of particular interest is the resettlement of Muslims out of Europe, which began as the Ottoman Empire began its slow retreat, most particularly during the 19th Century. Among the popular places for Muslims to resettle is the land we now call Israel. But, that was not the only place. There was substantial resettlement during the 19th Century into Asia Minor.

    As for Arabs, when Arab conquered, they followed a policy called fatah - literally "opening" but imbued with a religious significance that gave the term a meaning of entering and settling. Fatah resulted, early on, in an Arab dominated societies wherever Arab conquered, with Arabs commanding the heights - figuratively speaking - of the lands they conquered, living off the fat of the land by collecting taxes from the conquered. The early policy very much viewed Islam as an Arab religion.

    Non-Arabs, however, joined with Arabs and had children with them. There was also a desire for greater privileges among those conquered and many converted to Islam - avoiding taxation being one motive to convert.

    The treatment of non-Arab Muslims was a major issue throughout the years of the Ummayad dynasty. The Abbasids did much to address the problem and there was much of an effort to "Arabize" all - culturally, linguistically, etc., etc.. Moreover, Arabic came to be somewhat of a linqua franca throughout the House of Islam, leading to the view that those who speak Arabic are Arabs.

    The point, here, is that your point is, strictly speaking, wrong. There are, in fact, Arabian Arabs throughout the Arab lands. However, there has been much mixing of peoples. And, the Ottoman Empire moved Muslims about as readily as they moved non-Muslims about - meaning frequently.

    The issue with the failure of Arabs to address the needs of their own is a topic of interest. In that regard, it is noted that Poland and the then Czechoslovakia tossed out their ethnic German population and have not permitted them to return. When it comes to their own, Europeans have shown greater common sense than have Arabs. Yet, Europeans scream at Israelis for not doing what Europeans refuse to do with respect to the displaced ethnic Germans.

    I note the last point as it came to somewhat of a head back in 2003, when the Council of Europe was asked to endorse the Arab position on refugees. The Council, instead, restated the view in UN 242 and, evidently, the debate point which killed the Arab initiative was the fact that such would create a precedent that might be used by ethnic Germans. Such vote by the Council of Europe had almost no mention in Europe. The Israeli press noted it. But, otherwise, the hypocrisy of the entire issue has continued, with Europeans screaming at Israelis for not settling people who, at this point, ought to be the responsibility of their own brethren, as is the case in Europe and everywhere else that refugee problems arise.

  8. Neal
    You say" the hypocrisy of the entire issue has continued, with Europeans screaming at Israelis for not settling people who, at this point, ought to be the responsibility of their own brethren, as is the case in Europe and everywhere else that refugee problems arise."
    I don't know of the particular instance you mention, but surely the Europeans were not prepared to back the Arab position because Res 242 was worded to refer to 'refugees' - not 'Arab refugees', but also Jewish refugees expelled from Arab countries. These outnumber Palestinian refugees. The numbers who fled in each direction were roughly equal but the Jewish refugees were resettled by Israel in a de facto exchange of populations.