Friday, 15 June 2007

Unremarkable Stuff, One Would Have Thought...

This is my six hundredth post.

Incandescence over at the Guardian's Comment Is Free site, after I posted the following comment, which has also appeared here as a post in the past:

"I loathe Zionism, one of only two ideologies ever to define "the Jews" as a "race", two ideologies that emerged from the same rancid intellectual swamp and whose adherents understandably fought the Second World War on the same anti-British side. I vividly recall my late father's reaction to the sight of Yitzhak Shamir on the television in the 1980s.

Furthermore, pan-Arabism, with its Christian roots, is at its best one of those fundamentally humane causes, like pan-Slavism or Bolivarianism, for which it is worth fighting precisely by reference to Christian roots, both against Marxism within, and against the neoconservative-Islamist alliance without.

And yet, when I look at the decision to give Fatah and Hamas a state each, in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip respectively, I really do have to wonder if, badly off though the Israeli Arabs certainly are, they might not have it rather better than the rest of the Palestinian people.

Yes, Isreal has far to go to make real her utterly anti-Zionist claim that all her citizens are equal. But, if the choice had to be made, wouldn't you rather be an Arab citizen of Israel than a vassal of Fatah or Hamas?"

Unremarkable stuff, one would have thought.

Well, apparently not...

The likes of Irgun and Lehi (the Stern Gang), knowing that Britain was engaged in a World War with Nazi Germany, proceeded to wage a localised war against Britain. Within the global conflict of the time, on which side did that put them? Indeed, Lehi, whence came Yitzhak Shamir among others, nearly struck a deal with Germany in 1941.

Like so many things about the War, it is purely post facto to see it as about the persecution of the Jews; had that been the case, then it would have started sooner (if it ever started at all), the lineup on either side would have been quite different, and it would never have become a World War. This doesn't exactly say much for Britain, or France, or the US, or the USSR, or anyone else at the time. But it is the case.

However, the State of Isreal is now a fact, just as the Palestinians' sense of themselves as a distinct people is now a fact. How and when are no longer the most important questions (although they do matter) in either case. And my point was, after all, that, if the choice had to be made, one would rather be an Israeli Arab (i.e., a non-Jewish one - over the half the Jews in Israel are now Arabs) than live in Fatah's gangster state on the West Bank or in the Hamastan that the Gaza Strip has become.

So Israel should seize this opportunity in the eyes of the world. Probably, the vocabulary will have to be one of "moving beyond Zionism", but fine. What matters is that the Law of Return, which by guaranteeing residence to anyone arbitrarily defined as belonging to a Jewish "race" in which only the Nazis have otherwise believed (just read the Bible, for a start) permanently prevents equal citizenship on the part of non-Jewish Arabs, be repealed.

This would constitute a simple recognition of reality - that the Israelis are now a people quite distinct from (though, of course, related to, in various ways) any of the other generically Jewish peoples elsewhere in the world, and indeed maintain a state which neither Orthodox Jews nor the Anglo-American Right would, or in the former case actually do, find overly congenial. Furthermore, it would kill off the wildly impractical, but in principle still unanswerable, demand for a corresponding Palestinian right of return.

So, is Israel a member of the family of Western democracies, as she noisily proclaims? Or is she the only state in the world founded explicitly on an ethnically exclusive basis (and that of an essentially fictitious kind), and thus as far from that family as it is possible to be? Indeed, the decision as to which way to answer this appears already to have been made, even if not yet (nor ever, probably) announced in so many words, with the utterly anti-Zionist (or "post-Zionist", or whatever you want to call it) appointment of a Christian Arab to the Supreme Court and of a Muslim Arab as a Minister, to the fury of Zionist politicians.

Again, unremarkable stuff. One would have thought...?


  1. I shall ignore most of your odd dislike of Zionism, which is based on your crude caricature that treats Jewish nationalism as somehow substantively different from, for example, Greek nationalism or any other nationalism of an ethnic or national group.

    A bit of history may remind you that a substantial portion of the Greek population returned to Greece after many, many centuries of exile. A bit of history may remind you that the Greeks expelled a substantial proportion of that country's population - otherwise Greece would resemble the Balkans. In Greece, there were, in fact, multiple episodes of expulsions, in the 19th Century and in the 20th Century - and involving far more people than in the dispute between Israel and Arabs.

    In any event, as an American, I see Israel as no different than any European country. In European countries, there are dominant groups. In each case, the definition of that dominance has something to do with ethnicity.

    And, on the issue of discrimination of the non-dominant group, Israel does better than most European countries which, for whatever reason, are blind to their own prejudices, projecting them onto the Israelis and then demanding that Israel be free of the problems which, to an outside observer, so obviously plague European countries. In European countries, those of a different ethnic background may become citizens in European countries but they will never really be considered real Germans, or Frenchmen, or Brits, or Greeks, or Danes, etc., etc. I cannot imagine how you think the European approach superior to that taken by Israel - and under more difficult circumstances.

    You mention the right of return. Maybe Germany and France have eliminated their right of return laws. Somehow, I doubt it. And, if I recall correctly, there are dozens of countries, including a number of European countries, which have right of return laws. See e.g.

    Also see

    In other words, what you write is mostly nonsense and based on gross prejudices.

  2. I'm sorry that you choose to act out the worst caricature of an American who doesn't know that he's talking about. There aren't actually very many Americans like that; but there are enough...

    "Jewish nationalism" is "substantively different from, for example, Greek nationalism" in that there really is a Greek people. There is no single Jewish people, and only two movements have ever claimed that there was. One was, and is, Zionism. Can you guess the other one.

    "A bit of history may remind you that a substantial portion of the Greek population returned to Greece after many, many centuries of exile."

    They weren't "in exile": they had been where they were for nearly six times as long as the Turks, but had become less numerous, so the Turks kicked them out. The Greeks, of course, returned the compliment to the Turks and various others. Surely, you are not defending any of this?

    No one in the world needs lessons on inter-ethnic relations from the Americans, of all people, thank you very much. I will forebear to use your own vocabulary about "projection", and so forth (although it does feed another stereotype, about American psychobabble).

    There is far more room in France or Germany, and, which is the main point, no one has a rival claim. And you seem incapable of understanding the difference between a civic identity (such as Britishness or Frenchness) and an ethnic one (such as, at least historically, Germanness, or Greekness, or Danishness).

    But you are really just a newert version of the Americans of distnat Irish ancestry who kept the Troubles going in Northern Ireland while knowing absolutely nothing about what Ireland was like or what almost anyone living there wanted Ireland to be like.

    The decision has been made in Israel to abandon Zionism: if every Jew in world ever did decide to move there, then who would be evicted to make room for a returnee? The Christian Arab Supreme Court judge? Or the Muslim Arab Government Minister?

    So the Law of Return is doomed,a nd with it any corresponding Palestinian demand for such a law.

    In other words. Zionism is finished, because the Israelis have decided to finish it. Deal with that fact!

  3. David,

    It is always interesting when people do not understand the way language works. The word "race" was, at one time, used the way that people now use the word ethnic or people. Hence, the British and the Irish at one time referred to themselves as a race, as did the French, etc., etc.. In contemporary usage, the word that covers French and English peoples, etc. is usually ethnic group or something of the sort.

    Now, my understanding is that the English are a group that formed from a variety of different groups from different places. The same for the French. The same for the Germans. The same for the Hungarians.

    Let us, however, consider the Greeks. Greece was conquered not by Turks but by a variety of different peoples that were held together under the banner and imperial ideology of the Ottoman Empire. "Turk" was, at the time of the conquest, a European name used for the conquerors and, more particular, Muslims. The people we know today as the Turks are the result of intermarriage among the various tribes of people who migrated to Anatolia and the surrounding regions by the end of the 13th Century and of those who moved to what is now Turkey, after the Ottoman conquests and under their rule, by the time that the Ottoman Empire collapsed.

    Greeks were defined, for purposes of distinguishing themselves from Turks, not by ethnicity but by religion. Which is to say, basically the same peoples lived in Greece, at the time of its independence, as would have lived in Istanbul. The refugees who fled the Greeks fled on the basis of their religion, not their ethnicity. They were resettled by the Ottoman Empire. A substantial portion of that population ended up in what is now Northern Israel, strangely as that may seem.

    The further division of the populations that occurred in the early 20th Century was wholly on the basis of religion, with "Greeks" living in Turkey pushed into Greece and "Turks" living in Greece pushed into Turkey. Again, these "Greeks" were, however, ethnically the same as the Turks in Turkey and these "Turks" were ethnically the same as the Greeks in Greece. In simple terms, Muslims left Greece and Christians left Turkey.

    Turning to Jews, Jews are, comparatively speaking, mostly of the same ethnic stock, as genetic testing has shown. That stock is nearly identical to the stock of those Arabs who were in close contact with Jews, meaning those who had some longstanding connection to the land that is now Israel. That is true both for Jews from Europe and Jews from Muslim lands.

    My bet is that if you tested Germans, you would find most of them to be of similar genetic stock. The same for the French and all the other ethnic groups. All of these groups were, at one time, referred to as a race. In this regard, you might see Winston Churchill's brilliant book The Gathering Storm. No doubt, if Churchill were alive today, he would not have called the Norwegians, et al, a race. But, in his time, that was the word used.

    Now, your allusion to the Nazi and Zionist use of the word "race" amounts to playing games with words. You might want to read Bernard Lewis' book Arabs in History. In the introduction to the later, revised editions, he notes his editing of the book because his use of the word "race" to refer to Arabs and others in the earlier editions - as was the meaning when he wrote the first edition - has become outdated and has come to have odious significance due he did not intend and that did not exist when he wrote the first edition. He thus eliminated use of the term so that his book would not be misunderstood.

    You, by contrast, have chosen to use words that had a different meaning as if the meaning had not changed.

    As for Zionism being dead because Jews have allowed non-Jews into places of authority, that makes no sense and shows you know nothing about Zionism. If you read either Herzl or Jabotinsky, you will see that both desired a political state where Jews would share power with Arabs while creating a solution to the problems faced by Jews, both in Christian lands and in Muslim lands. Which is to say, the divide between Zionist of the right and left was not on the role of Arabs in a Jewish homeland but on the feasibility of achieving an arrangement that would allow for sharing. Herzl thought such possible while Jabotinsky was skeptical. But, for both groups, the issue has always been how to get to a solution.

    The realization on the table now is that Arabs will never agree to such a resolution as the vast majority want something different - a land without Jews or a land where Jews are dominated. Nonetheless, the idea of sharing is central in Zionism and always has been. Read Herzl's novel Altneuland (trans. "Old New Land").

  4. You didn't mention the English before. "English" and "British" mean radically different things, a point which Americans routinely get wrong. But it is vitally important for understanding this country. Englishness is fundamentally an ethnicity (albeit quite a difficult one to define, though very easy to spot in practice), whereas Britishness is a civic identity. Britishness is wider, but Englishness is deeper.

    I am afraid that you are simply wrong about the Greeks and the Turks. Of course, there was some intermarriage or what have you over the years, but fundamentally the Greeks are the Greek-speaking people who converted to Christianity with Constantine, and the Turks are those Muslims who (together with various others picked up a long the way, as you say) swept down from present-day Kazhakstan many centuries later. They are in no sense a single people, and they never have been.

    It is entirely false to suggest that the Greeks expelled from Turkey were somehow "Christian Turks", or that the Turks expelled from Greece were somehow "Muslim Greeks". They were no such thing.

    You might consider that Churchill, like Balfour, was strongly antisemitic in his private life. Gentile Zionists often are: they regard the Jews as foreign, and want them to go somewhere else.

    As for the meaning of the word "race", it meant something very specific in German-speaking Europe during the long nineteenth century, and that was the milieu that produced Zionism. It also produced something else, of course.

    And again I say that "allowing" (as you tellingly put it) non-Jewish Arabs (over the half the Jews in Israel are now Arabs) to be Supreme Court judges or Government Ministers is the death sentence on the Law of Return, the essence of Zionism. For, again I ask, who would be evicted to make way for a "returning" Jew? The Supreme Court judge? Or the Government Minister?

    One might add that the collapsing Israeli Jewish birth rate indicates a societal death wish. The only exception is among the ultra-Orthodox, who are either anti-Zionist tout court, or at least have no time for the State of Israel in anything like its present form.

    Zionism is doomed. I say that simply as a matter of observable fact.

  5. David,

    Returning to the case of Greece, Bernard Lewis, the leading authority on the Ottoman Empire, states that the displacement in the 20th Century was entirely based on religion, with people in Greece of Islamic background sent to Turkey and Turks of Christian background sent to Greece. He notes that the ethnicity of those displaced played no role at all. You are welcome to whatever fantasy you want. The facts support my contention.

    The Ottoman Empire formed among Gazis and their allies who lived in what had been the heartland of Byzantium. A rather large percentage of such people, despite what you think, were Greek and, most certainly, people of the Hellenistic civilization, as that land had been among the very centers of Hellenistic Christian civilization and a good portion of the population remained Christian, just as it did in the European portion of the Ottoman Empire.

    The Gazis, of course, were a mixture of peoples, some of Greek, some of Turkish, some of Mongolian background. They advanced their Islamic goals but, at the same time, allied with Christians, even sharing booty with Christians in accordance with the formula normally apportioned to Muslims in razzias and Jihadic conquests.

    As for the English, they are a mixture of different peoples. Further, Churchill referred to them as a race, just as he did Jews and French and every other people we now call nations or ethnic groups. It is not my impression that Churchill was Antisemitic but, of course, anything is possible. It is, however, my impression that the English are particularly prone to a form of Antisemitism, so what you assert would not surprise me.

    Jews are a people, defined in part by religion but also by historic experience. In the sense of the word used in the 1930's, they were a race. By modern terminology, they are an ethnic group. By the Jewish religion, they are a people, in the sense that Muslims consider themselves a people, as in their term umma - um in Hebrew.

    I have no idea if Zionism is doomed. I do know that Zionism, as envisioned by its founders, was to include non-Jews in leading positions. How that dooms Zionism is a mystery to me. Israel's problem is that its neighbors do not accept Israel. If Zionism will be destroyed, it will be the result of conflict.

    Israel's birthrate is, by European standards, high. If Israel's birthrate dooms Israel, I would have to think about the rates in some places in Europe, where the birthrate is near 1.3 rather than the replacement rate of 2.1

    As for people who hate Jews, I have to assume that anti-Zionists must, by definition, hate Jews in some sense since, in fact, they hate the state founded by Jews for purposes of solving the problem Jews have with Christians and Muslims. Otherwise, Israel's actions would be viewed as inconsequential in the way, just as the behavior of other peoples are treated. That one bothers to assert a dislike of Zionism - which is a perfectly ordinary form of nationalism - speaks for itself.

  6. It hardly seems worth answering anyone who doesn't even know about Churchill's personal antisemitism!

    See my new post entitled "Give It Up - They Themselves Have": the most popular name for new baby boys in Israel is now Muhammad; the births are among non-Jewish Arabs, among ultra-Orthodox Jews with no time for Zionism at least in practice and often in principle, and among Russians who guzzle pork sausages, often insist on taking their Isreali soldiers' oaths on the New Testament alone, and some of whom actually distribute neo-Nazi literature in Russian. The classic Israeli simply no longer bothers, the sign of a societal death wish.

    If Zionism was to include non-Jews in senior positions, then that would certainly come as news to the Zionist politicians who screamed blue murder over the appointment of a Christian Arab Supreme Court judge and a Muslim Arab Government Minister. And you still haven't answered my question as to which of these would be evicted to make room for a "returning" Jew. Yet the Law of Return, now clearly doomed, is the essence of Zionism.

    Zionism is in its final generation: give it up!

  7. David,

    You continue to make vague assertions that do not mean anything.

    As for Churchill's private views, I do not know them nor do I much care. I do, instead, know of his public positions, which seem mostly congenial to Jews, whether or not Zionist. But, that he might hold different views in private would not surprise me.

    As Nietzsche has said, one ought have courage against one's own convictions. Such may be how to view whatever prejudices Churchill may have held.

    The birth rate of Jews in Israel is very high, by world standards. The birthrate of Arabs is higher still. That is life. Israel may face substantial problems down the line unless Arabs come to term with modernity.

    There may be some Israelis who have not read the views of either Jabotinsky or Herzl. Such ignorant people may oppose a power sharing arrangement. Both Herzl and Jabotinsky, however, envisioned power sharing as part and parcel of Zionism, with sharing the post of leader, among other things. Hence, it is reasonable to assume that power sharing with non-Jews is not inimical in theory to Zionism.

    I have no idea whether Zionism will survive or come to an end. Neither do you. And, the inclusion of non-Jews in the ruling group means exactly nothing to that. And, the fact that there are some non-Jewish immigrants to the country does not change that either.

    I do not understand the question you think I failed to answer. If you mean that the non-Jews in the government might prefer not to increase the Jewish population of the country by means of immigration, that is possible. Whether that means the end of the law of return is another story. And, whether that means the end of Zionism, I have no idea.

    I do know that all countries live with seeming contradictions. Israel is no exception. So, Zionism may include features which, to you, seem inimical to survival. Such may prove so. Or, it may not prove so. I have no idea and neither do you. What is known is that Israel exists and has, by world standards, created a rather moral and decent society, albeit faced with difficult problems.


  8. "Israel may face substantial problems down the line unless Arabs come to term with modernity."

    What does that mean? "Come to terms with Zionism"? They never will, but then they're not going to have to: the aren't going to be any Zionists to make them.

    "If you mean that the non-Jews in the government might prefer not to increase the Jewish population of the country by means of immigration, that is possible."

    It's more than possible. Again, I ask: which of these "non-Jews in the government" should be liable, in principle, for eviction?

    "Whether that means the end of the law of return is another story."

    It must do. How could it not?

    "And, whether that means the end of Zionism, I have no idea."

    The Law of Return is the essence of Zionism. Which, therefore (and I say this purely as a matter of fact), is doomed.

  9. David,

    You keep saying that the law of return is the essence of Zionism. That would come as a surprise to most Israelis or to the founders of the countries.

    Again, Zionism is simply Jewish nationalism. It has numerous possible forms, yours being a most unlikely one.

    That some people oppose something does not mean that all do. So, that a minister of Arab background opposes the law of return - if that is so - does not mean that such view will prevail.

    Why are you so anxious that Zionism die off? Is your goal that Jews wander the Earth? It certainly seems that way.