Thursday, December 21, 2006

Propaganda Machines Part Two

As promised, here's my second round of responses to right-wing Zionist talking points. One of these general points, applied in many situations is this one: The Arab nations want to "sweep Israel into the sea" and won't stop until they do. Thus, Israel must defend itself all the time.

3.According to Zionist history, in 1948, Israel had to defend itself against annihilation by the united force of all the Arab countries - whose primary motivation was anti-semitism. The Arab nations told the Palestinians to flee.
It is true that Israel was "born in the midst of a war with the Arabs of Palestine and the neighboring Arab states." (Shlaim, 28), but it is not clear that the motivation for this war was the hatred of Jews, nor is there any evidence to suggest that the Arab leadership issued orders to Palestinian Arabs to flee. From 1946-1947, David Ben Gurion united Zionist forces in Palestine into an army to pursue the formation of an Israeli state. In 1947, only one Arab leader supported such a Zionist state in Palestine, King Abdullah of Transjordan. The not-nearly as well organized Palestinian nationalists, a total of 4000 fighters united under the leader, al-Husayni, attacked Jewish targets in Palestine immediately following the UN decision to partition Palestine in the fall of 1947.(Pape, 65,77).
The response was as follows:
Ben Gurion's army pursued the objective of "Plan D" which was to attack Arab villages in Palestine (civilians) and thus remove Palestinians from Israel, beginning in April, 1948. In all, 350 villages were evacuated or abandoned, and 700,00 to 750,000 Palestinian refugees fled to the West Bank, to Gaza, and to Transjordan, Syria, and Lebanon. The very worst atrocities of the war (massacres of villagers) occurred in October and November of 1948. The goal was not simply to create a new state, but a state that was ethnically pure, or at least dominated by a Jewish population. Who then, are the people with a strong case of ethnic nationalism or "tribalism"?
Another part of the Zionist version of this history regards the combined invasion of Palestine by Egypt, Transjordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, which is usually portrayed by Zionists as a group that numerically overwhelmed Israel. In fact, as Avi Shlaim points out, the Israeli forces outnumbered the combined Arab military force; Arab troops numbered 25,000, Israel troops went from 65,000 to 97,441. Moreover, the war aim of the Arab nations was not the single goal of "sweeping Israel into the sea" but a complicated mix of individual national objectives.
(on 1948, see Pape, Shlaim, and Morris).

4. Modern American zionism came to its full fruition following the 1967 war, when Israel expanded its territory significantly. This war has been portrayed in Zionist history as a heroic victory over hostile forces, and a necessity for Israel to defend itself from the hostile Arab world.
In 1967, Israel faced Palestinian attacks that were supported by the Syrian government. In response, Israel's Yitzhak Rabin threatened to "overthrow the Syrian regime" (Shlaim, 236). As Egypt, under Nasser, closed off the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping, massed troops on the Sinai border, and asked for the UN emergency forces to be removed from the Sinai, Israel responded with an attack now known as the "six day war" during which Israel was victorious and took the following territories: the Sinai peninsula, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights. This expansion of Israel's borders and its attempts to keep these territories remains the bone of contention today, and the proposal of many peace groups (including Jewish ones) is that Israel withdraw to its pre-1967 borders. In my next post, I will go into more detail on the history of the fate of territories occupied in 1967. In general, one could say that this occupation, and effort to make it permanent, and not anti-semitism, is the real source of continuing hostility to the state of Israel.

5. Another common event used to support the hypothesis of unrelenting Arab hostility is the "Yom Kippur War" of 1973
The surprise attack on Israel by Syria and Egypt in 1973 was a response to the continued Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. In fact, it was Moshe Dayan who told Time magazine in July of 1973, "There is no more Palestine. Finished" and his policy was to move settlers into the occupied territories "won" in 1967, including the Golan Heights, which were once part of Syria, and sought an Israel whose authority extended "from the Jordan to the Suez canal." The reason that Egypt and Syria attacked Israel in October of 1973 (The surprise "Yom Kippur war") was to put pressure on Israel to withdraw from the Occupied territories.

* For all of the above references, see Avi Shlaim, The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World.

and that's it for now.


Anonymous said...

tell me you are not living in a state similar to the USSR


Anonymous said...

And what about the war...

against Christmas!

reb said...

I just found this in my email today:
It's a response to an article by a "Professor Reinharz" who wrote in the most recent issue of 'The Jewish Advocate" that any Jews who oppose the policies of the state of Israel and criticize the philosophy of Zionism are "Jewish anti-semites." (you can find the article here:

Here was a response from a member of Jews Against the Occupation:

Dear Professor Reinharz,

I read your piece in the Jewish Advocate with interest and, I must admit, dismay. As a Canadian Jew who grew up in a Zionist youth movement (Habonim) and lived in Israel for a year, I am always shocked by the lack of nuance and understanding on display when commentators conflate anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism. My great-grandparents perished in Auschwitz; my father nearly met the same fate in the Budapest Ghetto as a baby. I know something about anti-Semitism.

You write that "in a world where there is only one Jewish state, to oppose it vehemently is to endanger Jews." Prof. Reinharz, that's not true. It's not even close to true. It's rife with rickety assumptions:

a) that the existence of a Jewish state is in itself a protection to Jews. In fact, it could be that the existence of a Jewish state, in the long-term, is the gravest threat imaginable to the Jewish people -- not just spiritually, but physically as well. Before the influx of Jewish immigration to Palestine, anti-Semitism was a more or less European phenomenon. We've succeeded in exporting it to the Arab world and elsewhere. The difference is, this time around the prejudices are not based on age-old irrational myths, but on resentments and grudges inspired, encouraged and spurred on by Jewish behaviour, Jewish actions. We did precipitate, and in many cases conduct, the expulsion of millions of innocent people from their homes. We have flouted international law again and again, expropriating land, torturing, discriminating, and murdering. We are still administering the longest military occupation by a state in modern history. Whether you think these things are justified, they are well-documented facts that any Israeli knows full well. And since Israel claims to be "the state of the Jewish people", who can blame Arabs (and others) if they generalize out from Israel's actions, all the way to a malignant portrait of Judaism itself? Such a portrait is inaccurate and distorted, but it's not baseless in this case. Israel's existence gives me no comfort as a North American Jew, and many Israelis I know personally feel the same way.

b) that "to oppose" a state's actions, or its policies, or aspects of its society, or its creation myths, is "to oppose" the right of its citizens to life and liberty. This is ridiculous, bordering on fascistic thinking, a logic that as a liberal I'm sure you would shudder at were it coming from the mouth of an African dictator or an Aryan ideologue. Opposition, no matter how vehement, to any country's system of governance, is perfectly legitimate. Israel is no exception. It does not get a free pass because it purports to be the nation of the long-suffering Jews. We don't get to say "please, we're weary from centuries of oppression, don't criticize us." No. If we want to play the nation-state game, then we cease to be immune. Israel chooses to be a racially ordered society, just as South Africa did -- differences in the histories aside. With that comes criticism, and it's all fair game. No state, by the way, has an inalienable 'right to exist', any more than a mountain or a banana has a right to exist. In fact, a state has considerably less 'right to exist' than those organic entities. A better analogy would be: the banana could be said to have a right to exist; a banana split, no. A state is an artificial construction, set up by fallible human beings, and it has as much right to exist as conferred upon it by the various communities of human beings it governs, or more broadly, those affected by its existence. That includes, inconveniently enough, the two million Palestinians living in the territories, those living within Israel, the descendants of the refugees of 1948, and the world community. We Jews have become an insanely and dangerously narcissistic people in the past half-century if we think that our suffering is a passport to impunity.

In fact, what if NOT opposing a state that one feels is engaged in a suicidal (and homicidal) trajectory, and further, actively shielding that state from criticism or blame and trying to silence those who speak out (e.g. the Amazon/Finkelstein affair you cite as a success) -- what if THAT is the real dangerous behaviour?

To paraphrase you (grossly): in a world where there is only one world, to allow national identifications to blind us to what is worth opposing, is to endanger everything that Judaism values: human life, compassion, reason, free thinking, truth, and ourselves.

Can you conceive of the possibility that the State of Israel is not an inherently good and blessed thing? Just for a moment? What happens to your argument when you do?

Daniel Maté
Brooklyn, NY

d said...

The reason that Egypt and Syria attacked Israel in October of 1973 (The surprise "Yom Kippur war") was to put pressure on Israel to withdraw from the Occupied territories.

And of course it should be pointed out that the 1973 war was launched not against internationally-recognized, sovereign lands -- that is, not against "Israel" itself -- but rather was launched against Israeli forces in territories it was not entitled to hold.

reb said...

yes, yes, good point, d!