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Israel and Gaza

From Simon David Stewart

Friday, 13 October 2023

just thought I'd check back in, from Bradford, on the liberal folk in HB and their concerns.  Did spend a little too much here once.  Concerns: something about asbestos, feminist books in the library and ticket offices.

Oh dear!  

Gaza, what not a mention of what's happening? The dead, what befell in southern Israel and the consequent retribution on two million in the world's largest concentration camp?


From a Calderdale Council statement sent to the HebWeb

Friday, 13 October 2023

Cllr Jane Scullion, Leader of Calderdale Council said, "I am deeply saddened by the horrific scenes of violence we have seen in Israel and Gaza. Terrorism is never the answer and must be condemned.

"My thoughts are with all those who are suffering, and with connected communities around the world.

"In Calderdale we are proud of the shared understanding, kindness and respect between our diverse communities, and we stand together against violence now and always.

"We will be flying the peace flag at Halifax Town Hall, symbolising our hope for peace.

From Allen Keep

Tuesday, 17 October 2023

I assume Jane's condemnation of terrorism is aimed solely at Hammas. Will she too condemn the state terrorism of Israel in denying the fundamentals of life to millions of Palestinians in Gaza while bombing and displacing them? I don't think she will just as her party won't. An apparently "neutral" response and a meaningless wish for peace that effectively supports this colonial settler state and the apartheid it practices as Labour always has.

From Jae E

Thursday, 19 October 2023

Yes. There is a war continuing in Gaza: the Palestinians have been kept there in what amounts to an open prison since they were driven from their land, their homes destroyed in 1948. Meanwhile, illegal Israeli, settlements continue to push back the poplulation, depriving them of decent and humane living conditions - nothing we in the West would tolerate or, experience.

Now there is all out war.

Now the West, including UK, have found it necessary to come out in support of the Israeli state.  

All manner of people including journalists, aid workers and medics, their to help - are indescriminately slaughtered, along with babies, children, the disabled and elderly; families ripped apart in the most appalling way - by the Israeli State - and Hammas.

And you take aim at folk in this valley for complaining about changes that negatively impact their daily lives: the oppression - silencing of women's voices (no problem, this won't affect you); the closure of the ticket office in Hebden which will impact the vulnerable (not you).

Perhaps you would like to do something positive to help the wretched people of Gaza - the Israeli hostages and Palestinians, but like me and so many others here and around the world, can find no way to stem it . . .

From Andy G

Thursday, 19 October 2023

Does anyone know whether Chris Drake is safe? She told me that she was heading off to Palestine on 2nd October. While not everyone in Hebden Bridge agrees with all of her political standpoints, she is a redoubtable campaigner for the Palastinian cause and a valued member of our diverse community.

From George Murphy

Thursday, 19 October 2023

Regarding the initial post on Israel and Gaza, I know from conversations and social media that many liberal minded people in Hebden Bridge are engaged with this issue. It's the people who are filled with passionate certainty that only one side is right who frighten me.

I've been against the occupation all my life, but starting from where we are now, I would hope for a peaceful two state solution. There's definitely an extreme government in Israel, but seeing the misogyny in Iran and the sidling up of Putin to the monstrous forces of Hamas and Hezbollah, I definitely wouldn't back those forces.

Most of all, right now it's the human rights of the people in Gaza we need to ensure. At least that's starting to be acknowledged by western politicians, but I can't see the protection of individual civilians becoming the main concern of either army.

From Anon 20

Friday, 20 October 2023

Message for Andy G. Thank you so much for asking about Chris's welfare. I heard (as of last week) that she is still in Palestine and managing to stay in touch with UK friends on social media. She's safe and well.

She wants to stay to help out in any way she can. In the words of one of her closest friends "if she's happy I'm happy". I agree and think we need to respect her personal decisions.

I have just had an update from one of her friends to say, she is still ok and staying but even if she did want to leave; there are no provisions to exit at present.

From James Evans

Saturday, 21 October 2023

Heartfelt thanks to Chris Drake for their humanity.  We hope you and all around you stay safe. Actions - not words will in the end stop this horrific conflict - but when . . .

From Andy G

Saturday, 21 October 2023

Many thanks to Anon 20 for the update on Chris Drake. Let's hope that a way can be found to stop this madness before the whole Middle East becomes embroiled in a terrifying war.

From Allen Keep

Tuesday, 24 October 2023

As many western politicians who support Israel also have, George cites the decades old "two states" solution as a way forward. 

It is perhaps the most brilliant three card trick or maybe the biggest red herring in history. We don't need to take sides or protest we simply need to hope that both sides (who are, of course, equals and as bad as each other) sort it out by withdrawing to their own patch and staying there because they simply can't live together -an implicitly racist view.

With unintentional irony George refers to starting from where we are now as a pointer to this solution. In fact, where we are now and what seems sure to follow proves beyond all doubt that the two states solution is never going to happen - it's completely dead in the water (and always was). No forces on either side of the divide take the idea seriously and Israel certainly never has. The very idea goes against the DNA of the Zionist project and the reality of this settler colonial state. The notion that Israel would ever accept the creation of an equal Palestinian state next door is mind-blowingly preposterous. Enough of this nonsense.

From George Murphy

Monday, 30 October 2023

What's your solution Allen Keep?

From Allen Keep

Tuesday, 31 October 2023

George, I wouldn't be so arrogant as to suggest I have a solution but I believe in the creation of one democratic, secular state within the boundaries of pre-1948 Palestine that recocgnises a right to remain for Israelis, a right to return for Palestinians and and equal rights for all. I believe there is growing support for this process in Palestine and amongst Israelis too.

This was echoed in the remarks of Labour MP Andy MacDonald when he said "we won't rest until we have justice, until all people, Israelis and Palestinians, between the river and the sea can live in peaceful liberty." For that sentiment, which was seen as "grossly offensive", Andy has been suspended from the Labour Party. I mention this because the real question is not what the grand solution is but how we act becomes part of the solution and not the problem.

We have to start with what we are seeing in front of our eyes (when we are allowed to) and that is, and I chose my words carefully, organised genocide by the Israeli state against the Palestinian people and we need to understand that this is consistent with the nature of the state itself.
We therefore have to call the Israeli state out, to demonstrate, to support the BDS movement, to demand our leaders accept the humanitarian necessity of a ceasefire, to send aid and to show the Palestinian people that they are not alone. There are any number of things people can do - to do nothing at all is complicity.

From George Murphy

Tuesday, 31 October 2023

Thanks Alan. Don't want to make this our own private discussion. We both want peace. Just wondered how we might get there and whether you see  Hamas, Hezballah and Iran as part of the solution. The west have a terrible history from Balfour onwards, but I'm more alarmed by undemocratic misogynists and wonder how they would secure peace.

From Allen Keep

Tuesday, 31 October 2023

George. I'd love others to join in. Compare the reaction in this town to what is happening in Gaza to Ukraine. I'm very disappointed generally with the lack of reaction and activity. As usual, you need to go to Tod for anything real so I hope to see you on the Sunday demos outside the town hall there at 4pm.

As for Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas I think you're over egging it (and by the way, Israel and the West are not short on mysogyny?). I don't support any of them politically but we should understand that the main concern/ enemy here is Israel and the West. After all, Israel's secondary role, if you will, is to act as the watchdog dog for the USA and the west in the Middle East and protect their interests in the region. Hence Israel's belligerent and hostile stance towards Iran and Hezbollah in particular.

Like Frankenstein, the US has created a monster which it can't always control, certainly domestically (but who cares?) so they may, for instance, attack Hezbollah in Lebanon who can hold their own unlike, probably, Hamas who Israel may well succeed in destroying. Worth remembering here that neither organisation would be what it is today without Israel and its actions in Gaza and Lebanon.

So will Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas have a role in any possible transformation from a colonial settler racist state oppressing a people to a united secular democratic state? I don't know. That is down to the people but I hope they are marginalised by a genuinely popular movement for the latter. In the meantime, we must concentrate on supporting the oppressed against their oppressors. Like in Ukraine.

From Paul Neill

Friday, 3 November 2023

Very well said, Allen - you've hit many nails on the head.

The 'both sides' argument that we see from others is not only factually untrue - one side is one of the strongest military powers in the world and has kept the other side (which has no tanks, aircraft or ships) locked up in a concentration camp for 16 years and occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank for just the 56 years - but just swallows the post-9/11 imperialist narrative of good guys rescuing the world from evil-doers.

Talk of peace and a two-state solution is simply fantastical, but is trotted out by politicians and 'liberals' at times like this as cover for doing nothing. Everyone knows that there is no viable Palestinian state and, furthermore, Israel has never intended to allow its creation.

From George Murphy

Saturday, 4 November 2023

Allen Keep and Paul Neil, I'll answer your points as honestly as I can and then let others state their views.

Allen, you say that neither side of the divide is going to take the two state solution seriously. You may be right, unfortunately. You believe in the establishment of a democratic, secular state. Surely, that is even more unrealistic, although it's what I would also wish for.

I disagree with Allen on the role of Iran. If it was to win a war it certainly wouldn't establish a secular state. Yes, the west has been misogynistic and terrible cases are reported in our media every week. That shouldn't allow you to move swiftly on without acknowledging that teenage girls are being imprisoned and killed by religious zealots with the backing of a theocratic state. Make your own arguments stronger by acknowledging the fears of others.

To finish, in answering your criticisms, I must also agree with you about the creation of Israel and the terrible subjugation and repression of Palestinians by that over the past 70 years. If the two state solution is 'fanciful' how does Allen expect his secular, democratic state to be brought about?

From Vivienne H

Saturday, 4 November 2023

I understand that people of goodwill are motivated by compassion for suffering, but I'm appalled by the a-historicity of the comments here.

Do those people who attack Israel as a colonialist state also clamour for the elimination of Pakistan, created by the same colonial power in the same year as Israel? Pakistan has treated its minorities much worse than Israel has treated Israeli Arabs -  one of whom, a Supreme Court judge, recently sentenced a former Israeli prime minister to prison for corruption.

Do you object to the allocation of two thirds of the British Mandate of Palestine territory to form a new Arab Muslim state, the Emirate of Transjordan, which later became the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, or is it just the allocation of the remaining third - minus all the pieces since subtracted  - for the world's only tiny Jewish state that troubles people?

Does the fact that every Arab country is Judenrein, i.e.  has murdered or expelled its centuries-old Jewish communities, not count as persecution, for you? Where is the demand for right of return or compensation for their descendants? More than 50% of Israeli Jews are Mizrahi, not white.

I am no fan of Netanyahu, & think his policies disastrous & unjust,  but I've both studied, & lived in, the Middle East, and still read Middle Eastern newspapers.

Iran, Hezbollah, & Hamas daily promise to eliminate the state of Israel and kill every Jew, claiming the Qur'an legitimises that: there is a determination to make the entire region Muslim. In my lifetime, Kurds, Yezidis, Zoroastrians, 2000-year-old Aramaic-speaking Christians, Jews & many other small, unique communities, have all been destroyed in the service of this project. 

Here is what Zuheir Mohsen of the PLO said about "the Palestinian people" - a re-branding concept created in the 1960s which has been an extremely effective bit of Soviet disinformation, enthusiastically swallowed by westerners: the recent Moscow visits by Hamas are part of a long relationship.

"The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct 'Palestinian people' to oppose Zionism.' Presenting the PLO as a secular nationalist struggle in the West, Arafat was in Saudi Arabia in the '70s discussing jihad. 

The separatist Arabs of Gaza had the chance to develop a self governing state in 2005, when Israel withdrew, evicting every Jewish settler & even emptying its graveyards.

All Israel left behind was a functioning agribusiness which at the time, provided 15% of the organic fruit grown in the region. That, it handed over intact. Within days, it had been looted & destroyed. 

This conflict is not the simple matter so many people seem to think it is. Jews were in Israel 1500 years before the Arab armies of conquest arrived, & there are 7 million Jews, surrounded by 465 million largely hostile Arabs, so who is indigenous,  & who is most at risk here?

 Peace-lovers should ask Hamas why it leaves women & children to die on the surface under missile fire, while its men shelter in the comfortable tunnel complex they arranged for themselves before launching an attack on the socialist kibbutzim.

From Allen Keep

Tuesday, 7 November 2023

Vivenne speaks of the ahistorical nature of contributions so far but gives us a version of the history of Israel from a purely Zionist perspective which is unfortunately riddled with mis-direction, distraction and concealment which leads to one conclusion only - Israel is innocent of all charges and the real problem are the Arabs/Muslims of the of the region.

Unfortunately, this results in an undertone which appears distinctly Islamophobic. All Muslim states and their people are declared Judenrein, a Nazi term, and includes the extraordinary and false claim that they have "murdered or expelled" their Jewish population. This is simply not the case and there are different voices on this issue including those of Jewish Voice for Peace

Vivienne however suggests all 465 million Arabs "surrounding" Israel are hostile to Jews and that Muslims, are conquerors, persecutors and deniers of human rights hell bent on destroying Israel and the Jewish people who live there and seek total domination of the region.

Sadly, I hear the echo of Winston Churchill's words as he famously claimed Muslims as simply an inferior race compared to the Jews. There is even a claim, supposedly supported by the PLO (but based on a rouge and decontextualised quote from a little-known PLO official nearly 50 years ago) that Palestine didn't really exist and the Palestinians have no identity, something that Zionist Israel has said for decades.

This interpretation of Israel's history finds its political outlet in comments like those made recently by the Israeli Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu. After saying there where "no uninvolved citizens in Gaza" (which was not widely quoted) he felt justified in suggesting a nuclear strike against Palestinians in Gaza was "an option". His party colleague Yitzhak Kroizer said this "the Gaza Strip should be flattened, and there should be one sentence for everyone there – death. We have to wipe the Gaza Strip off the map. There are no innocents there." And yet Vivienne's version of history would have us believe that only groups like Hamas and Hezbollah are capable of this type of language.

These genocidal maniacs are embedded in Netanyahu's cabinet and, as such, both extremely powerful and legitimised. They openly advocate a second Nabka and the "transfer" of Palestinians. Interesting that they admit that the Nabka (the terrorist expulsions and ethnic cleansing of Palestine to create the modern state of Israel in 1948) occurred in the first place as it is unfortunately entirely missing from Vivienne's historical account. So too is the Balfour agreement that preceded the end of the British mandate in Palestine, the suppression of the Palestinian revolt by the British, the Israeli terrorist Irgun and the elimination by them of hundreds Palestinian villages, the illegal occupation of Palestinian territories since 1967 and the continuous regime of brutal oppressive rule over them ever since. It is as if it never happened.

Vivienne claims she is no fan on Netanyahu and I'd like to think she doesn't share the sentiments of some of his cabinet ministers. But when she discusses Gaza in particular which according to the UN is facing a humanitarian catastrophe and where the IDF is killing a child every 10 minutes it appears that this too is not the responsibility of Israel.

Vivienne seems to suggest that it's the fault of those Palestinian "Separatists" in Gaza. Her version of the recent history of Gaza suggests Palestinians simply can't manage their own affairs. Israel left Gaza out of the goodness of its heart leaving the opportunity of riches and good fortune and now just look at the place. This completely ignores the reality of Israel either blockading or bombing Gaza since their withdrawal and the election of Hamas. There is no mention of Hamas being supported and funded by Israel initially as a means to isolate Fatah in the strip and create a division between Gaza and the West Bank to weaken the possibility of a unified Palestinian state and no connection between Israel's brutalisation of the people of Gaza in the world's largest open-air prison that has created the conditions for Hamas to resort to violent resistance to this apartheid state.

So, when it comes to the daily slaughter of civilians in Gaza, 70% of whom are women and children, the question is apparently not why the Israeli state assumes collective responsibility of all Palestinians and commits war crimes against an entire population that amounts to genocide but why Hamas (probably 30,000 out of a population of 2.3 million) leave their women and children in the firing line. There are many current accounts of what life in Gaza is like today despite the restrictions the Israeli state has put on sharing information. Here is an example. (Guardian, 6 Nov)

Despite this kind of evidence, Vivenne's comments reflect only the well-worn argument about Hamas and human shields. It's a view entirely consistent with an ahistorical, uncritical support for a settler colonial state. Nothing new here, take the words of the Golda Meir, The Iron Lady of Israel and former Prime Minister:

"We can perhaps forgive the Arabs for killing our children," she said. "But we can never forgive them for forcing us to kill their children."

There's the chilling logic of a particular version of the history of Israel.

From Chris Barnett

Wednesday, 8 November 2023

Thanks to Allen for the link to the fact sheet published by Jewish Voice for Peace - it seems to be a very thorough, well referenced and historically accurate piece, and a valuable contribution towards helping us all understand the context of the current situation.

From Vivienne H

Saturday, 11 November 2023

Responses in a constructive conversation are meant to engage with the points someone makes. I note that no one has anything to say about why it is acceptable that a new state of  Jordan was created on one bank of the river, but not for Israel to be re-established on the other. Arabs expelled from or fleeing Israel initially moved from one bank of the Jordan to the other, where their cousins lived & where they were given full citizenship. For the expelled Arab Jews, it was not so easy. 

Accusations of Islamophobia do not detract from the salient point that - as uncontested by Arab & Western scholars - what is now referred to as the Palestinian resistance movement has had 3 stages. It was originally a demand that the entire Levant be governed, as a single state, by Arabs, as it had formerly been by the Ottoman Empire until the end of WWI. When Pan-Arabism failed - cf the brief union between Egypt & Syria and attempted inclusion of Iraq - Soviet Russia suggested marketing a new, secular nationalist movement defining  a separate Palestinian identity. The PLO did momentarily flirt with Marxism, but having refused every partition plan offered, the movement reverted to its core  strength, Islamism. Hamas is an Arabic acronym meaning Islamic Resistance. It calls upon the entire Umma.

Is it also Islamophobic to mention that last month, 120,000 Armenians fled for their lives from Azerbaijan, leaving everything behind? And not a whisper of protest from  the so-called Left, any more than there was when the truly revolutionary Rojava Kurds had their small valiant enclave destroyed by Turkey, which cannot bear their gender-equal, multi-faith councils.

I didn't make the claim that Israel is innocent. Reality is always complex & as I said, Netanyahu has been a disaster for Israel. I don't think in terms of either/or, but both/and. Had this forum been 100% pro-Israeli, I would have argued the Arab case. I do, however, listen to gay Palestinians who write about how they were forced to flee to Tel Aviv as they preferred taking part in a Gay Pride March to being murdered; to Palestinian journalists tortured by Hamas, their colleagues killed for writing the truth about oppression & corruption; & to Palestinian women who point out that according to Jordanian & Palestinian law, "honour killings" attract minimal penalties.

Allen objects to my use of a Nazi term, Judenrein. In WWII,  Arabs were allies of  Nazi Germany. Specifically, Judenrein is the term used by  Haj Amin al Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, when he was explaining to Hitler his vision of the Middle East. When he returned from Berlin, Al Husseini raised a (largely Bosnian)  Muslim  Battalion to join the Waffen SS. He made propaganda broadcasts on behalf of German & Italian fascism, as he shared Hitler's hatred of communists & Jews. 

Iraqi Jews offer a different description of the Farhud than the anodyne phrase "anti-Jewish riot". Seeing your relatives dangling from cranes in the public square, sanctioned by  a pro-Nazi government,  does rather incentivise a group to move on. Still, I'm glad of the existence of Jewish Voices for Peace. We need people like that.  Jews, now seen as the epitome of White privilege, were also prominent in the American Civil Rights movement - two were murdered on the Mississippi Freedom Rides, though BLM has discarded that history as no longer convenient. Now, let's wait to hear from the Arab equivalent.

From Ron Taylor

Wednesday, 15 November 2023

My response, Vivienne, to your question as to whether Transjordan's detachment from the Palestine Mandate by the British government, which led to the creation of an Arab state there (not an Arab Muslim state, as you wrote in one post) was acceptable, is this: Would you have wished to see the whole of Mandate Palestine, minus Transjordan, being handed over to the Zionist movement for the purpose of developing a Jewish homeland? Would you have wanted all the Arabs, Muslims and Christians, living there at that time to move to Transjordan and, if so, how would this have come about? Would it have been a voluntary relocation or a forcible one?

From Allen Keep

Monday, 20 November 2023

Vivienne refers to a lack of engagement with her historical points, which is fair enough (there were a lot of them), but then fails to seriously engage with the question of possibly the most important historical event that allows us better to understand the nature of the Israeli state and the current genocidal actions of that state in Gaza - the Nabka.

Ron Taylor has tackled the question of Jordan but Vivienne continues to assert that that Israel was "re-established" (note the language here) in a way that those expelled were either simply able to happily cross into Jordan or where assimilated into the state of Israel with full citizenship.

This chimes with the denial of the reality of the Nabka by Zionist Israel (who refer to the events of 1948 as a war of independence). Unfortunately, this serves only to absolve Israel of ethnic cleansing, which continues today, much as the apologists for German fascism disgustingly deny the holocaust. Here's how the United Nations (which passed a resolution calling for the right of return for refugees only months later) sees these events.

I quote directly from this text: "The Nakba anniversary is a reminder not only of those tragic events of 1948, but of the ongoing injustice suffered by the Palestinians. The Nakba had a profound impact on the Palestinian people, who lost their homes, their land, and their way of life. It remains a deeply traumatic event in their collective memory and continues to shape their struggle for justice and for their right to return to their homes. In 2022, the UN General Assembly requested that this anniversary be commemorated on 15 May 2023, for the first time in the history of the UN."

As the UN points out, the Nabka involved the permanent (my emphasis) displacement of approximately half the population of Palestine. Perhaps not "quite so easy" for Palestinians as opposed to exiled Jewish people as Vivienne claims.

The Gaza strip was created by Israel's ethnic cleansing in 1948 and before, was occupied by the state in 1967 and has been besieged and blockaded by Israel since their "withdrawal" in 2006. Now, the descendants of ethnically cleansed refugees are being murdered in their thousands, their children are being slaughtered and their schools bombed. The people are driven South to be bombed again. Over half the population has been displaced, the health and welfare infrastructure of one of the poorest and most densely populated places on earth is being systematically destroyed while Israel refuses to facilitate humanitarian aid much less a ceasefire. To ignore this continuity of history is to deny it and to deny it, I'm sorry, is complicity.

Vivienne unfortunately continues to point not at Israel in these historical developments but at Hamas and "Islamicism". The muddle of the history of the PLO and "the movement" is difficult to read and there is simply a failure here to engage with the historical understanding of the rise of Hamas and the role of Israel in that development which I tried to explain in my contribution. Unfortunately, and instead, we get a list of crimes of Islamic countries around the world. What is that saying?

Does this suggest all those who believe in Islam are the same no matter which country or culture or heritage and history they come from? If the same was said of Jewish people, what would we call that?

Vivienne refers to the case of the Grand Mufti of Jersualem Haj Amin al Husseini (an anti-semitic, Nazi collaborator). Unfortunately, apologists for Zionism constantly dig this pretty insignificant guy out of history. Netanyahu famously did just this in 2015 when he claimed that the Grand Mufti actually inspired the Holocaust which was then almost universally slammed by historians. There's a good report here

Netanyahu was essentially using a form of holocaust denial to demonise Palestinians. This deliberate manipulation of history is, frankly, something the Israeli state specialises in.

Vivienne's comments on these events highlights the omission from her account of Israeli history of the question of collaboration of Israeli terrorist Zionists, particularly the Lehi (often referred to as the Stern gang) with fascist Germany. Maybe that is something we should also engage with? It is much debated of course and is recently topical with Ken Livingstone's remarks (which themselves were historically somewhat muddled) which got him expelled from the Labour Party. There's a good article to read on this, which the usually even-handed Israeli newspaper Haaretz calls Israel's dirty secret.

What we do know, is that many members of various Zionist military organisations (or terrorists some might say) that led the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians such as the Irgun, became significant figures in the new Israeli state. One such, who joined the Irgun in 1944 was the future leader of Israel Menachim Begin. But then Israel is a true democracy is it not?

Vivienne mentions the Jewish contribution to progressive organisations such as the Civil Rights movement. Aside from the swipe at BLM and the somewhat unfortunate suggestion such support is unlikely to ever come from the Arab world, Vivienne is quite right to do so.

Jewish people around the world have an incredible history of opposition to oppression, support for humanitarianism, trade unionism and socialism. There are so many magnificent examples of this and thankfully, untold numbers of Jewish people the world over completely reject Zionism and oppose the Israeli state.

Some of these Jewish oppositionists are historians who provide a very different version of the history of the Jewish people and the state of Israel that Vivienne puts forward.

Some time ago, Ron Taylor (who knows a thing or two about Palestine) recommended to me the work of Illan Pappe, an exiled Israeli Jew whose parents fled from Nazi Germany. His work on the establishment of Israel and the history and reality of Gaza (which he refers to as the biggest open-air prison in the world) is remarkable and inspirational. I hope Vivienne and others following this thread will engage with his work much of which is available in You Tube videos.

In the meantime, please, whatever your understanding or views, engage with the catastrophe that is happening before our eyes and support the people of Gaza in whatever way you can.

From Vivienne H

Tuesday, 21 November 2023

Allen, further to your dismissive comment about the supposed insignificance of Haj Amin al Husseini, may I point out that his family achieved prominence in the 18th century & were regarded as local dignitaries? They were religious leaders & mayors. As for the man himself, not only was he the representative of the area in the Ottoman Parliament, he became Grand Mufti during the Mandate period, and was the leader of the Arab High Committee, i.e. the Palestinian movement. Hence his support of, and visit to, Hitler was not nugatory.

From Allen Keep

Tuesday, 21 November 2023

The phrase clutching at straws comes to mind reading Vivienne's response. Or maybe it's clutching at a straw man? Not a word about the Nabka past or indeed the Nabka we have today and I can't find a single sentence in anything Vivienne has said that can justify what is happening in Gaza or that should deter anyone from supporting its people in the here and now.

If people really want to explore the significance or otherwise of the Grand Mufti, this article might help.

I'm not a fan of Wikipedia myself but if anyone is remotely interested there is an extensive article here.

Essentially, the Grand Mufti turned to the axis powers on the basis of my enemies' enemy is my friend. Paramilitary Zionists followed exactly the same logic.

From Vivienne H

Tuesday, 21 November 2023

Ron - Thank you for your note. As we disagree about this issue, it's really important for us to be able to discuss this in a public forum. I replied to you a few days ago but my comment somehow went astray. (Not received - Ed)

I pointed out all the ways in which Jordan is legally a Muslim state, and quoted the Egyptian commander who in the 1948 attack on the new state, captured the West Bank & East Jerusalem, and destroyed synagogues: "For the first time in 1,000 years not a single Jew remains in the Jewish Quarter. Not a single building remains intact. This makes the Jews' return here impossible."

Jews were a minority in Mandate Palestine, but a majority in the city since 19th C. so this was significant. But the Iraqi leader wanted to rule the whole of the Fertile Crescent, the Syrians demanded a Greater Syria, Egypt was after Gaza, and the Jordanians were determined to annex the West Bank. This rivalry, and some weapons sold to Israel by the USSR, created the context for Israel to survive, though with the loss of territory. Note that the Arabs were not fighting for the creation of an independent Palestinian state. That idea came much later.

As for whether I would have preferred a complete population exchange, in which Arabs who didn't want to live under Israeli rule moved across the river to take up automatic Jordanian citizenship, while Jews expelled from Arab countries moved into Israel, well, it certainly worked for the Greeks and Turks, who exchanged their minorities with little bloodshed.

The Kurds, promised their own state, were split between Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey, where they have been persecuted ever since. The Armenians lost a million people to Turkish ethnic cleansing, doomed when the Ottoman Empire lost WW1 & its European territory, causing Muslims to stream into the region and try to take land from scapegoated Christians and Jews. The Young Turk movement wanted Turkey for its own ethnic group, exclusively. In such a context, separation was better than slaughter.

As for today, it's telling that the Israeli Arabs, Druze and Bedouin have not risen in support of Hamas. I find that hopeful. I recommend Amnesty International's 2014 report on Gaza and Hamas for those not similarly inclined.

From Vivienne H

Tuesday, 21 November 2023

Allen, I don't want to keep repeating "That's not what I said". To be clear, I am not denying the reality of the Nakba (which is, I assume, what you meant when you mentioned "the Nabka "), nor historic injustice, especially to the Kurds. Rather, I am contextualising it in the period following 2 World Wars, and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire which released the Arabs - a time when many borders shifted, & millions of people were displaced. Only the Palestinians, 75 years later, still claim to be refugees, as a deliberate political strategy first foisted on them by other Arab states, and now embraced as the best tool to achieve their aims. It is a fact that Arab Jordan was created from two thirds of the Mandate territory. Israel never disputed that. It is only the small Jewish portion that is contested & constantly attacked.

As I study all sides of any question that interests me, I've naturally read Ilan Pappé, and more seriously, Benny Morris and other New Historians. They reinterpreted the Independence period in a way which brought balance, and Israeli history textbooks were revised in consequence, but as Morris himself later admitted, he does not read Arabic and did not have access to Haganah papers. Pappé is popular in the West, but not well regarded by historians who regard his work as "sloppy, dishonest" or at best, exaggerated. However, you are right to think that I am in favour of the continued existence of the state of Israel.

I reiterate: there are 48 Muslim majority countries in the world, several of them adjacent to the disputed territory. As Palestinians originally wanted union with them, it isn't a new idea. Jews have nowhere else to go, and as they were there first, and Israel has remained central to Jewish culture for 3000 years, it seems to me their claim is stronger than that of Arabs, the oldest of whom arrived as imperial conquerors, the newest as immigrants from Arab countries, after Zionists created industries and new forms of work from the 1880s onwards. Why do you think some Palestinians have names like al Masri, or al Sudani? The poster-child Tamimis are originally from Saudi Arabia.

The fact that Jewish people have been scattered by aggressive invaders who seized their country doesn't, for me, mean that the League of Nations should have denied them statehood - something Palestinians never had, nor thought to have until 50 years ago. As for Islam, I would never assert anything so ridiculous as that all Muslims are the same. My point is that since billions of petrodollars financed the spread of Wahhabi Islam, and the Iranian Revolution legitimised an apocalyptic Shi'ism, Islam is currently in its least liberal phase. That is precisely why all the ethnic and religious minorities which existed in my lifetime in the Middle East, are no longer there. And to disregard the failure of Levantine government in Iraq, Syria & Lebanon, while demanding another Arab state in Palestine, is rather shortsighted. Egypt is relatively stable, but only because it has a repressive military government.

The Stern Gang - yes, as murderous & reprehensible as you say, or heroic anti-imperialists, depending how you choose to interpret their actions. I don't agree that paying Nazi Germany to release some Jews counts as cooperating with fascism. Would you say the same of the Kurds who ransomed captive Yezidis from Da'esh? Certainly, the Stern Gang helped create a state by force, as most national liberation struggles do. Is that not why many people justify Hamas? I sympathise with your position, and to some extent share it, certainly in terms of the carnage in Gaza, but I also think it's important to be cognisant of the mood of the Middle East, and its complex politics over the last century.

From Allen Keep

Tuesday, 21 November 2023

Vivienne, I'm glad you have finally engaged with the question of the Nakba which you say you are "not denying the reality" of. However, you also seem to see the same period as a war of independence during which a state was created by force. Leaving aside, for the moment, the absurd comparison in this context with "national liberation struggles" the simple fact of the matter is that the events of 1948 cannot be both things. That's not contextualising history, however knowledgeable and informed you are - it's conflating historical polar opposites.

I quoted the UN account of the Nakba and it is clear to me, historically, that the state of Israel came into being not as a result of national liberation or some sort of "return" to an Israeli state or because of the legitimate land claims of a people to their historical homeland but through an act of colonisation involving forcible ethnic cleansing. You may disagree, but it is one or the other so if you accept the reality of the Nakba which is it?

You dismiss the work of Pappe but he is by far not the only Jewish person, Israeli or otherwise, in the historical/ academic world who sees the Nakba and the history of Israel from that point very differently than you appear to. Perhaps these are the wrong sort of Jews but you will be familiar with the work of Shlomo Sand, Professor of History at Tel Aviv University, for instance who argues (in best-selling books in Israel) that there was never an ancient Jewish people as such and no connection to a homeland in Palestine - they are Zionist myths and inventions. He's a moderate politically and supports, as you do, the right of Israel to exist (within 1948 borders) and a two-state solution while arguing that the Jewish right to the land of Palestine (something you also agree with) is a result of "twisted logic". Here's a quote from Sand in the Israeli newspaper which I read, Haaretz.

Full disclosure: Even when I believed, mistakenly, that the "Jewish people" was exiled by the Romans in 70 C.E. or 132 C.E., I didn't think that this conferred on the Jews some sort of imagined "historic right" to the Holy Land. If we seek to organize the world as it was 2,000 years ago, we will turn it into one big madhouse. Why not bring Native Americans back to Manhattan, for example, or restore the Arabs to Spain and the Serbs to Kosovo? Of course, such twisted logic of "historic right" will also commit us to supporting the continued settlement/ colonization of Hebron, Jericho and Bethlehem.

You may well disagree with Sand but the point he makes well is that this view of history goes beyond the Nakba as a narrative and is continually used to defend Israel's right to exist and more importantly "defend itself" which in turn is used to justify on-going apartheid, oppression, tyrannical occupation, continued illegal and violent settlement and now the genocidal acts of the Israeli state in Gaza.

Leaving aside your account of Israeli history on which we fundamentally disagree and the question, for the moment, while we take a humanitarian pause, of the need for contextualisation and to be mindful of the complex nature of the politics of the whole region there is a simple question to answer here and I'll keep it as unchallenging as possible. Do you support a ceasefire?

From Vivienne H

Wednesday, 22 November 2023

If someone had no acquaintance with Haj Amin al Husseini until they looked at Wikipedia, or passionately pro-Palestinian websites, it's not surprising that his importance is not understood.  He was actually responsible for the marginalisation of Palestinian Christians, who - initially prominent in the independence movement - played virtually no role in the Arab Revolt of the 1930s, because al Husseini insisted on Islamising the rebellion, and on the union of Palestine with Syria. He was concerned to achieve control of the Supreme Muslim Council, and hence of the Waqf funds. That changed the nature of the Arab revolt. Al Husseini  started quoting from The Protocols of the Elders of Zion in the late 1920s: this is where European antisemitism and Islamic antisemitism meet and combine for the first time, in its modern form. 

No-one has ever suggested that he inspired Hitler, who regarded Arabs as a tool to help him rid the world of Jews, and whose genocidal activity was well underway by the time al Husseini inspected a forced-labour camp full of captive Hungarian Jews. But al Husseini was there because he thought concentration camps were where Jews belonged.

As for "the enemy of my enemy", no. That was true for those Irishmen and women who supported Germany in the world wars, and then shared military training and bomb making with Palestinians in Libya, and for Hindus in WWII who were trying to be rid of the British. But of the leaders who went with the SS to Trebbin the day al Husseini posed for  photographs there, the Iraqi was the man who organised the Farhud and subsequent removal of Iraq's Jewish communities;  the Croatian was a member of the fascist Ustache, which slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Serbs and Jews; and al Husseini was the one praising the Final Solution and promising to raise a battalion to help with the annihilation of Jews across North Africa.

Irrespective of the way he features in Netanyahu's propaganda, al Husseini and men who think like him are one of the reasons Israelis will not stop resisting every attempt to exterminate them. Denying this ensures the continuation of conflict. Unless the concerns of both sides are recognised, and Arabs agree that a small people they are historically accustomed to humiliating have to be treated with respect, and allowed to live in peace on the 1/10 of 1%  of Middle Eastern territory they claim, Israel will keep fighting for its existence. Abu Marzouk, asked why Hamas does not allow women and children to shelter in the tunnels built with aid money intended for the people,  said the Gazan casualties are the responsibility of UNRWA. Dead babies make the world hate Israel. Hamas daily threatens to repeat the events of October 7. Anybody who genuinely cares about Palestinians cannot ignore this.

From Vivienne H

Wednesday, 22 November 2023

Allen, I've just seen your new post. Israel re-evaluated what it means to be Jewish in light of the questioning of historical identity. What gives someone the right to immigrate under the Law of Return is not a matter of squabbling over the interpretation of history, but is now decided in two ways. It is a matter of religion, and of DNA. 

Genetic testing confirms that the Jews of the Diaspora have Middle Eastern ancestry on both sides, where the community has been large enough for exclusive intermarriage. Where there is another parental strand, it comes from the peoples the Jews were scattered amongst. So we don't have to rely on narratives. Personally, I acknowledge the stories along with the science. Both confirm that Jews are not a modern imposition on a foreign country, but a return to the country they founded - the names Israel and Judah provide clues here - and in which they have doggedly maintained an unbroken presence for 3000 years.

In the diaspora, they have daily remembered Israel. Palestinian identity in comparison is recent, emerging from a Levantine Arab sense of self through opposition to Israel, as Zuheir Mohsen acknowledged.  I don't contest the point that it would be chaotic if everyone now demanded entry to a place of ancestral origin: I note that after the horrific experiences of the 20th century, many peoples were allowed to do precisely that. It was regarded as legitimate by the international body of nations, because the experiences of minority groups had been appalling. You cannot reasonably demand its undoing, a century later, and in only one place.

Israel did not become expansionist until after the Naksa (= defeat) of 1967, and since then, it has agreed to various partitions, each of which Arabs who want 100% domination of the region have refused. That refusal has resulted in the failure of the Israeli Left and the seizure of power by Likud.

Arab countries which were attempting normalisation of relations with Israel have now been forced to withdraw by the actions of Hamas, further polarising Jews and Arabs whose focus should be in learning to live together constructively.

I thought Israel wrong to attack Gaza, as that was precisely what Hamas, advised by Iran and Russia, wanted. Better to have publicly challenged Qatar and Iran to retrieve the hostages or be exhibited as shameless funders of terrorism;  and called on the International Criminal Court to deal with the individual perpetrators of the kibbutz massacres. Next best, for Israel to have had coherent objectives, swiftly achieved. Now, not just a ceasefire but a withdrawal, followed by the resignation of Netanyahu.

From Ron Taylor

Tuesday, 28 November 2023

Hi Vivienne. Thanks for the reply, but I don't think that you really answered my questions. You referred to the Israeli state in your response but you had written twice about the British Mandate period when Transjordan was detached from Palestine. This was well before Israel came into existence, as you know. So I am still unclear as to whether you would have wanted all non-Jews to leave Palestine during the Mandate period and, if they had resisted, whether they should have been forcibly moved to Transjordan.

One could argue about the Balfour Declaration and its ramifications endlessly, but what is rarely commented upon is that the origins of the conflict predate Balfour and Britain's involvement in the Middle East. From the 1890s small numbers of Jews began to colonise Palestine. They came from Europe, mainly from Russia, to escape virulent antisemitism and pogroms. Friction between Jewish colonisers and the local Arab population, often concerning land and Jewish boycotts of Arab labour, stems from that time (for a thorough examination of this period see Land, Labour and the Origins of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, 1882-1914 by Gershon Shafir).

But the numbers moving to Palestine during that period were dwarfed by those of Jewish people moving to the USA (more than 2 million) and elsewhere in Europe (150,000 to Britain, for example) - hardly a ringing endorsement of the notion of reconstituting ancient Israel. It might be safe to assume that but for antisemitism many, if not most, would have stayed where they lived.

As far as the local Arab population was concerned the colonisers were seen as European settlers with no connection to Palestine. Under the British Mandate many more Jewish immigrants arrived from mainly eastern Europe creating more friction between Jews and Arabs including episodes of inter-communal violence.The rise of the Nazis prompted even more Jews to immigrate.

The point I am making here is that Palestinians see what has happened to them as arising from Europe and that they have had to pay the price for things they were not responsible for - Russian antisemitism, British imperial interests and the Nazi regime in Germany. This was brought home to me one day in 2008, I think. I was on my way from Bethlehem to Jerusalem. To make that journey you have to pass through a large checkpoint - not a pleasant experience at the best of times. Palestinians need a permit from the Israeli authorities to pass through and permits are hard to get, but everyone, including internationals, must go through an airport-style security check - belts, shoes  off, possessions electronically scanned etc. I waited in the queue and then without warning the soldiers running the checkpoint closed it. There was no information about when it would open again. The Palestinian man in front of me was becoming more agitated the longer we were kept waiting - he had an appointment in Jerusalem - and he turned to me and pointed to the Israeli side of the checkpoint and said, "There is Europe!"

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