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Not in my name

04/28/2005


" Zionism is an aggressive and violent movement.... The idea of that man with the beard who stood on the balcony in Basel - of bringing the Jews to this island in the Middle East - was a crazy and violent idea. "

The above did not appear in Al-Jazeera (at least, not originally) nor in the writings of some "post-Zionist." They are from a Ha'aretz interview with architect Saadia Mandel, who is trying to justify the occupation.

Mandel's claims have a dubious historical basis at best. Herzl thought that he could get a Jewish "national home" through political negotiations, and was not initially certain of where that home should be. The idea of armed Zionists, even for defense, was foreign to most of the Zionist movement for a long time.

In 1909, Meir Dizengoff, soon to be mayor of Tel Aviv had written:


"How can Jews, who demand emancipation in Russia, rob rights and act selfishly toward other workers upon coming to Eretz Israel? If it is possible for many a people to hide fairness and justice behind cannon smoke, how and behind what shall we hide fairness and justice? We should absolutely not deceive ourselves with terrible visions. We shall never possess cannons, even if the goyim shall bear arms against one another for ever. Therefore, we cannot but settle in our land fairly and justly, to live and let live. "

(Meir Dizengoff (writing as "Dromi") "The Workers Question," Hatzvi, September 21, 22, 1909)


Yet Mandel tells us, and Ha'aretz does not contradict him, that violence was inevitable, in Tel Aviv too.


My parents had friends on Mane Street in Tel Aviv and under their balcony I saw brown hens, Arab hens. In Masaryk Square, there were Arabs, and in Soumeil, and in Sheikh Munis. Where are those Arabs now? To survive it was necessary to occupy and expel them."


It is unlikely that Arabs lived in Tel Aviv. Mandel may be an architect, but he is not a chicken farmer. A chicken farmer knows that nobody can tell the nationality of a chicken from its color. Mandel should know it too. Perhaps it was necessary to expel the brown chickens as a threat to security, but that was not apparent to Herzl or Dizengoff, and perhaps if matters had worked out differently, Arab chickens and Jewish chickens, brown chickens and white chicken, would be enjoying the benefits of poultry coexistence. In any case there is no historical basis for his claim that violence was stamped in to Zionism from the start.

Mandel continued his rant:


"...My office is located in occupied territory in Old Jaffa, and Mishmar Ha'emek is also occupied territory, so I really suggest that we return it to the Arabs, too. I make no distinction between what we did in the second decade of the last century, in 1948 or in the 1970s. The immoral acts of the occupation that we did then, we are continuing to do today. We can't be nice, but I live in peace with that."

In the 1920s, the Zionist movement bought land, it did not steal it. The Zionists bought land for Jewish settlement under the aegis of the internationally approved mandate. Mandel cannot see how this is different from taking land that the world says is not ours. To him, buying a used automobile is the same as breaking in and stealing one. He also makes no distinction between what was done in 1948, in war time, and what was done after the war. It is OK to kill people in war time. Therefore, according to Mandel's logic, it must also be OK to murder people in peacetime. In the 1970s, when no Arab country was talking about peace with Israel on any terms, it was OK to build settlements, so it is also OK to do in 2005, when the settlements stand between us and peace.

Mandel's twisted Zionism and spurious logic are unfortunately not the isolated ravings of a dotard, but the ideology of an entire segment of the Israeli population and the Zionist movement. They have been with us for a long time, but their views have become increasingly legitimized as a result of the occupation. The settlers have held themselves up as the modern standard bearers of Zionism, and pretend to speak in our name, in the name of all of us. They do not speak in my name certainly.

In 1982, after the Sabra and Shatila massacres, someone wrote that in Lebanon Sharon made a big Deir Yassin, and tried to make us all partners in it. The settlers and their advocates are trying to make all of Zionism look like Deir Yassin and the Baruch Goldstein massacre in Hebron, and they are trying to make us all partners in the Goldstein massacre. We know that it is not so and it is not right. What, however, will will tell anti-Zionists who insist that Zionism is immoral, that Zionism is violent and aggressive and colonialist and racist? What can we tell them, when there is a "Zionist and a Nationalist" quoted in an Israeli Zionist newspaper, explaining that Zionism is aggressive and violent, that it was understood from the start by everyone that it is necessary to expel the Arabs, and that the people who settled Mishmar Ha'emek on land purchased by the Jewish agency are the same as the fanatics who poison sheep and destroy olive groves in the West Bank?

With "Zionists" like Mandel to explain our point of view, who needs Hizbulla's Al Manara television and Palestinian "incitement"?

It is strange that the settlers have taken over the Zionist enterprise. It is not their fault. It is our fault, because the rest of us, the silent majority, fell asleep on the watch. We thought it was sufficient to protest the occupation. We fell into the trap of letting the occupation poison Zionism.

Is all the work of Jewish reconstruction really done, so that the only "Zionist" task left is to poison sheep in the West Bank? Is the Negev developed? Is the Galilee developed? Have we fed and clothed our poor? Have we created a society where everyone is truly equal under law and accepted as equal members of society? Are the settlers likely to do any of these things? If we want to save Zionism from the settlers, it is not enough to fight the occupation. We have to show leadership in real, positive Zionist construction, and in defending Israel from its real enemies. Of course, the settlers have an advantage. Clearing slums and educating new immigrants and doing all the other mundane things that need to be done are not nearly as glamorous as poisoning sheep, trashing olive trees and beating up IDF soldiers.

Happy Passover.
Chag Pesach Same'ach
Ami Isseroff

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Replies: 3 comments

Surely what has happened is a conflation of modern political Zionism, as response to the rise of the nation state, and the age old religious Zionism that seeks redemption through the arrival of the Messiah. This conflation seems to have occurred as the state of Israel established itself, and the early relgious objections to Zionism diminished. IMO as the Christian fundamentalist bloc on the US reformed itself in the 1960's and became an increasingly powerful faction which allied itself with right wing Zionism and the more religious Jewish groups, it in turn influenced religious / right wing Jewish thinking. Whereas between the port-bellum period and the 1960's the Christian right were allied closely with reactionary elements, these became discredited and for the fundamentalists they reverted to their roots and identification with the Jewish people. That the geo-political interests of the USA coincided with those of Israel served to augment this position.
As someone with a "foot in both camps" I have witnessed the degree to which Christian Fundamentalists and very Orthodox Jews readily find common reference points. If anyone wants to understand what PM David Lloyd George meant when he stated he knew the place names of ancient Israel better than those of the Western Front. They need only to find his home Llanystumdwy on a map, follow the road east to the main road running from Porthmadog to Caernarvon (A487), and among the first villages you should find are Nasareth, Carmel & Golan. The lesson is that these people are not only imbued with the events of the Old Testament, they identify with the Jews so much that they named their villages accordingly. From the 17th century onwards they found parallels in the Bible to their own experiences. Were not these people oppressed by corrupt Kings and occupiers who sought to impose government and culture against their wishes, exactly as the Jews had been? As these people emigrated to the Americas they took with them these ideas, it is not a coincidence that all through the Bible Belt that Welsh-British surnames are dominant. However as these emigrants obtained property and power that they had not had previously, their politicla perspectives changed and moved to the right. So by the 1920's whereas the Welsh-British Fundamentalists were actively left-wing and involved in ventures such as the Spanish Civil War on the side of the Republicans, their US counterparts occupied the right wing often with anti-semitic overtones. However with the Holocaust, the establishment of Israel and the changes the civil rights movement brought, US fundamentalists divorced themselves from the intolerant tendencies, reached back into their roots and increasingly identified with the Jews and Israel. As Jews in the US also progressed and became part of the establishment, a curious alliance developed between them. Fundamentalist ideas then validated the perceptions of right wing Jews whom believed that Greater Israel was theirs by right and God's indulgence. Fundamentalist ideas that the arrival of the Second Coming must be predicated by a return of Jews to Greater Israel did much to ensure that there was no criticism of the right wing Zionists.
If we want peace we must take political Zionism back from these Fundamentalists of both religions. Israel was created to be an refuge from oppression and a light unto nations. It is failing to be either at present.

Posted by Rod Davies @ 04/29/2005 10:17 PM CST

Well done Rod as usual, but settler Zionism has nothing really to do with the classical pre-political "Zionism" though it tries to usurp that too.

Messianic Judaism was almost never active and it was never violent. It is classically illustrated in the position of the Satmar and Neturei Karteh anti-Zionists - "wait for Messiah to fix everything." That is clearly not the intent of these fellows at all.

Posted by Ami Isseroff @ 04/30/2005 03:02 PM CST

Ami,
When were the Satmarer & Neturei Karta non-violent? I clearly remember a "Dry Bones" cartoon of the early 1980's which posed the question - "If these guys are so good at fighting, why don't they get called up into the IDF?"
I have a feeling that the Greater Israel Zionism gained status & power as politics in the English speaking world drifted to the right in the late 1970's. I recall that Christian Fundamentalists supported / promoted this drift and increasingly used the Bible to justify their actions. (As can be seen in present day USA)
If one compares the actions & attitudes of Christian Fundamentalists & the Greater Israel Zionists, there is very little distance between them. Their alliance is largely symbiotic, in which they both feed and exploit each other.
Thanks for your kind comment - however I was hoping to that someone would challenge me.

Posted by Rod Davies @ 05/03/2005 10:47 AM CST


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