Backtalk, January 4, 2007

The Trap of Recognizing Israel

Jonathan Cook denies the right of the Jewish people to political self-determination and independence. He writes nothing against the right of any other nation-state in the world to exist, just the Jewish one. That is as racist as it can be.

Just to remind him, when the UN voted to establish two independent states in Mandatory Palestine, it voted for a Palestinian-Arab and a Palestinian-Jewish state. In the Israeli Declaration of Independence, it is clearly stated that Israel is the state of the Jewish people. It was accepted as such to the UN and is recognized as such by more that 150 countries.

In any nation-state the character of the public square is determined by the majority. That is why the flag of Switzerland shows the cross and not the crescent. Or the flag of Turkey shows the crescent and not the cross. By the same token the flag of Israel shows the Shield of David. That is why the weekly day of rest in France is Sunday and not Friday, but in Syria it is Friday and not Saturday. In Israel it is Saturday and not Sunday.

Like many other nation-states Israel has minorities. And just like in other states there is discrimination against those minorities. However, in Israel, one can explain that discrimination by the state of war in which Israel has found itself since its founding. In spite of that, from the beginning, Israel has striven to have equality for all, as written in its Declaration of Independence. For instance, when the state was founded, Israel acknowledged the collective rights of Arabs in the realm of education. Israeli Arabs thus have the right to educate their children in a separate framework, according to their own culture and language.

As for Cook’s claim that an Israeli Arab cannot bring his Palestinian spouse into Israel, one has to remind him that there is a state of war between Israel and the Palestinians. During WWII no American could bring his Japanese or German spouse into the U.S.

Cook “forgets” that nobody wanted to dismantle the nation-state of the German people during WWII, but he and Hamas want to destroy Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. They will both fail.

~ Jacob Amir

Jonathan Cook replies:

There are several typical lines of apologia for Israel expressed here that I have dealt with many times before in my articles and in the lengthy introduction to my book Blood and Religion. Taking the points, briefly, paragraph by paragraph:

Para 1: The suggestion is that Israel’s being a state for the Jews is no different from France being a state for the French. That is transparent nonsense, as should be clear the moment we consider whether there is a difference between Germany defining itself as a state for the Germans or a state for the Aryans, or South Africa defining itself as a state for South Africans or a state for the Afrikaners. A state for the Jews is an ethnic state, an entirely different kind of state from France, Britain, the U.S. or most countries we define as democracies.

Para 2: There are a couple of obvious problems with this historical line of reasoning. First, the “Jewish” state proposed by the UN in 1947 would have had a Jewish majority of only a few tens of thousand; even with discriminatory immigration legislation such as the current Law of Return, the “Jewish” state would have had a Palestinian majority within a decade or two because of far higher Palestinian birth rates. So what is the basis for Amir assuming that the UN wanted to guarantee a Jewish state in perpetuity? Second, whatever the UN intended (and, as shown above, I think that is not as clear as Amir would wish) it cannot be used as the basis today for denying groups of Israel’s citizens the right to campaign legitimately to redefine the nature of their regime. A decision taken in 1947 cannot be binding on the current population, including Israel’s Arab citizens, and used to prevent them from demanding that their state be reformed from what it currently is – an ethnocracy, or democracy only for Jews – into a liberal democracy. The fact that the majority are happy with their ethnic privileges at the moment does not mean they will always be the majority or that that they will always be happy with the arrangement. Political systems change for the better, as we saw in South Africa, and decisions taken more than half a century ago should not be cited as a reason to prevent such changes.

Para 3: If Israel’s Jewishness was reflected only in the use of cultural symbols (flags, anthems etc.) that belong to the majority, that might not be much of an issue. (Nonetheless, it should be noted that these symbols are not healthy in a body politic that is shared by two national groups. These symbols are ethnically loaded: i.e. they are designed to exclude from representation those citizens who do not belong to the national majority.) But, of course, Israel’s Jewishness is not just about the flag, language and anthem, as Amir well knows.

Para 4: Israel’s discrimination is not of the kind practiced in most societies, nor is it justified on security grounds. Why does Israel need to exclude its Palestinian citizens from the 93 per cent of the land that has been nationalized and is held in trust for world Jewry rather than Israeli citizens? Why does Israel make it almost impossible for Palestinian citizens to get a house building permit? Why does Israel keep Arab municipalities massively under-funded? And so on, ad infinitum. The example Amir cites proves exactly the opposite of what he claims. Palestinians do not have a separate education system so that they can have cultural autonomy, as he implies. If that were the case, the separate system would have to be equally funded (instead of Arab children receiving a fifth of the money spent on Jewish children), and its curriculum would have to be under the control of the Palestinian community and not of the domestic security service, the Shin Bet, and the government. Instead the separate system has been created to help maintain the state’s Jewishness: keeping Arab citizens uneducated, marginal and poor; developing a network of collaborators in the Arab community; preventing Arab children from learning about their history and developing their Palestinian identity; and preventing Jews and Arabs from developing friendships at school before they learn to be racist or fearful.

Para 5: Amir seems to be saying it is justifiable to ban marriages based on Palestinians’ being Arabs or Palestinians, without any check on whether they actually pose a security threat to Israel. If we take this argument seriously, then equally it could have been argued that German Jews should have been abandoned to their fate rather than allowed to seek sanctuary in Britain and the U.S., which were at war with Nazi Germany. Blanket discrimination based on people’s ethnicity is never justified; we should refer to it by its proper name: racism.

Para 6: A revealing comparison Amir implicitly draws between Nazi Germany and Israel as types of ethnic nation states.

The Disrespect for Truth has Brought a New Dark Age

What a magnificent article! Rarely, if ever, have the contemporary U.S. myths been so surgically lanced by pointed truths in one brief essay. Paul Craig Roberts is the bravest of the brave. Even then, though, the “New Dark Age” is already so oppressive that the face of one devastating American truth probably had to be veiled at the start by the historic whodunit analogy. Isn’t the cunning transposition of culpability for the murders of the York princes a mild comment on the 9/11 caper, in which the chosen geopolitical victims could be blamed for a monumental crime that was still in the war-room planning phase? In a previous essay, the same author posed the question: “Is President Bush sane?” Please, give us a further historical metaphor. Having spurned the stern fatherly advice of the Baker report, will the cruel young scion become a Commodus or a Don Carlos?

~ E. Roby

Paul Craig Roberts replies:

I am very pleased that Edward Roby thinks that I am brave. Most of my acquaintances think that I am a fool for wasting my political connections by speaking truth to power.

I am a little bit more optimistic than Mr. Roby. It is possible that the American Establishment is giving Bush enough rope with which to hang himself. Bush has gotten away with his massive war crimes and his massive crimes against the Constitution, because thoughtless Americans have accepted the government’s 9/11 lie.

Dr. Roberts writes:

“There was no prospect of North Korea attacking America in the 1950s or Vietnam attacking America in the 1960s and none today. The Nazis were defeated by Russia before U.S. troops landed in Europe. The U.S. never faced any threat of invasion from Germany, Italy, or Japan.”

I am in the process of weighing the claims of official history against those of a different perspective. The facts and interpretation of WWII seem to be hotly contested, perhaps as the defining moments of our situation, and though I am open to learning more, I must confess I am mystified by the above assertions regarding the defeat of the Nazis and the non-threat of Japan. Were the Nazis on their way out of France when we attacked? Did not Japan attack Pearl Harbor and represent a real threat to the U.S. coast? This is an honest inquiry, are there resources online or better questions to be asking?

~ Jonathan

Paul Craig Roberts replies:

Yes, I agree that Jonathan needs to do a lot of study before he writes letters about military history. Germany was defeated by the end of January 1943 after a 199 day battle for Stalingrad. Germany and its allies lost 850,000 soldiers in the battle, and Field Marshall Paulus surrendered the surviving elements of his army on Feb. 3, 1943.

From that date onward, the Russians pushed Germany’s forces out of Russia and converged on Berlin. The U.S. troops arrived in June, 1944, by which time Germany was unable to stop the Russian advance. The difference the U.S. troops made was in preventing the Russian occupation of all of Europe. All Japanese war records document that the Japanese knew they had no prospect of invading the U.S. The attack on the U.S. Navy at Pearl Harbor was done in order to prevent the U.S. Navy from interfering in Japanese conquests in the Pacific. A number of high-ranking Japanese officers opposed the attack on Pearl Harbor as a grave military mistake, as Japan had no prospect of following with an attack on the U.S.

The Embarrassment of the Wretched

Indeed, Julius and Schama tempt providence by mentioning Germany. There was a boycott campaign against Nazi Germany because of Hitler’s persecution of the Jews. The biggest breach in this boycott was the Jewish Agency’s Ha’avara agreement, taking German goods.

The Nazis were no fools, having sent emissaries to the Yishuv, and learned quickly how to use the Zionist movement to undermine the solidarity of Diaspora Jews.

~ Charles P.

Ran HaCohen writes: “But while Julius and Schama were busy writing their article, Gaza had been under Israeli siege for months on end. Numbers of dead reached historic levels; a million and a half human beings have been locked in the tiny Strip, deprived of proper medical care and on the verge of starvation.”

True to form, he says nothing about the fact that Israel left the Gaza strip to the last inch more than a year ago. He does not say that the Palestinians continued to fire rockets at Israeli towns and villages. More than 800 rockets were fired in the last year. Even in the last 12 days, when a ceasefire was announced, observed scrupulously by Israel, more than 50 rockets were fired. Yesterday, a 14-year-old boy was critically wounded in Sderot and another 14-year-old was gravely wounded.

No sovereign country can tolerate such attacks on its citizens. Israel is no exception. But, do not expect HaCohen to say that.

One wonders if HaCohen can imagine what would have happened if, immediately after Israel left the Gaza strip, all terror activity from there had ceased. Which means no rocket launching, no weapon smuggling, no efforts to bomb the border crossing points, no efforts to send suicide murderers into Israel. Then all the crossing points would have remained open, there would have been free merchandise exchange, thousands of Gazans would have been able to work in Israel, it would have been possible to travel between the West Bank and Gaza.

The international community’s financial help could have been invested and helped the local economy. But HaCohen did not tell us that the Palestinians chose to continue their war of terror. …

As for the war in Lebanon, HaCohen will not tell us anything about Hezbollah’s military headquarters located in a civilian neighborhood in Beirut, which may explain to him why that neighborhood was bombed.

As the West Bank was not annexed by Israel the relations between Israel and the Palestinians there are not governed by Israeli laws. One can argue what is permissible and what is not under intentional law, but Julius and Schama were right to write that Israeli laws do not apply.

And the security fence has nothing to do with apartheid and everything to do with security. It has been able to significantly reduce the number of the suicide murderers able to enter Israel and has saved the lives of hundreds of Israeli civilians. Again, HaCohen will never say that.

And, the democratically elected Palestinian government does not struggle for a nation-state, as HaCohen claims. It struggles for the elimination of Israel and its replacement by a single Palestinian state, from the sea to the river. And that is why the security fence and the roadblocks are still required.

~ Jacob Amir

Ran HaCohen replies:

A fine example of Israel’s colonialist propaganda. The writer expects the Palestinians to lay down their arms and accept Israel’s occupation, and expresses his confidence – in spite of all the evidence in the past and present – that then, oh then, every little thing’s gonna be all right: Israel will voluntarily end the occupation, and present the Palestinians with the freedom it has always yearned to give them. True, we rob their land, we steal their water and we lock them behind walls. But we do it not because we want their lands, not because desire their water, and not because we wish they weren’t there at all – but simply because they resist our noble intentions, our loving care, and our (sometimes rough, but always well-meant) educational methods.

A tip to promote inter-cultural understanding: When an Israeli tells you he is a “leftist” or “peacenik,” never take this on face value.

You might end up hearing a pro-occupation manifesto like Mr. Amir’s, who is himself a member of a discussion group called Alef, short for “Academic Left.”

A ‘Surge’ Faces Trouble In the Senate

This “surge” is not about Iraq. It is about domestic politics. Mr. Bush will propose a very unreasonable “surge” of troops in Iraq, with a straight face, but disingenuously. Democrats will balk. Thus, coming into the next election, Republicans will then charge that Iraq was lost because of the Democrats’ lack of resolve. Write it on the wall.

~ Warren Dekker

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