Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Location, Location, Location!


We mustn’t be so hard on the anti-Zionists; a lot of them don’t really think the Jews deserve to be stateless forever, in fact they’re generous souls who think there’s no problem with the Jews having a state of their own, just not in Palestine. From the soft-spoken ones who argue the point in academic treatises to the trolls who dump on pro-Israel forums with stuff like “Next Year in Brooklyn!” (because everybody knows Solomon’s Temple was built in Brooklyn /sarc; but just make the slightest suggestion that the non-Jewish “Palestinian nation” is a recent invention and those same people flare in righteous anger), the anti-Zionists say the only problem with the Jewish state is the chosen location.

This brings me to a series of little thought-experiments, but before I begin, I wish to clear the difference between the anti-Zionist stance and the different “Bad Neighborhood” position voiced by various people such as the late Yoram Kaniuk and isolationists. As one American paleoconservative and a true isolationist (a lot of them only pretend to be isolationists, right before spewing the same anti-American and anti-Zionist points you’d get from the Far Left) put it to me on some forum, “I don’t care about the Middle East conflict either way, but you’ve got to realize you’ve built your state in a bad neighborhood.” That’s a position I can respect. My only disagreement, as with the quote on the back cover of Kaniuk’s book, is that it’s out of date: True, Israel is in a bad neighborhood, but our neighbors are no longer confined to the Middle East, as the recent news about Boston, London and Stockholm make clear.

But let me get back to the anti-Zionists, the ones who do care about the Middle East conflict of all the many conflicts in the world for some reason, the ones who say the Jews had the right to set up a state of their own (how kind of them) but they should have set it in a place not already inhabited by “a people who had been on the place for generations.” That’s already one big assumption—to name just a few examples going against that narrative, the family of Arab Knesset member Azmi Bisharah settled in Palestine in the 19th century, and Arafat and Edward Said both came from Egypt—but you know what, I’ll go with it now. Let us embark on a counterfactual journey where we survey the relations of a Jewish state set up elsewhere in the world.

Where do we begin? The most famous proposal for a Jewish national polity outside of Palestine was, of course, Uganda. Actually, Herzl did not suggest setting up the permanent Jewish state there; he suggested it only as a temporary place of shelter while his quest for a charter from the Ottoman Sultan for Jewish inhabitation of Palestine was in the process, not knowing that the Ottoman Empire was not long for the world. But what if, by unforeseen circumstances, Uganda had become the Jewish state?

The answer is so easy: Consider that the present conflict over Palestine is between Jews in Israel who come in all colors (black Ethiopians, brown Sephardim, white Ashkenazim) and Arabs who come in all colors (black Bedouin descendants of slaves from Zanzibar, brown Arabs in many parts and white Arabs in the Galilee), yet the Far Left anti-Zionists have managed to shoehorn this conflict into their race-based view of “white European colonists” versus “brown indigenous Palestinians,” together with a spurious comparison to South Africa to boot. Can you imagine what they’d make of a conflict between the Jews and the black Ugandans? They’d absolutely have a field day with their racial theories then.

The runner-up after Uganda, though much less known, is Argentina, where Baron Hirsch made serious efforts to build self-sufficient Jewish communities in the late 19th century to prepare for statehood. Argentina’s not a bad place, but I mustn’t let my love for Argentine cuisine blind me to the fact that a Jewish state set up there would be confronted with the “Jewish colonists vs. indigenous peoples” once again, the indigenous peoples this time being the local Indians, descendants of the pre-Columbian inhabitants. The Far Left still castigates the United States of America for having been founded on American Indian land, holding back on the vitriol somewhat only because the U.S. is too big a foe to be overcome in the ways they seek to do for Israel; with a Jewish state in Argentina, they would not hold back any more than with the Jewish state on the Land of Israel.

Since I’m touching on American territory, it would be appropriate to refer to the suggestions often made by anti-Zionists that the Jewish state should have been set up in a piece of the vast expanses of North America. Again, a “Jewish reservation” on North American soil would be charged with some made-up pretext of “oppressing the indigenous,” and the charges would be made by the same type of people who would not apply the standard of “evacuating stolen lands” to themselves, because that would entail leaving the comfort of their armchairs.

Now let’s go to a different proposal, the one attributed to an Arabian king, the founder of the House of Saud. As the anti-Zionists will tell you, he suggested the Jewish state be carved out of Germany after its defeat in WWII, as an act of compensation for the Holocaust. It sounds like a most pragmatic suggestion at first: If the Germans ever raise objections to it later, remind them that it is because of the Holocaust. (Amazingly, the same people who favor this proposal are the loudest voices accusing Israel of using the Holocaust for political gain.)

Putting aside my wonder at the optimism of some people—then again, those are the same ones who think a binational state in Palestine could work—I have to point out the flaw in this plan even if the Germans acquiesced to it. Look at Western Europe today, the target of mass colonization by Muslims from the Third World. Do you think they would let a Jewish state in Germany continue to exist? The depredations suffered by Jews under their hands, as in Toulouse for example, say otherwise. They would not be moved by the memory of the Holocaust, either. For one thing, those of them who don’t deny the Holocaust think it’s a totally European affair (it isn’t; beside the Mufti of Jerusalem joining the Nazi cause, it was the Arab pressure on Britain that made the latter close the doors to Jewish refugees of the one land that actually belonged to them). For another, the Islamic world has yet to apologize for its genocides of the Hindus and the Armenians, so don’t expect any remorse even if they were to acknowledge their part in the Holocaust (the aforementioned pressuring of Britain that doomed millions of Jews).

There is no escaping it: Other places for a Jewish state would run into the same problems as today, the problem of charges of oppressing the indigenous peoples of the area, or the problem of Islamic imperialists wishing to bring the Jews under dhimmitude, or both. The only remaining places that might be exempt would be desolate ones like Birobidzhan, which, at his convenience, Stalin dissolved as quickly as he made it a Jewish autonomous region, or Antarctica, as suggested to me by one neo-Nazi troll posting on Frontpage Mag. However, as in Jurassic Park, so with Jew-hatred, nature always finds a way; a Jewish state in Antarctica would probably be targeted for environmentalist reasons, such as liberating the Penguistinian population from oppression by its Ziontarctic masters. I wish I could be only joking about this, but in our insane world it would be perfectly possible.

In summary, despite the contention of the anti-Zionists that a different location would have prevented all conflict, it takes only a little common-sense reasoning to realize that things would be much the same. Whether it is the indigenous peoples of another place or the fact that our “bad neighborhood” has come to settle and colonize most of the First World, the Jews would not know peace and safety in a state outside the Land of Israel any more than on it. And worse, those would really be places that a Jew could never consider home, just as a Greek in the 1820s could not seriously accept building a new Parthenon outside Hellas.

The best outcome, then, is the very outcome that has actually ensued: That the Jews have set up their state in their ancestral homeland of the Land of Israel a.k.a. Palestine, the only place in the world they can fight for with self-confidence, for they are its one and only indigenous people. Thus the Zionist is in the best position to turn the tables on the anti-Zionists, by making it clear to them that his is a movement for the self-determination of an indigenous people while theirs is about supporting imperialist aggression and colonialist theft of land perpetrated at the indigenous Palestinian nation—the Jewish nation.


  1. Their race based objection is itself a recent invention concocted out of the KGB inspired and engineered people's liberation and 'freedom' movements of the 1960's. Race itself, as the basis for antisemitism is barely older than that, more or less originating with Mein Kampf. No - it's simpler than that. It's plain old antisemitic hatred in a newer shabbier clothes.

    When the Jews lived by the millions in Europe they were killed because they wouldn't assimilate. And when they did they were simply killed some more and expelled. When the Jews came to Palestine in the 1880's they were treated as foreigners but the Ottomans hated everyone and treated nearly everyone like slaves so the 'foreign' aspect didn't sell well among the Arabs themselves. The Arabs then didn't see it as a racial hatred but merely one more class of infidel untermenschen to be oppressed and killed. This was the secret ingredient. Not race, but religion and all the cultural, historical and big R Religious beliefs that are wrapped up in Islam. The xenophobic paranoia, the fear, the ignorance, the theocratic integration of Islam into every single aspect of private, public and civic life.

    For if you look at the very earliest days of Nazi power in Germany - you will find that the Nazis themselves were by default, Zionists because they just wanted a quick way to get rid of the Jews.

    Has anyone seen Arnon Goldfinger's "The Flat"?

    It touches on this weird story. And it was the Arabs in Mandatory Palestine who from the earliest days even before WW1 would not accept a single Jew living there. Not a single one. Even though there were hundreds of thousands of Jews already in the Maghreb, the palestinian Arabs were unique in never accepting even a single Jew to live among them. Not one. Nor did they ever suggest that the Jews already there go to some other diaspora Jewish conclave, say, Tunisia or Algeria or Iran. They just wanted to them all dead. An unbroken string of riots, massacres, pogroms from 1920 to 1940 shows this. But it was never a "Where should the Jews live?" issue. It was never a problem of where to implement Jewish nationalism. It was a problem that Jews existed at all.

    And to this day, I suppose I'm in the minority on this. It's not merely a question of why among ALL the nationalistic movements of the last 120+ years from German, Romanian, Ukranian, Polish, Serbian, Syrian, Iraqi, Iranian, Egyptian, Armenian, Turkish to the Arabs, why is ONLY Jewish nationalism excluded? To me it's fundamentally an issue of why among all the nations should all the Jews be singled out for extermination whether or not they ever had have now or will achieve a nationhood at all? When there was no Israel there were still genocides of Jews. And those genocides had nothing at all to do with Zionism in the least. They had to do with killing Jews.

    1. It offered a better quality of life because of the Zionist inflow and investment and build up. But whether you want to hang it all on the Mufti and claim that 'ordinary' Arabs weren't that swayed, then how is it there were thousands of murders and hundreds of massacres and pogroms?

    2. Because that was life under the Ottomans. It was no great shakes for the Arabs either, but non-Muslims, especially Jews, fared the worst.

      I am not claiming anything, by the way, just offering what Karsh suggests in his book, Palestine Betrayed, which is that the local Arabs were more interested in living alongside their Jewish neighbors than we may believe, particularly when accounting for the benefits they received toward a good life.

    3. Mostly because dhimmi was ensconced in law. Arabs could afford to appear 'tolerant'. But wherever Jews could flee, they did. Between 1906 and 1920 the Jewish population of Iraq dropped from 256,000 to 78,000. They were leaving the eastern edge of the Ottoman Empire and then the nascent Mesopotamia-Iraq to somewhere. Anywhere.

    4. However, we are discussing Palestine.

      I did not say Arabs were tolerant, just that according to Karsh it was their leaders that exacerbated intolerance, even among those that were inclined to live as neighbors in peace.

      As for Iraq, there were approx. 135,000 Jews living there in the late 1940s until they were expelled, according to several sources, so I am curious where your information arises.

    5. Edwin Black, "The Farhud" Chapter 14, page 289

  2. Trudy,

    "Their race based objection is itself a recent invention ... Race itself, as the basis for antisemitism is barely older than that, ... No - it's simpler than that. It's plain old antisemitic hatred in a newer shabbier clothes."

    That's exactly right: Jew-hatred is protean, changing to adapt to the times; so that when the Christian deicide accusation was no longer fashionable in an increasingly secularizing world, accusations of capitalist greed, Communist nation-wrecking and racial subversion became the norm for Jew-haters, and when those were no longer acceptable after the Holocaust, then the polite-society Jew-haters resorted to portraying the Jews (as "Zionists") as the "new Nazis."

    That's the man behind the curtain. That's the ideological underpinning. Operatively speaking, I no longer use the Jew-hatred accusation automatically when confronted with the anti-Zionists' lines, even though I hold anti-Zionism to be 100% Jew-hatred. If the anti-Zionists make a point that can be clearly shown as one where the Jewish nation is held to a different standard from all other nations, then I call them Jew-haters without hesitation. The U.N.'s obsession with Israel while there are genocides going on elsewhere in the world is a good example of this.

    However, the anti-Zionists often claim to be motivated by universal values and deny holding the Jewish nation to a different standard. For example, in their use of "anti-racism" as their motivation, with examples as to how they apply it to other nations (which, by the way, almost always happen to be exclusively white nations; Arab racism toward blacks, for instance, is given a pass). In those cases I do not call them Jew-haters (even though I hold they are), but instead I tell them how they are actually in support of injustice, or that I oppose their pipe-dreams because they can lead to untold bloodshed.

    So, when they say, "We support a binational state in Palestine because we believe nations can and should coexist happily without borders separating them," my reply to them is, "That's a very nice-sounding idea, but my nation refuses to be sacrificed on the altar of your dangerous visions." As far as I'm concerned, anti-Zionism really doesn't have to be motivated by Jew-hatred to be illegitimate; it is enough that it wishes to rob the Jewish nation of its self-determination on their land, and that makes it as worthy of being stamped out in my eyes as a Greek would be justified in wishing anti-Hellenism (a hypothetical movement to dispossess the Greeks of their nation-state in Hellas) gone down the dustbin of history.

    Anti-Zionism is today's preferred form of Jew-hatred, no question about it, but it would deserve execration even if it weren't so.


    "Regular Arabs also came to Palestine because it offered a better quality of life."

    Once the land started to bloom at the hands of the Zionists. The Arabs in Palestine, then, are big beneficiaries of Zionism. That's a good argument to use, but watch out for the anti-Zionist hypocrites pouncing at it right away with their racist "white man's burden" accusations.

    1. As they, in addition, deny the right for people to decide for themselves what is in their own best interest.

  3. Patently unpopular right wing writers, Jean Francois Revel in particular and Pascal Bruckner to some degree and less unpopular writers on the left like Paul Berman and Nick Cohen touch on the New Left of the 1960's and how it originated as antiwestern movements where 'populist' movements fomented by the left existed for their own sake. They came into being strictly to be 'against' something and never 'for' something. Nick Cohen moreover talks about the schizoid tendency of the New Left in "What's Left?" to be a movement of atrocities for peace, oppression for tolerance, terrorism for freedom and so on.

  4. Ultimately, the fatal flaw in all the thinking of the anti-Zionists and their fellow travelers is the fact that Israel EXISTS, many have been born in that Jewish state and it ain't going anywhere being more than militarily prepared to continue existing. Them's the facts Jack and Jackettes. Them's the facts and nothing but the facts so sorry bout yer luck. So go pound salt.

  5. I have to say, Zion, you don't hear a whole lot about Birobidzhan in the US these days.

    It's not exactly a household name in these parts.

    According to Wiki, however, Birobidzhan is currently a center for Yiddish culture and learning. Yiddish, needless to say, is the language of my grandparents and their grandparents and their grandparents. Yiddish is the language of the Pale of Settlement, after all. It is the language of the shtetl.

    I am pretty sure that they spoke it in Medzhybizh when my great, great grandparents were there.

    But I have to say, much to my ongoing shame, I have no interest in the Yiddish language or even much interest in the cultures of either ghetto or shtetl. I understand, of course, that my knowledge does not exceed my arrogance, which is why on the train between Tel Aviv and Haifa I could explain to Laurie - in my full throated American way - why it is that I prefer Hebrew to Yiddish, despite the fact that I am not fluent in either.

    I am not interested in the language of the ghetto and I am certainly not interested in the ontology of the ghetto. The ways of being in the ghetto or the shtetl, as I assume that you would agree, are ways of being and of knowing that the Jewish people still need to get beyond - present company excepted.

    My comment here is only in reference to a tiny bit of what you have written above, but it certainly resonated.

    According to Wiki:

    Jewish culture was revived in Birobidzhan much earlier than elsewhere in the Soviet Union. Yiddish theaters opened in the 1970s. Yiddish and Jewish traditions have been required components in all public schools for almost fifteen years, taught not as Jewish exotica but as part of the region's national heritage.[12] The Birobidzhan Synagogue, completed in 2004, is next to a complex housing Sunday School classrooms, a library, a museum, and administrative offices. The buildings were officially opened in 2004 to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast.

    Well, I very much wish them the best, but if anyone thinks for one moment that the Jewish people, as a whole, have so little self-esteem that we would have accepted a homeland for ourselves outside of our historical homeland of Israel, then are simply not dealing in reality.

    Sure, I might have liked it if Israel had been located in Baja, but, hey, I love the Pacific Ocean and the fishing in those parts is legendary.

    Thankfully, however, the early Zionists were not particularly interested in the cognitive meanderings (how else to describe this comment?!) of some child of the Ukraine who had yet to be born.

    Excellent piece, my man.

    1. Mike,

      "According to Wiki, however, Birobidzhan is currently a center for Yiddish culture and learning."

      I didn't know Birobidzhan was revived. I read somewhere that Stalin dissolved it as a Jewish autonomous region about the same time as his Jew-hatred went up to a fever pitch leading to the Doctors' Trial. Regardless of the Thaw, a Jewish state set up on the politically shaky ground of Russia (near the Chinese border, at that) wouldn't have been much safer than Israel as currently situation. Which is my whole point in the article.

      "But I have to say, much to my ongoing shame, I have no interest in the Yiddish language or even much interest in the cultures of either ghetto or shtetl."

      You'll find that Israeli Jews mostly have no interest in it either. I chalked it up first to the tendency of olim to turn their backs on the Diaspora heritage—Yiddish, Ladino and Arabic were purposely rejected. But that was long ago, in my grandparents' and parents' generations; today there's a surge of interest in Ladino and Persian that somehow doesn't extend to Yiddish. I don't know why that is, but it may be for as irrational a reason as preferring the languages of the warmer world to that of sleet and snow.

      "The ways of being in the ghetto or the shtetl, as I assume that you would agree, are ways of being and of knowing that the Jewish people still need to get beyond"

      Or as it is called, "Getting the ghetto out of the Jew." I try not to put it in such harsh, Diaspora-negating terms; my focus is more on the positive aspect of it, which I call, "Recognizing ourselves as the indigenous of this land." Or like I said in another comment: On the Land of Israel, we Jews out-Inca the Incas (or out-Quechua the Quechuas, or out-Navajo the Navajo, or whatever classic exemplar of indigeneity you choose).

      Our self-confidence depends on it.

      "Thankfully, however, the early Zionists were not particularly interested..."

      Nor even in Herzl's suggestion of Uganda as a temporary refuge. Most of the Zionist delegates walked out the door in front of Herzl's face after he made that suggestion. Rarely do you get Jews to display such unanimity. It figures: Although most (but not all) of them were no longer observant, they had, unlike Herzl with his assimilationist past, grown in religious homes. Rational or not, the Uganda proposal was anathema to them.

      I too think they made the best choice. The purpose of this piece, after all, was to explain to all the doubters why this was so.

    2. Yet remember, Yiddish was also the language of many a strong Jewish woman who kept diaspora families together against all worldly odds.

      If I may play (semi-)contrarian for a moment!

      I would also strongly prefer Hebrew myself, personally, for obvious reasons, but just had to get that out.

      Getting fully back on topic, I fully agree with everything Zion says here...

    3. Jay,

      "Yet remember, Yiddish was also the language of many a strong Jewish woman who kept diaspora families together against all worldly odds."

      Eat your soup before it gets cold! And don't leave a single drop; there are starving children in Africa!


      Don't you believe it, but I have a friend of Yemenite extraction who's learned Yiddish of his own accord. He's pretty fluent in it, but when he speaks you're reminded so much of that scene from Blazing Saddles that it's painful trying to keep a straight face. :D

      Zai gezunt, Jay. A gite shabbes to you all.

    4. I have to say, it slays me when Laurie now uses my residual Yiddish.

      Every once in awhile she come out with something like, "Oh, I am going to give Little Snort a kitsel behind the ear."

      She's not Jewish, you know. Her ancestry is Protestant, but her father converted to Catholicism in his relative youth, for some reason. She has since disavowed her Catholicism, apparently over the pedophilia scandals, but I always hoped that my influence did not lead her away from her faith.

      She's an American. She's a little of this type of European and a little of that type of European.

      But, y'know, she's a fan of Isaac Bashevis Singer and I have just recently turned her on to Philip Roth - which is probably a big mistake!

      I just gave her a copy of Goodbye Columbus (1959)

      I remember that book fondly from when I was a tiny Zionist.

    5. Newark, represent! ;-P

      It's tragic what the state of New Jersey did to the old Jewish community of Weequahic (week-wake is always fun to say!), in the South Ward, where Roth grew up and where most of his fiction is set, when they tore it apart with highways in the 60s and 70s.

      (The '67 riots a bit north up in the Central Ward didn't help, either.)

      What's left of the neighborhood is still, all these decades later, as beautiful as ever, but it was gutted for good of all life by that elevated traffic sewer and now it's mostly just... eerie... being there these days. So silent, so still.

      Now THAT was a center of Yiddish culture undeniably worthy of respect. Too bad all the delis are gone now, except for Hobby's, which isn't even down that way. Its main location is still downtown, but they also now have a place inside The Rock, where the NJ Devils play - imagine that! An authentic, old-school Jewish Deli outside of NYC actually thriving again!

      Ah, but I ramble. It must be Friday. I have to re-up my herb and spice supply down at the Italian Market if I can make it there later this afternoon, and the farmers' market calls tomorrow. Peas are coming into their own at the moment. It's definitely summer 'round here! :)

  6. Replies
    1. Shirl,

      My ancestors may have sojourned in Lithuania for some generations, just as the ancestor of my friend of Yemenite extraction I mentioned did in Yemen. Temporary stays aside—even if "temporary" gets to mean over a thousand years—we're all Palestinians, by virtue of being Jews. That's the basic Jewish truth that anti-Zionism seeks to deny.

  7. I am proud to be Israeli, but I do not consider myself a "Palestinian" in any way, since there was never a country called "Palestine." My father was a Palestinian Jew since he lived in the Palestine Mandate territory prior to the birth of the nation of Israel, but when he became an Israeli, he never referred to himself as a "Palestinian" again.

    1. Dafna Yee,

      I know the history, but my use of the term "Palestinian" to refer to Jews and only Jews is mainly because of present concerns. It's not that my terminology has no pedigree—one need only reflect on Immanuel Kant's reference to the Jews of his 18th-century Germany as "the Palestinians among us" to see that—but my concern is with the present-day usage of the term "Palestinian" to rob the Jewish nation of its rightful and exclusive claim to the Land of Israel. This is what I aim to counter directly with my co-optation, or retaking, of the term "Palestinian." As such, it's not the meaning of the name "Palestine" that I wish to address, but of "Palestinian."

      In fact, my thrust may become a lot clearer if you consider that my goal isn't that the Jews be referred to as merely Palestinians—it's that they be acknowledged to be the indigenous Palestinians. For, as you may well be aware of, the anti-Zionist narrative frames the conflict as being about "Western, White, European colonists" dispossessing the Arabic-speaking "indigenous Palestinians"; I aim to counter this Big Lie by means of the truth that the Jews are the only nation that can be called the indigenous of the Land of Israel a.k.a. Palestine.

    2. I wish you well on your quest to take back the Land of Israel for its rightful owners -- us Jews.

    3. Thanks, Dafna! And kudos to you on your responses to the anti-Zionist nasties elsewhere.