Micah Goodman Catch-67 Part III Projections and Theory

As many do, Goodman predicts that Palestinians will be a majority in the Palestinian Mandate in the not too distant future because of their birth rate. That would mean a stark choice for Israelis – an apartheid state in the West Bank or a unitary state in all of Palestine? But the latter presumes the inclusion of Gaza. Further, the latter assumes that Palestinians would not continue to be denied political rights, but not in a way to entail apartheid or that Area C might be divided from the rest of the West Bank with additional land added to make the Palestinian area approximately equivalent to the area controlled by Arabs in 1967. This would presumably be done with Israel controlling the security of the area and Jews who continue to live in the Palestine proto-state area being ensured physical protection and the same civil rights that West Bank Palestinians would have who remained in Area C that would be annexed by Israel.

Goodman also has a thesis about the shift in the position of the Left in Israel, from a politics in which no peace with the Arabs was possible, to one, after the Six Day War, where the dream of trading land for peace was surrendered and Israelis came to believe the Arabs were unwilling to make peace. At the same time, labour Zionists were surrendering their socialist dream. For Goodman it is no accident that the ideal of peace displaced the ideal of egalitarianism in the Left dreamers of Zion. Goodman never justifies this substitution thesis.

Further, Goodman casts that shift into a constant religious time trope of Leftist idealists. “The past is rooted in sin; the future in redemption.” (40) UN Resolution 242 calling for an exchange of land for peace mirrored and even underpinned that trope, but this was rejected by the Arab League’s three no’s, no to exchange of land for peace, no to negotiations and no to recognition. The problem is that Goodman truncates this whole shift and only offers less than a page to the peace with Egypt. Scholars like Seth Anziska (Preventing Palestine: A Political History from Camp David to Oslo) argue that, rather than marking a definitive shift to a peace path, Camp David, in reifying the Israeli rights to settlements in the West Bank and hiving off the agreement with the Egyptians as a separate accord, built in the key obstacle to ever concluding a peace with the Palestinians, namely the rights to settle in the West Bank.

According to Goodman, “The peace treaty that was ultimately signed between Israel and Egypt in 1979 gave the new left a fresh impetus and injected it with new hope.” (45) However, according to Anziska, the Camp David Accords effectively denied Palestinian existence as a collectivity and ensured Israeli control over the very space under most contention. Jimmy Carter’s attempt to ensure Palestinian sovereignty was permanently undermined.

This is a very different narrative, and neither one of the Left nor the Right, but a claim to be based on objective evidence rather than tropes and myths. Peres’ vision of a transactionalist peace based on mutual economic interests had been structurally undercut by the political terms of the Camp David Accords. In effect, the Israeli Left was lying to itself and lying to the world even if not deliberately or consciously.

Why is this important? Because Goodman’s whole thesis depends on two competing ideas, the dream of a Greater Israel and the dream of Peace Now. But what if the dream of peace now is underpinned by a structural arrangement that inhibits and undermines the possibility of peace and fosters, even if unintentionally, a Greater Israel. More significantly, what if the dream of Greater Israel is not really a dream of an Israel controlling the security and population of the West Bank and really merely annexing key areas next to Israel? Then the desperate vision of a future unitary state in which Palestinians constitute the majority (Goodman 69) is but a misleading nightmare and one not really shared in any depth by Israelis, even if the Left often pays lip service to that nightmare. The tension between a Jewish and non-democratic vision versus a democratic but Palestinian majoritarianism is simply a false dichotomy.

For that is not how most Israelis offer their narrative. The occupation did not instigate the Second Intifada. The Second Intifada took place in spite of the offer to end the occupation and retreat from the settlement activity and perhaps even because the offer was seen as a sign of weakness. The Left was effectively destroyed.

But why did the Arab League three no’s not destroy the peace process, but the Second Intifada did? Goodman argues that, “The new right and the new left are mirror images. The new left no longer argues that withdrawing from the territories will bring peace. Rather, leftists maintain that sustaining a military presence there will bring disaster. The new right no longer argues that settling the territories will bring redemption. Right-wingers claim that withdrawing from them will bring disaster. Both have replaced their greatest hopes with their darkest fears.” (61)

This is not how I read the developments since the Six Day War. The new right and the new left are NOT mirror images but complementary. It is not that leftists any longer believe that sustaining a military presence in the West Bank will bring disaster, but they have come to believe that the combination of withdrawing a military presence and withdrawing the settlements will bring disaster. Right wingers still believe that the settlements in the West Bank bring redemption, but have come to believe, by and large, that settling the whole of the West Bank is no longer required for redemption. The two sides have come from different places to adopt complementary theses. Further, the Left has surrendered hope for despair rather than fear. The Right has surrendered faith for a more refined and limited resignation.

What I (and Hirschman) call the passions, Goodman calls ideology. What I (and Hirschman) call interests, Goodman calls arguments. However, ideologies and passions are supported by arguments, but ones very difficult to dislodge. By contrast, arguments for interests depend almost exclusively on empirical details. Further, instrumentalism (arguments for interests) define a modern identity. In contrast, ideologies define a more classical moral identity that is as true of the Left as it is of the Right. Both, contrary to Goodman, justify courses of action.

Thus, Goodman and I have a theoretical difference as well as a difference in reading the history of Zionism. Goodman writes that Israel is a liberal democracy surrounded by anti-Western cultural forces, one resisting any Western invasion and one desiring to purify the Middle East of a foreign non-Islamic presence as well. Goodman wrote that antisemitism was rooted in the belief that any non-Muslim sovereignty in the realm of Islam was an offence against God. (67) However, any international survey of the left in the world and some right-wing governments, especially of Putin’s Russia (cf. Izabella Tabarovsky, “Soviet Anti-Zionism and Contemporary Left Antisemitism”), suggests that the roots of antisemitism go much deeper and far beyond simply the Islamic world.

I concur in Goodman’s picture of the complementary passionate forces behind the “resistance” that oppose the instrumental ones. In that sense, the Palestinian passions match and are opposed to the complementary Jewish ones. I am convinced that interests and only interests can be aligned, a factor that Goodman shoves to the sidelines. However, security interests rather than economic interests divide Palestinians and Jewish Israelis. It is the combination of security interests and passionate beliefs that deliver a knockout blow to any economic instrumental forces behind cooperation.

Goodman argues, as do many Israelis, that the issue of the Palestinian right of return has haunted Israel’s existence since 1948. In reality, the prospect of refugee return was initially just an adjunct to a Palestinian return to dominance. It only became a real prominent issue, other than a propagandist one, when the trade of land for peace was on the table after 1967. However, contrary to the dominant conventional wisdom, the return of the Palestinians to Israel proper in the multilateral talks did not turn out to be the enormous obstacle as originally envisioned. The main issue instead became the problem of a “right” to return rather than actual return and the problem of return to a Palestinian state rather than Israel. For most Palestinian refugees already lived in Palestinian-dominated territories. Nevertheless, Goodman, like Halevi, continues to believe that Palestinians have to trade the right of return for Israelis surrendering control over the land in the West bank when this is no longer a key issue.

Like Halevi, Goodman also views the Nakba as dominating the Palestinian narrative, which it does. But just as I have argued that the Holocaust can be both historically and mythologically detached from the idea and rebirth of an Israeli state, so can that happen with the Nakba. It is not the determining huge force that both Halevi and Goodman attribute to it.

This is Goodman’s summary of the residue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There are “three components: the centuries-long trauma of Islam’s humiliation by the West; the decades-long trauma of the mass Palestinian exodus during the War of Independence; and the fifty-year trauma of occupation and military rule from the Six-Day War to the present. The solution of two states for two peoples addresses only the third component.” (78)

My argument is that the only real issue is the occupation and a meaningful and doable partition. Nothing can be done about a past sense of humiliation and it cannot be addressed by any accord. On the other hand, the Palestinian refugee issue can and has been handled by ready-at-hand compromises and has not turned out to be the envisioned obstacle imagined by both Israelis and the West and advertised as such by the Palestinians.

When we add to this the distorting emphasis on the demographic problem – which Goodman still sees as central – and Israel’s alleged growing diplomatic isolation that ignores Israel’s wider diplomatic and economic acceptance, we are being served a narrative that makes the problem much more difficult to crack than it really is. The choice is not really total withdrawal or the impossibility of peace as Goodman describes the Hobson’s choice at the beginning of Chapter 6 in concurrence with a dominant Left narrative. The choice may be significant unilateral withdrawal, very gradual security withdrawal and very gradual increased transfer of state powers to Palestine. Such a belief need not reinforce a continued Israeli domination of the West Bank. This is, in essence, the Goodman peace initiative restored.

Goodman argues that, “The right’s denial of the demographic risk is deeply rooted as is the left’s denial of the territorial security risk.” (91) I have suggested that the focus on the demographic issue is a sideshow and that there is very little if any denial of a security risk by most Israelis. Further, left wing Israelis have their own hidden passions and are not just instrumentalists just as the right has its own instrumentalism and is not governed simply by passion even if leftists tend toward cosmopolitanism and rightists tend to emphasize nationalism. The left’s reverence for a positive view of nationalism is well documented in Yoram Hazony’s The Virtue of Nationalism. Zionism by definition prioritizes nationalism over cosmopolitanism without denying the importance of an internationalist outlook.  The vast majority of Israelis still value the precepts of Zionism and only the radical left, as Goodman contends, despairs of Zionism. (118)

Micah Goodman Catch-67: The Left, the Right, and the Legacy of the Six-Day War Part II Israeli History

I have suggested that the issue is not psychological, not humiliation. The issue concerns the general conviction among most Palestinians about the intentions of the Zionists. The Palestinians believe (and I concur are justified in believing), that the Zionist movement, from the beginning, wanted a Jewish state in all of Palestine. Initially, up until 1935, Zionists may have wanted a state in which a majority of Jews in Palestine (as a result of continuing immigration and land purchases) could live alongside and in co-existence with a minority of just over a million Palestinians. A minority of Palestinians accepted that this was indeed the goal of the Zionists which their leaders were determined to oppose. Most believed, and continue to believe, that Jews have no right to live in any part of Palestine – except perhaps pre-Zionist Jews and their descendants.

After 1935, the Jews first gave up on co-existence because the Palestinians, they realized, were unwilling to live as a minority in a majoritarian Jewish-dominated unified state. It may be correct that the Palestinian belief that Jews looked forward to a practically complete dispossession of the indigenous Arab population in 1948 was incorrect, but the Jews were very willing to accept the dispossession of 700,000 Palestinians even if they were not responsible for all or even most of that dispossession. Jews may not have wanted a wholly Jewish state before 1935, but certainly after 1935, they did want to live in a majoritarian Jewish state even if, reluctantly, that meant partition when the numbers no longer seemed to be there to immigrate to Israel following the extermination of European Jewry.

Further, the influx of the Jews from Arab lands and of over a million Russians seemed to revive and reinforce the belief among many Israelis that Jews could indeed live as a majority in a unified Jewish state, especially if Gaza was excluded from it. This was not a belief based on humiliation and simply nostalgia for the past, but on a realistic appraisal of Israeli intent and practices. Settlements were needed for physical security and became the wedge for Israelis to revive the belief in a majoritarian Jewish state in Israel, Judea and Samaria. Under such circumstances, given the understandable Palestinian response, the Left in Israel began to wither on the vine. It is that shrinking Left that nostalgically clings to the Green Line as the reference point and experiences humiliation when dealing with the larger international community. However, that humiliation as a psychological state rather than a result of events is not the reality of the Palestinian identity, but a projection of guilt-ridden Leftists onto the Palestinian psyche.

Why the correlation between Jewish Israeli (and diaspora) religious beliefs and the resistance to surrender the settlements and even cease their expansion? Goodman’s observation of this correlation is accurate. Further, it is true that Jewish Zionism has shifted over the history of the creation and development of the Israeli state, but so have the beliefs of secularists. The latter are no longer overwhelmingly socialists. Among many of the latter, the old belief in a majority of Jews governing the old polity of Palestine has been revived.

It did so, I contend, more forcefully among the religious only because the religious were traditionally less disposed to rely on force and on the modern priority of interests to determine their future. While gradually accepting interests as a determining factor, hence an increasing emphasis on security, they are, because of their beliefs, more prone to give greater emphasis to passions than interests. And the passion for a Jewish dominated state in all of the Mandate of Palestine is, in their minds, an old and honourable Jewish dream.

What about the shift on the Left? Did the Left evolve from a social movement to a diplomatic one? There were always Zionists who relied on international diplomacy and the infusion of interests from the international community to help find peace. Those numbers, I declare, have always been a minority. They never shrivelled. Rather the belief in partition as the answer shrivelled, especially among those who believed in partition between a physically secure Jewish state and a Palestinian one. With the retreat of that conviction, the Left turned itself into a marginal political force.

What about Goodman’s historical portrait of the development of Zionism? I would argue that he makes as many mistakes as Halevi. Ze’ev Jabotinsky was no different than the Zionist leadership on the Left in believing that a Jewish majoritarian state depended upon cooperation with Britain – at least, until 1935. Goodman does not provide a single endnote to back up his conviction that Jabotinsky was always sceptical of the British and always believed that they would betray the Jews. Endnote 1 to Chapter One cites Jabotinsky’s concerns about the stability and reliability of the British in 1918. But concern about instability and reliability cannot be equated with complete distrust. Jabotinsky simply believed that if the Jews did not prove themselves capable of creating facts on the ground through the use of force, Britain would be prone to desert the Zionist cause.

Britain did desert the Zionist cause of a majority Jewish polity in all of Palestine because the British leaders came to believe, mostly correctly, that Britain had been led to support the Balfour Declaration by naïve Christian Zionists, and that it was far more realistic to protect the route to India by winning the favour of the Arabs. Most colonial British officers on the ground opposed the Jewish vision. Jabotinsky, as an ex-British officer, knew this. He also knew that the British respected power. Thus, his reliance on arms even as he initially counted on British diplomacy to forward the cause of the Zionists even when he was sentenced to fifteen years in prison by the British for organizing the arming of a Jewish militia. It was over differences on the use of force and his ambition to create a majoritarian state over the whole of the original Palestine Mandate and not just the Mandate west of the Jordan after King Hussein had been awarded Transjordan as a prize, that he split from Chaim Weizmann in 1923, but not over the need of British diplomacy to advance the Zionist cause. By 1935, he was among a group of Zionists prophesying disaster for European Jewry and was not even the most apocalyptic one. Nahum Goldmann provided that.

Goodman was correct that Jabotinsky was the strongest and loudest voice predicting Arab resistance to the Zionist dream of a majority Jewish state in even the post-Transjordan Palestine Mandate. But the belief in British betrayal and in the extent that Germans would engage in extermination came much later than Goodman suggests. Why is this important? Because it is critical that we not simply align prophecy with political opinions.

Goldmann was a moderate, but had the greatest apocalyptic vision. Jabotinsky’s was more run-of-the-mill, but, among the Zionist leadership, he was the greatest nineteenth century foreign policy realist and old fashioned nineteenth century liberal who believed in the supremacy of the individual. He would have been just as appealing, if not more so, to Jorge García Granados and Enrique Rodríguez Fabregat, the Jewish Zionists’ strangest supporters on the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP). It is now Jabotinsky’s vision that prevails in Israel today.

What about Goodman’s contention that the basic dominant belief on the Israeli Right today is Jewish religious maximalism versus the moderates? Currently, the population of the West Bank consists of about 3.3 million (some estimates go as high as 4.5 million, though, as Goodman shows, Yoram Ettinger in the advancement of the position of the Right insisted there are only 1.75 million Palestinians in Judea and Samaria.) I myself accept the position that, in fact, the population of the West Bank is made up of 2,400,000 Palestinians alongside 900,000 Israelis, with half of them living in Greater Jerusalem. I believe Goodman concurs in this even though he refuses to arbitrate among demographers. It would take at least another long treatise to sort out this dispute.

However, accepting the position of Ettinger for the sake of argument does not help. For the issue is not really Palestinian displacement or even the risks of Palestinian domination, but uprooting of the settlements. Shifting the emphasis to the issue of Palestinian displacement, in reality, a non-issue, serves only as a distraction from the problem at hand.

In Jeffrey Goldberg’s long piece in The New Yorker referred to in the last blog, in his estimate when he wrote the piece in 2004, 800 Jewish settlers lived among Hebron’s 150,000 Palestinian residents. Currently, the World Population Review claims that there are just over 700,000 in the whole of Hebron with just over 160,000 in the city alone. The city has the largest population concentration in the West Bank. Wikipedia claims its population in 2019 was just over 215,000 with 500-850 Jewish settlers living in and around the old quarter in Kiryat Arba, Beit Hadassah, Beit Romano, Tel Rumeida and Avraham Avinu. 

Four of these five settlements trace their roots to pre-Israel times and some to periods even before modern Zionism, though some, like Avraham Avinu, expanded into nearby vacated Palestinian stores. In 1929, an Arab pogrom erased any Jewish presence in Hebron when sixty-seven Jews were murdered. A valid argument can be made that none of these settlements are about religious extremism, or, at least, not just about and perhaps not even mainly about messianic Judaism, but about re-establishing the rights of Jews to practice their religion in places of worship that have been part of their religious heritage.  

Tel Rumeida can be traced back to 1807, though the outpost of Ramat Yesha established in 1984 was originally considered a provocation before it was legalized in 2001. Beit Romano goes back to 1901. Beit Hadassah dated originally to 1893. Only Kiryat Arba can be traced to the post-Israel period in 1968 immediately after the victory in the Six Day War, but it too began as an effort in the outpost of Givat Ha’avot near the Cave. Nevertheless, it contradicts the Goodman thesis that extremist West Bank settlement began almost a decade after the Six Day War, for, Goodman contends, up until then settlements were established only for security purposes.

Though I believe that all received financing from the Movement for a Greater Israel and the last was spearheaded by the Zealot, Rabbi Moshe Levinger, most of these settlements can be defended on two other principles: prior domain and an insistence that the areas of ancient Israel cannot and should not be made Judenrein. There is very little evidence that these settlements by Zealots are intended to displace Palestinians.

However, it was in Hebron in 1994 that the Jewish terrorist, Dr. Baruch Goldstein, killed 29 Muslims at prayer in the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Jeffrey Goldberg described racist comments, like “Arabs are sand niggers.” Goldberg described religious Yeshiva boys harassing and insulting Arab girls, though there was even more antisemitic graffiti. Further, although Levinger favoured civil but not national political rights for Palestinians, he also believed in incentive transfers as a mode of ethnic cleansing, though he insisted Jews would protect Palestinians as long “as they behaved.”

The reality, however, is, as Goldberg found out, the settlers are zealots driven to act in God’s name. “Cohen and other settlers say that they are obliged to fulfill God’s command that Jews settle the land of Israel. But there are safer places to live than King David Street in Hebron. I asked Cohen how she reconciled her decision to settle here with an even greater imperative of Judaism, the saving of lives—in this case, those of her children. She glared at me. ‘Hellenizers’—secular Jews—’will never understand,’ she said with contempt.” Cohen had hung a picture of Baruch Goldstein as a martyr for God. There is also a rendering of Mt. Moriah in Jerusalem in which the Dome of the Rock has been replaced by an imagined Third Temple.

But the demographic reality is that up to three-quarters of the settlers in The West Bank have settled there for economic reasons, not because of religious beliefs. Even the religious settlers can be divided into two different groups, the Biblical literalists who believe they are following God’s plan and direction in settling Judea and Samaria and the Zealots, like Levinger, who would also physically resist any effort of Israeli authorities to uproot them. Levinger’s followers are Zealots and they live in the midst of Palestinian-populated areas along the ridge of the Judean Hills. It is these Zealots who are accused of destroying the olive trees of nearby Palestinian farmers.

To be continued

Micah Goodman Catch-67: The Left, the Right, and the Legacy of the Six-Day War Part I General Background

The biggest difference between this book and that of Yossi Klein Halevi’s (Letters to my Palestinian Neighbour) is that Goodman’s book is about dialogue among and between Jewish Israelis and not between Jewish Israelis and Palestinians. However, neither book takes up the issue of a necessary dialogue between Jewish and Palestinian Israelis. It is important to realize that Sayed Kashua, the Palestinian Israeli author of BildungsromanDancing Arabs (2002), Let It Be Morning (2004), and Exposure (2010), has given up on writing his comical weekly column for Ha’aretz and even given up on the idea of an Israeli Palestinian identity for himself and his family. He moved to the United States in spite of the enormous room he had for expressing the Palestinian Israeli experience. Both Goodman and Halevi ignore this dimension of a necessary dialogue.

Goodman argues that (and I would also argue, as in much of the political world elsewhere) reasonable disagreement has collapsed as different factions have moved into their own intellectual silos. The capacity to listen has vanished. But Goodman’s book is not about listening to different narratives, but listening to different positions and the arguments in their support among Israelis.

The result according to Goodman: Israelis recycle the same ideas over and over again. There is no exchange on the central issue of borders and the future. On that, Goodman begins the book with a map of how the West Bank is divided among Areas A (under both Palestinian and security control – the large Palestinian population centres in the West Bank), Area B under Palestinian civil jurisdiction but Israeli security control, and Area C where most of the Jewish settlements are under both Israeli civilian and military control.

While Israelis, according to Goodman, are driven by two types of fear, Palestinians, as Halevi argued, are driven by a history of humiliation. However, Goodman’s focus is on the differences between the two Israeli positions as outlined above. I appreciate Goodman’s book for his effort to break through the impasse on the peace process. I largely agree with him concerning his approach to dealing with peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. However, I find that I disagree with how he arrived at his conclusions. I particularly disagree with him with various points in his narrative of the development of Zionism. This raises questions about how these differences affect both his analysis and conclusions. As well, I disagree with both his logic and some of his theoretical assumptions. Sometimes, I am just confused about his position.

For example, how is it that Goodman claims that the solution requires detaching opinions from identities if the position of the Right, as articulated above, is a matter of interests rather than an identity issue? However, at other times, he considers the motivation on the Right to be an identity issue, an identification of Zionism with occupation and control of the whole of the Mandate territory and not just fears for the security of Israel. If so, how then is it that the Right is driven mainly by security issues and not ideology?

The Right may be driven by military security fears, but their position is framed in terms of passions rather than interests.  Thus, unlike Halevi, the core issue is not one of passions, of existential anxieties, but of interests. However, the passion of the extremist Israeli zealots offers the greatest obstacle to peace because it is they who do not accept the Talmudic injunction to control one’s passions. Rather, they lionize warrior believers and portray the Palestinians as Amalekites who need to be ethnically cleansed from the land of Israel, and exterminated as a national movement at the very least.

That means, for Goodman, that the passions have to be bracketed, passions identified with two respective positions. The war within Israel is simplified as one between peaceniks and those who believe in a Greater Israel where the whole of the West Bank would remain part and parcel of Israel. It is a war between Leftists who want to withdraw to the Green Line established before the Six-Day War and once more be regarded as a normal non-occupying state respected by the international community and Rightists who do not want to give up any territory, not only because they believe in Greater Israel, but because they believe withdrawal would leave Israel “shrunken, weakened, vulnerable, and doomed to physical destruction.” But then one becomes confused, for Goodman argues that it is a conflict between identity politics (the Left) and fear of an existential threat, though couched in messianic visions (the Right).

Goodman offers the model of the debate between Hillel and Shammai in the first century CE and claims that Hillel won the debate because Hillel demonstrated that he understood and could take into account the position on the other side, that his side was “agreeable and forbearing” showing restraint rather than extremism, a willingness to teach the position of the other side and genuinely listen to it and even modify one’s own position in light of what one hears.

Other than which direction to light Hannukah candles, the key debates between the House of Hillel and the House of Shammai were more serious. Members of the House of Shammai were elitists; members of the House of Hillel were democrats – learning was open to anyone. Shammai was a dogmatist and absolutist when it came to ethics; Hillel was nuanced. Shammai permitted marital divorce only in cases of serious transgressions; Hillel insisted that a man and wife could divorce for any reason. The followers of Shammai were Zealots, the followers of Hillel much more willing to compromise with foreign authorities.

Goodman seems to be saying that there is a correlation between unbending dogmatism and elitism, hard ethical standards and very restrictive grounds for divorce while Hillel not only listened but was a liberal and a peacenik. If the parallel is continued, then Leftists are the modern equivalent of the House of Hillel while Rightists follow the path of the House of Shammai. The Left appears to be less dogmatic and more open to hearing the other side, more, however, when that other side is Palestinian rather than the Israeli Right.

Does Goodman suggest that the Left listens while the Right does not, a position upheld with respect to the different political positions in the U.S. by Professor Nicole Hammer in her study, “Messengers of the Right”? It is not that CNN is the propagandist voice of the Left and Fox News that of the Right, but that Fox News is a propaganda medium and CNN is not. (See Jane Mayer, “Trump TV,” The New Yorker, 11 March 2019). It would appear not, since Goodman argues that both the Left and the Right are locked into silos where they only hear echoes of their own positions.

Goodman, like Halevi, holds that Palestinians are largely governed and driven by the emotion of humiliation while Israeli Jews are driven by fear. Ironically, the Jewish zealots agree that Palestinians feel humiliated by the way they are treated. On 24 May 2004, Jeffrey Goldberg wrote a long piece in The New Yorker called, “Among the Settlers.” As Goldberg tells the story, “Look at this,” Eliyahu, a zealot said. “It’s humiliating. We should kick them out of here for their own good. What they have to go through, it’s too much.” However, the reverse might be true. Palestinians desperately want the soldiers of the IDF to feel ashamed because the soldiers sometimes kill unarmed civilians, sometimes prevent Palestinians at checkpoints from reaching medical help in hospitals, and sometimes even kill children, something hard to prevent when children are used as child soldiers and as shields.

However, unlike Halevi, Goodman does not count on empathy and understanding of the Palestinians to overcome differences in the two different narratives of the two peoples. Goodman would certainly not go as far as the zealot who remonstrated Jews for their empathy. “Stop being Jewish! Only a Jew would say, ‘Imagine yourself as a Palestinian.’ Could you imagine a Palestinian imagining himself as a Jew?” Goodman is sympathetic to empathy but does not consider empathy the main tool for pursuing reconciliation.

Here again, as I have alluded to in other blogs, currently, and in spite of the flare up in Gaza over the previous weekend, Jewish Israelis have never felt more secure. The Israeli Democracy Institute before the last election showed that the foremost question in the minds of Israelis was not security and terrorism, war and peace, but bread-and-butter issues. This was also true of Palestinian Israelis. Further, the issue of leadership ran a close second followed then by security. Just 19% of Jewish Israelis and only 3% of Palestinian Israelis prioritize defense issues.

Further, with greater security has come greater compassion for the Palestinian position on the Right as well as the Left. The sense of fear, in spite of Gaza, has abated. In fact, because Gaza was evacuated of settlements such as Gush Katif, and this resulted in much greater insecurity, Israelis of virtually every ideological position but the far Left have become convinced that settlements are not the key obstacle to peace. Israelis are generally quite willing to continue the occupation to prevent a recurrence of Gaza.

Further, they “know” that the settlements cannot be the core issue because Arafat turned down a fair offer from Barack to exchange land for peace, an even fairer offer from Bill Clinton and the fairest offer possible by Olmert in 2008, though, to be precise, Olmert was an impotent Prime Minister when he made the offer and it was very unlikely that he could have backed that offer with real action. Further, Palestinian officials in their national literature still object to the existence of Israel, still refuse to recognize any historic Jewish connection with Palestine, and still reward terrorists as martyrs of their cause, specifically child soldiers who sacrifice themselves as screens and stone throwers for militants and sometimes even serve as suicide bombers. For Arafat as for Abbas, “This child . . . that hero, becomes a martyr? We are proud of them.”

Goodman contends that the Gaza withdrawal transformed messianic Judaism. “Nationalism did not transform secularism; secularism transformed nationalism instead. Secularism provoked a form of nationalism among Religious Zionists that found justification not only in the Bible but in the soil and redemption as well.” Here, I confess, I could not follow Goodman since, in my reading of the movement of messianic Judaism, it was never simply about a Biblical commandment and always both about security and “blood and soil.”

The major shift that took place, as I understand Israeli history, is that Israelis know that the 440,000 Jewish Israelis outside of annexed Jerusalem in the West Bank cannot be uprooted and relocated in return for any peace deal even if Israelis believe that a real peace is possible, even though a majority objected to the settlements in the first place and even though they find messianic Judaism antithetical to everything they believe. The egg, as they say, is hopelessly scrambled.

Most Israelis, like retired General Moshe Ya’alon, believed and continue to believe that the settlements do not serve a security purpose, but, on the contrary, exacerbate the tensions between Israelis and Palestinians and enhance the need for greater security measures. A diplomatic peace treaty would provide more security than occupation. Goodman argues that this belief is founded on two mistaken assumptions, one which minimizes the power of the historic conflict, what I have referred to as the passions, and a second which overestimates the value of any diplomatic accord.

On this I concur with Goodman, but will argue that the real issue is uprooting the settlements now that they have been established. Look at the difficulty of uprooting 5% of that number in Gaza. And look at the result, not only from the Palestinian point of view, but from that of the international community. I suggest that Israelis are not so much driven by insecurity and fear as by despair, at least with respect to prospects for peace.  

Look at a map again, this time of actual Israeli Jewish settlements. The vast majority of the Israeli Jews in the West Bank live in Area C. Out of 127 settlements, Modiin Illit, 2.3 km. from the Green Line (73,000), and Beitar Illit (Gush Etzion), 10 km. south of Jerusalem (59,000), two primarily ultra-Orthodox settlements, account for about 30% of the population of about 440,000 outside of Greater Jerusalem. The issue is not just drafting a peace accord that does not endanger Israelis, but one that can be realistically implemented by both sides. Uprooting the vast majority of settlements in the West Bank cannot be implemented by Israelis. Guaranteeing a peaceful neighbour with Palestinians of all political stripes cannot be guaranteed from their own side.

In sum, in this general overview, I believe the focus of the book on the Left versus the Right as the fundamental dichotomy leaves out both Palestinian Israelis and the vast majority of Jewish Israelis who do not align with either the extreme Right or extreme Left who insist on the Green Line as their reference for establishing peace. No peace plan premised on uprooting most of the settlements on the West Bank, let alone in Greater Jerusalem, is workable. And I remain unconvinced that Israelis are primarily motivated by fear while Palestinians are driven by humiliation.

In the next two blogs, I will examine Goodman’s narrative of Israeli history to test both its historical accuracy and whether it supports the peace process he recommends. I want to follow this up with an examination of his logic and his theoretical assumptions.

To be continued

With the help of Alex Zisman

The Holocaust and the Creation of the State of Israel Part V: The Individual Members of UNSCOP

Any survey of the attitudes of the representatives on UNSCOP had to appall any detached Zionist counters of votes on the committee. The views of John Hood were inscrutable since he said little initially and seemed mostly interested in not alienating the Arabs. It was only years later in the archives of Canberra that we learned that John Hood, was not, as required, an independent member of the committee. He was there to represent the interests of the Minister of Foreign Affairs for Australia, Herbert Vere (H.V.) Evett, who wanted and needed the votes of Islamic countries to support his bid to be president of the UN General Assembly.

Justice Ivan Rand had a record as a fair man, but saw himself as forging compromises. After all, in Canada he was the author of the Rand formula that defended the right of dissenters not to belong to unions but requiring that they pay dues to the union that represented their interests. Further, Rand was a strong Canadian federalist who had an instinctual repulsion of partition given Canada’s two-nation federal system. Finally, given Canada’s role in the British Commonwealth, a Canadian delegate might be expected to be more sympathetic to the British position.

However, it was Ivan Rand who concluded by August that the Negev should be allocated to the Jews even though there were 100,000 Arabs living there and only 3,000 Jews “otherwise it would remain sterile and useless. The Zionists had indeed convinced the committee it was really only they who could and would redeem the land. In addition to land to absorb refugees, the selling of Jewish enterprise influenced where the border would be drawn.

Similarly, Karel Lisicky from Czechoslovakia also came from a bi-national country of Czechs and Slovaks and indicated an initial wariness of partition. Yet, in the end, he not only supported partition, but, impressed by the Zionist enterprise, concluded that the Dead Sea Works should be inherited by the Jews and that meant having territory right up to the Dead Sea. Further, “the whole sub-district of Beersheba should be included in the Jewish State.”

In contrast, Dr. Jorge García Granados of Guatemala was a traditional nineteenth century liberal who quickly came to admire the pluck, the egalitarianism and the self-discipline of the Jews in Palestine while just as immediately taking offence at the Arab boycott of the committee and the Arab commercial enterprises he visited, in particular, a cigarette factory where he witnessed children of 10, 11 and 12 employed to roll cigarettes. The use of child labour by Arab businesses appalled him.

Sir Abdur Rahman was a very interesting member of the committee. He was an eminent jurist, a Muslim who opposed the efforts to partition India. Thus, he was likely to be affected by his Islamic identification as well as a strong opposition to partition. Nasrollah Entezam of Iran openly identified with the position of the Arabs in Palestine who made up two-thirds of the population and he did not see why Jews, most of whom were new immigrants, should determine what happened to the territory of Palestine.

Dr. N.S. Blom was another puzzling figure. A former colonial officer of The Netherlands in Indonesia, he was not ill disposed to colonialism as were almost all the other members of the committee. However, given the presumed sympathies of the Dutch towards the Jews, it was believed that he would support partition. It was only after research in the Dutch archives that it was revealed that Blom, like Hood of Australia, was not an independent member of the committee but a representative of the foreign office with clear instructions not to alienate Islamic states for their votes were needed to support the Netherlands continuing occupation of Indonesia as a Dutch colony. So he equivocated most of the way through the proceedings: “we should not have the sole responsibility for enforcing a solution which is not accepted by both parties and which we cannot reconcile with our conscience.”

Dr. Alberto Ulloa had been the principal delegate, but Dr. Antonio García Salazar, the alternate, quickly became the main representative on the committee. He was a religious Roman Catholic and former Ambassador to the Vatican. His views were not immediately discernible but were eventually revealed to be a primary interest in the role of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land.

Justice Emile Sandström was another eminent jurist on the committee who was elected chair and who played his cards very close to his chest so it would be difficult to know how he might vote. However, given the peaceful separation of Norway from Sweden in 1905, there was no reason to expect that he would be antithetical to partition.

Like Dr. Jorge García Granados of Guatemala, though not as vocal, Professor Enrique Rodríguez Fabregat of Uruguay was another Latin American nineteenth century liberal who easily became a strong admirer of the efforts of the Zionists in Palestine. “What a decent and straightforward life those people live. Who could doubt their honesty, their sincerity, their humanity.” Further, Jewish enterprise would benefit the economic development of the Arabs, a claim subsequently reinforcing the belief that the supporters of Zionism and partition were really possessed of a colonial mentality.

This was not true of Vladimir Simic from Yugoslavia. Though he came from a communist country, it had already been expressing its independence of the U.S.S.R. that had seemed sympathetic to the Zionists. Further, Yugoslavia was a federation of different nationalities with inherited long-term fears of fracturing into ethnic nations. It also had a substantial Muslim Bosniak population. He could not be counted on to favour partition.

What was an objective initial count?

Favour Partition               Opposed to Partition          Question Mark

2                                      5                                        4

If outsiders knew what we now know about Hood and Blom, the count would have been as follows:

Favour Partition               Opposed to Partition          Question Mark

2                                      7                                        2

The Zionists needed at least six votes to support partition. How did they get to earning the support of 7 members with 3 supporting a federal rather than a unitary state and 1 member (Australia) abstaining? The task seemed not just daunting but impossible, especially since, on first glance, the propensity of the committee would seem to support either a federal state or a unitary state with a Palestinian majority.

The easiest votes to track were those of John Hood and Dr. Nicolaas S. Blom. When in early August, Evett did not win the nomination for the presidency of the UN General Assembly, he did not release Hood to vote as his conscience and intelligence would determine, but ordered him to abstain lest his actions puzzle anyone who examined his rhetoric prior to the vote. The irony of this was that when the votes of the countries for supporting the recommendation for partition came up in the General Assembly in November, Evett cast the first vote in favour of partition and immediately became a hero for Australian Zionists who, to this day, refuse to see him as other than a very strong supporter of Israel.

In the case of Blom, when the Arab League voted in early August to support Indonesian independence, the Netherlands reversed its instructions to Blom who was then free to vote for partition. In September, Blom, unlike the others on the committee, justified his support for partition on international law and the terms of the British Mandate. But, as he wrote once he was free of the fetters of the Dutch foreign office, the “most basic issue which should be of decisive influence” was the matter of Jewish immigration in general and of the refugees in particular which had to be recognized “as a problem of extreme urgency and importance.”                      

Given that lineup and some clear cases of good fortune for the Zionists, even though Hood eventually abstained, the vote might have been expected to be:

Favour Partition               Opposed to Partition          Question Mark

3 + 1(?)                                      5                               2

How did the Zionists grow their support from 3 to 7 votes? Further, why did the votes against partition support a federal state rather than a unitary state dominated by Palestinian Arabs?  Upon reading the archival notes of the committee, the answer is clear. Sandström ended up supporting partition as the only reasonable conclusion. The conclusion was based on the reality of the situation, the overwhelming evidence that the two nationalities could not cooperate in a common federal polity. At the same time, Sandström not only ignored, but dismissed out of hand the Zionist case based on historical claims and even references to international law. Further, as Sandström wrote in the Majority Report, “Jewish immigration is the central political issue…and is the one factor above all others which makes impossible any effective cooperation between Arab and Jewish communities in a single state.” There was not a single reference of the impact of the extermination of the Jews of Europe.

García Salazar of Peru, who was part of the working group on partition and favoured a two-state solution, reversed himself and announced on 27 August 1947 that he was “no longer in favour of partition.” In any case, he had favoured a Jewish state restricted to Jewish population centres and a much larger Arab territorial entity. He agreed once again to support partition, even partition that gave much more territory to the Jews, only when the agreement was made to support a tripartite partition rather than simply two political entities. Ivan Rand was the author of this compromise for he had all along held out the possibility of a “free” city of Jerusalem “as a future bargaining asset.”

A Jerusalem under international control was seen as giving the Roman Catholic Church considerably more power in Jerusalem than if Jerusalem had been divided or if Jerusalem had been subjected to shared sovereignty. Jerusalem as an international city was traded for unanimity in the working group on partition. However, it was on this compromise that the hand and mind of Ralph Bunche became evident. The size of that international city was not restricted to the holy sites, the Mount of Olives, Mount Zion, Gethsemane and a link to Bethlehem. The extent of the autonomous zone from all of Jerusalem to Bethlehem was determined as a by-product of the desire to keep a conflictual area under trusteeship and used by Rand as a trading chip.

But that only yielded 5 votes in support of partition. The other two votes came from Karel Lisicky of Czechoslovakia and Justice Ivan Rand. Ironically, it was Ivan Rand who persuaded Rahman, Entezam and, much more easily, Simic, to support a federal rather than a unitary state. In the end, Rand favoured a definite solution and a partitioned state with an economic union as the most feasible practical solution. Lisicky came to the same conclusion.

A key component of the committee was the staffing, particularly Ralph Bunche of the U.S. who had headed the Trusteeship Division of the U.N. He anticipated that partition, a federal state or a unitary majoritarian state would mean war and no U.N. member with clout willing to prevent it. He strongly favoured transferring the Mandate to a UN Trusteeship using a committee of experts on the issue. However, the UNGA chose a different path.

Again, as secretary for UNSCOP, he could have played a strong role in trying to sway the members to adopt his position. (See his “Memorandum on the Palestine Problem,” 23 May 1947 based on the rights of each community, but neither on historical or legal precedents nor security concerns, that was released just before Trygve Lie convened the first formal session of UNSCOP on 26 May.)

However, Bunche was the ideal mandarin, a remarkable man dedicated to ensuring that the committee could undertake their work in an independent fashion. He was also a man committed to an international order built on goodwill and steeped in pure motives. From that stance, he had accepted the principle that resettlement of the Jewish refugees in other countries, especially in the U.S., was the way to go. It is also interesting that in his taxonomy of solutions, the two adopted, partition (majority) or a federal state (minority) were given short shrift by him in favour of a bi-national unitary state under a Trusteeship.

In considering the deliberations, there was no mention of the Holocaust nor of any guilt about the Nazi program of elimination of the Jews. The major issues were the sense of social justice among the Zionists, but most of all, the plight of the remainder of the Jewish refugees still in DP camps in Europe. The delegates, every one of them, were absolutely appalled at Britain for firing on the refugee ship, the Exodus. 

The Zionists could be said to have won 7 votes out of 11 for partition by the skin of their teeth and not because of the misfortunes of the victims of the Holocaust or guilt over their extermination.

Obviously, a much larger study on the creation of UNSCOP and its terms and conditions is needed. When the UK referred the matter of Palestine to the UN for advice, the UN failed to obtain a prior commitment from the UK that it would assist in implementing whatever recommendation was forthcoming. Many more details are needed about the minutiae of UNSCOP’s deliberations and conclusions, on developments at the UN leading to the partition decision, and on the plans for implementing and enforcing that decision.

The U.N. could have decided to use force but did not. As Dr. Jorge García Granados wrote, “the Jews were forced to set up a state by themselves with only the moral authority of the United Nations partition resolution behind them, but with assistance against armed invasion.” Most interestingly, the plans to derail the decision with a Trusteeship by the U.S., and then the turn against Trusteeship, needs to be described as well as the failure to get the U.S. to play an active role in the implementation of the resolution. However, I hope that this narrow summary provides strong evidence that guilt over the Holocaust played no role in the support for partition and allowing Jews to have a state of their own in a partitioned Palestine.

Seventy-two years later, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems no nearer a solution. However, clarifying that guilt over the Holocaust in 1945 to 1948 played virtually no role in support for partition does suggest that the international community cannot be relied upon to enforce a just decision, whatever that decision might be. Guilt over the Holocaust did not count then and guilt over the plight of the Palestinian refugees, the conditions in Gaza or the security threats against Israel are unlikely to be key factors in determining any international role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Missing from the discussion in this book (an edited book on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) is a systematic analysis of the role of the United Nations in the termination of the mandate.” In the absence of such a systematic study, myths have been allowed to grow and displace an objective historical account.

The Holocaust and the Creation of Israel Part IV: UNSCOP in General

During and following the Holocaust, Jews were in shock and grief. Distrust of the Western states had grown by leaps and bounds. Not only the survivors but the Jewish leadership as well faced getting on with the task at hand. That does not mean that these strong self-disciplined men They were virtually all men at the time) did not sometimes break down in despair. But, by and large, they kept their focus on the possible rather than on the much larger dream that had been lost to them. Practicality prevailed. We will take the refugees off your hands in return for a partitioned Jewish state in Palestine.

This approach was enhanced by the UNSCOP exclusive focus on Palestine, whereas the Anglo-American Commission of Enquiry in 1946 had included within its mandate the position of the Jewish remnant in Europe. The Holocaust was now merely part of a fading backdrop as UNSCOP zeroed in on what to do about Palestine.

As I explained in the last blog, this was not because the extermination of the Jews of Europe played no role in the policy deliberations on Palestine by Muslims, by Jews and by other states. However, the motivating factor was not guilt. As Brian Urquhart wrote in 1987 (A Life of Peace and War), in “this most complex and tragic of historical dilemmas, where two ancient peoples were in unequal but deadly competition for a small but infinitely significant piece of territory, a struggle made critical by Hitler’s annihilation of the Jews (my italics and as depicted in the last blog) on the one hand and the emergence of Arab nationalism on the other. Britain must be enabled to relinquish the mandate with dignity. The Jewish refugees from World War II must be allowed to settle. The Palestinians’ interests and rights must be protected. A plan must be found to accommodate the conflicting rights and demands of Arabs and Jews.”

UNSCOP was propelled by the refusal of Britain to accept the main recommendation of the Anglo-American Commission to move 100,000 refugees to Palestine. That became a central concern of their deliberations, as we shall see, for the Committee soon came to a unanimous agreement that, in spite of the very opposite expectations of the UK when it referred the issue to the UN, the British role in the governance of Palestine was over. The members of UNSCOP openly distrusted all of the British so-called experts and relied far more on what they saw and heard, especially the impression in July of the perfidy, ruthlessness and inhumanity of the British in dealing with the voyage and arrival of the Exodus. The only question was: what would succeed Britain and under what political arrangements?

Jacob Robinson noted that in the First Special Session on the Palestine question that there were countries strongly in support of the Arab Higher Committee (AHC). There was only one country that backed the Zionists – South Africa – a fact used against Israel ever since. Most UN member counties, thankfully, took a detached view. The key views were those of the members of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP). Of course, exploring their views does not provide a definitive answer as to whether guilt over the Holocaust affected the recommendation for partition which was adopted and endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly in November of 1947. However, it is a powerful indicator because it offers a cross section of voices of key players in determining the recommendation with archived records of discussion. There is an assumption behind this focus. The UN was an independent agent and not simply either an instrument of the Great Powers or of the “collective will,” whatever that is, of its members.

Further, it is important not only to focus on the Majority Report recommending partition, but the other conclusions and rationale as well. These included:

·       Determining that the two communities in Palestine were irreconcilable;

·       Placing primary economic and political responsibility for implementation on the inhabitants, meaning that the expectation of war was inevitable;

·       Limiting immigration to sovereign control; on the one hand, that meant limitation by absorptive capacity – at that time and place, the land available; on the other hand, it meant allocating a higher percentage of the land to the Zionists than the existing population warranted to absorb 250,000 refugees;

·       Considering the value of economic unity in spite of the deep divide.

The Minority Report, recommending a federal solution, in spite of the enormous enmity between the Arabs and the Jews, concluded that interests would trump passions since, “it is extremely possible that if a federal solution were firmly and definitively imposed (my italics), the two groups, in their own self-interest, would gradually develop a spirit of cooperation.” After reading both reports, it is hard not to conclude that the Minority Report was more consistent in its thinking but less grounded in reality. The Majority Report rebutted, that only in two independent states could the onus of responsibility for the economic and political success of both be placed in the hands of each community and argued that the only way the Minority Report could be implemented was if force was used. Cooperation could not be forced, especially when immigration was at the centre of the divide and one side, the Arabs, insisted on hegemony that left no room for self-determination by the Other. As Sir Allan Cunningham told the committee, “Whatever solution you find must be imposed.” But the U.S. had vetoed that possibility.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

The Palestinians through the Arab Higher Committee had decided to boycott the proceedings as I have said. They had a rationale. For the Zionists had boycotted the London Conference in 1946 while they had attended. However, the Bevin plan that resulted gave the Jews an autonomous province with total control of immigration, a position anathema to the Palestinians. Though the Bevin plan did not include partition, to the AHC it appeared to be the next worst thing. AHC decided more could be obtained by a boycott than by participating.

However, the AHC had already been weakened because of the divisions among the Arab states and between each of those states and the Palestinian leadership. The Zionists were also seriously divided, but that did not prevent most Zionist groups arguing for an independent Jewish state. Further, the AHC also alienated itself from UNSCOP, not only by its boycott, but by its extremist rhetoric against any Jewish immigration. Further, the AHC was adamantly opposed to any outside body recommending the future of what for them had to be a Palestinian majority state. Palestinian self-determination meant ignoring any non-Palestinian, especially a UN body, playing that role.

Ironically, the Arabs did count on Britain to bring them over the finish line. However, UNSCOP was an impartial committee dedicated to reasonableness and compromise. The passion of the AHC and its leadership, and the unwillingness to contemplate any compromise to dilute their right to self-determination in all of Palestine, turned off every one of the committee members who, whatever their personal and national biases, did believe in “reasonableness.” Reasonableness meant compromise. The Zionist acceptance of partition meant giving a degree of self-determination to the Arabs. The AHC’s adamant opposition to any self-determination for the Jews and any control of immigration inherently made them appear to be uncompromising.

The U.S. proposal of 11 neutral countries had been accepted, though the U.S.S.R. initially challenged the definition of Australia and Canada as neutral countries. Neutrality did not mean absence of bias, but exclusion of Jews and Arabs and a lack of any known prior commitment to a resolution of the crisis, or existing commitments that predetermined one outcome rather than another. It also meant procedural fairness. The balance in selection of countries would help ensure impartiality overall.

Dean Acheson had argued that Canada was indeed neutral because it did not have “a really serious Jewish problem.” The U.S. had originally nominated New Zealand, and, as we shall see, this would have made a substantive difference. But New Zealand declined and Australia was named. The two eastern European countries originally proposed were Poland and Czechoslovakia, but Yugoslavia was substituted for Poland. Like the switch of Australia for New Zealand, the inclusion of Yugoslavia instead of Poland would prove detrimental to the Zionists, though they were somewhat lucky when Guatemala and Uruguay were chosen rather than Brazil and Spain as originally proposed, given the members chosen by the two Latin American countries.

One might have thought that in the selection of two western European countries, the substitution of the Netherlands for Belgium would have favoured the Zionists given that Belgium was a unitary binational state, but, as we shall see, that did not prove to be initially true. Choosing India instead of Turkey seemed on the surface to favour the Zionists, but this again proved not to be true. Certainly, if the Philippines had been named instead of Iran, this would have helped the Zionists. Overall, serendipity and the selection of countries did not initially appear to work in favour of the Zionists.

The choice of “neutral” countries over the participation of the Great Powers, as favoured by the Eastern Bloc did mean, as Lester Pearson of Canada had predicted, a weakening of the authority of UNSCOP and its ability to implement any recommendation. UNSCOP would turn out to be a moral voice but not a practical route to avoiding violence in Palestine.

I will focus exclusively on the individual representatives on UNSCOP, what their attitudes were or were likely to be in May 1947 and how and why their attitudes and beliefs shifted between mid-May of 1947 and the end of August, a period of less than four months when the majority on the committee recommended a three-fold partition of the country, the creation of two states and the internationally run region of Jerusalem linked by an economic union among all three entities and mutual dependence in matters of security. What were the original attitudes of the members of the committee in May of 1947 to the two key questions that preoccupied the committee – the plight of the refugees left in Europe and the three-way political conflict in Palestine of Arabs versus Jews and both against Britain?

At the very beginning of its deliberations, the committee determined that Palestine, because of its small size and the political tensions between Arabs and Jews could not be an answer to the so-called Jewish question. This was not a formidable start for the Zionists. As it were, this guiding principle was abandoned or shunted into the background by all the delegates over the next four months. So much for guidelines! Nevertheless, it became clear that the principle of self-determination of Jews in their historic homeland would NOT guide the deliberations of the committee. The principle written into the Palestine Mandate had been abandoned. Practical challenges and internal politics took over as commanding determinants in the deliberations – none of which had anything to do with either Zionist premises and certainly with the Holocaust.

With the help of Alex Zisman

Part II: Movie Review: Everybody Knows Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzmaut

Though the principle of the obligation of charity includes everyone, that is not where it starts. Everybody Knows is a film about the inability of each and every member of the family and group of friends to reprove another because each has never learned to critique oneself. Instead, rebuke is expressed as resentment absent of love, as defensiveness rather than openness to an Other. It turns out that everybody knows the deep secret that only the father and mother of a kidnapped girl supposedly know, but no one knows how to engage in inter-personal criticism or conversation.

There can be no grudges underlying that criticism. There can be no resentment underpinning a reproof, such as the resentment that when Paco, the son of a servant, bought his land from Laura at a bargain-basement price, there is a deeply held belief amongst family members that the deal was rotten. In the end, however leaky the boat, however deep the wounds of the past, Asghar Farhadi’s films are ultimately about compassion and humanity.

Everybody knows this. We are commanded to do what we already know. However, Everybody Knows is about denial, is about ignoring what everyone knows, not just as a general commandment, but as a very specific piece of information that, as it is revealed, thrusts a dagger at the unity, at the harmony, at the solidarity of a Spanish family. (No spoiler alert is needed. I do not intend to reveal the hidden secret that everyone knows.)

Penélope Cruz (Laura) is a Spanish woman who has married an Argentinian and lives in Buenos Aries. The movie begins with her return after many years with her two children in tow, her frisky free-spirited impulsive sixteen-year-old daughter, Irene (Carla Campra) and her younger, almost dopy son, Diego (Iván Chavero). They return to a small village outside Madrid where her family lives. She is there to attend the wedding of one of her sisters, Ana (Inma Cuesta), to a very nice guy (Roger Casamajor) at the same time that she learns that the marriage of her other sister, Mariana (Elvira Mínguez) has fallen apart and the couple have evidently decided to split. (That turns out to be a convenient lie and a cover-up. The couple do eventually split in a much deeper way because together they threw an axe into the core of the family.)

In one opening, the wedding is a raucous, joy-filled affair attended by members of this large family and their friends in a picturesque village and filmed with photographic genius by Pedro Almódovar, cinematographer, Jose Luis Alcaine. The film has a second opening. Javier Bardem (Paco) is joyously picking grapes with his workers, grapes to be made into wine, not sacral wine, but wine to be enjoyed as an intrinsic part of celebrating life, wine that is truly holy. The spiritual in this movie may be identified with rebukes in a family, but it is not identified with asceticism and abstinence, though Ricardo Darín as Alejandro will testify that his life was saved when his daughter was born and he swore off alcohol. The narrative of the movie will testify to the falseness of the claim.

The wine is holy in the Jewish sense of making the physical world spiritual by making what seems mundane holy. Wine is specifically suited to this because, as Paco lectures to a group of students, wine improves rather than, like other foods, decaying with age. Wine gains in character and in personality courtesy of time. It gets better over time. Thou shalt become a holy people by saying a blessing over wine. Wine testifies that it is by raising the physical to the spiritual, not rejecting the physical, that we become holy. And the holiest moments of the film take place in the first forty minutes in drinking wine and celebrating at a very joyous wedding in the Spanish sun and when Alejandro, the abstainer lest he resume his alcoholism, has not yet appeared, not yet come from Buenos Aries.

Time is at the centre of the film, not as a Kantian aesthetic framework for framing our sensible experiences as successive moments, but as the phenomenology of time, as a clock in a church tower with a hole in the clock that no longer keeps accurate time. Instead, Laura and Paco unite in a race to play for time and prevent a tragedy at the same time as we learn that it was the last moment of ecstatic time that set the stage for the unfolding possible tragedy. For the wedding, which was a time of unbridled joy, turns into a fast-moving suspense thriller and a nightmare in which the past will erupt to haunt the present.

We know this before we actually learn of it when Laura’s high-spirited daughter, Irene, climbs the circular stair with Paco’s nephew, Felipe (Sergio Castellanos) who is clearly smitten. Irene in the first one-third of the movie instills in the audience the gravest sense of unease, of anticipation of disaster. Like all towers where princesses dwell, this one is haunted by secrets, first and foremost, the fact of Laura and Paco’s initials carved into the stone wall of the tower as a phantasm provide eternal proof that the two were once lovers. But this is a heartbreaking film, about two lovers who inadvertently broke each other’s hearts, about a ravaged and grieving mother cast in an existential angst over her missing daughter, and her own mother who also knows who the villains are. Paco as a take-charge man who, in the end, drinks suppressed and long forgotten memories rather than wine, as his heart is torn apart a second time and he falls apart into vulnerability even as he saves the day.

Instead of wine improving with age, the unresolved love and secret between Laura and Paco, the failure to open up fully to one another in the past, has eaten away at each of their spirits, so, in spite of the beauty of Penélope, the rugged handsomeness of Javier and the real electricity between them, everything dissolves into thin air. The mystery begins by trying to figure out the family tree and is sustained as we try to understand the role of Paco’s wife, Bea (Bárbara Lennie) whose part I never came to understand, except it is she who hired her nephew (?) to take drone shots of the wedding mélange as the drone retreats upwards and the family shrinks and its members become indistinct. Is she the eye of God, of a heavenly surveillance of the tragic scene? Her role is suspiciously sinister. I finished the film perplexed about her part.  

The film begins in celebration. In contrast, in the Jewish nation, we begin by mourning our losses. We begin with Yom HaZikaron, the Memorial Day for the soldiers who fell in battle for the nation and the civilians who lost their lives to terrorists. Only then does Yom HaAtzmaut follow. We begin, rather than end, with a broken heart. Self-criticism and critique of others provide the opportunity to repair the world. Only when we have paid the cost of such repairs, only when we understand why the repair was necessary, why the sacrifice was made, are we entitled to celebrate.

When Everybody Knows begins with such enormous celebration, such overwhelming joy, the sense of creeping disaster, of what is festering behind that joy, begins to haunt us so that when the disaster begins to unfold, we are tossed to the ground. Only when the order is reversed in real life, can we move on to repair the world.

With the help of Alex Zisman

Part I: Parashat K’doshim Leviticus 19:1-20:27 Movie Review: Everybody Knows Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzmaut

I have published the lyrics to Leonard Cohen’s song from his album, I’m Your Man, as introductions to other blogs. It requires reprinting even though it is never sung or hummed in the film, Everyone Knows, but its prophetic pessimism haunts the film.

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows

Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling

Like their father or their dog just died

Everybody talking to their pockets
Everybody wants a box of chocolates
And a long stem rose
Everybody knows

Everybody knows that you love me baby
Everybody knows that you really do
Everybody knows that you’ve been faithful
Ah give or take a night or two
Everybody knows you’ve been discreet
But there were so many people you just had to meet
Without your clothes
And everybody knows

Everybody knows, everybody knows
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows

Everybody knows, everybody knows
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows

And everybody knows that it’s now or never
Everybody knows that it’s me or you
And everybody knows that you live forever
Ah when you’ve done a line or two
Everybody knows the deal is rotten
Old Black Joe’s still pickin’ cotton
For your ribbons and bows
And everybody knows

And everybody knows that the plague is coming
Everybody knows that it’s moving fast

Everybody knows that the naked man and woman
Are just a shining artifact of the past
Everybody knows the scene is dead
But there’s gonna be a meter on your bed
That will disclose
What everybody knows

And everybody knows that you’re in trouble
Everybody knows what you’ve been through
From the bloody cross on top of Calvary
To the beach of Malibu
Everybody knows it’s coming apart
Take one last look at this sacred heart
Before it blows
And everybody knows

Everybody knows, everybody knows
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows

Oh everybody knows, everybody knows
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows

Everybody knows 

K’doshim is the heart and soul of the Holiness Code in the Torah. The section offers instructions on how to be a holy people. Parashat K’doshim also includes the commandment, “You shall surely rebuke your kinsfolk…” (Leviticus 19:17) What does becoming a holy people have to do with a commandment concerning rebuking the members of your family? And what do commandments about becoming a holy people and rebuking the members of your family have to do with a Spanish film, Everybody Knows, directed and written by the brilliant Iranian filmmaker, Asghar Farhadi? (Dancing in the Dust, 2003; Beautiful City, 2004; Fireworks Wednesday, 2006; About Elly, 2009; A Separation, 2011, that won awards around the world, including the Academy Award for the Best Foreign Language Film of the Year, the first Iranian director to win such an award; and The Salesman, 2016, his tribute to Arthur Miller) What can the parashat have to do with his first non-Iranian Spanish movie that stars such powerhouses as Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem and Ricardo Darín?

Serendipitously, though I missed the film when it showed at the Toronto International Film Festival (8 September 2018), and did not see it in its general release in February when I was in Mexico, I saw it last evening on Netflix. However, isn’t the movie simply an artistic combined thriller and whodunnit, a somewhat turgid melodrama? It is all of those, but very much more. However, for a real stretch, what does the weekly Torah reading and this film have to do with Israel’s Memorial Day to its fallen soldiers and Israel’s Independence Day?

The questions alone are a challenge to comprehend. I will start with depicting the central theological problem of the Holiness Code and then connect the theme with a movie that appears simply to be a melodrama but reveals itself to be, at its core, a film with a powerful religious theme. I will end by then connecting the theological conundrum in the Torah and the theme of the movie with Memorial Day and Independence Day in Israel.

The Eternal One spoke to Moses saying: “Speak to the whole Israelite community and say to them: You shall be holy, for I, the Eternal your God, am holy.” (Leviticus 19:1-2) God also commanded, “You shall not hate your kinsman in your heart. Reprove your neighbor, but incur no guilt because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your kinsfolk. Love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:17-18) As Hillel taught was the core of Judaism, “what is hateful to you do not do to your fellow man” (דעלך סני לחברך לא תעביד), or, as in this passage in Parashat K’doshim – “love your fellow as yourself.” (וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ) The latter dictum offers a hint of a connection with a movie that reveals itself to be about hidden grudges within a family, resentments, rebukes and exercises in revenge. But what connection could there be about becoming a holy people?

Given his own uniqueness, God wanted his people to be set apart from the other nations of the world. That is one way to interpret the commandment. But note that the latter is surely the most difficult commandment of all if only because it is impossible for an individual to fulfill. In contrast, in all romanticism in all cultures, uniqueness is revered. Further, rules of sexual conduct, rules about eating and praying, all of these can be obeyed by an individual. But a commandment to become a holy people, kol adat B’nai Yisrael?

There is the clear implication that an individual on his or her own cannot become holy. Nor is holiness restricted to priests, those with holy ordinances, the elite who enjoy the advantages of prosperity, or to those who are reborn in God or Christ, or even to those who give of themselves for the sake of others. There are examples of all these types and more in the movie. The priest who officiates at the wedding is rebuked from the pews for always begging for more money to repair the church, implying that he neglects to tell them what they need to know to repair their communal souls. To become holy requires an extended family, a community, a nation. “You shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:6)

You shall be holy. It is a work in progress. Israel’s status as God’s holy people is fluid. It is an effort that most challenges us when we encounter a maelstrom in our lives. When we need it most, we are commanded to become holy. And the effort emerges in the hour-to-hour, day-to-day struggles that we all engage in as we go through life, but made all the clearer in the bright sun-dappled Spain that turns into a rainy and dark film after we are at our most celebratory and when we enter an intimately painful phase and are most emotionally torn apart in frantic desperation.

The clue about how to be holy is that we must imitate God, imitate the divine. Imitatio Dei. But what does that mean? At the very least it means caring for the other. And not just an other individual. But caring for the collective we. Not just the workers engaged in a class struggle. Not just the Democratic cosmopolitans at war with the local nationalist patriots and ethnic nationalists so that we become holy be being different than others. Make America great! No, holiness, entails becoming a holy nation that is a light unto the nations. And that effort starts with the family, starts by understanding how to rebuke the members of your family and your friends and deal with the barely hidden ghosts of the past that cast shadows and serve as specters on a film initially filled with brilliant sun-kissed light.

The Hebrews emerged as a distinct people in the early Iron Age (1200 – 1000 B.C.E.). In no other religion, in no other culture, does the requirement to be holy fall on a whole people. Does this mean simply exclusivity? Does this mean simply following a unique set of dietary and other laws? If so, how could a people then be a light unto the nations?

Becoming a community, a light unto the nations, is the most important way we sanctify our lives. That is the critical way in which we become partners with the divine. But then why is holiness defined as that which sets us apart, that which defines us as not part of a community, not part of a nation and not part of the community of nations? How can separateness be intrinsic to spirituality while the injunction insists that the only way we can become holy is through a community becoming holy?

Entitlements, literally, having title to something – a piece of land or a house or an estate or a particular vineyard or a set of unique laws – are not equated either with separating oneself from others or in obeying the command to joining with others to become a holy people. Becoming separate and holy at one and the same time has nothing to do with privileges either earned or awarded. It has almost everything to do with sharing criticisms with members of one’s family, of one’s community, with how one rebukes and how one accepts rebukes. Everybody Knows at its heart is about this failure while everyone shares in a broken feeling and everybody knows that the captain lied and that the plague is coming.

This blog is an exercise in criticism. It is really about myself before it is about the Torah portion, a movie or the sequence of Jewish holidays. I share it with others so that we can together engage in self-examination. When I write about Everybody Knows, it is to work towards bringing out in the open what everyone already knows. That was the mission of Socrates. It is not intended as an assault on my own identity, on the identity of another and certainly not on the great artistry of someone who can create a great film. Criticism is simply a craft, like knitting, an effort at sharing and giving my meagre gifts to the world, at understanding the tensions underneath the surface, and not at tearing apart the world. Most of all, it should never be about challenging one’s identity. There is no need to be defensive and every reason not to be.

I am not speaking simply of the cliché instructing us to only engage in constructive criticism. For criticism if it is real, if it is profound, has to deconstruct. But how do we deconstruct at the same time as we enhance our love for one another? The Torah provides an answer, at least in general. Hochei-ach tochi-ach et amitecha. To rebuke properly, you must do it twice. You must criticize yourself and your own shortcomings before you remonstrate others, specifically your kin. Criticism is about initiating dialogue and a more general conversation so that we do not hide from one another, so there are no longer unburied secrets and unhealed wounds.

When one mother at the Denver STEM School Highlands Ranch, where a student died this week in another shooting incident, contacted authorities in the school before the shooting to suggest that, given the evidence of her son, the school might be a pressure cooker about to explode because of reports of violence, bullying and stress, she warned of the possibility of another Columbine. The school officials subsequently filed a defamation lawsuit against her.  

Everybody Knows at its heart is about this failure to rebuke oneself before turning on others. The command to love your neighbor as you love yourself is not as simple as it appears. Certainly it means taking responsibility for the stranger, for the men and women who pick the grapes on your estate in order to make wine. Certainly it means taking care of the disabled, the pater familias of the clan which is celebrating the marriage of one of his daughters even though he is an irate and resentful former gambler and alcoholic who must use a chair lift to get to the second floor of his house. Certainly, it entails that we understand that we are all God’s children, all “children of the Lord, your God’ (Deuteronomy 14:1)

To be continued

With the help of Alex Zisman