The Vision of the Jew in Modernity

Over the next three years I plan to teach a series of six short courses on Gentiles (and Apostates when I get to the twentieth century) on the view of Jews by gentiles. This series of seminars was impelled by widespread misunderstandings among Jews about how they are considered and conceived by non-Jews. My correspondence with some of my former non-Jewish students on philosophic reflections on Jews also influenced the impulse to work on this series of seminars. The most important impetus, however, may go back sixty years. My first published academic article in my final undergraduate year was called: “Is Jewish survival necessary?” a study of six twentieth century thinkers born as Jews. I concluded that the answer was, “No.” So it is a matter of choice. Why make such a choice. Emil Fackenheim lauded the essay.

This series of seminars is intended to continue a quest started about sixty years ago to try to see how non-Jews might answer the question and why.

Whether Israel has been a catalyst in the recent rise of antisemitism, as Yehoshafat Harkabi, former Israeli Director of Israeli Military Intelligence, claimed, or the increase in antisemitism has taken place quite independently of Israeli conduct, as Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of Britain, opined, both men agreed that antisemitism had deep roots in history. But philo-semitism does as well. Further, a wide spectrum of views on Jews and Judaism exists in between. Yet Jews overwhelmingly focus on what is now a relatively narrow band in the attitudes towards Jews and Judaism. Further, even when gentiles are strong supporters of Israel, such as evangelical Christians, notable Jewish scholars and leaders misinterpret this support as simply and entirely a step to advance the second coming of Christ with no real concern for a Jewish state per se. 

There seems to be a need to discern and understand the way others view Jews and Judaism across a wide range. But perhaps not. Perhaps how others view Jews is irrelevant. For many Christians, this should be the case, since the only judgement that counts is that of Christ. “Why does thou judge thy brother? Or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? For we shall all stand before the judgement seat of Christ.” (Romans 14:10) But then this aphorism is but a variation of one in Proverbs with the same intent. “Many seek the rulers favour; but every man’s judgment comes from the Lord.” (Proverbs 29:26)

If the view of Jews by others is important, why so? Is it simply curiosity to see a reflection of ourselves? Or should we be concerned about any gap between how we see ourselves and how others see us? Or does observing the difference between how we see ourselves and how others see us add to our self-understanding? Or might we learn that we are not so much products of self-making as determined and defined by others? Then again, understanding how Europeans over the centuries of the modern era viewed Jews might be just as important in providing one angle of insight into the history of European thought as providing enlightenment for Jews.

We cannot answer these questions unless we know more about how Jews are perceived by others. I daresay, we cannot even decide which questions are the more important ones. It is critical, not simply to study the deep roots of antisemitism, but the development of a gamut of views of Jews and the rationales behind those conceptions, at the very least to avoid misconceptions of others. For obvious reasons, the selection cannot be comprehensive.

This seminar series reflects mainly on gentile understandings of Jews and Judaism, with a sprinkling of apostates thrown in, but, in the twentieth century, they become the spotlight. Each short course roughly coincides with a different century beginning with the emergence of modernity in Europe. (See the outline of the series which follows) As I teach the course, I will write a blog or perhaps two on each thinker and will distribute it to my blog list. If you would like to receive the material that I will be distributing in the course (at most 15 pages per week), please drop me a line and I will send them to you each week.

Short Course I      The Renaissance and the New Philo-Judaism

Page assignments, indicated in closed brackets, will be distributed in the prior week to the discussion. Presenters are, of course, expected to cover a wider range of readings.

Dates               Topics – The Sixteenth Century       

15 May 2019   Niccolò Machiavelli (1429-1527)

“The Rule of a Dominion Conquered by Battle,” The Prince (1513) (1532)

22 May 2019   Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466-1536)

 In Praise of Folly (1511)  An Inquisition into Faith (1524)

29 May 2019   Martin Luther (1483-1546)

                         On the Jews and their Lies (1543) Parts 11-13

5 June 2019     Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) 

 “Clemency and Revenge,” Essays (1580) [1588; 1595]

12 June 2019   Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) “The Fifth Dialogue,” Cause, Principle and Unity (1596-9)

19 June 2019   Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593) Prologue The Jew of Malta (1590) (1 p.) and William Shakespeare (1564-1616) The Merchant of Venice (1596) Shylock’s famous monologue on revenge (1 p.)

Notional Times and Dates (very tentative) for the Remainder

Seminar II   Seventeenth Century (Thursday evenings)

Dates                                                               Topics – The Seventeenth Century

19 September 2019                 Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) “Letter from Galileo to Monsignor Piero Dini (1615)

26 September 2019                 Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) On the Law of War and Peace (1625)

3 October 2019                       Francis Bacon (1561-1626) New Atlantis (1627)

17 October 2019                     Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) The Leviathan (1651) XLV “Of Demonology and Other Relics of the Religion of the Gentiles”

24 October 2019                     Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) Pensées (1670) Section IX “Perpetuity” 583-600

31 October 2019                     Benedict (Baruch) de Spinoza (1632-1677) “On the Election of the Jews,” Ch. 3 Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (1670) and John Locke (1632-1704) A Letter on Toleration (1689)

Short Course III     The Eighteenth Century Enlightenment

Dates               Topics

13 May 2020               Giambatista Vico (1668-1774) Scienza Nuova or New Science  (1725;1730)

20 May 2020               Montesquieu (Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu) (1689-1755) The Spirit of the Laws “How Commerce Broke through the Barbarism of Europe” (1748)

27 May 2020               David Hume (1711-1776) Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion                  (1779 posthumously)

3 June 2020                 Adam Smith (1723-1790) The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759)

10 June 2020               Joseph Priestley (1733-1804) Letters to the Jews (1786)

17 June 2020               Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) The Critique of Judgement (1790)

Short Course IV   The Nineteenth Century

Dates                           Topics

7 October 2020           Georg Wilhelm Hegel (1770-1831) Phenomenology of Spirit (1807) Desire and Life; Lordship and Bondage 104-119

14 October 2020         Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit Stoicism and Scepticism and The Unhappy Consciousness [Christianity], 119-138

21 October 2020         Sören Kierkegaard (1813-1855) Fear and Trembling (1843) “A Tribute to Abraham,” 12-20

28 October 2020         Karl Marx (1818-1883) On the Jewish Question (1844)      

4 November 2020       John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) The Utility of Religion and Theism (1874)

11 November 2020     Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) Beyond Good and Evil (1886) Peoples and Fatherlands,

Short Course V           First Half of the Twentieth Century – Apostate Jews

Dates                           Topics

19 May 2021               Henri Bergson (1859-1941) Laughter and the Meaning of the Comic (1900)

26 May 2021               Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) “The Enlightenment and the Jewish Question” (1932)

2 June 2021                 Karl Mannheim (1893-1947) Ideology and Utopia (1936)

9 June 2021                 Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) Moses and Monotheism (1939)

16 June 2021               Simone Weil (1909-1943) The Need For Roots (1943)

23 June 2021               Michael Polanyi (1891-1976) Science, Faith and Society (1945)

Micah Goodman Catch-67: The Left, the Right, and the Legacy of the Six-Day War Part IV Logic and Implications

The Israeli-Palestinian dispute is not a conflict, as Goodman contends, and as his empathetic mentor Halevi also believes, between the passions of Palestinians and their sense of honour and the interests of the Israelis and their need for security. Goodman amply testifies how passions, on both the Left and the Right in Israel, dictate polar opposite positions on the peace issue. But this fails to take into account that the majority of Israelis support neither pole. This misconception in itself is part of the myth that serves as an obstacle to any moves towards reviving a peace process, let alone a peace agreement. I remain totally unconvinced that “Israel political thought has become binary over the past fifty years.” (13) The range of mixed motives and Zionist dreams for a secure and Jewish dominated polis exists in different proportions across the whole range of Jewish Israeli positions. The binary stereotype is simply a misleading trope, especially problematic for a philosopher who strenuously objects to false dichotomies.

Chapter 7 of Goodman’s book focuses on the moral dilemma rather than demographic or security issues. As imperialism retreated around the world, Jewish occupation of majoritarian Palestinian lands became more intolerable. Further, just as Israelis were, Palestinians too were married to their own passions and were not willing to sell them out for interests, that is, for instrumentalist advantages. “The Palestinians coveted freedom from Israeli rule more than they coveted its economic benefits.” (95) And for Israelis, they had to acknowledge that, as overwhelming believers in democracy, there was no democracy in the West Bank.

However, I became confused at that point. I could not understand why Goodman wanted Israel to offer a distorted narrative of the Jewish-Palestinian conflict or the repetitious thesis on Israeli right-wing messianism. I am unsure, but believe it is because he wanted to reemphasize that Israelis could not trust the international community nor hold onto all the territory of the West Bank because that was demanded by God. However, these are fringe views. The confusion is not about extremes, but how to manage intelligently a surrender of occupied territory and provide the Palestinians with sufficient land while ensuring both Israeli security and preventing an internal disruption as a result of any attempt to dismantle the settlements. 

What then is the solution? Goodman lays out the ground when he begins the chapter by citing John Stuart Mill’s thesis that conviction does not depend so much on our personal arguments as on the strength of the group to which we belong that profess those beliefs. (121) In other words, tribalism rather than reasonableness reigns supreme. That is why Goodman joins Halevi in the end (and Tony Blair with respect to Northern Ireland) in finding in religion the source of a solution rather than the source of the problem. (125) In the united Jewish/Muslim narrative rather than the differences between them will be found the answer according to both Goodman and Halevi.

I am not convinced. Religion is as likely if not more likely to arouse the passions as arouse an outreach to strangers and others. Certainly, as Goodman admits, the Jewish religious authorities in Israel discriminate against more progressive forms of Judaism, dictate marriage methods, public transit on shabat, and even the drafting of ultra-Orthodox Yeshiva boys. Therefore, it is not only Palestinian Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank, but most Jews who suffer from Jewish discrimination. These practices are hardly consistent with the Declaration of Independence on equal rights for all citizens.

I would put much more emphasis on practical measures. Look how, in the end, Goodman recasts the Zionist narrative, placing the responsibility on Ben-Gurion for sacrificing the state’s secular character, surrendering to partition and compromising on the socialist vision. (133) I tell a very different story. Compromise with the religious parties preceded independence and was not initiated simply to ensure that UNSCOP did not turn off the Zionist enterprise as Goodman contends. (135) Goodman’s position runs contrary to the evidence from the UNSCOP archives and even biographies of Ben-Gurion.  Compromise was necessary given the definition of politics as the art of the possible.

The compromise on partition began in 1935 and was settled by the Holocaust and the extermination of most of European Jewry. It was a gradual process and one that Ben-Gurion backed into reluctantly and not because he believed, “that it was better to relinquish the dream of sovereignty over the whole of the land of Israel in order to guarantee the creation of a state on a portion of it.” (136) The latter was never a guarantee. And the former was not visionary compromise, but one driven by facing reality – the power of the British, the strong resistance of the Arabs and the diminished demographic depth of the Jews.

As for compromising on the socialist vision, I simply do not know what Goodman meant when he says that Ben-Gurion chose Zionism over socialism and “the interests of state of the Jewish people over the status of the working class.” (135) Is Goodman really a closet Bundist? In any case, these were not failures but necessary determinations given the actual forces on the ground. Ben-Gurion was a pragmatic politician and pragmatics ought to continue to be the order of the day. 

Yet I agree that pragmatics may dictate abandoning the vision of a comprehensive peace agreement in favour of interim accords on the ground. But they may also dictate abandoning the idea of comprehensive international recognition in favour of unilateral moves with limited international support. Further, pragmatics may not dictate a reversion to the Allon Plan of settlements simply for security purposes, but would favour, as Goodman favours, continued Israeli security control of the West Bank.

I doubt, however, that anyone would accept the idea that this was also being undertaken to prevent a Palestinian state from collapsing. Further, the idea of trading a surrender of territory for the surrender of the right of return of refugees (148) is both irrelevant and unnecessary as well as an impossible dream. I do, however, agree that Palestinians will have to, as they have in the past, modify their dreams of even immediate statehood let alone replacing an Israeli state with a Palestinian one. It is as if the Palestinians will have to revert to the Zionist belief in gradualism that dominated prior to 1935.

Goodman and I arrive at similar though not identical outcomes, but with very different narratives and underpinning. This includes the offer of Israeli citizenship to the 100,000 or so Palestinians in Area C even if few take it up initially. This includes the compromise on Jerusalem. This includes the limits on the expansion of settlements which have already accomplished both their central religious and security goals. This includes supporting the development of a self-determined Palestinian state, except for security, and also a more or less contiguous one.

I also agree that political pragmatism can bridge the gap between the Israeli Right and Left even if it will be much harder to bridge the gap between Jewish Israelis and Palestinians. But we have to re-start somewhere. Further, that is where the vast majority of Jewish Israelis can be located and not in either of the extremes of the Left and Right that Goodman projects onto Israel to define the obstacles to peace in radically dichotomous terms.

Our current situation, especially the last Israeli election, seems to have indicated that various gradations of positions on the Right have been victorious while the Left has fallen into a very peripheral status. The chance then of returning the land in Area C is virtually nil. As Amit Gilutz of B’Tselem correctly states, 60% of the land in the West Bank remains fully under Israeli control. The area is home to 100,000 to 150,000 Palestinians who face severe restrictions in obtaining building permits, unlike the 440,000 Jewish Israelis in 135 “legal” settlements. The Palestinian population in Area C has dropped from about 300,000 in 2013, largely because of the severe restrictions on their daily lives. For example, access to clean water, to build houses and to build schools have all seriously deteriorated without even counting the high number of demolition orders. Yet there are about 100 illegal Jewish outposts in that part of the West Bank. As of now, there has been a de facto annexation of the area. Regrettably, I believe this situation seems irreversible.

In the rest of the West Bank, the situation in terms of demography is reversed with about 2,150,000 Palestinians in Area A and B. Area A covers 18% of the West Bank, including the eight major cities on the West Bank: Nablus, Jenin, Tulkarem, Qalqilya, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Hebron and Jericho. Area B consists of 440 Palestinian villages and their surrounding lands and no Israeli settlements. The Oslo II Accord required that, “during the first phase (my italics) of redeployment,” Areas A and B were to be transferred to the Palestinian Council according to Article XI.2. “Land in populated areas (Areas A and B), including government and Al Waqf land, will come under the jurisdiction of the Council during the first phase of redeployment.” Unfortunately, since the Second Intifada, this transfer has not been carried out and, in some cases, has been reversed.

Nothing, of course, was said about transferring an equal area of Area C to the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Council. This, or close to it, was proposed in the bilateral negotiations, but there was no agreement. There is nothing that prevents Israel from offering an equivalent of 60% of the West Bank to the Palestinian Council, or, at the very least, holding it in reserve for the Palestinian Council, including the territory that will allow a contiguous Palestinian state to emerge.

There are two quite separate but not unrelated problems, that of the equality of Palestinian Israeli citizens and that of Palestinians in East Jerusalem, about 350,000 of them, most of whom lack citizenship. After 1967, the Government of Israel offered citizenship to Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, the area which Israel had annexed. Relatively few accepted the offer. However, after 2008 and despair over any positive outcome to Oslo, there was actually a surge in applications for citizenship from Palestinians in East Jerusalem even though, in the previous five years, and perhaps because in the previous five years, Israel began turning down about half the applicants because of the inability of the applicants to “prove” they were residents of East Jerusalem.

The surge has been pushed in good part by inconvenience, since more and more East Jerusalemites need to travel for work or want to travel for leisure. However, since then, the situation has become much worse. And in the last few years, after receiving and partially processing the applications, Israel failed to accept as citizens almost all of the applicants. A significant backlog has developed. Between 2014 and September 2016, 4,152 East Jerusalemites applied for citizenship. 84% were approved and 161 rejected. The rest of the applications are pending. In 2016, 1,102 applications were submitted. Only nine applications were approved. Two were rejected. Now, in addition to the inconvenience of not having an Israeli passport, the bureaucratic requirements have significantly increased.

If West Bank land in Area C is to be annexed, it should happen in conjunction with a program of increasing equality of Israeli Palestinians, easier access to citizens of East Jerusalem and, presumably, Area C, and ensuring the political rights of Palestinians in the rest of the West Bank are enhanced and protected.

However, the hardest challenge in pragmatism is to combine realism with an adherence to moral and political principles. That is the challenge for most Israelis and for the vast majority in the diaspora.

With the help of Alex Zisman

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