he Iranian Involvement in Blowing Up the Jewish Centre in Buenos Aries

The Iranian Involvement in Blowing Up the Jewish Centre in Buenos Aries

Part III: The Washington-Jerusalem-Buenos Aries-Tehran Quadrangle

by

Howard Adelman

This week, Iran marked the anniversary of its 11 February 1979 Islamic Revolution that ousted the U.S.-backed Shah Reza Pahlavi. Massive rallies, especially in Tehran, were held. As usual, and in spite of the ongoing nuclear negotiations with the U.S. and secret cooperation in the fight against Islamic State, the rallies were accompanied by anti-American displays as well as the customary anti-Israel chants and banners. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, addressing the crowds, promised to “spare no effort” to protect the Islamic Republic’s rights as it negotiates. “The sanctions have not forced Iran to enter the talks, but the impracticality of the all-out pressures on Iran and the significant advancements in Iran’s peaceful nuclear program made the United States come to the negotiation table.” That is the way the narrative runs in the topsy-turvy Alice in Wonderland world of Iran.

The 1979 change was more of a coup than a revolution with a group of religious fascists succeeding a more secular clique of secular fascists, though, in contrast to his father, Reza Shah Pahlavi, Shah Pahlavi, the son, was Western-oriented and not a Germanophile. Reza Shah Pahlavi seized power in 1925 in what was then called Persia. When Adolph Hitler seized power in 1933 in Germany, the Shah was obsessed with Hitler’s concept of racial purity and an Aryan master race. In 1935, Pahlavi changed the name of the country to Iran, in Farsi, Land of Aryans, to emphasize the connection between Nazi Germany and the Indo-Persian lineage. When war began in 1939, the mufti of Jerusalem served as middle man to trade Iranian oil while organizing active Islamic participation in the murder of Jews in the Mideast and Eastern Europe, mostly Croatia. Hitler, in turn, supported a Pan-Arab state and Arab rule over Palestine.

If Buenos Aries was a centre of Nazi activities in the Americas during WWII, Tehran served the same role in the Middle East as it teemed with Gestapo agents planning the 1941 pro-Nazi coup in Baghdad as the German ambassador to Iraq, Dr. Fritz Gobba, supported both anti-British and anti-Semitic Iraqi movements and organizations. On 31 March 1940, the pro-Nazi, Rashid Ali al-Gaylani from the party of National Brotherhood, became Prime Minister of Iraq. In July, with a letter of introduction from the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Muhammad Amin al-Husayni, then living in Tehran, Gaylani sent his justice minister to meet with Franz von Papen in Greece and win support from Nazi Germany. However, the regent, Emir Abdul Ilah, who stood in for Ghazi’s four-year-old son, King Faisal II since Ghazi’s accidental death in 1939, removed him from office at the end of January 1941. Two months later, one year after he had assumed his role of PM, on 1 April 1941, Gaylani overthrew the regent.

Gaylani instigated a siege of the British Habbaniya airbase. The siege was fought off by British Air Vice-Marshal H.G. Smart and the Iraqi revolt was put down with British reinforcements from India, the 20th Indian Infantry Brigade, and troops under the leadership of Brigadier J.J. Kingstone with a mixture of regular troops, Jordanian forces led by Lieutenant-General Sir John Bagot Glubb, better known as Glubb Pasha, and a Jewish volunteer corps from Palestine after this odd military aggregation raced across 600 m of desert to reach Iran. When the latter reinforcements arrived on 30 May, Gaylani fled to Tehran. There, he was hosted by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem.

On Friday 30 May, an imam, Jani al-Gaylani, roused the worshippers with a firebrand anti-British and anti-Semitic sermon. By Saturday, the mobs that had formed saw they could make no headway against the armed forces of the British. Red hands were painted on Jewish homes and shops. On Sunday 1 June 1941, a Nazi-inspired pogrom in Baghdad, The Farhud, targeted the city’s Jewish minority with the mob screaming, “Cutal al yehud,” “slaughter the Jews.” Why the British ambassador, Kinahan Cornwallis, ordered the British troops to stand down, contrary to an explicit order from Winston Churchill to secure the city, has never been adequately explained. In the ensuing two days of rioting, 180 Jews were killed and many hundreds wounded. The death toll would have been much higher if Muslim friends and neighbours had not stepped forward to either protect or hide Jews. 900 Jewish homes were burned to the ground and many Jewish-owned shops were looted and trashed. Finally, later in the day, on 2 June, Baghdad police backed by British troops dispersed the rioters, killing about 400 in the process.

The anti-Semitism that Hitler had successfully helped export to Iraq persisted however. It made life unbearable for the Jewish community after WWII. There were frequent arrests on false charges of spying and public hangings of prominent Jews – that of Shafiq Ades, a prominent Jewish businessman in Basra being the most notable. Though the coup had failed, the anti-Semitism had continued and expanded underground. By 1950, almost all of the 150,000 Jews of Iraq, a 2500-year-old community, left, mostly for Israel after having been forced to abandon all their property. They constituted the militant base of the Likud party in Israel.

After the failed Iraq coup, the mufti of Jerusalem in his venomous anti-Semitism broadcasts from Tehran openly advocated cutting off all oil supplies from Iran to Britain. In October 1941, British, Russian and other Allied forces invaded Iran, deposed the pro-Nazi Shah and replaced him with his Western-oriented son, Mohammad Reza. The mufti skipped off to Berlin from where he continued to rant against Jews and advocate a pan-Arab and pan-Islamic alliance with the Nazi regime and a Middle East purified of Jews. In the bazaars of Tehran’s markets, merchants could no longer celebrate Adolph Hitler, but Iranian volunteers continued to be recruited to serve in the Waffen SS divisions in Bosnia and Croatia.

For thirty-eight years, during the second Pahlavi monarchy, Iranian Jews enjoyed a virtual golden age in Iran. Not only did they enjoy an unprecedented level of cultural and religious autonomy but they prospered economically as well. But when the worship of Cyrus the Great was traded in for Mohammed and puritanical adherence to Islamic values and dogmas, there was no need for Jews to be affected by this anymore than Christian reversion to fundamentalism need target Jews. Theoretically, the turn could go either way.

Not in Iran. Jews had benefitted greatly under the Shah and had been protected by him. Further, they had been leading voices in the embrace of modernism to which Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was much more opposed than to Jews per se. Jews were also leading figures in the culture of America in the eighties. In conspiratorial world views, some force had to be behind what Khomeini regarded as the diabolical turn in the world. The explanation was to be found in the confluence of a fundamental metaphysical construction of the world rooted in Persian Zoroastrianism going well back before Cyrus the Great where the world was governed by two opposed forces, Spenta Mainyu (progressive mentality) and Angra Mainyu (destructive mentality) under one God (Ahura Mazda, Illuminating Wisdom). Filtered through selective Shia Islamic beliefs and the Nazi heritage of anti-Semitism, Zionism was stamped as the Angra Mainyu, the evil force that had seeped into human minds. Within this Manichean world view, credit for the focus on Zionism and anti-Semitism can not only go to the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, but also the success of Zionism in the Middle East so that even Egypt embraced Israel in a peace agreement in 1979. Zionism became the Leviathan behind all the “horrific” changes in the world.

This is how Khomeini opens his book Al-Hukumah Al-Islamiyyah (Islamic Governance) that he wrote while he was still in exile in Paris. “Since its inception, the Islamic movement has been afflicted with the Jews ‘who’ established anti-Islamic propaganda and joined in various stratagems, and as you can see, this activity continues down to our present day.” The Jews of the Banú Qurayza were exterminated by the Prophet Muhammad because they corrupted Islam. Unlike the anti-Semitism of Nazism, the Jews were not genetically evil. If kept in their place, as the 25,000 Jews who remained in Iran were, they were not a problem. As long as the Jews and the Chief Rabbi of Iran, then Yedidia Shofet, recognized this, as long as Zionism did not contaminate the Iranian Jewish community, Jews could be tolerated. But if Islam allows itself to be infected and weakened by the Jewish Zionist virus, Iran and Islam will be destroyed.

How do you keep from being infected? By Shia purity, by avoiding contact with the impurity of unbelievers, by making sure that both your body and your mind are not contaminated. Don’t buy food from infidels. Don’t read books by unbelievers. Don’t allow Jews to rise above their inherent inferior status. In other words, do not allow the prime source of impurity, chizhaye napak, infect your souls, the virulent infection exemplified by the Bahá’i who were ruthlessly persecuted in Iran almost immediately upon Khomeini’s return. Even more despicable were the Christians, though, for Khomeini, almost nothing could be worse than the disease of Zionism and infected Muslims like the Bahá’i.

Within ten years, by 1989, anti-Semitism in this form of anti-Zionism had become commonplace. “For their transgression, cursed were the unbelievers of the Children of Israel.” And the military and intelligence services were ordered to develop a combat strategy both to prevent the infection from spreading and to destroy the disease to make sure not only that Iran remain immune from the infection, but to protect all other Muslims. For Khomeini was a modern globalist. Khaybar was the Jewish oasis besieged and conquered by the Prophet. Khaybar became the archetype of victory over the Iraqi Sunnis in the Iran-Iraq war and, subsequently, the basis for combating worldwide Zionism in all its forms as evidenced by The Protocols of the Elders of Zion widely available in Iran.

Clearly, the struggle with Israel was not just a struggle between two emerging nationalities, one Jewish and one Palestinian. Nor was it a dispute over territory and settlements in the West Bank. It was a Manichean dispute between Good (Shi’ite Islam as interpreted by Ayatollah Khomeini) and Jews and Zionism. The very survival of Islam was at stake. The struggle against Zionism was an existential struggle.

It is in that context that the work on nuclear plants and the bombing of both the Israeli embassy and the Jewish community centre must be understood within the first fifteen years of the 1979 revolution. What do we believe we know about Iran’s involvement in the bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aries in 1992 and the Jewish community centre in Buenos Aries in 1994?

  • Iranian intelligence planned both operations
  • The Iranian Supreme Council for National Security approved both plans
  • The plans of both operations followed the same trajectory
  • The plans were developed by Iran’s VEVAK, known as Vijeh, intelligence agency
  • The plans for the 1994 bombing were approved in August 1993 by the Iranian Supreme National Security Council with the Iranian spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in the chair
  • Others in attendance included President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (1989-1997), Ali Fallahian, Minister of Intelligence, Muhamed Hijazi, intelligence and security adviser to Khamenei, and Ali Akbar Velayati, Foreign Minister.

Rafsanjani was the de facto commander-in-chief of the Iranian military during the Iraq-Iran War and thought to be the richest person in Iran. He has a reputation as a pragmatic centrist and is often portrayed as a softie, but since he was in charge of the assassination in Europe of the regime’s opponents as well as domestic dissidents and Bahá’is, since he refused to lift Khomeini’s fatwa against Salman Rushdie, this is a very questionable presumption. More to the point, for our purposes, Rafsanjani strongly supported Iran’s nuclear program while insisting it was only for peaceful purposes, which, in part, helped him earn a reputation within Iran as the only Iranian with both the guile and clout to negotiate a deal with the West acceptable to Iran. Rafsanjani was very careful with his words and is often quoted about Jews as saying, “We have no problems with Jews and highly respect Judaism as a holy religion,” but that was fully consistent with Khomeini’s version of anti-Semitism.

The other members of the Iranian clique that decided to bomb the Israeli embassy and the Jewish cultural centre in Buenos Aries were of the same ilk. Ali Fallahian presented himself as an economic reform candidate, advocated ending the uranium enrichment program and was in favour of outreach to the West – the latter prospect having a particular inducement for him since he was wanted by Interpol for the AMIA bombing, by the German justice system for the murder of four Kurdish-Iranian opposition leaders, including Sadegh Sharafkandi, in the Mykonos restaurant assassinations, and by the Swiss courts which -indicted him for sending his agents to Geneva to assassinate Kazem Rajavi. Within Iran, he was the organizer of the 1998 “Chain Murders” allegedly by Saeed Emami, a deputy minister of intelligence. Saeed, widely rumoured to be Jewish, which might partly explain his role as an early Iranian Holocaust denier. He was indicted as a co-conspirator in the AMIA bombings. Arrested for the 1998 Chain Massacres; in prison, Emami purportedly tried to commit suicide on 16 June 1999 and died three days later. I believe, like many others assassinated by the Iranian intelligence service, he himself was murdered because he knew too much.

Hasin Baro, a member of Hezbollah, implemented the bombing of AMIA. Much of the information comes from Mossad, Abolghasem Mesbahi, a former VEVAK agent, from Interpol, from the investigations and charges of German and Swiss departments of justice, and mostly from the Argentinian investigations. Recently, the pattern was repeated in Uruguay where 32-year-old Iranian diplomat Ahmed Sabatgold left Uruguay because the Uruguayan intelligence services had evidence that he was involved in plans to blow up a building housing Israel’s new embassy in Montevideo. These boys were more akin to Mafia mobsters than religious clerics.

Why was AMIA targeted? For two reasons. First, in revenge for Argentina reneging on the Iran-Argentina dealings over Argentinian nuclear expertise and supplies. Secondly, because, for both the Argentinian and Iranian intelligence services, Jews were expendable.

Enough is known about Argentinian-Iranian nuclear negotiations to offer a reasonable portrait of motivation. Argentina did not have nuclear weapons. But it had a covert nuclear weapons program as well as an overt peaceful one. Argentina had refused to accede to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and did not sign the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America (the Tlatelolco Treaty). From 1983 until the early 1990s, Argentina also had missile development underway, the Cóndor II program.

However, all of this became moot when Argentina and Brazil negotiated a comprehensive safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and on 24 March 1993, ratified the Treaty of Tlatelolco. What to do with all the expertise, equipment and end enriched uranium? The nuclear program, which had been supposedly mothballed with the return of democracy on 10 December 1983, was not the only one that was being scrapped. Under U.S. pressure, President Menem had also cancelled the Cóndor 2 missile program.

The Military Intelligence of the Islamic Republic of Iran, VEVAK, which, because of the shared roots of both the Iranian and Argentinian intelligence programs in anti-Semitism, came shopping. Just as Juan Perón had run a two-track program, favouring and protecting Nazis while, at the same time granting Jews full rights as citizens, the two track program now became vertical rather than horizontal, with a subterranean negotiations over nuclear and missile technology and an overt renunciation of nuclear weapons. While President Raúl Alfonsin put the missile and nuclear weapons programs on a shelf, it also became a commodity to trade with Iran for oil and cash, the cash intended to line the pockets of the negotiators, including Carlos Saúl Menem who had been elected President in 1989. The once covert nuclear program and the recently cancelled missile program had become a covert trading package even though Menem had appointed many Jews to his cabinet and released the files about Argentina’s coddling of Nazis under Juan Perón. Nevertheless, if there was a personal profit to be made, nuclear and missile knowledge and materials were offered up to the Khomeini regime. Only the mechanisms for transfers remained to be worked out.

But Menem undercut his own intelligence negotiations with Iran and cancelled the deal. Why is uncertain. Fear of U.S. retaliation, the threat to make the bribes he received public? I do not know. What we do know is that Iran was furious at Argentina for cancelling the covert oil and cash deal for knowledge and materials. It is not known if this rage was also motivated because Menem had already benefited with the deposit of his bribes in Menem’s bank account in Switzerland. Whether or not suggested to Iran as expendable targets by Argentinian intelligence agents, the plot first to bomb the Israeli embassy followed with a bombing of the Jewish community centre was hatched. To what degree the Argentinian intelligence service or some of its agents were involved, is not known, at least not by me. What is known is that Iran was surprised at the reaction to the AMIA bombing since Iranian intelligence knew that the vast majority of Argentinians held the belief that Jews were only interested in money and half of Argentinians believed Jews used the Holocaust to promote their own advantage.

3,000 of the 15,000 to 30,000 disappeared had been Jews even though Jews only made up one per cent of the Argentinian population. Soon more Jews as well as non-Jews would be sacrificed on the twin pillars of aborted international diplomacy and anti-Semitism, both compounded by corruption. Nisman’s later revelations of Iranian-Argentinian arrangements to cancel the inquiry onto the bombings in return for oil seemed to be of the same ilk.

Sunday: The Washington Corn

My Promised Land XVI Summation

My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel

by

Ari Shavit – My Conclusion

Ari’s book has been more raved about than any book that has come out of Israel in the last quarter of a century. M. J. Rosenberg in The Huffington Post wrote: “It is an absolutely brilliant book which left me grateful for the existence of Israel, awed by its accomplishments, yet stunned by the horrors that surrounded its creation (the Nakba) and the post ’67 occupation. .It is the best book I’ve read about Israel since Amos Elon’s The Israelis: Founders and Sons in 1971.” Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of The New Republic in his New York Times review called it “important and powerful” and praised Ari Shavit for bringing erudition and eloquence with an undoctrinaire mind to the promises and challenges facing Israel. Thomas Friedman, the author famous not only for his incisive New York Times columns, but for his own marvellous book, From Beirut to Jerusalem, effused over the book and recommended that both Obama and Netanyahu read it.

So even though I stood and cried and saluted and felt renewed when I finished reading the book – I actually read it twice and the feeling was even stronger the second time – why did the book leave such a bad taste in my mouth? After all, those who praised the book were correct. The book is a great read. Sometimes a lament and at other times the book acquires a soaring lyricism, it moves at a rapid pace while we meet dozens and dozens of individuals and traverse a myriad of places at a dizzying speed.

And its political message can appeal to both the right – bomb Iran – and the left – get out of occupied West Bank, and, more importantly acknowledge what the Jews did to the Palestinians. But do not apologize. They made it necessary. And don’t retreat. Stand up tall and proud for what Jews created in Palestine. Ari Shavit is praised as a man with the courage to speak truth to power, to tell it as it is. Further, he sets his analysis within a dialectical account of two contradictions vying with one another, the return of the Jews to their ancient homeland and developing there a prosperous and creative nation and doing so at the cost and excision of another nation, the Palestinian people.

Since I co-wrote a volume called No Refuge, No Return that documented in detail across many refugee movements the reality that populations displaced in ethnic and religious conflicts do not return except if they win through the use of arms, then that is the choice the Palestinians face. Either accept the reality of no return or continue the fight. There is no third alternative. Ari too has stated that, “It is my moral duty as an Israeli to recognize Lydda and help the Palestinians to overcome it by helping them establish a Palestinian state that is ready to live in peace with Israel. But, ultimately, it is the Palestinians’ responsibility to overcome the painful past, lean forward and not become addicted to victimhood.” So we agree. So why don’t I cheer on this book from the highest towers and with the loudest voice?

Because Ari does not really face Lydda. He describes it well in a more moving way than Benny Morris. But other than calling for Israelis to recognize what happened, does he call for trials for those who were criminally responsible? When he calls for accountability, how is the accountability to be addressed? Should it be through a Truth and Reconciliation Commission? These are the really difficult questions that Ari avoids. Instead, he opts for posturing, for calling for responsibility but not offering an institutional way to exemplify that responsibility. Would either trials or a Truth and Reconciliation Commission be relevant? Would they work? I myself have serious doubts. But the questions must be asked. The questions must be explored. To avoid them and yet call for responsibility and accountability is to be irresponsible in what you say and to continue the trope of avoiding true accountability.

Ari Shavit is not a propagandist. He gives the impression of presenting Israel in all its complexity. However, he repeatedly simplifies the interpretation and boils it down to dichotomies, often false ones while, at the same time, denouncing the traditional dichotomies. As he makes the story complex, he oversimplifies at the same time. Most of all, he is an old style Zionist parading in a new dress at war with itself, in love with gays and respecting the drug culture but denouncing with the thunderous moralism of one hand clapping their turned-off disavowal of their collective responsibilities.

In his chapter on the rabid ideologues of the settler movement, where is the discussion of the Allon Plan that gave those settlers the moral authority and institutional backing of the state? It is not as if it is not there. But it only lurks in the shadows.

What you do not get is the rich artistic life of Israel, the depth of its science, the profundity of its scholarship the brilliance of its new-found culinary skills. Overwhelmingly, this is a political book. And many Israelis have given up on politics. But in calling everyone back to man the barricades, women are marginalized. Sephardim are given the most moving chapter, but are otherwise ignored. The Israeli-Palestinians are represented by a rabid Palestinian nationalist dressed up as an outwardly liberal human rights lawyer. The Nakba story is told through the events at Lydda and for those unfamiliar with the atrocities committed, it may be very upsetting. But most of all we get tendentious generalizations that seem to rise phoenix-like out of smoke and ashes rather than careful sifting of evidence and argument.

Look at how central Israel is to American policy as it withdraws from Afghanistan but is engaged with negotiations with Iran, Israel’s most notable existential threat, and with Syria, now Israel’s self-destroyed neighbour, and with the Palestinian Authority, Israel’s most intractable problem. The book is written as much for Americans as for Israelis at the same time as Shavit relegates diaspora Jews to the wastebasket of history. I applaud Ari when he screams, “It is not the occupation, stupid! It is the conquest!’ but then berate him for his repeated false prophecies over Iran and his drum-beat insistence that bombing Iran is the only answer otherwise judgement day is at hand – in 2006, in 2007, in 2008, in 2009, in 2010, in 2011, in 2012, in 2013. Ari Shavit is no different than a Christian preacher who repeats every year that the end of the world is now and finally immanent and then proposes a way to deal with it that would bring the immanence of terrible worldwide destruction nearer.

I find Ari’s placing the blame for the demise of Oslo on the Israelis because they failed to recognize that the central issue was the nakba and the refugees and not the occupation misplaced, thugh they did do that. I have written for years that the refugees (and Jerusalem) were the central issues and not the settlements, but I did not fault the Israelis for their failure but Arafat for his flakiness and Abbas for his stubborn grip on the refugee issue. Ari’s historical analysis was just inadequate and incorrect for me.

I applaud Ari’s insistence on a two-state solution. All other visions are chimeras or nightmares. But I do not deride Kerry and Obama for once again trying even if the odds are against them — as they both well know. Most of all I deride Shavit for his necessitarianism, his repeated claims about inevitability when my take on history, whether looking to the past or the future, is to emphasize possibilism. Contingencies have a force all their own. Of the sixteen Track II efforts in the attempt to get the Israelis and Palestinians together at the peace table, I was a participant in one track. Neither it nor any of the other tracks knew about the initiative that came out of a Prime Minister of Norway’s kitchen and from two Haifa academics previously not intimately connected with the peace process. Yet they succeeded against all odds where we were unsuccessful.

History and politics are serendipitous.

So it is not because I am put off by his style. I find it enchanting and wonderful. And I am not put off by most of his messages. I applaud them. The dogmatism of his premises drive me up a wall in a man that is otherwise a voice of tolerance and understanding. What bothers me in the end is that he is an inspiring, engaging and brilliant Israeli who is a great listener in his professional life but would probably display the arrogance and know-it-all qualities of the stereotypical Askenazi Israeli elitist male who loves an argumentative debates – though, I insist, none of my very personal friends are like that. He purports to lay the groundwork for a new renewed Zionism but it is the old Ashkenazi elitist Zionism in a new dress that does not recognize that women now wear the pants in the family, that does not come to terms with the strength and creativity of religious Zionism, that does not really come to terms with the creativity and industriousness of Palestinians who want to give up on the politics of nostalgia.

The book is very uneven, with some brilliant chapters – Lydda, the Deri chapter and the final chapter with its call to arms, but the tale of the youth sit-in in Tel Avi , Occupy Rothchild, is both confusing and unrevealing. The chapter on sex and drugs and the club culture is an exercise in self-indulgence and contradicts his final message. And that is part of the problem of the book. It has been drawn from many of his columns and, other than the case of Iran, reveals views which he clearly no longer seems to hold.

In the end, there is a problem of voice, not only the problems with Ari’s voice, the inadequacies of which I dealt with many times over my many blogs on the book, but the absence of other voices that would undermine Ari’s caricature of even Palestinians, of Mizrachi Jews, of the religious, and of the women’s movement that is so strong in Israel. For a book of so many voices, it is interesting how many groups do not seem to have a spokesperson. Most of all, the dispora Jews relegated to the ashcan of history also have and will continue to have an important contribution to make.

My Promised Land. XV. By the Sea

My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel

by

Ari Shavit

XV By the Sea – The New Zionism

The book ends where it begins, with Ari’s own nuclear family returning to England for a vacation. Ari contrasts Israel with England, the frenzy and constant disruption of the former and the tranquility and continuity of the latter. In doing so, he repeats his love of dichotomous polar oppositions which contribute so much to the book’s hyperbolic quality. Yes, we know what you mean, Ari, but what Brit would agree today that the UK is a place of “deep calm and solid identity”? Even if there is some relative truth to the depiction, one doesn’t have to go very far back in history to find a very different portrait of that stormy isle. As the historian G.M. Trevelyan wrote, the reason King Louis XIV of France permitted William of Orange to invade the British Isles and attack his cousin and ally James II was not simply because James was not sufficiently obsequious to him, but for political goals. Britain had the reputation as the most tendentious place in Europe, ridden with internal conflicts. Louis expected William of Orange to get bogged down in eternal wars and allow he, King Louis, to conquer Europe at leisure. As it turned out, in the Great Revolution, William of Orange tamed that land of eternal turmoil, but beneath its placid surface one need scratch very little to find tumultuous conflicts beneath.

However, if you are vacationing in Dorset or in the lake District, repose is the order of the day and Britain serves well as a foil for Israel and possibly Ari’s thesis that the constant turmoil explains the vitality, energy and creativity of Israelis who live on the edge. On all counts, Israel is certainly an exciting country with more than its share of exciting and excitable people. So why did Ari’s ancestors who were prosperous and well established and who enjoyed the fruits of British economic success and its strong tradition of freedom and liberty leave to resettle in a backward place like Palestine? It took a whole book to tell us why. Whatever the challenges, the effort at resettlement was worth the sacrifice. Ari sums up the reasons.

The primary one is assimilation. If the family had stayed in Britain, by the time of his children’s generation, they would most probably no longer identify as Jewish. The Anglo-Jews of his great-grandfather’s generation are a dying breed with reduced numbers of children and most of them increasingly intermarrying and integrating into the dominant culture. “I know that if my great-grandfather had not removed me from this coast, I myself would probably have been today only half-Jewish. Tamara, Michael, and Daniel [Ari’s children] might not consider themselves Jewish at all.” (385) The collective Jewish “we” would be on its last legs. He would have been a witness to the withering away, not of the state, but of Jewish identity. The diaspora is a lost cause for Jews. “With no Holocaust and no pogroms and no overt anti-Semitism, these islands kill us softly. Enlightened Europe also kills us softly, as does democratic America. Benign Western civilization destroys non-Orthodox Judaism.” (386)
Between the Scylla of rampant persecuting antisemitism and the Charybdis of benign enlightenment, and without the captivating hold of the Jewish religion that could sail the ark of Jewish survival through those treacherous shoals, Jews as Jews would disappear.

What if they did? My first published article was entitled, “Is Jewish Survival Necessary?” A provocative question, but one Ari does not ask let alone try to answer. He just assumes it is a fundamental value. Nor does he ask whether one’s identity as a Jew is safe in Israel. Netanyahu’s son is dating a beautiful non-Jewish Norwegian, a story that made headlines in the Israeli and diaspora press. Is the answer collecting Jews together in sufficient numbers to form a critical mass? Or is the resurrection of religious Judaism the only answer? Ari does not ask nor try to answer that question either. He presumes the project of safeguarding secular Jewish life is identical with Zionism, was accomplished and not just stretched out by Zionism, and is sufficient in itself to have justified all that effort. It is a basic premise of Zionism, not an hypothesis to be subjected to interrogation. It is a categorical and not a hypothetical imperative. Further, for Jews as Jews, as a nation of Jews and not just a religion, “Jaffa was inevitable.” (387)

Israel has 6 million Jews of all ages. According to a recent Pew survey, America has 9 million adult Jews, but only if we include all four categories – not only the 4.2 million who identify themselves as Jewish by religion, the 1.1 million overtly secular non-religious Jews (including many Israelis), but also the 2.4 million who are Jewish only because they had one Jewish parent but do not identify as Jewish and the 1.2 of the Jewish affinity category, who, though not raised as Jewish, for one reason or another identify as Jewish. Zionism, therefore, has created the second greatest concentration of Jews in the world and the concentration with the greatest strength and determination to survive as Jews. Further, they are a young population. By 2025, the majority of Jews in the world will be Israeli. And this is Zionism’s greatest triumph.

To sum up this tale of triumph, Ari takes us on a trip around Israel retracing the path of his great grandfather who abandoned Britain to participate in a dream and make it a reality. He travels first through Rishon LeZion in whose orchestra one of my sons once played the classical trumpet. That son is now certainly an example of a totally assimilated Jew. If he had stayed in Israel and married an Israeli, he and his children (he has four) would still be totally assimilated, but to a dominant Israeli secular culture. And if he lived in West Rishon, it would be like living in the suburbs of any large city in North America with its malls and its multiplex cinemas.

Ramleh is different again. Rishon LeZion preserved its original character. West Rishon had no character to be preserved. Ramleh inherited a core Arab heritage and character but demolished the indigenous culture and left nothing with vitality in its place when it was resettled by Oriental Jews. Having traveled and been in the various different places he describes, I recognize what he is describing. In particular, I remember a TV show we did on a mixed Jewish/Arab boys’ football club and my wish that the place had been as uplifting as the enthusiasm of the sports organizers.

But Ari’s visual and descriptive acuity is then followed by what can only be described as silly generalizations. “We Jews need to crowd together. We need to be with one another, even to fight with one another. It is as if we cannot live by ourselves as individuals, as if we were afraid that on our own we’ll vanish. So we do not acknowledge the private domain.” (371)

It is certainly true that I never have had the experience anywhere else but in Israel of standing in a line in a bank and the person behind asking, as I filled out a form, “How much do you have in your account?” He had obviously peeked and saw that I had a positive balance. It was a time of high inflation in Israel. No one but myself, that I knew of anyway, ran a positive balance. If I had not been so startled and so gruff in putting the inquirer off, he would probably only have advised me on the advantages of running a negative balance. But this behaviour of intrusion into privacy was a character of a certain culture. And Ari knows that it was not the character of his great-grandfather’s British generation. So why write, “We Jews….”?

Ari rants. Ari cheers. Ari thinks Israel needs a new Zionism, not a post-Zionism and certainly not an anti-Zionism, a Zionism that will be as innovative and inspiring in responding to the new challenges as the various versions of Zionism in the past responded to the old challenges. For the inherited Zionism of the last few decades has got almost everything wrong as if to balance out the greatness of the achievements of the early years. He is eager to be part of Zionism’s re-invention. And he does so by telling the stories of various people and their various places. As he writes the Israeli bible for the coming generation!

Beit Shemesh where my daughter and her family lived for almost eight years. Yad Vashem where we made one of our best TV shows focusing, incidentally, mostly on the righteous gentiles. The Western Wall where we all ran on the last day of my family’s first visit to Jerusalem in 1973 before the Yom Kippur War to dance and play in 12″ of snow, the only competition Yom Kippur ever had for bringing the city to a standstill. I recall visiting the military cemetery on Mount Herzl and making a TV show beside Rabin’s grave and recognizing the egalitarianism Ari describes. Though I have been to many Palestinian towns and refugee camps, I have never visited what is left of Deir Yassin, though I too envision Israel’s future as a democratic state side by side a self-governing Palestinian state and not an apartheid state, a bi-national state, or, worst of all, a conquering and ethnic cleansing militarist state.

Ari raises the two themes I heard him raise in a PBS television interview. “In the twenty-first century there is no other nation that is occupying another people as we do, and there is no other nation that is as intimidated as we are.” (399) There are seven circles of intimidation: the outer circle of threatening Islam, the next circle of antitheticial Arabs going through the turmoil of the Arab Spring with the outcome uncertain, the next circle of a virulently angry and radicalizing Palestinian populations in the West Bank and Gaza, and an even closer circle of Arab Israelis, members of a democratic polis but without equal rights. Then comes the fifth circle that wraps around Jewish Israelis and squeezes the breath out of their lungs as Israelis ask the unanswerable question: Do with have the strength, the fortitude, the discipline, the courage, the mental strength and resolve to stand up to Israel’s enemies. “Within the Islamic-threat circle and Arab-threat circle and the Palestinian challenge circle and the internal-threat circle, lies the fifth threat of the mental challenge. (403)

But there are two other threats even closer to the Israeli soul – the moral threat to Israel as a democratic state that is being eroded by the occupation, and even more central still, the identity-threat, the erosion of that revolutionary Hebrew identity that displaced the Jewish galut identity, that like a Nietzschean Dionysian force transvalued the mores of the Jewish people and created a renewed Hebrew tribe with its own language and culture and vibrant way of living to the full.

That identity has been dulled and eroded, is crumbling and disintegrating before our very eyes by a rampant pluralism that increasingly forgets what it takes to make a unified people. The Jews of the diaspora are in decline. Only the Israeli people can save the Jews and they must do so in a New Middle East in turmoil and regressing to tribalism. They must do so through a New Politics that was the dramatic outcome of the Israeli 2013 elections brought about by a renewed galvanized secular Zionist majority that rejects the old left-right divide, but also ignores the Palestinian issue, that wears blinkers when confronting Iran and, instead of facing the external threats boldly, becomes obsessed with costs to consumers, and the difficulty in finding reasonably priced housing, the rejection of special-interest groups and privileged minorities. Ari celebrates the rise of a pragmatic, practical, middle class Israeli identity with all its strengths and shortcomings.

What makes Israel great is its people. and the can-do creative enterprise they bring to whatever they take on. Israel is not just a start-up nation. The start-up nation is because Israel consists of a variety of start-up individuals, yet individuals who insist that they share both a common identity and a common fate. “We Israelis face a Herculean mission. To live here we will have to redefine a nation and divide a land and come up with a new Jewish Israeli narrative. We will have to restore a rundown state and unify a shredded society and groom a trustworthy civilian leadership. After ending occupation, we’ll have to establish a new, firm, and legitimate iron wall on our post-occupation borders. Facing the regional tide of radical Islam, Israel will have to be an island of enlightenment. Facing seven circles of threat, Israel will have to be moral, progressive, cohesive, creative, and strong.” (417)

For a Jew with a trace of a Jewish soul remaining, there is no resistance to such an appeal. My critical intellect gets bracketed as my tears well up and I stand to salute the renewed Jewish nation that shall once again be a light unto the world.

My Promised Land: XIII Israeli Arabs, Hezbollah and the Jewish Youth Occupy Movement

My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel

by

Ari Shavit

 

XIII     Israeli Arabs, Hezbollah and the Jewish Youth Occupy Movement

Chapter fourteen entitled, “Reality Shock, 2006,” suggests a rude awakening. Ari argues that Israel experienced seven different revolts within thirty years, presumably between 1976 and 2006: the settler’s revolt, the peace revolt, the liberal-judicial revolt, the Oriental revolt, the ultra-Orthodox revolt, the hedonistic-individualistic revolt, and the Palestinian-Israeli revolt.” (327) I had trouble aligning this list with his chapters. To call the settler movement of the seventies a revolt is a little puzzling. To call the peace movement – Peace Now – a revolt also seems an exaggeration. What was the liberal-judicial revolt? Was Ari referring to the 1989 Supreme Court ruling that 16 miles of the separation fence had to be re-routed because its path caused undue and unnecessary hardship to Palestinians when an alternate route providing for security was available while, at the same time, determining that the green line was not a political border? As I read on, it was clear he was really referring to the liberal-economic rather than liberal-judicial revolt against the nanny state rather than against the military state. But there is no specific chapter to provide guidance; his confused language does not help. And wasn’t the Oriental and the ultra-Orthodox revolt the same as he told the story of Deri? And why call the explosion of the club scene by hedonist-individualists (and ordinary young Israelis) a revolt?

In any case, at least the last revolt, the uprising in the Galilee in 2003 when 12 Arab-Israeli citizens were killed, is clear for Ari deals with that in Chapter thirteen as he features Mohammed Dahla, an Arab-Israeli lawyer, who insists that Jewish Israelis fail to recognize that they need Arab-Israelis as their partners in the turmoil of the Middle East and set aside their distrust which can be rooted in the effort to define Israel as a Jewish state instead of a state for all Israelis. Mohammed hates the imported architecture imposed on the landscape. The only natural architecture suited to the terrain is traditional and Arabic. Mohammed objects to the absence of Arabic on most highway signs. But most of all, he objects to the exclusion of the Arabic history and identity from Israeli history. This is a charge hard to refute since the state was created in dealing with the insistence that this competing national identity and history be the ruling one. Further, the Israeli-Arabs cannot get over the fact that the guests who were a minority have become the masters. So Mohammed resurrects the vision whereby the Arabs will realize their “natural” role by surrendering the two-state solution in favour of one state, the very reason Jewish Israelis will never agree and remain suspicious of their own citizens of Arab background.

The exclusion and discrimination of Arab-Israelis is appalling. But the Israeli Arabs tell the same stories as the enemies of Israel – the Jews have no rights to the TempleMount and the story of the Jewish temple is a fiction. Further, if a single state is not forthcoming, Arab-Israelis want an autonomous Galilee in an echo of ethnic conflicts everywhere. And Mohammed envisions and hopes for the return of the Palestinian refugees by the hundreds of thousands.  “We will be masters and you will be our servants.” (323) That Mohammed Dahla would openly say this to Ari is a credit to Ari’s interviewing skills. As long as Azmi Bishara remains a hero of the Israeli-Palestinians, Jewish Israelis will continue to distrust Arab-Israeli citizens.  Of course, there are far more moderates as the Palestinian directed Israeli film, The Attack, made clear. But the dilemma remains – how to be a democratic state respecting the equality and rights of every single citizen regardless of ethnic origin or religion while also being a Jewish state that has a minority that dreams of once again being a majority and, therefore, still not accepting the UN partition resolution to divide the land between an Arab and a Jewish state. How do you defend the equal rights of Mohammed Dahla who is one of the foremost defenders among Israeli-Arabs of human rights when Dahla himself at a deeper level believes in overturning the system and establishing Arab culture as the dominant and superior one?

In any case, Ari claims that these seven revolts all contributed to “the disintegration of the Israeli republic.” (328) Until I read this I had no idea Israel had become a failed state. But that is not what Ari means. He says that instead of a mature and stable state, Israel had become a bazaar. Has Ari not paid any attention to what has happened to other states around the world and the difficulties of governance in our time in history?

“The settlers rose against political discipline and restraint. The peaceniks rose against historical and geostrategic reality. The liberals rose against the all-too-powerful state. The Orientals rose against the Occidental domination. The ultra-orthodox rose against secularism. The hedonists rose against the suffocating conformism of Zionist collectivism. The Palestinian-Israelis rose against Jewish nationalism.” (328) The previous seven revolts resulted in a “lack of leadership and lack of direction and lack of governability.” (328) The key turning point had been the Yom Kippur War which “promulgated a deep distrust of the state, its government, and its leadership.” (329) Moral authority and hierarchy broke down. The 2006 crisis was the war against Hezbollah in Lebanon that lasted only 33 days. According to Ari, it delivered a shock from which Israel has not yet recovered. The one institution in which all Israelis still had faith, had failed them. The IDF was not able to defeat a militia with only 8,000 militants.

Do I hear echoes of William Yeats’ The Second Coming?

 

                        Turning and turning in the widening gyre

                        The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

                        Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

                        Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

                        The blood-dimmed tide is loosed and everywhere

                        The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

                        The best lack all conviction, while the worst

                        Are full of passionate intensity.

So we have been presented chapter after chapter with the image of a falcon flying in wider and wider circles so that the centripetal and the centrifugal forces lose all sense of balance and everything spins out of control and the falcon loses its bearings which provide its basis for safety and security. But unlike Yeats who ascribes the passionate intensity to the worst, Ari celebrates the passionate intensity expressed by the rebels of different stripes. But the dominant image is the same – a society headed towards self-destruction and chaos. Like Yeats, Ari undertakes this book as an effort to kick start radical change, but since Ari is a Jew and not a Christian, he cannot exactly call it a “second coming”, but he can help us recall Yeats’ image of the lion with the head of a man. This is Ari’s image – a cool and deliberate head attached to a fearsome body which radiates predatory power as well as royal strength and authority. So the human face on the lion has a blank glaze as pitiless as the sun. But the common core of values had disintegrated. The melting pot itself melted. “They were not willing to take orders from anyone. They trusted no one. They became unknowing anarchists.”

So much for a prose version of a poet’s lament posing as a political analysis with not one whit of evidence to back it up and the economic, technological, pharmaceutical, gastronomical transformations yet to be described all belying the depiction. But none of these yet belong to Ari’s promised land. Instead, anarchic Israel keeps crashing into reality checks — in 2006, the Lebanon War in which Israel for the first time “was not able to defeat an enemy.” (331)

But this is what all wars are like that pit standing armies against revolts embedded in civil society rather than the state. That is why Israel can put down the intifada and win a series of battles but cannot win the war. Just as America was helpless and humiliated in the face of the Sunni revolt in Iraq, just as America was virtually helpless and humiliated by the Taliban revolt in Afghanistan, and just as America hesitated to repeat such a lesson in Syria, Israel cannot and should not be expected to win a war against Hezbollah.  The goal is only to beat it into a recognition of a superior enemy and create an unwillingness to wrestle with the mighty anytime soon.

Only two chapters ago Ari was celebrating the freedom and joy of casual sex and drugs. Now he is distressed that these hedonists do not recognize the need to maintain Israel’s might. Zionism, the nation, the army all had to be celebrated not denigrated. The hedonistic individualists regarded Jewish nationalism with contempt. As Netanyahu has said repeatedly, and Ari here echoes, Israel lives in a very tough neighbourhood.  “Israel is a Jewish state in an Arab world” (332) and an Arab world that is in turmoil. In the face of the contradiction of being “a democracy surrounded by tyrannies, a Jewish state in an Arab world and a Western state in an Islamic world. Israel must re-invent itself as a unique, positive anomaly.” (332) Because this contradiction is not just the current condition; it is “perpetual”. This, of course, ignores, the zig-zag moves of Arab states towards democratic regimes that have only been more or less reasonably successful in Tunisia.  

Everyone is to blame but Ari. “The constant attacks on nationalism, the military, and the Zionist narrative consumed Israel’s existence from within. Business inculcated ad absurdam the illusion of normalcy by initiating sweeping privatization and establishing an aggressive capitalist regime that didn’t suit the needs of a nation in conflict. (my italics) Academia inculcated ad absurdum a rigid political correctness by turning the constructive means of self-criticism into an obsessive deconstructive end of its own. The media promoted a false consciousness that combined wild consumerism with hypocritical righteousness. Instead of purpose and promise, the Israeli elite embraced self-doubt and cynicism.” (333) But if the privatization was an essential step for creating Israel as a start-up nation, how can one support clinging to the patriarchal nanny state in the name of a solid sense of the collective?

In any case, one might write that as well about Canada and the USA, but the difference was that Israel lived in a world in which it was always in existential danger. Israel could not afford such self-indulgent luxuries. Israel needed inspiring tales and solid norms. Israel needed equality and solidarity. Otherwise why would youth be willing to sacrifice themselves for their nation?  For Ari, the immediate challenge is not the occupation but “the challenge of regaining national potency”. But perhaps the challenge is really facing the fact, that other than the temporary aberration of Iran (tomorrow), in reality Israel is no longer under an existential threat for the time being.

However, for Ari, this is the perpetually perilous world Israel lives in: “Iran on the rise, Hezbollah building up in the south. Peace has failed. Occupation has failed. Unilateralism has failed….Faced with renewed existential danger, Israel has no relevant national strategy. It is confused and paralyzed.” (334) And Israel is schizophrenically divided between the soldiers who fight in the north and the clubbers in Tel Aviv indifferent to the war and in pursuit of sex, drugs and self-satisfaction.

In the next chapter, fifteen entitled “Occupy Rothschild, 2011” Ari tells the story of the immigration of the Strauss family from Nazi Germany in the thirties and the growth, largely due to the matriarch and her son, Michael, of a cheese and dairy multinational. The chapter is a paean to the industriousness, creativity, boldness and initiatives of the Israeli people themselves. The next example is Kobi Richter, an air pilot in the Six Day War who attacked the Egyptian airfields and aircraft at El-Arish and by 1989 controlled 60% of the worldwide AOI market with annual revenues of over $400 million and then went on to found Medinol which made the most flexible but rigid stents used in medical surgery.

Ari echoes many of the results of research that point out the cluster of factors that turned Israel into the greatest start-up nation in the modern world. Military investment and the infrastructure and close camaraderie and trust developed in the army along with the radical individualism and self-reliance encouraged and developed in Israeli society, the Russian immigration, the cross fertilization of various fields of expertise. are among the many factors that made Israeli society unique.

Stanley Fischer, the immediate past brilliant Governor of the Bank of Israel credits four other factors for its success and four dangers. One reason for success was the reduction of government spending from 51% of GDP to 42%, the huge reduction in the national debt from 100% to 7% of GDP, maintaining a conservative and responsible financial system and fostering the conditions that will encourage high-tech to flourish. The four worrisome problems are a deteriorating educational system, the low employment  rate among the ultra-Orthodox (45%), the low employment rate in the Arab-Israeli sector because most Arab women do not work and the concentration of ownership in a few firms thus reducing competition.  The perils the country faces all boil down to economics!!! Ari just takes it all in and regurgitates it back. What about the discovery of natural resources, the gas finds off the coast, as a serendipitous cause of success? What about the peril of religious fanaticism?

Dan Ben David, an economics professor at Hebrew U has his own perils – the fivefold growth in welfare payments over thirty years because money is being transferred to the ultra-Orthodox and Arab minorities instead of being invested in infrastructure, the slower rate of annual growth while social cohesion and social justice have been eroded, the inadequate investment in human capital, the demographic revolution whereby the ultra-Orthodox and the Arab population, the least productive sectors, are growing at an astounding rate thereby dooming Israel to becoming a backward nation, The few work harder and harder to support the many who proliferate more and more.

Itzik Shmuli, a Jewish kid from a Kurdish Jewish family from northern Iraq  who went on to become a leader of the protest movement against high rents that eventually led 450,000 Israelis, 6% of Israel’s population, to take to the streets, is Ari’s next narrator.  For Ari, the 2011 revolt is the most impressive. Why? Because it was moderate and nonviolent and won 80% of Israeli support. Or was it really because it seemed to die leaving hardly a trace and seemed to have no influence in producing more rental units or more affordable ones thereby echoing parallel protests in New York and Toronto? The absence of any comparative perspective, the inflation of Israeli problems as if they are exclusive to Israel, begins to pall.

It stands to reason that if you cut public expenditures to boost the private sector, investment in education will suffer. Since this was happening around the world in no relationship to the Yom Kippur War, why is the War the source of the change? As the health, education and infrastructure are starved for funds, they all deteriorate. As the rich grow richer and the spread between the super-rich and the poor expand greatly, and greater in Israel than almost anywhere else because Israel was more egalitarian than anywhere except Tanzania and is now more inegalitarian than anywhere but the USA, it is far more noticeable there.

Ari is a great story teller but a terrible analyst covered up in good part by giving many of those analysts their own platform. Look at this account as he boils all the stories he has heard down to lessons learned. “The secret of Israeli high tech is bucking authority, ignoring conventional wisdom, and flouting the rules of the game. The weakness of the Israeli state is bucking authority, ignoring conventional wisdom, and flouting the rules of the game.” (361) Clever, but they are all just one reason -an innovative spirit. Ari has boiled everything down to a tautology. The reason for innovation is innovation and it results in both success and failure. Other than ending up with an empty conclusion, Ari totally fails to distil what he heard. Further, how did the supposed suffocating conformism of Zionism yield such innovative individuality 

What happened in the streets of Tel Aviv is for Ari a wake up call. “out of disintegration and despair we must rise to the challenge of the most ambitious project of all: nation building. The resurrection of the Israeli republic.” (362)

Am I blind? Am I stupid? Why all the enthusiasm for this false prospector of doom and false prophet of the need for resurrection?

My Promised Land Peace 1993

My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel

by

Ari Shavit

 

XI        Peace 1993

For Ari, the desire for peace has always been one stream of Zionism. But it has always been on the fringes. The more basic instincts have been militant.. Further, since the Arab uprising of 1936-1939, the militancy has grown. Sometimes he seems to attribute this to external factors – the responses of local Arabs. However, it is clear here that the main factor is that Zionists, “paid lip service to peace, but [Zionism] was not willing to pay a real price for it.” (240) Immigration. Settlement. Nation-building. These were all supreme values. Peace was not.

For Ari, the real peace movement started in 1967. The movement for Greater Israel started in earnest at the same time. Yossi Sarid, a Holocaust survivor who rose to become Israel’s Minister of Education, is his first hero of many in this chapter. Like many Israeli characters, like Shulamit Aloni who died two days ago, Yossi was arrogant and brilliant, conceited  and rebellious. and unable to serve any authority higher than himself. Yossi had accomplished more as a literary figure than Shulamit. Yossi and Shulamit were hard to tolerate as people but enchanting nevertheless. Yossi’s brilliance was such that he was destined to lead the Labour Party. The crux of the first part of this chapter is both why he failed to fulfill his destiny.

According to Ari, Yossi became a committed peacenik in the early 1970s when he was convinced then that occupation and settlements were a disaster. Was it the settlements that served as the turning point? Ari says the turning point came in the early 1970s not mid-1970s when Ofra was established. Was it the Yom Kippur War? He does not mention that and only focuses on peace with the Palestinians not Israel’s neighbouring Arab states. Even if others, such as Jacob Talmon, arrived at that position in 1967, Ari never tells us why Yossi arrived at his position at the time he did, only that the timing was premature for the Labout party and he was out of synch with its hawkish leaders. So Yossi Sarid, the prince-in-waiting of the Labour Party, became an outcast, a leader of protests rather than of a major political party or faction within it.

In 1982, in opposing the Lebanon War, Yossi came into his own as undisputed leader of the peace movement. But his breach from the Labour Party meant he was confined to the life of a maverick, frustrating for him because, unlike others, he saw himself as destined for prime leadership.  So he ends up disheartened, discontented and disillusioned. The dilemma is posed. How does one say “No” to warmongering but remain within the folds of potential leadership without consigning oneself to being a permanent outsider? For Ari, protest alone is inherently vacuous, barren and sterile; it does not offer you a position to really inspire and lead.

As someone who has always preferred the role of the outsider and critic, I find the argument totally unconvincing. There is a role in society for action and leadership from the sidelines as well as the mainstream. Some who want both power and reform manage to straddle both. But most or many of us do not. What is clear is that if you want power and are unable to learn the art of pragmatic compromise while upholding your own ideals, then you are doomed either to sell out or to be relegated to the margins in frustration.

The core issue is the settlements for Ari. That is not, of course, how Netanyahu sees it. As quoted by John Ivison approvingly in yesterday’s National Post., he says settlements “are not the core of the conflict, since there were no settlements for nearly half a century while conflict raged between Jews and Arabs. Settlements were uprooted in Gaza, and Israel reverted to the pre-1967 line, ‘But we didn’t get peace. We got 16,000 rockets.’ He says the settlement issue will be resolved in a final peace deal. It will be hard but it is resolvable. Simply pulling the IDF from Hebron would be one solution, as long as any Jews that want to remain are guaranteed safe haven by the Palestinian Authority. It would be painful for any Israeli prime minister but politically possible. However, the real Gordian knot is not the Arab mission to liberate the West Bank – it’s the one to liberate pre-1948 Palestine.” (A6)

Ari agrees with Netanyahu that the central issue is not the occupation and not the settlements. But he reverses the focus from the Palestinians to the Zionists who settled the land and had to clear out Palestinians by force.

Sarid has a different view. “The occupation is the father of all sins. Occupation is the mother of atrocity. When we occupied the West Bank and Gaza, we opened a door, and evil winds swept through it. All the depravity you see in Israel is because of the occupation. The brutality. The deceit. The decay. Even the army is now rotting because it was forced to be an occupying army.” (244)

I personally believe that settlements are one obstacle to peace. But I agree with Netanyahu and Ari. They are not THE obstacle. To single out settlements and to blame settlements are all of Israeli ills is not simply hyperbole of the worst order, but does not jibe with what I have heard from Palestinian activists. Ari answered Sarid, “You (to Sarid) discovered the world but you ignored our own history. You forgot 1948 and the refugee problem that it created. You were blind to the chilling consequences of Zionism and the partial dispossession of another people that is the core of the Zionist enterprise.” Setting aside whether dispossession was the core of Zionism, the refugee problem is the key (along with Jerusalem) and not the settlements. For Israel will not allow a return and is simply following the normal pattern of every other group involved in an ethnic or religious conflict. Those who fled or are forced out never return with few exceptions, except if they are the victors.

Another hero of the chapter is Yossi Berlin, more sober than Sarid, a man of peace but not of protest. Also industrious, eager and ambitious though perhaps not as brilliant as Sarid, he too became preoccupied with the quest for peace but not obsessed with the occupation or the settlements. And it was the Yom Kippur War not the Six Day War that was the major turning point in moving him from being religiously observant to becoming a professional politician obsessed with peace and playing the role of peace entrepreneur with two professors from Haifa with whom he helped initiate the Oslo process when he was deputy minister to Shimon Peres in 1992. Ari succinctly sums up the back door diplomacy that led to Oslo and the Oslo process which initially only envisioned a local autonomy agreement.

I am not sure Ari knows the full story of the transition from the Palestinians as part of the Jordanian delegation to recognition of the Palestinians as a separate delegation to recognition of the PLO as the representative of the Palestinians, but he does tell the end of the story. The start was made, in fact, in the multilateral talks gavelled by Canada over the refugee issue..

Ari accuses Yossi Beilin of becoming mesmerized by the appearance of peace and getting rid of the occupation. “An Arafat peace agreement should have been based on a Palestinian about face recognizing the Jewish people, recognizing the Jewish national movement and its national rights, relinquishing the Palestinian right of return.” (251)  That is what a true peace requires. Ari who has always been devoted to peace found that his fellow-peaceniks failed to come face to face with the central tragedy of two peoples fighting over the same land. So Beilin from a very different perspective suffers from the same pre-occupation with the occupation and fails to confront the central tragedy. This explains the withering away of the peace movement after the failure of Oslo. The advocates of Oslo never understood the source of that failure.

“So it transpired that peace stopped being peace. It was no longer bound by a realistic analysis of power, interests, opportunity, threat, and alliance — by sound judgment. It ignored Arab aspirations and political culture. It overlooked the existence of millions of Palestinian refugees whose main concern was not the occupation but a wish to return to their lost Palestine. It was not based on a factual state of affairs, but on a sentimental state of mind. It was a wish, a belief, a faith..” (255) So in conflict with this non-rational mythos of return, a naive belief in rational self-interested politics in pursuit of peace was useless. One needed a counter myth that recognized rather than repressed the brutality required to possess the land and accepted living within a tragic frame.

Menachem Brinker echoes Ari’s thesis. Avishai Margolit, the author of the unilateral Gaza withdrawal, denies that he advocated that position blind to the larger obstacles, but insisted they were necessary in spite of and to confront the real core issues. Avishai blamed the peace movement to which he was one of the intellectual leaders with a naiveté about the political process needed in obtaining political allies sufficiently to stop settlements, not with ignoring the issue of refugees and return. Avishai has become pessimistic even though the peace movement was successful in getting most of the right to accept the reality, inevitability and desirability of a two state solution and surrender the vision of a Greater Israel. “But on the ground, we lost badly. We didn’t stop colonization. We never managed to forge a coalition wide enough and strong enough to stop the settlers. Now it’s too late. It’s almost irreversible. I don’t see a power within Israel fierce enough to stop the state founded by my parents from becoming an apartheid state.” (256)

Ari’s answer to why the peaceniks failed is different but simple. “We were right to try peace. We were right to send Beilin’s team to meet with the Palestinians and offer them a grand deal: a demilitarized Palestine living side by side with a Jewish democratic Israel along the 1967 border. But we should never have promised ourselves peace or assumed that peace was around the corner. We should have been sober enough that occupation must end and even if the end of occupation did not end the conflict…We failed to say to the world and to our people that occupation must cease even if peace cannot be reached.” (256-257)  Ari faults Avishai and Menachem, not for being peacniks, but for failing to take up the responsibility of political leadership. It is a false charge. That was not their job. It was not my job. We were all teachers, not politicians.

Further, the fault was not naiveté. We all knew the risks. We all understood the internal resistance. But we hoped – and we came very close – that the Palestinians would grasp the offer. And until the last minute, there were plenty of reasons to believe we would succeed in spite of the forces undercutting a leap forward. But Arafat turned out to be a flake. He agreed then he backed down and changed his mind. The timing was right. But the opening and opportunity was not grasped. To retrospectively suggest that we should have recognized that such a failure was inevitable is to resign to necessitarianism. Peace is pursued on the basis of possibilism. and not surrendering to the necessity of being trapped in a tragedy.

I actually cannot recall whether Menachem and Avishai were blinded to the larger conflicts in the Middle East,, as Ari charges. But I think not. Uri Avneri, Matti Peled and Michel Warschawski who formed the Peace Bloc, criticized Peace Now for selling out to Labour and tolerating Rabin’s procrastination and provocations. Avishai and Menachem opposed “escalating” the Lebanese conflict but did not oppose responding to the artillery attack  There appeared to be a temporary reprieve. When the Declaration of Principles were signed with the Palestinians in August 1993, momentum seemed to support cautious optimism instead of the constancy of pessimism which Ari sees as a necessary requirement of the pursuit of peace. The miracle of peace with Egypt fifteen years earlier could be followed by another miracle. The deal clearly recognized that other issues were as critical if not more critical than the occupation. Even Shulamit Aloni, then a Minstter in the Coalition government, welcomed the agreement and declared, “No more parents will go weeping after the coffins of their sons,” and Amos Oz echoed, “And death shall rule no more.” (Mordechai Bar’on (1996) In Pursuit of Peace: A History of the Israeli P{eace Movement, Washington: USIP, 310)

The problem was not myopia but, to prove his point, Ari offers Amos Oz. For Amos, the captured lands of 1967 were only to be used as bargaining chips and NOT for settlement. The results of the Yom Kippur War eventually brought both sides around to the need to recognize that peace required that the land be divided between the two peoples. The issue now became how to make that division and in that both sides failed. But both sides also succeeded. For this new recognition is not reversible.

However, in Ari’s tragic vision and the necessity of adopting a tragic posture, Hulda of 1948 is the problem. The destroyed villages of 1947 are the problem. “Hulda is what the conflict is really about. Hulda is the crux of the matter. Hulda is what the conflict is really about. And Hulda has no solution. Hulda is our fate.” (265) “What is needed to make peace between the two peoples of this land is probably more than humans can summon. They will not give up their demand for what they see as justice. We shall not give up our life. Arab Hulda and Jewish Hulda cannot really see each other  and recognize each other and make peace. Yosi Sarid, Yossi Beilin, Ze’ev Sternhell, Menachem Brinker, Avishai Margolit, and Amos Oz put up a courageous fight against the folly of the occupation and did all they could to bring about peace. But at the end of the day, they could not look Jabal Munheir in the eye. They could not see Hulda as it is. For the most benign reasons, their promise of peace was false.” (268)

But it was not a promise. It was a push and effort. Everyone of those people could look Jamel Munheir in the eye just as well as Ari Shavit. Only they, as well as I, would say that in every other case of such conflict and such separation of ethnic groups, peace is made when each side accepts the current reality and neither tries to get back what was lost or to advance further beyond what was done. Israelis and Palestinians have to do the same thing. The sooner the better. But there is no other realistic game in town. Viewing the situation as the need to correct historic wrongs that cannot be corrected or changed and viewing this as a tragic trap is what passes for reality when it is simply a recipe for living under a doomsday cloud. And peace always requires not surrendering to the temptations of despair.

If for Ari, “Hulda has no solution. Hulda says peace shall not be,” (267), I answer, Why not? There have been a myriad of such conflicts. Sooner or later they end either in peace or in the total victory of one party over the other. I can only hope it will be the former and not the latter and sooner rather than later. I have maintained that hope since 1967 and see no reason to surrender it to Ari’s recipe of a tragic vision of deep doom.

My Promised Land VI Lydda 1948

My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel

by

Ari Shavit

VI:       Lydda 1948

Lod airport is located in the Lydda valley and near what was the Arab city of Lydda. Why choose Lydda as the central symbol of the 1948 war? There are a number of possible reasons. Historically, after the second return from Babylonia, Lydda was the most westerly of the settlements of return. In the third return from exile in the twentieth century, Lydda is located between the ancient city of Jerusalem and the new city of Tel Aviv; Lydda is used because it is a geographical marker. Secondly, unlike Jerusalem, which is a city associated with religiosity, or Tel Aviv, which is a city associated with business, in the Gehaharashim, Lydda is identified as the valley of craftsmen, of practical men who can work with their hands and not as material or spiritual calculators. Third,  Lydda was a pagan town in the ancient world and an Arab city before most Palestinians fled in 1948. It was not only a geographical marker but represented both a cultural divide and a cultural link and both were severed by the 1948 war. There is a fourth and the most important reason. Lydda is the symbol of the paradox of Zionism built on a humanist ideology and forced to get its hands dirty and commit atrocities, forced not simply by outside circumstances but by the inner logic of the ideology. This essay is mainly an unpacking of that fourth reason.

In the beginning of the twentieth century, the Sixth Zionist Congress purchased 2,330 dunams of land in the Valley of Lydda. Most of that land was fertile, not barren. The new story or myth will not be based on making the desert bloom. The new mythos will not be based on a people without a land for a land without people. Rather, this long fertile valley that stretched from the olive orchards of the Arab city of Lydda to the foothills of Jerusalem lies at the heart of the new Israel.

At first, as is usual in Ari’s structure of a chapter, there are a series of failures – the Arid factory to press oil and make fine soaps in 1905 was the first. Kiryat Sefer, the agricultural school founded in 1907 for the orphans who survived the Kishinev pogrom, was the second. The planting of a thousand olive trees in 1908 to honour Theodor Herzl after his death between Kiryat Sefer and the Atid facory, first with hired Arab labour and then replaced by saplings planted solely by Jewish labour, was also of no avail. The trees die, or are uprooted or damaged in the Great War; Herzl’s olive forest in the Valley of Lydda disappears.

These are symbolic as well as concrete failures. The soap factory to cleanse the past is an abject failure. The bet on future youth as a remnant of European persecution and rooting them in the land is a failure. The effort to commemorate the greatest ideologue of Zionism is also a failure. The new Israel will not be created based on cleansing the past of dirty secrets, of survivors of Europe simply transplanted as agricultural workers or from new ideological trees from which a new belief system will be created.  In fact, the fourth effort, the attempt to found a colony of craftsmen in 1910 by transplanting Yemenite artisans to replicate the ancient world is also defeated by the harsh conditions, the shortage of water and the high infant mortality rate. Even the fifth, Vilkansky’s experimental farm based on new science, though a success for sixteen years unlike the others, was transplanted to Rehovot in 1926, a story which Ari already told.

The sixth success forms the core of the story – the youth village established by Dr. Siegfried Lehmann in the abandoned Kiryat Sefer school for the Kishinev orphans twenty years earlier. Why did this succeed whereas the other efforts failed to take root? First, and unlike the kibbutzim founded on an abstract socialist ideology, the youth village was premised on the centrality of family warmth. Second, it was founded on both a humanitarian rather than a narrowly-focused ethnic Zionist mission and a broad historical context, again in juxtaposition to a ghetto centred past. Zionism was there not just to save Jews but to provide a light unto the nations, to save humanity from its physical, mental and spiritual alienation. Lehmann “wanted it to fulfil an urgent national task in a manner that would benefit all humanity. He wanted Zionism to be a settlement movement that was not tainted by colonialism, a national movement not scarred by chauvinism, a progressive movement that was not distorted by urban alienation…Zionism must plant the Jews in their ancient homeland in an organic fashion. It must respect the Orient and become a bridge between east and West.” (103) Zionism was a project of renewal to give roots to the uprooted, homes to the homeless, to restore meaning to life. Bet Shemen would offer harmony to the children and to the era that had lost all harmony.  

This vision of a Zionism integrated into the Orient, not through an alliance of business à la Bernie Avishai centred on Tel Aviv, but on an ideology and mythology of home and hearth and harmony. Founded on friendship, the surrounding Arabs were welcomed. Medical assistance was offered to the Arabs. The humanist utopia was the other side of the Janus-faced Zionism willing to resort to atrocities against Arabs to ensure Jewish survival, but the utopian side of that Janus face was crucial to preserving the soul of Zionism as military training was to preserving the body politic of Zionism. Zionism for an orphaned people based on humanitarian outreach, paradoxically, had to be twinned with military ruthlessness.

Ari in his mythological reconstruction of history, without any evidence, suggests that the visit to Ben Shemen in 1947 became the turning point in the deliberations of the UNSCOP committee. While it is clear from the accounts of the members of UNSCOP that they were distressed at visiting Arab factories that employed and exploited Arab children and were enthused by the visit to the youth villages of Zionism, there is no indication that this was a turning point but only one impression among many that reinforced the recommendation of partition to the United Nations.

But Ben Shemen is a turning point in the war that starts before May of 1948. In December 1947, a seven car convoy en route to Ben Shemen is attacked; 13 Jews are murdered. In February of 1948, the 400 students are evacuated. Humanitarianism, though necessary to a revived Zionism, is insufficient. The lessons of Gutman need to balance that humanitarian outreach. David Ben Gurion as the first Prime Minister of the reborn Israel orders the implementation of Operation Larlar in July 1948 to capture the Arab villages of the LyddaValley and the city of Lydda itself and expel all the Arab inhabitants.  

There will be no more effort to wash away Jewish atrocities. Instead they will be presented as necessary reprisal measures to counter Arab terror. Further, they will be twinned not only with the effort for humanitarian outreach but with the necessity for the renewal of that humanitarian outreach, but not without ensuring Jewish survival. The children of Gutman, now as warriors rather than as instruments of humanitarian outreach clear the valley of Arabs and claim the heartland of Israel for the Jewish people.. The atrocities in the City of Lydda are first explained as an accident of the fog of war as two Jordanian tanks mistakenly enter Lydda and the new Jewish defenders launch an all out attack that costs the lives of scores of Arab civilians.  200 are killed and the massacre of Lydda goes down in history. The massacre is compounded by Ben Gurion’s explicit order to expel the civilians of Lydda. Zioniasm no longer needs Benny Morris’ uncovering of the deep dark secrets of Jewish inhumanity. Rather, that inhumanity is set both in a survival context, the fog of war and deliberate strategic imperatives, but without abandoning the humanitarian core at the base of Ben Shemesh.

“Lydda is our black box. In it lies the dark secret of Zionism. The truth is that Zionism could not bear Lydda. From the very beginning there was a substantial contradiction between Zionism and Lydda. If Zionism was to be, Lydda could not be. If Lydda was to be, Zionism could not be.” (108) Ethnic cleansing was not an accidental by-product betraying the humanitarianism of Zionism, but the necessary twin to that humanitarianism.

In 1988, Benny Morris published, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947–1949 through Cambridge University Press. I met Benny Morris in the archives at KewGardens in London, UK. Benny wrote part of that book at the Centre for Refugee Studies that I directed. Ari Shavit discovers this black box of Zionist history in 1994. Without reference to Benny, Ari undertakes his own research and effectively confirms what Benny revealed, but not as historical revelation but as the murder weapon that destroyed the old mythology of Zionism and as the clue to the construction of a new mythology based on twin but opposing principles of universal humanitarianism and ruthless self-protection which ends up breaching humanitarian laws when necessary.

For Ari, it is insufficient to explain ethnic cleansing as simply demanded by the need for self-defence and immanent threat or the need to make decisions in the fog of war. Ben Gurion was under no such imperatives. Yet he ordered the expulsion. That expulsion was not an accidental betrayal of Zionism but at its central core. So the central core of Lydda is then broadened to other atrocities, to the evacuation of other cities, towns and villages of their Arab populations. Ari quotes a mentor and a friend from those atrocities:

When I think of the thefts, the looting, the robberies and recklessness, I realize that these are not merely separate incidents. Together they add up to a period of corruption. The question is earnest and deep, really of historic dimensions. We will all be held accountable for this era. We shall face judgment. And I fear that justice will not be on our side. (117)

Shamaryahu Gutman as de facto Israel’s intelligence chief and Israel Galili as chief of staff of the Haganah together recognize that “the first task in war would be to guarantee an Arab-free zone – a Jewish territorial continuum.” (119) This was an era of total war between the two communities that did not respect past friendships and past treaties. Gutman was named military governor of the Lydda Valley.

Atrocities are committed. A young Jewish sniper deliberately targets civilians, including women and even children. Another Jew, Bulldozer, shoots his Portable Infantry Anti-Tank weapon (PIAT ) at a mosque from close range where civilians have taken shelter. Seventy civilians are killed and scores of others are injured. Afterwards, since he is knocked unconscious by the recoil of the PIAT and the nearby explosion, his fellow soldiers commandeer eight other civilians to dig a mass grave. After they finish and the dead are thrown in the pit, the soldiers kill the eight so there will be no witnesses. “The damned war turned humans into beasts.” These atrocities are accompanied by thefts and looting. Though one soldier writes that, “We will all be held accountable for this era. We will face judgment,” they never are held accountable and they never face judgment. 

The Jews have captured the town. Shooting breaks out as the Military Governor, Gutman, is negotiating with the Arab notables. He not only orders his men to return fire but to shoot anyone suspected of being part of the “mutiny”. Afterwards, “The military governor orders his men to bury the dead, get rid of the incriminating evidence.” (121) Then he returns to his discussions with the dignitaries and he suggests to them that anything can happen in war and a great war is coming. The dignitaries deliver to him what he wanted all along without his having to order their expulsion. They ask to be allowed to leave as long as they can take the survivors of the mosque with them. Gutman agrees.

“Gutman feels he has achieved his goal. Occupation, massacre and mental pressure have had the desired effect. At then end of the day, after forty-eight hours of hell, he does not quite order the people of Lydda to go. Under the indirect threat of slaughter, Lydda’s leaders ask to go.” (122) Like the ancient Jews, the people of Kydda go into exile. No orders had to be given. But the general understanding of the Palmach leadership that the Arabs had to go is accomplished. So, finally, why Lydda? “Only in the city of Lydda was there a mess, because the city was large and the troops closed in on it from the east, so the Arabs could not flee during the battle itself.” (123) So Lydda was by far the worst massacre with an estimated 250 civilians killed in total compared to Deir Yassin with 100 civilian deaths, Salina and Abu Shusha with about 65 deaths each.

Gutman asks himself, “if he was right to encourage the regiment to shoot into Lydda’s houses, if there was a way to avoid all that has happened. Then he silences himself by answering that if it weren’t for what happened in Lydda, Zionism would be done for. As he watches the men and women marching, he is shocked to see the imperviousness on their faces, the loss of sovereignty, the loss of dignity.” (127) He watches a person fall into a well and other suck on the dead man’s clothes after they pull him up to get water to wet their dried throats, as he watches another trampled and a third mother giving birth to her baby in the dirt, as he sees his soldiers stealing watches and money from the columns of fleeing refugees, and stops their thieving, But he does not stop the exodus. However, distressed by the columns of suffering civilians, he is reconciled to the fact that there exodus was necessary to ensure the success of Zionism.

Ari then offers a Palestinian perspective, that of Ottman Abu Hammed of Lydda, the prosperity before, the collegiality between Jews and Arabs before the outbreak of the war, prosperity enhanced by Arabs fleeing other centres, the atrocities against Jewish civilians committed by Arabs, including the mutilated corpses of two young men and a young Jewish woman who had been raped. But all this was nothing compared to being strafed from the air, of shots fired at civilian houses, of the massacre at the mosque, of the groping of the Arab women as they searched them. Since he was friends with the Jewish commander, why did he not elect to stay behind when he was offered the opportunity as his family was in the column marching out of the city? Because if he stays he will be considered a traitor and would be executed.

There is a final reason offered on the choice of Lydda. Because Lydda remains mired in the past and the past remains present in Lydda. Palestine is still felt in Lydda. But the central point is that Lydda was an “inevitable phase of Zionism”. The choice is stark: “either reject Zionism because of Lydda, or accept Zionism along with Lydda.” (131) Bulldozer and the sniper could be rejected for breaking the laws of war. But not the quasi-forced exodus. “I condemn Bulldozer. I reject the sniper. But I will not damn the brigade commander and the military governor and the training group boys. On the contrary. If need be, I’ll stand by the damned. Because I know that if it wasn’t for them, the State of Israel would not have been born. If it wasn’t for them, I would not have been born. They did the dirty, filthy work that enables my people, myself, my daughter, and my sons to live.” (131)

This is the central thesis of the book. This is the core of the new mythology to counter the bleeding heart Israeli liberals who weep for the Palestinian refugees and condemn those who oversaw the exodus of Palestinian civilians. The myth requires acknowledging, recognizing, accepting the atrocities and the ethnic cleansing, but also accepting they were necessary for without them the Zionist enterprise would not have succeeded. Ari okays the ethnic cleansing but not the atrocities that encouraged the Arabs to “voluntarily” leave.

So the principle Ben Gurion enunciated of the purity of arms, that Jews must fight in accordance with the laws of war but fighting must be based on moral grounds, is abandoned. Ethnic cleansing of civilians is not a moral act. So if ethnic cleansing can take place with the immoral use of force by targeting civilians, then it is ok.  In the example of Deir Yassin, the fear of further atrocities was the main impetus for the “volunteer” Arab exodus elsewhere; in Lydda, the atrocities are directly and causally connected with the exodus itself.

Shavit’s argument is clear but not his logic, further reinforcing the view that he is into mythmaking. For the logic says that if the massacres were necessary to encourage the ethnic cleansing on a “volunteer” level, and the ethnic cleansing was necessary to the success of Zionism, then the massacres and the breach in the laws of war were as necessary as the ethnic cleansing. (See Saleh Abd al-Jawad (2007) Zionist Massacres: the Creation of the Palestinian Refugee Problem in the 1948 War)

Ari not only avoids sorting through the various different accounts of what happened at Lydda and settling on one that clearly points to deliberate killing of Arab men, women and children by Jewish soldiers. He does so that the historical variations and clearing through the underbrush of just war theory and the obligations to discriminate between civilian and military targets is accepted as abridged. The only question remaining, for him, is whether the dirty work was necessary to encourage the exodus or not since he justifies the exodus itself.

If Ari’s mythology takes hold, the doctrine of purity of arms has to be abandoned. If Ari’s mythology takes hold, breaches of humanitarian law become justified. If Ari’s mythology becomes the core of the new Zionism in the cause of open truth=telling, then atrocities that serve as a catalyst to ethnic cleansing become acceptable in spite of Ari’s insistence that he will not stand my the war crimes of the Bulldozer and the sniper.

 

Tomorrow: The Resettlement of Jewish Refugees 1957