Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Trapped in Zion

Remember this famous quote from Polish Trotskyist, biographer of Stalin and Trotsky, and self-described "non-Jewish Jew," Isaac Deutscher (1907-1967)?

"A man once jumped from the the top floor of a burning house in which many members of his family had already perished. He managed to save his life; but as he was falling he hit a person standing down below and broke that person's legs and arms. The jumping man had no choice; yet to the man with the broken limbs he was the cause of his misfortune. If both behaved rationally, they would not become enemies. The man who escaped from the blazing house, having recovered, would have tried to help and console the other sufferer; and the latter might have realized he was the victim of circumstances over which neither of them had control. But look what happens when these people behave irrationally. The injured man blames the other for his misery and swears to make him pay for it. The other, afraid of the crippled man's revenge, insults him, kicks him, and beats him up whenever they meet. The kicked man again swears revenge and is again punched and punished. The bitter enmity, so fortuitous at first, hardens and comes to overshadow the whole existence of both men and to poison their minds.

"You will, I am sure, recognize yourselves (I said to my Israeli audience), the remnants of European Jewry in Israel, in the man who jumped from the blazing house. The other character represents, of course, the Palestine Arabs, more than a million of them, who have lost their lands and their homes. They are resentful; they gaze from across the frontiers on their old native places; they raid you stealthily and swear revenge. You punch and kick them mercilessly; you have shown that you know how to do it. But what is the sense of it? And what is the prospect?

"The responsibility for the tragedy of European Jews, for Auschwitz, Majdanek, and the slaughters in the ghetto, rests entirely on our own western bourgeois 'civilization', of which Nazism was the legitimate, even though degenerate, offspring. Yet it was the Arabs who were made to pay the price for the crimes the West committed towards the Jews. They are still made to pay for it, for the 'guilty conscience' of the West is, of course, pro-Israeli and anti-Arab. And how easily Israel had allowed itself to be bribed and fooled by the false 'conscience money'." (The Non-Jewish Jew & Other Essays, 1968, pp 136-137)

It's a clever analogy alright but one which completely ignores the history and practice of the Zionist project in Palestine, a colonial-settler phenomenon introduced into Palestine by the British long before the rise of Nazism and its crimes against European Jewry. The terrorists of the Haganah, Irgun, and Stern Gangs cut their teeth breaking Palestinian bones in the pre-war period and would have gone on doing so even if the Nazi Holocaust had not occurred. (This is not to say, however, that their ranks were not augmented by recruits from the pre-war influx of German Jewish refugees, or the smuggling of displaced European Jews into Palestine during and after the war.)

Now although I've already critiqued Deutscher's analogy in an earlier post - About That Falling Man (13/10/10) - I was reminded of it again while reading the memoir cited in my previous post on the Deir Yassin massacre: Christina Jones' The Untempered Wind: Forty Years in Palestine (1975).

Jones, an American Quaker who taught in the Friends' Boys' School in Ramallah from 1922-1962, records a visit in August 17, 1947 by a German Jew who not only revealed no inclination whatever to put the boot into Palestine's indigenous Arab population but rejected Zionism wholesale:

"We had an interesting visitor this morning. He is a German of the Jewish faith but he wanted to talk about Quakerism. Somewhere he had found books on the subject and had written to Philadelphia for information. A Friend there had advised him to get in touch with us. He was in a highly nervous state when he arrived as he had learned only after he got on the bus to come to Ramallah from Jerusalem that last night terrorists had entered an orange grove near Ramleh belonging to an Arab and had killed all of a three-generation family of thirteen persons. He was the only non-Arab on the bus, but no one had paid any attention to him. He said there was much excited talk, some of which he could not understand but one passenger had interpreted. He kept exclaiming, 'Why wouldn't they hate us? Why wouldn't they hate us?' He is a lawyer by profession and had come to Palestine hoping to find peace of mind. As a lawyer, he rejects the Zionist claims of legal or historic rights; surely the Arabs have them if any people have, and the violence with which the 'rights' of the Zionists are enforced troubles him greatly. I suggested that there were probably many like him, and he stopped pacing the floor long enough to say, 'There are thousands of us, but we are trapped here. We have no right here and certainly no right to perpetrate all this violence on the people of this country. We were led to believe that it was a desert, a wilderness, and instead we find it a good country - we find the people living good lives - we like it - but it isn't ours.' I invited him to go to Meeting with me but he refused; he didn't want people in Jerusalem to know he had even come to us lest he or his son suffer reprisals. We drank coffee together and talked about the Society of Friends, and he left in a calmer mood. He also gave me money to get certain Quaker books, but I was to send them to a friend of his in Jerusalem who would pass them on to him later." (pp 67-68)

I agree with Jones that there were probably many such Jews like him in Palestine at the time and will be returning to this issue in a future post. The problem, however, is that clear-thinking, ethical individuals such as Jones' visitor had little or no place in a community controlled by Zionist ideologues, fanatics and killers such as Ben Gurion, Begin and Shamir, who had given their British backers hell and were now chafing at the bit for a final, decisive showdown with Palestine's unsuspecting indigenous population.

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