Well, you also talk about the fact that for a lot of those who came... they didn't see the people who were already there.
So let me get this straight: they could see the coming Holocaust, but not the Palestininian Arabs right in front of their eyes? Right. Please explain then, if you can, the 1891 testimony of at least one such Zionist settler with a conscience, name of Ahad Ha-Am:
"They treat the Arabs with hostility and cruelty, deprive them of their rights, offend them without cause, and even boast of these things." (See my 18/6/08 post Avnery's Apology: A Critique for the full quote)
The subtitle of my book is The Triumph & Tragedy of Israel. The triumph is the result of what I describe. It's a remarkable human endeavour of a poor, lonely people saving itself.
Here we go again...
The tragedy is really the tragedy of the conflict, and in my own case, I describe the arrival of my own great grandfather. He, like others, would not see the others who were living in the land, the Palestinians. Now, as I make the point in the book, they were not conquistadors. There wasn't a political entity called Palestine at the time. There was no Palestinian republic, no Palestinian kingdom, and yet there were half a million Palestinians in the land at the time...
Not conquistadors, Ari? No, not initially, at any rate. They didn't need to be. They had British conquistadors to keep the natives in check, while the Jewish colons learnt the ropes. And then, when the British conquistadors had grown tired of the dirty work, the colons took up conquistadoring, first against the British, then against the natives. Every colonist is a conquistador of sorts, Ari. And just as great gramps Herbert didn't 'see' the natives, you, the ex-paratrooper, don't 'see' what you really are.
Now I know you're probably not big on Vladimir Jabotinsky, but at least he was more honest than you:
"Any native people... views their country as their national home, of which they will always be the complete masters. They will not voluntarily allow, not only a new master, but even a new partner. And so it is for the Arabs... They look upon Palestine with the same instinctive love and true fervour that any Aztec looked upon his Mexico or any Sioux looked upon his prairie." (See my 12/6/08 post Pemulwuy in Palestine for the full quote)
... and because of their desperate need to build a national home for the Jews, and because of their yearning for the glorious biblical past, they overlooked the fact that there were others living in the land, and that set in motion this horrible hundred year war that is still going on. So you have the complexity, the beauty, I would say the heroism, the morality, and the need, and the blindness which led them to this inevitable and ongoing, deep and tragic conflict.
Sorry, Ari, however you like to dress up the Zionist project in Palestine, it was all, from the very beginning, just another grubby colonial land grab. Hey, but at least you've managed to fool dopey Geraldine!
Indeed, and... um... I must say I was conscious on my recent trip of the vitality of Israel and lots of people write about this. You describe it as a miracle, and you feel it, the greenery, the gardens, the cultural life, the opinions, the openness, and of course the Arabs look on at this, and what is your sense? I got a very mixed sense about how the Arabs... I thought some Arabs desperately wanted to be part of it to be honest, which you don't hear that said much...
Part of Israel? But of course, Israel is occupied Palestinian land. Always was, always will be - Palestinian land. As Moshe Dayan once said in a moment of candour, describing the massive post-Nakba theft of Palestinian land:
"Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages... There is not one single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population." (See my 1/9/12 post Only 'Sort Of'? for the details.)
... and the others, of course, as one man said to me in Bethlehem, this older man who looked for all the world like somebody from Scotland but he was actually - hahaha - a Palestinian with Crusader blood in him - ha! - a redhead, freckled man, he said, We have to lose all hope, we have to abandon all hope we Palestinians, it's a terrible phrase actually, but you know, how do you reconcile these two facts. They're both true.
OK, you want a classic example of folie a deux? Here it is:
... the Holy Land, and this conflict, are much more complex than many people realise so I think that what you have on the one hand is that there are many Palestinians who, and I have empathy to them - my book tells the story of my people from my point of view, but its full of empathy to the other - and I see the Palestinians all the time and I'm aware of their tragedy, of their suffering. I think there are two states of mind. On the one hand, there are these grievances, the hostility, the bitterness, and all that side of it that we hear so much about. On the other hand, there is a side that we don't hear that much about. Israel, for all its faults, and I'm very critical of government policies on many issues, Israel is, if you look at the Middle East, an oasis of liberty and prosperity and freedom. What you have in Israel, sadly, sadly, you do not have hundreds and probably thousands of miles around, and therefore I think many Palestinians and Arabs are ambivalent because on the other hand, for good reasons from their point of view, they have resentment. On the other hand they want to join the the party in some ways and those who live within Israel again, while politically...
Well, they think they've got the jackpot. I met them hahaha...
So Palestinians in Israel have hit the jackpot! Just as well they managed to dodge the Great Ethnic Cleansing of 1948. Otherwise they wouldn't have been able to experience the thrill of living under the Israeli jackboot a full 19 years before their fellow Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza won the jackpot/jackboot in 1967.
... So while politically they've got a lot of criticism, as I say, especially when there is this terrible tragedy happening - it's worse than a tragedy happening, it's a catastrophe - the human catastrophe happening in Syria with the world looking at this helpless as hundreds are killed daily, then I think many Arabs and Palestinians living in Israel, with all their criticism, they realise that life under the Zionists in Nazareth is somewhat better than life under the Arab nationalists in Damascus. Now this is not something that most of them say aloud. You don't hear it publicly...
No, Ari, what they were really saying was Thank God for Ben Dunkelman, otherwise we wouldn't be here now. Never heard of him? I thought not. He was the Canadian Jew who commanded the Haganah's Seventh Brigade, which took control of Nazareth in 1948. Here's what he had to say about the immediate aftermath:
"Two days after the second truce came into effect, the Seventh Brigade was ordered to withdraw from Nazareth. Avraham Yaffe, who had commanded the 13th battalion in the assault on the city, now reported to me with orders from Moshe Carmel to take over from me as its military governor. I complied with the order, but only after Avraham had given me his word that he would do nothing to harm or displace the Arab population. My demand may sound strange, but I had good reason to feel concerned on this subject. Only a few hours previously, Haim Laskov had come to me with astounding orders: Nazareth's civilian population was to be evacuated! I was shocked and horrified. I told him I would do nothing of the sort - in view of our promises to safeguard the city's people, such a move would be both superfluous and harmful. I reminded him that scarcely a day earlier, he and I, as representatives of the Israeli army, had signed the surrender document, in which we solemnly pledged to do nothing to harm the city or the population. When Haim saw that I refused to obey the order, he left. A scarce twelve hours later, Avraham Yaffe came to tell me that his battalion was relieving my brigade; I felt sure that this order had been given because of my defiance of the evacuation order. But although I was withdrawn from Nazareth, it seems that my disobedience did have some effect. It seems to have given the high command time for second thoughts, which led them to the conclusion that it would, indeed, be wrong to expel the inhabitants of Nazareth. To the best of my knowledge, there was never any more talk of the evacuation plan, and the city's Arab citizens have lived there ever since." (Truth Whereby Nations Live, Peretz Kidron, in Blaming the Victims: Spurious Scholarship & the Palestinian Question, Ed. by Edward Said & Christopher Hitchens, 1988, p 87)
... but actually people are aware of it, and this is where some of my cautious, conditional optimism comes from, because while I do not see us right now signing a grand peace deal that will end the conflict the way American Secretary of State Kerry just tried, I do think there is a kind of grass roots pragmatism on both sides that has some hope in it of some coexistence. People do want to move on with their lives. As I like to say when I'm in this great country of yours, at the end of the day, speaking about my fellow Israelis, most Israelis want Israel to be like Australia. They don't want it to be some sort of religious entity or extremist national [state], that's the vision of a tiny minority. Most people would like to have a good life, a vibrant democracy, a kind of sunny, vibrant hedonistic society celebrating life. That's the real vision and the real wish of most people, so if you give them a realistic, pragmatic peace concept, something to solve the issues not in complete, just and permanent way but something that is real, they'll go for it and if we and the international community will come up with that kind of new thinking I think that you'll be surprised to find that most Israelis, and hopefully most Palestinians, will be more pragmatic than what we see right now.
Er, Ari, about that realistic, pragmatic peace concept... to solve the issues NOT in a complete, just and permanent way that you're on about, didn't you say that great gramps Herbert and the rest had brought a fierce belief in justice with them to Palestine?
To be continued...