Monday, July 3, 2017

Israeli Fascism? So What Else is New?

"[Israeli] Opposition leader and Zionist Union chairman Isaac Herzog warned on Saturday that Israel was headed toward fascism..." ('Israel is becoming a fascist state, US can't save the day', Joy Bernard,, 24/6/17)

Was headed toward fascism?

Israel has always been fascist:

"April slid into May in a crescendo of heat. Down the lanes, the mimosa trees were powdered with yellow pollen, and the fragrance hung sweetly in the still air. May Day itself was a blaze of luxurious sunshine. I spent it leaning over my parapet watching the many processions of colony boys and girls marching along, singing, bearing gay blue-and-white banners - the Zionist colours - with the Shield of David and Hebrew lettering embroidered in scarlet and gold. The banners were carried with the dignity and precision of a regiment bearing the colours. And the marching of the children, whose ages ranged from 7 or 8 to near the enlistment age, was as faultless as well-drilled infantry...

"Rising on the clear air above the rooftops came the sound of Hebrew songs as the children marched past, and the rhythmic shouting as they kept impeccably in step. On either side, the road was lined with people from the village - parents, friends of the children who cheered as the columns went by.

"Ruth, the hotel help, who came up to my rooftop to watch, said: 'Ah, but it is beautiful...' And she leant over the parapet with an intense air of satisfaction.

"I shook my head. The picture was certainly gay and colourful. But to me there was something deeper which made the May Day processions a symbol of militant Zionism. I wished that the three-abreast marching could become rigged, that just one small boy or girl would straggle out of the ranks and break the immaculate neatness of the columns.

"Why, I asked myself, were the Jewish settlements bringing up their children in a free land in a way that emulated one of the worst practical expressions of a doctrine they had fled? In conversations with British Government officials and with Arabs, I had heard the Jews condemned for teaching their children to become militant, and I had been told by the Arabs that such training was deliberate because the colonies were preparing for the day when they should rise and seize Palestine by force; that together with this military preparation there was an equally careful mental training designed to convince the children that Palestine was their lawful heritage, that they had only to reach out and take it and Britain and America, faced with a fait accompli, would not interfere. They would, in fact, be satisfied that the Palestine problem had solved itself. Arabs had assured me that this was the Zionist educational policy and that already Jewish children born and brought up in Palestine sincerely believed that the Arabs had no right to the country and that only those who had reclaimed the soil, like the colonists, were the legitimate inheritors of the land.

"'It reminds me,' I told Ruth, as I watched with unhappy fascination another column passing along the road, 'of a procession of boy Blackshirts I once saw marching over the cobbles of Trieste - kindergarten children carrying Fascist banners and moving faultlessly along the waterfront past the Town Hall'." (Reporting from Palestine: 1943-1944, Barbara Board, 2008, pp 45-46)


Grappler said...

In the light of this post, MERC, I decided that I needed to get a copy of Board's book. In my search for it online, I found a review by Ted Swedenburg of the University of Arkansas (Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 38, No. 3 (Spring 2009), pp. 260-261).

"Overall, Board is much more successful
at conveying the feelings among grassroots
Jewish communities in Palestine than she
is at representing the views of Arabs, primarily
because she spends the bulk of her
time with the former. She never tells us
that Hadera, where Board lived for several
months, is where her British Jewish husband’s
family owned an orange orchard (Karp provides this information in the introduction). Board strives to present herself as an “objective” journalist, but her point of view is most deeply informed by her
close Jewish connections and her support
for the policies and imperial interests of her
country of birth, Britain. She does sample
Arab opinion, but mostly that of elites — King Abdallah in Jordan, middle-class Christians in
Jerusalem at the YMCA, and so on. The views
of these nonrepresentative Palestinian Arabs
often resonate with her own; ...

"In the span of time discussed in this book,
Board made only one foray into a Palestinian
Arab village, to Irtah, near Tulkarm, to meet
the village mukhtar in the company of several
Jewish friends. (Located today in the
West Bank, Irtah lost some 80 percent of its
lands to Israel in 1948; more recently, additional
farmland has been seized for the construction
of the “separation barrier.”) British
officials considered Irtah a “good” village
during the 1936–39 Arab Revolt (Board calls
the revolt the “troubles”), and so Palestinian
nationalists would likely have considered
its mukhtar something of a collaborator.
The mukhtar and his colleagues confirmed
Board’s prejudice that the revolt was fomented
by the Palestinian national leadership,
who hired “gangsters” and “terrorists”
to kill innocent and defenseless Jews. Ordinary
Palestinian Arabs, Board claims, were
quite willing to live in peace with Palestine’s
Jews and even to accept the immigration of
additional Jewish refugees from Europe."

I'm not sure I will bother looking for the book now. I think you found the one enlightened aspect of the book.

MERC said...

Board was a woman of her times, and very few writers unfortunately manage to transcend these. Nonetheless, despite the conditioning of her personal circumstances and (and given that her focus is largely on the yishuv), there are moments when the reality of what she sees breaks through, as in this piece on the May Day march, and useful insights result.

The English observer from this period who most rises above it all and 'gets it' is J.M.N. Jeffries. His 1939 book, Palestine: The Reality has just been re-issued by Olive Branch Press in the US, and trust me, that is the one to go for. You will not be disappointed.

Grappler said...

Thanks MERC, I bought the Jeffries book online.

MERC said...

Let me know what you think.