6.29.2013

my journey to palestinian solidarity and the myth of the self-hating jew, part 3 and final

Part 1 here.

Part 2 here.

By now it should be clear that my abandonment of my ties to Israel, and my support for the liberation of Palestine, are not based on denial of my Jewish heritage or on anti-Semitism. This is a political issue, and a moral one. Jewish people cannot be - and should not be - expected to adhere to some kind of party line of political views. I am heartened that increasing numbers of Jewish people are making their own journeys away from unconditional support for Israel - away from nationalism and towards justice - and I'm frustrated and saddened that so many others are completely entrenched in their loyalties.

In this post, I try to address some of the issues many Jewish (and many non-Jewish) people raise when explaining their support for Israel, and their negative beliefs about the Palestinian cause. If you recognize yourself in this post, be assured that whatever conversation I may have had with you, I've had with many others, and I've read and heard many more.

Your response, from any point of view, is welcome, as long as it falls within my comment guidelines. And, as always, I do not wish to debate.

Violence

For many people, the biggest obstacle to support for the Palestinian cause is the use of violence by some portion of the Palestinian people. I want to try to unpack this.

What is terrorism?

Most of us, when we hear about terrorism, feel sympathy and empathy for the victims, and feel only antipathy and alienation, or worse, towards the perpetrators. Most of us do not support groups that use violence, especially violence against civilians - people who, we feel, are innocent victims who have not wronged the other party in any way.

Palestinian violence is almost always characterized as terrorism, and therefore is almost always condemned. But what is terrorism?

Here's one definition, from Merriam-Webster:
The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.
Even using this strict dictionary definition, many military actions - such as the US-led invasion of Iraq - qualify as terrorism.*

In the media, violence is characterized as terrorism when it is perpetrated by people outside the structure of an organized, state military. Thus, Afghans defending their land are terrorists. US and Canadian forces occupying that land are not. Some call the US's actions "state terrorism".** If we distinguish between terrorism and state terrorism, state terrorism is by far the more dangerous and lethal, as it draws upon enormous, unmatched resources that are impossible to repel.

Which of these is terrorism?

A roadside bomb.

A bomb planted on a bus.

Bombs falling from jets.

House raids: doors blown off with explosives, male occupants rounded up and disappeared, home ransacked, family terrified; male occupants never seen again.

The destruction of homes, either by aerial bombing or by bulldozer.

Mass round-ups and imprisonments.

The widespread use of torture.

Imprisonment without charges, and without access to representation, defense, or a judicial system.

I maintain these are all terrorism.

Hiroshima was terrorism. Guernica was terrorism. Gaza was terrorism.

Colonialism is violent. Imperialism is violent. These are by definition brutal, repressive systems. A system that can only be maintained through violence will be resisted by violence.

Many of us recoil at the acts of a suicide bomber, but ignore or dismiss widespread destruction, imprisonment, and extra-judicial killing - although the latter is more lethal, exponentially so. Bombs on buses evoke a particular kind of horror. Should not indefinite detentions, torture, destruction, and murder of civilians by an army evoke horror, too?

All people deserve autonomy and self-rule.

You may abhor Palestinian violence, but Palestinians have human rights.

Many people claim that if only the Palestinians would cease the use of violence, then Israel could and would allow them to live in peace. But Palestinians are not children. We cannot require them to behave - to be passive and compliant - before granting them the same rights and freedoms we take for granted for ourselves. They are human beings who must be free. You may disapprove of their methods, but that does not diminish their claim.

This may seem like a strange analogy, but some of the rhetoric I hear around this issue reminds me of society's judgements of women. The "good girl" who is raped is a victim, but the slut brought it on herself. A teenager who was raped deserves the right to choose abortion. A woman with multiple partners who never uses contraception doesn't.

Rights are rights. If some Palestinians don't appear to be "good victims", holding sit-ins and singing "We Shall Overcome," that doesn't make their rights any less urgent or less deserved. The Black Panthers were also part of the freedom struggle.

There is no liberation without violence.

This, to use an overused phrase, is an inconvenient truth that many first-world people prefer to deny.

No unwilling colony, no occupied country, no oppressed people has ever achieved freedom without the use of violence. There have been nonviolent movements, of course. But no nonviolent movement was ever successful without the existence of some alternative organization that used violence and the threat of violence. In other words, nonviolence, when it succeeded, was never the only factor. The riveting nonviolent resistance of Martin Luther King, Jr. would not have succeeded without Malcolm X's "by any means necessary". Gandhi's powerful methods of nonviolent resistance worked alongside many militant independence movements. Would Britain ever have sat at the negotiating table with Ireland had it not been for the IRA? (If you believe the answer is yes, ask yourself, Why would they?)

Nelson Mandela, now at the end of his life and justly celebrated the world over, has been transformed through celebrity into a man of peace. This sleight of hand omits Mandela's true role as a leader of the African National Congress, a group that engaged in armed resistance against the apartheid regime. Mandela's long imprisonment was not for his political beliefs; it was for acts of political violence. Mandela himself was instrumental in the ANC's adoption of armed struggle after nonviolent methods failed to move the white ruling class.

While in prison, Mandela never renounced violence. When South Africa offered to release Mandela from prison if he would sign a statement condemning terrorism, he refused, saying that armed resistance was legitimate when other channels of free political activity were no longer available.

One observer writes, "Mandela was more the Rory O'Brody than Gerry Adams of the ANC." The quote comes from an interesting blog post describing Mandela's role in the use of violence. The writer says:
This, I believe, is really the principle that articulates the natural law right to engage in armed struggle against oppression when other forms of resistance are no longer available. And, perhaps more importantly, to support publicly the rights of others to engage in armed struggle against state ideology which condemns all political violence as "terrorism", and therefore de-facto illegitimate. Thinking seriously and honestly about conflicts in the world today means not ignoring the potential legitimacy of armed struggle, and not white-washing revolutionary leaders in the past in order to put up their posters in public schools whilst no one is offended.
Imagine the situation reversed.

If we swap the Israelis' and Palestinians' positions - if your people were in Gaza, being held in the world's largest open-air prison - would you support the armed struggle? Would you understand it? Would you agree that a government has the right to force you to live behind a wall, to pass through checkpoints, to live under a surveillance state, in order to survive?

Under this imagined scenario, if your sympathies change, I suggest those sympathies are based not on morality or justice, but on nationalism.

When can the use of violence be condoned?

I realize that many, maybe most, Western Jews - and many first-world people of any background - will never support the armed struggle of Palestinians against Israel. I wonder, though, if the same people condemn the use of violence in all resistance movements. Would they, I wonder, condemn or condone the use of violence by black South Africans under apartheid? By Native Americans as Andrew Jackson's armies rode in? In the Warsaw Ghetto uprising?

If you draw a moral distinction between these examples and Palestine, what is it? Are Palestinians less deserving of their freedom? Do Israelis deserve to be shielded from the human consequences of their government's policies?

Or does Jewishness trump all?

To achieve a goal, people will use whatever means are available to them.

Israel seeks to expand its borders, and to control and subjugate the Palestinian people. To do so, it employs a powerful military and a brutal police state.

The Palestinian people seek to regain their occupied territory and expel their oppressors. What means are available to them?

To me there is a moral distinction between violence in the service of state repression and violence committed by people trying to resist and retaliate against state repression.

To alleviate the effect, remove the cause.

The achieve certain political, economic, and military goals, the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003.

When some Iraqis fought back - physically resisting the invasion and occupation of their country - the US labelled them "insurgents", then used the presence of this "insurgency" to justify its continued presence.

To condemn Palestinians' violent resistance, but not to recognize and condemn the systemic, continued violence against, and persecution of, Palestinians by Israel can, at this point, only be an act of wilful blindness.

If one condemns the violence of the oppressed against their oppressors, and not the violence of the oppressor against the oppressed, one is siding with P.W. Botha, with George Wallace, with the Raj, with the Conquistadors. With Israel.

"Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East"

File this with George W. Bush bringing democracy to Iraq.

Was the United States a democracy when about 15% of the country's population - one-third of the population in the southern states - were owned as property? The US called itself a democracy before the emancipation of slavery. Was it?

Was apartheid South Africa a democracy?

Those who call Israel a democracy are either narrowly defining Israel to exclude the occupied territories, or parrotting something they have heard but not investigated, or believing propaganda disguised as news reports.

What's more, the Palestinian territories hold elections, too.

Here I can only urge you: please educate yourself. One place to start might be The Only Democracy in the Middle East?, a project of Jewish Voice for Peace.

If you wonder why you and I have such different views on this "democracy," you might be interested in Muzzlewatch, also from JVP.

For a perspective from a South African, you might want to read the series of wmtc posts that begins here: "is israel an apartheid state? a south african perspective, part 1".

"Palestinians and their supporters are anti-Semitic"

Many Jewish people believe that Arabs and others in solidarity with the Palestinian cause are anti-Semitic. They may have heard or read anti-Semitic statements, or they may be basing their feelings on assumptions.

Jewish friends have said to me, "Palestinians hate Jews. They are taught to." I'm not sure how they possess this information, where it comes from, or how much or little it represents reality. My own liberal, suburban, Jewish parents taught me to look down on Arabs, to see them as violent, lawless, ignorant, "backwards", dirty (yes, physically dirty). Is it possible that the idea of Arab children being taught to hate Jews is part of that same bigoted stereotype? Or do Arab families actually teach hatred towards Jews? Do Jewish families do the same, in reverse?

I personally have encountered no anti-Semitism in the pro-Palestinian movement; indeed, I have seen quite the opposite, a great multicultural solidarity in the struggle for justice. On the other hand, I hear casual Islamophobia on a regular basis both in person and online.

Of course, one can find a flood of anti-Semitism online without too much difficulty. And some Jew-haters use the Palestinian cause as cover for their own hatred.

So let's assume all this is true. Let's assume that at least some Palestinians are anti-Semitic and some Jews are anti-Arab or anti-Muslim. So what? It may be true, but it's irrelevant.

You may believe that the pro-Palestinian cause is rife with anti-Semitism. But what does that have to do with the Palestinian people's right to autonomy and self-determination?

Some Black people may hate all white people, but could that have been used as a moral justification for Jim Crow? If you read a Black South African's rant against his white oppressors, would that have caused you to support South African apartheid?

Human rights belong to all people, without exception. There are bigots everywhere. There are good people everywhere. If you've heard or read anti-Jewish rhetoric within the pro-Palestinian cause, would you really use that to justify the continued repression of millions of people?

An Israeli friend once said to me, "How long will we use real or imagined anti-Semitism to justify The Occupation?"

Israel's "right to exist"

One often hears the expression, "Israel has a right to defend itself" and "Israel must use violence or it will cease to exist." Many people claim that Israel must act aggressively to contain and neutralize the Palestinian people, or its existence will be threatened.

Every Israeli person and every Palestinian person has the right to exist.

People have an inherent right to exist.

Regimes do not.

The apartheid regime in South Africa no longer exists. Jim Crow no longer exists. The Raj no longer exists.

If the survival of your state - your state, not your people - depends on the subjugation of others, can you credibly plead self-defense? The survival of the Confederacy depended upon slavery. The survival of Afrikaan South Africa depended on apartheid.

The westward expansion of the early United States was predicated on genocide. Did the US have a right to that expansion? How can expansion be equated with survival?

How can this


be considered survival?

If Palestine is free, can Israel continue to exist? If Israel the state, acting in concert with all the people who live in its territory, can figure out a way to become a democratically ruled country, equally open to all people, equally governed by all people, granting the same inalienable rights to all people, regardless of origin or heritage, then it will continue to exist, as South Africa has done, as the US did after its Civil War.

But if by Israel's "right to exist," we mean its self-proclaimed right to be exclusively governed by, and grant exclusive rights to, one set of people but not another, based on hereditary, then no, it has no right to exist.

If you support Israel's right to maintain itself as a Jewish state, do you also support other exclusive states? An exclusively white state? An exclusively blond and blue-eyed state?

Here are two premises I think we would all support.

1. A government that can only maintain power through force and violence and repression is not a legitimate government.

2. All people have the right to be free.

Why should Israel be an exception?

"Without Israel, Jews cannot be safe, and there could be another Holocaust"

I'm very familiar with this argument, and I used to believe it. Under closer scrutiny, however, it fell apart.

The existence of a Jewish state cannot prevent anti-Semitism. Indeed, I would argue that it does just the opposite. The Jewish claim to special status and the insistence of a birthright, a claim we would view as illegitimate from any other people, is the perfect fodder for anti-Jewish feeling.

Recognizing that a certain degree of bigotry will always exist, our goal should be to prevent such bigotry from resulting in discrimination, persecution and, ultimately, genocide. But our goal cannot be merely to protect Jews. We must protect all people from discrimination, persecution, and genocide - or what are we?

What's more, continued segregation will only perpetuate bigotry, on both sides. In the US, we've seen that the key to dispelling bigotry and helping people recognize our common humanity has been integration. Integrated workplaces have probably done more to normalize (so-called) "race relations" in the US than anything else. (Of course, integrated workplaces would not have been possible without court-ordered desegregation of education and other civil rights legislation.) If we want to reduce both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, segregated nation-states should not be our goal. Until Israeli and Palestinian, Jew and Arab and Christian, co-exist in one country, as equals, there will never be peace.

But is peaceful coexistence your goal? Perhaps you're less concerned with the prevention of another genocide than with the prevention of another Jewish genocide - not a holocaust, but only The Holocaust.

As Jews, do you really feel that your own safety and the safety of other Jewish people are more important, more valuable, than the safety of people who are not Jewish? Can you admit such a thing, even to yourself?

How much repression is your safety worth? How many deaths? How much oppression should be tolerated so that our people can have a "homeland"?

Why do I have more rights to live freely in Israel, a country I have never even visited, than someone whose family has lived there for generations?

If a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto calls for continued Palestinian resistance, if the child of two Holocaust survivors knows that Israel maintains an apartheid state and it must end, how can you continue to close your eyes?

How can you, as a Jew, tolerate this?

* * * *

The following is excerpted from a report by Richard Falk, UN special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories.
Israel continues to annex Palestinian territory; Israel persists in demolishing Palestinians' homes and populating Palestine with Israeli citizens; Israel routinely detains Palestinians without charges; Israel maintains an policy of collectively punishing 1.75 million Palestinians through its imposition of a blockade on the Gaza Strip; and Israel prosecutes its occupation with impunity, refusing to accept the world’s calls to respect international law.

The Israeli population registry confirms that around 650,000 Israelis had settled in the occupied Palestinian territory by the end of 2012. Just last week Israel took another step toward building the 3,000 additional settlements authorized by Prime Minister Netanyahu in November, even as Israeli leaders pay lip service to peace negotiations.

In the first three months of 2013, Israel demolished 204 Palestinian homes, and violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians is an everyday occurrence, with 146 incidents documented through April.

[According to the independent expert designated by the UN Human Rights Council, Israel is actively confiscating Palestinian water and land, having seized an additional 60,000 square meters of land near Nablus just this week.]

My new report reminds the Human Rights Council that a Security Council report raised these same concerns in 1979, but 34 years later Israel remains committed to ignoring international law and pursuing its own set of facts on the ground.

. . . since the occupation began 46 years ago, Israel has detained approximately 750,000 Palestinians, equaling nearly 20% of the entire Palestinian population. At the end of May Israel had 4,979 Palestinians, including 236 children, in its prisons. Another fact is that Israel constantly holds around 200 Palestinians in so-called administrative detention, which is a euphemism Israel uses for detention without charges.

[Turning to the situation in the Gaza Strip, Mr. Falk recalled that, in mid-June, Palestinians in Gaza will enter the seventh year of living under Israel's oppressive and illegal blockade.]

My report discusses my visit to Gaza last December, just after Israel's last major military operation. In short, Israel's blockade is suffocating Palestinians in Gaza, with an incredible 70% of the population dependent on international aid for survival and 90% of the water unfit for human consumption.

These violations deprive Palestinians of hope and make a mockery of revived peace negotiations.
I ask you again: as a Jew, and as a human being, how can you continue to support this?



-----
* For some people, the word "unlawful" in the above definition is a sticking point. Internationally, the US's invasion and occupation of Iraq were and are unlawful. But the US makes its own laws. It invades countries at will, using whatever pretext or contrived incident is convenient, and using the media as its propaganda agent. For more on this pattern, please read Overthrow by Stephen Kinzer, an excellent and very accessible book.

** For a discussion on varying concepts of terrorism, including the concept of "state terrorism," try this article by John Sigler: "Palestine: Legitimate Armed Resistance vs. Terrorism".

15 comments:

David Heap said...

Thanks for writing this Laura! worth all of the time and trouble it clearly took to get out this painstaking story + follow-up discussion.
I am trying to arrange my day tomorrow to go hear Pierre Stambul, vice-president of the Union juive fran├žaise pour la paix, who argues that Zionism was in fact anti-Semitic from the start, in that it was based on the racist idea that Jews should not and could not live among non-Jewish peoples and therefore needed a country of their own. Historically, this idea was promoted by openly anti-Semitic goyim like Britain's Lord Balfour, who undertook to "give" Jews a "national home" (in a country the U.K. happened to be administering at the time) at least in part because he didn't want more Jews in Britain. Similarly racist views among Christian Zionists go back more than a century before Herzl "invented" ZIonism: with "friends" like these, who needs enemies?
I can only find Stambul's piece in French right now (http://www.ujfp.org/spip.php?article2679&lang=fr) but I will ask around to see if his work has been translated.

laura k said...

Thank you, David! It was indeed difficult to write, but also very satisfying. It was true essay writing, in which I discovered and sorted all the disparate pieces during the writing process itself.

Another friend of mine, David Cho, has enlightened me about Christian Zionism, a/k/a virulent anti-Semitism disguised as a love for Israel. Scary stuff!

This reminds me to send him this post.

it was based on the racist idea that Jews should not and could not live among non-Jewish peoples and therefore needed a country of their own.

Interesting, since the South African system was originally conceived for the protection of all the "races", for the same reason.

johngoldfine said...

I don't think you're quite done with this essay. Having come so far with your arguments, your reader expects to have your vision of a good future laid out. What would a fair or tolerable or possible end to the Palestinians' problems look like?

johngoldfine said...

There's always the South African model--truth and reconciliation. But the last century offers many other, less sanguine models of political settlement by way of massive population transfers.

johngoldfine said...

Do you mean that Christian Zionists are anti-Semitic in that they hold the notion that the Second Coming cannot be completed until the Jews have been converted, i.e., become Christians?

Or that their belief that, as according to prophecy, all Jews must be 'ingathered' to Israel before the End Times is just an elaborate way of getting Jews out and away?

Or that any labeling and categorization of people tends to dehumanize them?

Or that any segregation is by the fact alone a sign of bigotry?

laura k said...

I don't think you're quite done with this essay. Having come so far with your arguments, your reader expects to have your vision of a good future laid out. What would a fair or tolerable or possible end to the Palestinians' problems look like?

Sorry to disappoint your expectations, but I am quite done with this essay.

The problem is clearly not only the Palestinians', but also the Israelis', as African-Americans civil rights was an American problem, and apartheid was a problem for every South African.

I advocate for a one-state solution, but if there has to be a two-state solution in the interim, as Howard Zinn suggests, then that would be a start:

Of course, there is no turning back the clock and it may be that an independent Palestine alongside an independent Jewish state is the best interim solution, but since the poison of nationalism will undoubtedly infect both states, the ideal of a democratic, secular community of Jews and Palestinians should remain a goal of all who desire lasting peace and justice.

I think a truth and reconciliation phase would be essential. That process has also been used in Ireland, Australia, and Guatemala (possibly other places). There could never be peace without it, IMO. But truth and reconciliation is a process, not a solution. It doesn't presuppose a particular end.

johngoldfine said...

it was based on the racist idea that Jews should not and could not live among non-Jewish peoples and therefore needed a country of their own.

I'd call that idea racialist, not racist, if that's not splitting hairs too much. Racialism at the end of the 19th and well into the 20th might have fed into and sprung from racism or misunderstood Darwinism, but it was not as scientifically and morally disreputable in its day as it seems to us retrospectively, looking back through the lens of Nazi ideology and practice.

It's hardly surprising that Zionism found support among non-self-hating Jews when the prejudice against them in Europe was so persistent and so often acute. I don't quite see why the desire to flee persecution or an unhappy situation and to immigrate to a land they imagined was semi-desert and semi-deserted where they could buy land and establish socialist communes makes Zionism racist or anti-Semitic.

That is to say: what the heck was the history of the Jews in Europe all about if it was not about "the idea that Jews should not and could not live among non-Jewish people." (FWIW, I think the term 'goyim' doesn't fit into a serious discussion but perhaps I'm being too sensitive to verbal nuances.)

laura k said...

Christian Zionism basically wants to see Jews either converted to Christianity or destroyed in a second holocaust, which will then bring about the second coming. So yeah, I'd say that's pretty anti-Semitic.

It might be understandable why Zionism came about, just as it's understandable why some African Americans were attracted to a Back To Africa movement in the 19th century. Who could blame them for thinking there'd be no peace for them in the new world?

And I see no reason these ideas can't be both racialist and racist at the same time (and I do think you're engaging in hair-splitting, but that's just my opinion, you are certainly welcome to your hairs to split).

I also see no reason why commenters can't leaven serious comments with levity here and there, whereas picking on each other's comments is a no-no. Thanks in advance.

johngoldfine said...

Yep, you're right. I've inadvertently forgotten and then crossed the very clear wmtc line and picked on a comment.

But here we are in a discussion about prejudice, tribalism, and chauvinism where we all fight to stay rational and not shout--and suddenly an offensive term is introduced. To me, "goyim" is shouting. Like all offensive terms, if said with a smile or said in-house, it can certainly create levity. But it's the kind of joke that reinforces tribalism, not that offers a lighthearted or fruitful perspective on the issue.

Well, to add to my original inadvertent crossing of the line, I've continued to cross it here, now in full knowledge of my transgression, so I wouldn't be surprised or upset if you moderated this comment away, not that, god knows, you need my permission or approval to suit yourself on wmtc.

laura k said...

John, it's not a big deal in either direction. You're entitled to feel prickly about someone else's word choice, and in my estimation, I'm entitled to put the earlier comment through without feeling prickly about it. I use the expressions goyim and goyusha frequently and don't regard them as offensive. YMMV. No biggie.

I understand this entire topic and dialogue is difficult for you. I am aware of and appreciate your restraint.

johngoldfine said...

I understand this entire topic and dialogue is difficult for you.

It is, and a big part of the difficulty is my own inability to understand my own reactions.

That is to say, I am a Jew who, as I think I've said, is (and always has been) completely uninterested in Judaism or in Israel. My general attitude toward all religion veers reliably along the very short arc between profound contempt and utter loathing. And your arguments in your essay I mostly find unanswerable.

So, given all that, if I were half as reasonable a man as I fancy I am, I would agree with you, and that would be an end to it!

But your convincing arguments simply don't move me off my emotional perch. I hate that! That failure of reason over feeling, especially when I have no idea what it is I am emotionally defending, since as I say, neither religion nor tribalism have much sway with me. Or so I thought....

And since I can't really counter much of what you point out, I find myself nipping at the heels of the business, bitching about terminology (where I feel more confident) or about tangential historical angles.

laura k said...

John, that is exactly what I sensed was happening, although I couldn't have articulated it so perfectly. Plus I didn't know the extent to which your emotional reactions were at odds with your intellectual ones.

All I can say is I've been there, too, in my own way. I never understood my Jewish identity to have been nationalistic or tribal, but damn, I sure see it now, in retrospect.

I think in my case my conscious, intentional rejection of all forms of nationalism (including the kind called patriotism) and my embrace of internationalism helped move me in a new direction.

I'll also say that I'm glad you find the arguments in this essay convincing.

Thanks for your self-reflection. It's not easy to do, and you're very good at it!

David Heap said...

Christian Zionism was (and is) a racist ideology (aside from its -- frankly bizarre-- theological underpinnings), it promoted the idea of a "homeland" for Jews in what later became the British Mandate of Palestine, BECAUSE they were not welcome in UK (US, Canada). More than a century before Herzl, Christian organizations in these countries were promoting the idea of (and began raising money to buy) land there, in order to send "those Jews" away from Europe. Lord Balfour was making virulently anti-Semitic speeches long before he offered to "give" anyone a piece of the empire as a "national home". Later, Herzl bought into this initially Christian ideology and explicitly made common cause with some political leaders who incited pogroms against Jews -- because they wanted the same thing (fewer Jews in Europe). It was Christian Zionists who came up with the (deliberately misleading) slogan of about "Land without people for a people without a land." (pre-Mandate Palestine was neither deserted nor desert).

Christian Zionism was also explicitly imperialist -- their idea was to send Jews (considered not "good enough" to be "real" Europeans) to form a buffer state on the edge of the British empire -- a rampart of "almost white" people against the swarthier, more dangerous Arabs -- it was initially envisioned as a "Dominion" (like Canada is a Dominion) of the British Crown.

Canada played an active role in this, right down to promotion of the 1947 partition deal (which they knew would be unacceptable to Palestinians) by the same politicians who maintained a "none is too many" regarding Jewish refugees from Europe. With friends like these...

In this light, the theology and promised land stuff seems more like just window-dressing for old-fashioned (Christian) racist imperialism.

David Heap said...

(p.s. my main point was that Balfour and others like him were non-Jews promoting Zionism, not because they liked Jews but quite the opposite. If in-group membership is required to use a term to designate a person, then I suppose the fact that I am of predominantly British Isles extraction, like Balfour, means that I am allowed call him whatever I like, as "one of our own" -- yech!
FWIW -- and I agree with Laura that it is not really all that relevant -- I was a goy (and occasionally shabbas goy) as a kid, as well as "(mangia) cake", in the neighbourhood where I grew up. I still occasionally use both terms to refer to myself, and I have largely nostalgic, even affectionate associations with both -- the same is not true of e.g. some of the Cantonese terms that were applied to us non-Orientals. Of course, as Laura points out, YMMV -- no offense intended, and it really is a side issue: for "goyim like Balfour" just read "non-Jews like Balfour", y basta.
And WMTC house rules aside, I really don't mind being called on my usage if you feel moved to do so... while I may not agree, it can lead to reflection).

laura k said...

David, thanks for the wonderfully concise history! I sort of know all that, but it mostly resides in the dim recesses somewhere, so it's very nice to haul it out out of memory and refresh it.

Rule of thumb: when someone suggests sending a group of people elsewhere, it is seldom for their own good.