Sunday, September 21, 2008

Zionism: A Conservative Defense - Peter Hitchens

Peter Hitchens writes a nuanced, complex and provocative defense of Zionism based on conservative principles (worth reading in full):

Zionism: A Defense

A prominent conservative argues that cultural and political kinship make Israel the West’s natural ally.

Peter Hitchens

Conservatives should support the State of Israel on principle, just as the globalist Left seeks to defeat Zionism on principle. The legions of political correctness would usually approve of a state founded as the result of a classic “national liberation” struggle against a classic “colonial oppressor” and ought to endorse a country so profoundly secular in so many of its institutions and so dominated by social-democratic political and cultural thinking. Especially, they should be enthusiastic about a nation whose whole reason for existence is profoundly anti-racist.

But they don’t and they aren’t. The Left will readily forgive Irish Republicans for terror and even for Catholicism. They remain sentimental about Fidel Castro despite the show trials and the dungeons. They will pardon South Africa almost everything, including an incorrect attitude towards AIDS. But all the categories flip over and upside down when it comes to Israel and Zionism. Why? Here are some suggestions, offered in the spirit of inquiry.

Despite its socialist appearance—kibbutzes, female soldiers, and the rest—Zionism is a profoundly conservative idea, based on the re-creation of an ancient nation and culture. It is also globally conservative, requiring a definite and uncompromising form of national sovereignty and an implicit rejection of multiculturalism. Israel stands—alone in its region—for placing the rule of law above the rule of power. Its destruction would be a disaster for what remains of the civilized world. Yet it has never been so threatened.

The recent Iraq war has done substantial damage to Israel’s hopes of survival, damage that was implicit in the pro-war case from the start. Those Zionists who supported the war made a serious mistake. The marketers of political and diplomatic cliché have expressed surprise that George W. Bush fulfilled his earlier pledge to pursue the road map to peace. How wrong they were. Even as the doomed Abu Mazen is carted off the stage in a bruised heap, the absurd effort to find a Palestinian Authority chieftain who both has any power and believes in compromise continues. If they had been paying attention, they would have realized that the globalist faction in the Republican Party has for many years been ready to sacrifice Israel in return for a settlement with the Muslim world.

It is strange how few have put together the two most frightening events of the year 2001, even though they took place within days of each other. The first was the Durban conference of the United Nations, supposedly “against racism.” The Muslim world chose to turn this gathering into a scream of hatred against Israel and against its protector America, so much so that the U.S. and Israeli delegations walked out. Just a few days later came the attack of Sept. 11. It has always interested me that this event was swiftly followed by, of all things, the payment of America’s back dues to the UN and the first open White House declaration of support for a Palestinian state. The War on Terror was strangely irrelevant to what had actually happened, with its clumsy ill-directed blows against Afghanistan and Iraq and its embarrassed refusal to confront Saudi involvement in terror or notice Palestinian street celebrations of the Manhattan massacre.

The alteration in policy towards Israel and the amazing pressure that must have been put on Ariel Sharon to swap his mailed club for an olive branch are by contrast real, accurately directed, and vastly significant. The trouble is, they are acts of appeasement rather than of resolution. This is serious, and if Washington is wrong (as I believe it is) about the Palestinian cause’s real capacity for compromise, it will turn out to be a grave step towards the dissolution of the Israeli state—not by frontal military action but by demoralization, destabilization, and de-legitimization.

The Israeli state has many flaws that only a fool would deny. Terrorists, still not fully disowned and in some cases actually revered, were prominent in its establishment and then in its governing class. It has engaged in pre-emptive war and has driven people from their homes through fear and massacre. Some of its responses to terrorist attack have been clumsy, lazy, and incompetent. Its present Prime Minister is severely tainted by indefensibly ruthless and inhumane past actions. Its political system is designed to enthrone factions, some of them repellent. The most important fault of all is that Israel should never have been founded, and should never have needed to be founded. But this last fault is an involuntary one, and is the reason for many of the country’s other troubles. It is no good blaming Israel for existing when its foundation was a desperate response to mechanized racial murder. Nor is it any good for supporters or opponents of modern Israel to pretend that the National Socialist massacre of Jews did not change the argument about Zionism for as far ahead as it is possible to look.

If the world were as liberal idealists imagine, Zionism ought to have been forgotten long ago as a foolish idea, a cranky and hopeless project as unrealistic as Esperanto. And if mankind were ruled by reason, then Zionism would indeed have gone the way of Esperanto. You might have thought that secularism, by making Judaism a matter of involuntary race rather than one of voluntary religion, would have resulted in near-total integration and assimilation. This did not happen. The opposite did. It is therefore important to remember that most right-thinking people believed with utter certainty that assimilation would happen and Zionism would fail. They believed this, during the years before 1914, in a period of history similar to our own because of its illusory stability and its materialist optimism. They continued to believe it in an era similar to the one we are just entering, the years of nervous anticipation and fear of war between 1918 and 1939.

The projected “National Home for the Jews” endorsed by Britain in 1917 was never intended to become a nation. It was to be part of the British Empire, not ruling itself but governed benignly from London, a permanent way station on the proposed land-route to India and a glacis protecting the Suez Canal from any power that threatened it from the north. The British Empire accepted the Zionist scheme because it provided Britain with an excuse to straddle one of the most important pieces of strategic property in the world.

This arrangement would have safeguarded the Arab peoples already living in the neglected Ottoman sanjaks that were arbitrarily glued together to form the Palestine Mandate, an entity even more artificial than Iraq. Under British government, Arabs were not given the right to rule Jews, and Jews were not given the right to rule Arabs.

When the idea was first put forward, there was plenty of room for both peoples within wide frontiers. For at that stage nobody had planned to set up the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, which first came to birth as the Emirate of Transjordan, hacked in a hurry out of the original Mandate. This was another accident along the way, following the diplomatic game of pass-the-parcel, which began when the French ejected the British client “King” Faisal from Syria in July 1920. They had won the territory at the peace conference and did not share T.E. Lawrence’s enthusiasm for Hashemite chieftains.

To console Faisal, London gave him the throne of Iraq instead, inaugurating another permanent crisis. This displaced his brother Abdullah, who had originally been promised the Baghdad throne. Abdullah, a monarch with no realm, urgently needed another kingdom to reign over. He complained noisily and was given Transjordan to soothe his wounded feelings. Thus three-quarters of the original Palestine Mandate, the entire area east of the river Jordan, was snatched away from the projected “National Home” before it had even begun. The famous West Bank was seized illegally by Transjordan in 1948, allowing that country to change its name to Jordan. So when Israel occupied it in 1967, it merely passed from one illegal occupier to another. Though it is not widely known, this very area was originally designated for “close Jewish settlement” at the San Remo Accords, which defined the original Mandate and which remain the only agreed international document defining sovereignty over this territory. Even the Golan Heights, now claimed righteously by Syria, were originally within the Mandate and became part of Syria in later Anglo-French horse-trading.

There is a general assumption that Israel at some point stole its territory from a legitimate Arab state. Many of Israel’s critics seem to believe that there was at one stage a sovereign country called “Palestine” out of which the Jewish nation was unfairly carved. But no such country ever existed; Palestine was never the name of anything but a Roman province. The only previous title—for so many centuries that it had no real rival claimant—had belonged to the Ottoman Empire. From the Ottomans it passed directly to the British. When Britain, bankrupt and demoralized, scuttled from the region in 1948, Israel grabbed as much as it could of this dubious legacy. Arab armies in turn seized as much as they could.

Israelis unquestionably perpetrated unforgivable massacres and drove people from their homes. Had things gone the other way, there would have been other massacres, other refugees. Wilsonian ideals of national self-determination can take on a blood-stained tinge, just as much as imperialism, if not more so. When a colonial power vacates a disputed territory, such horrors are likely. But this was in 1948, a year after the partition of India and Pakistan, another shameful scuttle by Britain. All the refugees from that vast upheaval have found new homes. It also came shortly after the expulsion of millions of Germans from East Prussia, the Czech lands, and from Western Poland. Those dispossessed in these savage deportations have long since resettled, and no serious movement demands their return home. Why, uniquely, are the Arab refugees of 1948 still the focus of international demands for the restoration of lost lands?

There is one key difference that keeps this issue alive, especially on the Left, which mostly has not even heard of the German expulsions and would probably defend them if it had. Israel is not like other countries because it is a Western nation carved out of Middle Eastern territory. This leads us to the uncomfortable truth—unwelcome to modern Zionists who shudder visibly at any mention of the word—that Israel is the last major European imperial colony on the face of the earth. In its struggle for survival in a world that already has enough reasons for disapproving of it, modern Israel has sought to stifle such thoughts.

But a European colony it is. What distinguishes Israel from its Arab neighbors is no longer its general prosperity and physical modernity. Oil has evened up these differences in the past decade, and, while serious squalor persists in many Arab countries, so do middle-class comfort and good, functioning services. The difference runs much deeper. Israel’s people are European by culture and law, imposing that culture and law on a region where cousin marriage and tribal loyalty are normal, while pluralism, tolerance, party politics, and the rule of law are abnormal. In this, the new state is the direct heir of the British officers who governed the area as undisguised colonists between the two global wars—and from whom it has inherited much of its legal system, not to mention a chain of imperial fortresses still used by the Israeli army.

This makes Israel the permanent ally, in the Middle East, of the world’s lawful and free countries. This alliance is based on cultural and political kinship, factors that cannot be altered by a tyrant’s death or a coup d’état. Washington may be able to buy the friendship of one Arab or Muslim regime or another with arms and cash. But as soon as that regime falls, the investment of years is wasted if the new rulers are hostile.

I suspect this difference, far more than the ethnic and religious ones, arouses the hostility of Arab regimes. We do not really know what the Arab and Muslim peoples think, since such states do not have free public opinion as we know it. We do know that an ugly anti-Semitism previously largely unknown in the Middle East, has been deliberately and crudely encouraged by Arab regimes trying to find an outlet for the justified discontents of their own poor. We also know that there has been no desire for permanent compromise and genuine peace between even the supposedly moderate Arab regimes and Israel. The state of relations between Israel and Egypt, for instance, is frigid, nervous, and held in place mainly by American subsidies, and this despite Israel’s handover of territory of enormous strategic value. In fact, the Israeli-Egypt “peace,” artificial and without friendship between governments or peoples, is a standing warning to those who fantasize about a “new Middle East” or a harmonious two-state solution.

The hostility is bitter, kept alive by semi-official and official media and, in a nasty new development, it is now often crudely racialist, though nobody is supposed to mention this. The Western Left would drive a Holocaust-denier from any campus that employed him, but the thought police who search the minds of their domestic opponents are unmoved by the blatant anti-Semitism of the Arab terror organizations. Many who denounce Islam for its intolerance draw back from this condemnation when that intolerance is directed against Zionists. By a peculiar process of mental dishonesty so outrageous that it works, Zionism is often equated directly with German National Socialism by critics of Israel. The only reason for this absurd, disproportionate, and cynical claim is that it neutralizes the fundamental case for Zionism, namely that Germany’s policy of systematic massacre was unique, and that the Jewish case for a Jewish sovereign state is therefore unique.

Conservatism is realistic, honest, consistent, and opposed to cant. It takes the side of the particular and the ancient. It sees virtues in Western civilization against its rivals. It penetrates the disguises in which history advances itself and is not fooled by passing appearances. It does not seek perfection, but it does try to be principled. On all these grounds, and because that country is threatened as never before by shallow and ill-considered idealism, conservatism should consider Israel an ally.


Peter Hitchens is a columnist for the London Mail on Sunday.


Bill Chapman said...

I hope you'll allow me to comment on Peter Hitchen's swipes at Esperanto - definite linguistic reality.

It won't take a long search of the internrt to see that Esperanto is very much alive and kicking. A good place to start is

dan said...

Of all the possible reactions to the Hitchens article, BC's comment about Esperanto was the one I expected the least.

Andy said...

P Hitchens takes issue with a number of what he believes are lazy or stupid swipes at Israel that had appeared in the comments thread of his blog:

"Oh Little Town of Bethlehem, how ignorant we are about you

The eruption of the Middle East on to this blog last week impels me to write a few words about this subject before I take a Christmas break (yes, Mr "Demetriou", I am shortly taking some time off in my armchair, not going to Burma, Belarus, Moscow, Russia, Moscow, Idaho, Venezuela, Zambia or the Congo. My column will continue to be posted here each Sunday, but I shall not resume the mid-week postings till after the New Year has begun).

I noticed that my antagonists were determined to stick to their view that Israel is irredeemably wicked and the Arabs peace-loving and more or less faultless, despite my efforts to steer them into the more rational position that both sides are guilty of major wrongdoing and that there is nothing to be gained by atrocity propaganda.

One of them frequently represented my opinions as being more hard-line and pro-Israeli than they in fact are, presumably because he was more comfortable with an opponent who fitted his pre-ordained idea of what a Zionist should be. I do not attack him for misrepresentation, as I am sure he genuinely thinks that I hold the views he attributes to me. But it does make it rather laborious, trying to argue with him. I have to keep looking up my own words, wondering where exactly my opponents have ingeniously discovered the various sentiments they attribute to me, which I don't hold and haven't expressed. Often the change in meaning is quite slight, but also crucial. Or they simply miss my points, or slip past them. Well, I must now reluctantly slip past them. A moment comes in any debate when you have to recognise that your opponent doesn't want to find common ground and regards your olive branches as spears. Well, as it happens, I do want to find common ground, so I'll try to seek it elsewhere.

By the way, can I request that, in such arguments, people do not expect me to take seriously the views of the United Nations General Assembly ( a hopelessly biased anti-Israeli parliament of despots and torturers with all the moral authority of Jack the Ripper)? Nor do I need to be persuaded that Israel has done many wrong things, so telling me about them will not alter my position.

Also, can we please rule out any claims that the Israelis behave like the Nazis, that Gaza is a 'concentration camp' etc etc. This is emotionalised agitprop piffle, and only shows that those who use it have become so hot-eyed that they have lost all sense of proportion. The German industrialised massacre of European Jewry was a unique event, and it is a demonstration of ignorance about the past and about the present, plus a severe case of language inflation, to try and equate it with anything now taking place. The moment Israel starts getting its non-Jewish citizens to wear Yellow Crescent badges, rounds them up by force, takes them to extermination camps and gasses them to death by the million, then it will be true to say that Israel is behaving as the Nazis did. As long as it doesn't do that, it won't be.

Israel often behaves very badly, especially when maddened into unreason and emotional folly by terror attacks. So do most countries, including our own. But that doesn't make it a reincarnation of the Third Reich.

I know why this claim is made. The murder of European Jews, at the behest of the government of what had been viewed until then as one of the most civilised and advanced nations on earth, was and will always remain one of the chief reasons for Israel's existence. Personally I think that reason remains unanswerable and uncomfortable for all of us. The record of the free nations, asked to help Jewish refugees from Hitler from 1933 onwards, is a disgrace. I might add that at least one prominent Arab leader from the region, Haj Amin al Husseini, became an active ally of the Nazis and helped recruit Bosnian Muslims for a special Muslim division of the SS. So you can see why an Arab propagandist might want to confuse the issue.

Similarly, baseless accusations of anti-Semitism against legitimate critics of Israel should be left at the door. Those who criticise Israel proportionately and fairly (that is to say, not selectively choosing to attack Israel for crimes and misdeeds that they overlook elsewhere) are entitled to be heard without being defamed in this silly way. In return, anti-Israel voices who are genuinely opposed to Judophobia should be ready to observe and condemn that phobia where it is present ( as it is, with frightening persistence) in much Arab and Muslim anti-Israeli propaganda.

Many people prefer angry passion to cool reason in this debate. Why? Because angry passion allows you to be weak on reason, and weaker still on facts. If you abandon total partisanship in this quarrel, you have to stop huffing and puffing about "evil terrorists" or "oppressive occupiers", you have to acknowledge that (for instance) Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount was not a sufficient reason for the Second Intifada (which by the way completely scuppered any hope of a settlement at Taba, on which so much weight is placed by some contributors). And you also have to acknowledge that Ariel Sharon is an undoubted war criminal.

Then you have to think about what we might actually do if we are serious about peace, rather than anxious for the total triumph of one side or the other.

The real question is, since a territorial compromise is obviously the civilised way out, why one has not happened. My view is that the Arab side does not actually want a compromise, and does not see any reason why it should seek one, given its huge success in persuading most of Western opinion that Israel is in the wrong. A substantial body of Israeli opinion, likewise, prefers secure borders without a treaty, to a peace that is not secure. The behaviour of Arab leaders and states strengthens this faction all the time. And as long as that continues, and as gullible people allow it to continue, the existing miserable conditions will continue.

Actually, Israel will lose this contest in the end, since the demographics of the area mean that it will be increasingly difficult to maintain a Jewish majority even within the boundaries of the pre-1967 state. More or less desperate measures, such as the encouragement of Russian immigration in the 1990s, have already backfired quite severely. Many of the Russian Jews turned out not to be Jewish in any identifiable way. Without a permanent and secure peace, Israel is unlikely to get a significant number of other Jewish migrants. And at the same time it is increasingly difficult for Israel to handle its substantial minority of Arab citizens. these - especially the badly mistreated Bedouin - feel left out, neglected and despised. An article I wrote about this, published in the MoS on 16th June 2007, is still available on the web. Google "Peter Hitchens" and "Israeli Arabs" and it should pop up.

All the more reason for a lasting and equitable solution, you might think.

In my view, most Western opinion about Israel is profoundly ignorant, and those who hold the standard opinions on the subject would invariably fail a 20-question quiz about the origins and nature of the dispute. I am keenly aware of this because I was once deeply ignorant about it myself, in the days when i used to support the 'Palestinian' cause. And I have spent a lot of time and done a lot of travelling and reading and arguing to try to put this right."

Andy said...

One of the things I enjoy in Hitchens blog is the way he will fight it out in the comment's thread to his own blog and respond directly to a point that's been made by one of his readers.

Here's a good example - a reader (Ross Steadman) to Hitchens' piece on Israel responds thus:

"Peter Hitchens rightly returns to the real issue with this question.
"The real question is, since a territorial compromise is obviously the civilised way out, why one has not happened".

Because Israel has consistently refused to abide by international law, and compromise. Even during peace processes like Oslo, or Camp David, Israel demonstrated lack of goodwill, as it continued relentlessly demolishing Palestinian homes, seizing their farms, and expanding the settlements, over Palestinian land, throughout the peace talks.

Mr Hitchens again says the Arabs refusal to compromise is at fault. How many times do I have to disprove this?
The Arabs recently offered a perfectly workable compromise, the internationally-recognized basis for a peaceful settlement, in 2002."
[this is a selected quote the original posting is longer and can be read in it's entirety by going to the comments thread of this blog post]

Further down the comments thread, Peter Hitchens then replies:

"I must ask Mr Steadman - whose glorious wide-eyed credulity about Arab diplomacy warms my heart with simple joy this Christmastide, that any adult person can still believe stuff like this after so much experience of our cruel world - to explain this to me.

How is it a workable compromise for Party A in the deal (a law-governed democracy occupying a tiny piece of the Middle East) to abandon, unconditionally and forever, a sizeable piece of real property, crucial to its defence from attack, in return for Party B (a concatenation of demonstrably aggressive, oil-rich, heavily-armed and unstable despotisms hosting and financing fanatical terror organisations, occupying almost all the territory in the Middle East, and issuing an unending stream of bigoted and racialist propaganda against the inhabitants of Party A) giving them ...a piece of paper?

That's not a compromise. It's a surrender. For it to be a compromise, credible and unequivocal guarantees, combined with a long period during which there was a visible change in attitudes, a cessation of racialist poison in media and schools, the abandonment of maps making a wholly Arab 'Palestine' the clear objective of the Arab cause, etc, the suppression of terrorist organisations, would be needed. These are called 'confidence building measures' and if I were an Israeli, I wouldn't hand over a square inch of anything without them.

What if, the promises made and the withdrawal accomplished, rocket batteries appeared in the hill country East of Tel Aviv, and began firing on Ben Gurion Airport and the suburbs of West Jerusalem, perhaps on Tel Aviv itself? What if the new state became a base for terror operations, suicide bombings, against the pre-1967 Israel that we're all told now is so acceptable. What if the Syrians, handed back the Golan Heights, resumed the shelling of Gailee, while Hizbollah, equipped generously by teheran, renewed its attack across the Lebanon border, and Hamas likewise continued its rocket attacks and kidnap raids from Gaza? .

What redress would Israel, by then more or less physically indefensible, have against those who tricked her? None. She would simply have to resign herself to the consequences of her own folly. Hence her reasonable unwillingness to sign such an agreement. The indefatigable Mr Steadman can have no answer to this. That is why I am sure he will not make one, just go on and on about Israel's badness, which I don't dispute, and Arab willingness to compromise, in which he naively mistakes propaganda for fact, and never address the problems of the Arab states, or their wrongdoings.

What would also be needed would be for the USA, Russia and the EU (at the very least) to cease their collaboration with Arab terror, a collaboration which consists of their telling Israel that it must buy off that terror with dangerous territorial concessions to hostile states.

Mr Steadman does keep going on about all the Jewish critics of Israel. Yes, we know about them. They get lots of publicity, not least in Israel's free press, and form the Western correspondents who can operate freely in Israel but not in any Arab state. But what I have repeatedly challenged him and his supporters to do is to find me prominent Arab critics of Arab misdeeds against Arabs, freely making those criticisms in Arab newspapers, Arab parliaments, on Arab TV stations, etc, (I specifically cited the Hama episode, as a salient example). No reply comes.

As for the despicable UN General Assembly, I believe it has passed more resolutions against Israel than against any other country. Can it possibly be that Israel, for all its faults, is so uniquely bad? Or might there, just possibly, be another explanation?"

Andy said...

The comments thread on Hitchens' post on Israel is getting rowdy. Some how anything blogged about the Middle East and especially Israel is guaranteed to attract A LOT of comments.

Peter Hitchens bravely re-enters the fray to take on some other posters to his blog:

"Some posters may not be aware that this thread carries over an argument on the previous thread "Catching Up". Many of the facts kindly provided for me by "Rebel Conservative" are to be found in my contributions to that thread.

In reply to Mr Wilkisnon (can that be the right spelling?) (18th December, 4.21 pm)

Mr Wilkisnon requests:"can someone explain to me why it was necessary for the Jewish state to be in Middle East if the primary justification for a Jewish state was the Holocaust?"

The original Zionist movement, which began seriously in the 19th century, predated the German National Socialist massacre of Jews by many decades. Though it was given greater impetus by the growing number of pogroms against Jews in the Russian Empire, particularly a massacre in Kishinev. This is what lay behind the Balfour Declaration.

Most European Jews, especially those in Germany, regarded themselves as wholly assimilated and treated Zionism with some scorn and hostility. Hardly any Jews in Weimar Germany, Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, The British Channel Islands, the Netherlands or France could ever have believed that they would eventually be subject to what the Nazis did. Even those in Poland, Romania and the Western USSR, used to a fair amount of discrimination, never imagined that they might be victims of systematic industrial massacre.But from 1933 onwards Zionism became far more potent, as the Nazis began the persecution that would end in the 'Final Solution'.

As to the location of the Jewish National Home, Jews have always lived in the Holy Land, at least since the return from Babylon, often subject to penal laws, expropriation and severe persecution, for religious reasons. If Britain were ever conquered and its population deported to the ends of the earth, and eventually a movement was formed which sought to re-establish the nation, its culture and language, does he not think there might be a prejudice in favour of doing so in the British Isles?

Mr Wilkisnon continues :" As to the Mufti, his role in supporting Nazis merits almost no mention in the Jewish Encyclopedia or in Raul Hilberg's multi-volume and authoritative Destruction of the European Jews. It is, in other words, a matter that serious historians have regarded as of very little relevance (let alone some kind of bizarre justification for a Jewish state in Palestine".

Well, nobody is actually advancing the behaviour of the Mufti as a reason, in itself, for the establishment of a Jewish State in the Holy Land. Herzl and Jabotinsky put forward the arguments for that, though they were fiercely opposed by many other Jews, as Geoffrey Wheatcroft explains in 'the Controversy of Zion'.

But it is frequently argued by Arab spin-doctors that the Hitlerian mass murder of Jews is an entirely European problem. they then go on to ask why the Arabs then have to pay for it with land. To which the answer is that there were quite a few Arabs (the Mufti was by no means alone) who very much supported the Nazis, and that British policy in the region (which slammed the door in the faces of many desperate refugees who ended up in extermination camps as a result) was much driven by a fear of growing German Nazi influence among Arab nationalists, and Muslims in general.

London feared that influence would grow unless Britain restricted the arrival of Jewish refugees from Hitler. Nor was this fear a fantasy. Britain had to use force to remove pro-Berlin governments in both Iran and Iraq during the Second World War.

I am not sure how much 'relevance' it possesses, or how this could be measured. I certainly think the story of al Husseini (who was forced against their will on the Arabs of Mandate Palestine by the British official Ronald Storrs) illuminates a fascinating and neglected corner of history. I am surprised it doesn't feature at all in the volumes cited, though I believe that the allegations that al Husseini was personally implicated in the Holocaust are entirely unproven - if not wholly unfounded.

He did, however, definitely help to recruit a Bosnian Muslim SS regiment, the Hanschar. Photographs exist of this formation, in their special grey Fezzes with death's head badges, being inspected by the Mufti. And, by opposing the migration of European Jews to Mandate Palestine, he indirectly ensured that many of them ended up in the gas chambers.

There were other links between Arab nationalists and the Nazis, which continued for a surprising time - notably allowing the SS child-murderer Alois Brunner to take refuge from justice in Damascus for many years after the collapse of the German Reich.

Posted by: Peter Hitchens | 18 December 2008 at 05:14 PM"

Andy said...

More stuff from Hitchens' slugging it out with the other posters on his blog. Here he calls Jimmy Carter a nitwit, the Stern Gang scum and has some interesting thoughts on Zionist terrorism in the 1930's:

"To "Chris P" (19th December, 1.05 pm) I should thank him, first of all, for persisting when the technology lost his posts. I know this is a nuisance, and it sometimes affects me too. The best thing is to be prepared for it. I urge all contributors to keep copies of what they post, so that they can try again.

Now, as to his arguments,
He says:"Firstly, you state that “a significant number of Jews have always lived in the area from time immemorial”. However, in 1920, the League of Nations' Interim Report on the Civil Administration of Palestine stated that, of the 700,000 inhabitants of Palestine:“The Jewish element of the population numbers 76,000. Almost all have entered Palestine during the last 40 years. Prior to 1850 there were in the country only a handful of Jews. In the following 30 years a few hundreds came to Palestine”So in fact, prior to 1850, there was “only a handful” of Jews in Palestine. As the report goes on to state that “a few hundred” came in the following 30 years, it is reasonable to suppose that this “handful” numbered fewer than a few hundred. Certainly not a “significant number”, as you argue."

I was always told that a 'handful' meant five. Plainly in this case it doesn't mean that. What does it mean? A figure would be useful. As to what is "significant" and why, the maintenance of a devout Jewish population in Jerusalem and Hebron was a major feat of determination and courage. Under the Ottomans, the legal position of Jews ( and Christians) was appalling. involving ceaseless humiliation, penal taxation and endless legal disability, together with a constant vulnerability to violence and theft without hope of redress. Yet they stayed.

The importance of these people is that they stand for continuity, that they express the desire of Jews (expressed endlessly in Jewish prayers and scriptures) to return from exile to their undoubted land of origin. Heaven preserve Mr P, and everyone else, from the misery of exile. But it might help him to an understanding of the importance of land and home, and of Jerusalem, in Jewish thought. I would imagine many Irish men and women, especially in the Irish diaspora, would have a pretty good idea of what is involved. Armenians, Crimean Tatars, Baltic peoples deported to Siberia, Poles, might also see the point. But smug, settled Englishmen, who have been inviolate in their home for a thousand years, often don't get it. they should use their imaginations.

He then asks :"Secondly, how can you condemn the terror of the Zionist Stern and Irgun, and yet support and defend the result of this terror? The state of Israel could not have been born without both the terrorist attacks against the British administrators as at the King David Hotel, driving out the ruling authorities; and the massacres of Palestinian civilians as at Deir Yassin, driving out the original population."

I don't actually agree that the Zionist terrorists were specially important in ending British rule in Mandate Palestine. From what I am told of the British national anger at the time of these atrocities, they may have actually strengthened the British public's will to stay. But that made no difference. We didn't leave because of terroist attacks against us. We'd experienced those since the 1930s (my father was in Palestine in 1936 doing riot control duty, during an Arab bombing campaign).

We left (just as we left Greece, not to mention India and Burma) because we were too poor to stay and too exhausted to fight. We'd have left without the King David incident, and we didn't leave because of it. Britain at this time was bankrupt, and under irresistible American pressure to dismantle its empire. One of the many reasons for condemning the Stern Gang and the others is that their actions came so close to fatally discrediting their cause. Churchill's Zionism was shaken to the foundations by the murder of his old friend Lord Moyne by these scum. Likewise, Israel could have won the war of independence without Deir Yassin, and would be a good deal healthier and more stable had she done so.

Next, he says :"Thirdly, on the question of Jews driven from Arab countries, this was undoubtedly a tragedy. However, had it not been for the establishment of Israel, and the anger and suspicion caused by aforementioned Zionist terror, and finally the 1948 war, these Jews would never have been forced to leave. This is yet another tragic event whose origins can be found in the Zionist project."

This seems to me to be having it both ways, and also to be a bit weaselly. To describe it as a 'tragedy' makes it sound like an earthquake or a tsunami,. It was directed and designed by human beings, and executed by human beings, as an act of deliberate policy. It was in response to Israel's survival in the 1948 war. How exactly could the Zionists have prevented this from happening? Does he think that, if Israel had fought the 1948 war without a single bad deed, the Arab nations would have said "These guys are obviously nice. We'll leave them alone from now on"? Honestly. he verges on making excuses for this expulsion.

Only by losing the 1948 war and being massacred, expelled or subjugated. Israel's independence, in its existing form, followed an Arab rejection of the UN partition plan. What were the Jews of Mandate Palestine supposed to, when the only plan for a negotiated peace was turned down by the Arabs, who then declared war on them? Lie down and die? Their relatives in Europe had done enough of that.

When the Arabs lost that war, which they started, they initiated racialist mass expulsions of Jews. I do think he needs to address this with a bit more honesty. When Zionists or Israelis act like scum or gangsters, as the Stern gang did, then that is what I unequivocally call them.But Israel's pro-Arab critics are very hesitant when asked to condemn Arab wrongdoing. Justice requires that the blame for the Jewish expulsions is placed on the shoulders of those who did the expelling. It was an unequivocally evil deed, and cannot be excused as a 'response' to anything. I put this mildly, because I wish to keep the conversation civilised. If I chose, I could be a good deal more emphatic on this subject.

I am then asked:
"Lastly, and most importantly, I ask again, what is to become of the millions of inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza, who consider themselves “Palestinians”? As has been established, they have been in the region for longer than the “Israelis”, and they have the land deeds to prove it. They do not wish to leave their homeland, and the surrounding countries have stated in no uncertain terms that they cannot and will not accept them.
"In your earlier reply, Mr Hitchens, you gave the somewhat airy response to this question: “As to what the answer is, it is the development of a genuine party of compromise on the Arab side”.
What does this actually mean for those Palestinian families living in the West Bank? You say that the two-state solution is an impossibility. Forget about borders and legalities for a moment, and answer my question – what do you suggest is done with these people? Should they be kept under military occupation forever? Should they be absorbed into a unitary state?
Or should they be forced against their will into countries unwilling to take them, with those who resist killed by the IDF? Can you really advocate such a grotesque war crime?"

I don't think my answer is airy at all. I can't negotiate on behalf of either side. Such a development, of a genuine party of comprmise, is a precondition for a peace worth the paper it's written on. I have explained why at length in other posts here. I object to being accused of planning atrocities because I call for a civilised compromise.

The obvious solution, the re-absorption of the West Bank into Jordan and of Gaza into Egypt, has been ruled out by those countries. Perhaps they could be persuaded to re-adopt it. I don't believe a 'Palestinian' State would be viable, politically or economically. I don't even think it is intended to be.

I am instinctively repelled by talk of 'mass transfer of population' or 'relocation' (See George Orwell's 'Politics and the English Language') but I suppose some sort of resettlement in civilised conditions might conceivably be arranged, that was better than the confinement of people in permanent slums for propaganda purposes, which the oil-rich Arab world currently countenances, while weeping loud tears at their plight and refusing to allow them to settle in other Arab countries.

There's always a first time. But you'd have to have the will for it on the Arab side, and that doesn't currently exist.

Jimmy Carter, on this subject, is a naive, self-indulgent nitwit who plainly knows too little about South Africa *and* the Middle east to have any useful opinions on either. he should stick to housing the homeless.

With South Africa about to tumble down the slope of rapid national decline, I'd be wary of using the temporary and fast-fading Mandela settlement as a model for anything. South Africa, like Israel, is unique. Comparisons between the two illuminate neither. What is wrong with a unitary state is that it wouldn't work, because neither group would agree on its nature and purpose (crikey, Flemings and Walloons can't even share Belgium, how do you think Arabs and Jews would manage?) , and also Israel is intended to be a specifically Jewish state, able to control its immigration. This is not because of Jewish racial prejudice against non-Jews ( which is pretty rare). It is because of the strange, enduring hatred of Jews by others, which surfaces from time to time even in the most civilised places, and from which Jews need a reliable escape route.

This has nothing to do with religion or choice, as some seem to believe. Remember that the National Socialists dragged Edith Stein, a Roman Catholic theologian and nun, from her convent so that they could murder her in Auschwitz, because she was a Jew, and that they also systematically murdered many tiny children who didn't even know they were Jews. Against this sort of thing, Jews are surely reasonable in wishing to preserve a place to go if times turn bad again. They couldn't? Are you sure? Others will always take them in? Are you sure? Who would have believed, in 1930, what would have taken place by 1945, and how the civilised world did nothing to help?

Posted by: Peter Hitchens | 19 December 2008 at 06:23 PM"

Andy said...

The New York Times Op Ed:

The Two-State Solution Doesn't Solve Anything

JP said...

Cairo court rules on Egyptians married to Israeli women
BBC News

A court in Cairo has upheld a ruling urging the government to consider stripping of their citizenship Egyptian men who are married to Israeli women. The ruling requires officials to send all such cases to the cabinet, to be decided on an individual basis.


The new decision is seen as a sign of negative feeling towards Israel in Egypt, despite a 1979 peace treaty.


It calls on the cabinet to determine whether to remove the nationality of the men concerned, as well as that of their children. The court said the government should consider whether the Israeli woman was an Arab or a Jew. It is estimated that about 30,000 Egyptians are married to Israeli women.

The lawyer who brought the case, Nabih el-Wahsh, said it was aimed at protecting Egyptian youth and Egypt's national security. He says that offspring of marriages between Egyptian men and Israeli women should not be allowed to perform military service. There should not be a new generation "disloyal to Egypt and the Arab world", he said.


That law requires the stripping of citizenship of those who married Israelis who have served in the army or embraced Zionism. Negad al-Borai, an Egyptian lawyer and a human rights activist, said he was "surprised" by the verdict and that the government was sending out mixed messages about Israel.

"The president congratulates Israeli's president in national holidays yet it punishes the people for having relationships with Israel," he told Reuters news agency. "Egyptian law says citizenship can only be revoked if the citizen is proven to be spying on his country, and this verdict considers marrying an Israeli an act of spying".

JP said...

So Brazil seeks to recognise a Palestinian state but doesn't give a shit about the Palestinian refugees on its territory.

It's the usual story, no one really gives a damn about the supposed victims, it's only when there's a chance to bash the supposed aggressor that you get any interest. And Lefties like bashing Israel.