Baruch Goldstein and Jewish Nazis

Baruch Goldstein was an American-born Israeli doctor and religious extremist. While serving as a doctor in the Israeli army he refused to treat non-Jews, even those serving in the army. Though his commanding officers wanted to dismiss him, he was not disciplined because of the influence of the religious parties and fear as to their reaction. Halacha (Jewish religious law), maintains that a Jewish doctor should refuse to treat non-Jews, except where that would put Jews in danger (because of the hostility it would cause towards them). In practice these laws are not followed, but they exist, and influence extremists.

Baruch Goldstein

Israel Shahak writes (Jewish History Jewish Religion p. 96) about the duty to save Jewish vs non-Jewish life in Jewish law as follows:

As for Gentiles, the basic Talmudic principle is that their lives must not be saved, although it is also forbidden to murder them outright. The Talmud itself[15] expresses this in the maxim “Gentiles are neither to be lifted [out of a well] nor hauled down [into it]”. Maimonides[16] explains:

As for Gentiles with whom we are not at war … their death must not be caused, but it is forbidden to save them if they are at the point of death; if, for example, one of them is seen falling into the sea, he should not be rescued, for it is written: “neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy fellow”[17] — but [a Gentile] is not thy fellow.

In particular, a Jewish doctor must not treat a Gentile patient. Maimonides — himself an illustrious physician — is quite explicit on this; in another passage[18] he repeats the distinction between “thy fellow” and a Gentile, and concludes: “and from this learn ye, that it is forbidden to heal a Gentile even for payment …”

[15] refers to 26b in tractate Avodah Zarah
Avodah Zarah PDF
http://www.halakhah.com/
Where it says in addition that a Jewish heretic can be hauled down into the well.
[16] refers to Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, “Murderer”, 4, 11
[17] Leviticus 19:16, where neighbor/fellow means fellow Jew.
[18] Again Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, “Idolatry”, 10, 1-2

This is not to say this disgusting law is obeyed in practice, but that it reflects a strong xenophobic and racist strain of thought.

Even Maimonides, a doctor himself, didn’t follow it, and was the personal physician of Saladin. Though in that case it was OK, because he was paid, and his refusal would have hurt the Jews. Furthermore Saladin was a ruler, and such rules are dropped for rulers (see Shahak p. 64).

Baruch Goldstein followed the rule to the best of his abilities. In some cases he treated the Arab patient until another doctor could be found or arrived, and so compromised on his views.

He was a follower of Meir Kahane who was a Jewish religious extremist. Kahane was possibly the most extreme of Israeli politicians, elected to the Knesset in 1984, though his party was banned in the 1988 election, and he was assassinated in 1990. His party and one of its offshoots is considered a terrorist organization in Israel, the US, Canada, etc.

Kahane advocated revoking the citizenship of all non-Jews in Israel, or deporting them. He advocated banning marriages between Jews and non-Jews as well as such sexual relations, based on Maimonides Mishneh Torah. So he was quite racist.

On Purim day (a Jewish holiday) February 25th 1994 (which also was during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan), Goldstein entered the Cave of the Patriarchs (also the Ibrahimi Mosque, the building is both a Mosque and a Synagogue) and killed 29 Muslim worshipers while they were praying, including children and injured many more, before the worshipers managed to beat him to death.

Goldstein had also poured acid on the floor of the Mosque and assaulted six worshipers the previous year. And Israeli intelligence was aware of him, but didn’t act on it.

Here is an article written shortly after the massacre about this topic:
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/jewish-killer-attacked-mosque-last-year-evidence-is-mounting-that-baruch-goldstein-was-known-to-be-dangerous-well-before-the-massacre-writes-sarah-helm-1426229.html

Jewish religious extremists welcomed Goldstein’s mass murder and considered him to be a holy martyr.

Here are some of these positive reactions. Quoting from Wikipedia:

At Goldstein’s funeral, Rabbi Yaacov Perrin claimed that even one million Arabs are “not worth a Jewish fingernail”.[25][26][27] Samuel Hacohen, a teacher at a Jerusalem college, declared Goldstein the “greatest Jew alive, not in one way but in every way” and said that he was “the only one who could do it, the only one who was 100 percent perfect.”[26][27] In contrast, mainstream Jewish religious leaders “rejected the suggestion that killing Palestinians with an automatic rifle” was authorized by the Torah.[25] Rabbi Dov Lior of Kiryat Arba declared that Goldstein was “holier than all the martyrs of the Holocaust.”[28] In the weeks following the massacre, hundreds of Israelis traveled to Goldstein’s grave to celebrate Goldstein’s actions. Some Hasidim danced and sang around his grave.[29] According to one visitor to the gravesite in the wake of the attacks, “If [Goldstein] stopped these so-called peace talks, then he is truly holy because this is not real peace.”[29] Some visitors declared Goldstein a “saint” and “hero of Israel”.[29]

Wikipedia – Veneration of Goldstein and celebration of the_massacre

Furthermore Israel Shahak writes that among religious Israelis there were two reactions one of support for the crime, and one of silence, mostly worry for what the consequences of the crime would be for the Jews.

This can be seen up to today with this article from Haaretz from this year’s 20th anniversary of the massacre:
The Baruch Goldstein effect

The author writes about the trauma that this massacre has caused. TRAUMA for the Israelis (not the Palestinians). And how the settlers are paying the price of this massacre (an exorbitant price in the author’s view). Furthermore the author engages in racist anti-Gentile sentiment by saying that such a crime is non-Jewish which only non-Jews are capable of. To quote him:

It happened 20 years ago this week, and the trauma is with us to this day. This is confirmed by the public statements made in the last few days. Some of these statements use the 1994 slaughter to settle political scores with the settlers in the West Bank, but the feelings of rage and guilt are authentic. True, many told themselves at the time, Baruch Goldstein took revenge on a community whose people carried out murders more heinous and terrible than this massacre (certainly in 1929). But this is such a “non-Jewish” act. Only “goyim,” as we have been taught from infancy (and history proves to be true), are capable of such brutal acts. So maybe in principle we are no different from the goyim? Hardly have we gathered in our own country and already we’re proving that we’re like all of the gentiles.

Shahak in his book Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel (written with Norton Mezvinsky), cites from the Hebrew press a poll done after the massacre that showed that over 50 percent of Israelis viewed the settlers more positively after the massacre, and that over 50 percent would approve of the massacre, if it were not called a massacre but something like the “Patriarch’s Cave operation”.

Though Shahak writes that there were some in the Israeli public who were shocked at the rejoicing over the massacre of innocent people and the “apologia offered by many politicians and public figures”. Some of those who were shocked described the supporters of Goldstein as “Nazis” or “Nazi-like”.

Shahak also gives the example of a discussion in a Knesset committee that is revealing of the true sentiments of Israeli leaders and how they were mainly worried about the harm the massacre caused Israeli Jews and their interests. Shahak holds that knowledge of Israeli politics and Jewish affairs “can best be attained by using the original sources of what Jews say among themselves.”

In this line one can look at the comments to a short article about Goldstein written in Tablet magazine (from what I can tell a somewhat liberal Jewish magazine, they published an interesting interview with Noam Chomsky not too long ago):
Lunch With Baruch Goldstein, One Year Before the Hebron Massacre
Looking at the comments most condemn him, but he is defended by one user, his refusal to treat non-Jews is denied or not mentioned while he is praised as a doctor, some who knew him say he was a nice guy, but there is one individual who gives all the facts and debunks the defence.

Or this article which covers up the fact that he refused to treat Arabs, the fact that he was a religious extremist and blames the incident on Goldstein having had a sudden mental breakdown (a story that was originally advanced by Israeli authorities, but dropped once the real facts were uncovered, which indicate his actions were premeditated):
I Was Baruch Goldstein’s Friend
Again more comments of defense and praise for Goldstein, contrasted with condemnation.

Shahak holds that those who didn’t denounce Nazi ideology are guilty of a crime, and similarly those who do not denounce the ideologies of Goldstein and his supporters are guilty of the terrible consequences that may develop as a consequence of their silence.

Note as an important aside, Hamas carried out two suicide bombings in Israel as a reaction to the massacre. These were the first suicide bombings carried out by Palestinians in Israel proper. Until this time Hamas had refused to carry out attacks against civilians within Israel (outside the occupied territories), but changed their tactics in response to Goldstein’s massacre.

Antisemitism

I think it is important that I write about antisemitism. Not just in the context of Israel/Palestine but because I think it is a very important issue from a historical and sociological perspective that is not well understand and also because I plan on writing my next post about Baruch Goldstein and the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre.

I will amongst other things be discussing the positive reaction to this heinous and disgusting crime by some in the Jewish community, and thus will examine Jewish chauvinism and the Jewish attitude towards non-Jews to a certain extent.

I think that antisemitism and Jewish chauvinism should be considered together. Not because the one is caused by the other but because fundamentally they are both forms of xenophobia and racism.

Jewish Antisemitic Badge

I will mostly consider the broad history of antisemitism because antisemitism as a major social problem and factor is in my opinion a thing of the past. As to the history we need to make a distinction between Jewish history from the early middle ages until the 19th century, and Jewish history from the 19th century to the mid-20th century.

Antisemitism in the former period was not racist. It was a terrible thing, but it was different from racism. A Jew who converted was no longer persecuted but honored. The Nazis on the other hand gassed converted Jews who wore big crosses.

Also in the earlier period, Jews never assimilated but always lived apart, ruled by their Rabbis.

The Jews were never expelled out of a Muslim country because it is against Islamic law. They were expelled from England, France and Spain. In the case of England it was because the Jews fulfilled a social and economic role, that of money lenders, and were tolerated for that reason, but when early Italian capitalism came around in the 12th century, their money was no longer needed and they were kicked out.

As far as I can tell there are 4 broad historical causes of antisemitism.

1. Religious antisemitism: Medieval Christianity was intolerant. Muslims were never tolerated in Europe (under Christian states). Witches were burned at the stake. Jews were tolerated to a certain extent but were also periodically persecuted.

2. Socioeconomic or class based antisemitism: In Feudal society Jews generally played certain roles, in Western Europe this was money lending, which was viewed in a negative light by the church as usury and by people in general, in Eastern Europe it was mediating between the nobles and the peasants, which made the peasants hate the Jews (and also vice versa, mind you).

3. Antisemitism arising from persecution of a minority group: Persecution itself is a social disease caused by lack of social contact. The classic example is the little old lady who lives by herself and rumors go around that she is a witch, and since she has no contact with others there is no one who knows her to argue on her behalf and once enough people believe she is a witch, then she is persecuted as one. Same thing goes for the blood libel and similar lies about the Jews that spread as gossip and rumors.

4. Modern antisemitism which is based on racism, and which is different from all the ones above, and is the most dangerous. It didn’t become a widespread phenomenon until the mid to late 19th century. Which is when Jews started fleeing Eastern Europe in large numbers.

As to antisemitism in Western countries today, especially the US and Canada, it is of a different form entirely. It is based on negative prejudices and stereotypes. Similar to the stereotypes about Italians or Muslims and all other groups. It is not something that would lead to pogroms.

Again the other 4 kinds of antisemitism outlined above are unlikely to take hold in the West today. 1. There is broad religious tolerance, 2. Jews no longer fulfill a specific social or economic role, 3. Jews are assimilated and not isolated from the rest of society and finally 4. racism is anathema.

As to the idea that Nazi Germany is a counter-example which shows how antisemitism can quickly devastate a once benign country, and that Germany was a nice place for Jews and then Hitler and the Nazis came to power and no one thought it possible that the Jews would be hurt but the German people were convinced to look the other way, etc. etc.

I would say that this is bogus. Part of it is true. The part that is true is that revolutions (and the coming to power of the Nazis was a form of revolution) can lead to a sudden big change for the negative, but such revolutions require the seeds to be firmly planted beforehand. For example the Islamic revolution in Iran did make the country much more Islamic than people expected but that is because popular opinion really was deep-down more Islamic than people thought based on outward appearances.

Anyways back to Germany. There was a lot of antisemitism in Germany from the mid to late 19th century on. In Europe in general but Germany in particular. The term antisemitism itself was coined in Germany in 1860.

Foreigners didn’t believe they would carry out the holocaust and the final solution because the Germans were the peak of civilization at the time (science, industry, etc.) (outward appearances), but there was deep popular antisemitism (and much anti-liberal sentiment as well).

In Yad Vashem I heard someone say that the Germans couldn’t help but become antisemitic because of the non-stop propaganda on the radio, but of course under those circumstances a decent human being would have thrown the radio out the window, or at least turned it off. I mean if we carry that logic to the extreme then if they played antisemitic propaganda on the radio non-stop in Israel it would lead to antisemitism among the Jews.

Germans were antisemitic to begin with and the Nazis played on that in their rise to power, and it led to the horrors we all know about. In fact many Nazis held common antisemitism in contempt, and didn’t like pogroms and anti-Jewish riots because they are both unpredictable (can lead to looting of non-Jewish properties) and the hatred eventually fades (rioters and looters let off steam and cooled down), while they wanted methods that could be sustained indefinitely, namely ghettoes and concentration camps.

Hamas Charter and the Destruction of Israel

First I am against the establishment of an Islamic state, especially one governed by Sharia law in all or part of Palestine.

However I am also tired of hearing people talk about the “destruction of Israel”, when they mean the end of Israel as a state with a Jewish majority.

Some people see it as being obviously the same, but to me destruction of Israel brings to mind the exact same thing as the destruction of Gaza brings to mind. Massive bombing and artillery raids, raining death and destruction, not a change in the political status quo.

To look at it from the other side. If there was an Islamic state in Gaza (or in the West Bank or both), calling for its end and advocating that it should become part of the Jewish state of Israel would not be calling for the destruction of Gaza or the destruction of Palestine (in my opinion).

People advocating the end of apartheid didn’t advocate the destruction of South Africa. Using the term destruction to me is just propaganda.

White South Africans probably warned that they would all be killed if apartheid came to an end, and in their case they were about 10% of the population not about 50% as in the case of Israeli Jews. Was there death and destruction of the 10% of whites by the victorious 90% of blacks and non-whites? No. So I don’t believe that death and destruction are a necessary consequence in this case either.

To be clear I’m not in favor of a one-state solution. I am only saying that it would not necessarily lead to death and destruction. It might, but it might not.

Also to be clear I similarly object to the term genocide being used to refer to what has happened to the Palestinians. To me genocide means the physical destruction of a people. And that hasn’t happened, not yet at least.

Hamas Charter Obliterate Israel

Now on to the Hamas charter. Here is a link to an English translation of the Hamas Covenant of 1988

I will consider two points that are often brought up:

1. that the charter advocates the destruction of the Jews living in Israel/Palestine

2. that the charter advocates the destruction of Israel (either physical destruction or figurative destruction)

I believe the following passage from article 7 is adduced as evidence of the first point:

The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said:

“The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (evidently a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews.” (related by al-Bukhari and Moslem).

This is clearly a disgusting religious passage, the sort of thing one may find in many religious books, such as certain genocidal exhortations in the Old Testament.

But this may be contrasted with another quote from article 31:

F. Followers of Other Religions: The Islamic Resistance Movement Is A Humanistic Movement:

Article Thirty-One:

The Islamic Resistance Movement is a humanistic movement. It takes care of human rights and is guided by Islamic tolerance when dealing with the followers of other religions. It does not antagonize anyone of them except if it is antagonized by it or stands in its way to hamper its moves and waste its efforts.

Under the wing of Islam, it is possible for the followers of the three religions – Islam, Christianity and Judaism – to coexist in peace and quiet with each other. Peace and quiet would not be possible except under the wing of Islam. Past and present history are the best witness to that.

So it is not clear what the real intent is. Is it the former statement of war and killing Jews, or is it this statement of some sort of coexistence under Islamic rule.

In any case this quote seems to advocate an Islamic state in Palestine. Indeed the following quote from article eleven makes it clear that Palestine is to be a Muslim state governed by Sharia law:

Article Eleven:

The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up. Neither a single Arab country nor all Arab countries, neither any king or president, nor all the kings and presidents, neither any organization nor all of them, be they Palestinian or Arab, possess the right to do that. Palestine is an Islamic Waqf land consecrated for Moslem generations until Judgement Day. This being so, who could claim to have the right to represent Moslem generations till Judgement Day?

This is the law governing the land of Palestine in the Islamic Sharia (law) and the same goes for any land the Moslems have conquered by force, because during the times of (Islamic) conquests, the Moslems consecrated these lands to Moslem generations till the Day of Judgement.

In any case I am in no way shape or form in favor of an Islamic state, whether based on Sharia law or not. And I think this is a big issue one should have with the charter. Though it is brought up less often than the other two points.

Finally the preamble to the charter gives the following quote:

Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it” (The Martyr, Imam Hassan al-Banna, of blessed memory).

To me the term obliterate here does suggest physical destruction.

Although others have translated it as:

Israel will be established and will stay established
until Islam nullifies it as it nullified what was
before it.
The Martyred Imam Hasan al-Banna
(may Allah have mercy upon him)

alternate translation available here

Which doesn’t have the same connotation. I don’t know if this is a deceptive translation or not. Oddly enough the original Arabic version is difficult to find. Which may suggest that the claim that it is a historical relic (below) and not relevant may be true. Most totalitarian movements make it a point to publish their propaganda platform widely.

Now having considered this I’ll state that current Hamas leaders have said that if there was a two-state solution along the 1967 borders with the Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, they would hold a referendum for the Palestinians to decide whether to continue their struggle or not.

This can be seen in the following two interviews:
at around 4:20 in
Charlie Rose with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal May 2010

at around 20:00 in:
Charlie Rose An exclusive interview with Khaled Meshaal, the political leader of Hamas July 2014

Finally Meshaal has said that the charter “is a piece of history and no longer relevant, but cannot be changed for internal reasons”. here

Update: As a reader has pointed out Hamas dropped the call for the destruction of Israel from their program (this was in their manifesto/platform for the 2006 elections), and now wants a state based on the 1967 borders as given above, but they are still not willing to recognize Israel’s right to exist.

Why is Hamas more than 100 times better at avoiding civilian casualties than Israel?

Note/Warning the following was published on Thursday July 31st 2014. As of now there are over 1200 Palestinian fatalities (70%-80% civilian), and 2 direct Israeli civilian fatality and 1 indirect fatality (heart attack from bomb siren) as well as 56 Israeli soldiers killed. If things change in any way the thoughts below will not be relevant. And I expect there will be a change in public perception.

Why is it that Hamas, which is declared a terrorist organization, has killed 56 soldiers but only 2 civilians (a ratio of 28:1), and Israeli which is declared a liberal democracy (and by some a guardian of Western civilization), has killed 1000 civilians but only 200 militants (a ratio of 1:5 in the opposite direction)? So that if we just compare the ratios Hamas, which is said to be a terrorist organization targeting civilians has been more than 100 times better at avoiding civilian casualties.

Hamas
IDF

There are many reasons that are advanced to say why Israel can’t help killing civilians, while showing what great lengths they go to, to avoid killing civilians, but I have read very little about why Hamas has killed so few civilians besides the presence of the Iron Dome missile defence system (and to be clear most analysts say it doesn’t work that well).

I think one important reason has to do with the two main factors that governments have to deal with in a conflict such as this: public opinion at home, and public opinion abroad.

(I have already written that public opinion abroad is in fact why I believe Hamas shoots rockets: see this post from two weeks ago: Why Hamas Shoots Rockets for the reasoning.)

(Of course this is one reason, there’s the obvious reason that Israel is fighting in Gaza, and Hamas is not able to carry out attacks in Israel to anywhere near the same extent, despite the multitude of tunnels. But it remains that Hamas could have done more to kill civilians and Israel could have done more to prevent the killing of civilians, so it can’t all be blamed on the difference in capabilities. This article tries to show a reason why one side is more motivated than the other to avoid killing civilians, which is necessary to account for the full difference above.)

(Note: here I am calling both Hamas and the Israeli authorities governments, though Hamas does not have a state or a proper army, and I am also assuming that both sides are mostly rational.)

Both Hamas and Israel have an interest in minimizing the killing of civilians, because it will turn international public opinion against them. But as a democracy the Israeli government and Netanyahu care just as much and probably more about public opinion at home.

The Israeli public cares more about Israeli lives than Palestinian lives. Now before you think that I am implying that this is somehow the fault of Judaism, I will say that I do not know of a single counter-example in the history of the world. Americans cared more about American casualties in Vietnam, there is a clear number 57 thousand something, while I don’t know the exact number of Vietnamese killed (as in I don’t know how many million), and probably you don’t either. And the British cared about British casualties in World War I and World War II, I am assuming much more than they cared about German casualties.

Furthermore Hamas is the weaker party and depends on international opinion to help them out (to pull their chestnuts out of the fire), but Israel being the stronger party will get what it wants directly by force, and only needs the international community not to intervene (not to pull Hamas’s chestnuts out of the fire).

As Noam Chomsky has said, Israel knows that as long as it has the support of the only country that matters (the US), it doesn’t matter what the rest of the world thinks. Of course in this case the rest of the Western world (the other countries that matter, though they matter less), have also not spoken out.

On the other hand Hamas is painted as a terrorist organization and nothing would be worse for them than for a large number of Israeli children to be hurt or killed. It would take all the attention away from the suffering of their own people. This is exactly what happened in the 2006 war in Lebanon where the 44 Israeli civilian casualties allowed CNN and others to more or less ignore the deaths of Lebanese civilians.

However this is not to say that Hamas leaders don’t care about Palestinian public opinion or that they totally disregard the loss of Palestinian lives. Only that given their relative weakness and the lack of options on their side, they must rely almost entirely on international opinion. Hamas’s main weapon is international public opinion. Israel’s main weapon is weapons.

In conclusion Hamas must win the world to its side. Even more it must win the Western world to its side, particularly the US but also Europe. This is quite difficult as they are considered terrorists by many, a designation it is difficult to lose. On the other hand Israel must not gravely offend the international community again mainly the Western world. Therefore to me it seems that Hamas kills 100 times less civilians because it needs world opinion 100 times more than Israel.

This is quite a shocking conclusion. Hamas the so-called terrorist organization of necessity cares 100 times more what the world thinks of it, than Israel the so-called civilized country, which couldn’t care less as long as the West doesn’t stop it from bombing and shelling Gaza back to the stone age.

In conclusion it is my hope that no more civilians will be killed on either side, that the international community will intervene to impose a ceasefire and lift the blockade/siege of Gaza. I hope the Palestinian unity government holds, that they hold elections next year and that the Israelis and Palestinians reach an agreement towards a two-state solution.

1948 – Benny Morris 2/11 UN Partition Resolution

This is my post on the second chapter of Benny Morris’s book “1948 A History of the First Arab-Israeli War”. I hope to cover each of the other chapters in turn.

This chapter deals with the handing over of the Israel/Palestine issue to the UN, the UN special committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) which came up with the plan, the vote on the resolution in the UN general assembly and the reaction of the Arab states.

In February 1947 the British who could no longer afford and were no longer interested in maintaining their mandate in Palestine handed the issue over to the UN.

The UN gave the issue to a specially formed committee UNSCOP composed of representatives from Holland, Sweden, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Canada, Australia, India, Iran, Peru, Guatemala and Uruguay. So no Arab, Zionist or Great Power members.

The members of the committee visited Palestine for five weeks that summer. The Palestinian leadership boycotted UNSCOP (though the committee met with some Palestinians privately), and the committee members generally got a favorable view of the Zionist settlers as opposed to the Palestinians, especially the poor peasants.

Also the chair of UNSCOP came to believe that if there was a partition and it led to war, the Yishuv (Jewish community in Palestine) would win the war against the Arabs and gain control of most of Palestine.

They witnessed the Exodus affair, where the British turned away a ship of 4,500 Jewish immigrants, who were sent to France in three separate ships. France refused to unload the ships by force against the wishes of the migrants. The British then took them to Germany and put them in camps. Sending the Jewish holocaust survivors back to Germany of all places, made the British look particularly bad.

Two UNSCOP members witnessed the transfer of the migrants to the three ships in Haifa and had a chance to talk to them and this has a profound effect on them.

The UNSCOP members then went to Europe and voted 6 to 4 in favor of visiting the Holocaust survivors in displaced persons camps. All of the survivors they met wanted to immigrate to Palestine.

They then came up with their proposal. Two suggestions were made, one the majority view supported to states one Jewish the other Arab joined in an economic union, with Jerusalem and Bethlehem being part of neither state but under international trusteeship. This was from the representatives of Sweden, Holland, Canada, Uruguay, Guatemala, Peru and Czechoslovakia.

The minority plan supported a single democratic state with an Arab minority and with Jewish immigration limited to maintain an Arab majority. This was from the representatives of Yugoslavia, Iran and and India.

The following map shows the partition plan as finally voted on in the general assembly. The green map shows the borders as originally given by the majority proposal (slightly different, giving the Jewish state 62% rather than 55%).

UN Parition Plan 1947

The Zionists didn’t want to give citizenship to the Arabs that would be left in the Jewish state (the Arabs were to be more than 40% of the population), because then they could not expel them, but merely jail them, and it would be according to Ben-Gurion better to expel than to jail.

This was presented in September 1947. The British considered the majority proposal as grossly unfair to the Arabs, and were surprised that there were no angry demonstrations in the Arab world. But they committed to leave and let the Arabs and the Jews sort it out. They didn’t want it to be their responsibility.

There was lobbying to gain votes in the general assembly. A two-thirds majority was needed for the plan to be accepted. There was lobbying of the UN delegations and of their countries at home. The Americans refused to pressure other countries until November 25th, a few days before the vote, when Truman basically decided to support the Zionists diplomatically.

The final vote was on 29 November 1947. The final count was 33 yes, 13 no and 10 abstentions. And so the resolution passed with the required two-third majority.

Resolution 181 called for partition into two states one Jewish the other Arab. The Jewish state on 55% of the land, the Arab state on 42% of the land, and the rest being international Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Both sides thought that war would ensue. The Arab states got together and decided on war, but couldn’t come up with any real plans. They ended up agreeing not to invade until after the British withdrew because they didn’t want to fight the British. They also didn’t like the Husseini the Palestinian leader, and didn’t really want a Palestinian state to be established under his rule. In any case they couldn’t back down because they were unpopular and undemocratic regimes that didn’t want to go against the wishes of the people in their respective countries who felt strongly about the matter.

There was rioting and violence against Jews and against British/Western targets in the Arab world following the general assembly vote and the passing of the resolution.

In December 1947 the British decided to pull out, while not helping to implement the partition plan which they considered to be unjust.

And this leads to the first stage of the civil was between the Zionists and the Palestinians which is described in the next chapter.

Where is Gaza? Where is Israel?

Looking at my traffic it seems a lot of people come here looking for picture while searching for “Where is Gaza?”. So here are some pictures to explain where Israel and Gaza are located with respect to the rest of the world (as well as where the West Bank is located, which is the other half of the Palestinian territories).

For a great picture of just Israel, Gaza and the West bank see the map in this previous post.

Here’s a picture of the whole world with a little red circle around Israel:
Israel in the World

Here’s a picture of Europe and Asia with a red circle around Israel:
Israel in Eurasia

Here’s a picture of the greater Middle East with a red circle around Israel and finally at this scale I can draw a blue circle around Gaza:
Israel and Gaza in the Middle East

Here’s a picture of Israel (red) and Gaza (blue) and their immediate neighbors (Egypt to the South-West, Lebabnon and Syria to the North-East, and Jordan to the East, Mediterranean to the West, and part of Saudi Arabia past Jordan), the West Bank where the rest of the Palestinian territories are located is circled in Green:
Israel and Gaza and their neighbors

And finally here’s a picture of Israel with Gaza circled in blue and the West Bank in green (also in case it is not clear, all the area to the East of the Dead Sea is in Jordan, Amman being its capital):
Israel and Gaza

Israeli Settlements, the Barrier Wall and the Two-State Solution

Based on feedback from Facebook, I’ve realized that an important issue that needs to be examined is the status of the settlements in the West Bank. Specifically where they are located, which ones Israel is willing to evacuate and which ones Israel plans to keep.

The following map answers all three of these questions:
Land Swap 2008

It is a map of a proposal that was made by the Israeli PM (Ehud Olmert) to Palestinian leader Abbas Mahmoud Abbas in August 2008.

The dark blue areas are the settlements Israel plans on keeping (which held 88% of the settlers, 413,000 people). In lighter blue is the area of the West Bank Israel would annex (6.8% of the West Bank).

The red areas are the settlements Israel would evacuate (12% of the settlers, 56,000 people). And the dark beige areas behind the green lines are the unused land in Israel that the Palestinians would get in exchange for the blue areas Israel would annex (the equivalent of 5.5% of the West Bank).

Here’s a close of view of the Greater Jerusalem area.
Land Swap 2008 2

While not explained in the legend the red line is the separation wall. Note East Jerusalem is on the other side of the wall, as is an area to the west of Bethlehem. In light purple is a proposal for a road that links Bethlehem to Ramallah (bypassing East Jerusalem).

There would also be a road from the West Bank to Gaza but it would be under Israeli sovereignty.

For more details of the offer see:
Summary of Ehud Olmert’s “Package” Offer to Mahmoud Abbas – August 31, 2008

The following two maps show the land division currently in the West Bank. Area A is under full Palestinian control (including security), Israeli are in principle forbidden from entering this zone. Area B is held by the Palestinians but under Israeli security control (that means the IDF or Israeli army). Area C (70%) is off limits to the Palestinians, and is reserved for Israeli settlements, nature reserves and much of it (more than 50%) is empty but forbidden to the Palestinians.

Map West Bank Areas

Again settlements in blue in the above image.

Here’s another similar map but with the barrier wall in red and the 1967 borders in green.
Oslo Areas and Barrier Wall

Let me know if you have any questions!

Israel’s Warnings, Collective Punishment and Killing Civilians

Much is made of Israel’s calling to warn victims before destroying their houses by bombing and missiles. This totally misses an important point. Israel only makes these calls when they are not targeting any militants (aka terrorists). At best they are destroying the militant’s family home as punishment, which is forbidden by article 33 of the 4th Geneva convention, which forbids collective punishment.

If Israel claims that they are bombing to prevent rocket attacks rather than to avenge them. This doesn’t help at all in fact likely the opposite. In essence Israel is then guilty of terrorism which is also prohibited by the same article. This is from the commentary to this article:

” During past conflicts, the infliction of collective penalties has been intended to forestall breaches of the law rather than to repress [p.226] them; in resorting to intimidatory measures to terrorise the population, the belligerents hoped to prevent hostile acts. Far from achieving the desired effect, however, such practices, by reason of their excessive severity and cruelty, kept alive and strengthened the spirit of resistance. They strike at guilty and innocent alike. They are opposed to all principles based on humanity and justice and it is for that reason that the prohibition of collective penalties is followed formally by the prohibition of all measures of intimidation or terrorism with regard to protected persons, wherever they may be (3).”

Commentary – Art. 33. Part III : Status and treatment of protected persons #Section I : Provisions common to the territories of the parties to the conflict and to occupied territories

Again to be clear about warnings being issued. Warnings are only issued when Israel is not targeting militants. That is when they are blowing up a house, because they have reason to believe weapons are in it, or because the owner is related to a Hamas militant (which again would be against the Geneva convention, don’t know if that makes it a war crime).

If they are trying to kill a Hamas militant they don’t phone a warning. It doesn’t make any sense to phone in a warning to the guy you are trying to kill, 10 minutes before you drop the bomb. Therefore if the guy they are trying to kill is in a building with civilians, too bad for the civilians.

In fact one 4 story house was blown up killing 25 civilians, it looks like this was in order to get their Ramadan guest who was a Hamas militant:
The Atlantic – The Dangerous Logic Used to Justify Killing Civilians

25 Civilians Killed in Gaza in Attack on a Single House

Blockade of Gaza: Collective Punishment (and Act of War?)

In 2006 Hamas won the elections in both Gaza and the West Bank. Since Hamas took over the Gaza strip in 2007 Israel and Egypt closed their land borders to the Gaza strip. In addition Israel implemented a blockade of Gaza by land, air and sea. This blocks not only imports, some of which Israel can claim threaten its security, but also exports. The blocking of exports has crippled Gaza’s economy and has no security justification. It is simply collective punishment directed at the population of Gaza. This is prohibited by the 4th Geneva convention.

Gaza Closure December 2012

In 2010 Israel eased the blockade and allowed agricultural exports, while still banning industrial exports, so Gazans can export strawberries, peppers, carnations, and cherry tomatoes to Europe.

In any case Israel’s stated reason (casus belli) for starting the June 1967 war was Egypt’s blockade of the Straits of Tiran. It is unclear whether Egypt would have blocked all ships coming to Israel through the Red Sea or simply Israeli flagged vessels, but the point is Israel considered it an act of war, and considered their response self-defense.

Gaza has been under blockade for seven years. Does Israel accept that its blockade of Gaza is an act of war? Is Hamas acting in self-defense? Or was the 1967 war a war of aggression?

1948 – Benny Morris 1/11 Historical Background

This is my post on the first chapter of Benny Morris’s book “1948 A History of the First Arab-Israeli War”. I hope to cover each of the other chapters in turn.

This chapter briefly deals with the background from 1881, just before the first Zionist immigrants arrived, until early 1947, before the UN got involved in coming up with a plan/solution.

This is pretty much a summary of the chapter. For future chapters/posts I do not intend on following the text in such detail. But since this chapter covers such a large period it would have been difficult to just focus on one or two important points.

“In 1881, Palestine had about 450,000 Arabs — about 90 percent Muslim, the rest Christian — and 25,000 Jews. Most of the Jews, almost all of whom were ultra-Orthodox, non-nationalist, and poor, lived in Jerusalem, the country’s main town (population thirty thousand).”

Important to note that Palestine here refers to a region, not a separate province, let alone an independent political entity.

Also of note Palestine was at the time part of the Ottoman empire. That is until the end of World War I, when the Ottoman empire falls apart, and the British take over Palestine.

Ottoman Empire

The first wave of Zionist immigrants, the first Aliya, brought about 30,000 Jewish settlers between 1882 and 1903. Morris says that their goal was to build Jewish settlements and towns that would eventually result in a Jewish majority and the establishment of a Jewish state in all of Palestine. Though they generally kept this objective to themselves.

Most of the settlers from the first and second Aliya (1904 to 1914), settled in the lowlands of Palestine, less crowded areas largely owned by effendis, wealthy urban landowners (the peasants of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and most of the Galilee owned their lands and were generally unwilling to sell). The Zionists succeeded in winning the demographic contest in the lowlands and this was to be the territorial base of their future state.

Around this time (the end of the 19th century) Theodor Herzl considered to be the father of modern political Zionism, writes about a Jewish State as being the solution to European anti-Semitism. He starts organizing and working toward this, but doesn’t get far by the time he passes away in 1904, though eventually the movement he helps create bears fruit.

Morris writes that nationalism was a foreign concept to most Palestinians, who were impoverished and illiterate. The elite, the ayan, were somewhat influenced by European ideas and they appealed from 1891 on to Istanbul to stop Jewish immigration. However the Ottomans never really stopped Jewish immigration, land purchases, etc.

By 1914 there were four dozen Jewish settlements including Tel Aviv and the first kibbutz Degania both founded in 1909, and 60,000 to 85,000 Jews about 2/3 of them Zionists.

There was not much conflict between Jews and Arabs at first until about 1909 it was mostly regular crime and disagreements between neighbors about land use, etc. In 1909-1914 there was more violence and of a more nationalist form. Though the outbreak of World War I temporarily halted the violence.

The Ottoman army made two offensives against British-ruled Egypt from Palestine in 1915 and 1916. In 1917 the British conquered the southern half of the country. In 1918 they conquered the rest and pushed onto Syria forcing a Turkish surrendered and the end of the Ottoman Empire. The British gave up most of the land back to various Arab rulers except for Palestine, which they either wanted to keep or give to the Jews.

The Balfour declaration of 2 November 1917, by the British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour, declared in a single sentence that: “His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish People and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country”

The Jews who had lobbied for it, saw this as a huge breakthrough. The Arabs took this as a betrayal and a step backwards.

The British and the French carved up the Arab parts of the Ottoman empire between themselves. France got Lebanon and Syria, the British got Palestine and Iraq with indirect control over Egypt and Jordan.

British Mandate

On April 4th 1920 there was the first pogrom-like Arab rioting against Jews in Jerusalem. Six Jews died, many were injured and a handful were raped. This resulted in the formation of the Haganah (essentially a Jewish militia, which would eventually become the Israeli army).

There was more violence in 1921, 1929, and 1936-1939. Morris believes this was driven by a 1. growing national consciousness due to an increase in literacy and increased prosperity, 2. religious sources as well, but mainly 3. fear and antagonism toward the Zionist enterprise.

But Palestinian Arab society was fragmented. Divisions between Muslims and Christians, between the sedentary population and the nomadic Bedouins and between townspeople and villagers. Finally loyalties were to the family, clan and village, not to a nation.

The elites were divided by clan, the most powerful clan were the Husseinis, the opposition were the Nashashibis. The main conflict was a struggle for power, more than anything else.

There was an Arab Revolt during 1936-1939. Caused by fears of Zionist immigration, settlement, Judaisation of the country and fears of eventual displacement, but driven mainly by the large influx of immigrants due to the rise of anti-Semitism in Central and Eastern Europe. Between 1931 and 1939, the Jewish population went from 175,000 to 460,000.

Both the Jewish and Arab communities increased in size and power during this period. Though Morris says that the Jews fared better, because they “received enormous contributions and investments from Western Jewry and large British government loans” and the Arabs received “little foreign investment or loans”.

Jewish population:
1881: 25,000
1918: 60,000-85,000
1948: 630,000

Arab population:
1881: 450,000
1918: 650,000
1948: 1,300,000

Net domestic product Arabs:
1922: 6,600,000 pounds sterling (539,000 manufacturing)
1947: 32,300,000 pounds (6,700,000 manufacturing)

Net domestic product Jews (Yishuv):
1922: 1,700,000 (491,000 manufacturing)
1947: 38,500,000 (31,000,000 manufacturing)

The Jews had managed to create internal, democratic governing institutions which in 1947-1948 converted into the agencies of the new State of Israel. They had an effective taxation system. They founded a university, etc.

As a result of the revolt the British sent a committee headed by Lord Peel to examine the situation in Palestine, and it issued a long report. There was a partition plan that would give 20% of the land to the Jews, 70% to the Arabs and 10% would be kept by the British (Jerusalem and Bethlehem and a path from there to the sea at Jaffa). The plan also required removing 300,000 Arabs from the Jewish state.

Peel Partition Plan 1937

But with all its problems the Peel recommendations basically set up the idea of the two-state settlement. The Zionists accepted the partition plan (though the right-wing revisionist Zionists rejected it) and the Palestinians rejected it.

As a response to the Peel proposals the Arab rebellion started up again in September 1937. The violence was worse during this second period. The Irgun Zvai Leumi (IZL, National Military Organization), carried out retaliatory terrorist attacks against Arab towns, and the Haganah carried out selected reprisals. The British also cracked down and arrested or got rid of the rebels.

Though the rebellion failed militarily it kind of succeeded in changing British policy. The British wanted to assure quiet in the Middle East during the war and so issued a new white paper limiting Jewish immigration and land purchase.

The Yishuv (the Jewish community in Palestine) protested against the white paper, and the IZL carried out some attacks against British targets.

But between 3,000 and 6,000 Palestinian political and military activists were killed and thousands more were driven into exile or jailed. They were much weakened by this fighting against the British, and this did much damage to their war effort in 1947-1948.

The conflict between the Arabs, the Yishuv and the British was put on hold during World War II. The Jews supported the British, and many volunteered to serve in the British army. The Palestinians like most of the Arab world supported the Axis against the British (though five or six thousand Arabs joined the Allied armed forces, vs more than twenty-six thousand Jews).

After the war the weakening of British and French power resulted in the liberation of many regions from imperial rule, and the emergence of new countries. Lebanon, Syria and Jordan became independent, and Egypt and Iraq had looser imperial control.

On the one hand the Holocaust destroyed “Zionism’s main potential pool of manpower”, but on the other hand it created sympathy within the international community for the Jews and for their quest to create a national home for themselves. Just as World War I resulted in the Balfour declaration, World War II resulted in the UN partition plan of 29 November 1947, which would lead to the creation of the State of Israel.

In January 1942 Chaim Weizmann in an article in Foreign Affairs, demanded a Jewish state in all of Palestine. And in May at a Zionist conference, the demand for a Jewish state in the Land of Israel was adopted as an official policy.

Morris writes that in the US the Jews decisively won the battle for public opinion, “due to the impact of the Holocaust and effective Zionist propaganda”. The American Jewish community of five million was energized and united by the Holocaust, they were well organized and wealthy and were traditionally big donors to political campaigns.

Towards the end of the war and after the war the Zionist efforts were focused on allowing the survivors of the concentration camps in Europe to immigrate to Palestine. The British were still blocking it.

The LHI (Lohamei Herut Yisrael) or Freedom Fighters of Israel a small group also called the “Stern Gang” (after the name of its leader), sought to fight the British. It attempted to establish an “alliance” with Nazi Germany against the British, but failed to do so. It then carried out a campaign against the British rulers, but didn’t manage to do much, due to its small size, Haganah and IZL tip-offs, and British suppression.

In 1944 the IZL under the command of Menachem Begin resumed their armed struggle against the British. They believed that the main battle was not against the Arabs but against the British. They carried out attacks against the British. The mainstream Zionists condemned this, and there was an open-season called the “Saison” against the IZL from November 1944 to March 1945.

But after the war and with continued British opposition to letting the Displaced Persons (DPs) immigrate to Palestine, the Haganah joined them from November 1945. The three groups Haganah, IZL and LHI made a formal agreement known as the Hebrew Rebellion Movement. Two significant attacks were the blowing up railway tracks at 153 points around Palestine on November 1st and the simultaneous destruction of eleven bridges connecting Palestine to Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt on 17 June 1946.

At the same time the Haganah resumed its illegal immigration campaign. which managed to get 70,700 immigrants into Palestine between August 1945 and May 1948. (they had previously tried to get immigrants in, at the start of the war, but were blocked by the British, and by 1941 the Germans blocked all the boats from their side)

The Americans wanted 100,000 DPs to be allowed to immigrate immediately but the British opposed this. There was an Anglo-American Committee to examine the situation of the DPs. Their recommendation was to allow the 100,000 DPs as quickly as conditions would permit. But it rejected partition and suggested that the British Mandate should continue under UN trusteeship. Later Palestine should be independent either under a single state or a binational state.

The Zionists accepted the immigration recommendation but rejected the rest. The Arabs rejected everything. They wanted independence not binationalism.

After the report Jewish attacks against the British resumed. The British cracked down on the Haganah, but it didn’t have much effect because the intelligence of the Haganah managed to get advanced warning. In response the IZL blew up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, which was the British military and administrative headquarters killing 91 people.

The British tried to come up with another solution/plan. The Jews demanded immediate Jewish statehood, the Arabs demanded “immediate Arab independence”. And things didn’t get anywhere. That was the situation at the beginning of 1947.

The British basically gave up and handed the problem over to the UN, which is the subject of the next chapter.