Israel’s “New Historians”

Since history is so important to the Israel/Palestine conflict, I intend to focus on it seriously for my next posts. I will try to alternate between historical posts and posts similar to my previous ones on the current situation.

The New Historians are a group of Israeli historians that from the late 1980s onwards began to challenge traditional versions of Israeli history.

Basically they succeeded in changing Israeli history from propaganda, apologetics and chronology (at best), to a real critical history.

I will start by focusing on three of them in particular: Benny Morris, Avi Shlaim and Ilan Pappe.

I hope to cover the following books:

  • 1948, A Hisotry of the First Arab-Israeli War – Benny Morris
  • Righteous Victims, A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-2001 – Benny Morris
  • The Iron Wall Israel and the Arab World – Avi Shlaim
  • Israel and Palestine, Reappraisals, Revisions, Refutations – Avi Shlaim
  • The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine – Ilan Pappe
  • The Forgotten Palestinians Ilan Pappe

In my view, Benny Morris is the most Pro-Israeli of the bunch, although no less critical of Israeli history. Avi Shlaim, to me, represents the moderate view and favours a two-state solution. Ilan Pappe seems to me a bit of an idealist and favours a one-state solution.

I will leave you with some explanation of the differences between New and Old/Official history/historians (thanks to Wikipedia):

Avi Shlaim described the New Historians’ differences from what he termed the “official history” in the following terms. According to Shlaim:

  • The official version said that Britain tried to prevent the establishment of a Jewish state; the New Historians claimed that it tried to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state
  • The official version said that the Palestinians fled their homes of their own free will; the New Historians said that the refugees were chased out or expelled
  • The official version said that the balance of power was in favour of the Arabs; the New Historians said that Israel had the advantage both in manpower and in arms
  • The official version said that the Arabs had a coordinated plan to destroy Israel; the New Historians said that the Arabs were divided
  • The official version said that Arab intransigence prevented peace; the New Historians said that Israel is primarily to blame for the “dead end”.[4]

Pappé suggests that the Zionist leaders intended to displace most Palestinian Arabs; Morris believes the displacement happened in the heat of war. According to the New Historians, Israel and Arab countries each have their share of responsibility for the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Palestinian plight.

Furthermore according to Benny Morris (again from Wikipedia):

  • The “Old Historians” lived through 1948 as highly committed adult participants in the epic, glorious rebirth of the Jewish commonwealth. They were unable to separate their lives from this historical event, unable to regard impartially and objectively the facts and processes that they later wrote about.[14]
  • The “Old Historians” have written largely on the basis of interviews and memoirs and at best made use of select batches of documents, many of them censored.[14]
  • Benny Morris has been critical of the old Historians, describing them, by and large, as not really historians, who did not produce real history: “In reality there were chroniclers and often apologetic”,[15] and refers to those who produced it as “less candid”, “deceitful” and “misleading”.[16]

Parties in Israel’s current coalition government (and their views on the two-state solution and settlements)


Coalition members (68):
Likud (20)
Yesh Atid (19)
The Jewish Home (12)
Yisrael Beiteinu (11)
Hatnuah (6)

Likud (20/68)): Netanyahu’s right-wing party. According to Wikipedia:

The 1999 Likud Party platform emphasizes the right of settlement.
The Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza are the realization of Zionist values. Settlement of the land is a clear expression of the unassailable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and constitutes an important asset in the defense of the vital interests of the State of Israel. The Likud will continue to strengthen and develop these communities and will prevent their uprooting.”[27]
Similarly, they claim the Jordan River as the permanent eastern border to Israel and it also claims Jerusalem as belonging to Israel.
The ‘Peace & Security’ chapter of the 1999 Likud Party platform rejects a Palestinian state.
“The Government of Israel flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river. The Palestinians can run their lives freely in the framework of self-rule, but not as an independent and sovereign state. Thus, for example, in matters of foreign affairs, security, immigration and ecology, their activity shall be limited in accordance with imperatives of Israel’s existence, security and national needs.”[27]
With Likud back in power, starting in 2009, Israeli foreign policy is still under review. Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, in his “National Security” platform, neither endorsed nor ruled out the idea of a Palestinian state.[28] “Netanyahu has hinted that he does not oppose the creation of a Palestinian state, but aides say he must move cautiously because his religious-nationalist coalition partners refuse to give away land.”[29]
On 14 June 2009, Netanyahu delivered a seminal address[30] at Bar-Ilan University (also known as “Bar-Ilan Speech”), at Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, that was broadcast live in Israel and across parts of the Arab world, on the topic of the Middle East peace process. He endorsed for the first time the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, with several conditions.
The Likud Constitution[31] of May 2014 is more vague and ambiguous. Though it contains commitments to the strengthening of Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria, it does not explicitly rule out the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Yesh Atid (19/68) a centrist party, again from Wikipedia (note point 8):

In the application submitted to the party registrar, Lapid listed the party’s eight goals. According to this statement, these include:[18][19]

  1. Changing the priorities in Israel, with an emphasis on civil life – education, housing, health, transport and policing, as well as improving the condition of the middle class.
  2. Changing the system of government.
  3. Equality in education and the draft—all Israeli school students must be taught essential classes, all Israelis will be drafted into the Army, and all Israeli citizens will be encouraged to seek work, including the ultra-Orthodox sector and the Arab sector.
  4. Fighting political corruption, including corruption in government in the form of institutions like “Minister without portfolio”, opting for a government of 18 ministers at most, fortifying the rule of law and protecting the status of the High Court of Justice.
  5. Growth and economic efficiency—creating growth engines as a way of fighting poverty, combating red tape, removing barriers, improving the transportation system, reducing the cost of living and housing costs, and improving social mobility through assistance to small businesses.
  6. Legislation of Education Law in cooperation with teachers’ unions, eliminating most of the matriculation exams, raising the differential education index and increasing school autonomy.
  7. Enact a constitution to regulate tense relations between population groups in Israel.
  8. Striving for peace according to an outline of “two states for two peoples”, while maintaining the large Israeli settlement blocs and ensuring the safety of Israel.

The Jewish Home (12/68) a religious pro-settler party, Wikipedia says:

As the descendant of the National Religious Party, the Jewish Home is willing to cooperate with secular Israelis in governing the state, but it has not forgone its objective of creating a polity governed by Jewish law. The party’s members adhere to the belief that Jews are divinely commanded to retain control over the Land of Israel. Many members have taken the lead in establishing Israeli settlements,[5] making it nearly impossible for the party to join a coalition led by the center-left political bloc.[17]
The party primarily represents Modern Orthodox Jews,[5] who tend to be more nationalist in Israel. For many years, this community has been politically fractured and weak.[18] During 2013 elections, the party’s leader appealed to both religious and secular Israelis.[2] The party’s pro-settlement message and the appeal of party leader Naftali Bennett, a charismatic, high-tech millionaire, helped it increase popularity among a broader segment of the population.[5] The attention that Bennett received also apparently had an effect on Likud’s 2013 election strategy, pushing it to the right.[18] Along with Yesh Atid, the Jewish Home surged in popularity by promising to end the controversial system of draft exemptions given to ultra-Orthodox seminary students, and to “ease the burden” on middle class Israelis who serve in the military, work and pay taxes. These two parties became two largest coalition parties in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government, and leaders of both parties were able to force Netanyahu to promise that the ultra-Orthodox political parties will not be in the new coalition.[19] Despite Bennett’s alliance with Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid on many domestic issues, the two differ sharply over peace efforts and settlement building. Bennett is opposed to concessions to the Palestinians and has called for Israel to annex Area C of West Bank.[5][18]

Yisrael Beiteinu (11/68) a right-wing party in favour of getting rid of as many Israeli Arabs by transferring areas of high Arab concentration in Israel to the future Palestinian state. Wikipedia:

Relations with Israeli Arabs and Palestinians
One of the party’s main policies is that of drawing the borders in such a way that areas with large Arab populations, such as the Triangle area and the Wadi Ara, both gained by Israel as part of the 1949 Armistice Agreements, would be transferred to Arab sovereignty. Known as the Lieberman Plan, such an arrangement would mean that the majority of Jews would live in Israel and the majority of Arabs would live in a future Palestinian state. In most cases there is no physical population transfer or demolition of houses, but creating a new border where none existed before, according to demographics.[28]
United Nations General Assembly Resolution 55/153, written in 2001, explicitly states: “When part of the territory of a state is transferred by that state to another state, the successor state shall attribute its nationality to the persons concerned who have their habitual residence in the transferred territory and the predecessor state shall withdraw its nationality from such persons,” and Lieberman claims that this means Israel can legally transfer territory and citizens as a means of peace and ultimate conflict resolution.[28]
Avigdor Lieberman argues that the Arab residents see themselves not as Israelis but as Palestinians, and should therefore be encouraged to join the Palestinian Authority. Lieberman has presented this proposal as part of a potential peace deal aimed at establishing two separate national entities, one for Jews in Israel and the other for Arabs in Palestine. However, he is known to have an affinity for and is popular amongst the Druze population (the only Arab population to be fully drafted into the IDF), and has attracted a number of Druze voters, including some in the Golan Heights who voted for the party in protest.[29] Druze candidate Hamad Amar was elected to the Knesset on the party’s list in 2009.[30]
Regarding Palestinian statehood, Liberman has said that he supports the creation of “a viable Palestinian state”.[31]
Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch proposed to use “administrative detention against those carrying out so-called ‘price tag’ attacks.” This was in reference to Jewish extremists perpetrating hate crimes against Arabs.[32]

Finally Hatnuah (6/68) a center-left party. Wikipedia:

Livni has stated that there should be a three-step process in order to resume negotiations with the Palestinians; the first step would be to ensure coordination with America; the second step would be utilizing the EU to back the negotiations; the third step would be to direct negotiations with the Palestinians; she also stated that there would be no negotiations with Hamas unless they “renounced terror”.[30] It is also committed to passing a Basic Law that deals with the protection of the environment,[31] and another to protect social rights. It is in favor of a differential value added tax as well as cancelling existing subsidies for West Bank settlements and ultra-Orthodox sectoral interests while increasing the fees charged for the mining of natural resources. Livni has long been an advocate for women’s rights and gay rights,[32] and her party supports same-sex marriage.[33]

How big is Gaza? How big is Israel?

Just out of curiosity looked up the areas of Gaza and Israel. The Gaza strip has an area of 360 km^2, Israel has an area of between 22,000 km^2 and 27,000 km^2 depending on what you include/exclude. For comparison the Island of Monteal is 499 km^2. And the province of Quebec is 1,542,056 km^2. Country-wise Israel is smaller than Albania but bigger than Slovenia. Gaza on the other hand would be smaller than Barbados but bigger than Malta.

Here are some images.

Montreal vs Gaza to scale (image approximately 100km x 50km):
Map of Montreal vs Gaza

Montreal vs Israel to scale (image approximately 150km x 400km):
Map of Montreal vs Israel

Israel vs Quebec to scale (image roughly 2300km x 2300km):
Map of Israel vs Quebec

Note: All of these maps were grabbed off of google maps, sized and resized based on the map scale and image dimension in pixels. Sizes may be off. This is my second attempt at getting it right…

Why I care about Israel?

Map of Israel Flag of Israel

This is a hard topic, one because it is personal, and two I’ve never really confronted it head on before.

I think there are several factors.

Here are my initial thoughts.

First and foremost I admire Israel, minus the militarism and the racism. Otherwise I think it is a great country.

The revival of Hebrew, the founding of a democratic state, the quality of that democracy, the freedom and quality of the press, and so on, I admire greatly. On the other hand the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, the brutal occupation, the discrimination and racism, and the wars of aggression for territorial expansion, I do condemn, often, and publicly, but almost invariable neither harshly nor heatedly. But that is enough to paint me as a critic of Israel, and biased against Israel.

But to return to the subject: I admire Israel but criticize its failings, just as I admire America, although I criticize similar negative aspects.

Second is the fact that Israel could conceivably nuke Iran and get away with it (I would estimate there is a 1% chance at present that this will occur). Or if not this, then Israel could encourage a war that would destroy Iran, like Iraq was pretty much destroyed (I would estimate there is a 10% chance of this at present). So this is a huge concern.

I think most Canadians or Americans reading this will be surprised by the above statements, since it is Iran which is always painted as a great danger to world peace, but the fact is that Israel has at least 50 nuclear bombs (possibly as many as 200), and has almost unconditional US support. Iran on the other hand has as of yet 0 nuclear bombs, and is more or less a bitter enemy of the US. Given the fact that the two countries are competing for power and influence in the Middle East, I don’t think the above scenarios are unthinkable.

(As an aside given the above facts if Iran had a nuclear bomb and used it first, it would be vaporized nearly instantly. I think that if Iran does want a nuclear bomb, besides the usual irrational reason of national pride, much of it is as a deterrent to Israeli nukes.)

I am an Iranian-Canadian. Though I am Canadian first and foremost: I was born in Iran, but came to Canada with my parents when I was 10 months old. On the one hand I went to Iranian school on Saturdays for 9 or 10 years and can read and write Persian (though I read better than I write). On the other hand none of my close friends are Iranian, and I have visited Iran once since I left (when I was 13). So again while I am pretty much Canadian, I still care about Iran about a million times more than the average Canadian. And by extension for that reason alone, I care about Israel much more than the average Canadian as well.

Third is the fact that as long as Israel is perceived as being a “bad guy” in the Middle East (little Satan), it will hurt the cause of democracy in the region. As democracy can be painted as being a foreign imperialist/crusader thing. I don’t know how much I really buy this.

But I think the converse is very much true: if Israel was perceived positively in the Middle East it would do much to help promote democracy. And I would very much like to see democracy and human rights triumph in the region.

And on this topic, and more personally, while Israel is perceived as evil by Iran, and Iranians it is very hard for me to publicly express any sympathy with or interest in Israel.

To me it seems that it is easier for an Iranian to declare absolute and unconditional love for America, Canada or Great Britain than it is for him or her to declare genuine sympathy and concern for Israel. Mind you this is not for any particularly sinister reasons. It is simply that there are a great many Iranians living in these countries, so they have ties to them and so these countries are much more important to Iranians in a day to day sort of way. Israel from this perspective (economically and socially) is absolutely irrelevant (though militarily it punches above its weight), being much too small and having practically no non-Jewish Iranians living there.

Finally I have some interest in Judaism. Not in the sense that I would want to convert, but as in I would like to learn more about its history, its principles, and how it differs from Christianity and Islam, etc. Hard to explain but it is something like being curious to learn about what is different and unknown. Like in sex education, where prepubescent boys find female anatomy much more interesting than their own, just out of curiosity (and of course vice versa for little girls).

My biased view of the history of the Israel/Palestine conflict

I had a lot of trouble coming up with today’s post, but then I got into an interesting facebook discussion and will simply edit my comments from that discussion into a unified Post.

Disappearing Palestine 1947-2014

Q: Both sides have not compromised enough.

The problem in this case is that one side is much stronger than the other, and doesn’t need to compromise. They can just get what they want. Especially if the most powerful country in the world supports them (followed by Canada, and Australia and unopposed by the rest of the Western world).

Q: Fair enough but the Palestinians have not been good at compromising either. Very little has changed in the past 60 years or so.

Here’s my view of the past 60+ years (apologies for the long post, I kept it as brief as I could, and I fear it will be one-sided, but it is hard to be objective in this conflict). In November 1947 UN decides to divide Palestine in two. Give 55% of land to Jews who are 30% of population. This causes a war in which the Israelis have an army and the Palestinians do not. Resulting in the ethnic cleansing of 700,000 Palestinians (more than half the Arab population), and Israel getting 78% of the land. The armies of several Arab countries do join the fighting in May 1948 after the state of Israel declares independence and they are basically the reason that Israel didn’t get 100% of the land.

In 1967 Israel attacks Egypt, Syria and Jordan and captures the remaining 22% of the land (Gaza and the West Bank), plus the Golan Heights from Syria and the Sinai from Egypt (which they eventually give back to Egypt a few years after the 1973 war with Egypt). Israel then starts building settlements on this 22% to make it part of Israel and eventually end up with 100% of the land. A process that is continuing and if not stopped will result in the West Bank ending up like a bunch of disconnected Gaza like prisons.

Some time in the 1970s the Palestinian national movement comes into being and there is a drive for a two-state solution. Israel is unwilling to consider it, until after the first intifada when they realize it is too difficult to rule the Palestinians directly. So they signed the Oslo agreement, making the Palestinians enforce security in areas with large Palestinian populations and the Israelis continue to build settlements in the West Bank.

In 2000, Arafat is willing to give up the right of return, in exchange for the a state in West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as the capital, but doesn’t accept Israel keeping any settlements. (He insisted that the Palestinians should get the 22% of the land). Israel wanted to keep the major settlements, which the Palestinians thought would cripple their state.

In 2005 Israel realizes that having 8000 settlers in Gaza taking up a bunch of land, with over a million Palestinians crammed together right beside, is not a good idea, and they pull out. I am unclear what the border control situation is like immediately after, but once Hamas takes power in Gaza 2007, after the elections in 2006, Israel blockades Gaza, and that leads to the conflict in 2008-9, 2012 and today.

So I don’t see when the Palestinians didn’t compromise. Except 2 cases:
1. 1947 when they didn’t accept the 45% of the land for 70% of the population. And I am convinced that sooner or later the Israelis would have attacked anyways, because their 55% of the land had only a slim Jewish majority (55% Jewish, 45% Arab, vs the Arab 45% of the land which would have been 99% Arab and 1% Jewish, Jerusalem was to have been an international city part of neither state).

And 2. in 2000-2001 when they could have accepted Israel keeping the settlements. For most of the rest it was Israel not compromising because they didn’t need to.

On a side note is the right of return. The Jews claim a right of return based on a return after a 2000 year absence, but denied every single Palestinian ethnically cleansed the right to come back to their very own homes, from 1948 until today. These are people who still have the keys and the deeds to their houses, which have been taken over by Israelis or the whole villages destroyed or whatever, and if they are no longer alive it is their direct descendants who want to come back but are denied this right. It’s an amazingly racist point of view, which the Palestinians have for the most part accepted as a reality they can’t change. Again I don’t see the lack of compromise.

Q: Wait wasn’t it the case that the Arabs rejected the 1947 partition, attacked and then lost?

As to 1947-48, between November and April the Arabs carried out terrorist attacks, which were responded to in kind by the Jews. From April to mid-May (once the British had pretty much left), the Jews went on a major offensive. They had an army of 40,000 and the Palestinians had no organized army. Also the Jewish population was much younger, as they had focused on getting as many able bodied young men as possible to Israel. There were several massacres like in the village of Deir Yassin, carried out by the Jews and used as propaganda to get rid of the Arabs. Several hundred villages were destroyed. Etc. Then from mid-May after the declaration of the state of Israel, the outside Arab armies came in and the result of the fighting was the 78%, 22% split.

To be fair if the Palestinians did have an army they probably would have done the same thing. They did ethnically cleanse the old city of Jerusalem and the Etzion Bloc of kibbutzim.

But my point is the Jewish side knew they would win, it was not a miraculous surprise victory. They had better arms, more men, a real army, etc.

Israel Shahak’s books on the ideological and strategic bases of Israeli policy

Israel Shahak

Here I will present three books by Israel Shahak each with one or two extensive quotes, to give an idea of the subject matter, though each book deals with several related topics. I consider the first book to be especially well written and informative. It deals with the influence of Orthodox Judaism on the Jewish state (and some of the negative aspects of Classical Judaism). The second deals more with strategic consideration, as they relate to foreign policy, mainly in the Middle East. The third deals with the way Jewish fundamentalism affects Israeli politics.

First book:
Jewish History Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years

Jewish History Jewish Religion

pages 1 and 2

[Chapter] 1

I write here what I think is true, for the stories of the Greeks are numerous and in my opinion ridiculous.
(Hecateus of Miletus, as quoted by Herodotus)

Amicus Plato sed magis amica veritas — Plato is a friend but truth is a greater friend.
(Traditional paraphrase of a passage of Aristotle’s Ethics)

In a free state every man can think what he wants and say what he thinks.

This book, although written in English and addressed to people living outside the State of Israel, is, in a way, a continuation of my political activities as an Israeli Jew. Those activities began in 1965-6 with a protest which caused a considerable scandal at the time: I had personally witnessed an ultra-religious Jew refuse to allow his phone to be used on the Sabbath in order to call an ambulance for a non-Jew who happened to have collapsed in his Jerusalem neighbourhood. Instead of simply publishing the incident in the press, I asked for a meeting with the members of the Rabbinical Court of Jerusalem, which is composed of rabbis nominated by the State of Israel. I asked them whether such behaviour was consistent with their interpretation of the Jewish religion. They answered that the Jew in question had behaved correctly, indeed piously, and backed their statement by referring me to a passage in an authoritative compendium of Talmudic laws, written in this century. I reported the incident to the main Hebrew daily, Ha’aretz, whose publication of the story caused a media scandal.

The results of the scandal were, for me, rather negative. Neither the Israeli, nor the diaspora, rabbinical authorities ever reversed their ruling that a Jew should not violate the Sabbath in order to save the life of a Gentile. They added much sanctimonious twaddle to the effect that if the consequence of such an act puts Jews in danger, the violation of the Sabbath is permitted, for their sake. It became apparent to me, as drawing on knowledge acquired in my youth, I began to study the Talmudic laws governing the relations between Jews and non-Jews, that neither Zionism, including its seemingly secular part, nor Israeli politics since the inception of the State of Israel, nor particularly the policies of the Jewish supporters of Israel in the diaspora, could be understood unless the deeper influence of those laws, and the worldview which they both create and express is taken into account. The actual policies Israel pursued after the Six Day War, and in particular the apartheid character of the Israeli regime in the Occupied Territories and the attitude of the majority of Jews to the issue of the rights of the Palestinians, even in the abstract, have merely strengthened this conviction.

By making this statement I am not trying to ignore the political or strategic considerations which may have also influenced the rulers of Israel. I am merely saying that actual politics is an interaction between realistic considerations (whether valid or mistaken, whether moral or immoral in my view) and ideological influences. The latter tend to be more influential the less they are discussed and ‘dragged into the light’. Any form of racism, discrimination and xenophobia becomes more potent and politically influential if it is taken for granted by the society which indulges in it. This is especially so if its discussion is prohibited, either formally or by tacit agreement. When racism, discrimination and xenophobia is prevalent among Jews, and directed against non-Jews, being fuelled by religious motivations, it is like its opposite case, that of antisemitism and its religious motivations. Today, however, while the second is being discussed, the very existence of the first is generally ignored, more outside Israel than within it.

excerpt from pages 63 and 64 about one of the three main features of classical Judaism

[Chapter] 4
The Weight of History
1 Classical Jewish society has no peasants, and in this it differs profoundly from earlier Jewish societies in the two centres, Palestine and Mesopotamia. It is difficult for us, in modern times, to understand what this means. We have to make an effort to imagine what serfdom was like; the enormous difference in literacy, let alone education, between village and town throughout this period; the incomparably greater freedom enjoyed by all the small minority who were not peasants — in order to realise that during the whole of the classical period the Jews, in spite of all the persecutions to which they were subjected, formed an integral part of the privileged classes. Jewish historiography, especially in English, is misleading on this point inasmuch as it tends to focus on Jewish poverty and anti-Jewish discrimination. Both were real enough at times; but the poorest Jewish craftsman, pedlar, landlord’s steward or petty cleric was immeasurably better off than a serf. This was particularly true in those European countries where serfdom persisted into the 19th century, whether in a partial or extreme form: Prussia, Austria (including Hungary), Poland and the Polish lands taken by Russia. And it is not without significance that, prior to the beginning of the great Jewish migration of modern times (around 1880), a large majority of all Jews were living in those areas and that their most important social function there was to mediate the oppression of the peasants on behalf of the nobility and the Crown.

Everywhere, classical Judaism developed hatred and contempt for agriculture as an occupation and for peasants as a class, even more than for other Gentiles — a hatred of which I know no parallel in other societies. This is immediately apparent to anyone who is familiar with the Yiddish or Hebrew literature of the 19th and 20th centuries.[9]

Most east-European Jewish socialists (that is, members of exclusively or predominantly Jewish parties and factions) are guilty of never pointing out this fact; indeed, many were themselves tainted with a ferocious anti-peasant attitude inherited from classical Judaism. Of course, zionist ‘socialists’ were the worst in this respect, but others, such as the Bund, were not much better. A typical example is their opposition to the formation of peasant co-operatives promoted by the Catholic clergy, on the ground that this was ‘an act of antisemitism’. This attitude is by no means dead even now; it could be seen very clearly in the racist views held by many Jewish ‘dissidents’ in the USSR regarding the Russian people, and also in the lack of discussion of this background by so many Jewish socialists, such as Isaac Deutscher. The whole racist propaganda on the theme of the supposed superiority of Jewish morality and intellect (in which many Jewish socialists were prominent) is bound up with a lack of sensitivity for the suffering of that major part of humanity who were especially oppressed during the last thousand years — the peasants.

Note [9] above reads:

Nobel Prize winners Agnon and Bashevis Singer are examples of this, but many others can be given, particularly Bialik, the national Hebrew poet. In his famous poem My Father he describes his saintly father selling vodka to the drunkard peasants who are depicted as animals. This very popular poem, taught in all Israeli schools, is one of the vehicles through which the anti-peasant attitude is reproduced.

Second book:
Open Secrets: Israeli Nuclear and Foreign Policies

Open Secrets

from page 54:

[Chapter] 4
Israel versus Iran
24 February 1993

Since the spring of 1992 public opinion in Israel is being prepared for the prospect of a war with Iran, to be fought to bring about Iran’s total military and political defeat. In one version, Israel would attack Iran alone, in another it would ‘persuade’ the West to do the job. The indoctrination campaign to this effect is gaining in intensity. It is accompanied by what could be called semi-official horror scenarios purporting to detail what Iran could do to Israel, the West and the entire world when it acquires nuclear weapons as it is expected to a few years hence. A manipulation of public opinion to this effect may well be considered too phantasmagoric to merit any detailed description. Still, the readers should take notice, especially since to all appearances the Israeli Security System does envisage the prospect seriously. In February 1993 minutely-detailed anticipations of Iran becoming a major target of Israeli policies became intense. I am going to confine myself to a sample of recent publications (in view of the monotony of their contents it will suffice), emphasizing how they envisage the possibility of ‘persuading’ the West that Iran must be defeated. All Hebrew papers have shared in advocacy of this madness, with exception of Haaretz which has not dared to challenge it either. The Zionist ‘left’ papers, Davar and Al Hamishmar have particularly distinguished themselves in bellicosity on the subject of Iran; more so than the right-wing Maariv. Below, I will concentrate on the recent writings of Al Hamishmar and Maariv about Iran, only occasionally mentioning what I found in other papers.


from pages 60-61:

Anyone not converted to the Orientalistic creed will recognize that Iran is a country very difficult to conquer, because of its size, topography and especially because of fervent nationalism combined with the religious zeal of its populace. I happen to loathe the current Iranian regime, but it doesn’t hinder me from immediately noticing how different it is from Saddam Hussein’s. Popular support for Iran’s rulers is much greater than for Iraq’s. After Saddam Hussein had invaded Iran, his troops were resisted valiantly under extremely difficult conditions. All analogies between a possible attack on Iran and the Gulf War are therefore irresponsibly fanciful. Yet Sharon and the Israeli Army commanders did in 1979 propose to send a detachment of Israeli paratroopers to Tehran to quash the revolution and restore the monarchy. They really thought, until stopped by Begin, that a few Israeli paratroopers could determine the history of a country as immense and populous as Iran! According to a consensus of official Israeli experts on Iranian affairs, the fall of the Shah was due solely to his ‘softness’ in refraining to order his army to slaughter thousands of demonstrators wholesale. Later, the Israeli experts on Iranian affairs were no less unanimous in predicting a speedy defeat of Iran by Saddam Hussein. No evidence indicates that they have changed their assumptions or discarded their underlying racism. Their ranks may include some relatively less-opinionated individuals, who have survived the negative selection process which usually occurs within groups sharing such ideologically-tight imageries. But such individuals can be assumed to prefer to keep their moderation to themselves, while hoping that Israel can reap some fringe benefits from any western provocation against Iran, even if it results in a protracted and inconclusive war.

From pages 125-126:

[Chapter] 11
Israel and the Organized American Jews
20 September 1993

The politically prodigious and financially unprecedented support which Israel has received from the United States since the early 1960s can be attributed to two factors. On the one hand, Israeli policies serve American interests, not only in the Middle East but all over the world. Whenever the United States finds it inconvenient to get directly involved in something particularly unsavory, for example in supporting a regime or an organization whose reputation is particularly opprobrious, Israel comes in handy to do the job on the U.S. behalf. On the other hand, however, Israel wields tremendous influence within the United States, in my view, regardless of whether Israeli policies match U.S. interests or not. Although to some extent this fact can be attributed to the support Israel receives from many strains of Christian fundamentalism, there is no doubt in my mind that its primary reason is the role performed by the organized Jewish community in the United States in backing Israel and its policies unconditionally. The proportion of organized Jews within the body of U.S. Jewry can be roughly estimated as close to one half. This article will describe the newly emerging relations between the organized American Jews and the Rabin regime, and their impact on possible shifts of Israeli policies.

Why should some American Jews be inclined to pro-Israeli chauvinism, while others be free of any such leanings? The first factor is the exclusivism of Jewish organizations. They admit no non-Jews into their ranks, and draw social and therefore also political power from that fact. Those who can be called “organized Jews” spend most of their after-work time in the company of other Jews, thus upholding Jewish exclusivism and, as a natural consequence, reinforcing their Jewish chauvinism. Amounting to no more than 3 percent of the U.S. population, it would be impolitic of them to express their real attitudes toward non-Jews in the United States openly. An exercise of their influence in support of Israel as the “Jewish state” compensates them for this constraint upon their freedom of expression.

Third book:
Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel
Israel Shahak and Norton Mezvinsky

Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel

From page 5:

[Chapter] 1
Jewish Fundamentalism Within Jewish Society

Almost every moderately sophisticated Israeli Jew knows the facts about Israeli Jewish society that are described in this book. These facts, however, are unknown to most interested Jews and non-Jews outside Israel who do not know Hebrew and thus cannot read most of what Israeli Jews write about themselves in Hebrew. These facts are rarely mentioned or are described inaccurately in the enormous media coverage of Israel in the United States and elsewhere. The major purpose of this book is to provide those persons who do not read Hebrew with more understanding of one important aspect of Israeli Jewish society.

From page 96:

[Chapter] 6
The Real Significance of Baruch Goldstein

The story of the massacre committed by Baruch Goldstein in the Patriarchs’ Cave in Hebron on February 25, 1994, is well known. Goldstein entered the Muslim prayer hall and shot worshippers mostly in their backs, killing 29, including children, and wounding many more. In this chapter we shall not describe that massacre; rather we shall focus upon Goldstein’s career prior to the massacre and upon the reactions of the Israeli government and fundamentalist Jews to the massacre a short time after it occurred. This should provide a vivid illustration of Jewish fundamentalism. We shall extend our discussion of some details until the summer of 1998.

One important background fact about Goldstein exemplifies the influence of Jewish fundamentalism in Israel: long before the massacre, Goldstein as an army physician repeatedly breached army discipline by refusing to treat Arabs, even those serving in the Israeli army. He was not punished, either while in active or reserve service, for his refusal because of intervention in his favor. Political commentators discussed this story in the Hebrew press even though not a single Israeli politician referred to it. This story deserves detailed exploration in our analysis of Jewish fundamentalism.

Links to the books on
Jewish History Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years (on

Open Secrets: Israeli Nuclear and Foreign Policie (on

Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel (on

The books are available in print as well as in kindle eBook format. They are also available on the kobo books store.

Finally here are the only two videos of Shahak.

One of an interview with Harold Channer in New York:

and one of lecture he gave at MIT with Noam Chomsky (in 2 parts):

Two of the best in-depth videos on Israel/Palestine

Since both videos are long I will give an outline of the various sections so you can pick and choose what you find most interesting.

First one by Noam Chomsky who supports a two-state solution in the short term (this video is sorely under-appreciated):

0-3:37 about Chomsky’s involvement in Zionism in the 40 and 50s.
3:37-6:47 Chomsky as a supporter of Israel
6:47 – 9:10 Discriminatory laws inside Israel
9:10 – 29:22 One State / Two State solution
29:22 – 32:25 Settlers/IDF having left Gaza
32:35 – 36:30 Rights of the refugees to return
36:30 – 41:00 Back to One State vs a Binational State
41:00 – 50:00 BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment Sanctions)
50:00 – 52:25 South Africa Comparison (Boycott and Pariah State)
52:25 – end Back to BDS movement

Second one by Miko Peled who supports a one-state solution as being the only possible choice:

1. 0:00-0:30 Introduction and preliminaries

2. 0:30-1:30 disclaimer about him not being balanced

3. 1:30-5:37 myth and double standard about this issue
3.a. 1:43-4:04 The right of return Jews vs Palestinians (double standard)
3.b. 4:04-5:37 King David and his descendants (myth)

4. 5:37-26:50 A little bit of history
4.a. 5:37-12:30 1947 United Nations partition plan and 1948 war
4.b. 12:30-23:00 1967 6 day war (erasing Palestine from the map)
4.c. 23:00-24:30 Mid-1970s genesis of the two-state solution
4.d. 24:30-26:10 1993 when the Israeli government became willing to negotiate with the Palestinians
4.e. 26:10-26:50 year 2000, camp David

5. 26:50-27:55 Myth that Palestinians are not willing to make concessions

6. 27:55-31:30 Death of his 13 year old niece at the hands of Palestinian terrorists

7. 31:30-47:00 Doing something about it
7.a.31:30-33:50 Learning about the truth from Palestinian community
7.b.33:50-37:04 Becoming active (area A forbidden to Israelis, racism and hatred, and maintaining priviledge)
7.c.37:04-39:10 Legitimacy of the Palestinian struggle
39:10-40:40 How do two nations share a country? (one-state vs two-state)
40:40-42:10 Three sets of laws (Israeli Jews, Israeli Arabs, Palestinians in occupied territories) and racism
42:10-44:00 Israeli army as a terrorist organization
44:00-47:00 How we go from here, example of Apartheid in South Africa, example of racism in Southern American States

Who is to blame for Operation Protective Edge? (Kenyan vs Canadian perspective)

Here are two articles about the causes of the current conflict in Israel/Palestine.

First from Kenya:
Israeli incursion in Gaza manifestly unjust

vs the following from Canada:
Iran’s fingerprints all over Hamas-Israel conflict

In brief the Kenyan article blames the blockade of Gaza, which was in effect before Hamas come to power, and the occupation of Palestine which has been going on for over 60 years, and American and Israeli rejectionism.

The Canadian article blames Iran for financing and arming Hamas and Islamic Jihad, without a word about American financing and arming of Israel, the blockade of Gaza or the occupation of Palestine.

I find the Canadian article doubly shameful because it is written by an Iranian-Canadian who considers herself a human rights activist.

Denouncing human rights violations by others (Iran) is hypocritical when we ignore human rights violation by one’s own side (Israel, and its supporters America and Canada). In this case it is worse, since we are using the former to hide the second.

Why Hamas Shoots Rockets

Note/Warning the following was published on Wednesday July 16th 2014. As of now there are over 200 Palestinian fatalities, and 1 direct Israeli fatality and 1 indirect fatality (heart attack from bomb siren). If things change in any way the thoughts below will not be relevant. And I expect there will be a change in public perception.

This article is my attempt to answer the puzzling question: Why does Hamas fire rockets, when it basically just confirms that they are terrorists, and isn’t this one of those few situations in life where they would be better off just doing nothing?

Basically I think the Hamas rockets have to do with Gandhi’s strategy of non-violence.

According to a short book that Norman Finkelstein wrote about Gandhi, he is very much misunderstood today. He didn’t mean by non-violence that you should be passive and hold a sign or something. He thought you should walk towards soldiers unarmed and with a smile on your face and get your brains blown out. And if you couldn’t do that, then you should fight.

Basically in politics there are two things that matter to get people to support your cause:
1. They have to approve of your cause.
2. They have to approve of your methods.

For example you can go on a hunger strike and no one will say that your methods are immoral, or that the ends don’t justify the means. But if they deeply object to your cause (say you’re going on hunger strike until homosexuality is re-criminalized), they will be happy to watch you die.

Now the ideal thing would be for the Palestinians to taunt the Israelis in a non-violent way or minimally violent way (throw rocks at soldiers or something). The problem is that the people who do that are young men, and the Israelis grab them, throw them in prison, throw away the key and no one hears about them. (Also in Gaza there are no Israeli soldiers within reach, they are policed from the outside).

But what they are doing now is perhaps the next closest thing.

In a strictly logical way attempted murder is as bad as murder. The fact that you fail to kill your intended victim, shouldn’t logically make you any less worthy of punishment. At least if the purpose of criminal punishment is to prevent further crimes. However this is not how human morality works. As is evidenced by the huge difference in jail time for the two crimes in almost all places. In a very rough way the rule is though shalt not kill, not “though shalt not try to kill”.

So when there are about 200 Palestinians killed 77% of which are civilians, with 1390 wounded. But on the Israeli side there’s 1 civilian killed and 27 wounded (21 of which are civilians). No matter how the media plays it they just can’t get any sympathy for the Israeli side, from a person who would naturally be sympathetic to the Palestinians. Remember the two points about politics above, people have to 2. approve of your methods, but first they have to 1. approve of your cause. People who view Israel as a new crusader state (as a positive thing) ridding the world of Muslim terrorists (I exaggerate but you get my point) are not going to care, but people who view Israeli rule of the Palestinians as fundamentally unjust will be moved.

I think an important point is a contrast with the 2006 war with Lebanon. I remember watching the round the clock CNN coverage of that conflict where each rocket landing in Israel was shown on the screen (with the Lebanese casualties, almost entirely ignored). But then 44 Israeli civilians died, (while about 1191 Lebanese civilians died). I think at least to me, most people are willing to believe that their government would go to war for 44 deaths in their country, but that their government would not kill 200 people for 1 death (which might well not have happened if the war had not been started).

In this sense I think the intensive promotion of the Iron Dome missile defense as an incredibly effective game changing system is counter-productive to the Israeli struggle to win in the court of public opinion. Because the perception that most of the rockets are getting shot out of the sky completely eliminates the cost of this type of war in the eyes of the international public. And in fact turns it from a war, into something completely different, a kind of one sided murder. So the question becomes, how many people living under your oppression would you kill to keep your citizens from being woken by bomb sirens? A question that makes you want to throw up. (although to be fair bomb sirens did lead to an Israeli lady having a fatal heart attack.)

Which is the only way I can explain the dramatically different coverage of the current conflict. It is hard to find a “hard” pro-Israel line in the mainstream press, e.g. Time Magazine, The New York Times, CNN, etc. (I basically can post the first hit I find on Google news onto Facebook, without having to sift for a “fair” article). It simply can’t be spun that way without lying. I mean they try to word titles a certain way, play with sentences a little, but the basic facts don’t lead to any kind of heroic narrative. (well except for CBC here in Canada, which still seems a little too biased to me)

For example compare Time Magazine:
Title: Why the Israel-Gaza Cease-Fire Failed
Subtitle (and reason for Hamas rejection): Hamas felt it wasn’t
consulted properly by the Egyptians brokering the truce — and that it
could have been offered more

With CBC:

Title: Hamas mortar kills 1st Israeli in renewed Gaza conflict
Subtitle: Hamas claims responsibility for deadly attack after man
delivering food to soldiers is killed
Reason for Hamas rejection: Pretty much the same but halfway through the
“Hamas officials on Tuesday rejected the Egyptian plan as is, noting
they weren’t consulted by Cairo. Some portrayed the truce offer as an
ultimatum presented to Hamas by Israel and Egypt.” and:
“Hamas seeks blockade easing”

The Pro-settler Perspective on a Solution to the Current Conflict in Gaza

This is the pro-settler perspective on a solution to the current conflict:
Roughly kick out all the Gazans into Sinai in Egypt, conquer Gaza (with no consideration other than minimizing Israeli casualties) and finally repopulate with Jews.

“Conquer – After the IDF completes the “softening” of the targets with its fire-power, the IDF will conquer the entire Gaza, using all the means necessary to minimize any harm to our soldiers, with no other considerations.”

“Sovereignty – Gaza is part of our Land and we will remain there forever. Liberation of parts of our land forever is the only thing that justifies endangering our soldiers in battle to capture land. Subsequent to the elimination of terror from Gaza, it will become part of sovereign Israel and will be populated by Jews. This will also serve to ease the housing crisis in Israel. The coastal train line will be extended, as soon as possible, to reach the entire length of Gaza.”

Incidentally this is written by Israeli MK Moshe Feiglin (the Wikipedia page is worth a read):
“He is Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, Knesset Member, and head of the Manhigut Yehudit (“Jewish Leadership”) faction of Israel’s governing Likud party. ”