SILENCING DOROTHY THOMPSON: Lessons in Courage for Our Fifth Estate


Lessons in Courage for Our Fifth Estate

[This piece was originally posted at which has pictures of Dorothy as well as a video link of her narration of Sands of Sorrow, a 1950 documentary of the plight of 750,000 Palestinian refugees who Israel refused to allow to return to their lands, homes, and property at the end of the 1948 war.] 

By Gil Maguire

Many readers will find President Obama’s toast to the press at the end of Saturday night’s White House Correspondents Association dinner encouraging. He reminded journalists of their actual mission:

“In the words of the American foreign correspondent Dorothy Thompson: ‘It is not the fact of liberty but the way in which liberty is exercised that ultimately determines whether liberty itself survives.’”

There’s a supreme irony in Obama quoting Thompson, whose truly stellar career ended in charges of antisemitism from Zionists, to a crowd of journalists who quake in fear of having their careers destroyed by Israel supporters who more recently smeared Helen Thomas, Rick Sanchez, Octavia Nasr, and Jim Clancy for off-hand, ill-conceived remarks.

Thompson’s long life and career was documented in her biography, American Cassandra.  She was born in 1983, the daughter of an impoverished Methodist preacher.  After graduating from Syracuse University, she became major player in New York’s suffrage movement as an organizer and speaker.  In 1920, Thompson went to Europe with a friend to pursue her pursue journalism career.  The ship was filled with Zionists heading to a conference in London and during the 12 day voyage she learned everything she could about Zionism, becoming a strong advocate for their cause.

In London, she convinced a paper to allow her to cover the Zionist conference as a free-lance journalist and later covered the Irish Rebellion.  The popularity of her articles in the US led to further positions.  By 1925, she was head of the Berlin bureau for the New York Post.  She married author Sinclair Lewis in 1928.  She exposed and criticized the Nazis early on, and, in 1930, was one of the first journalists to interview Adolph Hitler.  She predicted the Germans would start a new war by the end of that decade.  In 1934, her aggressive anti-Nazi reporting caused Hitler to expel her from Germany.

Thompson returned home a national hero, her story on the cover of newspapers and magazines throughout the country.  Her fame increased as she became a syndicated national columnist and radio commentator for NBC.  By 1936, she was writing a political column for the New York Herald Tribune and was considered the leading voice in the war against fascism.   By 1939, she was on the cover of Time magazine.  A movie about her life stared Katharine Hepburn and a play stared Lauren Bacall.  She was named the second most popular and influential woman in America behind Eleanor Roosevelt.  She spoke out about anti-Semitism and the plight of the Jews in Europe, and urged a relaxation of immigration restrictions so the US could be a safe haven for the Jews under threat in Europe.

In the summer of 1941, she went to London to report on the Blitz and met with the Queen and with Prime Minister Winston Churchill.  She fought against isolationism and urged the president to declare war on Germany.  In 1942, at a Zionist convention at the Biltmore hotel, she was the keynote speaker and gave a rousing pro-Zionist speech advocating unrestricted Jewish immigration to Palestine.  By the end of the war, she was considered one of Zionism’s most effective spokesmen.

All that changed early in 1945 after a fact-finding trip to Palestine.  Up until 1945, her anti-Nazi and pro-Zionist credentials were impeccable. What she saw in Palestine totally changed her outlook.  She began to write that the proposed establishment of the State of Israel was a formula for disaster, “a recipe for perpetual war” in the Middle East.  During her 1945 trip, she discovered that Zionism was not “the liberal crusade that the Zionist leaders envisaged”, and that Israel was to be “not a small state of Jews who chose to live in Israel, but a Zionist state destined to become the leading power in the Middle East.”

Her anti-Zionist statements and reporting began losing her the support of American Zionists.  Her boss at the New York Post dropped her “On the Record” column at the beginning of 1947.  He was a strong supporter of Zionism and very close to the Irgunists and Menachem Begin, the leader of this Jewish terrorist group.   Thompson had told him, after her trip to Palestine, that “…the situation there is not the way it has been presented by many of the Zionists.  It is one of the most complicated and difficult problems on the earth today.”

Despite the loss of this important column, she continued her criticism of Zionist actions in Palestine.    She concluded, after the 1948 war, that Zionism was “an aggressive, chauvinist movement” and that the new State of Israel was “an expansionist power.” She was angered by Jewish terrorism in Israel and appalled by Menachem Begin and the Irgun being treated as heroes in New York City.  She was the first and only American journalist to speak out in defense of the Palestinian Arabs and the Arab nations, and was also the first and most prominent American journalist to be smeared with the label of “anti-Semite”.

Still, she wouldn’t back down.  In a 1949 column, she detailed the problems caused by Israel’s aggression toward the Palestinian Arabs and urged the UN to establish specific borders for the State of Israel.  Her 1949 speech before the anti-Zionist American Council for Judaism resonates today:

Miss Thompson expressed alarm at the way, she said, American Jews are being indoctrinated by Zionist propaganda, “with the idea that they exist in this country–as everywhere outside of Israel–on dubious sufferance and that whatever happened in Germany could happen here any minute.” She denied that there was any analogy between the outbreak of Nazism in Germany and the danger in this country. In addition to this fear, the speaker said, “there is another tendency equally dangerous as it affects non-Jews, and that is to equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism.”

Thompson addressed the group again in 1951, and her comments against the special relationship and about Palestinian discrimination were reported by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency:

Miss Thompson went on to say that the state of Israel and its relations with the Arab countries “is contributing to an international problem in which Americans as a whole are concerned.” She asserted that peace between the Arab states and Israel was possible “only if the U.S. ceases to treat one state in the Middle East as its particular protection and pet, and adopts more detachment and equality of treatment, and until the displaced Arabs are properly compensated for their losses.”…[She charged] “that discrimination was practiced against the Arab minority population in Israel, Miss Thomson said: “Despite all the claims of the Zionists, the minuscule Arab population, who represent not more than 15 percent of the original indigenous Arab inhabitants, live as second-rate citizens, with serious restrictions on their rights. The fact that Arabs can sit in the Knesset does not give them equal rights as citizens with Jews. And it is these statutes which are responsible for a flow of Arab refugees from Palestine that has never stopped to this day.”

In a long and thoughtful 1950 article published in the Jewish magazine Commentary, Thompson warned American Jews of the dangers of dual loyalty and of “the terrorism of criticism”.

“…there is another tendency equally dangerous as it affects non-Jews, and that is to equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. This really amounts to making anti-Semites, by appointment, of everybody who either does not believe in Zionism or criticizes any phase of Zionist and Israeli policy.”

As Thompson began to increase her criticism of Zionist policies, she was shunned by the Jewish community and by many of her life-long Jewish friends who had “turned on her in a gathering tempest of resentment.”  Rumors were circulated that she was an alcoholic, and that her husband had been a Nazi sympathizer or even a former member of the Nazi general staff.  The Washington Star, which published her “On the Record” columns, censored and refused to publish any more of her columns on Zionism.

Thompson wrote in 1950, “The Zionists would like us to believe that there is no such thing as an Arab”, and that “They have also adapted the attitude that the State of Israel, unlike every other state on earth, is sacrosanct, and outside any criticism whatsoever.”  She called Israel, “the 49th state of the Union”, and “the only nation in history to have been canonized at birth.”

Thompson’s editors warned her that in the American press a hostility toward Israel was “almost a definition of professional suicide.”  Nonetheless, she would not be intimidated and said, “I refuse to become an anti-Semite by appointment”, and refused “to yield to this type of blackmail.”    The campaign against her strengthened and she began to be dropped from other papers.  Her once lucrative speaking career began to dry up because of the organized campaign to label her as an anti-Semite, a label that stuck for the rest of her career.

Dorothy Thompson’s is truly a remarkable story.  Her apex was probably 1948 when Claire Booth Luce and others wanted her to run for president.  She’d been one of Zionism’s most famous and influential spokesmen.  Her defection, in 1949, created great anger in the Jewish/Zionist communities, and in few short years her career was in tatters and her influence largely gone.  Today, Dorothy Thompson is virtually unknown and unremembered.  This fascinating woman who deserves to be an icon of the feminist movement, is rarely, if ever, mentioned as an important female historical figure.

I suspect there were very few members of the press at the White House Press dinner Saturday night who have any inclination toward investigating and reporting the plight of the Palestinians, or the pernicious influence of right wing Jewish billionaires on American foreign policy, and now American presidential candidates. President Obama’s gratuitous praise of the American press, at least the television version, was largely undeserved.  Many are little more than talking heads on “news” networks that offer mostly infotainment and shameless touting of marginal news stories accompanied by frequent and breathless claims of more “breaking news”.   The entire bunch couldn’t fill Dorothy Thompson’s left shoe.  To suggest that our TV press is focused on preserving our liberty is ludicrous when ratings and advertising revenue are the obvious focus.

One can only wonder why President Obama praised our press corps using a true icon of journalism as an example.  Was he trying, indirectly, to make a point, to remind them of a journalistic icon of the past in the hope they would recapture their own courage and return to true investigative journalism?  I’d like to think so.

Dorothy Thompson was the first to pay the price of standing up and reporting the excesses of Zionism.  If America’s journalists truly want liberty to survive, they need to exercise that liberty by practicing their craft with the courage and determination of Dorothy Thompson whose incredible story will be told in the soon-to-be-released documentary, “The Silencing of Dorothy Thompson”.

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When Occupation Becomes Apartheid

By Gil Maguire

Israel’s military occupation and control of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza has gone on almost half a century, since it conquered those territories during the 1967 Six Day War.  While many fear Israel will become an apartheid state unless it relinquishes all or most of these occupied territories, the evidence is overwhelming that Israel created an apartheid system and became an apartheid state at the end of the 1967 war, 48 years ago.


Under international law and Section III of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, a conquering army becomes an occupying power once military operations have ceased.  The occupying power has the duty to restore public order and safety and protect the local civilian population.   Under Article 49, it cannot seize or annex any part of the territory occupied or forcibly deport civilians, nor can it permanently transfer its own citizens into the occupied territory.  It must also relinquish control of the occupied territory and return it to civilian authority and control as soon as reasonably possible once order is restored.

The US conducted one the most difficult military occupations in history at the end of World War II after it had defeated the combined Axis Powers of Germany, Italy, and Japan.  Despite the bitterness of the conflict, the US restored public order and safety and took less than eight years to rebuild the infrastructure and civilian democratic institutions of all three countries and return each to sovereign democratic rule.  The US didn’t seize or annex the sovereign territory of these three countries, it didn’t deport civilians, nor did it transfer portions of its own civilian population into the three countries it occupied.  The US post-World War II occupations are models of how military occupations should be conducted, and today, Germany, Italy, and Japan, all former bitter enemies of the US, are healthy, prosperous democracies, and strong allies.


By sharp contrast, Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza has defied international law almost from the beginning.  Some 300,000 Palestinians fled or were forced to leave their homes during and after the 1967 fighting and then were deported from the territories occupied by Israel, as were another 130,000 from the captured Golan Heights.

Israel also prevented Palestinian refugees from lawfully returning to their homes and lands by denying them entry at the borders and by using force against those who surreptitiously attempted to return.  It destroyed dozens of Arab towns and villages to prevent their Arab inhabitants from returning.  It also seized and annexed Palestinian lands including East Jerusalem and about 27 square miles of West Bank land which became Greater Jerusalem the so-called eternal capital of Israel.  Later it annexed the Golan Heights.  Both annexations have been declared illegal under international law.


In his meticulously researched study of the two years following the 1967 Six Day War, The Bride and the Dowry: Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinians in the Aftermath of the June 1967 War (2012, Yale University Press), author Avi Raz details how Israel successfully forced hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to leave the West Bank and then conducted “a diplomacy of prevarication” aimed at deceiving the US and its allies into believing it was willing to allow the refugees to return, and would give back the territories it had captured during the war.  Raz also shows how Israel was approached by both the Jordanian government and by Palestinian leaders who were eager, after the debacle of the 1967 Six Day War, to negotiate a settlement with the Israelis.  Israel used its excruciatingly-protracted talks with both sides to convince the UN and the US that it was interested in and working toward a negotiated settlement while instead it was doing everything possible to delay and avoid any commitment to one.

This diplomatic strategy was aptly described by Israel’s foreign minister, Abba Eban, as tahksisanut or unstraightforwardness .  Raz concludes Israel was never willing to trade captured land for peace and used a “foreign policy of deception” to hide that fact from its allies, mainly the US who it feared would force it to return the captured lands, and refuse to sell it the sophisticated aircraft and weaponry it craved.  Raz argues that Israel’s entire approach to settlement negotiations from 1967, through the Oslo Accord of 1993, to the present day  followed Eban’s strategy of diplomatic tahksisanut.   The goal has always been to delay and avoid an agreement until the number of illegal settlements and settlers in the occupied territories created facts on the ground that would make the permanency of Greater Israel a fait accompli. The collapse and failure of Secretary of State Kerry’s 2013-14 peace talks reflects the continuing success of tahksisanut, of Israeli duplicity.


  Raz quotes then Israeli prime minister, Levi Eshkol, as saying Israel “wanted the dowry” (the land of the occupied territories) “but not the bride” (the Palestinians living on that land).   To solve that dilemma, plans were made and implemented almost immediately after the war to keep the occupied territories as an integral part of Greater Israel or Eretz Yisrael, and create all-Jewish settlements in the occupied areas to create facts on the ground that would make the creation of a separate Palestinian state difficult if not impossible.  In September of 1967, a secret legal memo commissioned by Israel’s prime minister made it clear that transferring Israeli Jewish citizens onto settlements in the occupied territories would be a direct violation of international law, specifically the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Despite this warning, Israel began the process of transferring Jewish civilians into settlements, establishing 12 in 1967, followed by ever-increasing numbers in the next five decades.  Today, 48 years later, over 10 percent of Israel’s Jewish population, well over 600,000 Israeli Jews, live in hundreds of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, making the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state virtually impossible, as was the plan from the very beginning.

US Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, in a March 1968 memo to the US embassy in Israel, told the US ambassador to warn the Israeli government that the transfer of its civilians into the occupied territories violated Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.  He instructed the ambassador to tell the Israeli government, in the strongest possible terms, the US opposition to any Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.  He also said that creation of Jewish settlements created the impression that Israel had no intention of reaching a settlement and withdrawing from the occupied territories.  Half a century later, Rusk’s memo has proved prophetic.

The evidence is clear that Israel knew its obligations as an occupying power under the Fourth Geneva Convention but decided to ignore them.  Its illegal actions of forcing civilians out of the occupied territories, refusing to allow them to return, annexing portions of occupied lands for itself, and transferring its own civilians into the occupied lands, all while keeping the Palestinians under strict military rule, demonstrate an intent to keep the occupied territories for itself.   Its negotiation strategy of tahksisanut is further evidence of that intention.

If Israel had no intention of withdrawing from the occupied territories, and deliberately violated most if not all of the legal precepts regarding military occupation, its behavior was and remains illegal under international law and constitutes grave violations of the laws of war, or war crimes.  Even President Obama’s White House seems to have finally acknowledged this hard fact.  On March 23, at the J Street annual conference, White House Chief of Staff, Denis McDonough said,

“Israel cannot maintain military control of another people indefinitely”; “An occupation that has lasted for almost 50 years must end, and the Palestinian people must have the right to live in and govern themselves in their own sovereign state”;  “Palestinian children deserve the same right to be free in their own land as Israeli children in their land,”


Can Israel’s 48 year illegal military occupation be described as apartheid?  The term was originally used to describe a system of racial segregation in South Africa.  Today, the crime of apartheid, according to the UN Apartheid Convention, applies to acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial, ethnic, or religious group, over another by acts of systematic oppression.  Examples include: denying the one group the right to life and liberty and subjecting members of that group to arbitrary arrest and expropriation of property; depriving the group of the right to leave and return to their country, or of freedom of movement and residence; the creation of separate areas for the members of different racial groups; the prohibition of mixed marriages, etc.

Each of these examples applies to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories, and, to a lesser extent, to the 20 percent of Israeli citizens who are non-Jews.  Some 50 laws in Israel discriminate against non-Jewish Israeli citizens, forcing them to live in impoverished Arab communities surrounded by prosperous all-Jewish communities who receive the vast majority of public resources.  Moreover, Israel’s Arab population lived under strict martial law the first 18 years of Israel’s existence, until 1966, even though Israeli Arabs became nominal citizens of Israel in 1952.  Today, there remain about 274,000 Israeli Arab citizens who are internally displaced refugees of the 1948 war who fled or were forced to leave their homes and villages and were not allowed to return to reclaim their homes, land, and property after the end of the war even though they are lawful residents and citizens of Israel.

In the occupied West Bank, conditions are far worse.  Palestinians are forced to live in enclaves (the so-called Area A) surrounded by Israeli military zones (Area B).  Area C, about 61 percent of the West Bank, contains over 300,000 Jewish settlers living in all-Jewish settlements under complete Israeli control.  This area completely surrounds Areas A and B.  Palestinians are forced to live in dozens of separate enclaves, their movement heavily restricted.  Arbitrary arrest and detention of adults and even young children is commonplace, due process a distant dream.

Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is confiscated and used to build all-Jewish Israeli settlements protected by Israeli Army units, and connected by access roads that are restricted to use by Jews only.  Israeli Jews living in the occupied territories have full civil rights including the right to vote while their Palestinian Arab neighbors live under Israeli military law, have no civil rights, and cannot vote in Israel’s national elections.   All of these discriminatory restrictions on the Palestinian Arab population certainly seem to meet the definition of apartheid.

Stephen Robert, a Jewish-American investment banker, and long-time Israel supporter, as well as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a former chancellor of Brown University, described the situation in the occupied territories as apartheid after fact-finding visits to the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 2011.  In a long and detailed article entitled “Apartheid on Steroids”, he concluded,

“How can Jews, who have been persecuted for centuries, tolerate this inhumanity? Where is their moral compass? How can this situation be acceptable to Judaism’s spiritual and political leaders? I don’t have that answer; except to say that Israel’s biggest enemy has become itself.”

That was four years ago.  David Shulman, an Israeli Jew and distinguished professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem described similar conditions in his March 21 post-Israeli election recap, article:

“Israel has, in effect, knowingly moved further toward a full-fledged apartheid system. Those who don’t like the word can suggest another one for what I see each week in the territories and more and more inside the Green Line.” [Emphasis added].

Shulman sees apartheid in the occupied territories and more and more evidence ofit even within Israel itself.  Israeli journalist and author, Amira Hess, sees much the same,

“When you look at the geography of Palestinians in Israel, it’s the same geography, they are encircled in enclaves. They are deprived of their land. Most of their land has been taken by Jews to settle, even though they are Israeli citizens… They are all packed and cramped in houses without spaces to breathe, without agricultural lands…The political geography of the Israeli state is very similar on both sides of the Green Line.”

The treatment of Palestinian Arabs by Israeli Jews is also strikingly similar to the treatment of non-whites by South Africa’s all-white regime under apartheid.  Moreover, all the conditions for apartheid, the deportations, the annexations, the creation of Jewish settlements, the isolation of Palestinians under military law, were put in place by the Israeli government in 1967.  Since both the intent and the fact of apartheid were in place in 1967, and since conditions have only gotten worse, it’s become impossible to call Israel’s near half century military occupation of the Palestinian people on Palestinian lands in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza anything but apartheid.

The only remaining question is why we as Americans continue to support a country whose oppression of its Arab population is so contrary to our own national values, a country who openly practices apartheid.  Israel’s conduct toward the Palestinian people makes a mockery of its claim to be “the only democracy in the Middle East”, as does its claim that Israel and the US share common values.

It’s high time that we, as Americans, face up to the fact that supporting Israel is supporting apartheid, and that our military, economic, and diplomatic support of that country has fostered and abetted nearly half a century of continuing oppression of 4.5 million Palestinians.  It’s also high time we put a stop to it by telling our representatives in Congress that while we as Americans support the state of Israel, we will no longer provide military, economic, and diplomatic support for Israeli apartheid.

Gil Maguire is a retired civil rights attorney and a writer of both non-fiction and fiction.  His interest in the Israel-Palestine issue came from his father’s involvement flying Jewish refugees from around the world to the new state of Israel in 1948-49.  David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister called his father “the Irish Moses” because of his exploits, hence the name of Maguire’s blog site —

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By Gil Maguire

Michael Douglas, in his op-ed piece in last Sunday’s LA Times, “Finding Judaism, facing anti-Semitism”, tells a compelling story about his young son encountering an anti-Semite at a hotel pool in southern Europe who shouted insults at him because he was wearing a Star of David.    While everyone can agree it’s important to stand up against anti-Semitism, it’s also important to reject false claims of anti-Semitism used as an ad hominem sword to protect Israel and the actions of its government from criticism.  Where real anti-Semitism is present, as in the despicable incident involving Douglas’s young son, it needs to be named and shamed and hopefully soon eradicated.   Where it’s not, where it’s used as a tactic to protect Israel from valid criticism, we need to reject it and avoid the slippery slope that reduces claims of anti-Semitism to little more than political theater.

Douglas goes down that slippery slope when he says,

“A second root cause of anti-Semitism derives from an irrational and misplaced hatred of Israel.  Far too many people see Israel as an apartheid state and blame the people of an entire religion for what, in truth, are internal national policy decisions.”

First, it’s not anti-Semitic to criticize Israel and its government for its policies or actions any more than it’s anti-Russian to criticize Putin’s government for its interference in the Ukraine.  Criticism of Israel doesn’t necessarily indicate an anti-Semitic motive or hatred of all Jews.  Certainly, some who criticize Israel are anti-Semites (David Duke comes to mind), but again, that doesn’t mean all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism.

Israel can’t be held immune to criticism simply because it is Israel and most of its citizens are Jewish.  Tarring all who criticize Israel with the anti-Semitic brush is its own form of bigotry, and placing any individual or country above criticism sets a dangerous precedent.

Second, Douglas says too many people see Israel as an apartheid state and blame all Jews for what are really internal national policy decisions.  Certainly the charge of apartheid within Israel’s pre-1967 borders is unwarranted since all Israeli citizens, both Jews and Arabs, have civil rights, including the right to vote.  However, there are some 50 laws in Israel that discriminate against its Arab-Israeli citizens in favor of Jews.

The real problem lies in Greater Israel, specifically in the Palestinian territories Israel captured and occupied in 1967.  There the apartheid charge has a great deal of validity.  In the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, there are 4.5 million Palestinian Arabs who have lived under Israeli military control and occupation without civil rights or the right to vote for almost half a century.

At most these Palestinians have very limited voting rights within the truncated areas of the occupied territories.  They vote for local leaders who have virtually no control over Israel’s hegemony in the occupied territories.  They live under a harsh military occupation and have no say whatsoever in the national policy or leadership of the Greater Israel that totally controls their borders, their travel, their natural resources, in short, their entire lives.  Self-rule and voting rights for the Palestinians of the occupied territories is little different than that of the Bantustans of apartheid South Africa.

In 2012, Stephen Roberts, the former chancellor of Brown University and a Jewish-American and major life-long supporter of Israel, concluded, after a humanitarian aid trip to East Jerusalem and the West Bank, that “… Israel has created a system of apartheid on steroids.”  Depriving 4.5 million people, primarily Muslims, of their most basic civil rights for half a century certainly looks like apartheid.  Moreover, under those circumstances, Palestinian resistance and hatred of Israel seems understandable.

Third, Douglas criticizes those who label Israel’s actions as apartheid for interfering in what he sees as merely Israel’s “internal national policy decisions”.  In other words, whatever the Israeli government decides is above criticism because it’s really just making decisions involving internal matters of national policy.   Douglas is on shaky ground here.  Would he apply that standard to those who criticized the internal national policy decisions of Nazi Germany, of the Rwandan government during the genocide of the Tutsi, of the Khmer Rouge government in Cambodia, or of the South African apartheid regime?

No country, including Israel can be held immune from valid criticism.  Douglas would do well to think about one looming fact: In this week’s election in Israel, the so-called “only democracy in the Middle East”, 35 percent of the population of Israel and its occupied territories, the non-Jewish population of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, weren’t allowed to vote even though they’ve been under Israel control and occupation for nearly half a century.  That’s 4.5 million people that have been waiting to for their freedom and basic human civil rights for now 48 years.  They live, unfortunately, in what most Israelis see as Greater Israel which includes Judea, Samaria, and Jerusalem, the Eretz Yisrael of their Old Testament dreams.  Does Douglas really believe a 2000 year old claim based on the Old Testament should be allowed to trump the basic human rights of 4.5 million indigenous Palestinians?

Douglas and his wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones, should be admired for having given back by being leaders in a wide variety of worthwhile progressive causes.  As a Jew, he should be concerned about stopping the scourge of anti-Semitism, as should we all, but as a Jewish progressive he should also be concerned about the current direction of Zionism, particularly the Zionism practiced by the hard-right Likud party and its now reelected leader, Benjamin Netanyahu.  The question he should ask is whether Israeli Zionism, as practiced today, is consistent with Jewish values, and American values.

I would hope that Douglas, as a newfound Jew, would avoid the trap of equating Zionism with Judaism.  Zionism is a very modern and recent offshoot of Judaism, one of the world’s oldest and most noble religions.   Whether this offshoot, in its present form, is consistent with the values and precepts of Judaism is a question for Douglas to answer.  I would hope he would follow the example of Brown University Chancellor Stephen Roberts’ and take his wife and son on an investigative journey to the occupied Palestinian territories, and then come to his own conclusions and give us a 2015 update.

Gil Maguire is a retired civil rights attorney and writer of both fiction and non-fiction.  He lives in Oxnard.   His blog, Irish Moses, is named in honor of his father, Robert F. Maguire, who was awarded the Medal of Valor by the Simon Wiesenthal Center in 2004 for “his heroic efforts that helped to rescue tens of thousands of Jews” during 1948-49 after the founding of the State of Israel.

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By Gil Maguire

Can a country that has deprived over a third of its population  of basic civil rights, including the right to vote, for nearly half a century, be called a democracy?  Next week, citizens of Israel, who proudly claim they are the only democracy in the Middle East, will vote in the fifteenth national election they’ve had since 1967. In June of that year, Israel captured and occupied the entirety of Palestine including the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, the areas most presumed would soon become the long-delayed Palestinian state.

Sadly, after decades of fruitless negotiations, the goal of an independent state for the Palestinian people seems more and more a cruel chimera.  There is little remaining support for a two state solution among the Israeli electorate and Israeli leaders, including its prime minister, now admit publicly there will be no Palestinian state.  The bleak reality of nearly half a century of Israeli military occupation and settlement of the Palestinian territories has made it obvious that the Zionist goal of creating so-called Greater Israel, or Eretz Israel, which includes pre-1967 Israel, as well as the West Bank and East Jerusalem (Judea and Samaria), was achieved in 1967.

Greater Israel has only been strengthened and solidified in the ensuing 48 years as Israel gradually transferred over 10 percent of its Jewish population into over 200 illegal, all-Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.   It continues to build new settlements at a frenetic pace.  Israel’s Minister of Housing predicts a 50 percent increase in the Jewish West Bank settler population from 400,000 in 2014 to about 600,000 in four years.  The current Jewish settler population of 300-350,000 in East Jerusalem will likely grow at the same rate.

Greater Israel has every appearance of being a fait accompli,   This sad fact raises the question of whether the non-Jewish Palestinian population of Greater Israel will be ever be afforded basic human civil rights including the right to vote.  Half a century is certainly far too long to wait to be treated like a human being.   Even the most complicated military occupation in history, the US occupation of Italy, Germany, and Japan at the end of World War II, was ended in less than eight years.   After helping rebuild infrastructure and civil institutions, the US returned full sovereignty and all territory to its three former enemies.  Despite its 48 year military occupation, Israel has accomplished none of those tasks.  Instead, it has illegally seized more and more Palestinian land and property, while transferring greater and greater numbers of its Jewish citizens into Palestine to solidify its seizure of Greater Israel.

The current population of the Greater Israel is about 12.9 million: 6.2 million Jewish Israeli citizens, 2.1 million non-Jewish Israeli citizens, and 4.5 million non-Jewish Palestinians who are not recognized by Israel as its citizens even though they’ve been under Israeli occupation and control for 48 years.  In next week’s election, 48 percent of Greater Israel’s population, Israeli Jews, will be allowed to vote, as will the 16 percent who are non-Jewish citizens of pre-1967 Israel, the so-called Arab Israelis.  The remaining 36 percent, the non-Jewish, mostly Muslim Palestinians, who live in the West Bank and Gaza, will be excluded from voting as they have been in all prior national elections since 1967.

Jewish Israelis who live in illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, and who now comprise about 20 percent of the West Bank population, will be allowed to vote in this election even though they, like their Palestinian neighbors, live outside the borders of pre-1967 Israel.  Basic human civil rights, including the right to vote, are extended only to Jews in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.  Muslims, Christians, Druze, and other non-Jews apparently don’t qualify for these rights.

As many have pointed out, Israel faces a conundrum: If it insists on having its Greater Israel, including the occupied territories, it must also accept the 4.5 million non-Jewish inhabitants of those territories as fellow citizens and afford them the same civil rights, including the right to vote, it affords its Jewish Israeli and Israeli citizens.   If it fails to do so, as it has for nearly half a century, it richly deserves the label of  apartheid state.

Stephen Roberts, the former chancellor of Brown University and a Jewish-American and major life-long supporter of Israel, concluded in 2012, after a humanitarian aid trip to East Jerusalem and the West Bank, that “… Israel has created a system of apartheid on steroids.”  Americans in general, and Jewish Americans in particular, need to face up to this hard reality.  The Israel of their dreams does not reflect the reality and brutality of today’s Israel, which certainly does not share or reflect the values of our own democracy.  The Israel of today is a country that has brutally occupied and controlled millions of non-Jews for nearly half a century while denying them the most basic civil rights including the right to vote.

Congress’s contemptible fawning support for this atrocious behavior needs to stop.  We need to send a strong and clear message to our fellow citizens and to our representatives in Congress that Israel’s abhorrent behavior is immoral and unacceptable.  Israel must end its apartheid-like control of the Palestinians and allow them to have a nation of their own along the internationally-recognized pre-1967 borders, or it must accept non-Jewish Palestinians as equal citizens with all the rights and privileges currently afforded to Jewish and non-Jewish Israelis, including the right to vote.

The Palestinian people have been waiting and fighting for their freedom and a state of their own for nearly half a century.  They’ve waited long enough.  Israel must either give them full citizenship rights as fellow Israelis or give them their freedom.  In a few days, Israel’s will hold an election which will exclude over a third of its population, making a mockery of its claim to be democratic.   It is high time we shouted that unpleasant fact from the rooftops of Congress.

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Palestinians have been waiting for their independence for almost a century.  At the end of World War I, Palestine, which had been a colony of the Ottoman Empire, was occupied by the British army.  Palestine’s population was then 93 percent indigenous Palestinians and 7 percent Zionist Jews, mostly recent immigrants from Russia and Eastern Europe, working, with British consent, to establish a Jewish home in Palestine.

After the war, the League of Nations converted the Middle East colonies of the defeated Ottoman Empire into mandates, each supervised by a European power which had the duty to bring its mandate to the point of independent nationhood.   The mandates of  Syria and Lebanon went to the French, Iraq, Jordan, and Palestine to the British.  Iraq became an independent nation in 1932, Syria and Lebanon in 1944, and Jordan in 1946.

In 1947, the United Nations proposed a partition plan for ending the Palestine mandate that allotted 56 percent of the land for a Jewish state but only 43 percent for a Palestinian state even though Palestinians comprised two thirds of the total population and owned over 90 percent of the land.  The plan also gave most of the coastline and prime agricultural areas to the proposed Jewish state.  The Zionists accepted the plan while the Palestinians understandably rejected it.

When fighting broke out, the UN and the US, convinced partition was unworkable, began exploring binational solutions.  But, by mid-1948, the Zionists had conquered more than half of Palestine.  As the last British troops departed, the Zionists declared their independence as the Jewish state of Israel under the provisions of the UN partition plan.  US recognition of the new state made the partition of Palestine a fait accompli. 

By the end of 1948, Israel had conquered and occupied almost 80 percent of Palestine and had evicted or ethnically cleansed over 750,000 Palestinians from their homes and lands, forcing them into refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan, or the West Bank and Gaza. The remaining 22 percent of Palestine not occupied by Israel became a colony of Jordan, once again depriving the Palestinians of independence and statehood.

In its 1967 Six Day War, Israel conquered and occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza.  It now controlled the entirety of Palestine including the original 43 percent designated by the UN partition plan for the Palestinian state.  Israel, as an occupying military power, had a duty to withdraw from the Palestinian land it had occupied and return it to its rightful owners, but it refused to do so.  Instead, it immediately began treating the occupied Palestinian territories as an Israeli colony, transferring its Jewish citizens into all-Jewish settlements, while evicting more and more Palestinians from their homes, confiscating their land, and subjecting them to harsh military rule.

The Palestinians rejected Israeli colonization, demanded their independence, and soon began a violent revolt against Israeli occupation of their land.  Lacking the sophisticated and modern weaponry of the Israeli armed forces, the Palestinians resorted to asymmetric or guerilla warfare, including acts of terrorism, tactics commonly used by weak insurgents fighting wars of independence against powerful colonial occupiers.

Israel responded savagely, using all the tools employed by colonial powers attempting to maintain their hold on valuable colonies, including random arrests, torture, assassinations, indefinite imprisonment without trial, house demolitions, mass detentions, collective punishment against civilian populations, strict military rule, and other oppressive measures that violate international law and are sometimes labeled “state terrorism”.  These tactics have proved successful.

During the past 47 years, the Palestinians have tried both violent and nonviolent resistance with no success, and the UN, the US, the EU, and other European nations have tried for decades to resolve the conflict.  Despite those efforts, no Israeli government has been willing to withdraw completely from the occupied territories to allow the Palestinians full independence and a state of their own on the remaining 22 percent of Palestine.  Instead, Israel has greatly increased its illegal land seizures and evictions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.  According to a recent statement from Israel’s Housing Minister, there are now about 750,000 Israeli Jews living in settlements on Palestinian land and that number is expected to grow by 50 percent by 2019.  Based on recent statements from the leaders of its major political parties, including its prime minister, Israel has no intention of withdrawing from the occupied Palestinian territories which it considers to be part of a Greater Israel it inherited from Biblical times.

As observers to the ongoing conflict between Palestinians and Israelis, we need to ask the right questions and avoid accepting the narrative that Israel wants us to accept: that it is a beleaguered country merely defending itself from mindless terrorists who aim only to kill Israeli civilians.   In reality, the Palestinians, including Hamas, are fighting for their independence from a brutal oppressive colonial power, Israel, who took all their remaining land in 1967, has settled massive numbers of its own Jewish civilians on their remaining land, and refuses to give them even 20 percent of that land to create the independent state of Palestine they have been promised since the end of World War I.   If that was happening to me, I’d be willing to fight and die for the independence of my people, wouldn’t you?

It’s high time we started looking at the Palestinians as freedom fighters, struggling to achieve their independence and a state of their own from an oppressive colonial power, Israel, who is unwilling to allow that to happen.

How can we, as Americans, support the Palestinian struggle for independence.  By being vocal in our criticism of Israel’s refusal to allow the Palestinians to have a state of their own on the West Bank, by writing letters and emails to our congressional representatives telling them to stop their blind, unwavering support of Israel and its oppression of the Palestinian people.   By having the courage to tell American Jews that their unquestioning support of Israel and its oppression of the Palestinian people is immoral and that they  need to tell the Israelis that while their support of the state of Israel is unconditional, they cannot support immoral and oppressive actions and policies of its current government.

Americans, including Jewish Americans, stood up for the rights of Black South Africans to have equal rights and freedom and ultimately forced our own government to pressure the white South African hierarchy to give black South Africans equal rights.  It’s high time Americans stood up for the rights of Palestinians to be free of Israeli oppression and to have independence and a nation of their own.

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I am constantly amazed at how the Israeli narrative of self-defense is never challenged in the media, particularly since the Palestinian narrative, that they are fighting a war of independence, is so much more accurate and compelling.  So here we are again, fighting has erupted between the Palestinians and Israel.  Thousands of rockets have been fired from Gaza, and Israel has responded with a massive air and ground assault that has killed over 1000 Palestinians, mostly civilians, with thousands more injured and made homeless.  Three Israeli civilians have been killed by rockets and at least 43 Israeli soldiers have died in combat.  At least 10 West Bank Palestinian demonstrators have been shot dead by Israeli soldiers during demonstrations against the Gaza war.

Israel again is claiming it is fighting a legitimate war of self-defense against Palestinian rocket fire which it labels as terrorism.  But that justification ignores the underlying cause of the conflict: Israel’s 47 year illegal occupation and settlement of Palestinian land and its refusal to allow the Palestinians to have a nation of their own in the West Bank and Gaza.   The Palestinians are fighting a war of independence from Israeli occupation.


During the past 47 years, the Palestinians have tried both violent and nonviolent resistance with no success, while the UN, the US, the EU, and other European nations have tried for decades to negotiate a two-state solution to the conflict.  Despite those efforts, no Israeli government has been willing to withdraw completely from the occupied territories to allow the Palestinians full independence and a state of their own on the remaining 20 percent of Palestine. 

Instead, Israel has continued its oppressive military rule over the Palestinians, increased its illegal land seizures and evictions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and built hundreds of Jewish settlements.  According to a recent statement from Israel’s Housing Minister, there are now 700,000-750,000 Israeli Jews living illegally on Palestinian land and that number is expected to grow by 50 percent by 2019.  Based on recent statements from the leaders of its major political parties, including its prime minister, Israel has no intention of withdrawing from the occupied Palestinian territories which it considers to be part of the Greater Israel it inherited from Biblical times.


Palestinians are fighting Israel because they are fed up with broken promises, failed negotiations, and half a century of Israeli oppression.  Palestinians are firing rockets at Israel because 1.8 million Gazans have been trapped in what is often described as the world’s largest open-air prison, a result of Israel’s total blockade of that began in 2007.  

When the victim of a violent crime fights back, the perpetrator can’t use self-defense as a justification for doing even more physical violence to the victim.   Israel can’t claim claim self-defense as justification for invading and bombing Gaza to stop Palestinian rocket fire since it is the perpetrator of the underlying and ongoing crime, it’s half-century occupation and theft of Palestinian land, and oppression of its people. 

It is the Palestinians who have the right of self-defense, the right to fight back against their occupiers.  People suffering under illegal occupation by a foreign power have a legitimate right to violently resist.  Lacking tanks, planes, and well-equipped modern armies, they typically use the only tools available: bombings, assassinations, and other tactics of asymmetric guerrilla warfare. 


Israel and the US are quick to label violent resistance by the Palestinians as terrorism and have labeled Hamas a terrorist organization.  But Hamas is little different than the Haganah, Irgun, and Lehi, factions of the Zionist resistance against the British who also used asymmetric guerrilla warfare tactics. Their campaign of terror against the British and the Palestinians from 1939-48 included assassinations of British military and government officials and Count Bernadotte, the UN mediator, hanging of British prisoners of war, and terror bombing of Palestinian communities, and British military, government, and private facilities, including the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. 

Zionist terrorism was highly successful and a major factor in Britain’s decision to withdraw from Palestine, making it possible for the Zionists to declare their independence in 1948 and create the nation of Israel.  The violent resistance of the Palestinians against Israeli occupation of their land has the same aim, to force the withdrawal of a brutal occupying power to gain independence and nationhood.  This is no different from dozens of other wars of independence in which the colonial powers also accused the insurgents of being terrorists.  While the brutality that accompanies guerrilla warfare is horrific and regrettable, it is the only tool available for weak, oppressed people fighting powerful  occupying armies. 


Israel has always responded savagely to Palestinian violence, and has used all the tools typically employed by colonial powers attempting to maintain their hold on valuable colonies. These oppressive measures, which violate international law and can be called state terrorism, include random arrests, torture, assassinations, indefinite imprisonment without trial, house demolitions, mass detentions, collective punishment against civilian populations, strict military rule, and more.  Demonizing Palestinian violence against Israeli civilians, while excusing Israeli violence that does far greater harm to the Palestinian civilian population is one-sided and hypocritical, particularly since Israeli violence is aimed at maintaining  the illegal status quo of occupation, settlement, and continuing theft of Palestinian lands.

The Palestinians are fighting a legitimate war of independence and have been since 1967.  Israel’s attack on Gaza isn’t an act of self-defense but just another of its many massive military actions aimed at crushing Palestinian armed resistance to its occupation while it also inflicts an unnecessary and ghastly toll on thousands of innocent Palestinian civilians.

It’s time for politicians, pundits, and the media, to get this story straight, and time for the rest of us to insist that Palestinians get the independence and nation of their own they have long sought and so richly deserve.


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BANALITY IN THE PROMISED LAND: Admitting and Rationalizing Zionism’s Evil Deeds

My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel is a personal account
of the history of the Jews in Palestine (later Israel) by Ari Shavit, a liberal and
influential Israeli journalist and writer who was at one time a leader in the Israeli
peace movement. While Shavit’s recounting of that history is Israel-centric, it is
also brutally honest. Shavit describes Israel’s ethnic cleansing and forced expulsion
of some 750,000 Palestinian Arabs from their homes in Israel-conquered territory in
1948 in graphic detail including the massacres of civilians and massive, systematic
looting by Israeli troops. Shavit not only admits it all happened, but he provides
details through the mouths of both perpetrators and victims that allow the reader to
see how horrific it all was and how much Palestinians have suffered as a direct
result of the Israeli terror of 1948 and after.

My Promised Land is history recounted by individuals experiencing each
critical point in the history of Palestine and Israel. The reader learns first-hand
about the original Jewish settlers in the 1890s, the Kibbutzim, the clashes with the
Palestinians, the war of 1948, and the experiences of holocaust victims both in the
death camps and in Israel after they immigrated as shaken but determined refugee-survivors.  Shavit shows the development of Israel’s nuclear weapons program, the
experiences of over one million Russian immigrants, and the revival and rise to
power of Israel’s Arab Jews, all through the eyes of the participants he interviewed.

He describes his own experiences as a young soldier in the Israeli army
having to guard thousands of imprisoned Palestinian demonstrators who were kept
without due process and subjected to torture, and whose screams still haunt him.
He describes the post-1967 war settlers and settlements, and the peace movement
that developed in response to the settlers and Israel’s continuing occupation and
oppression of the Palestinians. Shavit weaves in his own and his family’s history as
he travels from one end of Israel and Palestine to the other doing interviews of the
many major and minor figures that make up this complicated history.

Shavit is most effective in his framing of the conflict. While admitting to all
the horrors of 1948 and the continuing horrors of occupation, he says the conflict
cannot only be seen as the story of what the Jews did and are doing to the
Palestinians; it must also be seen in the context of what happened to the Jews, to
the existential threat and fear that Israeli Jews face and experience. His
realization of the duality of the conflict drove him away from the peace movement
which, in his mind, failed to balance its valid condemnation of Israel’s occupation
and oppression of the Palestinians with the existential threat faced by Israeli Jews.

The essence of Shavit’s argument is that this existential threat justified the
expulsion and oppression of the Palestinians. Shavit believes that if Israel’s
founders had not ethnically cleansed Israel of its Palestinian population neither
Zionism nor its Jewish State would have survived. The end, saving Zionism and its
Jewish state, justified the brutal means of removing and oppressing the Palestinian
people. In essence, Shavit says the brutality, “…the dirty, filthy work…” of
massacre, forced expulsion, terror, looting, was necessary if Jews were to have a
state of their own.

This conclusion leads Shavit to what he sees as the crux or conundrum of the
conflict: that the Palestinians, so grievously harmed by the Israelis, so justified in
their claims for a right to return to their stolen homes and lands, can never give up
those claims. Thus, Shavit says, the conflict is not about the occupation and the
settlements, it’s about Israel’s very existence. Ending the occupation and removing
the settlers will not solve the conflict because the Palestinians cannot give up their
claim to return to homes and lands stolen from them that are now a part of the
Jewish state. In essence, Shavit is saying peace with the Palestinians is impossible
because it would threaten the Jewish state, and that the existential threat and
fears of Jews have a higher moral standing than the rights of Palestinians to return
and reclaim their stolen land and homes.

Despite his honesty, Shavit’s conclusion is chilling because his rationalization
of Israel’s horrific actions of 1948 could easily be applied to a complete cleansing of
Palestinians from the entirety of the land between the Mediterranean and the River
Jordan, the promised land of Greater Israel. While this would require more brutal,
dirty, and filthy conduct by the Israeli army, if Shavit can justify Israel’s 1948
conduct, it is difficult to see how he could reject a modern version of the same
conduct since it is aimed at the same end, the building of a powerful, invulnerable
Jewish state.

Ultimately, Shavit’s rationalization fails. Israel’s massive war crime of 1948
wasn’t necessary. Israel could have created a Jewish state that included a high
percentage of Palestinian citizens as envisioned by the UN Partition Plan of 1947.
Or, it could have accepted the Arab League offer of a binational state in which the
Israelis would have had almost complete autonomy in their portion. Either would
have been a moral choice that wouldn’t have required the sacrifice of the
Palestinian people to gain a homeland exclusively for the Jews.

As Israel’s new historians have shown, Israel was never the weaker party in
the 1948 conflict and never under any significant military threat. It had manpower
advantages of at least two to one and its forces were far better organized, better led,
and better motivated from 1947 through the end of the conflict in early 1949. By
April of 1948, Israel had decisively defeated all Palestinian military opposition and
was invading the portion of Palestine set aside by the UN for an Arab state.
Ultimately, it would conquer, cleanse, and keep for itself half of the Arab state’s

By mid-May of 1948, on the eve of its declaration of independence, Israel’s
army had already expelled over 300,000 Palestinians from their homes and lands,
forcing them across borders into Lebanon, Syria, and the West Bank. By August it
had stopped and defeated the combined but outnumbered Arab League forces that
had come to the aid of the Palestinians in May of 1948. Israel would have been able
to easily conquer all of Palestine and Egypt’s Sinai in 1948, and had plans and
forces in place to do so. However, it decided that such an aggressive action coupled
with the ethnic cleansing of another million or so Palestinians would have created a
great deal of international condemnation so it postponed its planned invasion until
1967 when it captured all of the Sinai and all of the land west of the Jordan, the
fabled land of Greater Israel.

Israel’s easy capture of Egypt’s Sinai in the 1956 Suez conflict, and its
overwhelming six day vanquishing of the combined armed forces of Egypt, Syria,
and Jordan in 1967 demonstrated how hapless the Arab forces remained. Even
after the surprise attack by Egypt and Syria in 1973, Israel quickly recovered,
handily defeated both countries’ armies, and was threatening the capture of both
Damascus and Cairo when a ceasefire was imposed only 20 days after the start of
the conflict. Today, Israel’s military superiority is unmatched and its neighbors are
in disarray, riven with internal strife. Israel’s only remaining threat is from the
Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan, and those in the West Bank
and Gaza who continue to live under the boot and oppression of the Israeli army
and the 600,000 violent Jewish settlers it protects in the Palestinian territories it
has occupied since 1967.

Despite his immense pride in Israel’s many accomplishments, Shavit remains
fearful of the future. While he admits to all the horrors of 1948 and the continued
oppression of the Palestinians, he cannot offer a solution and sees the prospects for
peace as distant at best. Despite having identified the moral failings of Zionism,
Shavit cannot bring himself to offer a moral solution for Palestinian suffering which
he knows is unsustainable. All he can see is more of the same with the wonders of
his modern, sexy, start-up nation living blissfully and oblivious to the nearby
horrors of Israel’s continuing oppression of an entire people.

Shavit’s fear is justifiable. The Jewish State, with all its wondrous
accomplishments, was founded on a war crime of immense proportions which
continues to this day. Israel and Zionism’s one great failure was moral, and its
failure to stop and atone for the continuing immorality of its conduct may
ultimately lead to the failure of the Jewish State that Shavit so loves and fears for.

My Promised Land is a good read and essential read for understanding the
mindset of a prominent Israeli liberal Zionist. It is also a well-written, easily read
history of Palestine and Israel as seen through the eyes of its participants. Most
important, Shavit’s brutal honesty in describing the horrific conduct of the Israeli
army in 1948 and its continuing oppression of the Palestinians since then puts an
end to the false narrative created by Israel’s hasbara masters that convinced many
in the West that the Palestinians left their homes and lands voluntarily, and that
the Israeli army scrupulously obeyed the laws of war.

Shavit’s brutal honesty may have opened a Pandora’s box. His admission
that Israel committed a massive and continuing war crime against another people
cannot stand on its own, nor can his rationalization that is was all really necessary
if Zionism and the Jewish State were to survive. His admission has left his beloved
Israel swinging in the wind, naked for all to see. Once the reality of his admission
becomes well-known, the former widespread sympathy for a weak Israel David
beset by a savage Arab Goliath will dissipate as its now disillusioned supporters
angrily react to Israeli duplicity, intransigence, and continuing atrocities and

In the meantime most Israelis, and most American Jews remain largely oblivious to Israel’s past and continuing war crime against the Palestinian people.  This almost banal acceptance of a massive ongoing war crime by decent, thoughtful, and influential Israeli and American Jews, their unwillingness to make critical moral judgments, their refusal to recognize the awful, continuing plight and suffering of millions of Palestinians, harkens back to Hannah Arendt’s famous statement about the banality of evil, and how ordinary and normal the perpetrators and apologists for evil often are:

“The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were
like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that
they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal. From the
viewpoint of our legal institutions and of our moral standards of
judgment, this normality was much more terrifying than all the
atrocities put together.”

Most banal and terrifying of all is Shavit himself, a thoughtful, decent, liberal Zionist who concludes that no peace is yet possible and that the decades-long oppression of the Palestinian people must continue indefinitely while Israel seeks a more perfect solution to its amorphous but ever-expanding existential threat.

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