I exchanged views with Jerry on this issue on his blog last year and I concluded that Zionism provided a necessary haven for Jews due to the horrors of the pogroms, a need later confirmed by the holocaust. However, I felt Zionists used unnecessary and brutal means that were and are oppressive to the Palestinians.
Jerry’s courage and honesty in reopening this issue in two long Mondoweiss threads by laying out his full argument for all to analyze discuss and attack is commendable. This discussion has caused me to modify my earlier position: Prior wrongs, genocides or other calamities, no matter how extreme, cannot justify the taking of the land of another. While Jews may have wanted and felt they desperately needed a land of their own that need could not justify their taking the land of the Palestinians.
If the threat or fear of future harm by one people creates a justification to move and conquer the land of another people, then why don’t the Ukranians, Poles, or other historically oppressed people also have that right? Someone recently provided an extensive list of all holocaust-like events in the last 100 years which showed that Jews are not unique as an oppressed people or as genocide victims. If Jews get a state of their own, why not Romas (Gypsies), or gays, both of whom suffered severely under the Nazis and who also have suffered and continue to suffer severe discrimination? Perhaps we Irish should have qualified for a separate state of our own when a million or more of us died of starvation during the great potato famine of the 1800s, showing Ireland could not provide sufficient food for millions of its citizens?
While I do not mean to belittle the extremes of Jewish historical suffering, lots of other groups have also suffered from oppression, genocide and other catastrophes and may continue to suffer. Yet, the risk and fear of future oppression and suffering can’t provide a valid justification for land theft and oppression of another people, particularly in a post-holocaust world. So, despite being victims of the horrors of pogroms, holocaust, and genocide, neither Jews nor Ukranians, Cambodians, Armenians, Bosnians, Ruandan Tutsi, Sudanese Darfurians, or any other group subjected to genocide or great calamity has the right to a new land of its own at the expense of another people. There simply can’t be a Jewish exception to this basic moral rule.
So what options do an oppressed people or victims of a genocide or other great calamity have? Emigration as refugees or as legal immigrants to another country is the most common. The latter was the tack taken by Eastern European Jews in emigrating to Palestine after the pogroms of the late 1800s, as well as by millions of Irish who emigrated throughout the world during and after the great famine. While these solutions are imperfect, there is no easy solution for victims of genocide or other great calamities. Nonetheless, I can’t see any rationale for a separate, immoral exception and solution reserved for oppressed Jews.
I recently came across a fascinating free E Book from Google (via my Nook) on the history of Palestine. It was written in 1917 by the renowned British Zionist, Albert Montefiore Hyamson. Here is a quote: “Local autonomy is all the Jews of Palestine ask….The Jews desire no favour as compared with the other inhabitants of the land. They are willing for all the advantages of a free and liberal government to be enjoyed by all equally.” (“Palestine: The Rebirth of an Ancient People”, p. 238)
That Jewish/Zionist spirit of sharing the land with equal rights and freedoms for all, including Palestinians, soon dissipated, post Balfour, into the extremes of Zionism: exclusion and discrimination in the 20s, terrorism against Palestinians, British and UN representatives in the 30s and 40s, massive ethnic cleansing in 1948 and 1967, the settlement enterprise beginning in 1967, all culminating in the ghastliness of Zionist conduct in today’s Israel.
I think once Zionist Jews decided they were entitled to seize a portion or all of Palestine from the Palestinians all moral constraints were removed. That end, a Jewish State, justified any and all means. In a real sense the Jewish people, or at least Zionist Jews, sold their soul for their Jewish State.
Righting that wrong is not an easy task. A two state solution along 1967 borders with no settlements in the West Bank or East Jerusalem is a pipe dream at best and does nothing for the millions of displaced Palestinians many of who still reside in refugee camps in other countries. As difficult and unrealistic as it may seem, I think the only remaining viable and moral solution is a single democratic, perhaps federated state. I suspect we will first need to progress through the horrors of an apartheid state before we get there.
I am glad I am not Jew facing that reality, although as an American I have to share in the collective guilt for our funding and political enabling of this ghastly situation.