Archive for the ‘Israel/Palestine’ Category

Chaos theory is a new area of math study that among other things attempts to navigate the areas where systems of logic conflict with one another.

The examples that I’ve been exposed to are physical, like an element reaching the boundary of a phase change, say like ice melting into water. The phase change itself represents the qualitative change from a material that operates under the relationships, rules, algorhythms of solids into a material that operates under the relationships, rules, algorhythms of liquids.

With phase changes, it is an either/or proposition. Either this material is a solid OR a liquid. There are composite/dissolved states, muds, but those separate out into solid components and liquid.

Waves hitting a beach is the other common example sited, in which there is either the presence of energy that maintains a distinct order, rule, algorhythm (waves), then hitting the threshold of the beach and changing to foam (random).

In ecology and more importantly to me, in psychology, collective psychology and social institutions, I consider one telling threshold to be the relationship of two dimensional norms, logics and three dimensional.

I personally see this playing out in political war, particularly presently in Israel/Palestine (that I think and write about frequently).

The two dimensional view is that every critical relationship happens on the ground. People speaking face to face, definition of property, borders, jurisdictions.

Who owns this property? (Two dimensions). What will influence us? (A line of communication in two dimensions, even through the blogosphere).

Most of our human lives are determined in two dimensions. We walk on the earth. Most of our thinking, even with our vanity that we are space age, and periodically fly in airplanes, or even just climb hills, is in two dimensions. Its a good thing. Its what we are largely.

But, a bird comes along, and drops what birds drop, containing a seed of a plant from another region. Or, a bee flies in with pollen.

Our self-c0ntained thinking is then confused. Even the presence of an influence that could have possibly crossed a land border is confusing.

In Israel/Palestine, I’ve often stated that shifting the theme to “loving the land” rather than “possessing the land” could make chaotic change. It would then have to recognize that others live there too, that two dimensional borders are an ecological imposition, that there are links that extend beyond the flat.


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There is an obvious reciprocal connection between racism that expresses in the form of collective attitudes, prejudices, and individuals. Individuals derive what “everybody” knows from their neighbors, and neighbors derive “what everybody knows” from us. We individually can affect the tenor of prejudicial attitudes, even if only incrementally.

The political signficance occurs when racism changes from prejudice to institutionalization of harms when applied by states or ideological or resistance political movements.

The stimulus for this series on racism was a discussion of Israel and Palestine which is widely described as racialist conflict.

Palestinian solidarity describe the conflict as a result of Israeli racism towards Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims. Many describe Zionism itself as racism, as the institutionalization of privilege based on racial screens, and encouraged through commonly held stereotypes of Palestinians and Arabs. They describe Zionism as racist in design, and amplified racist in application.

While it is painful to acknowledge, it is a truth currently in application, clearly in many areas controlled directly and indirectly by Israel particularly in the West Bank and Gaza, but also in the form of segregation and unequal access to the features of Israeli democracy.

It is difficult to distinguish which of the laws and policies originate in racist thinking and institutional relationships, and which originate in legitimate defense needs.

Sadly, the combination serves the various opportunist forces in the region. The presence and support for militant Palestinian factions, allows the Israeli state and the IDF to exagerate their fears into institutionalized suppression.

It becomes a tragedy, rather than a health.

Ideology institutionalized. Common fears institutionalized, not confronted particularly by any serious self-inquiring movement in Israel.

At the same time, virtually all of the reported Palestinian factions actively promote anti-semitic propaganda that to western eyes is trivially and ignorantly racist and violent.

I personally regard the slogan “Zionism is racism” as itself racist. The Jewish people are a people. Those that choose to assimilate into western society may choose to live and primarily identify elsewhere. Those that choose to settle as Jews with other Jews in Israel are a nation.

Those Jews that are a landed people, deserve to self-govern, rather than be governed by others. Those that identify as primarily civil in orientation, not national, can live successfully as minorities in other countries, or as part of a prospective single state. But, unless that comprises the vast majority of Jews in Israel, then anti-Zionism is also a form of suppression, of racism.

The history of the region, is of attempted ethnic cleansing responded to by attempted ethnic cleansing. It is not surprising that the majority of Palestinians regard the history of intentional settlement, then wars, then expansion as supporting the contention that “Zionism is racism”. And, it is not surprising that the majority of Israelis regard the history of intentional restriction of immigration, attempted ethnic cleansing in 1948 by Arab armies (Syria and Egypt moreso than Jordan), multiple wars, terror and confrontational low-violence agitation (not non-violent) as supporting the contention that “anti-Zionism is racism”

Too many in each community wishes that the other would just go away, and each institutionalize that sentiment in law, policies, actions. Racism opposing racism.

Very very few are seeking to heal the attitudes, to humanize them. There are many Israelis that continue to speak for Palestinian rights, but a small percentage of 15 years ago. There are fewer Palestinians that I’ve been made aware of, that speak in any measure against racism towards Israelis or Jews as Jews.

It is painful to see.

To confound the problem at reconciliation, Israeli and Palestinian communities are not free agents. In too many ways they are pawns or frontier proxies for larger geo-political efforts. Pawns are either expendible or held insenstively. “They can struggle. Better far from us.”

Israel is regarded by many Arabs and Islamics as the intrusion of western, ironically Christian, frontier into what was growing and unbroken chain of Islamic society (North Africa through Middle East, Central Asia, Southern Asia). And, many regard Israel as a proxy state specifically for the US superpower relations. (Shadow of the cold war, morphed into post cold war relations.)

Many Europeans speak of Israel in the “clash of civilizations” terminology also as the frontier for civil democratic states and institutions relative to apparently unsophisticated and/or tyrranical Islamic society. Others speak in more geo-political terms in strategic outposts to secure the supply chain for oil and now capital, now that the oil states are so prominent.

Now that China is becoming more predominant in the world economy, the former favored proxy role relative to the middle east is shifting east. China needs the supply chain of oil currently confidently and is on the fence whether and how to retain relations with both Iranian, Sunni Persian Gulf, and Indonesian sources of oil, however long the oil lasts.

Palestine/Israel is the tip of the pan-Arab society (the pet language/orientation of the Saudi monarchs). Palestine/Israel is the tip of pan-Islamic society.

Israel/Palestine is the tip of European society. Israel/Palestine is the tip of western democratic society.

Some versions of Zionism participate in the pan-democratic expansion enthusiastically. Thats how Netanyahu markets Israel to the world. Some versions of Zionism regard Israel as entirely independant, an island, and distrust both the European and the Islamic world.

All surfaces, compared to getting to know one another. On the ground community should overcome geo-political, if strong.

It would be wonderful if Israelis and Palestinians joined in asserting “We are not your pawns. We are people”.

Neither militant or ideological forms of Zionism or Palestinian nationalism adopt that view. Each are content to be more movement/ideology than person.

Ironically, some of the settlers do, and some of the ultra orthodox (not many). (I spent yesterday evening with a chabad rabbi who described for me his respect for the monotheism of Islam and how close in many ways Islamic theology was to Jewish – to the extent that he was aware, that that differed from the relationship of Christian theology to Jewish – also to the extent that he was aware.)

On a few other blogs that I post, because of my respect for Zionism as a potential, I am called racist. The equation “Zionism is racism”. You support Zionism (even in your own language of it, that differs from the current application). 

In sum, a=b and b=c, therefore a = c.

In contrast, I describe my effort as the OPPOSSITE of racism. Specifically, to adopt accepting views, accepting of my Jewishness and accepting of my participation in the Jewish community and support of Jewish nation (as irritating as that can be often). And, to accept the humanity of individual Palestinians and their collective right to similarly self-govern confidently and healthily in the manner that they find most useful and fulfilling for them.

Live and let live as the antidote to political expression of institutionalized racism. (Anarchy in the form of self-determination and mutual aid. Opposed to anarchy in the form of “smash the state”.)

I’ll do a fourth on my thoughts of the institutionalization of racism relative to other communities tomorrow.

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There are three aspects to racism.

1. Individual – How do I personally interact with individuals from different races and cultures? My personal attitudes are my personal responsibility. I express them. The consequences result from my own actions.

2. Social – What am I a part of? How do collective attitudes affect the experience of members of other communities? To what extent do stereotypes play in the society that I am part of? (Perpetrator, victim, witness, healer).

And what is the interaction of “I” to “we”.

3. Political/institutional – What is institutionalized politically? What attitudes get played out into affecting the decisions of acceptability of say going to war, versus not going to war; or how and whether to introduce a product/service/enterprise globally?

I want to emphasize that there are two+ status’ relative to racism or any social problems in all three spheres.

1. Perpetrator/Victim

2. Healer

In a nutshell, the purpose of inquiry into racism is NOT to justify one’s own prejudice and institutionalization, but to transform it.

“We” contrasts with them. I am part of tribes. I accept that and seek to participate effectively.

In contast there are two universal “we’s”. One is the universal “we” of undifferentiated commercial mush (global economy). The other is of  ideal spiritual humanism, universal citizenship (a potential in attitude, a fantasy objectively. We all associate into families, communities, tribes.)

In a nutshell, I’ve never found a setting where there was an absence of “we”/them.

Socially, I’m part of a few “we’s”. I am Jewish (“we” by my choice as well as external). I am a baby boomer (“we” by common time and context, accepted but not chosen). I’m formerly a hippie, member of the longhair psychelic community (“we” by former choice). I’m originally from the New York area (“we” by circumstance, not of my choosing, comfortable though). I’m college educated, intellectually oriented, prospectively elite (“we” by circumstance also). I’m American (“we” by circumstance). I’m white (“we” by circumstance. Those of color externally often seem to relate to me as “white”.)

The point is that there are some “we”‘s that I chose, and the formation of common attitudes on that basis are our responsibility in origination, continuity and affects on others.

There are some “we’s” that I was just born into, not particularly important to me except by residue. I am responsible for common attitudes in the sense that I don’t attempt to reconstruct them, if harmful to others.

And, there are some “we’s” that I am clearly part of, either by being a beneficiary or accepting, but that are primarily defined by others.

As my black friends are only superficially “black” to me personally (I see their faces, the happiness and/or pain and not their skin color.) I hope that I am only superficially “white” to them (again seeing my face, not my skin color).

I know that my black friends have experienced a stronger weight of how they are seen and how that is institutionalized. They have the same mix of “what is that we are, what is it that we are a part of, what do others project on us?”

I don’t spend much time with those that bear conspicuous prejudices, stereotypes, and have really never learned any of the “blacks are…”, or “Jews are …”, or “Chinese are ….”. I ignored it when I encountered it in family or community, all of my life. I’m both less prejudiced than many, and naive.

One exception is that dress does communicate to me. I see black, white, latinos wearing pants at their knees with a crooked cap, I think “drug dealer” or “gang banger”, certainly someone who doesn’t care and has no serious effort.

So, I do have ageism. I tend to wonder about young people. The cues from my youth aren’t there.

I know that prejudices exist though. In foreign countries, I am wary. Mostly that poor people scare me. Not that they are poor, but that I can’t rely on the affluence to indicate that I am free from violence towards me. I can’t tell who is hateful, from who is predatory (seeing me as a commercial mark), from who is friendly and trustable (and in what way).

I also know that what appears as prejudice doesn’t always originate as prejudice, even some generalizations about others. For some, the identification of a common enemy is what forms a community, as sad as that is. We don’t all possess the mature liberty to actually voluntarily form our relationships and communities.

In other situations, respectful identification of what is valued as important to the other community, devolves into prejudice. For example, among Muslim communities, (and orthodox Jewish) I’ve observed a pattern of family being important, even in urban cosmopolitan areas, and women are protected physically and from emotional intrusion. That has morphed into some contempt, some generalization that Muslim women are only subordinated. (Its true in cases, and not in others.)

Prejudices come out in times of stress. At my shul recently, we were victims of a extended embezzlement by a non-Jewish woman. I expected much prejudice against “goys” to be expressed. There definitely was some, but much less than I anticipated.

Among Jews my age, I do hear comments of fears of Arabs of Muslims. Similar to my fears, I believe that the majority of that is fear of the unknown, and fear of the possibility of hatred and violence. Those of us liberal Jews that have gotten involved in Israel/Palestinian peace efforts, have heard racially violent expression from some dissenters directed towards Jews in general, not only criticisms of policies. We don’t know how widespread the attitudes of contempt for Jews are among Arab and Muslim communities, and we often don’t know how to distinguish a threat from a criticism. (In academic settings, hateful rage is dilluted. The speakers hesitate to yell in deference to the setting, and they are a minority.)

“What do they REALLY think?”

I’ve personally been both harrassed at times, scared horribly, and also amazingly surprised and welcomed. I’ve been in very foreign settings, in the West Bank, Egypt and India, some known to be dangerous. I’ve experienced the dangers exagerated in the West Bank by worried Zionists, and some dangers naively dismissed by liberal ideologs.

Between Jews and Arabs, both think of themselves as victims. My sense is that many Arabs and Muslims are very sensitive to being scapegoated for 911 still, and the general tone and set of associations. It is true that the vast majority of Muslims and Arabs are genuinely just civilians, peaceful individuals and families just trying to live their lives, law-abiding.

It is always the dramatic exceptions that evoke the fears that prejudices are constructed.

I am personally a skeptic. I don’t buy what others tell me. I personally don’t look for cues  how to distinguish “them” from “us”, how to get along. That combined with self-inquiry, seems to be the tool that enables me to belong healthily, to not invest in prejudice in my association in the various “groups” that I participate in.

I wish kind skepticism were more universal. Tests of loyalty in times of stress is more the norm, identification of who is “us” vs who is “them”.

Tomorrow on politics.

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The unfolding of events in Gaza were close to my worst fears associated with civil disobedience. Nothing went right. Every party reported on, acted in ways that were negligent, inciting, futile.


1. Israel allowed the blockade to both occur at all, and to occur over an extended period (in spite of agreements during the 2008 truce which were kept to a higher degree by Hamas than by Israel, and the unilateral cessation of shelling by Hamas in the past year)

I am extremely critical and distrustful of Hamas. It embarrasses me to say that Hamas acted with more consistency and integrity than Israel.

One primary theme I present consistently is to look at reality from multiple perspectives and time frames. That Israel did not apparently coolly review their practice of maintaining the blockade, at all and the form of it, both from the perspective of effectiveness and morality, is a grave negligence.

There were other options, particularly greatly increasing the allowed transfers over its land routes that could be monitored carefully as a border.  It would have entirely eliminated the need for any flotilla by sea entry, and eliminated the “humanitarian aid” argument.

2. The fiasco of the manner of the confrontation with the Free Gaza flotilla. It will be discussed in Israeli and world press for a very long time.

Specifically, the ships could have been disabled underwater by relatively simple sabotage to the propeller, then towed into port. Instead, a frightening night-time raid with helicopters was undertaken with no element of surprise (consistent with a commando operation), nor advance communication with the dissenters on the boats (consistent with a policing operation).

The negligences led to inhumane and inneffective policies, and now extreme embarrassment to the point where many are challenging Israel’s legitimacy to exist as a state. (It is not just talk by a fanatic few, now.)

3. The hypocrisy of the claims of non-violence, stated by the participants and proponents of the flotilla. There is a horrid video circulating the web in which dissenters clubbed Israeli commandos (absurdly exposed militarily by being dropped by line onto the ship’s deck).

It lends credence (more than credence) to the claims by Israel that shooting occurred only on the basis of the commandos’ fears for their lives.

A perfect storm of negligence and indiscipline.

Its the old game there. Which story gets told? What starting point? All propaganda.

At the risk of sounding vain, I predicted all of this, that the civil disobedience wasn’t in fact non-violent, that the confrontation with the flotilla would be botched, that the engagement of Turkish flagged ships would be construed as a military assault on Turkey, that the event would be seen as parallel to the 1946-48 dramatic Exodus ships arriving in Israel.

I have to apologize for myself not practicing what I preach. Specifically, I (like the Israeli high command) did not review the policy of blockade from multiple perspectives. I was swayed in reaction to the dogmatism of dissent, and allowed myself to form positions in reacton rather than in thought.

But most importantly, there is still no practical proposal offered by dissent, US, EU, Arab League, Israel. There is no clear set of demands that can be conditionally evaluated, negotiated, applied.

There actually are pieces of proposals floating around published and web sources, but you have to dig to find them. The journalists (right-wing, centrist, or left) aren’t articulating them. Its still in the blame phase.

The only feasible proposal that has emerged, that I heard, came from Hamas of all sources, but prior to the confrontation. Saturday, an interview that Charlie Rose conducted with the Hamas leader Meshal (from Syria) was published. Meshal offered to allow a Gaza international port to be developed and managed by international supervision (not by Hamas). It was a surprise to hear.

I don’t hear any viable long-term proposals though. The status of Hamas as alternatively a militia/governance remains. The Palestinians are still not subjects of any sovereign state (neither Gaza, West Bank, refugee camps in Lebanon where even after 60 years residence they are denied citizenship). There is no reliable proposal for Palestinian unity government with any moderation within a two-state setting. Fatah and Hamas are still in a heightened state of conflict, though this will push Fatah towards a more militant stance, and possibly towards a unity government, but not likely a moderate one.

There is much talk even among otherwise sober and less fanatic dissenters for abandoning the goal of two-states for two-people, in favor of a single state from river to sea (but including Gaza). It would appeal to western sensitivities for a democratic civil state like modern western states, but without precedent in the region (maybe Lebanon, not a great precedent). And, it would be the end of Zionism as a state effort, the end of the dream of it (worth preserving), and of the current status of it (worth changing).

I think Zionism is important, Jewish self-governance, in protection from persecution and in its own right. But, if we don’t self-govern in a way that lives and lets live, it will and has devolved to suppression.

Politics born of anger are a car careening down a winding road, successfully moving forward fast, but ignoring exhaust fumes, road kill, bicyclists and pedestrians, and ignoring smelling the roses.

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Israel is different now than when it was founded. And, not so different.

Many of the Jewish immigrants to then Palestine were young lower middle class idealists from Russia. They were influenced by the initial Russian social uprising in 1905, followed by pogroms blaming the uprising on Jews, as a large proportion of the uprising leaders were Jewish.

That communicated the common Zionist theme that revolutionary social change promoted by Marxist and other radicals would not yeild a society in which Jews could be Jews, whether guided by religious or socialist values.

So, many of the young Russian Jewish radicals left. They came to then Palestine, and with the help of some outside funding for settlement building, they experimented. The world was new there. The old religious shtetl world would pass. The exploitative capitalist norms would pass. The suppressive right-wing Russian anti-semitic nationalist norms would pass. Those Russian and Ukranian Jews that sought opportunity went to the United States. Those that sought new world ideals to determinedly put into practice, moved to Palestine.

The experiments varied. Some were almost reminiscent of new age American communes (like one I lived in), emphasizing new consciousness more than new economics. Some of those were entirely collectivist, with the only intimacy being erotic, everything else public and social.

Other kibbutzim were guided more by Marxist ideology emphasizing intentionally changing economic class relations entirely, nothing personal.

The common theme of all kibbutzim was of the liberating and culturally reviving effect of agricultural labor.

Other immigrants chose to move to cities, emphasizing more classical Marxist thinking that the revolution could only transpire from the liberation of the industrial proletariat (workers), not agricultural peasantry, not utopian.

One or another socialist approach dominated early Zionist population. Roughly 3/4 of the yishuv (population of recent Zionist immigrants) regarded themselves as socialist in some flavor.

Zionist society illustrated the old Jewish maxim of “put 10 Jews in a room, you’ll have 15 different radically contending opinions”. The society was harshly and often viciously partisan, defined by more ideological configurations than I can conceive of, each mutually exclusive in some key way.

Its actually to be expected. Then Palestine was considered a blank slate, a truly new world. The majority of new immigrants were young, extremely energetic, idealistic, not married and without children. A real youth culture, reminiscent of the American 60’s.

They were determined. They had conviction.

Over time, the idealism of the kibbutzim dissolved into more practical attitudes. The kibbutzim still varied greatly in ideology and flavor, but they commonly shifted to a role of key institution for nation-building, more than idealistic social experiment with latitude for failure and waste.

Kibbutz members came to share like armies share, more than like free-love hippies shared.

There was a Jewish far left in Palestine that sought to organize the workers of the world into “one big union”, but the Arab workers were described as resenting the European Marxist intrusion, as much (or more) as they resented the European Zionist intrusion.

The Communist Party was anti-Zionist. Over time the Jewish Palestinian communist party experienced the same quandries as the American communist party, particularly confused by the policies and actions of the Stalinist regime and the subordination of local organizing needs to the international movement and its frequent Orwellian flips in political correctness.

Early, the labor Zionists sought some reconciliation with local Arabs, including proposals for joint nationalist cooperation, and proposals for bi-national state (Zionist and Arab relative to imperial powers).

Also early, Zionists came to conclude that the local Arabs were far more conservative politically than the idealistic young European labor Zionists, and that common cause would be difficult. They were not actively seeking an integrated socialist ideal. Those few Arabs that were socialist, were committed to socialism for the prior working and peasant Arab classes, not the confusion of new and domineering European residual ideologs.

The external Arab influences also were conservative, either religious, or seeking to preserve prior family privileges, but in a national form rather than tribal.

The claims by the modern far left, that Zionists never sought to reconcile or find common cause with Arabs is false. In fact, the continuing Zionist overtures were rebuffed and often violently, not all that different than currently, and applying similar logic.

Among Zionists were far right-wing neo-fascists, revisionists, under the leadership of Jabotinsky, founder of the Etzel terror movement, and ideological and personal mentor of the modern likud party.

It was impossible for Arabs to tell if Zionists sought peer residence, or dominance or outright exclusion. The youthful immodesty of the labor and kibbutz Zionists offended many of the religious. The insensitivity of Zionist leadership to the effects of policies on local Arab communities offended many. And, the legal conflicts over what “ownership of land” entailed, offended many.

So, like today, there were Arabs that were willing to reconcile with their like, but not the movement as a whole. The religious Muslims most often co-existed respectfully with similarly modest and conservative religious Jews. The nationalist Arabs didn’t though, resulting in the 1920, 1929 and 1936-39 Arab riots.

And, the Jabotinsky factions upped the ante, by first intensely defensive para-military operations (vicious treatment of Arab raiders), to anticipatory offensive para-military.

Same as now.

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The setting of Jewish European experience in the early 20th century was one of remaining suppression and prejudice if not consistently persecution in Western Europe, and intense persecution and organized mob violence against Jews in Eastern Europe.

Large numbers emigrated from Eastern Europe to the United States primarily, but also to England, Australia, Canada, South Africa. Western European Jews largely sought to assimilate, with difficulty and confusion. Children of assimilated and inter-married, assimilated much more easily and were largely accepted as nationals, not as Jews.

Middle eastern diaspora Jews in North Africa, lived largely as they had, partially protected minorities within Islamic norms. The demise of the Turkish empire following WW1, was one significant exception, replacing British and French governance (with imperial intent) for Turkish.

Until 1917, most Zionist official activity was to urge migration to Israel (mostly unsuccessfully), and more importantly to urge the contending political powers to authorize limited sovereignty for Jews in then Palestine. Zionist leaders played one alliance against another, appealing to their unique very parochial self-interests, to almost enter a bidding war for Jewish support during WW1 in particular.

With the victory of Great Britain and France over Germany and Turkey in WW1, Great Britain affirmed its support for some Jewish homeland in then Palestine in the Balfour Declaration in 1917. It complemented and conflicted with the private Sykes/Picot agreement between England and France dividing spheres of influence in the Middle East and elsewhere. The commitments behind the scene conflicted with the somewhat ambiguous language of the Balfour Declaration, and similarly confusing commitments (stated as conditional on an Arab uprising against Turkey) were made to Arab hopefuls.

A recipe for disaster. Conflicting promises made to mutually hungry communities, both in need of upliftment and self-governance.

On the ground, there was a mix of intentional and realized accommodation, and utter communication failure. The Zionist community could not figure out if it was European or “Oriental”. (As European, the intentional settlement effort appeared to be colonial. As Oriental, the settlement effort would not result in a distinct nation, but only in assimilation into the Arab world.)

Many of the same orientations that exist today, existed them.

Pan-Islamic protection of the Islamic Umma (The significance of Zionism associated with Great Britain, was of a division in the waqf that previously extended from Western China all the way to North Africa. The African portion would be severed.)

Pan-Arab aspirations seeking realization following the Turkish empire’s destruction following WW1. Saudi King Faisal vacilated between accommodation with Zionism in alliance against Great Britain and overt hostility.

In 1919/1920, the first public appearance of a Palestinian national aspiration (as distinct from pan-Arab or pan-Islamic) appeared with a series of publications and gatherings.

Nationalist para-military groups formed among Arabs, most prominently the “black-hand” (not the cosa nostra) under Qassam (the name-sake of the Hamas rockets). Similar “self-defense” groups were organized by Jabotinsky, an assertively nationalist Zionist.

Series of anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish riots occurred in Jaffa, Jerusalem, Safed, and most prominently in Hebron. The Safed and Hebron riots forced all the Jews from their residences, most moving to Jerusalem. (The Safed and Hebron Jews displaced were NOT Zionists, most were anti-Zionist, instead emphasizing an entirely religious association rather than any political.)

Among Zionists there were those that favored accommodation: development of personal relationships, trade, common labor solidarity, mutual assistance. The utopian descriptions by Herzl and others, corresponded with this view.

Even much maligned Ben Gurion early supported the view of accommodation.

The political maneuverings occurred within an environment of significant social change on the ground, and great insecurity among Palestinian sectors.

They included difficult and suppressive class relationships between “squatting” (accepted as norm, not the pejorative as in the west) Fellahin, local powerful families, and absentee landowners.

The first shift in the status of fellahin occurred as a result of Turkish initiative to register all land and all leasehold relationships. Many of the Fellahin were illiterate and could not register even their residence by permission of actual landowners.

When Great Britain assumed sovereignty over the land, they did not translate the former squatting rights well. The Zionists were oriented to European land ownership norms, which did not recognize squatters’ rights prominently. So, when they purchased land from absentee title holders, they assumed that they owned the land and had uninhibited rights to use the land. But the fellahin assumed that their squatters’ rights remained.

Conflict, both parties were right.

The first accusations of Jewish settlements dispossessing former Palestinian villages resulted from this legal ambiguity.

It greatly contributed to the perception that Zionism was a form of European colonialism, not a distinct movement itself that also existed in some adversary relationship with Europe.

The same themes are expressed by dissenters today. Zionism as European colonialism.

That thesis is true only if one lumps all “others” as conspiring or part of a large movement. In too many ways, it is similar to the paranoid flavor of Zionist view that “they” participate in an unbroken stream of persecution of Jews.

There is some truth in both paranoid statements, but not enough truth to be truth in fact, or to responsibly act on.

There is sadly a strong move for expansionist Zionism, as if the interpretations of conditional promises made by a single committee of the British government in 1917, is binding on all current relationships between Israel and Arabs. They desire the river to the sea, and adopt the same settlement strategy (and specific “finger” strategy) as was employed to form an initial nation.

And, there are pan-Islamic movements that seek to restore the Islamic waqf, mixing with nationalist sentiment. Hamas for example articulates both Palestinian national rights and pan-Islamic sentiments. Similarly for Hezbollah. Established Islamic states experience at least some fundamental confusion and compromise, for example Saudi Arabia, which has conditionally endorsed the Arab League proposal, but is also responsible caretaker for Islamic shrines.

Iran is different. Iran does not regard Israel as having any even conditional rights to exist, and is only an interloper in the Islamic world. No internal tension on their part in that respect.

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I am in a constant “dialog” with progressives on the web and face-to-face on the historical and present significance of Zionism.

Frequently, those that form their definition of what should be politically from anarchist, socialist, and in my personal life Proutist ideals regard Zionism as tribal (not universal humanist), colonial (intentional European displacement of indigenous or people of color), theocratic (referenced to a religious practice and/or tyrranical governing heirarchy).

From their primarily critical analyses, dissenters conclude a spectrum of remedies that include elegant plausible mutually respectful ones, to implausible and functionally cruel or unstable impositions.

The common competition for sentiment is about victimhood, and relation to power. Commentary on Israel/Palestine is almost always centered on what is wrong, and sadly structured on all sides by a Pavlovian invocation of rages. (Yesterday I commented on a blog in which a photograph of a single obviously abusive incident between a thug settler and a Palestinian old woman was juxtaposed with the abuses of Mississippi freedom riders in a restaurant by an angry white mob).

The picture (that speaks a thousand words) invoked a stream of invective on the orchestrated harrassment of Palestinian civilians by “hilltop youth” settlers, that are urged to harrass by their zealous peers and worse by authorizing Kahanist rabbis.

The problem was that the picture could have plausibly suggested an entirely different story if presented differently. (I think the representation of the events was accurate in this case). In questioning what was communicated by the juxtaposition of the pictures, I was subjected to some harrassment. If a theoretical picture were to be taken of me in the “room” with the dissenters, it would be one of harrassment of an elder (me – 55, same age as the picture of the Palestinian harrassed) by a gang of zealous ideologs.

There is political Rorshach pictures. Ambiguous content, in which the biases, the prejudicial story gets to play out. What does that picture tell you?

“That the Hebron Palestinians are still occupying property that was Jewish in 1920 before the ethnic cleansing of ancient Jewish residence”.

“That the Jewish interlopers are ethnically cleansing the indigenous Palestinians from their homes by terror and harrassment”.

(Not comments on the specific incident, but what the incident “means”, stated authoritatively with very little skeptical inquiry into one’s own assumptions.)

On Israel/Palestine, the tack that advocates take, reveal inadequacies about their ideology itself, or the application of their ideology. This was especially jarring to me in relation to the palette of analytical tools in the Prout portfolio. Prout’s official positions on Israel/Palestine were among the largest influences that convinced me to separate from their efforts (which are nill now anyway, tragically given the richness of the analytic pallette).

Although Bennie Morris has issued some recent statements that I find objectionable, at least confusing, I loved the thesis of his book “Righteous Victims”, that implies that there is validity to both the Zionist and the Palestinian experience (individually and collectively subjective) and each deserve the light of day.

I am hoping that some skillful filmmaker will adopt the dramatic strategy of presenting the history of the region through that lens of multiple perspectives. Some of the threads of the history are distinct to each narrative, solely Zionist or solely Palestinian tributaries. But, some illustrate the classic narrative juxtaposition of a single objective event understood very differently by those with different personal relationships to the actual events, and with different preconceived invocations.

What occurred? (Some shared, some very very different) What is the significance?

There is much much more documentation of Zionist history available than Palestinian. And, as I am Jewish, and growing up in a family that was supportive of Zionism (both pre-WW2 and after), I’ve necessarily done some personal research primarily on Zionism.

I’m attempting to survey my assumptions again, prospectively to help push the film idea along, so have started reading again.

I’m currently reading “A History of Zionism” by Walter Laqueur, recommended by Dan Fleshler who authors the Realistic Dove blog. http://www.realisticdove.org/

The book opens with a description of the context of the condition of 19th century European Jewry.

The context varied by locale. In general, prior to the French revolution and subsequent 1848 enlightenment revolutions in much of Europe, Jews nowhere held full civil rights, could not vote, practice professions, get educated, travel freely. There were a few very wealthy Jewish families that had made enormous sums in banking at interest and speculative trade, that was prohibited for Christians to other Christians. Those bankers loaned to private individual and corporate enterprises, and to governments for wars or other state efforts. Jews were not the majority of the industry, but were prominent.

The vast majority of Jews however were poor, working or begging classes.

In Western Europe, (Germany, France, England), the enlightenment values of modern democracy were expressed widely, and Jews sought to assimilate, even converting in fairly large numbers. They succeeded professionally, and were more loyal than the majority of Germans, French, English. But, in spite of considerable national patriotism and social contribution to the host societies, Jews were not accepted and periodic persecutions occurred in Germany, France and to a lesser extent in England.

In Eastern Europe (Poland, Russia, Hungary, Rumania), Jews were consistently persecuted. Their residence was limited to official regions. They were not permitted to own property, practice professions, etc. The church and the state periodically orchestrated mass violence against Jews and Jewish owned property.

In this context, Western and Eastern European Jewish thinkers and activists sought to change their reality. Many Jews joined the socialist movements in Western Europe and later Russia, in their hope and through the ethical pallette of Torah and prophets. (The ethical origination often later conflicted with the more ideological application.)

Others sought to imagine a Jewish response, Zionism in some form, noting the difficulty and communal compromise of assimilation and conversion for the purpose of assimilation.

Early Zionist writers appealed to small groups of friends, but few others knew of their ideas or writings. Theodore Herzl was the first individual to articulate Zionist ideas in Western Europe as a whole, and undertook on his own initiative to organize the Zionist movement into periodic Congresses, local supporting organizations, fundraising, and diplomacy in an unusually wide range of settings to gather support for a Jewish National Homeland in Palestine/Israel, later articulated as necessarily a Jewish state.

Very bold. Amazingly internally motivated.

Herzl was a Jew whose personal life was one of assimilation. He was a German gentleman, patriotic, attempting a professional journalistic career. The obstacles that he faced personally were not extreme. He did not have a specific life-changing gross trauma that suggested the Zionist idea and commitment. He did have an epiphany that he and other Jews would never be fully accepted even in enlightened Western European society, would always be outsiders, and periodically and opportunistically harrassed.

Early, only few Western European Jews sympathized with his observation/prediction. They felt at home in Germany, France, England. They were experiencing success, especially as the enlightenment values of tolerance and religious freedom gradually were institutionalized in those societies.

In Russia though, the persecutions and hungers for improvement were so obvious, that he and the Zionist movement achieved mass hero status, with a large and enthusiastic and committed following.

The skilled Western European Jewish elite did not endorse Zionism during Herzl’s life. But, the unskilled, poor, who could not easily travel to Congresses or persuade by their class and erudition, did.

Its always that way. Its a difficulty with any social movement, that the need is for articulate, skilled, able leadership from a population from which that is difficult if not impossible. Leadership then comes from the idealistic (who are often more emotional than practical) or the unnaturally persecuted (intellectuals or wealthy who experience some personal prejudices, and mix their angers into their ideology).

Motivated people.

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