Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Zionism and the intense desire for peace with Arabs

In the past couple of days, an article has been circulated by one M. Shahid Alam, a professor of economics at Northwestern University, which it appears started at The American Muslim and then flew quickly throughout far-left and Arab sites:

The Zionist Question

by M. Shahid Alam

In recent times, no nationalist project has been so completely mythologized by its partisans as Zionism. In the construction of nearly all aspects of its history, the official Zionist narrative is often at variance – even complete variance – with the facts as they are known to the rest of the world: and, more recently, even as they have been documented by some Zionist historians.

Yet few Zionists would deny one central fact of their history: and that is the history of violence that has attended the insertion of Jewish colons into the Middle East. The history of the Zionist movement in Palestine – it can scarcely be disputed – has been attended by violence between the Jewish settlers and the Palestinians; it has led to unending conflicts between Arab societies and Israel; and these conflicts continue to draw Western powers, especially the United States since 1945, into ever widening clashes with the Islamic world.

The history of this violence was contained in the Zionist idea itself. Violence is integral to Zionism: not incidental to it.

Mr. Alam goes on to provide a highly selective history of Zionism that supports his thesis.

Also, James Abourezk yesterday quotes Ilan Pappe again in support of his thesis that Zionists engaged in "ethnic cleansing" against Arabs.

It is very difficult to be objective on any topic, and historians will naturally - usually subconsciously - gravitate towards the facts that support their pre-existing worldview while ignoring or minimizing those that disagree with them. In these two cases, however, these are not innocent subconscious errors - these opinions are so far from the truth that it would be laughable if it wasn't for the fact that a majority of the world believes them now.

Any objective observer of the history of Zionism - real, on-the-ground Zionism, the one that our parents and grandparents grew up with, the kind that the original pioneers in Israel were a part of - would know that Zionism has always not only been interested in peace, but it has been obsessed with peace. It is not an exaggeration to say that the idea of peace with the Arabs has permeated Zionist thought.

I have spent many hours reading the Palestine Post archives from 1932-1950. Nowhere in those pages does one see any whiff of "ethnic cleansing;" on the contrary, the ability to live in peace with the Arabs is an obsession, from the early Zionist leaders like Weizmann and Ben Gurion down to the ordinary people who wrote letters.

Just as an example, here are some articles from a single, 4-page issue of the Palestine Post, from March 10, 1946.

The headlining article was the testimony that Chaim Weizmann gave to the Anglo American Inquiry Committee. While he passionately defends Zionism and demands the repeal of the infamous White Paper, Weizmann repeatedly says that the Arabs would become an important part of a Jewish state and that no prejudice is meant against them.

A separate analysis of Weizmann's words shows that the editors of the paper shared his feelings - while the Arabs may not be 100% happy with a Jewish state, it is the lesser of evils compared to the idea of Jews not having the right to self-determination, and the Arabs under Zionist rule have nothing to fear:

This is not hate, this is not "ethnic cleansing" - this is Zionism as it was practiced and believed in by the pre-state Palestinian Jews.

In another article, testimony was given regarding the ability of Palestine to absorb immigrants, and the witness also took pains to emphasize that Arabs would not be hurt by Jewish immigration, and in fact the Zionists expected and hoped that the Arab standard of living would increase:

Obviously, the Arabs of the neighboring nations cared little about whether they would be working for Jews, because they were still illegally immigrating into Palestine as fast as they could:

Amazingly, even though the Jewish woman was deported for her illegal immigration, the Zionist Palestine Post considered this story - where Arabs were saying that Jewish-enriched Palestine was a paradise - as "good news." If there is any bigotry here, it is against Arab Jews!

And all of this goodwill towards Arabs was occuring even as some Arabs were hardly returning the favor:

In the face of unending hostility from their Arab neighbors, these Zionists still clung to a vision of co-existence and peace - a mindset that continues to this day. (Check out how many Israeli stamps have been issued with the theme of "peace".)

It is easy to pick and choose individual quotes here and there - some real, some imaginary - by Zionists that would, in the aggregate, make it appear that they felt otherwise. But when one wants to see the truth about Zionism, all one has to do is pick up any Zionist newspaper at random from that time period. Rewriting history is easy, but rewriting source materials is impossible. The context is all in the newspapers of the day, in all its mundane detail - you will not find the hate and vitriol that is so pervasive in Arab media even today. It is abundantly clear which side wanted peace and which wanted war - in 1929, in 1946, in 1967 and in 2007.

The truth cannot be erased, no matter how much the Israel-bashers try to. Those who claim that Zionism is predicated on violence, like Pappe, Abourezk and Alam, are simply liars.