Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Rashida Tlaib isn't the first to claim Israel exists because of the Holocaust (Daled Amos)

By Daled Amos

In his post Top Democrats’ defense of Rashida Tlaib’s Holocaust inversion and revisionism is unforgivable, Prof. William Jacobson succinctly sums up on Legal Insurrection the inversion and revisionism of Rashida Tlaib's latest claims:
Tlaib statement contains two themes: First, the Palestinians are the true victims of the Holocaust because it forced the Jewish survivors on them causing loss of land, property and lives; and Two, Palestinians helped create a safe haven for the Jews at much personal and national sacrifice.
Prof. Jacobson points out that Tlaib's first claim is an inversion because it neglects the fact that 6 million Jews were murdered, with Jewish communities throughout Europe being wiped out, yet Tlaib claims it is the Palestinians, who supported the Nazis, who are supposed to be the victims.

Tlaib's second claim is straight out false, trying to erase the history of the Arabs of the British Mandate who boycotted, slaughtered and discriminated against the Jews, doing everything in their power to prevent Jews from finding a safe haven.

But Tlaib is not the first US politician to distort the history of the Holocaust and its connection with the re-establishment of Israel.

And how one sees Israel is affected by how one understands her history.

Barack Obama

On May 12, 2008 in an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg, presidential candidate Obama explained why he thought the Jewish claim to Israel was just:
Jeff Goldberg: Do you think that justice is still on Israel’s side?

Obama: I think that the idea of a secure Jewish state is a fundamentally just idea, and a necessary idea, given not only world history but the active existence of anti-Semitism, the potential vulnerability that the Jewish people could still experience. I know that that there are those who would argue that in some ways America has become a safe refuge for the Jewish people, but if you’ve gone through the Holocaust, then that does not offer the same sense of confidence and security as the idea that the Jewish people can take care of themselves no matter what happens. That makes it a fundamentally just idea. [emphasis added]
Obama. Official White House Photo
by Pete Souza. Public Domain

With these words, Obama reduced over three thousand years of Jewish history, and indigenous Jewish ties to the land, to an issue of refuge from antisemitism after the Holocaust.

But what happens if you ignore those ties and that history and instead see Israel as nothing more than a piece of land intended to serve as a safe refuge?

Land can then be cavalierly, arbitrarily and ultimately surgically removed and taken away -- with assurances and guarantees for the safety and security of Israel.

A year later, on June 4, 2009, President Obama made his famous trip to Cairo, and during his speech, he said:
America's strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied. [emphasis added]
Obama reiterates to the Arab world that the Holocaust is the justification for Israel's existence.
Not Jewish history
Not Jewish indigenous ties
Not Jewish culture, literature and language

However, it seems somebody finally clued Obama in, to the fact that Jews living in Israel is not a modern phenomenon that started after the Holocaust.

In his remarks to the UN General Assembly on September 23, 2010, Obama said:
Israel is a sovereign state, and the historic homeland of the Jewish people. It should be clear to all that efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy will only be met by the unshakeable opposition of the United States. And efforts to threaten or kill Israelis will do nothing to help the Palestinian people. The slaughter of innocent Israelis is not resistance -- it’s injustice. And make no mistake: The courage of a man like President Abbas, who stands up for his people in front of the world under very difficult circumstances, is far greater than those who fire rockets at innocent women and children.[emphasis added]
Aside from his warning about delegitimizing Israel, Obama's remarks are a vast improvement on his previous remarks about the history of Jews and Israel.

Not that this new formulation signaled any change in actual US policy. The key to peace continued to be framed as a question of land. Throughout his 2 terms in office, Obama continued to pressure Israel to make unilateral concessions. He and Kerry pushed the idea of a 2 state solution based on the green line with minimal land exchanges. At the end of his term, he left Israel with a goodbye present in the form of UN Security Council Resolution 2334, on which the US abstained, that Israeli settlements were a "flagrant violation" of international law that had "no legal validity".

Jeremy Corbyn

Corbyn is similar to Obama in his narrow, short-sighted view of Jewish history in Israel, but manages to be even more removed from reality:
I was brought up at school being told, um, that Israel was founded on a piece of empty space, and that they managed to make the desert bloom, and they built things when there was nothing there before. Anybody that studies the history of the region would know, at the end of the Second World War – 1945 to 1948 period – Palestine had media, had industry, had education, had universities, had a relatively high standard of living for the whole region, and was a coherent society and a coherent state. It was a denigration of that which enabled Western opinion to be, um, put together in support of Israel. [emphasis added]

Jeremy Corbyn. YouTube screengrab

Elder of Ziyon points out the enormity of Corbyn's distorted claim:
Palestine on the eve of Israel's independence was effectively a state, all right - a Jewish state. It was Jewish money, Jewish creativity, Jewish brains and Jewish sweat that built nearly all the institutions of Palestine that Corbyn is praising here.
Putting aside the ancient history of Israel, which Corbyn does not even refer to,  he believes that the modern history of Israel begins after World War II, making the infrastructure and everything that went into developing the land into the product and work of the Arabs.

It is not clear that Corbyn is even aware of an issue of refuge from the Holocaust. Corbyn ignores everything Jewish about the land and describes the Jews as not only foreigners, but as interlopers who did nothing to develop the land.

This twisted view informs everything he says about Israel and intends to do if and when he has the chance.

Joe Biden

It may not be clear if Biden, who now leads in polls in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, sees Israel the same way as Obama and Corbyn, but as a Senator, Biden did make the mistake of forgetting that Israel has the self-reliance and pride that comes with a 3,000-year old connection to the land. We will likely be reminded over the next year and a half about this story of the confrontation between Biden and Menachem Begin:
When hearing the name Biden, we always think of the famous exchange between Biden and Prime Minister Begin. As Moshe Zak recounted in a March 13, 1992, piece in the Jerusalem Post:
In a conversation with Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, after a sharp confrontation in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the subject of the settlements, Begin defined himself as "a proud Jew who does not tremble with fear" when speaking with foreign statesmen.

During that committee hearing, at the height of the Lebanon War, Sen. John Biden (Delaware) had attacked Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria and threatened that if Israel did not immediately cease this activity, the US would have to cut economic aid to Israel.

When the senator raised his voice and banged twice on the table with his fist, Begin commented to him: "This desk is designed for writing, not for fists. Don't threaten us with slashing aid. Do you think that because the US lends us money it is entitled to impose on us what we must do? We are grateful for the assistance we have received, but we are not to be threatened. I am a proud Jew. Three thousand years of culture are behind me, and you will not frighten me with threats. Take note: we do not want a single soldier of yours to die for us."

After the meeting, Sen. Moynihan approached Begin and praised him for his cutting reply. To which Begin answered with thanks, defining his stand against threats.
Joe Biden. Public Domain

It should be noted that My Right Word has the source for this, with a link to the official record of Israel's Foreign Ministry and quotes from two articles in The New York Times that confirm what happened.

Albert Einstein

Describing Israel as a refuge does not, in and of itself, denigrate the country or its ties between the Jewish State and the Jewish People.

In 1955, Albert Einstein was scheduled to make a televised address on behalf of Israel on Yom Ha'atzmaut. Unfortunately, he died 8 days before he was able to make that address. However, a rough draft of the speech exists.

In it, he starts off:
This is the seventh anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel.

The establishment of this State was internationally approved and recognised largely for the purpose of rescuing the remnant of the Jewish people from unspeakable horrors of persecution and oppression.” [emphasis added]
Einstein too, as a survivor of WWII, saw the re-establishment of the state of Israel as a bulwark against antisemitism and the Jew-hatred he had seen -- though he also recognized that "another purpose was to provide conditions in which the spiritual and cultural life of a Hebrew society could find free expression."

His overriding concern for the safety of Jews led him to consider it "a bitter paradox to find that a State which was destined to be a shelter for a martyred people is itself threatened by grave dangers to its own security."

But there is more to Einstein's connection to Israel and Zionism than the issue of security.

Ten years ago, Adam Kirsch wrote an article explaining how Einstein was Relatively Speaking, A Zionist

Albert Einstein with Zionist leaders Ben-Zion Mossinson, Chaim Weizmann, and Menachem Ussishkin, arriving in New York in 1921. (Library of Congress, Bain Collection)

Einstein was opposed to the creation of a Jewish state.

First of all, he feared that a breakout of war between the Jews in then-Palestine and the Arabs would lead to a second holocaust.

More than that, Einstein was opposed to the idea of a Jewish state in and of itself because of what a state embodied.

Kirsch writes that on the one hand, Einstein wrote in 1927 that
the importance of all this Zionist work lies in precisely the effect that it will have on those Jews who will not themselves live in Palestine...the Jews will acquire that happiness in feeling themselves at ease, that sense of being self-sufficient, which a common ideal cannot fail to evoke...I believe that the existence of a Jewish cultural center will strengthen the moral and political position of the Jews all over the world, by virtue of the very fact that there will be in existence a kind of embodiment of the interests of the whole Jewish people.
Einstein focused on the purely secular ideal of self-sufficiency and peace of mind. He saw the benefit of "a Jewish cultural center," but as a boost for the position of Jews in the world.

He saw the benefit to Jews but not to the Jewish People as a Nation -- he supported the goal of boosting individual Jewish identity as opposed to creating a Jewish state.

Kirsch suggests that Einstein's view came from a German-Jewish intellectual commitment to the idea of universalism as a response to antisemitism. Einstein knew little of Judaism, but saw in it an expression of "liberal Jewish values."

He quotes from a piece Einstein published in Collier's in 1938 where he wrote:
The bond that has united the Jews for thousands of years and that unites them today is, above all, the democratic ideal of social justice, coupled with the ideal of mutual aid and tolerance among all men. 
Einstein's view of Jews and cultural Zionism led him to make in 1938, just 10 days before Kristallnacht the unknowingly ironic statement that:
We are a minority everywhere and have no violent means of defense at our disposal to protect our community against our numerous enemies and opponents—fortunately. [emphasis added]
He saw politics and nationalism as the problem and not as a solution, and on that basis was opposed to the idea of a Jewish State.

Thus in 1946, in testimony before the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on Palestine, Einstein suggested that the cause of tension was not any actual antagonism between Jews and Arabs, but rather should be blamed instead on British policy -- and if the British would abandon the Mandate, the problem would resolve itself.

Similarly, regarding Jews in European DP camps who were denied access to then-Palestine because of British policy, Einstein was asked: “What would you do if the Arabs refused to consent to bringing these refugees to Palestine?” He actually responded: "That would never be the case if there were no politics."

Einstein saw politics, nationalism -- and the power that comes with it -- as the problem. And the Holocaust did nothing to change his opinion. It reinforced it.

Kirsch concludes about Einstein that "his reservations about Israel were voiced from the standpoint of his unquestionable commitment to Zionism."

Einstein's opposition to a Jewish State does not change that.


But that key component, the recognition of the indigenous connection of Jews with Israel -- a connection whose recognition just 100 years ago made the Balfour Declaration and subsequent events possible -- that recognition is fading and can no longer be taken for granted.

The fact that members of Congress like Tlaib and Omar can get away with anti-Jewish and anti-Israel statements with impunity is a sign of the dangerous times we now live in when bipartisan support for Israel is becoming a thing of the past right before our eyes.

It is a dangerous time for both Jews and for Israel, regardless of the pro-Israel policies of the current president.

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