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63 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I am ashamed of my own people., January 3, 2009
This review is from: Plowshares into Swords: From Zionism to Israel (Hardcover)
Page 144: "Even after Krystallnacht on November 9, 1938, when Neville Chamberlain offered a refuge for Jewish children in England, Ben-Gurion confided that, given the choice between saving `all the Jewish children of Germany [and Austria] by sending them to England' and saving `only half of them by taking them to Palestine,' he would opt for the latter." This along with the Zionist axiom that Palestine was "a land without people" for taking by the Jews, "a people without land," goes to the heart of why the Zionists have created so much misery in the Near East and have helped destabilize the world. It is inconceivable that in October of 2000, after both the UN General Assembly and Commission on Human Rights overwhelmingly criticized Israel for excessive use of force (1000 Palestinian deaths versus a few Israelis) following Palestinian riots in response to Sharon's symbolic arrogation of the Temple Mount, that the US House of Representative voted 365 to 30 denouncing the UN and blaming the Palestinians. We are living through that Looking Glass again.

Like Arno Mayer, I grew up on the lies the Zionists told me only to be awakened to the realities of the history of Zionist aggression and abuse by the Israeli revisionist historians. As I sit here and write the Israeli army is bombing woman and children, destroying universities and infrastructure in Gaza, claiming this as incidental collateral damage in their pursuit of a few terrorists who, after Israel had blockaded Gaza for months, hurled missiles into Israel which had little effect. The three or four hundred Palestinians currently being killed (and the count keeps rising) are not very many by the standard of Israel's bombing of the UN refugee camp in Lebanon or Sabra and Chatila, or the expulsions of 1948. As the conflict has become more open, Hamas' rockets are now a little more accurate. While the death of Israelis are to be genuinely mourned, Zionists are still trying to make Palestine a land without people in spite of the Palestinians refusal to go away.

Arno Mayer's preface and long prolegomena, which begin the book, lay out how he came to need to write about the history of Zionism. It reads like my own awakening---we are both Western European Jews (''' or yekes--assimilated Jews, regarded as arrogant snobs by Eastern European stettl Jews) who have lived the Western Enlightenment which the Zionists used to rationalize their land grab. He is a European historian at Princeton and I was a sociologist at Brandeis. Although Mayer's family escaped the Nazis and his father was an early secular Zionist it wasn't until Sharon's armed visit to the Temple of the Mount (the holiest Muslim sight in Jerusalem) that Mayer began to apply that same Enlightenment scholarly bent to explore the roots of Zionism. My German-American and Russian-Canadian parents met in Baghdad. I bought Israel bonds in Hebrew school in the late `40s. My childhood was steeped in a love/hate of Germany and idealization of Israel where relatives from Russia had found refuge. My father, as I did later, poured over Churchill's monumental history of WWII.

The story Mayer tells is basically that of the revisionist historians although he puts great emphasis on the warnings Buber and others made that dehumanizing the Palestinian Arabs would have terrible consequences. And Mayer doesn't recant as apparently some revisionist historians have, because surviving in Israel continuing to give lie to the ever increasingly dominant military-political and religious ideology, that the Palestinians are non-peoples who are not entitled to either the land they once lived in, political independence, their religious sites or their olive trees under which the bible asserts humans have the right to sit and not be made afraid, is just too difficult.

Arno Mayer has done a masterful (and very depressing) job of portraying Zionism's history, the dilemma of Jews in Europe, the Wedding of Zionism to European imperialism, the impact of the Holocaust, etc. He does not stint in showing the selfishness and self-defeating dishonesty of both the Palestinians and the Arab rulers of nearby countries. But the scales tip overwhelming in the direction of Zionist viciousness and historical falsehood. It is totally reasonable that the Arabs should not be made responsible for righting the wrong of European Judeocide. What Chamberlain offered for the children, the US and Western Europe never extended either before the war or after there was knowledge of the "Final Solution." We conveniently exported the responsibility for righting the wrong to the Arabs. I remember going through some historical papers at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton and coming across its director's discussion of which Jewish mathematicians to save before Dec. 7th. He had been known as an anti-Semite. It seemed to me he lacked enthusiasm for the saving Jews. I know that opening the floodgates either before or after the war might not have been politically feasible, but neither would the Zionists have sanctioned it. Better half dead than all saved outside of Canaan.

It is interesting how little of the perspective portrayed by Mayer is acknowledged by either US politicians or available to the public at large. The blurbs on the book jacket are from a Muslim, the London Times, and the Nation. The book is published by a radical press. Where are Princeton University Press, Pantheon, and Random House who published Mayer's earlier books? Has fear of the Zionist lobby gotten to them. Look how Jimmy Carter was pilloried for making the apt comparison of Israel's treatment of Palestinians to Apartheid or the calumny heaped upon the two academic authors who showed how much the Zionist lobby has influenced American foreign policy to the detriment of the US. Would a Nancy Pelosi, Hilary Clinton, or Barak Obama have the courage to say they learned something from this book which might lead them to be more even handed in US, Near East policy? Bill Clinton tried in a weak sort of way, but never confronted Israeli leadership with the most powerful lever the US has, its blind financial and military support. And the Bush regime: well they certainly left the world and the US much worse off they found it. One could hardly imagine a more destructive and self-destructive policy than Bush and company, abetted by the Democrats, have foisted on the Middle East. If Israel was threatened with withdrawal of US support, it is my guess that its military-politicians and religious fanatics would not back down. They would go it alone. But, at least, they would not have the resources of the US to use to continually brutalize the Palestinians and threaten their neighbors. In the end real US even-handedness might bring a more just accommodation. In the mean time, I weep while listening to the news and try to give a little succor to the Palestinian children who do not deserve the death and destruction which is raining down on them from F-16s. What is the solution? A bi-national state? But then Jewish identity, which has drifted far from the vision of its Enlightenment, social democratic, Zionist founders, could not be enforced. Open the gates of the US? We did it for the Vietnamese and Hmong Something has to give and the Palestinians have little left. It thus remains to Israel to find a way to live with those they dispossessed and the US to stop supporting their refusal to do so. Mayer shows how weak their excuses for not doing so are. This book should be required reading for any one who cares.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 20, 2010 3:58:59 PM PDT
Joe Highbrow says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 6, 2011 6:58:26 PM PST
Markareet says:
Joe Highbrow has told me more about himself than about the author, Prof. Mayer.

Posted on Feb 10, 2011 10:05:40 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 10, 2011 10:29:50 PM PST
L. King says:
The reviewer offers two misquotes and a bastardized view of history. The first is Ben Gurion's aside, which is often trumpeted by anti-Zionists. Here the issue was the rescue of Jewish children.... made on Nov 9, 1938. However up until that point in time Hitler was just another fascist dictator with an animousity towards Jews. Ben Gurion was many things, but he wasn't psychic. Hitler's "Final Solution" began 3 years later, in November of 1941. Ben Gurion as a Zionist saw that the long term survival of the Jewish people lay in building a sovereign Jewish state, not in emigrating to to yet another diaspora. The accusation is made as if BG knew that the third alternative was Auschwitz, and to make a minor comment appear to be more significant. It also supposes that BG was able to affect either outcome, and as history has shown, he was not.

The 2nd misquote, often used by the anti-Zionist lobbyists, is that a Zionist slogan was "a land w/o a people". You won't find this quote on Zionist web sites or in Zionist publications. It's actually a mantra of the other side designed to make Jews look callous. The following article points out the origin of the phrase with Christian theologians of the 19th century. Zionists such as BG, Chaim Weizman, Martin Buber and the early settlers were quite aware of the presence of Arabs. Indeed Jews have attempted to migrate back to their homeland for centuries, and were kept from doing so en mass by restrictive laws and unfair taxation imposed by the Muslim rulers. It was only the Turkish land reforms of 1856 that opened up the opportunity for Jews to return to the land and to establish economic strength, as we can see in the rise Sephardic community: Sephardi Entrepreneurs in Jerusalem: The Valero Family 1800-1948

Herzl's Zionism was essentially a liberal program and tolerated a whole range of political options, all of which were rejected by what became the main stream Arab narrative. However one has to also consider the role of the Mufti, Hajj Amin Husseini, backed by his clan and political connections, in shaping that narrative, largely through a program on terror and intimidation that took place in the mid 1930s, esp. during the Arab Revolt of 1936-39. ref: Army of Shadows: Palestinian Collaboration with Zionism, 1917-1948. Even Einstein, who favoured a binational state, came to the conclusion that the intransigence of the Arabs had made that option impossible. Inherently the Palestinian nationalism program began and remains racist, apartheid and exclusionary as it explicitly calls for the ethnic cleansing of Jews within its future borders.

The root of the reviewer's discontent (and many others) is a slavish adherence to a principle that "indigenous people" inherently have superordinate rights over the immigrant, and, as the child of refugee immigrants (as is the reviewer); this is a principle I have to reject, because if I do then I and half of humanity have no rights. A priori North and South American countries should morally cease to exist, and every migrant population from the Chinese of Malaysia to the Bantu of South Africa should "go back to where they came from". We could spend pages arguing over the particulars, for example the lack of a Palestinian polity that itself formed as a reaction to Zionism, but was not evident in the previous century (James Findley, American consul to Jerusalem mentions one wiping out of 17 villages in what amounts to tribal wars in 1850s), the regional movement of Bedouins and villagers in and out of what became Israel, Gaza and the West Bank to Egypt, Syria, Jordan, the Lebanon and beyond (why not - borders came later), the amorphous definition of "Palestine" over time which included parts of Syria, Lebanon and half of Trans-Jordan, distributed over a collection of 3 viellets and a changing number of sanjaks. The implication that those calling themselves Palestinians today should retroactively have prior sovereign rights that just happen to include Israel, but exclude anywhere else such as Jordan whose population is at least 70% ethnic Palestinian is highly suspect. The fact is that Zionist nationalism, which was inclusive the preexisting population, established itself with the institutions of government long before Palestinian nationalism did. [Arguably in the last 3 years Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad has made some progress. Arafat`s corruption and siphoning off of aid (lack of accountability) was a major factor in the delay, however to date Fayyad has yet to take over even responsibility for garbage collection and education from UNRWA.] Indeed, Palestinian nationalism of the 1920s and 30s barely existed - from the King/Crane report 80% of respondents favored the option of Greater Syria, with only 6 individuals seeking local independence.

None of the reviews that I've read here tell me that much about the book. So I think I'll pass. The reviewer seems to fit the description of the ASHamed Jew parodied in The Finkler Question, so wound up in his own moral Gordian knots that he forgets where he stands. The Arab program of 1948 was for the extermination of the Jewish Yishuv. There was no plan for any survivors. That alone puts Mr. Fisher in the same box he attempted to place Ben Gurion in. Touché.

In reply to an earlier post on May 5, 2011 2:29:53 AM PDT
Brewer says:
L. King's criticism relies on sleight of hand.

Ben Gurion's remarks were subsequent to Krystallnicht, an event that clearly illustrated that the situation in Germany represented a threat to life and limb. Ben Gurion's sentiment is unchanged by the particular type of danger to which he was prepared to sacrifice Jewish children in the name of his cause.

"You won't find this quote on Zionist web sites or in Zionist publications."
Probably not but, regardless of it's origin, you will find it in the mouths of Israel Zangwill , Chaim Weizman and other worthies and it is found in many variations today such as "there never was a Palestinian people". These have taken root and are the stock and trade of present day apologists (L. King included) for what was a particularly vicious form of colonialism - one that resulted in the uprooting of nigh on a million indigenous inhabitants and their continuing dispossession - behind Jabotinsky's "Iron Wall" (a quote I doubt L. King wishes to dispute).

From a Zionist perspective no doubt Husseini appears villainous but from no other. Any political leader who did not act against forcible threats to the existing order and promised self-determination would be vilified. History has not been kind to the likes of Marshal Philippe Pétain.

The argument that colonial enterprises of the past justify a mid-twentieth century colonialism fails on two counts. The first and most obvious is that by this technique one could just as blithely justify slavery. Secondly, almost all injustice arising out of colonialism in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries is acknowledged and reparations to the surviving generations have been instituted. Israel has yet to acknowledge its past.

It is a pity L. King chooses to pass on this book on such meagre grounds. The statement: "The Arab program of 1948 was for the extermination of the Jewish Yishuv" indicates that he/she has read very little of the History for it is unsupported by document, authenticated statement or action by the Arab League. It is only by reading works such as Mayer's and following the footnotes that such facts can be ascertained.
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