Posted by Jeff from bgp01107368bgs.wbrmfd01.mi.comcast.net (220.127.116.11) on Thursday, April 25, 2002 at 8:55AM :
Not a holocaust, just ethnic cleansing
By Guy Rundle
April 24 2002
Those who do not know history are condemned to repeat the lead story on the six o'clock news. Nowhere is this paradigm of contemporary media commentary more apparent than in the case of the Middle East, where historical memory seems to extend no further back than 1994.
For a range of commentators, Palestinian attacks on Israel are inexplicable, given the offers of land for peace that are, or were, on the table. The continued campaign of terrorism and resistance can only be traced back to antiJewish feeling, as proved by a new wave of attacks on synagogues across the world. Western solidarity with Palestinians is more about a freefloating hatred for Israel and authority than it is positive, and so on.
Such charges are profoundly and often wilfully ignorant of the complex history of the region, and one has grown accustomed to hearing them expressed by sections of the proIsrael lobby. But how widespread is this lack of understanding? To judge from Age columnist Pamela Bone's article ("It might be an ugly war, but a Palestinian holocaust it is not," on this page yesterday) it is extending well into the hinterland of political comment.
Bone revisits the main charges against those who support Palestine in a manner that strikes me as tendentious in the extreme. But the centrepiece of her argument is that no matter how bad Israel's current actions, no Israeli government has ever intended to "wipe out" the Palestinian people. You can honestly believe there has been no attempt to drive them out, but you have to stay scrupulously ignorant of history to do so.
The plain fact is that one wing of Zionism - the socalled "revisionist" wing - founded itself on the notion that the Palestinian people would have to be driven out of the land of both Palestine and Transjordan (today's state of Jordan) and that, if they weren't willing to go, they would have to be subjugated as a permanent minority within a Zionist state, or forced to leave by any means necessary.
Revisionism's founder, Vladimir Jabotinsky, laid down the basis of the argument in the 1920s. To clear Palestine of Arabs he wanted a Jewish army, and he founded a series of Zionist youth militias across Europe - groups which leftwing Zionists charged had more in common with farright militias than with the Zionist project. Jabotinsky made some efforts to discipline his more effusive followers (though he never expelled those such as Abba Achimeir, who suggested that Hitler's "renewal" of the German people was something Zionists could follow by example), but by the 1940s they had blossomed into the Irgun and the Lehi. These gangs terrorised Palestinians after World WarII, rolling bombs into Arab markets and massacring people in villages such as Deir Yassin.
The strategy was ethnic cleansing, pure and simple, and it worked - it turned nearly a million Palestinians into refugees. The Irgun hoped they would simply keep on going into wider Arabia. The Arab world, which was well aware of the strategy, has had other ideas.
Jabotinsky's follower, Menachem Begin, became prime minister in 1977 and accelerated phase two of the plan - land theft in the West Bank and the creation of Jewish settlements, to ensure that Palestinians became a powerless minority within expanded borders. Because this was an ongoing military campaign, Begin made a former general his minister of housing - Ariel Sharon.
The world has forgotten this history. The Palestinians remember it, and that is part of the reason they fight with such desperate ferocity, with a strategy - terrorism - that had hitherto been so successfully turned on them. "We would not go down into the ditch again," Begin said, remembering his terrorist years in his memoirs. Clearly, the Palestinians have come to the same resolution - they will not be disappeared, cleansed or permanently subjugated as secondclass citizens.
International communiques that "this is not the Holocaust" are correct, given what we know of the Holocaust. But it's probably more difficult to make that distinction when your family is killed because someone in your refugee camp was a suicide bomber, especially if you're there because your family fled there in terror decades earlier.
Ignore this complex history and you soon end up in total historical ignorance. Bone, for example, cites the "dislike of Jews that has long been close to the mainstream in some Arab countries" as if this was some sort of explanation for the present conflict.
In fact, it was the relatively peaceful relations between Jews and Arabs in Palestine - as compared with the violent antiJewish feeling across Eastern Europe and Russia - that convinced the early Zionists that the project was practicable in the first place. Yes, the past 50 years has produced extreme antiJewish feeling in sections of the Arab press, just as social tension in Australia has given rise to the shockjock culture. But Bone wouldn't want to be judged by the opinions of Stan Zemanek and I suggest she extend the same courtesy to the Arab world.
And yes, you can always find antiJewish nutters on the Internet, attaching themselves to the Palestinian cause. But antiJewish nutters attach themselves to a lot of causes. I suspect the League of Rights, for example, would heartily endorse attacks made on the global banking system by a certain Pamela Bone.
It's easy to be blinded by guilt by association, even where some associations exist. But if Bone and others don't keep a clearsighted view of the issues they'll end up hopelessly confused and saying things that are manifestly silly - that criticising white South Africans during the apartheid years was merely "another form of racism", for example. At which point, even the proIsrael lobby might start to wish they'd turn their attentions elsewhere.
Guy Rundle is coeditor of Arena Magazine.
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