This is the begining of a twelve part series on "The Origin Of The Palestine-Israel Conflict" which was published by JEWS FOR JUSTICE IN THE MIDDLE EAST. We hope you find this series informative.
The standard Zionist position is that they showed up in Palestine to reclaim their ancestral homeland in the late 19th century. Jews bought land and started building up the Jewish community there. They were met with increasingly violent opposition from the Palestinian Arabs, presumably stemming from the Arabs' inherent anti-Semitism. The Zionists were then forced to defend themselves and, in one form or another, this same situation continues up to today.
The problem with this explanation is that it is simply not true, as the documentary evidence in this booklet will show. What really happened was that the Zionist movement, from the beginning, looked forward to a practically complete dispossession of the indigenous Arab population so that Israel could be a wholly Jewish state, or as much as was possible. Land bought by the Jewish National Fund was held in the name of the Jewish people and could never be sold or even leased back to Arabs (a situation which continues to the present).
The Arab community, as it became increasingly aware of the Zionists' intentions, strenuously opposed further Jewish immigration and land buying because it posed a real and imminent danger to the very existence of Arab society in Palestine. Because of this opposition, the entire Zionist project never could have been realized without the military backing of the British. The vast majority of the population of Palestine, by the way, had been Arabic since the seventh century A.D. (Over 1200 years)
In short, Zionism was based on a faulty, colonialist world view that the rights of the indigenous inhabitants didn't matter. The Arabs' opposition to Zionism wasn't based on anti-Semitism but rather on a totally reasonable fear of the dispossession of their people.
One further point: being Jewish ourselves, the position we present here is critical of Zionism but is in no way anti-Semitic. We do not believe that the Jews acted worse than any other group might have acted in their situation. The Zionists (who were a distinct minority of the Jewish people until after WWII) had an understandable desire to establish a place where Jews could be masters of their own fate, given the bleak history of Jewish oppression. Especially as the danger to European Jewry crystalized in the late 1930's and after, the actions of the Zionists were propelled by real desperation.
But so were the actions of the Arabs. The mythic "land without people for a people without land" was already home to 700,000 Palestinians in 1919. This is the root of the problem, as we shall see.
JEWISH CRITICISM OF ZIONISM
"Albert Einstein - "'I should much rather see reasonable agreement with the Arabs on the basis of living together in peace than the creation of a Jewish State. Apart from practical considerations, my awareness of the essential nature of Judaism resists the idea of a Jewish State,with borders, an army, and a measure of temporal power, no matter how modest. I am afraid of the inner damage Judaism will sustain'...
"Professor Erich Fromm, a noted Jewish writer and thinker, [stated]...'In general international law, the principle holds true that no citizen loses his property or his rights of citizenship; and the citizenship right is de facto a right to which the Arabs in Israel have much more legitimacy than the Jews. Just because the Arabs fled? Since when is that punishable by confiscation of property, and by being barred from returning to the land on which a people's forefathers have lived for generations? Thus, the claim of the Jews to the land of Israel cannot be a realistic claim. If all nations would suddenly claim territory in which their forefathers had lived two thousand years ago, this world would be a madhouse...I believe that, politically speaking, there is only one solution for Israel, namely, the unilateral acknowledgement of the obligation of the State towards the Arabs - not to use it as a bargaining point, but to acknowledge the complete moral obligation of the Israeli State to its former inhabitants of Palestine'...
"Martin Buber - 'Only an internal revolution can have the power to heal our people of their murderous sickness of causeless hatred...It is bound to bring complete ruin upon us. Only then will the old and young in our land realize how great was our responsibility to those miserable Arab refugees in whose towns we have settled Jews who were brought here from afar; whose homes we have inherited, whose fields we now sow and harvest; the fruits of whose gardens, orchards and vineyards we gather; and in whose cities that we robbed we put up houses of education, charity, and prayer, while we babble and rave about being the "People of the Book" and the "light of the nations"'...
"In an article published in the Washington Post of 3 October 1978, Rabbi Hirsch (of Jerusalem) is reported to have declared: 'The 12th principle of our faith, I believe, is that the Messiah will gather the Jewish exiled who are dispersed throughout the nations of the world. Zionism is diametrically opposed to Judaism. Zionism wishes to define the Jewish people as a nationalistic entity. The Zionists say, in effect, 'Look here, God. We do not like exile. Take us back, and if you don't, we'll just roll up our sleeves and take ourselves back.' 'The Rabbi continues: 'This, of course, is heresy. The Jewish people are charged by Divine oath not to force themselves back to the Holy Land against the wishes of those residing there.'" Sami Hadawi, "Bitter Harvest."
Jewish Criticism - continued
"A Jewish Home in Palestine built up on bayonets and oppression [is] not worth having, even though it succeed, whereas the very attempt to build it up peacefully, cooperatively, with understanding, education, and good will, [is] worth a great deal even though the attempt should fail." Rabbi Judah L. Magnes, first president of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, quoted in "Like All The Nations?", ed. Brinner & Rischin.
Martin Buber on what Zionism should have been
"The first fact is that at the time when we entered into an alliance (an alliance, I admit, that was not well defined) with a European state and we provided that state with a claim to rule over Palestine, we made no attempt to reach an agreement with the Arabs of this land regarding the basis and conditions for the continuation of Jewish settlement. This negative approach caused those Arabs who thought about and were concerned about the future of their people to see us increasingly not as a group which desired to live in cooperation with their people but as something in the nature of uninvited guests and agents of foreign interests (at the time I explicitly pointed out this fact).
"The second fact is that we took hold of the key economic positions in the country without compensating the Arab population, that is to say without allowing their capital and their labor a share in our economic activity. Paying the large landowners for purchases made or paying compensation to tenants on the land is not the same as compensating a people. As a result, many of the more thoughtful Arabs viewed the advance of Jewish settlement as a kind of plot designed to dispossess future generations of their people of the land necessary for their existence and development. Only by means of a comprehensive and vigorous economic policy aimed at organizing and developing common interests would it have been possible to contend with this view and its inevitable consequences. This we did not do.
"The third fact is that when a possibility arose that the Mandate would soon be terminated, not only did we not propose to the Arab population of the country that a joint Jewish Arab administration be set up in its place, we went ahead and demanded rule over the whole country (the Biltmore program) as a fitting political sequel to the gains we had already made. By this step, we with our own hands provided our enemies in the Arab camp with aid and comfort of the most valuable sort - the support of public opinion - without which the military attack launched against us would not have been possible. For it now appears to the Arab populace that in carrying on the activities we have been engaged in for years, in acquiring land and in working and developing the land, we were systematically laying the ground work for gaining control of the whole country." Martin Buber, quoted in "A Land of Two Peoples" ed. Mendes-Flohr
Israel's new historians now refute myths of the founding of the state
"Since the 1980's,...from the heart of the Israeli intellectual elite came a position adopting many of the political and ideological claims made by movements that represented the victims of official Zionism...Israeli scholars concurred with their Palestinian counterparts that Zionism was...carried out as a pure colonialist act against the local population: a mixture of exploitation and expropriation... "They were motivated to present a revisionist point of view to a large extent by the declassification of relevant archival material in Israel, Britain and the United States. [For example,]...
Challenging the Myth of Annihilation - The new historiographical picture is a fundamental challenge to the official history that says the Jewish community faced possible annihilation on the eve of the 1948 war. Archival documents expose a fragmented Arab world wrought by dismay and confusion and a Palestinian community that possessed no military ability with which to frighten the Jews...
Israel's responsibility for Refugees - The Jewish military advantage was translated into an act of mass expulsion of more than half of the Palestinian population. The Israeli forces, apart from rare exceptions, expelled the Palestinians from every village and town they occupied. In some cases, this expulsion was accompanied by massacres [of civilians] as was the case in Lydda, Ramleh, Dawimiyya, Sa'sa, Ein Zietun and other places. Expulsion also was accompanied by rape, looting and confiscation [of Palestinian land and property]...
The Myth of Arab Intransigence - [The U.N.] convened a peace conference in Lausanne, Switzerland in the spring of 1949. Before the conference, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution that in effect replaced the November 1947 partition resolution. This new resolution, Resolution 194 of December 11, 1948, accepted [U.N. Mediator] Bernadotte's triangular basis for a comprehensive peace: an unconditional return of all the refugees to their homes, the internationalization of Jerusalem, and the partitioning of Palestine into two states. This time, several Arab states and various representatives of the Palestinians accepted this as a basis for negotiations, as did the United States, which was running the show at Lausanne...Prime Minister David Ben Gurion strongly opposed any peace negotiations along these lines...The only reason he was willing to allow Israel to participate in the peace conference was his fear of an angry American reaction...The road to peace was not taken due to Israeli, not Arab, intransigence.
Conclusions - The new Israeli historians...wish to rectify what their research reveals as past evils...There was a high price exacted in creating a Jewish state in Palestine. And there were victims, the plight of whom still fuels the fire of conflict in Palestine." Israeli historian, Ilan Pappe in "The Link", January, 1998.
The effect of Zionism on American Jews.
"The corruption of Judaism, as a religion of universal values, through its politicization by Zionism and by the replacement of dedication to Israel for dedication to God and the moral law, is what has alienated so many young Americans who, searching for spiritual meaning in life, have found little in the organized Jewish community." Allan Brownfield, "Issues of the American Council for Judaism", Spring 1997.Part 2