Eikh u-matai humtza ha-am ha-yehudi? (When and how was the Jewish
people invented?), by Shlomo Sand, Tel Aviv: Resling, 2008, 358 pp.
Judaism’s distinctive association between nationalism and religion has
confounded both Jews and non-Jews alike. In substance, Judaism is a
universal religion; by definition, it is tribal. The boundaries of
Jewish nationalism are defined by adherence to the Jewish religion.
This marriage of religion and nationalism is not unique to Jews. In
the case of other peoples too (Ukrainians, Poles, Irish, Greeks,
Hispanics, Pakistanis, Iranians, Arabs etc.), the definition of
identity contains an inherent religious component; their religions,
however, having been adopted also by non-nationals, may be portrayed
as universal. In the case of Jews, the boundaries are blurred: from
the start of modern times, there have been Jews who considered
themselves affiliated with the Jewish religious community but opted
out of Jewish nationality, embracing the national identities of their
countries of residence.
For those outside of the Jewish collective, the link of religion and
nationality is hard to accept; even insiders find it strange.
Conversion as the entry ticket to Jewish nationality, as the tribal
rite of passage, appears anachronistic and embarrassing in an
increasingly secular era. Thus, in every decade we have seen attempts
to undo that link by inventing a new past; to eradicate the symbiotic
relationship between religion and nationality and to allow the new
Israeli nationality to spread its wings and soar away from Jewish
history as it was, to an imaginary past cleansed of Jewish
shortcomings and weaknesses...A. B. Yehoshua [and] several other
figures, such as Boas Evron and Joseph Agassi, conceived and spread
The latest thinker along these lines is Shlomo Sand, whose expertise
is French history. Sand contests the historical connection between the
Jewish people and the land of Israel. He argues that the Jewish
people, to use his words, is an “invented” entity or “implanted
memory” with no connection, in fact, to the land of Israel. The denial
of such a connection and the narrow definition of Jews as just a
“religious community” – a millet, a Turkish term used by the
“Canaanites” to define exilic Jewry – aims to influence Israeli Jews
to change their self-image and open up to a civil concept of identity;
this would enable the State of Israel to become a “state of all its
citizens,” unrelated to diaspora Jews who are also just local
religious communities (e.g. “Judeo-Americans,” as he calls them).
I would like to examine the attempt to drag history into a topical
argument, and with the help of misrepresentations and half-truths to
adapt it to the needs of a political discussion, and all this,
ostensibly, under an academic mantle. Sand has written a sharp,
pointed polemic drawing on much varied historical material which he re-
kneads at will in order to prove that there is not and never was a
Jewish nationality. If we were to remove Sand’s long discourse on the
essence of nationalism, which is not essential to the basic
discussion, as well as his meandering discourse on Zionism’s
ostensibly racist nature, which looks like little more than a sideways
dig, Sand’s main thesis is: there is no such thing as a Jewish people,
there are only Jewish-religious communities which were formed mainly
by mass conversions throughout Jewish history.
Sand is bent on undermining the traditional Jewish narrative, which
depicts the Jewish people of today as the descendants of the biblical
and Second Temple Jews who lost their land, dispersed over the world,
yet retained their bond to the land-of-Israel homeland, to which – as
the Scroll of Independence states – they have now returned. This
portrayal of the Jewish people, he contends, is the result of the work
of the great Jewish historians of the nineteenth and twentieth
centuries, especially Heinrich Graetz, Simon Dubnow, and Ben-Zion
Dinur. The “bad guys” in the story are the historians for having
invented the Jewish people. Sand does not distinguish between Zionists
and other types of Jewish nationalists; hence he situates Graetz and
Dubnow in the bosom of Zionism, as having created the national
narrative that eventually served Zionism. He dismisses the great
Jewish historians and finds fault with the concepts of sociologist
Anthony Smith because they are not consistent with his own
conceptions....Sand goes on to “grade” Jewish history departments,
which – in his words – are characterized by a “stubborn refusal to
open up to innovative historiography that addresses Jewish origins and
identity” (p. 28)...he creates a problem where one does not exist and
then protests: why is it not being dealt with?
Is there really an innovative historiography pressing for the study of
Jewish origins and identity? Moreover, why should the question of
Jewish origins be the key to the analysis of identity? Isn’t this
topsy-turvy: a racist proposition that pins identity on origin? No one
is claiming that Jews have been racially pure since antiquity. No sane
historian would make such a claim. On the contrary: the historians
whom Sand both relies on and dismisses have all acknowledged the
conversions of the Second Temple period and the early Middle Ages, a
phenomenon that added thousands of new “members” to the Jewish people.
Alongside the conversions to Judaism, the Jewish people also lost many
of its members since the Second Temple period – to Christianity, to
Islam, or to assimilation. Belonging to the Jewish people was never
conditional on race but on adopting the Jewish religion, and it is
still so. Consequently, the discussion of Jewish origins may be
intellectually interesting, a curiosity, so long as it does not
degenerate into racial overtones. But it is hardly clear why the topic
is so important to historical research that it merits accusing all
Jewish history scholars of narrow conservatism.
Sand bases his arguments on the most esoteric and controversial
interpretations, while seeking to undermine the credibility of
important scholars by dismissing their conclusions without bringing
any evidence to bear....He cites the reservations of archeologists as
to the beginnings of the Jewish people, the Exodus etc. Israeli
archeologists maintain that they have found no archeological evidence
to substantiate the Bible’s presentation of the greatness of the
kingdoms of David and Solomon. They believe that Judaism apparently
took its first steps in the days of Josiah and the major religious
reformation then, to which time Judaism may plausibly be dated. Even
this interpretation does not satisfy him. He enlists the extreme
Copenhagen School which, following Julius Wellhausen, totally ignores
the First Temple period and situates the emergence of Judaism in the
Babylonian exile (p. 122). In so doing, he seeks to downplay the
periods of Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel... Sand “uncovers”
the well-known fact that during the Second Temple period, a Jewish
diaspora emerged throughout the Roman Empire. Menachem Stern, a
historian of the period, cited several causes for its emergence at
that time, from expulsions to economic reasons and conversions. Sand
comments: “The technique of spreading information in national-history
studies finds pointed expression here” (p. 145). In other words, the
fact that Stern listed conversions at the end of his series of causes
is interpreted by Sand as a ploy to conceal what he, Sand, regards as
the decisive factor. Stern may have listed conversions at the end of
his series of causes because he differed from Sand in his assessment,
or by pure chance, with no hidden agenda whatsoever, but Sand sees
secret motives everywhere. In much the same way, Sand treats the
historians Haim Ze’ev Hirshberg and Israel Ben Ze’ev, who wrote on the
Jewish kingdom in Himyar and on Berber tribes that converted in North
Africa, and from whom Sand drew his knowledge about the converts.
Hirshberg claimed that most of the converts to Judaism became Muslims
upon the Islamic conquest. Sand does not accept this assertion, as he
wishes to claim that North African Jewry stemmed from these converts.
So he lambasts the historian for “not having understood” this
“fact” (p. 200). When the fourteenth-century Arab historian, Ibn
Khaldun, expresses doubt about the conversion of the Berbers and
writes that, in any case, the Muslim conqueror who captured North
Africa obliterated all trace of the religions extant prior to the
conquest, Sand interprets him contrary to the cited references...
Another topic Sand likes to punch holes in is the myth of exile: the
Jews (were there any or weren’t there any?) were not expelled from the
land of Israel, not exiled from it; most of them remained there and in
the end adopted Islam, and they were the forefathers of today’s
Palestinians. On the other hand, the Jewish diaspora in the Second
Temple period and later originated mainly with Jewish converts who had
no ties to the land of Israel. This is the obverse of the conversion
claim: not only were the Jews not forced out of the land of Israel,
not only were Jews in the diaspora unconnected to the land of Israel,
not only do diaspora Jews not belong to the land of Israel, but those
who do belong to the land of Israel are, rather, the Palestinians, the
land’s inhabitants since antiquity. Again, he uses the words of Dinur
and his colleagues, who questioned the concept of expulsion: they
often stressed that a significant Jewish community had remained in the
country until the seventh century, remnants of whom, according to
current research, lingered on until the conquest by the crusaders of
the eleventh century. The Zionist movement sought to show that Jews
cleaved to the country; from its point of view, the question of
expulsion was less important than showing that Jews had stayed in the
land. Again, Sand erects a phantom – exile – and “proves” that it
never happened, something historians do not deny. On the other hand,
he ignores the fact that even if Jews were not exiled from their land,
and many of them did scatter all over the Roman Empire of their own
free will, the very loss of Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel,
the Romans’ change of its name to Palestine out of a desire to erase
all trace of Jews from it, and the establishment of an idolatrous
Roman colony on the ruins of Jerusalem after the Bar-Kokhba Revolt was
crushed, went down in Jewish collective memory as traumatic. This is
true even if the Jewish community in the land of Israel, particularly
in Galilee, did continue to flourish, at least until Christianity
became predominant in the Roman Empire in the fourth century.
The awareness of exile was deeply ingrained in Jews, and their sense
of humiliation at having lost sovereignty over the land of Israel only
heightened with the rise of Christianity and Islam – unrelated to the
question of whether or not they had been forced into exile. Sand
flaunts the assumption of one historian that the myth of the
“wandering Jew,” which interprets the sojourn of Jews in the diaspora
as retribution rather than free choice, came down to the Jews via
Christian sources. Even if we take this assumption to be true, it does
not detract from the importance of the self-image of Jews as a
suffering collective pushed from pillar to post in exile. In this
matter as in others Sand presents, there is also another
interpretation for the founding of the myth of exile: the expression
“because we sinned we were exiled from our land” appears in Hebrew
prayer and was documented in writing as early as the ninth century and
apparently dated back much further: it is not necessarily a Christian
concept, but a Jewish one, that sees the distancing from the land of
Israel as divine retribution, a wretched state in quest of tikkun –
repair. Since there were no Zionist historians for the first thousand
years AD it appears that the “implanted memory” Sand speaks of was not
created by them, but has belonged to the self-image of Jews since the
Temple’s destruction. Ideas about the end of days were connected to
dominion over the land of Israel. “There is no difference between this
world and the days of the Messiah except [that in the latter there
will be no] bondage of foreign powers,” said the Babylonian Amora
Shmuel.4 Maimonides explains that in the messianic era, “Except for
the fact that sovereignty will revert to Israel, nothing will be
essentially different from what it is now.”5 The messianic belief
certainly contained universal elements, but the Messiah was also meant
to be a particularistic Jewish Messiah. In other words, the concept of
exile is not necessarily related to expulsion but to the self-
awareness of a people that had lost control over itself and its land.
The Jews were no less “a people” than the Romans or Greeks, which is
how their contemporaries saw them.
The sense of exile and yearning for messianic redemption lent the
sojourn in the diaspora a sense of transience that has nationalist
connotations. Indeed, these are found in the letter of Khazar King
Joseph to Hasdai Ibn Shaprut, asking for the latest news about the
coming of the Messiah in advent of the return to Jerusalem. The
“implanted memory,” it transpires, was already very firmly lodged by
the end of the first millennium, and even Jews by conversion, like the
Khazars, felt a sense of exile though they lived in independence on
their own soil. On the other hand, for Hasdai Ibn Shaprut and everyone
else who wrote about the Khazars, the very fact of a Jewish kingdom
even outside of the boundaries of the land of Israel was a source of
encouragement and pride against all the humiliation and degradation
heaped on Jews stripped of power and sovereignty. These are not
religious emotions. They are an expression of collective memory bound
up with national heritage, ancient memories, a culture of life, and
day-to-day customs that foster a consciousness of religious and
national separateness....These were not “implanted” by Zionism. They
were integral to the consciousness of the Jewish collective up to the
Jews’ encounter with the various forms of modernism, which unraveled
the fabric of Jewish identity.
At the heart of Sand’s book we find the claim that the Jews of Eastern
Europe, the “Yiddish people” by his definition, do not originate with
the Jews who came from the Middle East via Ashkenaz to Poland, but
with the Khazars, nomadic tribes that built an empire between the
Black and the Caspian seas, converted to Judaism in the eighth
century, and scattered to the four winds when their state was
destroyed between the tenth and thirteenth centuries. Sand claims that
until the 1960s the “Zionist reconstructors of the past” (well-known
forgers) did not conceal the Khazar origins of Jews but since then, a
“time of silence” has cloaked the subject. He surmises that the change
stemmed from one of two causes: either (1) decolonization, which made
it necessary to prove that Jews are not merely the white settlers of a
country not theirs (such claims against Zionism had already emerged at
the start of the British Mandate, during that very same period in
which, according to Sand, the Zionists did not conceal their Khazar
origin); or (2) the added weight given to ethnicity in the politics of
identity in the 1970s (but, he claims that the “time of silence” began
earlier ... ). There were people who took pains to play down the
Khazar connection, Sand asserts, “as the state’s memory mechanisms
became established and consolidated in the State of Israel” (pp. 206–
8). The idea of a conspiracy of dark forces sitting and plotting what
to excise from collective memory reflects the paranoia of an
ideological minority that seemingly believes that if they were in
power, this is how they would behave.
Have historians really claimed what Sand is attributing to them? It
appears that their assertions were far more qualified though they did
mention the Khazars and were even enthusiastic about the idea of a
Jewish kingdom in the early Middle Ages. On the question of the
Khazars, Sand’s methods again come to the fore as he grabs at the most
unorthodox theory in the field and stretches it to the outer limits of
logic and beyond. A few examples: scholars disagree on whether all the
Khazars or only the monarchy and aristocratic elite converted to
Judaism. To Sand it is clear that all the Khazars converted. When the
Khazar state was conquered by the Russians and the royal family and
nobility were apparently killed, the sources speak about some of the
Khazars converting to Islam and some to Christianity. Some apparently
continued to be Jewish, settling in the Crimean Peninsula and the city
of Kiev in Russia. What the actual figures were remains unknown, but
they did not number in the masses. The sources are very sparse; to the
extent that there is any archeological evidence, it is very little.
The whole subject straddles the seam between legend and historical
reality. The most esteemed scholar of the Khazar monarchy, by Sand’s
own acknowledgment, is D. M. Dunlop, a British non-Jew in command of
the languages needed to study the Khazars, on whom information is
found in Arabic, Hebrew, Byzantine and Chinese literature. This
information is fragmentary and at times contradictory. Dunlop, at the
end of his book, relates to the theory that the Jews of Eastern Europe
are the descendants of the Khazars; he states that “This can be dealt
with very shortly, because there is little evidence which bears
directly upon it, and it unavoidably retains the character of a mere
assumption.”6 With typical English understatement, he also adds that
to speak of East European Jewry, i.e. the Ashkenazim, as the
descendants of the Khazars “would be to go much beyond what our
imperfect records allow.”7 Sand defines Dunlop as “extremely cautious”
and the gist of his work as “apprehensive” (p. 227). Certainly, Dunlop
was cautious since he did not find any material to corroborate wild
flights of fancy. Sand, on the other hand, allows himself to soar
beyond the existing historical evidence to history as it might have
Sand is far from being a pioneer in asserting that present-day
Ashkenazi Jews stemmed from the Khazars. The question of Jewish
Khazarian origins has stirred tremendous interest in the last 60
years, mostly out of unsavory motives. An Internet search for
“Khazars” or “Khazaria” yields dozens of websites on the subject, some
pro-Jewish though the overwhelming majority frighteningly filled with
Jew hatred. Orthodox Russian nationalists present the Khazar kingdom
as an expression of the eternal clash between Judaism and
Christianity. Anti-Christian, neo-pagan nationalists regard the
Khazars as part of the Zionist-Jewish plot to debilitate and thereby
control humanity. Christian fundamentalists invoke the Khazars to
undermine the idea that present-day Jews are the descendants of the
“divine people” (not that they exonerate them of the charge of
deicide). The Khazars feature on the website of the
“biblebelievers” (www.biblebelievers.org.au) which claims: “that the
Khazars are the lineal ancestors of Eastern European Jewry is a
historical fact.” The writer goes on to claim that Hitler may have
been a descendant of one of the Ten Tribes, and Chaim Weizmann of the
Khazars. Therefore, “the home to which Weizmann, Silver and so many
other Ashkenazi Zionists have yearned to return has most likely never
been theirs.” White Power members denounce Jews in U.S. government
along the lines of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and explain
that they are not really Jews but the descendants of the Khazars; they
are therefore unworthy of American aid to restore them to the land of
Israel – aid that comes from the thinking that Jews are the
descendants of the Chosen People to whom God promised the land of
Israel. This chorus has been joined by Islamic extremists who blame
the Jews for 9/11; among the other sins they ascribe to them, the
extremists contend that Jews are descended from the Khazars, they are
not true Jews at all yet they have the effrontery to lay idle claim to
the land of Israel and their connection to the Patriarch Abraham, etc.
Arthur Koestler’s book, The Thirteenth Tribe, also stars in this
inventory: “Is the Jewish ‘Chosen People’ Cliché and Falsehood
Masquerade Finally Over?” (“Research Proves Jews are not Israelites,”
Those citing it help themselves to the anti-Semitic writings of Henry
Ford. As a scholar of the history of East European Jewry, noted: the
terms “Khazaria” and “Khazars” can “be employed for any ideological
purpose to hand.”8 The abundance of anti-Jewish polemic boasting that
it is not anti-Semitic since Jews are not really Semites exposes the
racist layer at the root of the discussion of Jewish origins. Sand
does not refer to this literature and does not seem conscious of the
suspect company he keeps.
The history of ethnic groups is very difficult to map. The thirteenth-
century Mongol expeditions decimated populations, caused mass flight,
laid waste entire regions. The fourteenth-century Black Plague
destroyed at least a third of Europe’s population. What happened to
the local population in the land of Israel to which Sand attributes
Jewish beginnings – did it not endure conquests, expulsion, plagues
etc.? The same applies to the Khazars: how many of them retained their
Judaism or survived the Mongols, and how far afield did they migrate?
All these questions cannot be easily answered by the research
today....One of Sand’s main claims involves numbers: if not from the
Khazars, then where did the millions of East European Jews come from?
After all, in Germany’s Jewish quarters in the early Middle Ages there
were only several thousand. The answer lies in the statistical
data....According to the calculations of historians such as Itzhak
Schipper and Salo W. Baron, which are based on estimates of taxes paid
by Polish Jews, in 1500 (about 400 years after the destruction of the
Khazar kingdom), Poland had only 24,000–30,000 Jews. According to
another historian (Bernard D. Weinryb), there were only 10,000.11 One
way or another, these figures match both the migration rates of Jews
from the west and the natural increase without having to resort to
masses of Khazars to balance the account. The great demographic
increase of Jews in Eastern Europe occurred in the nineteenth century,
not before. This is not the place to explain the causes for its growth
but it must be stated that it did not stem from unknown migrants.
Sand claims that, apart from religion, the Jewish communities had no
common denominator and they therefore did not constitute a people. But
he brings no evidence to bear.
Sand feels threatened by genetics: what if it turns out that there is
a genetic link unique to several Jewish communities? After all, the
whole factual basis of his denying the existence of a Jewish ethnic
group will fall away. He does not bother to understand the data that
has come to light about Jewish genetics, which, in some cases points
to kinship in the genetic pool of widely-flung Jewish communities, as,
for instance, the Jews of Eastern Europe and of Iraq.12 It is so much
easier to diminish all geneticists, especially as they argue among
themselves and do not generally agree about one finding or another, a
phenomenon typical of independent research. He is content to point to
their disagreements in order to dismiss the science out of hand, and
to present it as unreliable and to be shunned by anti-racists (p.
262). As far as he is concerned, it is more reliable to construct a
theory on the flimsy legs of meager archeological findings on
Khazaria, or a linguistic analysis spurned by linguists, than on
Sand borrows his definition of “nationalism” from the French case.
“National consciousness is first and foremost a desire to live in
independence in a separate state,” he states (p. 287). This definition
ignores the nationalism of minorities, who desire to express
themselves and their cultures, not necessarily within the framework of
a separate state. ...Until the onset of modern times most of the
Jewish people did not doubt that they were a people. Down the
generations, different Jewish communities retained contact with one
another and, separately, with the land of Israel on questions of
religion and religious law, in commerce and mutual help. Even though
the Jews in the Middle East and the Jews in Europe were not identical
to one another in their way of life, they retained the common
consciousness of a community with a shared destiny, which found
expression in moments of crisis such as the ransom of hostages or the
Damascus Blood Libel. ...A confirmed anti-Jew such as Voltaire saw the
Jews as a people and linked the Jews of his times with the biblical
people of Israel.13 Only upon the separation of church and state,
which occurred in modern times, did objections begin to be heard to
the religious-national dualism of Jewish existence which was now
presented, in Arnold Toynbee’s words, as “a fossilized relic of an
extinct civilization.”14 However, the Jews are alive and would like to
go on living a national life, in Israel and the diaspora, while
retaining a changing relation between religion and nationality. The
right of Jews to define themselves on the basis of their own
definitions rather than on definitions that do not correspond to their
history lies at the basis of the right of self-determination.
The assertion that there is no Jewish people is shared by many groups:
Jews who would like to appropriate a different national identity or
challenge every national framework whatsoever; people looking for
reasons of every sort and type to question the links between the
different Jewish communities; those who object both to the bond
between the Jewish people and the land of Israel and to that people’s
right to a state of its own. To deny the existence of the Jewish
people sometimes stems from a search for universalism, sometimes from
considerations of a rival nationalism, sometimes from mere hatred of
Jews, and sometimes from intolerance of an entity that does not fit
into the neat definitions of nation and religion. Sand would like to
promote a new Israeli agenda, striving for harmony between Jews and
Arabs, to be based on the remodeling of Jewish identity. However
positive the goals he is targeting may be in their own right, there is
something warped and objectionable in the assumption that for Jews to
integrate into the Middle East, they, and they alone of all the
peoples in the region, must shed their national identity and
historical memories and reconstruct themselves in a way that may
(perhaps) find favor with Israeli-Palestinians. But reconciliation
between peoples makes necessary a mutual recognition of truth, not an
artificial analysis that presents a fabricated front, a quasi-mask
that hides the real differences. What Sand is offering is this kind of
Are these people Jewish?
58 seconds in
Anita Shapira must be taken seriously:
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Shapira, 2006Anita Shapira (Hebrew: אניטה שפירא, born 1940) is an
Israeli historian. She is the founder of the Yitzhak Rabin Center for
Israel Studies, a Ruben Merenfeld Professor of the Study of Zionism
and head of the Weizmann Institute for the Study of Zionism at Tel
Aviv University. She received the Israel Prize in 2008.
Shapira was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1940, immigrated to Palestine in
1947 and grew up in Tel Aviv. The family lived on Yavneh Street
sharing a kitchen and bathroom with other families. Later, they moved
to Yad Eliahu.
She studied general and Jewish history at Tel Aviv University,
completing her Ph.D in 1974 under Professor Daniel Carpi. Her
dissertation, "The Struggle for Hebrew Labor, 1929-1939," indicated
her interest in the history of the Labor Zionist movement, which was
to be a continuing focus of her research. Since 1985 she has been a
full professor at Tel Aviv University, serving in 1990-95 as dean of
the Faculty of Humanities. Since 1995 she has held the Ruben Merenfeld
Chair for the Study of Zionism. In 2000, she was appointed head of the
Chaim Weizmann Institute for the Study of Zionism and Israel at Tel
Aviv University. Since 2008, she has been the director of the Israel
From 1985 to 1989, she was a member of the Planning and Budgeting
Commission of the Council for Higher Education in Israel; in 1987-90
she was chair of the board of Am Oved publishing house; since 1988 she
has been a board member of the Zalman Shazar Institute. In 2002-2008,
she was president of the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture. She
founded the Yitzhak Rabin Center for Israel Studies and its first
director in 1996-99.
In 1977, she was awarded a prize from the Ben-Zvi Institute for her
book Hama’avak Hanihzav (The Futile Struggle).
In 1992, the Am Oved publishing house awarded her a prize, on the
occasion of its 50th anniversary, for the best non-fiction book, Herev
Hayona (Land and Power), the English version of which won the National
Jewish Book Award in 1993 in the category "Israel".
In 2004, she was awarded the Zalman Shazar prize in Jewish History,
for her biography of Yigal Allon. 
In 2005, she won the Herzl Prize for her excellence in Zionist
research from the city of Herzliya.
In 2008, she was awarded the Israel Prize in Jewish history.
Shapira’s research focuses on the political, cultural, social,
intellectual and military history of the Jewish community in Palestine
(the Yishuv) and Israel. Her first book, based on her doctoral
dissertation, Hama’avak Hanihzav: Avoda Ivrit 1929-1939 (The Futile
Struggle: Hebrew Work 1929-1939), deals with the social and political
history of the Yishuv in the 1920s and 1930s, including the
controversies on policy towards the Arab population and the conflicts
between left and right on the means for achieving Zionist goals.
Her second book, Berl: The Biography of a Socialist Zionist, Berl
Katznelson, 1887-1944, was widely acclaimed by the general reading
public as well as in academia and was published in Hebrew in eight
editions. Focusing on a major figure in the Labor Zionist movement,
this book portrays the history, society and culture of the Yishuv from
the Second Aliyah to the end of World War II.
During work on a biography of Yigal Allon, Shapira became interested
in the role of force in the Zionist movement, initially inspired by an
article by Menachem Begin during the 1982 Lebanon War on “A War of
Choice.” This resulted in a book, Herev Hayona: Hatziyonut vehakoah,
1881-1948 (Land and Power: The Zionist Resort to Force, 1881-1948). In
her biography of Yigal Allon, Yigal Allon, Native Son: A Biography,
Shapira in fact portrays the development of the entire Palmach
generation in Palestine, the first native-born Sabra generation.
In this period she also started investigating issues connected to
culture and collective memory, as in articles on Latrun and S.
Yizhar’s short story “Hirbet Hize,” and on the attitudes of Israeli
society to the Holocaust and Holocaust survivors. Her book Hatanakh
vehazehut hayisraelit (The Bible and Israeli identity) seeks to
explain why the status of the Bible has declined in Israeli identity.
Issues of identity, culture and memory are also the focus of two
collection of essays, Yehudim Hadashim, Yehudim Yeshanim (New Jews,
Old Jews), and Yehudim, Tziyonim Umah shebeinehem (Jews, Zionists and
Many of her books have been translated into English, German, Russian,
 Published works
Berl: The Biography of a Socialist Zionist, Berl Katznelson,
1887-1944/ Anita Shapira , translated by Haya Galai. Cambridge
University Press, 1984, ISBN 0-521-25618-6
Land and Power: The Zionist Resort to Force, 1881-1948 (Studies in
Jewish History)/ Anita Shapira ; translated by William Templer. Oxford
University Press, 1992, ISBN 0-19-506104-7)
Essential papers on Zionism / edited by Jehuda Reinharz and Anita
Shapira. New York: New York University Press, 1996.
Zionism and religion / Shmuel Almog, Jehuda Reinharz and Anita
Shapira, editors. Hanover: Brandeis University Press in association
with the Zalman Shazar Center for Jewish History, 1998.
Israeli historical revisionism: from left to right / edited by Anita
Shapira and Derek Penslar. Portland, Ore.: Frank Cass, 2003.
Israeli identity in transition / edited by Anita Shapira. Westport,
CT: Praeger, 2004.
Yigal Allon, Native Son: A Biography/ Anita Shapira, translated by
Evelyn Abel. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008, ISBN
Brenner: Sippur hayim ("Yosef Haim Brenner: A Biography"), Am Oved,
However, she has her critics:
THE FAILURE OF ISRAEL'S "OLD HISTORIANS" TO CRITICISE ISRAEL'S "NEW
The Past is a Blank (blank, blank ...)
by Ardeshir Mehta, Ottawa, Canada
24 November 2002
Critique of the Article Entitled
"THE FAILURE OF ISRAEL'S 'NEW HISTORIANS' TO EXPLAIN WAR AND PEACE"
The Past is Not a Foreign Country
by Anita Shapira, Tel Aviv, Israel
On November 29, 1999 The New Republic published an article by Anita
Shapira, Ruben Merenfeld Professor of the Study of Zionism at Tel Aviv
University, and the author of Land and Power: The Zionist Resort to
Force, 1881-1948 (Stanford University Press). Ms Shapira's article was
entitled "The Failure Of Israel's 'New Historians' To Explain War And
Peace - The Past Is Not a Foreign Country".
In her article Ms Shapira attempts to criticise, as best she can,
Benny Morris and Avi Shlaim, two of the "New Historians" of Israel,
and in particular their books Righteous Victims: A History of the
Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-1999 by Benny Morris (Knopf, 751pp) and
The Iron Wall: Israel and The Arab World since 1948 by Avi Shlaim
(Norton, 704pp). For ready reference, Ms Shapira's article can be
found at <http://www.tnr.com/112999/shapira112999.html>.
Her criticism might have been helpful if it didn't contain so many
lacunae that one begins to wonder whether Ms Shapira has a capacity to
think at all. One even wonders, in fact, whether this is the best the
Israeli academic community can do to deny Israel's own past, by
clothing their works in an aura of "scholarship".
Let's go through just some of Ms Shapira's own words, and let the
reader judge for himself or herself.
Ms Shapira begins her article by saying:
In the fall of 1988, the journal Tikkun published an article called
"The New Historiography: Israel Confronts Its Past." Its author was a
relatively unknown historian named Benny Morris. A year before, Morris
had brought out The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem,
1947-1949, a richly and rigorously detailed book that had not yet made
much of a splash. His Tikkun article would fix that. In his article,
Morris described himself and three of his confederates (Avi Shlaim and
Ilan Pappe from academia, and Simha Flappan from political journalism)
as "new historians," arguing that they had together undertaken to
expose the skeletons in Zionism's closet, to declare war on the dogmas
of Israeli history. The label stuck, and soon the Israeli media was
abuzz about the "new historians," who were catapulted into notoriety.
[…] Suddenly an argument raged over the true nature of what Israelis
call the War of Independence, or what Palestinians call al-naqba or
the Catastrophe, or what historians call, more neutrally, the 1948
And let us begin by asking ourselves, just why would any rational
historian wish to refer to al-naqba, the enormous Disaster,
Catastrophe, Calamity suffered by the Palestinians at the hands of the
Jewish Yishuv, "more neutrally". Should historians also refer to the
Jewish Holocaust "more neutrally" as "the Jewish question during the
Second World War"?
In any case, does Ms Shapira wish to dispute the fact that before the
"more neutrally" named 1948 war the Jews held legal title to less than
half a million acres of land, while after that war they laid claim to
more than five and a half million acres? Does she wish to argue that
the Jewish people all of a sudden had a right not only to sovereignty
over, but also legal title to, all the almost five and a half million
acres of land they controlled after the war? Does she wish to claim
that the Jews had a right to dispossess the hundreds of thousands of
Palestinians who used to inhabit that land before the war, fled during
the war and were never allowed to return to their lands after the war,
in blatant violation of international law as it stood at that time,
and as it stands even today?
Ms Shapira continues by saying:
That war furnished the founding myth of the state of Israel; and it is
but a short step from questioning its justice to doubting Israel's
very right to exist.
There's no denying the Jewish State's right to exist: provided, of
course, that it behaves like any other decent civilised state. But
what gives the Jewish State a right to exist no matter what it does?
Does any state have such a right? Repeat after me: "Of course not!"
More specifically with regard to al-naqba, what gives State of Israel
a right to exist on stolen land? Why, as Meron Benvenisti expresses
it, should we excuse Israel's total "failure to distinguish between
the moral right to exist and the moral right to behave decently"?
Perhaps Ms Shapira is not aware of what's written in the Jewish Bible,
but if she were, she'd know that the Good LORD Himself took away
Israel's right to exist - and that too, not just once but twice - when
the Children of Israel sinned grievously: which is just a more pompous
way of saying, did very horrible things. Even the LORD God did not
give Israel the right to exist unconditionally - that right is, was
and always will be conditional upon Israel behaving like any other
civilised state is expected to behave: for example, not steal, not
murder, not covet.
When Israel starts doing such things and worse, especially on a grand
scale - as it has been doing during all of its existence - it must
surely be considered as having forfeited its moral right to exist:
just as Nazi Germany forfeited its moral right to exist when it did
Specifically referring to "New Historian" Avi Shlaim, Ms Shapira
Deep down, Shlaim really does believe that the Middle East is Arab
turf, and that the Palestinians are innocent victims, and that the
Israelis are outsiders and intruders. [...] Jews are repeatedly viewed
[by Shlaim] through a moralistic prism: they are transgressors, and
have come as invaders into the Arab East.
Here, Ms Shapira is correct: this is indeed what Shlaim believes. The
only trouble is, Shlaim is right! The Israelis are outsiders and
intruders, transgressors and invaders into the Arab East. Does Ms
Shapira wish to claim they are not? Does Ms Shapira possess any
"recently declassified documents" to prove that that the Jews are not
outsiders, but are indigenous to the land which they claim as the
Jewish State? Are we to believe that Ms Shapira can provide us
evidence to support the claim that Jews acquired ownership title to
all those five and a half million acres of land which form the
territory of Israel by altogether legal means? Do we even need be
historians to refute such nonsense?
Yes, in a broad way it may be said, with some - but by no means total
- historic justification, that the Jewish people as they exist today
have an ancestral right to establish their State in the Holy Land. And
even if that were not so, all decent people must support the Jewish
people's right to a state of their own somewhere: for if they are not
entitled to a state of their own, then neither are the French, the
German, the Polish, the Japanese, the Korean, or the Vietnamese people
- to name just a few - entitled to a state of their own. What's right
for one people has got to be right for all. That's just elementary
decency and morality.
But not even the Father of Zionism, Theodor Herzl himself, advocated
establishing the Jewish State by any and every means possible,
including armed force! Perhaps Ms Shapira has not yet read Herzl's
pamphlet The Jewish State, but if she had, she would have found in it
no reference to robbing land at gunpoint from those who had inhabited
it for centuries: which is what Israel actually did.
No state in the entire world has an unconditional right to exist.
Every state's right to exist is conditional upon its behaving
decently: that is to say, not trampling upon the rights of others,
whether they be states or individuals, and whether they be inside or
outside of that state. Once a state claims a right to exist no matter
how much evil it does, it forfeits its right to exist, and should be
dismantled: just as the White supremacist apartheid-era state of South
Africa was dismantled.
Again regarding Avi Shlaim, Ms Shapira says:
In his famous Guild Hall speech in 1955, the British prime minister
Anthony Eden demanded that Israel relinquish territory in the Negev in
order to facilitate a land bridge between Egypt and Jordan. John
Foster Dulles, Eisenhower's secretary of state, entertained notions of
finessing a peace deal between Israel and its neighbors, in which
Israel would give up territory and agree to absorb 100,000 Arab
refugees as the price for peace. Shlaim views those demands, which
were really designed to strip Israel of territory that was allotted it
by the United Nations in the partition plan of 1947, as legitimate
demands. He does not utter a word about the questionable morality of
the attempt by the great powers to violate massively the territory of
a small state.
"Violate massively"?!? Does Ms Shapira forget that it was Israel who
massively violated the territory earmarked by the UN as that belonging
to the Palestinian state, which was never allowed even to came into
being, largely due to collusion between Israel and Jordan's King
Abdullah? Would she like to see the map of the UN partition plan,
which nowadays is available for all to see on the Internet, as for
example at <http://palestineremembered.com/Acre/Maps/Story580.html>,
and compare it with a map of Israel as it existed in 1949?
Yes, it is true that the UN partition plan did not call for a "land
bridge" between Egypt and Jordan - as Anthony Eden did. But Israel had
already annexed much more territory than that which was allotted it by
the United Nations in the partition plan of 1947. Israel had also
expelled, and was keeping out, far more than 100,000 Palestinians.
Does Ms Shapira deny all that?
Both Anthony Eden and John Foster Dulles had a great many faults, no
doubt, among them being the fact that the plans proposed by them were
indeed, as Ms Shapira says, of "questionable morality": but they were
of questionable morality because they were unfair to the Palestinians
- and not, as Ms Shapira makes it out to be, to Israel.
Ms Shapira, once again referring to Avi Shlaim, says:
It was not until 1964 that an Israeli prime minister was officially
welcomed at the White House, when Lyndon Johnson received Levi Eshkol.
In their joint statement at the conclusion of the visit, Johnson
proclaimed the need to maintain the territorial integrity of all the
states in the region. Shlaim remarks that this was the first time
Washington abandoned the idea of changing the borders of the 1949
armistice line. Such a fact, you might think, casts a different light
upon Israel's search during those years for allies and arms. If even a
government as friendly to Israel as the government of the United
States was not prepared during that perilous time to guarantee the
1949 borders (what today is called the "Green Line"), then Israel's
situation was in truth fraught with great danger, and Ben-Gurion's
obsession with Israel's fragility was not illusory.
And whose fault was that but Ben-Gurion's, and Israel's generally? The
borders of the 1949 armistice line were far from being those granted
to the Jewish state by the international community of nations - the
UN. Was the international community now supposed to acquiesce to
Israel's blatant acquisition of territory by force, and its continuing
refusal to allow the Palestinians displaced during the "neutrally
called" 1948 war (more accurately called "The Palestinian Calamity",
which was never a part of the UN partition plan) to return and reclaim
their properties - all of it in flagrant violation of the UN's own
principles and resolutions?
Yes, if Israel had merely defended itself during its war of aggression
of 1947-49, and occupied no more territory than was granted to it by
international consensus, nor permanently changed the demographic
makeup of that territory, nor expropriated the lands and property of
the people who owned them before the conflict - if Israel had done all
that, it could have legitimately entered the 1950s as a nation with
whom the citizens, presidents and prime ministers of the world might
have been happy to shake hands. But it did not. It essentially said to
the international community of nations: "F*** you, we do as we please,
we don't care what you think." Of course Israelis didn't often say so
in so many words - though once in a while they did so too - but what
else were the nations of the world supposed to think, judging from
And then Israel is surprised that the international community doesn't
want to guarantee its 1949 borders?
Yes, the Arab states did reject the UN partition plan - but for the
most part in words only, not in deeds. Their armies did not, by and
large, even attempt to enter the territory earmarked for the Jewish
state; while Israel extensively attacked and conquered the territory
earmarked for the Palestinian state, and its leaders even stated their
intention to do so and conquer as much territory as possible. (For
example, in a 1948 entry in his diary, Ben-Gurion writes: "It is not
impossible [...] that we will be able to conquer the way to the Negev,
Eilat, and the Dead Sea, and to secure the Negev for ourselves; also
to broaden the corridor to Jerusalem, from north to south; to liberate
the rest of Jerusalem and to take the Old City; to seize all of
central and western Galilee and to expand the borders of the state in
In other words, no less did Israel reject the UN partition plan - and
that too, in deeds, though it paid lip service to the partition plan
in words. Had Israel stuck to the UN partition plan, it could easily
have pressured the international community to put pressure on the
Arabs to stick to it as well.
And if Israel wanted more territory later, it could have entered into
negotiations for its purchase later too. Throughout the 1920s and
'30s, when the Yishuv was buying up territory in Palestine to
accommodate the Jews who, it was hoped, would come and settle it, the
vast majority of Arab owners whom they approached were more than
willing to sell their lands. Why didn't Israel just stick to that
plan, which was exactly what Herzl had proposed, which the world
Jewish community could easily have afforded, and which was above
criticism - instead of grabbing vast tracts of land by force?
And then, regarding Shlaim's account of the Six Day War, Ms Shapira
Shlaim's tendency to assume an air of objectivity toward Arab actions
and to point a scolding finger at Israel is also conspicuous in his
account of the deterioration that led to the Six-Day War. Meeting in
Cairo in 1964, the Arab League resolved to divert the waters of the
Jordan River, which are vital for Israel's existence. At that same
conference, there was a public declaration of the intention to destroy
Israel, and the PLO was founded. Shlaim avoids any judgment of those
bellicose moves against Israel's very existence: after all, one must
not berate the virtuous Arab determination to extirpate the foreign
body from their midst.
Regarding the waters of the Jordan river - or for that matter, any
river - international law is, and always has been, very clear: when
the river flows though a sovereign nation's own territory, it has a
right to use the river's waters as it deems fit; but when the river
forms a boundary between states, both the states must enter into
negotiations to the use of its waters. Most of the Jordan river was,
before the Six Day War, wholly within the Kingdom of Jordan: at that
time the river did not even form a boundary between territory
conquered by Israel and the Kingdom of Jordan, as it does now. And
some of the sources of the Jordan river lie within Syria. No matter
how vital the waters of the Jordan river are or were to Israel, it had
no right to do with them as it pleased: most of the river didn't even
flow through Israel's territory! By international law, Israel ought to
have entered into negotiations to obtain an agreement with these two
states as to the amount of that water to it was entitled.
But of course it couldn't do that, because it had already created a
Catastrophe of unprecedented proportions for the Palestinian people.
Which Arab state would then be willing even to talk with Israel? By
thumbing its nose at international consensus and law, Israel had
embarked upon the proverbial slippery slope of not having a "partner
for peace". Oh what a tangled web we weave!
And for the same reason, of course, it was to be expected that there
would be a public declaration by Arabs of their intention to destroy
Israel, and an Arab determination to extirpate it from their midst.
What else should Israel have expected, when it had become a de facto
robber state? Would not the same thing have happened had Belgium, for
example, forcibly expelled the vast majority of French-speaking
Walloons from its territory, and expropriated all their property?
Would not the surrounding European states have called for the
destruction of Belgium under such circumstances?
Let us repeat, ad nauseam if necessary - since most Israelis, and
indeed most Jewish people, seem to be incapable of understanding it:
Israel does not have, and never did have - not even in Biblical times
- nor ever will have, an unconditional right to exist. Its moral right
to exist is, and always was, and always will be, conditional upon it
not infringing the rights of others: whether other states or other
individuals. This is a consequence of the principles of elementary
morality, which all of us - at least all of us who are decent -
learned when we were in Kindergarten.
But of course Ms Shapira, perhaps because of not having attended
Kindergarten, forgets these elementary principles of morality - to
her, Israel can do as Israel pleases, because Israel has "a right to
exist", period! Yeah, right.
Regarding the Six Day War, Shapira says:
The Six-Day War is correctly portrayed by Shlaim as a defensive war;
but he does not permit Israel to enjoy the laurels of a just victory
for very long. From the outset, Shlaim is skeptical about Israel's
readiness to relinquish land in return for peace. Thus, in his
calendar of red-letter dates, he does not bother to note the Israeli
government decision of June 19, 1967 declaring its willingness to pull
back from conquered territory in return for peace.
Here one is at a loss to see even Avi Shlaim's point of view, let
alone Ms Shapira's. If the Six Day War was a "defensive war", how do
we account for the following statements made by some of the most
prominent members of the Israeli establishment - and all the
statements, be it noted, made publicly, not secretly?
Yitzhak Rabin, then Chief of General Staff (ramatca"l) of the Israeli
"I do not believe that Nasser wanted war. The two divisions which he
sent into the Sinai on May 14 would not have been enough to unleash an
offensive against Israel. He knew it, and we knew it."
(From Le Monde, 28 February 1968)
General Mattitiahu Peled of the IDF General Staff:
"All those stories about the huge danger we were facing because of our
small territorial size, an argument expounded once the war was over,
had never been considered in our calculations prior to the unleashing
of hostilities. To pretend that the Egyptian forces concentrated on
our borders were capable of threatening Israel's existence does not
only insult the intelligence of any person capable of analyzing this
kind of situation, but is primarily an insult to the Israeli army."
(From Le Monde, 3 June 1972)
General Ezer Weizman, Chief of Operations (later President of
"There was never a danger of extermination. This hypothesis had never
been considered in any serious meeting."
(From Ha'aretz, 29 March 1972)
General Yeshayahu Gavish, Commanding General, Southern Command:
"The danger of Israel's extermination was hardly present before the
(From Lilienthal, Alfred M., The Zionist Connection. New York: Dodd,
Mead & Co., 1978 - p. 558)
General Haim Bar-Lev, Chief of General Staff Branch, Israel Defense
"We were not threatened with genocide on the eve of the six-day war,
and we had never thought of such a possibility."
(From Ma'ariv, 4 April 1972)
General Chaim Herzog, Commanding General and first Military Governor,
Israeli Occupied West Bank:
"There was no danger of annihilation. Israeli headquarters never
believed in this danger."
(From Ma'ariv, 4 april 1972)
Mordechai Bentov, Minister of Housing:
"The entire story of the danger of extermination was invented in every
detail, and exaggerated a posteriori to justify the annexation of new
(From Al-Hamishmar, 14 april 1971)
Yigal Allon, Minister of Labor and member of Eshkol's Military
Advisory Committee on the origin of the Six-Day War:
"Begin and I want Jerusalem."
(From Haber, Eitan: Menahem Begin: The Legend and the Man. New York:
Delacorte Press, 1978 - p. 271)
Menahem Begin, later Israeli Prime Minister:
"In June 1967, we again had a choice. The Egyptian Army concentrations
in the Sinai approaches do not prove that Nasser was really about to
attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack
(From Op-ed piece, The New York Times, 21 August 1982)
General Mordichai Hod, Commanding General, Israeli Air-Force:
"Sixteen years' planning had gone into those initial eighty minutes.
We lived with the plan, we slept on the plan, we ate the plan.
Constantly we perfected it."
(op. cit. Lilienthal, pp. 558-9)
General Meir Amit, head of Mossad in 1967:
"There is going to be a war. Our army is now fully mobilized. but we
cannot remain in that condition for long. Because we have a civilian
army our economy is shuddering to a stop. We don't have the man power
right now even to bring in the crops. Sugar beets are rotting in the
earth. We have to make quick decisions . [...] If we can get the first
blow in our casualties will be comparatively light."
(From Eisenberg, Dennis, Uri Dan and Eli Landau: The Mossad: Israel's
Secret Intelligence Service. New York: New American Library, 1978 -
Gen. Aharon Yaariv, Israeli chief of military intelligence, gave a
'background' briefing to newsmen on 12 May 1967. He spoke first on
Syria's support for guerrilla activity against Israel then hinted the
Israelis were about to attack:
"If the Syrians continue for a long time the Palestinians will become
a factor in the relations between us and the Arabs. They have not
become a factor ever since almost 1949 [...] So we must make it clear
to the Syrians that they cannot continue in this way and I think the
only way to make it clear to the Syrians is by using force [...] I
could say we must use force in order to have the Egyptians convince
the Syrians that it doesn't pay [...] I think that the only sure and
safe answer to the problem is a military operation of great size and
(From Cooley, John K.: Green March, Black September. London: Frank
Cass, 1973 - p. 160)
Air Force Commander Gen. Ezer Weizmann stated there was "no threat of
destruction" but attack was justified so Israel could "exist according
to the scale, spirit and quality she now embodies."
(op. cit. Cooley, p. 162)
According to Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Dayan, the Israeli
settlers on the border between Israel and the Golan "didn't even try
to hide their greed for their [i.e., Syrian] land, "wanting 'to grab a
piece of land and keep it until the enemy will get tired of us'."
Describing the idea that Syria was threatening Israel before the 1967
war as "bullshit", he said: "I know how at least 80% of all the
incidents with Syria started. We would send a tractor to plow some
area where it wasn't possible to do anything, in the demilitarized
area, and knew in advance that the Syrians would start to shoot. If
they didn't shoot we would tell the tractor to advance further, until
in the end the Syrians would get annoyed and shoot. And then we would
use artillery and later the air force also, and that's how it was
[...] You do not attack the enemy because he is a bastard, but because
he threatens you, and the Syrians in the fourth day of the war were
not threatening us. "
(From New York Times, 11 May 1997)
If Ms Shapira would kindly explain all of these statements in light of
her claim that "The Six-Day War is correctly portrayed by Shlaim as a
defensive war", we shall all be most enlightened.
As for her statement that "[Shlaim] does not bother to note the
Israeli government decision of June 19, 1967 declaring its willingness
to pull back from conquered territory in return for peace", does she
think we - and the Arabs - are so stupid as to not notice that such a
proposal, especially when coming from Israel, could be nothing other
than a sly way of trying to legitimise the 5-million-acre land grab of
1948? This bullshit has been repeated by Israel too many times to even
warrant a detailed response.
Then, regarding the Sadat-Begin Camp David agreements, Ms Shapria
Starting in the 1970s, and increasingly so after the Yom Kippur War in
1973, President Sadat of Egypt demonstrated it was possible to
recognize the state of Israel, and to enter into direct negotiations
with Israel, and even to discuss a final peace agreement with Israel.
[...] Shlaim does not ask how this extraordinary turn came about,
because the answer is self-evident. The answer is that power did its
sobering work, and realism came to be preferred to moralism.
Here, one has to agree with Ms Shapira: realism did come to be
preferred, by Sadat, to moralism.
Or in other words, Sadat sold out the Palestinians!
Of course one can see Sadat's point of view: what had the Palestinians
ever done for him, or for Egypt? Nothing, indeed less than nothing:
they had only gotten Egypt into horrid messes. Israel had no actual
designs on the land of Egypt. What had Egypt to gain by continuing to
come to the aid of the Palestinians? Nothing, even less than nothing:
nothing but trouble. What had Egypt to gain by signing a peace treaty
with Israel? The entire Sinai. And also the avoidance of future wars,
all of them most likely disastrous. Easy choice. The small silent
voice within Sadat no doubt said: "Do it as soon as you can, Anwar old
chap, even if you have to fly to Jerusalem and Washington to do it."
But those facts, though entirely correct as far as they go, hardly do
Sadat much credit, now do they? After all, the rightness of wrongness
of coming to the aid of a victim has nothing to do with whether the
victim turns out to be an ingrate, or even if the victim eventually
bites the hand that saves him. Or even if the rescuer is out of pocket
by coming to the victim's aid!
Sure, if one doesn't want to, one need not come to the aid of the
Palestinians, or indeed any other victims of bullying. The US and
Britain did not come to the aid of the Jewish victims of the Nazis,
did they? Why, they even turned away shiploads of Jewish refugees.
Nobody is blamed for not coming to the aid of victims: after all,
neither Japan nor China - nor even India - had actually come to the
aid of the Palestinians, no matter how much they sympathised with the
Palestinians' plight; and neither has any nation in the world come to
the aid of Tibet (except to a small extent India, by absorbing large
numbers of Tibetan refugees).
But from a strictly moral point of view one doesn't do something
because it is in one's interest: one does it because it is right.
Sadat selling out the Palestinians was hardly the right thing for him
to do, even though from a neutral perspective one can't actually blame
him for doing so.
And regarding the Palestinians, Ms Shapira says:
The realism of the "iron wall" also applied to the Palestinians. After
all the terror acts perpetrated by Palestinian organizations in the
1970s and '80s, which Shlaim skips over nonchalantly, the Intifada
erupted in December 1987. It demonstrated to Israelis and Palestinians
alike that force was not the answer. The uprising led to a moderating
of the PLO's hard-line positions: the Palestinians were now prepared
to recognize Israel's right to exist and even to accept the U.N.
decision of 1947 on partition--to accept the principle of two states
and thus to renounce terror. Once again, then, what Shlaim believed
was non-negotiable for the Palestinians became negotiable. It took
four decades, to be sure; but four decades is not an unreasonably long
time in the context of ethnic and religious and national conflicts.
But of course she presupposes that the PLO was right in doing all
this. That is to say, she presupposes that the PLO was right in
recognising Israel's "right to exist" (where it remains unsaid, as
always, that Israel has a right to exist, period - i.e.,
unconditionally, quite regardless of how much Israel tramples on the
rights of others, especially Palestinians).
So what the "Iron Wall" did was essentially convince the victims to
forget the injustices inflicted upon them in the past, in return for
accepting a cessation in the beatings they were suffering in the
present. Or in simpler words, if only they would agree not to fight
back or remind the aggressors of what had happened, the aggressors
would stop beating up on them, or at any rate reduce the beatings.
My dear Ms Shapira. Is this your idea of right and wrong?
Do you for a moment think that the Palestinian people will accept a
settlement based, not on true justice, but on a piece of paper signed
by their corrupt "leaders", by which they will attempt to legitimise
all the previous wrongs perpetuated upon their people?
The reality is, the Palestinian people do not give a damn about a
peace imposed upon them by Israel - a Pax Israeliana: they want
genuine justice. There is no way they are going to live in peace with
Israel until and unless they get justice. Amazing, but true!
As Shlaim himself says, "The moral case for the establishment of an
independent Jewish state was strong, especially in the aftermath of
the Holocaust. But there is no denying that the establishment of the
State of Israel involved a massive injustice to the Palestinians. Half
a century on, Israel still had to arrive at the reckoning of its own
sins against the Palestinians, a recognition that it owed the
Palestinians a debt that must at some point be repaid."
And in reply to the above words of Shlaim's, Ms Shapira says:
It is not clear what Shlaim exactly has in mind by "sins." If he means
the establishment of the state itself, well, he himself states that
there was a strong moral case for its creation. If he is referring to
the war of 1948, well, he himself notes elsewhere that the Arabs
forced it upon Israel. If he is alluding to the fact that the Arab
Palestinians did not establish a state in 1948, because they were
stymied by Israel, surely he should place the blame for that first and
foremost on the Palestinians themselves, and on their Arab brethren.
Or was Israel supposed to take the initiative in creating a
"Not clear what Shlaim exactly has in mind by "sins"?? Does stealing
land - almost five million acres of it - not count? Does Ms Shapira
want more detailed descriptions? Some beatings, tortures, rapes and
murders, perhaps? Well, here are a few - a very few - well documented
Item [From Hotam, 4 August 1989]: Between 1947 and 1949, some 750,000
Palestinians were expelled as Israel declared its independence, and in
June 1967 some 300,000 more Palestinians fled or were driven into
exile as Israel conquered the West Bank and Gaza. Hundreds of villages
were systematically razed and erased from the map. In the course of
the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza after June 1967, over
1,000 Palestinians - including women and children - were deported
without charges or trial. Fully 50 percent of the land and 80 percent
of the precious water reserves were confiscated by the Israeli
government. And as deported Palestinians languished in exile, some
100,000 Jews settled in the West Bank and Gaza. All these measures -
and many more routinely taken by Israel in the occupied territories -
were, as one Israeli periodical euphemistically put it, "very far from
the norms of international law".
Item: [Eyewitness reports of just a few examples of the sorts of
events that constituted Israel's "War of Independence"]: A soldier
eyewitness described how the IDF, capturing the village Ad Dawayima
"without a fight," first "killed about 80-100 Arab men, women and
children. The children were killed by breaking their heads with
sticks. There was not a house without dead." The remaining Arabs were
then closed off in houses "without food and water," as the village was
One commander ordered a sapper to put two old women in a certain house
and to blow up the house with them. The sapper refused. The commander
then ordered his men to put in the old women and the evil deed was
done. One soldier boasted that he had raped a woman and then shot her.
One woman, with a newborn baby in her arms, was employed to clear the
courtyard where the soldiers ate. She worked a day or two. In the end
they shot her and her baby.
The soldier eyewitness concluded that "cultured officers [...] had
turned into base murderers and this not in the heat of battle [...]
but out of a system of expulsion and destruction. The less Arabs
remained - the better."
In the village of Safsaf - "52 men tied with a rope and dropped into a
well and shot. 10 were killed. Women pleaded for mercy. 3 cases of
rape. A girl aged 14 was raped. Another 4 were killed."
Item: As to what's happening right now, a B'Tselem (Israeli
Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories)
study, Violence against Minors in Police Detention, found that
"illegal violence against minors, [...] many [of whom] are innocent of
any crime, [...] occurs on a large scale." Severe beatings, including
"slapping, punching, kicking, hair pulling, beatings with clubs or
with iron rods, pushing into walls and onto floors," were said to be
"very common." The study also highlighted more novel methods for
"Beating the detainee as he is suspended in a closed sack covering the
head and tied around the knees; tying the detainee in a twisted
position to an outdoor pipe with hands behind the back for hours and,
sometimes, in the rain, at night, and during the hot daytime hours;
confining the detainee, sometimes for a few days, in the "lock-up" - a
dark, smelly and suffocating cell one and a half by one and a half
meters [five by five feet]; placing the detainee, sometimes for many
hours, in the "closet" - a narrow cell the height of a person in which
one can stand but not move; and depositing the tied-up detainee for
many hours in the "grave" - a kind of box, closed by a door from the
top, with only enough room to crouch and no toilet."
Let's re-read Ms Shapira's statement: "It is not clear what Shlaim
exactly has in mind by 'sins'." If she cannot see the difference
between good and evil in the above few - very few - examples, well,
God help her on the Day of Judgement.
And before she has time to retort - as many Israelis and Jewish people
generally do - that the Arabs (and in fact many other people) have
done deeds just as horrible if not even more so, let us forestall them
by asking, how is that supposed to justify the Chosen People of God -
or indeed anyone - doing such things?
And Ms Shapira concludes her critique - if indeed it can be called
that - of Shlaim's work by saying:
What remains is the refugee issue, a truly festering wound. And in
this awful matter, there is a lot of guilt to go around. As Benny
Morris argues, the blame for the misery of the Palestinian refugees
must be shared by several parties. But the morally laden concepts
mustered by Shlaim lay the guilt in no uncertain terms at one door
only--at Israel's door. This passage reads like a remnant of an
earlier time, a more inflamed and more brutal time that we should be
glad to see gone.
And at whose door should the blame be laid, if not at Israel's? How
would Ms Shapira explain the following statements - just a few among
"It should be clear for us that there is not room for two peoples in
this country. If the Arabs leave it, there will be enough for us [...]
There is nothing else to do but to remove them all; we mustn’t leave a
single village, a single tribe [...] We must explain to Roosevelt and
all the heads of friendly states that the land of Israel isn’t too
small if all the Arabs leave and if the borders are pushed back a
little to the north, as far as the Litani, and to the east, on the
Golan Heights." - Yossef Weitz, Journal, (Tel Aviv), 1965.
"[A]fter we become a strong force, as a result of the creation of a
state, we shall abolish partition and expand to the whole of Palestine
[...] The state will only be a stage in the realisation of Zionism and
its task is to prepare the ground for our expansion into the whole of
Palestine." - David Ben-Gurion, cited in Noam Chomsky, The Fateful
Triangle: The United States, Israel and the Palestinians, Pluto Press,
"In 1948, we deliberately, and not just in the heat of the war,
expelled Arabs. Also in 67 after the Six-Day War, we expelled many
Arabs." - Tzvi Shiloah, a senior veteran of the Mapai Party and a
former deputy mayor of the town of Hertzeliyah, cited in Modelet, no.
12, October 1989.
"In almost every conquered village in the War of Independence, acts
were committed, which are defined as war crimes, such as
indiscriminate killings, massacres and rapes […] For many Israelis it
was easier to find consolation in the lie, that the Arabs left the
country under orders from their leaders. This is an absolute
fabrication. The fundamental cause of their flight was their fear from
Israeli retribution and this fear was not at all imaginary. From
almost each report in the IDF archives concerning the conquest of Arab
villages between May and July 1948 - when clashes with Arab villagers
were the fiercest - a smell of massacre emanates." - Aryeh Yitzakhi,
Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Eretz Yisrael Studies at Bar Ilan
University (Tel Aviv) and Senior Lecturer in Military History in
Israeli Defence Force (IDF), cited in Erlich, Guy, 'Not Only Deir
Yassin', Ha'ir, 6 May 1992.
And suppose - just suppose - that all these statements, and others
like them, are lies, damned lies and even Arab propaganda (one doesn't
put it past Ms Shapira to claim such a thing). Even so, how does Ms
Shapira explain that after the end of the conflict the Palestinians
who had fled were not allowed by Israel to return, in flagrant
violation of the norms of international law?
Now coming to Benny Morris - who in recent years has apparently
recanted and become a thorough-going proponent of forcible "transfer"
or ethnic cleansing - Ms Shapira says:
Morris's account of Israeli rule in the occupied territories is
detailed and critical, and he does not conceal from the reader
distressing events that illustrate the invidious influence of the
"corruptive occupation"; but here, too, his moral judgements do not
overwhelm his historiographical duty. "Though harsh and often brutal,"
he adds, "Israeli rule in general was never as restrictive or
repressive as the Palestinians made out."
One wonders whether Ms Shapira, or for that matter, Benny Morris
himself - has ever read some of the accounts given in Israeli journals
of what goes on under Israeli rule in the occupied territories (and
please note, these are not censored documents, the ones that go into
the classified archives and which we will only see thirty years after
Item: The 1st April 1988 issue of Hotam reported the case of a ten-
year-old beaten so black and blue during an army interrogation that he
was left "looking like a steak." The soldiers "weren't bothered" even
when they later learned that the boy was deaf, mute, and mentally
retarded. "Israeli rule in general was never as restrictive or
repressive as the Palestinians made out"?
Item: The 13th July 1988 issue of Koteret Rashit reported the
"disappearance of 25 children" and jail threats to their parents for
"annoying" the army about the children's whereabouts. The 19th August
1988 issue of Hadashot featured three photos of a blindfolded six-year-
old in an army jeep. The caption reported that many children his age
would be held in detention until "ransoms" of several hundred dollars
were paid, and that, as they were carted away, the children often
urinated in their pants "from fear." "Israeli rule in general was
never as restrictive or repressive as the Palestinians made out"?
Item: Under the heading "Deliberate Murder," the August 1989 bulletin
for the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights reported that the
Israeli army (apparently sharpshooters from "special units") had
targeted an "increasing" number of Palestinian children in leadership
roles. "Carefully chosen," the victim was usually shot in the head or
heart and died almost instantaneously. "Israeli rule in general was
never as restrictive or repressive as the Palestinians made out"?
Item: Dr. Haim Gordon of the Israeli Association for Human Rights
reported the case of an eight-year-old tortured by soldiers after
refusing to reveal which of his friends had thrown stones. Stripped
naked, hung by his legs and brutally beaten, the boy was then pushed
to the edge of a rooftop before being released (cited in the January
1990 bulletin of the Israeli League). "Israeli rule in general was
never as restrictive or repressive as the Palestinians made out"?
Item: The 15th January 1990 issue of Hadashot reported the case of a
thirteen-year-old who was thrown into detention after his fingers were
deliberately broken and who was then left without any medical
treatment or food because his father was unable to pay the ransom of
750 dollars. "Israeli rule in general was never as restrictive or
repressive as the Palestinians made out"?
Item: The 26 January 1990 issue of Davar reported the case of a
sixteen-year-old girl who was beaten by a club-wielding policeman ("He
even tried to push the club between my legs") and then thrashed in
prison for refusing to sign a confession. "Israeli rule in general was
never as restrictive or repressive as the Palestinians made out"?
Item: The 29 June 1990 issue of Hotam reported the case of a thirteen-
year-old detainee who, refusing to supply incriminating evidence
against his brother, was "smashed" in the face, had "bruise marks on
his entire body," was not allowed to drink or eat "for hours," and was
forced to "urinate and defecate in his pants." "Israeli rule in
general was never as restrictive or repressive as the Palestinians
Item: Reporting on the grisly fate of Palestinians as young as
fourteen arrested on "suspicion of stone-throwing," the 24 February
1992 issue of Hadashot quoted an inside source at the Hebron detention
center: "What happened there ... was plain horror: they would break
their clubs on the prisoners' bodies, hit them in the genitals, tie a
prisoner up on the cold floor and play soccer with him - literally
kick and roll him around. Then they'd give him electric shocks, using
the generator of a field telephone, and then push him out to stand for
hours in the cold and rain. [...] They would crush the prisoners,
[...] turning them into lumps of meat." "Israeli rule in general was
never as restrictive or repressive as the Palestinians made out"? Just
how "restrictive or repressive" do the Israelis have to get?
I suppose Ms Shapira's "moral judgements do not overwhelm her
historiographical duty". One wonders whether she ever had any moral
judgements at all for them to overcome her "historiographical duty"!
Now take a look at Ms Shapira's spin on the "transfer" issue:
According to Morris's new version, just as the idea of transfer
attended Zionism from its inception, so did Arab fears of precisely
such a scheme. The inference from this line of reasoning is that the
Arabs resisted Jewish settlement not because they regarded themselves
as Palestine's rightful owners and did not wish to share the land with
a people whom they perceived as a foreign invader; nor because they
were opposed to transforming Palestine from a land with a
predominantly Muslim culture into a non-Muslim country steeped in
Western culture. No, their motive was well-founded fear: they knew
that the Jews intended in due time to expel them. As Morris writes,
"the fear of territorial displacement and dispossession was to be the
chief motor of Arab antagonism to Zionism down to 1948 (and indeed
after 1967 as well)." In this way history is spun on its head, and the
effect is made into the cause, and the result of war is promoted into
the paradigm for the entire complex of relations between Arabs and
Jews over several decades.
First of all: "the Arabs [...] regarded themselves as Palestine's
rightful owners" - Ms Shapira, we have news for you: the Palestinians
did not merely regard themselves as Palestine's rightful owners: they
were Palestine's rightful owners. Many of them still have legal
documents to prove it.
Secondly: "[the Palestinians] did not wish to share the land with a
people whom they perceived as a foreign invader" - We have still more
news for you: the Palestinians did not merely perceive the Jews as
foreign invaders: the Jews were foreign invaders.
Thirdly, re. your words "share this land" - We have news for you yet
once more: the Jews had no intention of "sharing" this land. As Ben-
Gurion indicated to Yigal Allon and Rabin, according to Rabin's (now
censored) memoirs, regarding the Palestinians during the 1948 war,
"Garesh otam!" ("Drive them out!")
Fourthly, the Jews never made any secret of their plans: namely, to
set up a Jewish state in all of Palestine. How was that ever going to
be possible - given the small number of Jews who at that time were in,
or even wanted to come to, Palestine, compared to the huge number of
Palestinians already living there - except by expelling the
The Palestinians - or at least their leaders - may have been conniving
and corrupt, but they weren't stupid, now were they. They could easily
see that there was no way the few hundred thousand Jews living in a
Palestine which had over a million Arabs could set up a Jewish state
in all - or even most - of Palestine without driving out the
And indeed that is exactly what happened. A Jewish "democratic" state
within the 1949 armistice lines would not have been possible at that
date without the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians:
there would have a Palestinian majority in the "Jewish" state, which
would have not allowed any such state to come into existence. The
Palestinians knew it, the Arabs outside Palestine knew it, the Yishuv
knew it, and so did the extremists on both sides.
In other words there was, in the fifty-odd years preceding Israel's
independence - and especially in 1947 - no "complex of relations
between Arabs and Jews over several decades". There was just a simple
equation: "Jewish state = transfer of Palestinians." This was one
equation about which there had to have been absolute agreement on all
sides. Everybody knew it had to happen - there was no way they could
not have known, unless they were exceedingly stupid - and that's
exactly why it happened.
And the worst thing is, it's not as if there was no choice but
forcible transfer. There was a choice, which if those idiotic Zionists
would have only thought about, they would not have landed themselves -
and the Palestinians too - in the utter mess they are both in today.
The choice, which would have saved Israel, and allowed it to
legitimately enter the community of peaceful nations, was extremely
obvious: viz., to stick to the UN partition plan, occupy only as much
land as was allotted to the Jewish state (and which at that time did
contain a Jewish majority), actively help and encourage - rather than
actively hinder - the setting up of a Palestinian state (which was
also called for by the UN plan, remember?), and then continue with the
land purchase policy which had worked so well up till then.
The Jews could have continued to buy up Arab-owned land within the
Jewish state until most of the plots of land were in Jewish hands,
offering their Palestinian owners very generous amounts of money for
each plot: for most of the Arab owners were more than willing to sell,
provided the price was right. After all, when someone really wants
something you, and only you, can sell them, you can drive the price up
sky high! If the Palestinians were really as greedy and crafty as they
are made out to be, why would they pass up such a golden opportunity,
which came their way only once in two millennia?
Within a few years, with all that money jingling in their pockets,
virtually all the Palestinians would have gone off, one by one, to
their own state, just a few miles down the road in fact, and lived
like millionaires happily ever after, thanking their lucky stars for
the Jews having arrived on their shores; while the Jews would have
accomplished the necessary "transfer" - legally, peacefully and with
everybody happy, happy, happy. (And it would still have cost the Jews
less than all the armaments they've had to procure these last fifty
years, and to which expenditure no end is in sight. Not to mention
that there would have been no wars, no intifadas, and no killings on
It's not as if Herzl hadn't spelled it out for the Zionists, either.
If only they had stuck to Herzl's ideas as expressed in his pamphlet
The Jewish State. "The movement [i.e., of the Jewish people to the
Jewish state, and of the indigenous population to places outside the
Jewish state] will [...] only be inaugurated with absolute conformity
to law". Note the words "only" and "absolute".
But no! The Zionists had to have it all, and have it now. "For we are
strong, and want to have our way!" Eh? The idiots. The bloody idiots.
And now it's too late: most Palestinians today do not trust any Jews
at all and will not sell one square inch of their land to the Jewish
state. Why would they? Oh what a slippery slope we slide.
And then Ms Shapira says:
Zionist leaders always believed that the hoped-for Jewish majority in
Palestine would materialize by means of massive Jewish immigration. It
should not be forgotten that in 1920 the Arab population of Palestine
numbered only some 600,000. The Zionist premise--which history has
proven right--was that there was land aplenty in western Palestine for
millions of Jews and Arabs. All the Zionist plans at the end of the
1930s envisioned the influx of a million Jews to Palestine within a
decade. That magical number was geared to guaranteeing a Jewish
majority, which is why the Arabs were so hostile to immigration: not
because they were afraid of expulsion, but because they wished to
prevent a demographic transformation.
What a confusion.
Before the "White Paper" of 1939 which restricted Jewish immigration
to Palestine there was no limit on the number of Jews allowed into the
country. Even so only a few tens of thousands of Jews actually wanted
to come to Palestine - and that that was when Hitler was in power.
Palestine received only about 232,000 legal immigrants in the entire
decade of the 1930s. In 1939 the total population of Palestine about
1,500,000 of which the Jewish population numbered about 445,000. Thus
if, as Ms Shapira says, the Palestinian population was "only some
600,000" in the 1920s, and grew to over one million in 1939, the
Palestinian population must have been growing by 67 per cent per
decade. Compare that to the Jewish population: the second British
census of Palestine shows a population of 1,035,154 - of which 16.9%
(176,000) was Jewish. This represented an increase, to be sure, of 153
per cent, much larger than the Palestinian rate of population
increase; but it was bound to level off after a while, because by 1947
there was no Hitler and no Holocaust any more - while the Palestinian
rate was going to continue to be high for the foreseeable future.
The crucial point to note, anyway, is that this (relatively)
insignificant increase in Jewish population resulted with unrestricted
Jewish immigration, and that too, at a time when European anti-
Semitism was at its height! At this rate, just when was this
"guaranteed Jewish majority" going to come about?
And history has borne out the fact that Jewish immigration alone, as
it exists in actual fact, cannot bring about a guaranteed Jewish
majority. The population of Israeli Jews today is still only about
half that of the Palestinians. (The fact that about 40 per cent of the
Palestinians have been kicked out of Palestine is hardly a mitigating
factor in this calculation.)
Yes, if all, or almost all, the Jewish people world-wide were to come
and made Israel/Palestine their home, the Jewish population of the
Jewish state would be in the majority. But in over a century the
overwhelming majority of Jewish people have voted with their feet not
to come and live in Israel/Palestine. So just when is this "guaranteed
Jewish majority" going to materialise?
Not, however, that the Jewish population could ever remain in the
majority for long, even if all the Jews were to immigrate to Israel/
Palestine, because the Palestinian birth rate is one of the highest in
the world, while the Jewish birth rate is one of the lowest. The
Palestinian fertility rate is 6 children per woman in the West Bank
and Gaza and 4.2 in Israel, compared with 2.6 children per woman for
the Jewish population. The Palestinian population almost sextupled in
50 years (from 1.36 million in 1948 to 8 million in 1998). In another
quarter- to half-century the Palestinians will probably catch up to
the world-wide Jewish population, and then there will be no more Jews
anywhere to "guarantee" a Jewish majority.
And it's not like the Palestinians didn't know that their birth rate
was vastly greater than that of the Jews. It wasn't the Palestinians
who were afraid of a demographic disaster: it is, and was, the
Israelis who were, and still are, desperately afraid of it.
And Ms Shapira makes, once again, such preposterous statements as
If we are speaking about the mandatory period, then the British, who
did not permit Jewish immigration, most certainly would not have
endorsed any plan of Arab transfer. If we are speaking about a future
with Palestine under Jewish rule, then the Jewish authorities would
have been able to bring in millions of Jews unhindered and thereby to
resolve the question of the dominant majority without resorting to
expulsion. What had fueled a massive wish to leave Europe was the
calamitous situation of the Jews there [...]
Just when did the British "not permit Jewish immigration" before the
"White Paper" was issued in 1939 - after which the discussion was moot
anyway because the Second World War made it impossible for Jews to get
away from Nazi controlled Europe anyway?
And just what happened after 1949, with more than three quarters of
Palestine under Jewish rule, and the ability of the Jewish government
to bring in "millions of Jews unhindered"? Twenty years later the
Jewish population of Israel/Palestine was only 1.9 million, while the
Palestinians numbered around 2.5 million. Still a Palestinian
majority, despite unrestricted Jewish immigration!
Come on, Ms Shapira: do we need "recently declassified documents" to
see that what is written by you is, well, full of it?
And this is Ms Shapira's read on why the Israel-Arab conflict was
The Israeli-Arab conflict was not born as a consequence of anxieties
about expulsion. It was born as a consequence of Arab resistance to
the settlement of a foreign element in their land. The feeling of
power among the Palestinian Arabs, who believed they were the rightful
proprietors of Palestine and were unwilling to enter into any sort of
compromise agreement with the Jews, contradicts the argument based on
their alleged fears about eviction. The Palestinians did not go to war
in 1948 because they were afraid the Jews would oust them; they went
to war because they were not prepared to make their peace with the
idea of a Jewish state in Palestine.
Talk about a double standard. Suppose it had been the Israelis who
were indigenous to the Land, and the Palestinians coming back to it
after a 2,000-year Diaspora. Would Ms Shapira have said, then, that
"Israeli Jews [...] believed they were the rightful proprietors of
Israel", and that they "were unwilling to enter into any sort of
compromise agreement with the Palestinians returning to their
ancestral homeland after 2,000 years of persecution"? Would she say
that the Israelis "went to war because they were not prepared to make
their peace with the idea of a Palestinian state in Israel"?
When Israel is willing to allow the Palestinian people to set up a
Palestinian state armed to the teeth, all of it inside of Israel, and
comprising 78 per cent of the territory of "Greater Israel", then we
can talk. Okay?
Talk about a double standard.
And moreover, according to Ms Shapira,
The Palestinian Arabs also believed that they would emerge the
victors. The question of what they intended to do with the Jews in
Palestine after a Jewish defeat on the battlefield is, of course,
hypothetical. After the defeat, the flight, and the expulsion of the
Palestinians, moreover, the subject is unmentionable: such questions
are raised only about the victors. When the peace process comes to a
conclusion, documents may be disclosed that shed valuable light on
this point; but in the meantime the issue can be examined only in
terms of the historical facts that we possess. And those facts, alas,
are unequivocal: in all areas where the Jews went down to defeat at
the hands of the Arabs, not a single Jew was allowed to return.
"Palestinian Arabs believed that they would emerge the victors"? Since
when do people who believe that they are going to be victors in a
conflict flee en masse from their "victims" with just the clothes on
And even if we are to talk, not about the Palestinians, but about the
surrounding Arab states, does Ms Shapira seriously think we don't know
that in 1948 they hardly ever attacked the territory earmarked by the
UN for the Jewish state, but for the most part restricted their
military actions to the areas earmarked by the UN for the Palestinian
state? Does she think we don't know that King Abdullah of Jordan
secretly colluded in 1947-1948 with Ben-Gurion, via his emissary Golda
Meir, to divide between Jordan and Israel the territory mandated by
the United Nations to the Palestinian state when it partitioned
Palestine between Arabs and Jews, and that as a result, Jordan became
a covert ally of Israel in suppressing the Palestinians, and denying
them a state?
As for Ms Shapira's conclusion, "[...] in all areas where the Jews
went down to defeat at the hands of the Arabs, not a single Jew was
allowed to return", there is no denying of the fact that some Arabs,
including Palestinian Arabs, think exactly like some Zionists - but no
decent person condones their actions, any more than they condone
Israel's. However, just because Arabs - and note that at that time
they were non-Palestinian Arab governments, not the Palestinian people
- did not permit Jews to return to Arab-controlled areas after the
1949 armistice is hardly a justification for the Israelis not allowing
Palestinians to return to their own homes and lands, is it?
Again Ms Shapira points the finger at the Arabs, forgetting that when
she does so three of her own fingers are pointing back at her.
This is a standard retort of many Jewish people and Israelis when
Israel is accused of doing horrible things: "The Arabs did worse".
Like, this is supposed to be some kind of excuse for doing horrible
things oneself, as long as one doesn't do them quite as horribly as
the "other guy". One shakes one's head and wonders whether people who
make such excuses are even capable of thinking rationally and
It may also be noted that throughout most of their history, Arabs have
not condoned massive ethnic cleansing of Jews, the way Israelis have
done and are continuing to do to the Palestinian people. The Arabs
have a long history and track record to prove exactly the opposite. In
Palestine itself, Muslims, Christians and Druze had lived peacefully
along with Jews for centuries. Even when the Muslims were conquerors,
they did not by and large conduct any "ethnic cleansing" of Jews. Omar
Ibn al-Khatab's and Saladin's conquest of Jerusalem are solid proofs
of how Arabs and Muslims treated even their defeated subjects, the
Byzantines and the Crusaders respectively: which is to say, quite
fairly. Heck, Maimonides was one of Saladin's own personal physicians!
(And it's not like the Arabs didn't have excellent and famous doctors
of their own, like ibn Sina - renowned even in Europe, as Avicenna -
and ibn Mutran, another of Saladin's personal physicians.) And many of
today's Christian Palestinians trace their roots to the Crusades.
Muslim Arabs have their long history to prove their general tolerance
towards their non-Muslim - and especially Jewish - subjects; the
Israelis have their track record to speak for them.
And then Ms Shapira denies any existence of a plan to expel the
The Arab panic led to exodus, and to the collapse of the institutions
of Palestinian society. The more the magnitude of the exodus became
clear, the more admissible and attractive the idea seemed to Israeli
leaders and military commanders--not because the Zionist movement had
been planning such an evacuation all along, but because a remote
option (even if there were some who harbored such hankerings) gained
acceptance in the context of the behavior of both sides during the
Perhaps Ms Shapira has not heard of the March 10, 1948 "Plan Dalet",
written up in the Sefer Toldot Hahaganah ["History of the Haganah"],
vol. 3, ed, by Yehuda Slutsky (TelAviv: Zionist Library, 1972,
Appendix 48, pp 1955-60), which among other things called for:
"Mounting operations against enemy population centers located inside
or near our defensive system in order to prevent them from being used
as bases by an active armed force. These operations can be divided
into the following categories: [...]
"Destruction of villages (setting fire to, blowing up, and planting
mines in the debris), especially those population centers which are
difficult to control continuously. [...]
"Mounting search and control operations according to the following
guidelines: encirclement of the village and conducting a search inside
it. In the event of resistance, the armed force must be destroyed and
the population must be expelled outside the borders of the state." (My
The entire text of the plan is available in English translation on the
Web at <http://www.mideastweb.org/pland.htm>.
But even if we were to suppose that this plan had never existed, would
Ms Shapira like to explain to us, exactly what prevented Israel from
accepting back, as soon as the conflict was over, those displaced
Palestinians who had fled the scene of the conflict - as Israel, just
like every other warring party, was obliged to do under international
law as it stood at that time, and as it stands to this day - and which
was in fact a precondition for Israel's admission to the United
Whether there was a plan of expulsion or not, Israel behaved after the
conflict as if there had been one. What more needs to be said?
Basically, what Ms Shapira suggests is, Let's forget the past and move
on: for realism, not morality, should be our guiding light. Or, as she
says in her concluding paragraph,
And so the dialogue between history and historiography will continue.
If it turns out that the hopes for an Israeli-Arab peace were
premature, then the picture of the past will also be soured, and the
currents critical of Israel will almost certainly be strengthened. If
the peace process is carried forward to a successful conclusion, and
Israel is welcomed as a fully recognized polity among the states of
the Middle East, then a perspective on the past will be reinforced
whose rudiments are already evident, though only intermittently in the
writings of Avi Shlaim and Benny Morris: the perspective of realism.
When reality comes more closely to approximate our moral ideals,
moralism will become redundant. We will see this thick and twisted
conflict more accurately and more humanely. And the power of discourse
may succeed where the power of arms has failed.
In other words, Shapira appeals to all people to forget the all evil
Israel did, so that the evil can be legitimised. A blanket amnesty.
Not one word of apology from Israel to the Palestinians, not one word
of acknowledgement for past Jewish sins: for to her, the past, as she
sees it - and wants all of us to see it - might as well have never
existed. At best it was a "thick and twisted conflict", with blame
enough to go round on all sides. And this is supposed to bring about
an end to the conflict?!?
There is only one way a Jewish state can permanently exist in
Palestine: and that is for the Jews to come to some sort of mutually-
acceptable agreement with those who were living there before the Jews
arrived. In this day and age, no other way will deliver the goods!
Herzl recognised that, Ahad Ha'Am recognised that, Martin Buber
recognised that, even Einstein recognised that. Not that it needs an
Einstein to recognise it - it's just plain common sense.
And because a lot of injustice has now been done by Israel to the
indigenous inhabitants of Palestine, the only way a mutually-
acceptable agreement between them and the Jews can come about is if
the Jews, both as individuals and as a whole people, apologise for the
wrongs they did, and follow up with the apology's logical
consequences. That is to say, give back every single bit of what was
stolen, solemnly promise never to do it again, and offer generous
compensation for the damage, pain and suffering caused in the
For whatever harm the Palestinians have done to the Jews, the Jews
have a right to demand an apology from them too, and compensation as
well. But the harm has been far greater the other way. The ledger is
not even close to balanced. Even if we forget the property issue,
where the stealing and destruction has been almost one hundred per
cent carried out by Israelis, there's also the blood issue: there have
been over 20 Palestinians killed by Israelis for every Israeli killed
by Palestinians - and that's not even counting the maimed and
tortured, or Arabs killed by Israel in other countries. Even after the
Palestinians pay every penny they owe the Jews, there'll still be an
enormous debt left over which the Jews will have to pay to the
Palestinians - just as Avi Shlaim said.
That is, of course, if the Jews want to be considered even decent
human beings, let alone "God's chosen people" and "a light unto the
nations". Otherwise, they're not decent human beings. Decent people
don't just grab and hold on to other people's property: that's
something even a six-year-old can tell you.
In short: if the Jewish people want a Jewish state on someone else's
land, they should pay for it - just as if I want a Porsche, I should
pay for it. If I can't afford one, no matter how much I want one, I
should do without - just as I'm doing right now, in fact. I shouldn’t
just go out and steal one! If I steal a Porsche it hardly makes it
"mine", now does it. It still rightfully belongs to someone else, only
in addition I'd now be guilty of stealing it.
Same thing applies to the Land of Israel, over ninety percent of which
used to be someone else's. It was simply grabbed by the Jews without
the owners' permission - and much of it at gunpoint, at that. That's
just grand theft: no different from carjacking, except on a much
But it's not as if the Jewish people, taken as a whole, can't afford
to pay for the land on which to set up a Jewish state. Even Herzl
recognised this. The Jewish people are among the wealthiest in the
world: forty-five percent of the top 40 of the Forbes 400 richest
Americans are Jewish, and one-third of American multimillionaires are
Jewish, even though Jews comprise less than 3 percent of the American
population. Israelis and their supporters in the US have already spent
megabucks on the Israeli army, and have resigned themselves to spend
not just megabucks but gigabucks and even terabucks on it ... and that
too, for all time to come. A one-time payment for the land to make up
a Jewish state, even it were to make every Palestinian rich beyond his
or her wildest dreams, would be peanuts in comparison. And as a
_H_U_G_E_ bonus, everybody would be happy!
And as regards the Palestinians' political aspirations, this problem
too would easily be solved by allowing both the Jewish and
Palestinians states to exercise sovereignty over the Holy Land in
parallel. Parallel sovereignty over a single piece of territory is
hardly impossible: it just requires a willingness to come to
agreements with one's neighbours. All states have to come to mutually-
acceptable agreements with their neighbours: parallel sovereignty only
requires more of the same. So it's not like it's too much to ask.
I had initially thought that the idea of Parallel Sovereignty was the
brainchild of Israeli creative thinker Deb Reich (see her article
"Beyond the Onion of Blame: Parallel Sovereignty for Palestine/Israel"
in CounterPunch, October 30, 2002 <http://www.counterpunch.org/
reich1030.html>), but after conducting some searches on the Internet I
find that it had been proposed before: for example by Noam Chomsky, by
Martin Buber and even, if I'm not mistaken, by Confucius: so it's not
like it's a new proposal. As Fred Foldvary says at <http://
"Martin Buber [...] favored (in a 1939 letter to Gandhi) the 'communal
ownership of land' (citing Leviticus 25:23) as well as 'the
independence of each individual'. With 'joint sovereignty', neither
people need fear 'domination by the other through numerical
superiority', hence, he said, immigration need not be restricted. In a
1947 radio lecture in the Netherlands, Buber said, 'The demands for an
Arab state or a Jewish state in the entire Land of Israel fall into
the category of political 'surplus', 'of the desire to achieve more
than what is truly needed.' [...] (Martin Buber, A Land of Two
Peoples, 1983). [...] and Noam Chomsky in his book Peace in the Middle
East? (1974) [...] suggested, as an alternative to the usual
proposals, 'parallel national institutions throughout the whole
territory with a free option for each individual; and also the option
of dissociation from national institutions with retention of full
rights of citizenship for those who prefer'."
Anyway, it's not as if the problems in the Holy Land are insoluble: in
fact they could be easily solved if the majority of the Jewish people
would only think, rather than simply act without thinking, as they
have been doing for over a century now. Unfortunately there seems to
be little willingness among most of them, whether inside or outside
Israel, to change their habits in this respect. If Ms Shapira's
article represents - as it almost certainly does - the best thinking
the Israeli and Jewish mainstream is capable of, then I am afraid
there truly is no hope for Israel. The blind leading the blind - will
they not all fall into the ditch?
Great find. Thanks
Does this mean I have a Christian DNA since I'm Orthodox?
Can I get my own country too? - I want to call it Pravoslavia!
interesting thing , `Every one` around us noted that Benny Morris
has sort of withdrawn [in Tv and radio talks] from many of his New
Historionic ideas, as if he has taken a good look at his ded and
thinks more of the consequences,,,,, i haven`t seen him write such
thoughts but heard him changing ...
dr Sand [ in Hebrew it is writen with a Zain, Nun , daled ], is happy
that he gained fame [ and some money ] from his book,,,, on talks on
tv he looks very smug , but i am not impressed by him ..
i must admit that i haven`t read Anita Shapira `s books , i heard her
sometimes , i am so overlaoded by other books , that need to be
No but you can write your Own book about it . and see if it sells
No one denies that over the generations , some people, at times some
big families, or a `part of a village` , converted into Judaism,
because of some `religious feeling/belief/dream/ some event that
happened to those people. Mostly after a generation or two they
intermarriaged into the Main Jewish Group of people. And their
children and children`s children, are here and there, absorbed into
No one denies that once many Jews returned to Israel, every diaspora
bringing with them some learned languages, some `other life
experiences` , [because of having lived within another kind of culture
with whom the Jewish people had some connections]. Knowledge of
different ways to prepare foods and use of herbs, due to the different
weather and produce in those diasporas. we will want to look for those
parts in our Heritage that is common and closer to each other.
All the Jewish People who return to Israel, and all the Jews who live
in Israel, have a Common heritage , which they kept during generations
of Diaspora .
"Some" that converted - the only "ethnic" Jews that lived in
Europe were a few hundred Christians, a bunch of merchants
and the Maranos who became "the diaspora". The other 10 - 14 Million
came from European stock. Religious rites and customs do not count for
Most Catholics used
to study Latin, that didn't make them ethnic Catholics. If some
cardinals were to go bonkers and declare a catholic nation
I am pretty sure that core supporters would ditch their true
nationality and start speaking Latin at home. Which is what
has happened to the Jews.
Is this your way of announcing to the world that you are an ignoramus?
Seems to me you could have saved bandwidth by just stating it plainly.
I am glad that you know about the Maranos Being Ethnic Jews, and as
the maranos were only a part of the Jews who lived in Spain and not
all of them became Maranos =forced to converted to Christianity, many
Jews in Spain chose Not to convert , many were expulsed to other
countries, From Holland to poland, To England and even to the Just
Newly found continent America !!!!
. After a while they started to intermarrigae with other Jews that
lived in or around those countries.
The other 10 - 14 Million
> came from European stock. Religious rites and customs do not count for
> ethnic heritage.
Some of the religious rites and custumes have to do with weddings ,
birth etc ,, with knowing who the mother of the child was, Usually
this is called Ethnic heritage.
> Most Catholics used
> to study Latin, that didn't make them ethnic Catholics. If some
> cardinals were to go bonkers and declare a catholic nation
And i always thought that Ierland was a Catholic nation ? as were the
Poles, the Italians , the Spanish, etc,,, centuries of wars were
fought in Europe in which the Catholics tried to enforce other
countries to become Catholics, or stop them from leaving their
And last not least isn`t the English Monarch the `Head of the
Anglican Church` ? which makes the English an `Anglican Nation` ?
> I am pretty sure that core supporters would ditch their true
> nationality and start speaking Latin at home. Which is what
> has happened to the Jews.-
???? i reread this part several times, can you be more explicit,
What are you reffering to ?
Ps speaking of True nationality ? What is your Nationality ? if you
live in Usa , would you care to tell us when your Family arrived in
the USA ? and from which part of the world ?
Or if you live in Australia or Canada , would you care to answer me ?
What is your Nationality ?
When did your family Arrive at the country you live in?
What did they speak before they came to the country you live in now ?
What did you /or your family have in common with their New neighbours
in your country when they came to it ?
Could they speak the `local` language when they came there?
Are they still in touch with their Family members who live in the `old
land` or who emigrated to other Countries?
Ps 2. When i first saw the nickname you chose for your posts, i
couldn`t believe my eyes,,, just to be sure my laughing didn`t stop me
from remembering what it meant , i went to check in the
Dictinary ...... "Agitprop [agitation and propaganda] serving the
purpose of both agitation and propaganda: said of anyhthing used to
excite public opinion."
I have noticed that you try to write propaganda, but Alas it isn`t
agitating at all ....we are used to your kind of stuff....
Tell your "People" to get out of the West Bank and to stop corrupting
And neither support a claim for real estate which is over two
What's great about it. It doesn't support what you've been saying
about genetics. Or much else for theat matter.
You mean besides the fact that it proves Sand is nothing but a
It doesn't support what you've been saying
> about genetics.
It doesn't need to. Of course, it doesn't deny what I've been saying,
> Or much else for theat matter.
Try reading it.
Try reading it.
Try answering it:
Why won't you answer, Dicky? hmm?
Because you have irrefutably demonstrated that your illness prevents
you from perceiving my replies. I have PROVEN it with cites, and you
have offered no counter. You'd best just take your meds and watch your
shows so that you stay calm enough not to hurt yourself or others.
lie, deny, deflect - Zionism in 1 easy lesson
41 times you've run away - why not stay and fight your corner, Dicky?
I have, but your illness prevents you from perceiving it, exactly the
same as your illness prevents you from perceiving that I tell you that
your illness prevents you from perceiving it and that is why it serves
no purpose to answer further. Your illness is why you will parrot your
"lie, deny..." again - you're too sick to realize that I have answered
> 58seconds in.
"drahcir" <justrich...@gmail.com> wrote in message
> I have, but your illness prevents you from perceiving it, exactly the
> same as your illness prevents you from perceiving that I tell you that
> your illness prevents you from perceiving it and that is why it serves
> no purpose to answer further. Your illness is why you will parrot your
> "lie, deny..." again - you're too sick to realize that I have answered
> your question.
I wonder if this ignorant ass will ever grow up enough to realize that
he is not doing PalArabs any favors by behaving the way he does. Nobody
pays attention to petty childlike freaks such as himself, other than people
of his own kind and what good is it to have an army of anti-Jewish childlike
trolls? The guy must either be very pro-Israel, or a huge mental-midget.
I noticed you over on the mediated board a day or two ago, David,
sucking-up to its Jews who--generally think you're a creep--by posting
things for their edificaation about their own religion. As you are an
admitted Roman Catholic Shabbos goy, this is one of the most
demeaning, self-hating things I've ever seen you do. Do you actually
think these Jewish intellectuals appreciate this sort of stupid and
transparent condescention from the likes of you?