Saturday, February 19, 2011

"Arab Zionist" vs. "Self-Hating Jew"

The other day on facebook I noticed that Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, a facebook friend and a brilliant young author on his way to Oxford, slammed Nir Rosen for his unwise tweets about Lara Logan. Nir posted his apology on his facebook page, and there Aymenn criticized Nir. I forget Aymenn's original comment (I don't see that thread anymore) but Nir commented that "an Arab Zionist is an abomination" in reference to Aymenn. I was surprised to see that Nir and Aymenn are friends on facebook.

On his own facebook page, Aymenn posted that he "is thrilled to have had his existence described as an 'abomination' by the disgraced Nir Rosen! A hearty 'Aymenn' to that!" Aymenn wrote in a comment: "If 'self-hating Jew' has any meaning, then Nir Rosen matches that definition."

In the late 1990s on the Yahoo message boards I saw many pro-Israel Jews and Christians calling Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, Ralph Schoenman, and other Jewish critics of Israel "self-hating Jews" but I have never seen an Arab call anybody a self-hating Jew until a few days ago on facebook. What is a "self-hating Jew"? And what is an "Arab Zionist"?

I believe that Nir Rosen is also a brilliant author and journalist, although I haven't always agreed with him. I think Nir wants what's best for Iraqis, but Nir's views on Iraq have often seemed to be "pro-resistance" and I've criticized him for ignoring the history of sectarian conflict in Iraq before 2003. But calling him a "self-hating Jew" is a bit over the top. Just because Nir is pro-Palestinian doesn't mean he hates Jews, and he definitely does not hate himself. On the other hand, calling Aymenn an Arab Zionist also seems to be wrong. I wondered what makes Aymenn a Zionist, so I asked him how to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict. He responded:

I support the two-state solution along the pre-67 borders as the best option. A West Bank confederation with Jordan has its merits, but it's not going to be accepted any time soon. Anyway, paramount to a lasting two-state solution will be the recognition of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state by the Palestinian leadership- a requirement as per UN General Assembly Resolution 181- and that the right of return is simply untenable. The population has to be taught this as well- it's no good to give a different message to the people.

On the other hand, elements of the Israeli right have to realise that the West Bank cannot remain occupied, and continued construction of Jewish settlements across the West Bank will become the vanguard of a binational state, thereby endangering the very character of the Jewish state they claim to espouse. That said, I don't think that settlement building should be a reason to refuse to continue negotiations. I would like to see a final agreement reached even if settlement building continues- it's an issue that can be easily resolved after a deal is struck. Incidentally, a land swap whereby Israel gets to keep some of the major settlements like Arial in return for some land from 1948 Israel for a Palestinian state is reasonable.

Whilst Palestinian leaders should not feel a need to exclude Jews from being part of a Palestinian state, they have every right to demand that Israel respect its right to exist as a Palestinian state (also per Resolution 181).

As for East Jerusalem, it should be subject to a referendum as I find that many polls indicate that the Arab inhabitants would prefer to remain with Israel rather than become incorporated into a Palestinian state.

Hamas: it's unreasonable to expect Hamas to be incorporated into the peace process when the group doesn't recognise Israel's right to exist- what's the point in negotiating with someone who doesn't recognise you? In fact, progress in negotiations with the PA leading to a two-state solution could well prove essential for getting rid of Hamas, as it is hard to imagine that the people of Gaza would want to be 'left behind'.

In this context, I should note that it was disastrous for the Palestinian leadership to reject Ehud Olmert's offer for a Palestinian state:

As for my view of the history of the conflict, Israel's record has not been entirely clean (e.g. expulsions in 1948), but ultimately the blame for a lack of a Palestinian state lies with the Arab states who repeatedly launched wars of aggression to try to destroy Israel. They should simply have accepted the original partition in 1948.

That seems reasonable. So Aymenn is a Zionist because he believes that the Arabs should accept Israel's existence according to 1967 borders? I have never seen a right-wing Zionist call for Israel to withdraw to 1967 borders.

I've written a few posts about Palestine, and anybody who has read any of them would probably conclude that I am pro-Palestinian, yet I have been called a "Zionist" before. What is a Zionist? According to the Advanced English Dictionary (iPhone app) a Zionist is a "Jewish supporter of Zionism" and Zionism is a "policy for establishing and developing a national homeland for Jews in Palestine." Obviously Aymenn is not Jewish, yet he supports Israel's right to exist. Maybe in a way this makes Aymenn a Zionist. But does this make him an abomination? I don't think so.

I wonder what Nir's solution to the conflict would be. Does Nir believe that Arabs should naturally be against Israel? Does he believe that Israel should be destroyed and that Arabs should support the destruction of Israel?

I don't agree completely with Aymenn's views. It's easy to say today that the Arabs should have accepted partition in 1948, and I don't believe that the Arabs launched wars in all five cases. To say that in 1948 the Arabs launched a "war of aggression" against Israel is to be simplistic and misleading. From the Arab point of view, they were defending Palestine, an Arab land, against colonialism. I like what Ghandi wrote in 1938:

“Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French...What is going on in Palestine today cannot be justified by any moral code of conduct...If they [the Jews] must look to the Palestine of geography as their national home, it is wrong to enter it under the shadow of the British gun. A religious act cannot be performed with the aid of the bayonet or the bomb. They can settle in Palestine only by the goodwill of the Arabs... As it is, they are co-sharers with the British in despoiling a people who have done no wrong to them. I am not defending the Arab excesses. I wish they had chosen the way of non-violence in resisting what they rightly regard as an unacceptable encroachment upon their country. But according to the accepted canons of right and wrong, nothing can be said against the Arab resistance in the face of overwhelming odds.”

--Mahatma Gandhi, quoted in “A Land of Two Peoples” ed. Mendes-Flohr.

By 1948, however, after the Holocaust and the foolish Farhood al Yahood in Iraq, the Jews had gained the sympathy of the world. Most people agreed that the Jews should suffer no more and that they deserved a homeland. But was the partition of Palestine fair to the Arabs? Palestinian scholar Sami Hadawi wrote in A Bitter Harvest:

“Arab rejection was...based on the fact that, while the population of the Jewish state was to be [only half] Jewish with the Jews owning less than 10% of the Jewish state land area, the Jews were to be established as the ruling body — a settlement which no self-respecting people would accept without protest, to say the least...The action of the United Nations conflicted with the basic principles for which the world organization was established, namely, to uphold the right of all peoples to self-determination. By denying the Palestine Arabs, who formed the two-thirds majority of the country, the right to decide for themselves, the United Nations had violated its own charter.”

Furthermore, Zionist leaders were intent from the beginning to take all of Palestine:

“In internal discussion in 1938 [David Ben-Gurion] stated that ‘after we become a strong force, as a result of the creation of a state, we shall abolish partition and expand into the whole of Palestine’...In 1948, Menachem Begin declared that: ‘The partition of the Homeland is illegal. It will never be recognized. The signature of institutions and individuals of the partition agreement is invalid. It will not bind the Jewish people. Jerusalem was and will forever be our capital. Eretz Israel (the land of Israel) will be restored to the people of Israel, All of it. And forever.”

--Noam Chomsky, “The Fateful Triangle

1967 is another one of those "wars of aggression" that the Arabs allegedly launched. I believed this too until I entered college and began reading Noam Chomsky:

“The former Commander of the Air Force, General Ezer Weitzman, regarded as a hawk, stated that there was ‘no threat of destruction’ but that the attack on Egypt, Jordan and Syria was nevertheless justified so that Israel could ‘exist according the scale, spirit, and quality she now embodies.’...Menahem Begin had the following remarks to make: ‘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 him.’“

--Noam Chomsky, “The Fateful Triangle

Since 1967, Israel has demolished thousands of Palestinian homes and has annexed large parts of what remains of Palestine. Even the US government agrees that Israeli expansion into Palestinian territory since 1967 is illegal.

Too many westerners have accepted the notion that the Arabs launched "wars of aggression" against Israel. It's kinda like saying, without elaborating, that the native Americans launched "wars of aggression" against the US after 1776. Apparently right wing Israelis and Americans believe that it is Israel's manifest destiny to take all of Palestine. But how do they do this and keep Israel a Jewish state? Even the "Arab Zionist" Aymenn says that "Jewish settlements across the West Bank will become the vanguard of a binational state, thereby endangering the very character of the Jewish state they claim to espouse." I agree. Also I agree with Aymenn that negotiations must continue, even with continued settlement building (because Israel will continue to build settlements even without negotiations), and that if the Palestinians of East Jerusalem vote to become part of Israel, then so be it, although I question Palestinians' desire to be part of Israel. I do not agree, however, that the Palestinians should be arm-twisted into accepting concessions that make them look foolish. Aymenn and many westerners evidently believe that Olmert and Barak made generous offers to the Palestinians, but I don't blame the Palestinians for rejecting those offers. Why should the Palestinians settle for anything less than complete control of the entire West Bank and Gaza, just 22% of historic Palestine?

I'm not Jewish, and had I lived in the Middle East in 1947, I probably would have been against the partition of Palestine. Palestine was partitioned nonetheless, and the Arabs lost their fight to keep it whole. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled their homes and were not allowed to return. That was an abomination, just as the subsequent expulsion of Jews from Arab nations was an abomination. The continued oppression of Palestinians and Israel's expansion into Palestinian land is also an abomination, I believe, and it is why the conflict continues. However, to call for the destruction of Israel is not only wrong, not to mention impractical, but I believe it hurts the Palestinian cause.


ih said...

Too many posts about i/p.
I thought this blog was about Iraq.
It's a good blog and I, for one,would hate for this blog to go down where so many gone before.

Iraqi Mojo said...

Thank you ih for the compliment. But this blog is about whatever is on my mind.

Do you think I should change the name of the blog?

Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi said...

Hi Muhannad:

Thanks for this post. You have reported on my views in a fair manner. A few points:-

1. It's not that Nir Rosen thinks Israel's existence is an 'abomination' that prompted me to call him a 'self-hating Jew'. It is rather the fact that he said that he wished the Greeks had used better 'counter-insurgency tactics' against the Jews during the Maccabbee revolt so that we wouldn't have the problems we face today. This statement was made by him on Twitter during Hannukkah. Nir himself had an Orthodox upbringing, and he now refuses to identify as a Jew in any way. Nothing wrong with that per se, but he appears to have turned this into inverted nationalism. I can't think of any term for this besides 'self-hatred'. Jewish Anti-Zionism should never be equated with self-hatred.

2. I also disagree that the Arab armies' aim was to defend the Palestinians in 1948. The plan was rather to divide the area amongst themselves after destroying Israel: Egypt was to get Gaza and Negev, Jordan the West Bank, and Syria the remainder. Indeed, had they truly been interested in defending an independent Palestine and Palestinians, they would not have treated the Palestinian refugees in such an appalling manner. I would be similarly harsh on Israel if the Israelis had kept Jews from the Arabic-speaking world in refugee camps as proof of the Arabs'supposed cruelty.

3. 1967: as with the other quotations you cite from Chomsky's work, I will have to verify them. But before Israel launched a pre-emptive strike Nasser made it clear to the Arab Trade Unions Congress that the Arab states should destroy Israel. It's also clear that Nasser was amassing forces on the border with Israel. Now, Nasser had many reasons to want to launch a war of aggression: he wished to make Egypt pre-eminent amongst Arabs and advance his pan-Arab ideology, he thought he had a reasonable chance of success etc.

4. I suggest you read the transcript of the interview with Saeb Erekat on Al Jazeera vis-a-vis the offer of Olmert. It could easily have been accepted as a deal subject to further negotiation.

Iraqi Mojo said...

Aymenn, thank you for reminding me that Nir said he "wished the Greeks had used better 'counter-insurgency tactics' against the Jews during the Maccabbee revolt so that we wouldn't have the problems we face today." That too was a stupid comment. Is Nir a practicing Jew?

I agree that the Arabs in general have treated the Palestinians in an appalling manner, but Jordan did give most Palestinian refugees Jordanian citizenship, and Lebanon is moving in that direction. The Lebanese government refuses to give Palestinian refugees Lebanese citizenship is because they believe the Palestinians have a right to return to their homes in what was once Palestine.

Indeed there was a lot of foolish talk among the Arabs of destroying Israel, but it was just that - rhetoric. Yitzhak Rabin said in 1968: “I do not think Nasser wanted war. The two divisions he sent to The Sinai would not have been sufficient to launch an offensive war. He knew it and we knew it.”

You say about Ehud Olmert's offer: "It could easily have been accepted as a deal subject to further negotiation." Yes but I doubt Israel would have accepted the deal if it was subject to further negotiation. Still I will find it and read it. Thank you for the suggestion.

I wonder what Nir's solution is.

Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi said...

Hi Muhannad:

Thanks for your quick response! Nir is no longer a practising Jew, he refuses to identify with Jews and Judaism completely. Again, nothing wrong with that in itself. It's just that he's become an inverted nationalist and self-described 'emotional supporter' of Hezbollah (from another exchange he had with me on FB).

True, Jordan eventually gave most Palestinians citizenship, but don't forget events likr Black September that were truly appalling.

Olmert's offer is detailed in the interview with Erekat I linked to in the first comment on FB. Thanks for being open-minded enough to want to read about it (overcharged emotions on both sides are a great problem in this debate). I will also look into this quotation from Rabin you give.

Nir's solution is the destruction of Israel and its incorporation (along with Palestine and Lebanon) into a 'Greater Syria'. No wonder he's a fan of the essentially fascist Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), whose logo is based on the Nazi swastika. He even applauded some of the party's thugs for assaulting Christopher Hitchens in Beirut a few years back. Unsurprisingly, this shocked even some of his diehard fans on FB.

Iraqi Mojo said...

WOW. His views are extreme even for an Arab.

Iraqi Mojo said...

Sandy Tolan writes in Al Jazeera:

'Among the time-honoured myths in the long tragedy of Israel and Palestine is "the deal that almost was". The latest entry, what we might call the "near deal of 2008," comes from Ehud Olmert, the former Israeli prime minister, chronicled in excerpts from his forthcoming memoir and feverishly promoted in The New York Times as "the Israel peace plan that almost was and still could be".

Clearly, the dwindling number of promoters of the two-state solution are in a post-Cairo, post-Palestine Papers attempt to keep afloat what is, in the end, a sinking ship: A bad deal that even the weak Palestinian negotiating team would not accept. "Israel has an overwhelming interest in going the extra mile," a nervous Thomas Friedman wrote as protestors filled Tahrir Square, warning: "There is a huge storm coming, Israel. Get out of the way."

At the heart of the effort to salvage the busted remnants of Oslo is the "near deal of 2008". "We were very close, more than ever before," Olmert writes in his memoirs.

But as they say in a famous TV ad in the US: "Not exactly." '

Maury said...

Obama, Abbas, and Netanyahu, should grab a case of cognac and sit around a table until they come up with something that works. If that doesn't work, send in another case.

Maury said...

After reading his tweets, and seeing his interview with Anderson Cooper, Nir Rosen seems like a not-so-bright opportunist.

I wouldn't read to much into the self-loathing thing. Jews have on occasion become Grand Dragons, and more than a few even called for the extermination of all Jews. Rosin does fit the profile though. A lifelong advocate of women's rights doesn't chuckle over a woman being sexually assaulted. That, and other contradictions, tell me his principles and morals are contrived. He pulled positions he thought would be beneficial to his career out of thin air. He probably doesn't have a sincere bone in his body.

Iraqi Mojo said...

"If that doesn't work, send in another case."

LOL, Abbas would die of alcohol poisoning.

Dolly said...

The biggest fraud is the claim that the Zionist entity has a right to exist. How does Israel have a right to exist if it started in year 1948, and wasn't there in 1848 or 1748?
Where does that idea come from, of just barging in and kicking everyone out.
There is nothing to negotiate over, the solution is to reverse the 1948 occupation

Dolly said...

No matter how negotiations go, Israel has a net gain because it had 0 territory seventy years ago.

So that kind of negotiation is not acceptable, when the intruder is rewarded with 3/4 of everything up front!

Maury said...

"How does Israel have a right to exist if it started in year 1948, and wasn't there in 1848 or 1748?"

Saudi Arabia has no right to exist Dolly? It wasn't founded until 1932, just 16 years before Israel. By your criteria, very few countries in the Middle East have a right to exist.

Black Conservative said...

I think you make some good points.

My point of view is honestly, nobody is completely innocent. No country is perfect, in fact they are all far from it, they have ALL committed crimes. Israel has done some bad things, the Arabs states have done bad things, America has done bad things, everyone has done bad things.

But having said all that, one thing that I continue to be perplexed by is this Islamic obsession with Israel "crimes" against Palestinians, yet no attention on the Iraqi (2003) or Kuwaiti (1991) expulsion of Palestinians. You and I know that it is safer for a Palestinian in the Israel than, for example, Baghdad. We know anti-Palestnian feeling is FAR, FAR, higher in, for example Kuwait than it is in any given West Bank settlement. Yet all I hear from "pro-Palestinian" activists is criticism of Israel. Why is that? Why do so many Arabs claim to support the Palestinians yet not protest against abuses against Palestinians in Arab countries?

Iraqi Mojo said...

Black Conservative, are you a supporter of Herman Caine?

Iraqi Mojo said...

You make a good point too, Black Conservative. I too have struggled with how I feel about the Palestinians. I have loved them, and I have hated them. But even when I hated them, I still loved them. I couldn't avoid them, after all. Especially the Palestinian women:) It's hard to generalize about a population that's spread out all over the world.

Yes the Palestinians have often been treated badly by their Arab brothers. But does that mean they continue to be treated badly? Does it mean that Israel should be allowed to treat them badly? I don't think so.

I have been writing about Palestine since I was in college. On my blog I've written many posts about Palestine. A good summary of my views is the post "The Origin of the Palestine-Israel Conflict".

Palestine is part of the Arab nation, one that got screwed pretty bad, and continues to get screwed. I was born in Iraq and spent a total of 8 years there. I have known Palestinians throughout my life.

It is always sad to see an African American misunderstanding or not understanding the modern history of Palestine. Many conservative Americans seem to misunderstand, especially the older ones, it seems, like CMAR II. On another thread I discovered that CMAR II seems to think the Palestinian Christians were expelled by the Muslims. It has become funny to me how conservative Americans view Palestine and Israel, because it is so ironic. I mean y'all are Christian, and a great number of Palestinian victims of the injustice are/were Christian!

Ya been hoodwinked, bamboozled.