Grab a glass and sit back, this is a long one.
Yesterday was Holocaust Rememberance Day in Israel and around the world. This is a day when those of us who wish to commemorate the victims of the Nazi genocidal machine in WWII stop what we do for some reflection and some consideration of those who were murdered or those who had their family and friends murdered and harmed by the Nazis. Approximately 11 million were killed by the Nazis, among whom the largest group were Jews. Anywhere from 5.3 to 6 million Jews were exterminated by the Nazis over a period of 6 years, begining with the death squads of the Einsatzgruppen who murdered about 1.5 million Jews over 18 months by going from village to village and town to town, rounding up Jews and shooting them in cold blood.
Although an exact figure will never be known, approximately 1,500,000 people were murdered by the Einsatzgruppen. The Einsatzgruppen submitted detailed and specific reports of their actions to their superiors both by radio and written communication; these reports were checked against each other for accuracy at Heydrich’s headquarters. According to those reports approximately 1,500,000 people were murdered. In evaluating this large number Justice Michael Musmanno, who presided at the trial of the Einsatzgruppen wrote:
One million human corpses is a concept too bizarre and too fantastical for normal mental comprehension. As suggested before, the mention of one million deaths produces no shock at all commensurate with its enormity because to the average brain one million is more a symbol than a quantitative measure. However, if one reads through the reports of the Einsatzgruppen and observes the small numbers getting larger, climbing into ten thousand, tens of thousands, a hundred thousand and beyond, then one can at last believe that this actually happened — the cold-blooded, premeditated killing of one million human beings.
Of course, the Final Solution, where the Nazis figured out how to commit genocide without this dirty, backbreaking work, but rather by using transports, death camps, gas chambers, slave labor and concentration camps was yet to come.
Contrary to the assertions of many on the Left and the far Right, Israel was not founded because of the Holocaust. Actually, Zionism was robust and active well before then. Even after the Holocaust, it took some years before those Jewish refugees who came over from Europe made their way to Israel. On the other hand, there were also quite a few Jewish refugees from Arab lands who made their way to Israel.
It suits the political purposes of many, however, to invoke the Holocaust both in praising Israel and in condemning it. It is not unusual to hear supporters of Palestinians complain “Why do the Palestinians have to be punished just because the Nazis murdered Jews in the Holocaust.” That is, that’s what they say when these supporters aren’t denying the Holocaust (see Mahmoud Abbas’s doctoral dissertation) or claiming the Jews caused it themselves (that’s the group that Jimmy Carter went to see, Hamas). It also suits Israeli politicians to evoke the idea of “never again” when rallying the people or when describing threats to Israel and its existence.
Yesterday in England, however, a special treat for all of us thinking about this day and its meaning was published in that lovely and biased anti-Israel newspaper, The Guardian. Signed by 100 Jewish people of some note the letter (here in bold) reads as follows – I will break it down with my comments interspersed:
In May, Jewish organisations will be celebrating the 60th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel. This is understandable in the context of centuries of persecution culminating in the Holocaust. Nevertheless, we are Jews who will not be celebrating. Surely it is now time to acknowledge the narrative of the other, the price paid by another people for European anti-semitism and Hitler’s genocidal policies. As Edward Said emphasised, what the Holocaust is to the Jews, the Naqba is to the Palestinians.
You will recognize the lie, not misperception, but, in my opinion, the outright misrepresentation of fact wherein Hitler’s genocide is the cause of Palestinian suffering. In other words, the Jews are sticking it to the Arabs because they were murdered by Nazis. To emphasize this, they quote Edward Said’s false assertion to make their point.
Dear Jewish Leftists of repute, please recognize that just because Edward Said said something, it doesn’t mean that it’s right or even true.
In fact, the Naqba is at its very worst similar to what happened to the Jews from Arab lands who had to leave everything behind and who became refugees, many of whom fled to Israel. There is one critical difference here as well however. Those Jewish refugees from Arab lands did not engage in a war against their countries or against anybody.
On the other hand, the Palestinians ended up suffering in a war which they launched together with other Arab nations after decades of attacking Jews in the Yishuv. And this 1948 war, by the way, wasn’t a friendly kind of war. This was a genocidal war:
â€œKill the Jews wherever you find them. This pleases God, history and religion.â€
– Haj Amin al-Husseini, Mufti of Jerusalem
(Radio Berlin, March 1, 1944; quoted in Robert Wistrich, Muslim Anti-Semitism: A Clear and Present Danger [American Jewish Committee, 2002], p47)
â€œThis will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades.â€
– Azzam Pasha, Secretary-General of the Arab League
(BBC, May 15, 1948)
â€œIf the Jewish state becomes a fact, and this is realized by the Arab peoples, they will drive the Jews who live in their midst into the seaâ€¦ Even if we are beaten now in Palestine, we will never submit. We will never accept the Jewish state… But for politics, the Egyptian army alone, or volunteers of the Muslim Brotherhood, could have destroyed the Jews.â€
– Hassan al-Banna, Muslim Brotherhood founder
(New York Times, August 2, 1948)
â€œIn demanding the return of the Palestinian refugees the Arabs mean their return as masters, not slaves, or to put it more clearly â€“ the intention is the extermination of Israel.â€
– Salah al-Din, Egyptian Foreign Minister
(Al-Misri, Egypt, October 11, 1949; quoted in Harris O. Schoenberg, A Mandate for Terror: The United Nations and the PLO [Shapolsky Books, 1989], p239)
As evident, the rhetoric used by the Arabs was that of extermination and the tactics used, for example massacring all the members of most Israeli convoys that were captured, also indicated a desire to exterminate.
In April 1948, the same month as the infamous massacre at Deir Yassin and the mortar attack on Palestinian civilians in Haifa’s market square, Plan Dalet was put into operation. This authorised the destruction of Palestinian villages and the expulsion of the indigenous population outside the borders of the state. We will not be celebrating.
April 1948 came long after Arab attacks on Jews such as those that followed the Partition vote at the UN on November 29th, 1947. There were also attacks on Gush Etzion, on Cfar Szold, on Dan, on a convoy to Gush Etzion (all 35 men slaughtered), mass bombings on the Palestine Post and on Ben Yehuda Street (54 Jews murdered), Jewish Agency bombing, other convoy attacks and massacres such as at Mishmar Ha’Emek.
There were certainly many Jewish attacks on Arabs as well including some by the Irgun that can be called terrorism no less than the Arab attacks on Jews. In fact, the Haifa attack mentioned in the letter was launched by a group of Irgun members who threw bombs into a crowd of Arab workers at the shipyard, killing several. The remaining crowd of Arab workers turned back into the shipyard and proceeded to murder 41 Jews and injure many more. Strange how the letter by these enlightened even-handed Jews who simply seek everybody living side by side in peace misses this information.
As for Plan Dalet, the anti-Israelis like to claim that it’s some pre-ordained expulsion plan when it was primarily a defensive plan intended to scout out and be knowledgeable about which Palestinian villages were hostile and which weren’t, with plans to fight those that were belligerent and remove them if necessary. At the time Plan Dalet was launched, the Yishuv was gearing up to protect itself and was in the midst of a war of survival. Suggesting that in fact they were already planning on victory is simply a lie. Talk to most Israelis who were around back then (I have spoken to quite a few!) and they’ll tell you they were scared for their lives and the very destruction of the Jewish community.
There were, undeniably, expulsions of a portion of the Arab population just as there were many who left on their own or with the help of ARAB propaganda (as documented by the BBC, in fact). The expulsions were not part of pre-war planning but were the result of the inability of Israelis and Jews to lead normal lives in certain areas, as evidenced before and during the war. None of these would have taken place, however, had the Arabs not launched their war and if they didn’t take such brutal measures against Jews within the war.
Of course, there were also expulsions of ALL of the Jews from areas such as Gush Etzion (well, the Arabs just killed most of the Jews who remained there) and ALL of the Jews from east Jerusalem.
In July 1948, 70,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes in Lydda and Ramleh in the heat of the summer with no food or water. Hundreds died. It was known as the Death March. We will not be celebrating.
The number is between 35,000 and 50,000. It was an event that caused a lot of consternation within Israel but both Lod and Ramleh’s populations suffered primarily because their towns were strategically placed between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and had presented a clear threat during the war. This doesn’t excuse the manner of the expulsion or the death of a single non-military resident of these towns. The Israelis should have acted differently, even if expulsion was unavoidable.
In all, 750,000 Palestinians became refugees. Some 400 villages were wiped off the map. That did not end the ethnic cleansing. Thousands of Palestinians (Israeli citizens) were expelled from the Galilee in 1956. Many thousands more when Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza. Under international law and sanctioned by UN resolution 194, refugees from war have a right to return or compensation. Israel has never accepted that right. We will not be celebrating.
194 is NOT international law. It is a General Assembly resolution and is therefore merely advisory. To remind these sensitive British Jews, the Arabs rejected this resolution for many years, not Israel. Of course, now that it could harm Israel they try to invoke it in every agreement.
Even the assertion by this group that compensation would be an alternative is disputed by the facts. Israel agreed in 2000 and 2001 that in any peace deal, it would participate in providing compensation to the Palestinians. The figure provided was $30 billion.
Just as the Palestinians have a right to self-determination, so do the Israelis and the so called “right of return” undermines that right. In fact, if it were not for the Palestninians and Arab nations attacking in 1948, the entire premise of a “right of return” wouldn’t even be suggested. They attempted to eradicate the Jewish population, ensure that its right to self-determination would be destroyed and when the situation backfired on them, they put on the faces of victims. These British Jews who stand solidly behind this attempt to undo the losses in this war which were brought about by the Palestinians’ own violent behavior cannot pick and choose the historical facts that benefit their argument. They must consider all the facts and when one side launches a war, it must be prepared to assume the consequences.
Finally, these signatories to the letter would do well next time to include mention of the 800,000 Jewish refugees from Arab lands who had to leave everything behind to flee to Israel.
We cannot celebrate the birthday of a state founded on terrorism, massacres and the dispossession of another people from their land.
There would have been zero attacks on Arabs had there not been innumerable attacks on Jews throughout the decades prior to 1948. Jabotinsky and his line of thinking were born from this violence.
Some of these attacks by certain Jewish militias like the Irgun can be considered terrorism, in my opinion. It has to be mentioned, though (and this is far from excusing it), that the attacks were conducted in a war where terrorism was used against the Jewish Yishuv. There were some massacres committed by Jewish forces, primarily the right wing groups, but there were plenty of massacres and attacks by Arabs upon Jews. There was dispossession of Arabs from land that was theirs, their community’s or their landlords’ but there was also dispossession of Jews from their land. This was a war.
This was a war started by the Arabs with the intention of eradicating the Jewish yishuv and where both sides fought hard. One percent of the population of the Yishuv was killed – the equivalent of 3,000,000 people in today’s United States. Why is it that these British Palestinian sympathizers don’t mention the magnitude of the violence perpetrated against the Jews by the Arabs? Is it because the Arabs lost the war they launched? Apparently so.
Let’s read one of the “New Historians,” Avi Shlaim, whose publications were probably resources for this vile letter by the British Jews.
The first round of fighting, from 15 May until 11 June, was a critical period during which the fate of the newly-born Jewish state seemed to hang in the balance. During this period the Jewish community suffered heavy causalities, civilian as well as military; it reeled from the shock of contact with regular Arab armies; and it suffered an ordeal which left indelible marks on the national psyche. For the people who lived through this ordeal, the sense of being me’atim mul rabim, the few against the many, could not have been more real. During this period, the IDF was locked in a battle on all fronts, against the five invading armies. The IDF had numerical superiority in manpower over all the Arab expeditionary forces put together, but it suffered from a chronic weakness in firepower, a weakness that was not rectified until the arrival of illicit arms shipments from the Eastern bloc during the first truce. The sense of isolation and vulnerability was overwhelming. And it was during this relatively brief but deeply traumatic period that the collective Israeli memory of the 1948 War was formed.
It is interesting that Shlaim got this information by quoting another historian, Anita Shapira, who is considered an opponent of the “New Historians.” Apparently he had difficulty figuring out for himself that the Yishuv was reeling from the Arab attacks and truly fearful for its existence and for the lives of its members.
What the Shlaim quote provides is some sense of the desperation of the war. This was a brutal war, but its lines had been drawn by the Arabs in 1920, 1921, 1929, 1936-1939 attacks on Jewish communities and individuals. It appears that all the Palestinian sympathizers would like to erase the beginning of the violence, its nature, the rejection of compromise, the attacks intended to destroy the Yishuv and, of course, the terror, dispossession and massacres which were conducted by the Palestinians and other Arab armies.
We cannot celebrate the birthday of a state that even now engages in ethnic cleansing,
Of course, Israel vacated all of Gaza and left it entirely in Palestinian hands. It has watched the Palestinian population grown threefold since 1967 in the Territories and has a judiciary that has almost always protected the land rights of Palestinians. Accusing Israel of ethnic cleansing when the information I listed is openly available makes this group of British Jews either wacky, ignorant or fans of misrepresenting the truth.
that violates international law,
Arguable. Of course, the Hamas rocket launches against Israel and the Hizbullah attacks, the abuse of Israeli soldiers captured by these groups and the ongoing attempts to attack Israelis via bomb and gun are the real crimes here. Let’s remember that Israel would not be attacking Gaza at all were it not for the rocket attacks from Gaza.
We could have a debate about where “settlements” are in violation of international law, but we’ll leave that issue in the hands of historians.
that is inflicting a monstrous collective punishment on the civilian population of Gaza
Israel was out of Gaza. All that had to happen was some friendly or even merely cordial behavior by the leadership of Gaza and life would have become relatively normal. However, the democratically elected Hamas and other groups under their umbrella have instead been attacking Israeli civilian centers to ensure that the Israeli public, military and leadership want to retaliate. When people in Gaza die or get injured, or even simply have a hard life as refugees because of war, they can blame Israel but only after they blame their own leadership to a far greater degree.
and that continues to deny to Palestinians their human rights and national aspirations.
Well, they wouldn’t be doing any of this if the Palestinians had not launched waves of suicide and sniper attacks. And national aspirations were on the table in 2000 and 2001.
We will celebrate when Arab and Jew live as equals in a peaceful Middle East.
Amen. I hope this group follows its own line of thinking to its logical conclusion and encourages the Arabs, especially the Palestinians, to compromise and reach a peaceful agreement with the Israelis – without challenging the Jewish right to self-determination in their homeland.
If these people seek justice, they should try pressuring the Arabs. Peace will follow soon thereafter.