living the stereotype, and dying.
end of a brief, contentious exchange
by G.S. <email@example.com>
29 May 2006
this page is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/2006-05-29.htm
this page is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/2006-05-29.htm
Subject: Re: I'm curious
From: George Salzman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Mon, 29 May 2006 20:06:50 -0500
To: Lawrence Salzman <email@example.com>
Oaxaca, 19-29 May 2006
Your last note, on 17 May, ended, “Maybe we should just agree that we disagree and leave it at that.” If we differed with one another over some minor matter I’d concur with you, but to me it’s not a minor disagreement. You see me as being unrealistic “in terms of understanding both history and human nature”, as shown by my “one-sided” criticism of Israel “unbalanced” by criticism of the Palestinians. I see you as being an unreasoning apologist for the State of Israel in its conquest of Palestine, apparently unwilling to examine evidence that contradicts your apologetic stance.
But it’s much more than just two old men stubbornly holding on to differing world views. Your role in accepting what you must by now realize is the deliberate, calculated destruction of Palestinian Arab society is on a par with, if not worse than that ascribed to ordinary Germans by Daniel Goldhagen in his book, Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust. In saying this I’m not claiming the scales of the crimes against humanity of the Nazi and Zionist regimes are comparable. Of course they’re not. You seem to believe you need to tell me what happened to European Jewry during the Jewish holocaust. I think I know as much as I need to in order to place that horrific genocide in historical perspective. The Israeli government does not come close to Hitler’s “final solution”, nor, I believe, will it ever go to that extreme of mass open extermination. But, as you perhaps know, and I quote here from The Destruction of the European Jews, by Raul Hilberg,
That year  marks a turning point in anti-Jewish history. In 1941 the Nazis found themselves in the midst of a total war. Several million Jews were incarcerated in ghettos. Emigration was impossible. A last-minute project to ship the Jews to the African island of Madagascar had fallen through. The “Jewish problem” had to be “solved” in some other way. At this crucial time, the idea of a “territorial solution” emerged in Nazi minds. The “territorial solution,” or “the final solution of the Jewish question in Europe,” as it became known, envisaged the death of European Jewry. The European Jews were to be killed.My point here is that the Nazis, like the Zionists, saw the Jews, as the Zionists see the Palestinian Arabs, as a population they wanted to be rid of. They wanted ethnic cleansing, what the Zionists prefer to call “transfer” because it doesn’t sound quite so offensive to “cultivated” people as ethnic cleansing. If you haven’t read Hilberg’s book, you can find there an extensive account of the many measures the Nazis took to exclude the Jewish population from the normal activities of ordinary Germans, like e.g. riding on trolley cars, requiring passes to leave the ghettos, and so on. You will argue that the Nazis didn’t face terrorist attacks and the Israelis do, which is true but evades the basic problem, namely the desire to get rid of a particular population group.
The Nazis wanted what they imagined to be a racially pure ‘Aryran’ nation. The Israeli governing elements want what they imagine to be a religiously pure ‘Jewish’ nation, though they realize that at least for now they cannot try for more than a large absolute Jewish majority. The basic ideology of both groups – the Nazis and the Zionist government – is, in this critical regard, identical and, to me, abhorrent.
The reason I say your acceptance of the
deliberate, calculated destruction of Palestinian Arab society is on a
par with, if not worse than that Goldhagen ascribes to ordinary Germans is
As for your impulse to educate me about what happened to European Jewry, before continuing with my response to specific disagreements, here’s a list of much of what I’ve read that’s related to the Nazi Judeocide and/or to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel & The Palestinians, Noam Chomsky, updated edition, 1999, South End Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Pity the Nation: The Abduction of Lebanon, Robert Fisk, Fourth Edition, 2002, Thunder’s Mouth Press/Nation Books, New York.
Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, Norman G. Finkelstein, Second Edition, 2003, Verso, London and New York.
Israel/Palestine: How to End the War of 1948, Tanya Reinhart, 2002, Seven Stories Press, New York.
Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust, Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, 1996, Knopf, New York (read only the first 50 or so pages).
The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt, New Edition, 1968, Harcourt Brace & Co., New York.
Mein Kampf, Adolph Hitler, Translated by Ralph Manheim, 1943, Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston. (read only the first 70 or so pages so far).
The Great War for Civilization: The Conquest of the Middle East, Robert Fisk, 2005, HarperCollinsPublisher, London (read only the first 900 or so pages so far).
Eqbal Ahmad: Confronting Empire. Interviews with David Barsamian, 2000, South End Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky, Edited by Peter R. Mitchell and John Schoeffel, 2002, The New Press, New York
The Case Against Israel, Michael Neumann, 2005, Counterpunch and AK Press, Petrolia, California and Oakland, California, respectively (read only the first 25 or so pages so far).
Healing Israel/Palestine: A Path to Peace and Reconciliation, Michael Lerner, 2003, Tikkun Books, San Francisco, California.
Reframing Anti-Semitism: Alternative Jewish Perspectives, Jewish Voice for Peace, 2004, Oakland, California.
Israel, A Colonial-Settler State?, Maxime Rodison, translated by David Thorstad, 1973, Pathfinder Press, New York.
Dishonest Broker, The U.S. Role in Israel and Palestine, Naseer H. Aruri, 2003, South End Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts (read only first 190 or so pages so far).
The Destruction of the European Jews, Student Edition, Raul Hilberg, 1985, Holmes & Meier Publishers, New York and London (read only first 270 or so pages so far).
The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering, Second Edition, Norman G. Finkelstein, 2003, Verso, London and New York.
Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, Revised and enlarged Edition, Hannah Arendt, 1965, Penguin Books, New York.
Orientalism, Edward W. Said, 1978, Random House, New York (read only first 180 or so pages so far).
Taking Sides, America’s Secret Relations with a Militant Israel, Stephen Green, 1984, William Morrow and Co., New York (read only Chapters 8 “America Chooses Sides” and 9 “Remember the Liberty. . . .”).
Killing Hope: U.S. Military and C.I.A. Interventions Since World War II, Updated Edition, William Blum, 2004, Common Courage Press, Monroe, Maine
Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East, Michael B. Oren, 2003, Random House, New York (read only scattered bits and “Anatomy of an Accident” on pp. 262-271, his account of the attack on the USS Liberty).
Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History, Norman G. Finkelstein, 2005, University of California Press, Berkeley (read only first 40 or so pages so far).
The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity, Tariq Ali, 2002, Verso, London and New York.
The Politics of Anti-Semitism, Edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, 2003, Counterpunch and AK Press, Petrolia, California and Oakland, California, respectively.
“Abba Eban with Footnotes, Review Essay of Michael Oren’s Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East”, Norman G. Finkelstein, Journal of Palestine Studies (Spring 2003), pp.74-89.
The Hidden Alliances of Noam Chomsky, Werner Cohn, 1988, Americans for a Safe Israel, 114 East 28th St, New York.
Paths in Utopia, Martin Buber, Translated by Ephraim Fischoff, 1949, Beacon Press, Boston.
Culture and Resistance: Conversations with Edward W. Said, Interviews by David Barsamian, 2003, South End Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The Chomsky Reader, Edited by James Peck, 1987, Pantheon Books, New York.
Voices of Refusal and Dissent, Edited by Roane Carey and Jonathan Shainin, 2002, The New Press, New York (read only first 35 or so pages so far).
Live from Palestine: International and Palestinian Direct Action Against the Israeli Occupation, Edited by Nancy Stohlman and Laurieann Aladin, 2003, South End Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts (read only first 75 or so pages so far).
Historical Capitalism with Capitalist Civilization, Immanuel Wallerstein, 1995, Verso, London and New York.
If you think there are or are likely to be important gaps in my knowledge of the Israel-Palestine conflict and want to recommend other sources of information, I’ll be interested to know what they are.
As far as what Ben Gurion may or may not have said, frankly, I don’t think it’s that relevant. What’s relevant is actions, and anyway, Ben Gurion may have made those remarks (or not, I don’t know) for political reasons to encompass support from the political right. To hook into a comment and negate physical actions on the ground, seems to me, rather a weak position.
First, you acknowledge that you don’t know if Ben-Gurion made those statements or not. Equally significant to me is your assertion that you don’t think it’s relevant. On the contrary, it’s key to answering the question whether the Zionist leadership intended to accept the (eventual) General Assembly’s proposed partition in order to gain recognition as a state, but saw that only as an expedient step leading to conquest of the entire territory and what they called “transfer”, brutal compulsory (in Ben-Gurion’s words) ethnic cleansing of Arabs, to insure a large dominant Jewish majority.
From what I’ve read I know there’s a ton of evidence that the Zionist leadership was conniving and lying from the get-go, and has never stopped. To know what really happened takes a lot of effort, I admit that and I acknowledge that until about four or so years ago I wasn’t in a position to say very much with certainty, and was unable to challenge you, even though I was appalled at what I was learning from mostly but not exclusively mainstream media about the torments of the Palestinian Arab population.
Regarding Israeli motivation, i.e. the intent of the Zionist leadership, I gave you evidence and you dismissed it. Did you even read the small part of the Mearsheimer-Walt working paper I took the trouble to send you, and from which I quoted? Look honestly at the absurdity of your position. Barely more than 24 hours before saying Ben-Gurion’s statements were irrelevant, you began your earlier e-mail to me with the supposedly innocent query, “Was wondering if you knew about the Arab conference before I mentioned it to you which took place right after the Six Day War where eight Arab leaders issued what is known as The Khartoum Resolutions of 1967?” Here your focus was on the heads of Arab States shortly after the Six Day War, who declared “…no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it,…” You treated their statement as more relevant than the subsequent peace treaties between Israel and Egypt and Jordan.Yet a day later you belittled my citation of Ben-Gurion, writing, “To hook into a comment and negate physical actions on the ground, seems to me, rather a weak position.”
That is patently what you did a day earlier when you “hooked into” a statement (The Khartoum Resolution) and continued to “negate physical actions on the ground”, in particular by ignoring the ongoing actions of Israel in seeking to destroy Palestinian society and to transform as much of the area as it could manage into as purely Jewish a state as possible. It is precisely those “physical actions on the ground”, beginning with the initial massive ethnic cleansing in 1947-48, and continuing right up to now, with no indication that they will not continue, which makes Israel even more despicable than apartheid South Africa in the (justified) judgement of most of the world’s people.
I knew of course that your intent was not just idle curiosity but to show me both how little I knew, and that Israel was, as usual, the victim. You send me what I call factoids, usually without context, that are intended to show Israel’s innocence and “the Arabs’” aggressiveness, as an example illustrates.
Your last e-mail, of 17 May, begins, as is your style, by picking a tiny piece out of something I’ve sent or quoted, and then supposedly demolishing it and then proceeding with as much of a lecture as you’re in the mood for at the time. In this case you began,
In a message dated 5/16/2006 9:27:27 PM Eastern Standard Time, firstname.lastname@example.org writes:The statement about Walzer was part of the material I quoted from Chomsky’s Fateful Triangle. It was not a statement that there was “no argument or evidence . . .”, but an assertion by Chomsky that Walzer (a prominent apologist for the government of Israel) had not offered any such “argument or evidence.” Further on in the quoted material, Chomsky stated, ‘However one evaluates these complex circumstances [the start of the Six Day War], it is plainly impossible to regard the “Egyptian challenge” as a “clear case” of aggression, on a par with the Nazi conquests, etc. Rather, this a a “clear case” of the style of apologetics adopted by many supporters of Israel.37’
Aside from your hasty misinterpretation of the bit that you picked out, you completely ignored everything else — and there was a good deal — that I took the trouble to type out and send you. A slothful response. Your supposed refutation of your selected tidbit focuses on the blockade of the Straits of Tiran, which you declared to be “an act of war according to international definition.” Israel then, according to you, responded to protect itself. This is a falsification of history, one that you have, up until now, apparently accepted. You seem to be comfortable with it, perhaps because it portrays Israel as an innocent victim fighting for its very life, a version of events you evidentally favor, an innocent Jewish David against an Arab Goliath.
Chomsky’s treatment of the Israel-Arab wars deals only briefly with the 1967 war (pp.100-103 and notes 31 through 46 on pp.171-172). That is the part I typed out for your benefit. Have you read it? A more detailed discussion of the 1967 War is in Norman G. Finkelstein’s Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict Second Edition, Verso, London and New York, 2003. I read it two years ago, but hadn’t remembered how much detail Finkelstein provided. As you know from Rod Stackelberg’s e-mail of 17 May 2006, he forwarded my 16 May e-mail to the “small” list (it’s now posted at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/2006-05-18.htm) to his colleague Wayne Kraft at Eastern Washington University, and sent Wayne’s reply to the “small” list. Wayne’s comments reminded me of Finkelstein’s work, and that’s what I returned to in order to reread his Chapter 5, “To Live or Perish: Abba Eban ‘Reconstructs’ the June 1967 War. Finkelstein’s meticulous account, on pp.123-149, with notes 1-73 on pp.247-259, make it unambiguously clear that the war was instigated and initiated by Israel. I will not make the effort to send you extensive portions in this note, but if you undertake to read the material I already sent you from the Mearsheimer-Walt working paper and from Chomsky, and Chapter 5 of Finkelstein’s book, I will photocopy the latter and mail it to you. Here’s a bit on the Straits of Tiran blockade:
“. . . Eban charged that Israel was being ‘strangled’ by Nasser’s blockade as it was condemned to ‘breathe with a single lung’. ‘The choice for Israel’, Eban perorated, ‘was drastic – slow strangulation or rapid, solitary death.’ 49
Finkelstein’s analysis of Abba Eban’s reconstruction of the June 1967 War is scholarly and thorough. If you are willing to read it with an open mind I cannot help but believe your understanding of Israel will begin to change.
Monday, 29 May 2006
Here is Lawrence’s reply:
In a message dated 5/29/2006 10:04:17 PM Eastern Standard Time, email@example.com writes:
I asked you for evidence, if you knew of any, to show that the statements were falsely attributed to Ben-Gurion.Jacob [Amir <firstname.lastname@example.org> —G.S.] responded to the quotes attributed to Ben Gurion. He pointed out that the quotes did not contain the complete quotes which showed that Ben Gurion did advocate a peaceful solution with compromise and that the paper you referred to was dishonest in its only partially quoting Ben Gurion and giving a 180 degree out of phase of what Ben Gurion really said. Los
Here is my answer:
Subject: Re: I'm curious
Please send me Samantha's e-mail address. George
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