Monthly Archives: October 2018

Be a man abroad and a Jew in your tent

[Much of this article is the intellectual property of Anita Shapira. I have used substantial parts of her work to create this short thesis and its supplication]


The eponymous statement by Yehuda Lieb Gordon in the 1860s, which is the title of this article, seems particularly relevant today in the aftermath of the Pittsburgh massacre.

Where Bohemia (1781) and Austria (1782) introduced Edicts of Tolerance which opened previously unheard-of possibilities of education and economic advancement to the Jews of the Habsburg Empire, Tsar Alexander II of Russia brought these trends into the Russian Empire as well.

The significance of this is that, in Europe, the vast majority of Diaspora Jews centred in Poland, Western Ukraine, Lithuania and other parts of the Russian Empire had long lived and accepted the reality of occasional outbreaks of violence, humiliation, and discrimination. In the second half of the eighteenth century, modernization and the notion of nation states and the rights of the individual moved slowly east from Western Europe. Together with this, a demographic revolution occurred in Eastern Europe. Where, in 1800 there were between 1 and 1.2 million Jews in the Russian Empire, by the end of the century there were now some 5 million. This tremendous natural increase created an acute problem out of what had been a marginal one: the Jews did not speak the local language and did not send their children to their country’s schools.

In adopting the late 18th century model of education and economic advancement for the Jews of the Hapsburg Empire, Tsar Alexander’s policies for the Russian Jews likewise encouraged the budding of a Jewish Enlightenment in the Russian Empire through programmes aimed at modernizing them and turning those millions of marginalised Jews into useful citizens who would contribute to their local economy and culture. Here, learning the local language and secular education were the foundation stones of this movement.

However, this secularisation created an entire stratum of Jews who moved, to varying degrees, away from Jewish tradition. With the religious connection weakened, questions arose regarding the character of Jewish identity. The French revolution granted Jews equal rights as individuals, not as a nation, and the Napoleonic Wars sowed the seeds of nationalist consciousness where multinational empires, such as the Habsburg and Russian Empires, found themselves under attack by national movements.

For Europe’s Jews this meant that while the peoples of Europe were taking on national identities, the Jews were required to relinquish their collective, hitherto essentially religious, identity as a prerequisite for obtaining equal rights. This new Jewish self-definition created for the first time a distinction between Jewish religion and nationality and established a belief in Russian Jews who lived both within and outside of the Pale of Settlement (areas annexed by Russia from Poland where Jews were allowed to reside…) that this educational and vocational emancipation would lead to redemption from exile.

Where European nationalism saw an unbreakable bond between a people’s cultural heritage and its right to political self-expression, so too did the aspiration to learn the classical sources of the national culture, in its own language, manifested itself in the creation of a secular Hebrew culture. Abraham Mapu, a Lithuanian Jew, published his historical novel Ahavat Zion (Love of Zion) in 1853 in Hebrew. Jewish Enlightenment, as manifested in literature, poetry, philosophy, grammar, and autobiography, laid the cultural foundations for Jewish nationalist ideas to flourish. The Bible, whose beauty had been cloaked by the mantle of the traditional commentaries for generations, was now brought to life by the study of grammar, so that every educated reader could understand its text.

However, while in Western and Central Europe the dominant modernizing trend was toward relinquishing Jewish collective identity, the Tsarist regime and the Russian masses did not view favourably the idea of Jews integrating among them. This meant that millions of Jews lived in villages, towns, and medium-sized cities where they constituted a third or more of the population. With many Jews crowded into geographical and cultural proximity, secularization in Eastern Europe resulted not in an aspiration to become part of the general society but in a flourishing of Hebrew culture. And this, together with Tsarist repression on the one hand and secular consciousness on the other, gave rise to a sense of deprivation and injustice that underlay the newly awakened nationalistic ideas.

In addition, many Jews now adopted the national identity of the country where they lived and, seeing their connection with it as a sacred alliance, willingly went to fight in national wars of liberation. Consequently the various Jewish communities moved apart, separated by their ways of life, accepted behavioural norms, and cultures. Distinctions arose between Western and Central European Jews and their Eastern European brethren, and among Russian, German, and English speakers and the ways in which they had hitherto practised their Jewish Faith.

With the Tsar Alexander II, the welfare and security of Eastern Jewry grew precarious due to a spate of pogroms in the Ukraine unhindered by either church or state. The pogroms, unheard of in the previous century, not only undermined the Jews’ new-found sense of security to which the Kishniev and October pogroms of 1903 and 1905 only exacerbated, had two seminal results: mass migration of Eastern European Jews to (mainly) America with tens of thousands going to Mandated Palestine, and the radicalization of the Jewish masses. This last stemmed from three factors: a sense of being deprived and discriminated against by the authorities; a new self-awareness that came with increased exposure to the larger world; and the increasing trend of secularization in the Jewish street.

But an even more sinister process was in train.

As the security of Jews in Eastern Europe was increasingly undermined, modern antisemitism made its appearance in Western Europe.

Hatred of Jews was not new, but this time it was marked by racism and determinism: its object was not the Jewish religion but the Jewish race. Religion can be changed; race cannot. In an era of rising secularization, religious hatred might seem to be a thing of the past, but racial hatred was modern and up to date.

The old hatred of Jews had been aimed at the alien, different Jew.

Western European antisemitism targeted the Jew who looked like anyone else, who spoke the local language, whose appearance and behaviour was middle class, who took part in and even created national culture.

The murdered Jews in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh were Jews who turned to the general culture of the region where they lived and embraced it. Not even Gordon’s exhortation to be “…a Jew in your tent” were of any avail.

Today, Western antisemites accuse Jews of causing all of capitalist society’s ills, inciting to revolution, and undermining the existing order. They picture the Jews as parasites, incapable of establishing a society or culture of their own, as Nazis who murder others and as outsiders who rode on the backs of other peoples and copied or perverted their cultures.

It is against this background of cultural hate that the utterance at the Tree of Life synagogue on Saturday 27th October 2018, “All Jews must be killed”, reverberates in the collective Jewish consciousness.

‘‘At Basel I founded the Jewish state,’’ wrote Theodor Herzl in his diary
after the First Zionist Congress in 1897, a year after he published his seminal pamphlet Der Judenstaat.

He did.

Herzl realised that the abstract principles of constitutional equality which laid the foundations for European nation states had not won the hearts and minds of people who refused to accept the Jews as part of the civic fabric.

Herzl’s conclusion was simple: there was no point in fighting antisemitism. The only option was to circumvent it. The Jews were a nation that needed a safe and defensible state of their own.

Nationalism notwithstanding, the long history of western antisemitism on October 27, 2018 reiterated that need.


Palestinian Indigeneity and Zionist Colonialism

In his 2016 book “Israel’s Colonial project in Palestine: Brutal Pursuit”, Elia Zurek states that colonialism has three foundational concerns – violence, territory, and population control, and that Israel practises all three forms of what he terms “settler colonialism”.

Once one cuts through the obligatory theory contextualisation of the man’s research, here Foucaldian and Gramiscian theory, (let’s not forget that Zureik is also under pressure to publish or perish at university…) and once one gets past the fact that the author is a Levantine Arab whose family migrated to Canada, Zurek’s thesis is that the State of Israel today is a continuation of British imperialist Zionist colonialism where (quoting the dubious scholarship of Joseph Massad) Zionism established a state-framework on “…a colonized country, either replacing an existing state structure or inaugurating one where it had not existed before.”

He couches this in flowery high-faluting terms of “otherness” and the “…reflexive, historical, interactive, and contextualised…” self (what on earth does that even mean to your average bloke in the street, I ask you…).

There are several issues with Zureik’s thesis which render the remainder of his book irrelevant at worst and an exercise in intellectual gymnastics at best.

For starters, the gradual realisation of the dream of the early Zionists in forming a Jewish Homeland did not impose or replace “state structure” on any country. No Arab or Muslim polity called Palestine had ever existed prior to 1948. Between 1920-48, during the British Mandate years, the territory of “Palestine” was mandated land, land mandated to Britain and France under the LEGAL auspices of the League of Nations for the creation of both a Jewish and an additional Arab Muslim homeland. And for 500 years prior to the defeat and routing of the Ottomans from the Levant, there had further never been an Arab political entity called Palestine.

If anything, in Zureik’s eagerness to ascribe colonialism to the Zionist enterprise in the Levant in the twentieth century, perhaps he would have been better advised to consider researching the nature of the verifiable narratives of the Arab conquests of Byzantine Palestine and North Africa as prima facie evidence of Arab settler-colonialism (Joffe, 2017).

It is difficult to ascribe the 634-37 CE Muslim armies conquest under Caliph Umar who conquered the entirety of the Levant before invading Armenia and Anatolia in 638 and Cyprus in 639 as anything other than Arab settler-colonialism where, as Massad, 2001 helpfully points out, invading foreign Arab Muslim forces Inaugurated “state structure where it had not existed before.”

It follows then that the “…subsequent Islamization and Arabization of the Levant entailed reorganizing the region into administrative provinces, instituting new social categories for the purposes of taxation and control, implanting settlers and reapportioning lands as estates, and encouraging conversion to Islam” (Joffe, 2017).

The remainder of Zureik’s book (tenured professors are required to publish or perish….) explicates how Zionism in the Levant was a colonial enterprise at the expense of the indigenous “Palestinian” Arab Muslim population with nary a twinge of conscience over Islamization and Arabization of the Levant 700CE to the present day.

In light of the above, Zureik does not see/feel/mention the irony of his statement that Zionism, which began in the last days of the Muslim Ottoman Empire, was an imperialist and colonialist initiative “along three axes of domination aimed at control of territory and the management of people.”

Zureik states that the axes produced “a matrix of six ideal types that
extend from extermination to assimilation, with…no fewer than eleven classifications involving intra and intergroup differentiations; domestic forms of colonialism; informal, semi-and neocolonialism; and administrative colonialism interwoven with elements of class and cast.”

This is biased claptrappery at best and sheer partisan bigotry at worst. Undeterred, and now in full flight, Zureik states that “…colonialism (such as that of the Zionists) can exist only in a state of tension with the indigenous population; it cannot be otherwise unless dismantled.”

It is at this point that the neutral researcher can stop any further perusal of this book because it is at this point that the book descends into historical revisionism.

As Joffe points out, a “…wealth of evidence demonstrates that Jews are the indigenous population of the Southern Levant; historical and now genetic documentation places Jews there over 2,000 years ago, and there is indisputable evidence of continual residence of Jews in the region.”

Citing Pinhas Inbari, Joffe states that today’s “Palestinians” are, in fact, derived from “…converts from indigenous pre-modern Jews and Christians who submitted to Islam, and Arab tribes originating across the Middle East who migrated to the Southern Levant.”

These included migratory Arab settlers and those who were intentionally implanted, including, in the 19th century alone, Egyptians fleeing from and imported by Muhammad Ali from the late 1820s to the 1840s, as well as Chechens, Circassians, and Turkmen relocated by the Ottoman Empire in the 1860s after its wars with Russia, AS WELL AS tribes of Bedouins, Algerians, Yemenis, and many others who also immigrated during that century.

In contrast, the Jewish people of the country that is now Israel had an unbroken, continuous connection to the land dating over 3,300 years.

There was never such an entity as Muslim or Arab “Palestinians”…………Why would the Romans of 135CE punish rebellious Jews by giving their religious/cultural homeland the name of “Muslim” Arab inhabitants who did not know about Islam until 600 years later??

Zureik does not explicate this conundrum.

Nor does he explain why the common Arab man in the street only started identifying himself as ‘Palestinian’ after the humiliating Arab Muslim defeat in the  1967 Six Day War, two decades after the establishment of the modern State of Israel where prior to that time Zureik forebears identified themselves as Arabs.

Jerusalem, built by a Jewish King David, has always been the real and spiritual capital of Judaism for over 3,300 years, since1272 BCE, and no Arab or Muslim prophet/leader EVER considered Jerusalem holy. Not even the Jordanians who illegally occupied the Jewish homeland 1948-1967…

Gramiscian and Focauldian theory is all very well in an intellectual exercise (and his university’s record of staff publications…), but Zureik cannot gainsay Chapter 17 verse 104 of the Koran has an entire section, about the “people of Israel.” Nor can he ignore his prophet Muhammad who speaks about nothing less than the return to Zion when he says: “And say to the Israelites, sit with confidence in the land of Israel and when will be realized the promise, we will bring you with multitude and will collect you from the nations”.

Zureik’s “Israel’s Colonial project in Palestine: Brutal Pursuit” is little more than a self-serving treatise which encapsulates the worst of Muslim supremacism arrogance and exceptionalism.

On the part of Israel’s Zionist forefathers, the indigeneity of Jews in the southern Levant as well as Israel’s international “birth certificate” were rightly validated by all three ancient Biblical texts; Jewish settlement from the time of Joshua onward; the Balfour Declaration of 1917; the San Remo Resolution of 1920; the League of Nations Mandate, which incorporated the Balfour Declaration; the United Nations partition resolution of 1947; Israel’s admission to the UN in 1949; the recognition of Israel by most other states; and, most of all, the society created by Israel’s people in decades of thriving, dynamic national existence.

Zureik’s book thus becomes merely an additional attempt to feed the neurosis of Palestinian victimhood, a mindset that fuels terrorism and prevents any positive alternatives.

For Muslim Arab authors like Said, Massad and Zureik, promoting the notion that Jews “illegally occupy” and “steal Palestinian land” supports a libel that legitimizes terrorism and provides an excuse for genocide.

However, given the lie of “Palestinian” “indigeneity” and the fact there is still no “Palestine” 70 years after the establishment of the State of Israel, Jews and the State of Israel really do mean “Never Again” for infinite future generations of Jews now in their re-established and ancient homeland.