Tony Greenstein | 10 July 2020 | Post Views:

How Zionist colonisation subverted even the best intentioned of people in the cause of a Jewish exclusivist project

Review: Wrestling with Zionism– Jewish Voices of Dissent, Daphna Levit, Olive Branch Press, Interlink Publishing Company, 2020

Daphna Levit grew up as a secular Zionist who worshipped just one god, the Land of Israel (Eretz Yisrael). She was a good example of those early Zionists who based their claim to Palestine on the god they denied. Even the ‘Marxist’ Zionists of Ber Borochov’s Hashomer Hatzair (Mapam) supported the colonisation of Palestine.

This book is appropriately named. When you are born into a Zionist family (or grow up in Israel) you have to wrestle with the unconscious racism, biases and assumptions that are part of every day life.

I grew up in an Orthodox Jewish family and it was taken for granted that you couldn’t trust an Arab, that they would stab you in the back when you weren’t looking. That Arabs never meant what they said. For most Jews and certainly for most Zionist Jews in Britain, Arabs and Muslims are not real living human beings but cardboard cut outs.

According to the CAA this idiot is typical of British Muslims

This is why I laugh when I read that ‘anti-Semitism’ is rife within the Muslim community. For example the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism pamphlet British Muslims and antiSemitism which states that

‘It is clear that many British Muslims reserve a special hatred for British Jews’ yet the CAA is still taken serious by British politicians and it was also taken seriously by the EHRC which accepted its complaint against the Labour Party for ‘anti-Semitism’. I wonder when someone is going to do a survey on hostility to Arabs and Muslims in the Jewish community.

Daphna grew up in the 1950s and 1960s never questioning the Zionist narrative. It all seemed so simple. God gave us the land and the Arabs tried to drive us into the sea. Despite us pleading for them to stay in 1948 (Haifa’s Mayor is always given as the example, forgetting that Haganah was shelling the Arabs of Haifa at the same time and broadcasting from loudspeakers that they should flee whilst there was time) the ingrates had received orders from their leaders in Damascus and Cairo to vacate the land whilst the Arab armies could invade. When this task was completed they could return.

Martin Buber

Understandably the early Israelis were reluctant to take back the refugees since they could never be sure that they wouldn’t pull the same trick again. Oh and Israel desired nothing more than peace but the Arabs simply wouldn’t talk to them forcing Israel to attack them! Repeatedly!

It never occurred to me as a child to ask simple questions such as, how could the Zionists create their Jewish state when the majority of inhabitants were Palestinian. Nor did I hear of two researchers, Walid Khalidi and Erskine Childers, who independently in 1961 examined the BBC and CIA transcripts of the Arab radio broadcasts of the time. Not only were there no such Arab orders but to the contrary the Palestinians were told not to flee. You can see the original article by Childers here and a debate The Spectator Correspondence.

One of the great skills of Zionist ideologues is to ignore the evidence, however compelling, and rely on assertion. Read the discussion on Childer’s article and the attempts by Jon Kimche to defend the indefensible whilst continually changing ground. Life back then was simple. Even grown ups believed in fairy tales!

I have no hesitation in recommending this short book as a good introduction to the history of Zionism through the potted histories of some of its key figures. There is a wide selection of people, from the founder of Political Zionism Theodor Herzl to dissident Zionists such as Yeshayahu Leibowitz and Uri Avnery.

There are a few mistakes in the text. Leon Pinsker’s Autoemancipation was written in 1882 not 1884 and it was motivated by the 1881 pogrom in Odessa, in the wake of the assassination of Czar Alexander III not the 1871 pogrom. On page 34 it states that ‘On May 14, 1948, the United Nations resolved to partition Palestine’. In fact that was the day Israel attained independence.

It is easy to quibble over Daphna’s choice of who to include. Personally I would have included Herzl’s deputy, Max Nordau, a believer in social Darwinism who wrote a book Degeneration’. It was an argument that Hitler frequently made. Nordau argued that degenerate art reflected and caused a degenerate society. He attacked Oscar Wilde’s dress sense as the ‘pathological aberration of a racial instinct’. Influenced by the criminologist Lombroso who believed that criminality was an inherited disease. I would also have included Arthur Ruppin, the Director of the Palestine Office from 1908 and the key figure of Palestinian Zionism in the pre-state period. [see here and here] He was responsible for the establishment of the kvutza and the collective Labour Zionist settlements and the marriage of bourgeois Zionist capital with labour Zionism. He was a social Darwinist who put his ideas into practice in respect of the Yemenite Jews brought to Palestine to do the heavy work for the ‘socialist’ kibbutzniks. They died off like flies and Ruppin’s behaviour towards them was Nazi-like, refusing them medical help and sufficient wages for food.

Levit, like many historians of Zionism, over estimates the influence of Cultural Zionism and Ahad Ha’am in particular. Ha’am warned in his essay ‘Truth from Eretz Yisrael’ in 1891 of the Jewish settlers’ “”hostility and cruelty” and of their ‘pride’ in beating them. Ahad Ha’am had, however, virtually no influence on the development of Zionism apart from his involvement in the founding of the Hebrew University, Jerusalem.

Indeed thousands of words are wasted on Zionist ‘peace groups’ of the period such as Brit Shalom and Ihud. These groups are usually quoted as examples of how Zionism was heterogeneous. In fact these groups were tiny. Even worse they incorporated those whose only reason for participation was in order to persuade the Arabs that they should surrender peacefully and abandon their opposition to Zionist settlement.

Haim Kalvarisky

Ruppin was the founder of Brit Shalom but he was an imperialist. He even spent a comfortable two hours with the leading racial scientist in Germany in July 1933, Professor Hans Gunther, exchanging ideas about racial anthropology! This meeting was excised from Ruppin’s Diaries by Alex Bein. Haim Kalvarisky, the successor to Haim Arlosoroff as Political Director of the Jewish Agency was also a member of Brit Shalom.

dah Magnes

David Ben Gurion and Chaim Weizmann are surprising omissions and I would have chosen Judah Magnes over Martin Buber as a representative of the peace wing of Zionism . One particularly noticeable omission is the lack of any figure from the Zionist Right such as Ze’ev Jabotinsky, whose clear articulation of Zionism as colonialism was a contrast to the dishonest polemics of the ‘socialist’ Zionists who pretended that, but for their feudal leaders, the Arabs would consent to being seduced by sweet talk and honeyed promises. In The Iron Wall he wrote:

Ze’ev Jabotinsky

‘Every reader has some idea of the early history of other countries which have been settled. I suggest that he recall all known instances. If he should attempt to seek but one instance of a country settled with the consent of those born there he will not succeed.

This is similar to Ben Gurion’s riposte to Martin Buber, the advocate of bi-nationalism, when he inquired whether he had ‘come to Palestine with the consent of the Arabs or against their wishes’.

However this is Daphna’s book not mine! There is a very impressive representative of what might be called the ‘other Israel’. People such as Tanya Reinhardt and Tikva Honig-Parnass.

However Daphna is still in thrall to some of the myths of Zionism. My major criticisms of the book is that Levit does not analyse Zionism as a settler colonial movement but in terms of its own self-serving justifications such as providing a refuge for Jews. In fact the motives for Ben Gurion and the Zionist leaders was to recreate the mythical warrior state of the Jewish people in the image of the Macabees. Zionism was always, first and foremost, a project to resurrect the Jewish racial state. It was never about providing a refuge for Jews. What later was called ‘refugeeism’ i.e. saving Jews in whatever place could be found was implacably opposed by the Zionists.

In a memo of 17 December 1938 to the Jewish Agency Ben Gurion made the policy of the Zionist movementabsolutely clear:

‘if the Jews are faced with a choice between the refugee problem and rescuing Jews from concentration camps on the one hand, and aid for the national museum in Palestine on the other, the Jewish sense of pity will prevail and our people’s entire strength will be directed at aid for the refugees in the various countries. Zionism will vanish from the agenda and indeed not only world public opinion in England and America but also from Jewish public opinion. We are risking Zionism’s very existence if we allow the refugee problem to be separated from the Palestine problem.’

Colonialism always provides its own justifications. No colonial power described its mission as one of exploitation and plunder. All of them had a noble mission. For Britain it was the White Man’s Burden for Zionism it was seeking a refuge for Jews in a Land Without a People for a People Without a Land.

Zionism was never a movement to save Jews. It was a movement to save the Jewish people as a mythical racial entity. One favourite myth, which Levit repeats uncritically is her assertion that:

‘Most of the early Zionist leaders were ardent socialists and nationalists… their secular/ political Zionist hope was to create a … Jewish homeland for a community that would discard much of its religious identity. a modernistic amalgamation of nationalism, socialism, enlightened Western culture, and some as yet undefined ethnic Jewish identity.’

Leaving aside the amalgamation of nationalism and socialism, which is like saying you can amalgamate life and death, a poison with its antidote, love and hate, the myth that the early Zionists were ‘ardent socialists’ is just that. A myth. At the first Zionist Congress the all-male participants were attired in formal dress and white tie. No workers they.Zionism arose as a reaction to anti-Semitism that rejected socialism and any attempt to ameliorate the condition of Jews in the diaspora. That was what made Zionism different from the many different Jewish reactions to anti-Semitism and the transition from feudalism to capitalism.

The Black Hundreds – Czarist organised pogromists

Barely 4 months after the 1903 Kishinev pogrom when nearly a 100 Jews were murdered and others were raped and injured, a pogrom which caused infamy throughout the world, Herzl met with the person responsible for setting up the Black Hundreds, the group that perpetrated the massacre, Czarist Minister Vyacheslav von Plehve, to secure the legalisation of the Zionist movement in Russia, which he achieved.

‘‘Help me to reach land sooner and the revolt will end” he pleaded ‘And so will the defection to the Socialists.’

In an interview with Lucien Wolfe in The Times of 6 February 1904 Plehve explained that Zionism was ‘an antidote to socialist doctrines.’ Similarly Winston Churchill, a noted anti-Semite and Zionist, wrote an influential essay Zionism v BolshevismA Struggle for the Soul of the Jewish People. .in which this apostle of imperialism placed his hopes in Zionism as the saviour of the Jewish people from Marxism and socialism.

In a letter to Baroness Suttner in 1899 Herzl explained that

‘we are everywhere engaged in battles with the revolutionaries and are actually turning the young students as well as the Jewish workingmen away from socialism and nihilism by unfolding before them a pure and national ideal.’

Ben Gurion wrote of his battles with the anti-Zionist Bund the main adversary in his home town of Plonsk in northern Poland. In Tom Segev’s recent A State at Any Cost: The Life of Ben Gurion Segev describes how

A Bund publication wrote that Ben Gurion began to shout during one of the debates (between Poale Zion and the Bund). “We have weapons and we will kill you all like dogs.” It called him a hooligan. “And I beat the Bund” Ben Gurion boasted. “I ejected the Bund from Plonsk.” The short boy who had never been happy… was now a thuggish Labour boss in a small town.’

Simon Petliura – Ukrainian nationalist responsible for 100,000 Jewish deaths – Jabotinsky formed an alliance with him against the Bolsheviks

Zionism was always a reactionary movement. Socialist Zionism grew up as an attempt to retain the support of Jewish workers who were more interested in more immediate questions such as anti-Semitism and wages and conditions than the fight for Palestine.

Herzl also went out of his way to win over the Orthodox rabbis, albeit with no success. He even failed with the Chief Rabbi of his own Vienna, Morris Gudeman. See The Rabbis’ Intifada – An Unbroken Chain of Jewish anti-Zionism and Solidarity It is therefore untrue to say that ‘He would have been surprised, if not shocked, to learn that many of the staunchest defenders of Zionism do so in the name of religion.’

Herzl was well aware that Zionism could only succeed if it could harness the Jewish religion to the Zionist chariot. In Altneuland he talked of keeping rabbis out of politics because he understood what happens when religion and a state are married – messianic racism. Of course when you make a pact with the devil you need a very long spoon!

Hannah Arendt

Daphna Levit is a student of Hannah Arendt and her portrait of Hannah, a refugee from Nazi Germany who was an early Zionist activist is well worth reading as an essay on its own. Levit is an expert on Hanna Arendt, the greatest political philosopher of the 20th century. I share her fascination, even with Arendt’s many errors!

Levit describes the famous debate with Gershom Scholem, the Zionist professor of mysticism, when, after her publication of Eichmann in Jerusalem, wrote to her accusing her of having no love for the Jewish people. Her response was withering:

‘You are quite right—I am not moved by any “love” of this sort, and for two reasons: I have never in my life “loved” any people or collective… I indeed love “only” my friends and the only kind of love I know of and believe in is the love of persons. Secondly this “love of the Jews” would appear to me, since I am myself Jewish as something rather suspect…. I do not love the Jews, nor do I believe in them: I merely belong to them.’

Scholem demonstrated in his question the racist waters in which Zionism breeds. Arendt had written a series of articles for the New Yorker on the Eichmann Trial and the subtitle of the book was ‘The Banality of Evil’. The terrifying thing about Eichmann she wrote was that he was surprisingly normal. He didn’t have horns.

Ze’ev Sternhell

Arendt was also scornful of what Salo Baron called the ‘lachrymose version’ of Jewish history. The idea of 2,000 years of unending Jewish persecution. The idea of the Jew as perpetual victim and never the actor, which is itself an anti-Semitic stereotype, was one Arendt rejected.

Arendt was scornful of those who believed that the whole world was against us. This was a Zionist siege mentality typical of settler colonialism. She foresaw that the Holocaust would become the new Jewish religion and used to justify any Israeli aggression.

Yeshayahu Leibowitz was the Orthodox religious scholar and Professor, a latter day Prophet, who foresaw that the Israelis would end up worshipping the Land of Israel much as the ancient Israelites worshipped Baal and the false idols. Levit quotes Leibowitz that

“He who empties the Jewish people of its religious content turns the concepts of chosen and holy into expressions of racist chauvinism.’

Sternhell’s comparison between Israel and Nazi Germany caused great affront to the racists who inhabit Israel

Leibowitz claimed that Israel could not be considered a democracy as long as it ruled over two million people deprived of any legal or human rights. Like the late Ze’ev Sternhell, Uri Avnery and Noam Chomsky, Leibowitz saw the 1967 war as one of conquest which ‘changed the very foundation of its existence.’ Unfortunately this was wishful thinking.

I get the feeling that Daphna has some sympathy with this view, that 1967 changed the course of Israeli history. The expulsions of 1948 and onwards betrayed Israel’s settler colonial nature. To create a Jewish state in a land where the majority of the population was not Jewish ethnic cleansing was inevitable. In my view this subject is the central reason for Netanyahu’s desire to annex the West Bank.

The conquest of the West Bank/Gaza simply gave expression to that. However throughout the 1950s and 1960s, when Israel’s Arab population was under Military Rule, Israel was seeking any pretext to expand its borders. The 1956 Suez War was a false start. 1967 established Israel as the strategic watchdog of the West. Israel also engaged in ethnic cleansing of the Bedouin of the Negev throughout the 1950s.

The decay of Israeli ‘democracy’, the rise of the nakedly chauvinist Right who have no regard for the tender feelings of liberal Zionists such as Peter Beinart has been a terrible shock for Israel’s liberal supporters. The fact that Netanyahu doesn’t care and openly aligns himself with Donald Trump is indicative of the fact that ideology and practice is coming into line in Israel. There is no longer a need to pretend that the Kibbutzim are an oasis of socialism rather than seeing them for what they are – racially exclusive Jewish settlements.

As Chomsky wrote

“There seems to be no room in Israel for those who try to square a universalist point of view, be it liberal or socialist, with the racist definition of Zionism.”

The problem is that Zionism is racist by definition. There isn’t a non-racist Zionism. Levit cites Chomsky being refused entry to from Israel because of his opinions. He suggested that his interrogators ‘“try to find any government in the world that likes anything I say,” Israel is quite unique in the western world in barring visitors, including Jewish anti-Zionists, because of their opinions.

Professor Ze’ev Sternhell, a child survivor of the Holocaust, who has only just passed away, justified Zionism by the need for Jews to find a refuge.

‘By being the only place in the world to which European Jews could actually escape in the 1930s and 1940s, Palestine gave legitimacy to the establishment of the State of Israel beyond any historical rights to the land.’

Except it wasn’t the only place that Jews could escape to despite the attempts of the Zionist movement to close down alternative places of refuge such as Saint Domingo.

Palestine took less than 15% of the total number of Jewish refugees from Germany. Zionist opposition to lowering the immigration barriers in America and other countries and their sabotage of the attempt to seek other havens resulted in the death of thousands.

Sternhell who was a target of a fascist settler bomb in 2014, was a world authority on fascism. He wrote the defining book on the history of Labour Zionism, the Founding Myths of Israel. In it he traced the development of Labour Zionism proving that it was never socialist. Instead it mobilised the Jewish working class for national goals. It owed more to nationalist socialism than socialism. Ben Gurion coined the slogan ‘from class to nation’.

Daphna Levitt recalls that ‘Sternhell points out that many of the early leaders of the Zionist Revolution loathed the diaspora and its “weakling Jews.” which is correct but this also points to a fundamental weakness of the book’s analysis of Zionism. Zionism was, above all, a reaction to anti-Semitism which accepted the rightfulness of anti-Semitism.

Indeed Zionism justified anti-Semitism. As Jacob Klatzkin, the editor of Die Welt (1909-11) and co-founder of the Encyclopedia Judaica explained:

‘If we do not admit the rightfulness of anti-Semitism we deny the rightfulness of our own nationalism… Instead of establishing societies for defence against the anti-Semites who want to reduce our rights, we should establish societies for defence against our friends, who desire to defend our rights.’ [The Meaning of Jewish History, by Jacob Bernard Agus, David Daiches, Commentary, April 1964]

According to ‘left’ Zionist A B Yehoshua Jews were a ‘cancer connected to the main tissue of the Jewish people” who use other peoples’ countries like hotels.’ [Jewish Chronicle 22 December 1989, ‘Diaspora a cancer’]

This was why the myth that Herzl was driven by the Dreyfus Affair into becoming a Zionist is wrong. Herzl fell out with the one member of the Zionist Actions Committee, Bernard Lazarre, who was the original anti-Dreyfussard. As Herzl wrote in his Diaries:

‘In Paris… I achieved a freer attitude towards anti-Semitism, which I now began to understand historically and to pardon. Above all, I recognise the emptiness and futility of trying to ‘combat’ anti-Semitism.’ [Diaries p.6]

Uri Avnery was a ‘Canaanite’ who wanted an Israeli nation that included the Palestinians but was separate from diaspora Jewry. Zionism however was founded to wind up the diaspora not exclude it. Israel was to be a state of Jews everywhere not its citizens.

Avnery, Sternhell and Chomsky failed to understand that a Jewish state, in a settler colonial context, could not be other than racist.

Levit includes many of the foremost Israeli activists such as Tikva Honig-Parnass, who was Parliamentary Secretary of Mapam before joining the anti-Zionist Matzpen. Tikva recalls an incident in the 1948 War when she was fighting in Palmach when she encountered two Jewish American volunteers in the army who came from a mission shouting that they met on their way back to the base Palestinian women and children starving to death and begging to go back to their villages. They added angrily that, “if this new state cannot take care of its Palestinian inhabitants, then it has no right to exist.”

Tikva, who was then member of the ‘Marxist’ Mapam wrote to her parents that ‘I’m sick and tired of these American ‘philanthropists.’” The idea of that concern for the Palestinian refugees was a form of philanthropy says everything about Zionism’s racist ideology. Instead of all human beings being treated equally, Zionism treats kindness to non-Jews as a form of unwarranted generosity. Such feelings merited an especial scorn from the racists of Labour Zionism. At that time she was contemptuous of those who showed any concern towards the indigenous population.

Daphna describes the pivotal moment in the crystallisation of the anti-Zionist group Matzpen who put an advert in Ha’aretz 3 months after the 1967 war stating that

Conquest brings in its wake foreign rule’ which ‘brings in its wake resistance… oppression (and) … terrorism and counterterrorism… (it) will turn us into a nation of murderers and murder victims. Let us leave the Occupied Territories now.’

This did not make them too popular!

Levit describes the rise of the new historians, Benny Morris, Ilan Pappe, Avi Shlaim, Simha Flapan and Tom Segev in some detail. With the opening up of the archives they began to deconstruct the founding myths of Israel. These same files are now being reclassified by Israel’s security police Shin Bet. History to Zionism is a weapon in the war. It has no merit in its own right. There are no truths, everything is relative. Zionism is the ultimate form of post-modernism.

Simha Flapan’s 1987 book The Birth of Israel: Myths and Realities was groundbreaking. He was the first to destroy the myth that Israel had been invaded by all the Arab armies on gaining independence in 1948. On the contrary the Zionists had negotiated a deal with King Abdullah of Jordan to prevent a Palestinian state. The other Arab armies sought to prevent Abdullah triumphing.

Benny Morris’s book Birth 1987 of the Palestinian Refugee Problem and then his subsequently Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited demolished the idea that the Palestinian exodus had been voluntary. Yet increasingly Morris’s historical researches were at variance with his political opinions which, after 2000, were at variance with his research. He became a supporter of transfer and criticised Ben Gurion for not having finished the job.

Levit gives us a potted history of how the State of Israel has sought to manipulate and distort its own history in a way no bourgeois democracy would contemplate. This in itself is the sign of a proto fascist society.

Shlomo Sand

Daphna focuses on Shlomo Sand, Professor of History at the University of Tel Aviv whose The Invention of the Land of Israel deconstructs the myth that for 2,000 years all that Jews longed for was a Jewish state. Debunking the story of the Exodus and doubting the existence of King David whilst showing there was no Roman expulsion of Jews in the aftermath of the fall of the first temple.

In Israel there is History and Jewish History and the two are distinct subjects. Universalism has been excluded from Israeli academia as universities have functioned as an ideological transmission belt for Zionism.

Tom Segev, a journalist on Ha’aretz, wrote the seminal Seventh Million about the German Jewish immigrants to Israel and the record of Zionism during the war years and after. Daphna quotes Elie Wiesel, a survivor of Auschwitz, in his review of the book, The Land that Broke Its Promise that:

Just as the new Israelis were creating an image of a heroic, athletic, defiant Jew, they did not want to come face to face with a weak and pitiful survivor and did not want to claim him as their own. They wanted heroes, not the embarrassing reminder of Jews being proverbially “led like lambs to the slaughter…. (Segev)

the Jewish leaders of Palestine never made the rescue of European Jews into an overwhelming national priority… Zionist leader Itzhak Gruenbaum, a future Minister of the Interior in David Ben-Gurion’s first cabinet, considered creating new settlements more urgent than saving Jews from being sent to Treblinka and Birkenau.

Levit quotes Uri Avnery as saying that instead of Zionism being dispensed with once the State of Israel was created it had continued.

‘When one builds a house, one needs scaffolding. When the building is finished, the scaffolding is removed…. Thus “Zionism” continued to exist after its aim had already been achieved. The scaffolding became superfluous, indeed obstructive …’

Avnery failed to understand that Zionism was a settler colonial movement whose aim, a Jewish state as racially pure as possible, was an ongoing and never ending process. 1948 was only a staging point on the road to a Jewish Reich. The ‘ingathering of the exiles’ was its aim. Its purpose was the rebirth of a new Jewish Warrior Race and State. Far from dismantling the scaffolding Zionism was busy consolidating its previous work. The seizure of Arab land had only just begun. The Zionist institutions such as the JNF were used by the Israeli state to subcontract racism to para state organisations.

The final chapter of Levit’s book is devoted to two brave Ha’aretz journalists, Gideon Levy and Amira Hass and Ilan Pappe, whose support for BDS resulted in his being driven from Haifa University into exile. Levitt recalls a particularly disturbing case in which Israeli academia showed that its loyalty is to the settler state.

Electronic Intifada reported on the demonstration at Tantura

At the University of Haifa a student named Teddy Katz presented his MA thesis to the university in 1998. It described Tantura village in 1948 where there was a very large massacre. The veterans of the army unit who perpetrated the massacre sued for libel. Although Katz, was pressurised into not contesting the writ, he later sought to withdraw this but the court refused. Pappé was not Katz’s supervisor but, he became prominent in defending him after the court proceedings led to a suspension of Katz’s degree in 2000. In an interview Pappé explained his intervention:

‘No one came to his aid. Why should they? He’s a master’s student. They’re professors. What do they care? After I sat here and transcribed the tapes… two or three colleagues changed their mind and helped. But they didn’t endanger their careers. I knew that when I went to help Katz, I would get it in return. But I didn’t know how much … Teddy Katz suffered a stroke because of this university. He almost died. And a master’s degree student shouldn’t almost die because of a university.’

A shocking incident and it is the answer to those who say we should not boycott Israeli academia. Levit pays tribute to the few brave lawyers who represented the Palestinians including the late Felicia Langer, who closed her office because justice in Israeli courts was impossible, Lea Tsemel, Avigdor Lieberman and Gaby Laski.

In the epilogue Daphna describes a horrific incident in the casual cruelty of an Occupation that British Zionists, such as David Feldman, Keir Starmer and the Jewish Labour Movement do their best to defend via accusations of ‘anti-Semitism’. It is:

‘incident (that) forever will haunt me. At a border checkpoint a terrified, wide-eyed little boy was desperately clinging to his mother’s hand. He was bleeding profusely through a towel wrapped round his head. His mother was screaming uncontrollably, her face distorted with emotion … In her free hand she held an unrecognizable red blob, her son’s dismembered ear. She was frantically trying to get into an ambulance with him, but wasn’t permitted to; only the patient was allowed in the vehicle. She was told to walk or find other transportation to cross the checkpoint to the hospital. After a storm of frantic gestures and pleas, a ride was found, and the boy and his mother were driven together to the hospital in a car belonging to an Israeli demonstrator at the crossing.’ This incident is but one of many where Israeli soldiers and checkpoints are used to delay and obstruct ambulances and Palestinian patients have died as a result of this callous cruelty.

Daphna asks

Can this incident be included among the legends of heroic battle against the insidious enemies of the Jewish state, a battle for which every Jewish-born Israeli is trained? Or should it simply be erased, to help maintain the purity of the myth?

It is a good question.

At the end of her book is a list of individuals whom she wants to pay tribute to including Jeff Halper, Haim Henegbi, Adam Keller, Moshe Machover, Akiva Orr, Idith Zertal and Beate Zilversmidt. The tragedy is that these individuals, brave though each one is, represent a sliver of Israel’s Jewish population.

There is a lot that Daphna Levit has compacted into 200 pages. It is an excellent introduction to the history of Zionism even though it seems as if Daphna is still wrestling with Zionism.

Tony Greenstein

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Tony Greenstein

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