Blogs > HNN > Let History Inform the Debate over Tel Aviv at the Toronto International Film Festival

Sep 12, 2009 11:22 am


Let History Inform the Debate over Tel Aviv at the Toronto International Film Festival




It is not surprising that the organizers of the Toronto International Film Festival chose to turn a spotlight on Tel Aviv this year, the city's centennial. The city has featured prominently in many important Israeli films, and is home to what has become the archetypical Israeli identity—modern, hip, liberal and even progressive. Everything that Jerusalem—the other half of Israel's Jewish identity—is not. And as important, in myth if not in fact, free of Palestinians and their competing identity as well.

But a great film festival, like great art more broadly, is not supposed to uncritically mirror uncritical depictions of subjects and spaces. Rather, it is supposed to sponsor films that interrogate the most basic perceptions of reality, particularly when that reality is grounded in intense and long-term conflicts, in which various narratives of what is the “true” history and present circumstances are in conflict.

By turning a spotlight on Tel Aviv, the Festival intervened in an ongoing and deeply divisive conflict. Organizers had a responsibility to ensure that their intervention would encourage soul searching and the search for a more accurate representation of the city's, and country's past and present.

So it is disappointing that the Toronto Festival has largely uncritically accepted the official Israeli narrative surrounding Tel Aviv, even using it to inaugurate its new “City to City” program.

In framing the choice of Tel Aviv, the Festival's co-Director described the city as a “young, dynamic city that, like Toronto, celebrates its diversity.”

The reality is that to the extent the city celebrates its diversity, it has done so largely by marginalizing the city's Palestinian Arab heritage and present-day citizens.

A History of Exclusion and Erasure

From its creation in 1909 Tel Aviv's leaders sought to create a space that was “modern, Jewish... [and] European.” The bylaws prohibited sales of property to non-Jews, while Tel Aviv was depicted in Zionist poetry, art, journalism and literature as having emerged like a “reed inserted into a sea of sand”--that is, without any connection to Jaffa and the surrounding Arab environment. So powerful has this imagery of being born “out of the sands” remained that when it celebrated Israel's 50th Anniversary, the Economist described Tel Aviv as “having hardly any Arabs... it was built by Jews, for Jews, on top of sand dunes, not on top of anybody else’s home.”

The reality was quite different. While founded on a sandy region near the sea shore, Tel Aviv was from start deeply connected to Jaffa, which had its own, growing Jewish community that reached over 30,000 by the 1940s.

The new neighborhood was also part of a complex ecosystem that included citrus orchards and farms, Jaffa and its famous port, mills, bedouin encampments, and six Palestinian villages. The remnants of one village, Summel, are still visible along Ibn Givrol Street, not far from where Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was murdered. The former home of the sheikh of Sheikh Muwannis has long been used as the faculty club of Tel Aviv University.

Despite the many connections between the Jewish town and its Palestinian surroundings, Tel Aviv's leaders directed the town's development largely as if Jaffa an adversary rather than a neighbor. Tel Aviv rebuffed periodic attempts to plan its development “for the good of Greater Jaffa,” as the Scottish town planner Patrick Geddes advised in 1925, and instead became embroiled in an increasingly zero-sum conflict over territory and resources that led to the gradual absorption of much of the territory of the surrounding Palestinian Arab villages in the years leading up to 1948.

Nevertheless, the two towns development mirrored each other in many ways both in terms of architecture and town planning. Yet when UNESCO designated Tel Aviv as a “World Heritage Site” last year because of the large number of buildings constructed in the International Style there, it completely excluded Jaffa from its celebration. In reality, Jaffa is home to some of the best examples of the style in the country.

It is precisely the prevalence of the myth of Tel Aviv standing utterly apart and unique from Jaffa--“hyper-modern” and “cybaritic” versus traditional, clean versus dirty, “secular” progressive versus religious and backwards—that obligated the organizers of the Festival to offer a more accurate depiction of the history when they chose to focus on Tel Aviv.

A History of Violence

Despite its image of diversity and vibrancy, Tel Aviv has long been a site of significant intercommunal violence. The first major Jewish-Palestinian “riots” erupted along the border between the two towns in 1921, as did the “Arab Revolt” of 1936-39.

Crucial for the situation in the Occupied Territories today, during this period Tel Aviv's leadership developed strategies for gaining control over Palestinian land—creating new administrative boundaries, using town planning and architecture to separate communities and further weaken Palestinians' hold on the land, that are now staples of Israeli policies in across the Green Line.

In the four decades after 1948, when 70,000 Palestinian Arabs were forced to flee Jaffa and not allowed to return, the once grand town became a backwater, while Tel Aviv grew into one of the premier “world cities” of the emerging age of globalization—the city that the organizers of the Toronto International Film Festival are attempting to celebrate.

In the 1980s Jaffa was rediscovered as a funky and “authentic” place to live, and a process of gentrification began that has seen increasing pressure on the remaining Palestinian Arab population, who are being priced out of one of their homes through a combination of state policy and market forces. As the Dutch architect Peter Kook explains it, the appeal of the often faux-“Oriental” facades of the numerous luxury projects dotting the shoreline in Jaffa is their contrast to what he labels the “paranoid” and “fortress” style of architecture of contemporary Tel Avivan architecture.

That paranoia stems from a continued sense of unsettledness and unsure roots that is inseparable from the ongoing conflict with Palestinians, in Jaffa and other Palestinian regions of Israel as much as the Occupied Territories.

A Haunted City that has Yet to Confront Its Past

Perhaps the most celebrated recent Israeli film is Ari Forman's critically acclaimed 2008 Waltz With Bashir. It's worth noting that the movie begins with a friend of the director recounting a dream in which a pack of wild dogs, their eyes glowing orange, chase him through Tel Aviv's nightscape. These dogs don't just represent the ghosts of the dead Palestinians and Lebanese killed during the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the Sabra and Shatila massacre. They also symbolize—whether consciously or not for Forman—the ghosts of the tens of thousands of Palestinians exiled from the Jaffa-Tel Aviv region in 1948.

It's unlikely that most of the ghosts of 1948, never mind their living descendants, will ever be welcome home, whether to Jaffa, Tel Aviv, or anywhere else in present-day Israel. But unless their existence, and the historical reality of Tel Aviv's Palestinian past can be recognized and appreciated, it's hard to imagine how the next generation of Tel Aviv's soldiers, or citizens more broadly, will sleep in peace.

It must be pointed out that the organizers of the Toronto International Film Festival have not avoided films that depict the less pleasant aspects of life in contemporary Tel Aviv, as there are at least two films which depict life in Jaffa in a less than celebratory manner. But exhibiting films that offer particular challenges to the a larger identity don't relieve a curator of responsibility for ensuring that that identity is fully interrogated and not uncritically rehearsed.

In this sense, it's not surprising that the programmer for City to City, Cameron Bailey, defended his framing and choice of subjects by arguing that it was “curated entirely independently. There was no pressure from any outside source.” There doesn't need to be outside pressure, so well-established is the image of Tel Aviv that, unlike Israel's actions in the Occupied Territories, it rarely if ever needs to be defended.

In fact, the image is so well-worn that even the inclusion of two fine critical films about Jaffa, Keren Yedaya's Jaffa and Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani Ajami, that clearly challenge many of the assumptions underlying the City to City narrative surrounding Tel Aviv, didn't cause the Festival organizers to question the way they Tel Aviv was being portrayed more broadly, or whether it should be celebrated (it also didn't prevent them from offering a plot summary for Samuel Maoz's film Lebanon that uncritically repeated the Israeli myth that its 1982 invasion of Lebanon was an act of self-defense and that PLO fighters were nothing but "terrorists," when in this case it was Israel that massively violated international law with its invasion and 18-year occupation of the country).

This too is not surprising, for as with dissent in the United State in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq (to take just one example), a few examples of art that challenges the dominant view of society serve to reinforce the self-congratulating image of Israel as tolerant and self-critical, even as the Occupation grinds on, in Jaffa and the Occupied Territories each in its own way.

Most important, in focusing on the grittiness of life in Tel Aviv's “Arab neighborhood” without any larger historical or political context, such films, however fine and perceptive they are on their own merits, can be used to reinforce the erasure of Jaffa's modern heritage, the negative stereotypes about contemporary Jaffa (and Palestinians more broadly), and allow the role of the Israeli state in fomenting and sustaining many of conflicts and problems they depict to remain in the background, uninterrogated.

The image of Tel Aviv remains worthy of celebration, warts and all, precisely because its role in the project of Zionist “colonization”--as the movement's leaders openly described it—of Palestine, and to Israeli state policies of “Judaization” (to use Ariel Sharon's terminology) on both sides of the Green Line, are left outside the frame.

The Consequences of Boycott Calls

Whether or not one supports the proposed boycott, those who have called for it have laudably forced those who have programmed and will attend the Festival to grapple with issues that would otherwise have been left, as it were, on the cutting room floor. And the filmmakers behind Jaffa and Ajami could use the controversy to make a more sustained critique of Tel Aviv and Israeli policies at the Festival than would have otherwise been possible.

Indeed, leading Arab intellectuals like Elias Khoury oppose cultural boycotts in favor of using gatherings like the Toronto Festival aggressively to challenge Israel's image and myths.

Yet however opportunistically artists or activists might respond, Festival organizers still had the responsibility to be critically engaged enough to use Tel Aviv's centennial to shape a much more sober and accurate, if uncelebratory, portrait of the city.

They could have brought not just critical Israelis but Palestinian artists, scholars and activists from both sides of the Green Line, who have for so long been excluded from Tel Aviv's imagined identity, to confront that image with narratives that would force all of us—Israelis, Palestinians, their Diaspora supporters and the public at large—to consider what it means for a city's self-image and its actual history and present personality to be so overwhelmingly at odds.

Perhaps then Festival-goers might have come to a better understanding of why it remains so difficult to achieve a final peace between the two peoples despite the fact that everyone seems to know what the contours of such an agreement must be. 

Instead, in framing their presentation, Festival organizers chose to continue the century-long pattern of ignoring Tel Aviv's Palestinian past, present and ultimately future. In so doing, however, they not only tarnished its critical impact but have given its intellectual and artistic imprimatur to the continued marginalization, or at best ghettoization, of Palestinians from aesthetic depictions and discussions of the most important issues facing their shared homeland.

Equally sad, the Festival narrative of Tel Aviv will make it harder for attendees to begin the much needed conversations—within themselves as much as with others—about why Israel is rushing headlong into a future of full-blown apartheid that other former settler colonial societies have worked hard to escape.

As long as the Festival refuses to engage these hard issues, artists of good faith should not feel guilty if they choose to join their colleagues from Israel, Palestine, and around the world, who have refused to participate in the Festival. And those who attend have a responsibility not merely to ensure that a very teachable moment does not pass by unexploited, but to help ensure that the next festival that focuses on a conflict-ridden city or country creates a much stronger intellectual and aesthetic foundation for its programming.



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Boris Tsygan - 1/19/2010

Elliot Green , in a courteous but determined way, achieved quite a bit. He made a well known historian shift his argument considerably. LeVine started by calling Israel a settler colonial state heading straight into apartheid. In the end he was reduced to arguing that both sides did bad things and that talking about good Israel and bad Arabs is incorrect.



Elliott Aron Green - 10/1/2009

Here is another source on Jewish-Arab warfare between Tel Aviv and Yafo [Jaffa] starting 30 November 1947. The author is Dr Arnon Golan, a historian at the University of Haifa.

Arnon Golan, "The Road to the Etsel [= Irgun] Attack on the Arab Manshiyyah Neighborhood," HaUmmah, no. 175, Fall 2009.
Manshiyyah was a neighborhood of Yafo/Jaffa adjacent to south Tel Aviv. Snipers stationed in the minaret of the Manshiyyah mosque shot at civilians on the streets of Tel Aviv, especially but not only south Tel Aviv, starting in 1947. The Etsel [= Irgun] attack took place in April 1948.

The same issue of HaUmmah carries an article on the assassination in the very same Manshiyyah neighborhood in 1923 of Tawfiq Bey, an Arab, formerly a police officer in the British service, who had left the police force and was believed by a Jewish armed underground [successor to the HaShomer] to have been responsible for a pogrom against Jews in Yafo/Jaffa in 1921.

Perhaps Prof. LeVine might check up on the career of Tawfiq Bey to see whether he was one of the Arab policemen in the British-commanded police force believed by Zionists at the time [1921] to have been involved in organizing the 1921 pogrom in Yafo/Jaffa. Prof. LeVine might also try to determine whether these Zionist suspicions of Tawfiq Bey were well grounded.

The article is:
Menahem Sarid, "The First Targeted Liquidation -- The Organizer of the 1921 Pogroms in Yafo," HaUmmah, no. 175, Fall 2009.
Both articles cited are in Hebrew.


Elliott Aron Green - 9/24/2009

Here are two recent articles in Hebrew on Jewish-British warfare in Tel Aviv and Yafo in the 1945-1948 period. Prof LeVine might want to read them in order to see a different point of view:

Yosef Evron, "By Conquering Yafo, the Etsel [= Irgun] Thwarted a British Plan to Come Back and Retake the Country," HaUmmah [no. 172; Spring 2008; in Hebrew]

Nir Mann, "A Bold Slap in the Face for the British Fortress in the Heart of Tel Aviv," HaUmmah [no. 166; Winter 2006; in Hebrew]
-- "Slap in the Face" is also a pun on the name LEHI which is an acronym for Fighters for the Freedom of Israel, called the Stern Group and, by the British, the Stern Gang. The FFI was the group that carried out the attacks on the British base in Sarona.
--The British fortress that Mann refers to was the German Templar village of Sarona that formed an enclave on the eastern side of Tel Aviv up to late 1939. Since these ethnic Germans were nearly all Nazi sympathizers, the British confiscated their real estate and other properties throughout the country, arrested many or most of them and eventually expelled them [about 3,000 people] from the country. The British then took the village and made it into a British military base. It is now the HQ of the Israeli armed forces [the Qiryah].


Elliott Aron Green - 9/21/2009

--this comment was meant to go here, although it also appears above--

Prof LeVine,
we differ on many points, large and small. As to Meir Zamir's articles in HaArets in 2008, I would point out that he is a professor like you [at Ben Gurion univ, in the ME dept]. His articles in HaArets were based on his research in French and Israeli archives, and other sources. At least that's what he says. I have not seen his documents. However, if you doubt him, then one might respond that peer review might not mean all that much if the peer reviewers for a journal are one's friends, cothinkers, members of the same coterie or set, etc. This is said hypothetically but is a possibility. Zamir's two articles were highly praised by some readers of HaAretz. Here for instance:

אימפריה מאוסה

המאמר "בגידת בריטניה, נקמת צרפת" הוא
אחד המאמרים המרתקים שקראתי בשנים האחרונות (מוסף "הארץ" 1.2). תוכנית בריטית צינית סודית נחשפה במלוא כיעורה לעיני הצרפתים בעוד כבשני אושוויץ עשנים. על פי אותו מערך כלי שחמט חדשים אמורים הפיון המארוני בלבנון, והפיון היהודי בפלשתינה, להיעלם מהלוח יחד עם שלל שליטים אזוריים ובכללם האמיר עבדאללה והמופתי אל-חוסייני, בדרך ליצירת "הפדרציה הערבית" תחת הגמוניה בריטית.

I accept Zamir's thesis because it fits much that was already known to me, as I mentioned above. Such as Brit encouragement/prodding to Arab states to form the Arab League. One of Eden's pan-Arabist speeches was delivered a day or so in time from the Farhud massacre of Jews in Baghdad in 1941 which Brit troops outside Baghdad could have stopped. French permission for Jewish refugee ships to sail for the Land of Israel from French soil, such as the Exodus ship, whose passengers were caught and later shipped to Germany by the British navy. The 1939 British White Paper on Palestine. The avoidance by the BBC of reporting on the Holocaust as it was taking place. The decision of the Allies not to prosecute Haj Amin el-Husseini as a war criminal, which was mainly driven by the UK govt, as far as I know.

As to Arab policemen in the British service taking part in the 1921 Jaffa pogrom, I have read it in several places, most recently in a column by the knowledgeable Jerusalem Post columnist Sarah Honig. The reason that I did not state it more definitely was because I did not have a source handy. Likewise, that Arab mobs chanted al-Dawla ma`ana during anti-Jewish pogroms, I have seen in a number of accounts. One of them was by Pierre van Paassen. I must wonder at your statement that British police cooperated with Tel Aviv police in 1936, whereas the pogrom that I am referring to took place in 1921. The Jewish police in Tel Aviv were also under British supervision.

You also say that Arab-Muslim institutions [you use the word "Palestinian"] were suppressed by the British. But the British created a new Arab-Muslim power base, the Supreme Muslim Council, to which they appointed Haj Amin el-Husseini as its head. They knew that Husseini was a fervent anti-Zionist when they appointed him both Mufti of Jerusalem and head of the Supreme Muslim Council.

And then UK officers in the OETA-South, organized Muslim-Christian associations throughout the country in order to combat the Jews/Zionism [see Yehoshua Porat]. Some of the British officers in the country were under the influence of the Judeophobic fogery-cum-plagiarism, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
- - - - - -

My chief objection to your conclusions is that, I feel, your article does not take into account two major events/facts that, if they were taken into account, would logically lead to different conclusions.

1) the Ottoman expulsion of Jews from Tel Aviv in 1917, without food or shelter provided, albeit the Jews were allowed to leave behind 12 men to watch over their property. This would seem to vitiate your conclusion that
the Jews were especially privileged in the late Ottoman Empire. I am sure that you would agree that before the Tanzimat reforms [ca. 1839-1864] the Jews [and other dhimmis] were quite oppressed, quite inferior in rights, in the empire, etc., albeit some Jews prospered [i.e., Hayim Farhi]. Furthermore, how can traditional Muslim Judeophobia be overlooked as a motivational factor?

2) the British 1939 "White Paper on Palestine" which essentially canceled out Jewish rights in the country, as well as Zionism, without League of Nations approval. Indeed, the Permanent Mandates Commission of the League ruled that this White Paper was in violation of Britain's mandate to govern the country. This WP also foreclosed the Land of Israel as a refuge for Jews from the Nazis, whether these Jews came from Tunisia and Libya, where the preliminary stages of the Holocaust were begun, or from Germany, Poland, Rumania, Bulgaria, Greece, etc. Now, just how does one get this White Paper to fit in with the notion that the British were pro-Zionist?


Elliott Aron Green - 9/21/2009

Prof LeVine,
we differ on many points, large and small. As to Meir Zamir's articles in HaArets in 2008, I would point out that he is a professor like you [at Ben Gurion univ, in the ME dept]. His articles in HaArets were based on his research in French and Israeli archives, and other sources. At least that's what he says. I have not seen his documents. However, if you doubt him, then one might respond that peer review might not mean all that much if the peer reviewers for a journal are one's friends, cothinkers, members of the same coterie or set, etc. This is said hypothetically but is a possibility. Zamir's two articles were highly praised by some readers of HaAretz. Here for instance:

אימפריה מאוסה

המאמר "בגידת בריטניה, נקמת צרפת" הוא
אחד המאמרים המרתקים שקראתי בשנים האחרונות (מוסף "הארץ" 1.2). תוכנית בריטית צינית סודית נחשפה במלוא כיעורה לעיני הצרפתים בעוד כבשני אושוויץ עשנים. על פי אותו מערך כלי שחמט חדשים אמורים הפיון המארוני בלבנון, והפיון היהודי בפלשתינה, להיעלם מהלוח יחד עם שלל שליטים אזוריים ובכללם האמיר עבדאללה והמופתי אל-חוסייני, בדרך ליצירת "הפדרציה הערבית" תחת הגמוניה בריטית.

I accept Zamir's thesis because it fits much that was already known to me, as I mentioned above. Such as Brit encouragement/prodding to Arab states to form the Arab League. One of Eden's pan-Arabist speeches was delivered a day or so in time from the Farhud massacre of Jews in Baghdad in 1941 which Brit troops outside Baghdad could have stopped. French permission for Jewish refugee ships to sail for the Land of Israel from French soil, such as the Exodus ship, whose passengers were caught and later shipped to Germany by the British navy. The 1939 British White Paper on Palestine. The avoidance by the BBC of reporting on the Holocaust as it was taking place. The decision of the Allies not to prosecute Haj Amin el-Husseini as a war criminal, which was mainly driven by the UK govt, as far as I know.

As to Arab policemen in the British service taking part in the 1921 Jaffa pogrom, I have read it in several places, most recently in a column by the knowledgeable Jerusalem Post columnist Sarah Honig. The reason that I did not state it more definitely was because I did not have a source handy. Likewise, that Arab mobs chanted al-Dawla ma`ana during anti-Jewish pogroms, I have seen in a number of accounts. One of them was by Pierre van Paassen. I must wonder at your statement that British police cooperated with Tel Aviv police in 1936, whereas the pogrom that I am referring to took place in 1921. The Jewish police in Tel Aviv were also under British supervision.

You also say that Arab-Muslim institutions [you use the word "Palestinian"] were suppressed by the British. But the British created a new Arab-Muslim power base, the Supreme Muslim Council, to which they appointed Haj Amin el-Husseini as its head. They knew that Husseini was a fervent anti-Zionist when they appointed him both Mufti of Jerusalem and head of the Supreme Muslim Council.

And then UK officers in the OETA-South, organized Muslim-Christian associations throughout the country in order to combat the Jews/Zionism [see Yehoshua Porat]. Some of the British officers in the country were under the influence of the Judeophobic fogery-cum-plagiarism, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
- - - - - -

My chief objection to your conclusions is that, I feel, your article does not take into account two major events/facts that, if they were taken into account, would logically lead to different conclusions.

1) the Ottoman expulsion of Jews from Tel Aviv in 1917, without food or shelter provided, albeit the Jews were allowed to leave behind 12 men to watch over their property. This would seem to vitiate your conclusion that
the Jews were especially privileged in the late Ottoman Empire. I am sure that you would agree that before the Tanzimat reforms [ca. 1839-1864] the Jews [and other dhimmis] were quite oppressed, quite inferior in rights, in the empire, etc., albeit some Jews prospered [i.e., Hayim Farhi]. Furthermore, how can traditional Muslim Judeophobia be overlooked as a motivational factor?

2) the British 1939 "White Paper on Palestine" which essentially canceled out Jewish rights in the country, as well as Zionism, without League of Nations approval. Indeed, the Permanent Mandates Commission of the League ruled that this White Paper was in violation of Britain's mandate to govern the country. This WP also foreclosed the Land of Israel as a refuge for Jews from the Nazis, whether these Jews came from Tunisia and Libya, where the preliminary stages of the Holocaust were begun, or from Germany, Poland, Rumania, Bulgaria, Greece, etc. Now, just how does one get this White Paper to fit in with the notion that the British were pro-Zionist?


N. Friedman - 9/17/2009

Professor,

You write: "you have mentioned many times about arab war aims, but you seem to assume that the zionist/israel leadership was going to just let 70,000 palestinians live in the middle of the jewish state ..." You cite Professor Morris in support of this view.

I think you have misread Professor Morris, at least his more recent work (e.g. 1948) which includes substantial correction to his earlier works on the basis, according to him, of additional documents and errors previously made. His view is that the Jewish side came to accept partition by the end of the 1930's. Moreover, his view is that transfer was simply not the policy followed of the Jewish side but that, as he said in an interview, if someone comes to kill you, better him than you; which is to say, the displacement of Arabs, according to Morris, was largely a matter of circumstance, not planning.

I thus reject your argument that Jews were not about to live with Palestinian Arabs among them as - to be frank - not supportable from the record you cite - namely, Professor Morris' findings. Further and if nothing else, the fact is that Jews have lived with Arabs in Israel - and for more than 70,000 Arabs mentioned by you in your tendentious comment - from the time of Israel's founding. In fact, going by Hillel Cohen's interesting book, Army of Shadows, the Arabs who remained in Israel were those who stayed put and manifested an intention of not picking up arms to fight. In other words, such people believed in live and let live.

Further, your view is that Zionism was an inherent threat to Palestinian Arabs, which accounts for the views of local British officials. Other writers, e.g. Elie Kedorie, have examined the British role in great detail and have concluded that there was quite a bit of anti-Jewish prejudice by many on the British side, although this was not the only motive. He also concludes that the British took an historically stupid position - a folly, on his telling - which resulted in Britain losing most of its influence in the Arab region, most particularly as a result of how it mishandled the uprising of the late 1930's, allowing other Arab states to play a role.

Lastly, I reject your view that Zionism was inherently something reasonably to be fought by Arabs. Hillel Cohen's noted book shows that your position is not supported by the facts. Rather, rejectionism was one of many views among Arabs and it reason for gaining prominence was that it killed off and otherwise terrorized those who sought accommodation or common cause with Jews. Hence, it was historic circumstance, not the nature of Zionism, that led to the rise of Arab rejectionism.

It seems to me that anytime there is a large migration, there will be some degree of objection from the "native" population. If that is what you mean, I agree with you. Such rejectionism exists, for example,in the US regarding Mexican immigrants - even legal immigrants - today and in the past regarding Eastern Europeans. That is also the case in Europe today regarding Muslim immigrants. So, I can understand that existing among Arabs. However, the total rejectionism that was built is due to other factors, not primarily Zionism.

There is a word for those among native population who adopt the view that opposes immigrants: they are called racists!!! And, as shown by substantial scholarship by a number of writers, there is substantial contemptuous view of Jews that is, in fact, native to the Arab regions and that existed long before there were Zionists. That view, which has its roots in religion, is also a major reason for Arab rejection of Jews in Israel. That, not Zionism, is the main issue.


Mark A. LeVine (UC Irvine History Professor) - 9/16/2009

sorry, an article in haaretz doesn't trump a peer reviewed book on a leading academic press. nor do all the memoirs and amateur histories such as carlson, who wrote his book, if i'm not mistaken, in 1951, and from the parts i've read, is based largely on his own experiences and anecdotes rather than a comprehensive review of the situation made by someone who's a trained historian. i would suggest reading the chapter on egyptian war aims in the rogan/shlaim book. it is, to say the least, a bit more current in its research and is based on access to archival material and a much greater breadth of analysis while including the positions of people like heykal in its analysis.

but again, you're focusing on a issue that is not relevant to the immediate discussion: tel aviv and jaffa and their histories. you have not answered any of my questions to you posed in my last response. if you want to continue this discussion please respond to them with sources and explanations so that we can have an educated discussion based on the sources. this is a website for historians, we need to use the standards of historiography when discussing things and we need to keep to the points at hand.

as for the larger issue of british war aims in 1948, they are a fascinating topic and one i am happy to discuss, but that's a different issue and ultimately one that was not determinative of how 1948 turned out regardless of who's view of overall british aims/goals/support in the war is more accurate. what matters is the balance of forces on the ground, and what each sides goals were.

you have mentioned many times about arab war aims, but you seem to assume that the zionist/israel leadership was going to just let 70,000 palestinians live in the middle of the jewish state and that they weren't supremely interested in getting as many palestinians out of jewish controlled territory as possible. as morris and others have conclusively demonstrated, this was not the case. indeed, zionist leaders had talked of creating a 'state within a state' in jaffa and 'conquering jaffa economically' since before world war 1. throughout the mandate there was a constant refrain from the leaders of the city, as well as from the labor movement, about the need to have the upper hand vis-a-vis jaffa and the palestinians more broadly. in the 1940s, the deputy mayor of tel aviv told a british official that he would like to "blow up with bombs" a market that the british wanted to build along the border of tel aviv and jaffa because it would lead to greater integration between the two towns. "he's a goy, so doesn't understand anything" the vice mayor told colleagues from the municipality and and other senior leaders at a meeting about the future of the jewish neighborhoods, where the main argument was whether to "conquer" or "assimilate" jaffa.

the point is that the simplistic narrative of a peace loving good side and an evil and violent opponent, whether put forth by supporters of palestinians or israelis, just doesn't hold water. both sides wanted the same land, they ultimately fought over it, they both were willing to and did use extreme violence including terrorism to try to win, including by jews against palestinians in jaffa in the last years of the mandate, in places like jaffa markets, as recounted in memoirs by former fighters that anyone can read at the library of the jabotinsky archive on king george street in tel aviv (only in hebrew, however, unless they've translated them recently), or at the etzel museum along the beach in what used to be manshiyyeh, where the call to "show no mercy" to their arab counterparts is displayed in big letters on the wall (at least that's the way it looked when i was last there).

you can talk all you want about how certain british officers encouraged arabs to attack jews or israel, or how the arab legion did this or some british official encouraged that, but assuming these accounts are accurate it doesn't change what happened between the two sides either in the decades up to 1948 or during the war, nor does it change the crucial support provided to zionism by the british government during its 3 decades running palestine, without which the jewish national home would never have been built.

if you want to address the specific requests in my previous response to provide details in support of the claims you made, i'm happy to continue this discussion, otherwise, see you next time, as they say...


Mark A. LeVine (UC Irvine History Professor) - 9/16/2009

well, there are innumerable documents showing how the british were supporting tel aviv. the rapid growth itself during the mandate period, which the british supported by allowing its borders to grow and it to gain control of land from surrounding palestinian villages, supports that fact. there are speches by high commissioners about tel aviv, and all sorts of government support for it. so does the larger growth of zionist institutions in palestine, which the british by and large supported in complete contradistinction to the suppression of palestinian national institutions, both at the elite level of politics and among workers especially (see zachary lockman's comrades and enemies for the best analysis of this and i talk about it re tel aviv and jaffa in my book).

what mr green does not understand is that there was often a difference bt british officials on the ground and at lower levels in the colonial administration, who often were more sympathetic to palestinians because they saw the impact of the increasing zionist presence and power on palestinians, especially in terms of land, and the more senior people, especially in london but also at the high commissioner's office, who remained far more committed to zionism as a matter of policy and would overrule their subordinates regularly. i talk about this in my book and it's clear in terms of land cases where you can literally look at the files from them and see hand written notes from different officials at various levels arguing about which side should be supported.

but such a complex narrative is obviously not useful to those who want a black and white picture of good jews vs bad arabs/muslims who irrationally opposed a movement that clearly was intended to replace them as the dominant power in the country (who would ever agree to that, i wonder?), who prefer to talk about oppression that jews suffered in other lands hundreds of years earlier as being relevant to the modern conflict bt the two nationalist movements in the late 19th and 20th centuries than talk about what was happening on the ground then.

history, however is more complex, and if you don't accept the complexity and contradictions inherent in it--that is, the messiness of the story--you wind up with facile analyses that serve to support one ideological position or another but don't come close to describing what actually happened.

i would also point out language like "it is also said that policemen..." and the like that mr green uses. i don't know who said what or when, or whether british policemen joined in with arabs. if mr green has proof of that i would like a reference to the specific citations where that is, not to people's claims, but to the source of the claims. not "it is said" but such and such testimony before such and such committee stated without contradiction that x or y happened, and if it happened, what happened to the policemen who engaged in this activity and what was the government response and was it part of a larger pattern (which it was absolutely not, since in fact the british forces worked with tel aviv police in 1936). without these specifics, such claims are quite literally meaningless, as they can't be assessed or understood.

but even if a few policemen supported arabs, this doesn't mean at all that official british policy was to support arabs. nor does someone chanting "al-dawla ma'ana" mean this either. i don't know who said this, where it was reported, and what the context was. to begin with, in arabic in that period, it would be very interesting to see the palestinians using the word 'dawla' for the british government in 1921, since it didn't describe itself as a 'state' yet (it was still an occupation administration, if i'm not mistaken, and palestine was an "OET" or at least not a mandated territory yet in 1921), that way and the more normal expression would 'hukuma', meaning government. i don't have access to my files from arab newspapers and other sources where they would use that language right now so i can't comment on it specifically. perhaps mr green can provide the source for this chant and the context.

but let's assume that they used the term dawla. what does that mean? when, how and how often it was used, and by whom and how many people were there when it was shouted. and just because it was shouted by a mob, does that make it reality--ie, the british government actually supported them? this right at the time the british were institutionalizing their commitment to zionism vis-a-vis the balfour declaration through the terms of the mandate. it's ludicrous to mention this chant without the other side, and again, meaningless.

and does the fact that a few british officers are reported to have encouraged people to engage in violence mean that it happened, and if it did, that it represented the policies of the government?

unless i'm mistaken, most everything that is presented to be supporting mr green's case seems to come from memoirs written in english by former british officials or at least be from this perspective. i would appreciate some citations to archival sources. i would like to know what the hagana was writing about these issues as contained in the hagana archives, i would like to know what the zionist leadership in its private discussions/debates were saying about the british vis-a-vis tel aviv and jaffa, i would like to know what the palestinian leaders and the press were saying in arabic about the specific instances being mentioned, and i would like a more balanced analysis that puts the instances that green mentions into the larger context of british policy, both vis-a-vis tel aviv and jaffa in particular and the larger country.

i spent almost three years in the archives looking at these sources, so i feel confident in the narrative i have offered. no narrative is complete, but nothing mr green has put up here challenges any of the essential points, in fact even after my first reply he didn't answer the questions about how they are relevant to the way tel aviv was framed at the TIFF and whether or not the idea of tel aviv as the city that exists today being build on palestinian land is or is not true. obviously it is, which is why he cannot argue that fact. nor can he argue my rebuttal to his other points, bc there isn't one based on factual evidence.

finally, i would point out that if the arab forces in jaffa had managed to gain part of tel aviv's territory during the war while holding jaffa, which was supposed to be part of the palestinian state, kicked out the jews living there, took over their homes and gave them to arab refugees and refused to let the jews back in after the fighting even though by int'l law they were obligated to do so, would he support that as a legal and moral policy? bc if he does, then the jewish claims to east jerusalem or the settlements in gush etzion that had existed before 48 are illegitimate, since the arabs would have the right to have taken over the property and homes and done what they wanted to with them. of course, the same process occurred after 1967 and thus it would legitimate israeli policies today, which are basically "to the victors go the spoils." yet it would mean that the arabs/palestinians would have the right to attack israel as soon as they felt strong enough and liberate whatever land they could and then kick out the jews and resettle it with palestinians. it can't be right only for one side to behave that way.

on the other hand, if he wouldn't support such a view, then why is it okay that the palestinian residents who were forced out were not let back in? if he or anyone wants to claim that jews have certain rights in the west bank because of previous occupation of territory, then how is it that palestinians don't have the same rights in israel, including jaffa and the villages on which tel aviv stands.


Elliott Aron Green - 9/16/2009

Heykal, the top Egyptian journalist, also charged that Egypt only went into the war against Israel in a direct military way because of British pressure on King Faruq and PM Nuqrashy Pasha.


Elliott Aron Green - 9/16/2009

More on UK policy re Israel in the years 1939-1948

Since Prof LeVine mentioned Transjordan, he might have mentioned too that the TJ army, the Arab Legion, was not only the most effective Arab force in the war but was commanded and partly officered by British officers. We do recall General Sir John Bagot Glubb Pasha, don't we? [pasha was a title given him in TJ. His family name was Glubb]. This force, inter alia, drove the Jews out of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem in May 1948, taking the able-bodied men as prisoners of war.

Whatever King Abdullah's war aims were, did they necessarily coincide with UK policy? Can we extrapolate or deduce/induce UK policy in the ME in those years from what TJ did? [yes, the UK financially maintained TJ].

Meir Zamir has directly studied British and Arab documents known to French agents at that time. I think that he may have more authority on this matter than Mr Rogan. He wrote up his main findings in two articles in HaAretz last year. The UK wanted to set up a pan-Arab state in the Fertile Crescent based on a capital in Damascus. The UK would have special privileges in this state, while France, the USSR, and the USA would be mainly left out. This certainly fits many events already known in that time, including Eden's pan-Arab speeches, as well as the UK forces' participation in war against the Jews on behalf of the Arab side in Jerusalem, in Jaffa, and in the air over Sinai during Israel's War of Independence. Heykal, Nasser's friend and the leading Egyptian journalist, admitted that the British allowed Egyptian troops into the Suez Canal Zone in 1948 in order to take weapons for the war against Israel. Further, British troops allowed armed Arab volunteers from Egypt to come into the mandatory territory under their control in 1948 to fight the Jews [on this see, Cairo to Damascus, by John Roy Carlson]. Of course, when the Egyptian army went to fight Israel in May 1948, it had to go through the British army-controlled Suez Canal Zone.
It would be tedious to go into more detail now.


Elliott Aron Green - 9/16/2009

I regret that my comments elicited what seems to be a rather intemperate screed from Prof LeVine.

First about the British role. Prof LeVine does not dispute that Arab pogromists in Jaffa [1921] screamed al-dawla ma`ana [the govt is with us]. It is also said that Arab policemen in the British service joined in with the pogromists in Jaffa in 1921.

Now, the good prof's view of British policy in Israel during the mandatory period conflicts with contemporary accounts and with documents. Take Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen's report to the Foreign Office, for which he worked as an intelligence officer, that certain British officers, most notably Col. Waters-Taylor of the military govt, encouraged Haj Amin el-Husseini, a member of a prestigious, wealthy Jerusalem Arab family, to instigate an Arab pogrom in Jerusalem against Jews [where Jews were the majority of the population] during the San Remo Conference [April 1920], in order to influence its decisions. This was it seems an initiative of the British occupation regime in place at the time, not a London policy. See Meinertzhagen's handwritten report to his superiors in one of the Arno Press series. In his own book written later, he also mentions, I recall, Ernest Richmond and Ronald Storrs as working for the success of this Nebi Musa pogrom.

However, London did adopt an anti-Jewish, anti-Zionist policy later in the 1920s. Pierre van Paassen wrote of British collusion with the Arab massacre of Jews in Hebron [1929], and with other Arab violence. On this also see, Horace Samuel, the title of whose book, Revolt by Leave, is revealing. Also, William Ziff and Albert Londres [Le Juif errant est arrive].

Next let's consider the anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist meanings of the British 1939 "White Paper on Palestine." It severely restricted Jewish immigration into the internationally designated Jewish National Home when the Jews most needed a home. Considered together with British diplomatic efforts to prevent Jewish refugees from escaping from Europe, to prevent news about the Holocaust from becoming public [yes, the BBC suppressed news of the Holocaust], to offer little asylum to Jews in the UK or the dominions and colonies, and the refusal to destroy the gas chambers with air power, we may conclude that the UK was a silent partner in the Holocaust.

Meanwhile, UK policy favored pan-Arab nationalism. Anthony Eden, foreign secretary, prodded the Arabs to form the Arab League [according to MacDonald's book on the League]. This is the same Anthony Eden whose Foreign Office controlled the BBC reporting of foreign news, like the Holocaust. The FO also is said to have kept the British army outside Baghdad from entering the city to stop the Farhud pogrom against Jews there in 1941, about the same time that Eden was making a speech urging the Arabs to form the League.

--more can be said later--


Mark A. LeVine (UC Irvine History Professor) - 9/15/2009

i don't have time to reply to every one of mr green's accusations. the majority of which are belied by the factual record. palestinians were using the word palestine before 1909. it was one of several names they were using to describe themselves and was becoming increasingly prominent by then. when the first newspaper in arabic, 'falastin' was established in 1911 the name was not pulled out of the air but reflected the growing consensus of what the country was and how it differed from other parts of 'blad as-sham'.

whether or not jaffa was relatively "new" or now has absolutely nothing to do with the story we're discussing. in fact, many of the neighborhoods outside the old city were even newer than green suggests, manshiyyeh was established in the 1830s, likely by soldiers and other egyptians coming with mohammad ali's son ibrahim pasha. other neighborhoods weren't established till the 1880s and afterwards. so what? the villages around jaffa go back much farther and the reality is that the region on which tel aviv now stands was used regularly and in complex ways for centuries. i personally sat their with officials of the israeli antiquities authorities in jaffa while they went through excavations dating back to the 1600s that showed continuous use in the area with all sorts of artifacts present. none of this was catalogued, by the way, bc according to israeli archaeology law (inhereted from the british), anything after 1600 could be discarded without studying. quite useful if you're trying to erase the modern history of the country before zionism.

how jews were treated in muslim lands in centuries past is a fascinating topic but it has nothing to do with how jews were treated in palestine in the late 19th century when zionism arrived on the scene. jews were an increasingly powerful presence as attested to by their own words in the writings of the period in hebrew and german and french as well as other languages. one can see numerous quotes in my own book on tel aviv as well as the work of other scholars who looked at the early years of zionist settlement.

as for improved living conditions, when tel aviv was first envisioned, many jews from the newer neighborhoods in jaffa wondered why they didn't just move there, especially ajami. the fact was that tel aviv was not the first attempt in jaffa to create more hygienic neighborhoods outside the old city.

of course they wanted to govern themselves, this is natural, but it doesn't negate the fact that HOW they came to govern themselves was through acquiring land that was being used by others and who did not want to give that land up. that's what mr green seems unable to accept.

you cannot call 1921 a pogrom. this is an historically different term. the jews in russia/the pale who suffered progroms were not engaged in a nationalist competition over territory and power. but they were in palestine. that civilians were killed is not debatable, but the context was a nationalist conflict that was already becoming intense by 1921. to call it a pogrom makes it seem as if there is no relevant political background to the violence against them, which there clearly was, as the reports on the violence at the time showed. it's no different than calling indian uprisings against white settlers in the US pogroms, which would be equally ludicrous.

finally, his idea that few jews were left in jaffa is only true if you consider only the parts of jaffa that weren't home to many jews. the so-called peripheral neighborhoods were still places were jews lived and had lived for decades. they were not peripheral and in fact were important to the overall economy, and tel aviv's leaders didn't like them under jaffa's jurisdiction at all, while jaffa didn't provide services that tel aviv wound up having to provide. this is all discussed in great detail in my jaffa-tel aviv book. tel aviv's leaders had wanted to annex the neighborhoods but they couldn't for various reasons, so they remained part of jaffa. and the number of the population is the number used by tel aviv's leaders.

finally, the idea that the british hoped for an arab victory is belied by research into this question. eugene rogan's analysis of jordanian war aims, which were closely allied with britain's, in 'the war for palestine' is a good start to see a much more complex situation than green is describing. moreover, the british had spent 3 decades doing everything possible to prevent the emergence of a strong palestinian movement/people that could withstand the growing power of the zionist movement, while encouraging and facilitating the establishment of a powerful and successful zionist movement that was prepared to take power in 1948, whereas palestinians were left largely leaderless thanks to british actions in the years leading up to independence and never allowed to build democratic institutions during british rule. the idea that they would suddenly throw all their weight behind palestinians or jordanians to defeat israel, especially when the americans would not abide by this, is unsupportable.

but in the end, the reality is that none of green's comment's have anything to do with the central point of the piece, which is that tel aviv WAS built in good measure on palestinian land, that it was engaged in a long term struggle with jaffa to control the region, and that since 1948 and more recently since the 1980s the situation in jaffa has been one of repression matched by attempts to marginalize and push out palestinian israeli residents in favor of israeli jews. he doesn't deal with this bc he can't say anything about it, as it is a fact.

i won't go into green's analyses/commentary on so-called 'traditional arab-muslim' society being an 'occupation regime.' his pseudo-academic language is betrays a complete lack of understanding of muslim history and of what occupation means. to compare the egyptian government's actions (toward jews? hardly any are even left) to israel's in the OT is just plain ludicrous. nor does the past discrimination against jews or christians (not to mention the oppression of all non-elite classes of muslims) have anything to do with israel's treatment of palestinians. unless he's saying there's an equivalence, which would in fact mean that he's saying that the israeli occupation is as bad as the horrible treatment he says jews suffered under muslim rule. whichever way green frames it, even he can't hide the fact that it's unconscionable and must end, and that artists are absolutely right to call israel to account for its actions.


Elliott Aron Green - 9/15/2009

Thanx for the kind words, Sol Shalit

Wanted to add one detail that I had forgotten. The Ottoman Empire, it goes without saying, favored Sunni Muslims over other religions and ethnic groups.

In April 1917, the Jewish population of Tel Aviv was expelled from their homes. Their number at that time was 9,000. The expellees fled on foot without food or shelter provided, and essentially wandered the roads. It is told that in a few cases Arabs gave some food to the Jewish refugees. One story concerns an Arab from Jaffa, living in the countryside. He had had a Jewish wetnurse because of his mother's lactating difficulties. Now a grown man, he was approached by the grown son of the wetnurse, who had long since moved with her family to Tel Aviv. The Arab remembered his moral debt to the wetnurse, who is after all, like a mother. And he provided the Jew and his companions with food.

So, `Umar, I have said something nice about Arabs. But this episode of expulsion shows that the Ottoman Empire was after all a Muslim state in which the non-Muslim subject peoples --like the Armenians, especially like the Armenians-- could be expelled from their homes. Leaders of the Jews in the country, the Yishuv, who were knowledgeable about the Armenian genocide going on at that time feared that the Jews would be treated the same way.

Aaron Aaronsohn, one of the most remarkable leaders of the Jews in the country, wrote explicitly of this fear. I fear that the picture that Prof LeVine paints of the Jews in Israel as enjoying privileges greater than the Muslims does not fit reality. In any case, LeVine's account does not consider this expulsion episode.


omar ibrahim baker - 9/15/2009

None of the above denies or negates the OUTSTANDIN FACT that Green's statement:
"It is known that the British hoped for an Arab victory in the war and that they armed Arab militias and state armies. "
is typical of:
"The general falsehood and conscious disinformation of such statements and of this particular statement re "Arab militias" is demonstrated if we only recall a genuinely true , authentic and unchallengeable historical fact; namely:
Whereas Palestinian Arabs were executed by hanging, were hung, for the possession of a fire arm the British mandatory authority over Palestine allowed and assisted, directly and indirectly, the Jews to form, organize and arm a standing Jewish army: the Haganah!"

The attempt to sensationalize the issue by refereeing to "salons" and “affairs" does not change historical fact nor diverts the attention of serious readers away from it!


Elliott Aron Green - 9/15/2009

What I wrote about British aid for the Arab side is correct. Symbolizing the cozy relationship between British officials and leading Arabs was the salon conducted by Katy Antonius, widow of George. Her guests were Arab notables and intellectuals and high British officials, including General Evelyn Barker --top commander of British forces in the country-- with whom she conducted a romantic affair.

As to British sympathy for the Arabs in the post-WW 2 period, consider especially the recent research of historian Meir Zamir, summarized by two articles by him in HaAretz last year. Much writing during the period under question reached conclusions similar to Zamir's, without the benefit of his documents. His documentation is conclusive.

Omar could also search for books such as Rape of Palestine, by William Ziff, Revolt by Leave, by Horace Samuel, Promise and Fulfillment, by Arthur Koestler, etc.

The corollary to the UK's pro-Arab policy, also manifested by Anthony Eden's efforts to have the Arabs create an Arab League, was the strenuous UK effort to effort to prevent Jews from escaping the Nazi domain in Europe.


omar ibrahim baker - 9/15/2009


To disassociate Israel from its imperialistic /colonialist origins, provenance and birth, from its past and from its present , Zionists tend to portray the then leading imperialist power, the British Empire, as being, substantially, in support of the Palestinian Arabs resistance and against the Zionist colonialist conquest of Palestine .

That is done with a straight face, as in quote from EA Green below , despite some stark land mark decisions by the British government namely:
a-The Balfour Declaration
b-The allowance of great numbers of Jewish emigrants into Palestine (despite the relentless opposition of the indigenous Palestinian people)
c-The collusion with the Jews/the Zionist movement to deny the Palestinians their Right to Self Determination
d-The set up and organization of a virtual parallel state administration in Palestine: The Jewish Agency
e-The set up of a virtual Jewish standing army in Palestine the Haganah
All being factors without which the Zionist movement would never have succeeded in establishing the state of Israel in Palestine.

In this same vein E A Green throws in, from time to time, general all encompassing statements totally bereft of historical authenticity to bolster his case as if forgone, self-evident, non challengeable historical fact.
The latest, above in his post, is :
"It is known that the British hoped for an Arab victory in the war and that they armed Arab militias and state armies. "

The general falsehood and conscious disinformation of such statements and of this particular statement re "Arab militias" is demonstrated if we only recall a genuinely true , authentic and unchallengeable historical fact; namely:
Whereas Palestinian Arabs were executed by hanging, were hung, for the possession of a fire arm the British mandatory authority over Palestine allowed and assisted, directly and indirectly, the Jews to form, organize and arm a standing Jewish army: the Haganah!


Sol S Shalit - 9/14/2009

We should all be grateful to Elliott Aron Green for setting the factual record straight on LeVine’s latest purposeful, habitual, and selective distortions of history. LeVine’s tendentious missives do not enlighten an academic discourse; they are merely pathetic rants of a man obsessed with his own leftist agenda.


Elliott Aron Green - 9/14/2009

As usual, Mark LeVine totally disregards the history of Arab-Jewish relations. Jews lived in Arab-Muslim society for more than a 1000 years as inferiors by law. Jews [like Christians] were subject to payment of tribute [jizya], discriminatory laws of various sorts, and legally prescribed humiliations. This was true throughout the Muslim-ruled lands, although conditions for dhimmis varied with time and place. In the Land of Israel and nearby countries, Jews were in fact treated worse than Christians, and Christians sometimes joined in harassing and persecuting Jews, as we know from contemporary writers, such as Karl Marx reporting in the New York Tribune of 15 April 1854.

Jaffa was a relatively NEW city, since the ancient Jaffa had been destroyed by the Mamluks about 1300. The Ottoman Empire decided to rebuild the city in the late 16th century or in the 17th. Perhaps LeVine can supply a date.

In any case, the status of Jews in the new Jaffa was definitely inferior to that of the Arab Muslims, who were not called "Palestinians" at that time. Nor was the country called "Palestine" or "Filastin." It was simply subsumed as part of bilad ash-Sham [Syria or Greater Syria]. LeVine's use of "Palestinian" is quite anachronistic for the period before WW One when Tel Aviv was founded [1909]. The name "Palestine" was first officially applied to the country in 1920 when the San Remo Conference adopted the 1917 Balfour Declaration into international law. Even then, the Arabs rejected the name "Palestinian" for themselves, preferring to call themselves Arabs and hoping for a union of the country with Syria. The Arabs of the country began calling themselves "Palestinians" mainly after founding of the PLO in January 1964.

LeVine also falsifies Jaffa's role in Israel's War of Independence. But first, the Jews had been leaving Jaffa for Tel Aviv after its founding [1909], preferring to govern their own lives as much as possible and not to be subject to Arab rule or harassment, although Jews and Arabs often did get along in Jaffa. Another reason to leave Jaffa was the improved living conditions in the newer homes of Tel Aviv. However, the Jewish departure from Jaffa accelerated with the Arab pogrom in 1921 that LeVine describes as "the first major Jewish-Palestinian 'riots'". The fact is that there were no joint "riots" but an Arab pogrom against Jews. The British did not show much energy in protecting Jews at the time, as far as I know. In fact, the British attitude towards Arab pogroms and other attacks on Jews during the mandatory period was laissez-faire. This is reflected in the chant of the Arab pogromists: Al-dawla ma`ana [= The government is with us]. So the British govt in the country indulged Arab pogromists and favored the Arabs in many ways.

Contrary to LeVine, few Jews were left in Jaffa by 29 November 1947, when the UN general assembly recommended partition of the country. The 30,000 Jews that LeVine claims were there in the 1940s --if at all a valid number-- may have lived in peripheral areas of Jaffa adjacent to Tel Aviv or other Jewish localities, and economically associated with them rather than Jaffa.

But LeVine turns the real history of Jaffa in the Independence War upside down. Shortly after the UN GA partition recommendation, Arab snipers began shooting from the minarets of mosques in Jaffa at Jews on the streets of Tel Aviv, particularly at south Tel Aviv from the Manshiyyah Quarter mosque. Jews were killed on the streets and many many Jews fled south Tel Aviv starting in December 1947. They were refugees before there were Arab refugees in the country.

In April, Jewish militias counter-attacked, fighting the Arab militias in very harsh combat. Arabs began fleeing during this period, although Arab forces were still in control of the city. This period is described in the book Bedouin Doctor by Herbert Pritzke [London 1957], a German volunteer/mercenary with the Arab forces in Jaffa.

When the British commanders feared that Jaffa would fall to the Jews, they sent British army tanks and RAF fighter planes to stop and drive back the Jews. Nevertheless, the Jews still won the battle of Jaffa. It is known that the British hoped for an Arab victory in the war and that they armed Arab militias and state armies. They also took direct part in warfare against the Jews, as in the battle of Jaffa. No doubt many official Britishers in the country felt very much as LeVine does about the relative merits of Jews and Arabs.

On British designs to create a pan-Arab state in the ME under UK aegis, see recent articles by Meir Zamir. Other Israeli researchers argue that British forces intervened in the battle because they wanted Jaffa to be an Arab port cum British base in the country as part of the forthcoming Anglo-Arab dominion, and the necessity of Jaffa to the Arab war effort.

Coming back to LeVine's use of the category "occupation," I would argue that traditional Arab-Muslim society in the Fertile Crescent [incl. Egypt] was an "occupation regime," with legally mandated collection of tribute from non-Muslims and legally mandated inferiority and humiliation of non-Muslims, including Jews. This nature of Arab rule as an "occupation regime" lasted into the 20th century. In Yemen, it still exists today, and maybe in Egypt too.

I would agree with LeVine that many ought to reexamine their positions and their notions of the history of Jaffa and of Tel Aviv. LeVine ought to take his own advice.