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Aug 9, 2005 1:51 pm


A Response to Comments from My Previous Posting



I was about to leave this incredibly long reply to the last posting on leaving historical accuracy at the door of the public sphere when i realized it's so long and detailed that i should better put it as its own posting. so here are my replies to the comments. please excuse any run on sentences...

to begin with, i was accused by one commenter of using "ad hominem" attacks in my posting. to my knoweldge, i have yet to use any ad hominen's against someone commenting on this list, or against any one i've criticized in posting. however, commenters on my posting have done so, including the most recent attack, the says i "have been lying about israel... for quite a while."

nor has anyone called me on any 'outright fabrications', which is another innacuracy. i'm sure both mr. ramirez and mr. friedman (the two main commenters on the last post) think that many things i have written are outright fabrications, but that does not make them so. the incident that you might be referring to involves my support for the international solidarity movement, which led some commenters to write in accusing the ISM of supporting terrorists. i looked at the evidence they offerred and gave a detailed reply and said i would continue searching and seeing if i found anything else to support their contenction. to date i have not although i continue to look when i have the time. how this is not responding to criticism i'm not sure.

but never mind about that... let's look at what mr. friedman says about the last posting. he writes:

"And no, I do not think that most reputable historians view the early Arab Israeli conflict as a conflict of two national groups although, at this point, it has become that. Such view is contradicted by the lack of a serious second nationalist movement. In 1948, there were not really many Palestinian nationalist groups or a people or a nation as such. There were Arabs local to Palestine who viewed themselves largely as Syrians or simply "Arabs."

Continuing, mr. friedman writes: "And, as you know full well, the Palestinians managed, for the most part, not to know themselves that they were a people even in the 1960's (and one need only read the PLO Charter and its reference to Palestinian Arabs being part and parcel of the great Arab people and nation to realize that), largely in reaction to Israel. Which is to say, the notion of a Palestinian national group has no serious pre-Israel identity in the Muslim regions, no serious pre-Israel identity in Arab history as, in fact, the notion of nation states and peoples - as opposed to religious groupings - has a short history given the span of the Muslim Arab regions and their concepts of empire under the banner of religion."

simply--and sadly--put, everything mr friedman has written here is factually wrong, sorry to say. first of all, most every historian or other scholar who is considered among the leaders in the field considers the struggle one between two emerging national movements. if mr. friedman can name me a group of scholars who think otherwise and who are recognized today as producing the most accurate scholarship in the field then, then we can talk. (as for karsh's work, please see ian lustick's review of his work in the International Institute for Strategic Studies journal, Survival, in fall 1997, along with the exchange of letters between Karsh and Lustick published in the next issue (winter 1997-98)).

however, mr. friedman makes an interesting point, that so many of the people i list aren't actually historians. interesting, but does that disqualify them? in fact most have historiographic training and are first rate historians. they just approach the exploration of history from other disciplinary starting points. but many are just plain historians--lockman, shafir (who's book ends around 1914, hardly contemporary, despite being in a sociology department), avi shlaim, etc. and others who do post-1948 also engage the history in important ways. this demonstrates the vitality of the history profession and its ability to absorb new methodologies and disciplines. it is a shame that most other fields are much more focused on drawing boundaries and leaving out interesting inter-disciplinary ways of studying issues in which their members work. but that's a story for a different day...

back to the argument quoted above, it is making the utterly unsupported claim--but one that goes back to the roots of zionist writing and policy--that palestinians were never a 'people' until the last few decades. in fact, this is completely wrong. the scholarship of people like rashid khalid, beshara doumani, my own work on jaffa and tel aviv, salim tamari's historical narratives, may jayyusi's analyses of palestinian poetry and literature, boutros abou-manneh and mahmud yazbak and may seikali's work on late ottoman palestine and haifa in particular, iris agmon's work on jaffa, michell campos's work on ottoman zionist relations--and the list goes on and on--all show how a sense of a modern palestinian identity began to emerge in the latter part of the 19th century and particularly in the last decade of ottoman rule. it was not fully formed and there were various ideas that different leaders and intellectuals put out to the public, many of them tied to their class or political affiliation--but then, neither was the zionist identity that emerged at the same time.

but to claim that palestinians had "no serious second national movement" etc. is just utterly inaccurate (i can thing of no stronger way to describe it). it is a perfect example of writing history from a victor's point of view--because israel emerged victories then the palestinians couldn't have had a 'serious national movement' bc if they did how could israel have won? the evidence is overwhelming as to the existence and extent of the movement. this is not to say it was a successful movement, or well managed, or that its leadership wasn't self-serving, out of touch with most ordinary palestinians, and even selling their patrimoney out from under them at the same time they were trying to achieve statehood.

but the failings of the nationalist leadership (which are legion) can in no way be equated with a lack of a "second serious national movement" in palestine among the population. in fact, there is considerable evidence of how ordinary palestinians tried to resist in so many ways--many non-violent, others violent--throughout the late ottoman and mandate periods, only to be undone by a combination of british brute force and opposition to any successful development of palestinian nationalism, the stronger political foundations of the zionist movement (which was helped not just by massive inflows of capital and support but also was strongly supported by the british--as opposed to the palestinian leadership, which was seen through much more of a colonial lens and not given any power that would allow it to effectively oppose or challenge the commitments of the balfour declaration or jewish political aims in palestine.)

trying to deny palestinians any agency in their own history itself has a long history in the traditioanl scholarship on the conflict. but scholars like lockman, ted swedenburg and others have shown in great detail how much energy palestinian workers and peasants--that is, ordinary palestinians--put into trying to pursue their nationalist interests, even trying to use zionist unions to challenge their own leadership.

rashid khalidi has the most detailed exploration of the origins of a geo-identity as palestinian among non-jewish palestinian arab inhabitants of the country, but just to give a simple rebuttal to your assertion that they simply thought of themselves as 'arabs,' why was the most important newspaper in the country, founded in 1911, specifically called "Falasteen"? it's not because the leadership was dying to be part of "Greater Syria". in fact, while there were certainly various factions within the nationalist movement, including some that supported Greater Syria either because they were tied to Faisal's brief regime or because of loyalties to the old Ottoman-era notion of Greater Syria (which any way had given way to an administrative organization of Palestine in the last half century of ottoman rule that increasingly came to mirror the borders of what today is israel and the occupied territories), doesn't mean that such an identity wasn't there and growing stronger by the day.

it would seem that by denying palestinians an identity mr. friedman is trying to deny them a legitimate claim to the land vis-a-vis the zionist claim. but this is a waste of time: even if they didn't imagine themselves in the context of a modern nation-state (which is not at all true) they would still have had the right to live on their territory and develop at their own pace and manner and not be colonized by another movement whose goal of statehood clearly and quite naturally precluded their own (as ben gurion put it, "they do not have the right to rule the country to the extent that they have not developed it" (that's a paraphrase from memory but it's pretty close to his words)).

would we also say that because native americans didn't have a modern notion of the nation-state what european settlers and then the US did to them was justified? in both cases a discourse of development was used to deligitimize an indigenous movement's claims to sovereignty on the argument that only those who could "develop" the country--whatever that meant, and of course what it meant was deterimed solely by the colonizing society and often ignored similar processes in play in the indigenous society-- deserved to be its rulers.

finally, i don't know what the point is of mr. friedman's comment that palestinian identity has "no serious history" in the context of the long history of islam. neither does european nationalism in the long history of europe. or islam in the long history of the middle east that goes back 7,000 years. the irrefutable point is that palestinian and zionist nationalisms both emerged and solidified in the same period as competing nationalist movements whose histories can only be understood in relation to each other.

just a couple of more comments as i don't have time to go through every line of the comments. mr friedman says that the war of 1948 was a war of annihilation. i have no doubt that if the arab states could have done that, they would have. however at the same time the available evidence and latest scholarship on the issue is quite clear that most every state--egypt, syria, jordan, etc. had much more limited aims and in some cases, especially jordan, had cut tacit deals with the zionist/israeli leadership in the lead up to war on the future shape of the borders (with the exception of jerusalem). the arab states had no desire to create an independent palestinian state but rather to take whatever land they could for themselves without putting their regimes in too much trouble with their british/french masters or risking to much of their forces, which is exactly what did happen.

this is not to gainsay the horrible cost of the war on the nascent state of israel, although the cost to palestinians--the loss of most of their homeland--was at least equally high, and higher from a political point of view. but if we want to say that palestinians/arabs (not the same thing) wanted to annihilate israel, then one could make the same case that the zionist movement wanted to annihilate palestinian nationalism, which of course, and quite understandably, it--or, and this is important, most of its senior leadership, as opposed to the mass of the people--did. but where does that get us without contextualizing it vis-a-vis the political strategic goals and calculations on the ground? indeed, much of ben gurioni's genius as a political leader lay in his ability (as opposed to revisionist zionists of that era) to set aside ideological goals, at least for the time being, for more pragmatic strategies.

i should also point out that both pappe and morris have described in their books in detail what arabs/palestinians have done to israel, not just as friedman claims, what israel has done to them. the fact that he uses morris to support an argument for the true aims of the arabs and the driving out of jews from their villages proves that point.

finally, friedman (noah, not thomas) point out that 20 villages and 85,000 jews were displaced as part of 1948. okay, but 587 palestinian villages and 750,000 palestinians were displaced. so what does this number game mean? and the comment that "And, to be fair and as a result of that war, all told 856,000 Jews ended up fleeing from the various surrounding Arab countries, despite their alleged glorious tolerance of other peoples" is also neither fair nor accurate.

it's not fair because once again we're confusing the actions of arab countries with those of palestinians who, despite protestations to the contrary, are not the same people; not accurate because we now know that in many cases the state of israel actively worked to bring jews from arab countries to israel and in many cases jews who didn't want to leave were literally dragged by family members from their homes (this happened often in morocco, the one case i have some detailed knowledge of; see the writings of sami shalom chetrit, the great israeli poet who was born in morocco, for this narrative) to go to israel, or that he israeli government engaged in actions designed to precipitate their flight.

this is not to say that arab states behaved with any dignity or tolerance. but why is it that so many people have to play a zero-sum blame game? why is it either all palestinians' or all zionist/israelis' faults? why can't the complexity and the historical interconnections be accepted? recognizing the misdeeds of zionist/israeli or palestinian leaders no more delegitimizes the state of israel or palestinian nationalism than recognizing the same with american or european leaders delegitimizes the existence of their countries.

let me end with the comment from mr. schoenberg, who writes that "Mr. Levine, I have another question for you. Thomas Friedman has been writing quite a bit about the rise of the Chinese and Indians as far as their economies are concerned. Can you tell me if someone has been writing about the dearth of similar progress in the Arab world aside from their well known corruption. I know they come to the US to get PHD's and then can't do anything at home but still there should be more information out there."

yes, friedman is writing a lot (although i wouldn't take his comments as gospel truth as they are open to an incredible amount of criticism for accuracy and scope. see, among others, david korten's shattering review of his arguments in The Lexus and the Olive Tree). as to your questions: well, hundreds of scholars write about these issues. this is perhaps the number one topic of research today along with issues related to islamist movements of various stripes (moderate to terrorist). the fact that you don't see them in the mainstream press shows the poverty of discourse in the press, not a lack of research among scholars. i don't have time to provide a whole list here. without plugging my new book, 'Why They Don't Hate Us,' i in fact offer among the most detailed analyses of the dynamic you're questioning. for some reason it's cheaper on amazon.com ($13.57) than i can buy it from my own publisher with an author's discount, but that's another story... but if you want a very detailed analysis of the actual historical and contemporary dynamics of middle eastern economies that avoids a lot of economistic jargon, then check out the book...

however, i must take issue with the last sentences. first of all, who's "they" and who says they come to the US only, or that they can't do anything "at home"? there are many countries, particularly in the gulf, where the economy is booming and the need for trained high skill workers is so great that american universities are setting up overseas campuses as fast as they can build them in order to cash in on the need. as for why so many other countries in the region are so screwed economically, i can't get into that in detail here, but would refer you to relevant articles from my website, www.culturejamming.org or chapters 2-5 of the new book. but just briefly, you questions clearly imply that the reason for the problems in the muslim world lie entirely within it. certainly, it's hard to overestimate how corrupt and brutal muslim leaders have been and remain today. but it's equally hard to overstate how damaging have been the consequences and continuing impact of two centuries of european imperialism and more recently american domination of the region. once again, a thorough and accurate understanding only comes from looking at how all the forces related to each other on the ground.






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N. Friedman - 8/16/2005

Professor,

Sorry, here is the URL for Benny Morris' statements above quoted:

http://www.shaml.org/ground/Nusseibeh/reactions/Benny_morris.htm


N. Friedman - 8/16/2005

Professor,

You state: "i'm sorry, i cannot continue this argument. it is useless. you continue to say that palestinian nationalism was 'not a substantial movement among Palestinian Arabs, prior to the time of Israel's existence.'"

Morris' view does not quite agree with your position. In Righteous Victims, he views Palestinian nationalism as being 25 years behind Zionism. Which is to say, in 1948, Palestinian nationalism was akin to Jewish nationalism in 1923 while, in 1923, Palestinian nationalism would have been akin to Jewish nationalism in 1898. Or, in rather simple terms, what we have was the "sense of" an identity which you mentioned from the beginning - but now you fail to appreciate the implications what you, not I, wrote -. Or, in even more simple terms, you are in error.

For what it is worth, I do not claim that Israel has a better moral claim to the land than the Palestinian Arabs and I do not claim that the Palestinian Arabs. The assumption what I was making a moral argument is in your head. If you do not understand the idea of exploring the past to understand it, not to moralize about what ought to be, that is your problem, not mine.

In fact, I do not think that land control is a question of morality for any country on Earth. What I claim is that Israel has the land it has because it won the war of 1948 and the subsequent wars and because of the agreements it made along the way. Such is the only justification which any country on Earth offers - unless you count the self-serving moralizing used for home consumption -.

Now, you claim that there is no evidence of a lack of substantial Palestinian nationalism. In plain English, your statement contains a logic error. You cannot prove a negative so your statement is disingenuous.

What I said is that Palestinian nationalism was not a particularly substantial factor prior to Israel's existence and was, compared to pan-Arabism and Syrian nationalism, in the background. I stand by that. And, frankly, that is Benny Morris' view as expressed in Righteous Victims.

You next write: you say only a minority of jews sought "a more independent arrangement" early on, but i'm reading benny morris's 'righteous victims' as i write this and in his first chapter he quotes senior jewish leaders as far back as the early 1880s arguing that "the thing we must do now is to become as strong as we can, to conquer the country, covertly, bit by bit... we shall act as silent spies, we shall buy, buy, buy... we have made it a rule not to say to o much, except to those... we trust... the goal is to revive our nation on its land... if only we succeed in increasing our numbers here until we are the majority..."

First point: I note that Morris, while a terrific historian, does tend to quote people imperfectly. Whatever flaws there may be in Ephraim Karsh's account, he has uncovered some rather serious errors in Morris' writings.

Second point: Note that you make the transition from Jews - which is what I wrote - to leaders - which is what you wrote. I said only a minority of Jews sought an independent arrangement early on.

Now, some leaders did have some musings, just like you have stated. But, all told, there is less to that than you make of it. Which is to say, with the benefit of hindsight you can say that some - not all, not most but only some - of the early statements matched some of what later occurred. But that is different from saying that such end result was the directed purpose in the early days. Such discrepancy presumably explains your backtracking statement "since he was thefounder of modern hebrew, i don't think anyone could have said it better than ben-yehuda... and in fact, what he said was exactly what happened. yet even here the complexity of the situation is such that the zionist understandings of the actual political nature of their desired control over the country shifted many times until the mid-mandate period."

You next write: finally, your idea that "one needs a state and an army to conquer" betrays an absolute lack of understanding of the history of zionism and of the conflict. absolute. the WHOLE point of the pragmatic zionism that early on won the day over political zionism was that the jews slowly "conquering" the land--again, this is the word used by zionists over and over and over again to describe the endeavors in plain hebrew, as in the "conquest groups" organized by hashomer as early as 1910 and as in the conquests of labor and then land as the terms were used by labor zionists--was the only way to ultimately win sovereignty and rule the country. this was in opposition to the political zionism of herzl and other early leaders who thought in one big swoop they could buy or otherwise achieve sovereignty or statehood from the ottoman sultan or european great powers.

My theory is a bit different. I think that those involved groped about for different ways to protect the Jewish community which was moving to what is now Israel. They purchased land, of course, as such was part and parcel of creating a national home. But the notion of a sovereign state was one of many ideas - not the sole idea and, early on, likely not the main idea - considered. What, however, made a state the course which came to the forefront was the opposition from the local Arabs. You have given me no reason to doubt that.

Morris' theory is one in which the Arab side refused compromises - which is to say, he does not hold the Jews as mere conquerors but as people who were willing to reach compromises and willing to live with the Palestinians, not conquer them.

Such was stated rather clearly at UC Berkley, regarding which it has been reported:

"Morris had different plans. He knew exactly what was in store for his audience: a surprise, a big surprise. [In the lecture] he told them that the Palestinians have been obstinately refusing to accept any compromise since the 1930's. They refused to accept the 1937 Partition Plan of the Peel Commission (a Jewish State on 20% of the Sharon and Galilee regions of territorial Palestine), they rejected the 1947 UN partition plan (an Arab state on 40% of the territory), they did not even want to hear about Sadat and Begin's [1979] Autonomy Plan (which was a part of the Camp David Accord and which was never implemented), and they rejected Bill Clinton's generous offer (which included 95% of the West Bank). To make a long story short, [Morris said that] the Jews always agreed [to various compromise offers] whereas the Arabs always refused to accept them, and the blame falls squarely on the Palestinians. They have been making historic mistakes for seventy years now, and there is a price for historic mistakes..."

Which is to say, the conquest theory is a bit too simple minded.


Mark A. LeVine (UC Irvine History Professor) - 8/16/2005

i'm sorry, i cannot continue this argument. it is useless. you continue to say that palestinian nationalism was "not a substantial movement among Palestinian Arabs, prior to the time of Israel's existence." this is, to borrow a hebrew phrase, complete "shtuyot"--nonsense. there is no evidence to support it and a mountain of evidence to demonstrate its plain falsity. and if it's not so important, why do you focus on it so much. of course the claim is crucial: if "arabs" didn't have a palestinian identity till zionists came and a jewish state was born, then the implication is clearly that israelis today have a far greater claim to sovereignty over the land of mandate palestine than palestinians, who, after all, have at most a 57 year national history according to your calculus, while jews have a 5,000 year old bond to the land.

you say only a minority of jews sought "a more independent arrangement" early on, but i'm reading benny morris's 'righteous victims' as i write this and in his first chapter he quotes senior jewish leaders as far back as the early 1880s arguing that "the thing we must do now is to become as strong as we can, to conquer the country, covertly, bit by bit... we shall act as silent spies, we shall buy, buy, buy... we have made it a rule not to say to o much, except to those... we trust... the goal is to revive our nation on its land... if only we succeed in increasing our numbers here until we are the majority..."

since he was thefounder of modern hebrew, i don't think anyone could have said it better than ben-yehuda... and in fact, what he said was exactly what happened. yet even here the complexity of the situation is such that the zionist understandings of the actual political nature of their desired control over the country shifted many times until the mid-mandate period.

finally, your idea that "one needs a state and an army to conquer" betrays an absolute lack of understanding of the history of zionism and of the conflict. absolute. the WHOLE point of the pragmatic zionism that early on won the day over political zionism was that the jews slowly "conquering" the land--again, this is the word used by zionists over and over and over again to describe the endeavors in plain hebrew, as in the "conquest groups" organized by hashomer as early as 1910 and as in the conquests of labor and then land as the terms were used by labor zionists--was the only way to ultimately win sovereignty and rule the country. this was in opposition to the political zionism of herzl and other early leaders who thought in one big swoop they could buy or otherwise achieve sovereignty or statehood from the ottoman sultan or european great powers.

at this point i would refer readers to the relevent state of the art in the historiography of the country and let them decide for themselves.

i look foward to discussing other issues on a subsequent posting.


N. Friedman - 8/15/2005

Dear Professor,

I was not arguing who had the stronger national identity. That is in your head!!!

Again, the issue I raise is simply a question of historical accuracy which, given the existing Palestinian nationalism which today exists, is interesting but no longer very important.

But again, as far as Palestinian nationalism is concerned, I again reitereate that such was not a substantial movement among Palestinian Arabs, prior to the time of Israel's existence. And again, I did not say that such nationalism was not an element but only that it was not a strong or important element. It pales - and you have not denied this - compared to Syrian nationalism and pan-Arabism, etc.

And note: my point concerns the Palestinian Arabs, not a comparison about whether Arab or Israeli nationalism was stronger. That point is irrelevant.

And, regarding Palestinian nationalism, its strength has to measured against movements competing for the attention of Palestinians. Among such movements, Palestinian nationalism was, prior to Israel's creation, a minor movement of little consequence. Such is why you - not I - described such nationalism as being merely a "sense of" of an identity. Such characterization, in fact, is quite accurate.

To turn something that was merely a "sense of" an identity into more than it was is to distort. And, if the "historians" you identify suggest otherwise, they are distorting the record rather radically. I think you know that.

There were, in fact, some Jews who, early on, sought a more independent arrangement. But, as you know, such was not a dominant movement in 1905 or even 1913. The independence movement had far more to do with events that occurred in the 1920's through the 1940's. I might add, notions of conquests in 1913 were the musing of people. One need a state and/or an army to conquer.


So far as the origins of Palestinian opposition, I do not believer there ever was any serious possibility for the peaceful acceptance of a non-Muslim state in the Middle East. The closest analogue - and there are differences - involves Lebanon. But, you can name the instances where the Muslim majority has permitted, without violence, rule in the name of a non-Muslim force in the Muslim regions. The closest example is Lebanon but, of course, Lebanon itself is the result of the refusal of the Maronites to acquiesce in Muslim rule. And, in Lebanon, there was substantial violence by which that degree of independence came to be.

And note: I am not denying that there were non-religious reasons for Palestinian opposition. However, if all of those non-religious objections did not exist, the notion of a non-Muslim state ruling Muslims in the heart of the Muslim regions - among the first areas conquered by the Arab Muslims in ancient times - was a non-starter and, in the end, made a peaceful outcome very, very unlikely, even if there were not other issues which led people toward dispute - which, of course, there were.

I find it interesting that you have not taken up my other points.



Mark A. LeVine (UC Irvine History Professor) - 8/15/2005

i am happy you can bring in quotes from a variety of palestinians suggesting how international and cosmopolitan they were. this doesn't mean there wasn't a strong national identity formed by the period of the mandate. nor should we forget that the very idea of what a jewish state would be went through a variety of transformation from the original 'homeland' -- heimstadt' in the original german of the early zionist thinkers to a fully fledged idea of jewish state. so we can keep arguing over who had a stronger nationalist movement but it doesn't change the fundamental dynamic that palestine in the late ottoman period was developing and modernizing, in some places such as jaffa, nablus and other major towns, at a very rapid rate, that it had a growing nationalist consciousness fed by a combination of growing local patriotrisms brough together by improved roads/infrastructure/travel times, an emerging secular intellectual class, the weakening of ottoman control, the spread of european nationalist ideals, and of course the arrival of a competing nationalist movement.

nor does it change the fact that whatever right we might grant jews to come as refugees to their ancestral homeland, by 1905 leaders were talking about creating a "state within a state" and by 1913 of "conquering" cities like jaffa (the words are meir dizengoff's and arthur rupin's) or that from the start the desire of zionists to acquire as much land as possible free of its existing palestinian populations, was the foundations for both a militant nationalist movement (as gerhson shafir describes it) as early as 1909 and for the growing hostility of the indigenous palestinian arab population.

i am sorry i don't have time to fully address your other points at this time but i invite other readers to look at the archival research of the scholars i have mentioned in previous replies and decide for themselves.


N. Friedman - 8/13/2005

Professor,

In an effort to afford you the respect you are surely due, you write: that palestinians were never a 'people' until the last few decades. in fact, this is completely wrong. And you continue: all show how a sense of a modern palestinian identity began to emerge in the latter part of the 19th century and particularly in the last decade of ottoman rule. it was not fully formed and there were various ideas that different leaders and intellectuals put out to the public, many of them tied to their class or political affiliation--but then, neither was the zionist identity that emerged at the same time.

My reaction: that is B.S. And that is why you employ terms such as "sense of" and the like. The sense of a Palestinian identity that emerged managed to be unknown to the British and to many Palestinian Arabs. Such did not make its way in to the Peel report and the viewpoint did not appear when representatives of the Palestinian Arabs spoke even to the UN.

Much more typical of the view of Arabs in what is now Israel is expressed as follows by Mustafa Barghouti:

I was born in Jerusalem, in 1954, but I spent my childhood here in Ramallah. My family is from Deir Ghassaneh, a village about fifteen miles away, near Bir Zeit; but after 1948, my father became the municipal engineer for Al Bireh, adjoining Ramallah. The Barghouti family, a large one, has always been very political, very active. Under the Mandate, my grandfather and his brother were jailed by the British. During the 1950s, the whole village was part of the left opposition to Jordanian rule. It was the beginning of the Nasserite movement, of Pan-Arabism; the influence of the Jordanian Communist Party and other left forces was also very strong. I grew up surrounded by internationalist, progressive literature—our family’s viewpoint was always shaped by opposition to social injustice, rather than by nationalism. My father used to speak to us of his Jewish comrades in Tiberias or Acre. All through my childhood, I heard talk of prisons. I’ve been told that the first time I went to a prison I was two years old, taken to visit one of my uncles who’d been jailed—for political reasons, of course. Then during the 1960s there were many waves of mass demonstrations and protests.

http://www.newleftreview.net/NLR26605.shtml

And the rightist view was represented by the likes of the Brotherhood, which was an avowedly internationalist group, albeit with different ideas from the pan-Arabists and left wingers. And there was also a substantial degree of Syrian politics - as in the idea of a greater Syria -.

You also write:this is not to say it was a successful movement, or well managed, or that its leadership wasn't self-serving, out of touch with most ordinary palestinians, and even selling their patrimoney out from under them at the same time they were trying to achieve statehood.

I agree with you that there were some interested in a Palestinian identity. The point is that such was not of much consequence, even on the Arab side - as the statement by Barghouti suggests -. And, my point is that the dominant politics was not Palestinians in nature. That, frankly, is a fact.

I have no doubt that you can, in fact, trace Palestinian nationalism way back. In any event, the dominant factor that made Palestinian politics into a real movement - not a minor point of view held by a comparatively small number of people (which is what your "sense of" talk really means) - was the creation of Israel, the creation of the refugees - which the Arab side refused to resettle (and, perhaps, the refugees themselves did not want to be resettled) -, and the 1967 war.

I also stand by the view that the dominant politics in the Muslim regions since ancient times has been internationalist, not local. And today, the groups which represent that point of view are the various pan movements and the Islamist movement.

I cannot imagine how you draw significance for a political point of view from the name of the popular paper "Falasteen." On your logic, there is a separate New York nationalist identity because of popular magazines called The NewYorker and New York Magazine. In other words, that is a nonsense argument.

You next write: it would seem that by denying palestinians an identity mr. friedman is trying to deny them a legitimate claim to the land vis-a-vis the zionist claim.

That is in your head. I recognize two legitimate claims. What I said is that there was no Palestinian nationalism to speak of at the time Israel came to be. And I said that at this point there are clearly two competing nationalist movements. But, for whatever reason, you chose not to read what I wrote and focussed only on my historical, not my present day, comment.

You then write: even if they didn't imagine themselves in the context of a modern nation-state (which is not at all true) they would still have had the right to live on their territory and develop at their own pace and manner and not be colonized by another movement whose goal of statehood clearly and quite naturally precluded their own (as ben gurion put it, "they do not have the right to rule the country to the extent that they have not developed it" (that's a paraphrase from memory but it's pretty close to his words)).

First, the settlement of people who, as you assert earlier, did not have a fully formed political movement (i.e. Jews), is the norm in history, particularly where the migration is to a place where, by your own admission, the local population did not have a fully formed political movement. I might add, the objection of the local group is also normal in history.

But, in most places, the objection, such as came from the Arab side, is termed "racist" - just like it was in America when blacks moved to the North and were met with efforts to prevent them from buying homes -.

Further the colonialist argument misses the mark. Jews were not moving to advance the cause of a European power. Jews were migrating to make a life for themselves. Such is as honorable a motive as exists. And, moreover, they purchased the land they moved to. Such is not the action of a colonialist. And, as you noted, they did not have a well-formed political movement so they came with rather clean hands.

Addressing your other suggestion: I do not recall claiming that Arabs had no right to live on the land. However, they had no moral right - unless you believe racism is a legitimate cause - to preclude people from migrating when the ruler of the land viewed the matter differently. Or, in simple words, the right to migrate to a place where one can find a place of security is perhaps the foremost right that exists for humans. Such right traces back as far as human history records.

The issue, at present, however, is what to do with the two competing nationalist movements. Clearly, as the rhetoric coming from the PA makes rather clear, Israel would be insane to allow the refugees and their children to return. Such, on the best case scenario, would lead to a war and, in the worst case scenario, to a bloodbath. I would think that the goal is for everyone to have a place to call home. And those Palestinians displaced from what is now Israel - and, again, the Arab side did, in fact, try to rid the area of Jews - lost the war. That is a fact of life to which they either accept or they will continue to rot.

You write: finally, friedman (noah, not thomas) point out that 20 villages and 85,000 jews were displaced as part of 1948. okay, but 587 palestinian villages and 750,000 palestinians were displaced. so what does this number game mean?

Actually, not noah or thomas, but N.

My point was not to play a numbers game but to show some of the context which your version of history all but ignores. The war against the Jews was, in fact, a war of annihilation and such fact must be recognized - as it is central to understanding why Israelis perceive the dispute as they do - . Such is not a myth as confirmed by the losses sufferred.

Not playing a numbers game but note: the 85,000 Jewish refugees are not a minor part of what occurred. That is a large number of refugees who, along with hundreds of thousands of others, lived in tent cities set up by the Israelis during and after the war. And the death of 1% of Israel's population - staggering losses, as I noted - is also part of the Israeli understanding of the dispute. Moreover, the displacement, all told, of 856,000 Jews from the various surrounding Arab countries, most of which were expelled in connection to or in response to the 1948 war, is also part of the dispute as the Isarelis understand it.

And such is not subsumed by the notion you have of a distinction between Arabs and Palestinians. That distinction is a bit too convenient.

In the war of 1948, the Arabs and Palestinians mostly all opposed - and perhaps Abdullah of Jordan played both sides of the fence - Israel's coming into existence and they all took up arms to prevent such from occurring and most of them, when they could not defeat the Jews, forced out their native Jews - people who, in fact, had rather little to do with the dispute.

And, moreover, the fact that the Arab states arrived at all to fight suggests that your assertion of a genuine separation between Arabs and Palestinians was not, at the time, what you assert it to be. Otherwise, why should Arabs shed life for the Palestinians? And, I might add, the fact that the Arab side continued efforts to destroy Isarel - as shown, for example, by Michael Oren in his book Six Days of War - belies that notion (whether or not Oren's position regarding the causes of the war is correct) as, in fact, the Arab side discussed making war to destroy Israel repeatedly. So, presumably, they had considerable kinship for the Palestinians whom, as the record shows, they perceived to be Arabs.



You write: not accurate because we now know that in many cases the state of israel actively worked to bring jews from arab countries to israel and in many cases jews who didn't want to leave were literally dragged by family members from their homes (this happened often in morocco, the one case i have some detailed knowledge of; see the writings of sami shalom chetrit, the great israeli poet who was born in morocco, for this narrative) to go to israel, or that he israeli government engaged in actions designed to precipitate their flight.

Of course the Israelis tried to bring people to Israel. But, the main reason that people from the Arab countries left is that riots and pogroms broke out. Such was the main cause.

By contrast, the role of the Israeli government was, at best, minimal, not because the government did not hope to bring in more Jews. Instead, the reason is primarily but not only because the government lacked the ability (i.e. they lacked money and they had more pressing matters at hand, including, in the early days, finding homes for hundreds of thousands of people who lived in tent cities) to do what you suggest. Which is to say, there are isolated incidents but, for the main, people were forced out by the Arab countries due to pogroms, riots and threats.

I do not suggest that the ethnic groups which make up the Arab regions are entirely identical. I do claim that they share more in the way of culture, religion and self-identification than is suggested by your comment. Which is to say, I think you are making a bright line division when, at the time, there was no bright line.

Lastly, the issue is not a zero sum game. The issue, instead, is that there is only a small tract of land involved and that the Arab side refuses to consider the Jewish cause to have any legitimacy. Let me end by quoting Judea Pearl:

ENTICED BY this aura of civility in Doha, I was curious to find out what the participants had in mind when they pressed for "progress" on the Palestine issue: progress toward what?

Deep in my heart, I had hoped to find the Doha participants more accommodating of the so-called "two-state solution" and the road map leading to it. If this were not the case, I thought, then we were in big trouble again. Muslims might be nourishing a utopian dream that the US cannot deliver and, sooner or later, the whole dialogue process, and all the goodwill and reforms that depend on it, would blow up in the same conflagration that consumed the Oslo process.

I was not the only American with such concerns.

Richard Holbrooke, America's former ambassador to the UN, who was on the same panel with Dahlan, stated that the Arab world must contribute its share toward meaningful movement of the peace process. He reminded the audience that, by now, two and a half generations of Arabs have been brought up on textbooks that do not show Israel on any map, and that such continued denial, on a grassroots level, is a major hindrance to any peaceful settlement.

I had a friendly conversation on this issue with one of Dahlan's aides, who confessed that "we Palestinians do not believe in a two-state solution, for we can't agree to the notion of 'Jewish state.'" "Judaism is a religion," he added "and religions should not have states."

When I pointed out that Israeli society is 70 percent secular, bonded by history, not religion, and that by "Jewish state" Israelis mean (for lack of a better term) a "national-Jewish state," he replied: "Still, Palestine is too small for two states."

This was somewhat disappointing to me, given the official Palestinian Authority endorsement of the road map. "Road map to what?" I thought, "to a Middle East without Israel?" Where was the reform and liberalism among the post-Arafat Palestinian leadership that was expected to breed flexibility and compromise?

I discussed my disappointment with an Egyptian scholar renowned as a champion of liberalism in the Arab context. His answer was even more blunt: "The Jews should build themselves a Vatican," he said, "a spiritual center somewhere near Jerusalem. But there is no place for a Jewish state in Palestine, not even a national-Jewish state. The Jews were driven out 2,000 years ago, and that should be final, similar to the expulsion of the Moors from Spain 500 years ago."

The problem with Muslim elites could be seen again, even at the University of California at Irvine, where the Muslim Student Union organized a meeting entitled "A World Without Israel" - cut and dry. Also in May came a colorful radio confession by the editor of the Egyptian newspaper Al-Arabi Abd al-Halim Qandil: "Those who signed the Camp David agreement ... can simply piss on it and drink their own urine, because the Egyptian people will never recognize the legitimacy of the Israeli entity."

Qandil's bald statement drove home a very sobering realization: in 2005, I still cannot name a single Muslim leader (or a journalist, or an intellectual) who has publicly acknowledged the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a dispute between two legitimate national movements.


http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1118888333134&p=1006953079865

Do you also disagree with Mr. Pearl?


Mark A. LeVine (UC Irvine History Professor) - 8/11/2005

that's a cute question. i don't generally use the shift in email. my wife worked at morgan stanley beginning in the late 1980s when there was barely such a thing as email, only the 'intranet' to communicate within the compnay. from the very start, no one used caps in their electronic messages, so that's how i learned, and when the web became public, most original users i know kept up with the 'bell hooks' style, along with the abbreviations and other informalities that have been taken to new levels with IM/text messaging on cell phones.

anyway, if i took the time to put caps each time they were needed, it would take me at least 20% more time to type an entry, and that means 20% less sleep. so sorry if it annoys you, but until the program hnn uses for inputting blog entries gets an automatic cap function like in ms word, everything will be generally lower case...


Grant W Jones - 8/11/2005

Prof. Levine:

Do you have something against the "shift" key on you keyboard? There should be two of them.