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Phil Weiss Extols Prof. Pappe, Attacks All Zionists

By Ralph Seliger

The crusading anti-Zionist journalist, Philip Weiss — founder and co-editor of the vituperative webzine, Mondoweiss — has written a piece carried in the left-wing Portside publication, reporting on an appearance at New York University by Prof. Ilan Pappe, an Anglo-Israeli historian with a decidedly anti-Zionist bent (“‘We wasted 40 years talking about nothing, doing nothing’ : Pappe demolishes the peace process“).  It begins as follows:

Ilan Pappe

Prof. Ilan Pappe

The ethnic cleansing of some 500 villages in 1948 was followed by the ethnic cleansing of 36 Palestinian villages inside Israel between ‘48 and ‘56 and the creation of the Gaza Strip as a refugee camp for expelled Palestinians. From the early ’60s on an Israeli “lobby” of generals and politicians demanded that Israel also colonize the West Bank. David Ben-Gurion stood in the way but in 1964 he was expelled from the government and the lobby gained power.  

… Last night Ilan Pappe gave a brilliant speech about the cruel illusion of the peace process to a hall at New York University packed with 200 people of all ages.  . . .

One problem with a piece like this is that it attacks all Zionists, including the Zionist peace camp, and completely distorts the history of the conflict.  There’s plenty of reasons to criticize or even mock the failed 1990s-2000s peace process(es), but Weiss is magisterial in his lack of nuance and detail on acrimonious events that cost the life of a prime minister, the rise and fall of numerous governing coalitions, and continues to sharply divide Israelis and Zionists to this day (presumably, Pappe lacks nuance as well).

In addition, there is a complete whitewash of Palestinian and other Arab violence.  Palestinian resistance to Jewish immigration (their attacks came in waves: 1920, 1921, 1929, 1936-’39, 1947-’48) was understandable for people who felt threatened by an organized group of strangers moving into the neighborhood, yet it also left the Zionist movement with no choice but to defend its people.  This is not to say that every action in the name of self-defense was justified or absolutely necessary, but Israel’s choices early on were not easy.  They continue to be difficult today, but it’s not at all unusual for Zionists like myself and others to be opposed to Israel’s current policy directions, as well as critical to varying degrees of past decisions.

There was no reference in Weiss’s tirade to differences within the Zionist movement.  Early on, there were a variety of Zionist voices and parties that advocated bi-nationalism (e.g., Albert Einstein, Hannah Arendt, Martin Buber, Hashomer Hatzair).  It wasn’t until the extreme reality of the Nazi genocide that the World Zionist Organization explicitly endorsed an independent “Jewish Commonwealth” in Palestine (a state for the Jews as a people, not a theological entity), with the Biltmore Declaration, emanating from its historic conference in New York, May 6-11, 1942.

Maps of 'Palestine' from 1947

Moreover, the maps attached to this article (a common trope in anti-Zionist discourse) are bogus in their tendentiousness.  The first one (dated 1947) depicts “Jewish Settlements” and labels all the rest — which was mostly sparsely populated rural terrain that did not belong to any recognized sovereign state — as “Palestine.”  Actually, it was all “Palestine” in 1947, in that this was the British Mandate territory of Palestine, but it wasn’t “Palestinian” as we would understand the word today.  The second and third maps are accurate, depicting the nearly equal dimensions accorded to the independent Jewish and Arab states proposed by the UN partition plan in 1947, and then the very different armistice lines that existed from 1949 to 1967, after the Arab side unanimously rejected the UN resolution, attacked the Jews and were soundly defeated.  The current map accurately depicts the way that the West Bank has been carved up by Israel’s occupation and the encroachment of Israeli settlements — but this area is not officially annexed to Israel even by today’s extreme right-wing government (although most of the coalition would surely like to).  

Weiss concludes with his usual indictment of all Zionists within the United States, pushing beyond the simplistic analysis of the “Israel Lobby” by Professors Mearsheimer and Walt in 2006 and 2007.  Here’s Weiss today in 2016:

. . .  We must address empowered American Jewish Zionists who regard it as their duty to support a Jewish state. This discussion and decolonization must happen inside the United States if progress is to be made.

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