WILL THE MIDDLE EAST GO WEST
ISRAEL: OUR PROBLEM
The Suez War, like a bombshell, awakened America to the explosive and threatening situation in the Middle East. Just as before 1950 Korea was only a remote place on the map, and the conquest of China by the Communists a matter of little concern until they attacked us in Korea, so also prior to the fall of 1956 most Americans knew little and couldn’t have cared less about the Middle East. Suddenly we were awakened to the danger of being involved in yet another war far from home, and to the possibility of the outbreak of World War III in remote lands known mainly from the Bible or the movies.
Now that the spotlight in the Cold War has shifted to the Middle East, we can no longer afford to remain ignorant of the facts. Thanks to the Suez War and the Eisenhower Doctrine, keeping “the general area of the Middle East” free from Soviet domination has become yet another of our worldwide responsibilities.
Israel has become our problem. We cannot circumvent it by means of arms and economic aid given to those whom Sir Anthony Eden patronizingly called the “good Arabs.” For regrettable or foolish as it may seem to us, it is a fact to be reckoned with that both “good” and “bad” Arabs fear Zionism more than Communism. Unless and until we convince them that America stands for a solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict in keeping with our principles of justice and equality – and that we also stand for an end to French colonial rule in Algeria – there can be no hope that the Middle East will concern itself with the basic struggle between Communism and the free world. We know that this struggle transcends all others; but, as an Arab proverb says, a drowning man is indifferent to the prospect of a thunderstorm. We cannot expect that so long as the Arabs see Israel as the clear and present danger which threatens them, and France as the visible oppressor of their “blood brothers” in Algeria, they can be induced to concern themselves with the far greater, but to them more remote, threat of being subjected to Communist tyranny. “Colonialism” as exemplified by France, but evoking also memories and fears of domination by Britain, constitutes the other great obstacle to the West’s finding a basis of common interest with the Arab states and is dealt with in my next chapter.
America must give the Arab states a definite assurance that provided they will accept the existence of Israel within boundaries set by the United Nations and make peace with her, we shall not permit the Arab world to be drowned out by Anglo-French or Zionist imperialists; otherwise, the Arab world is likely to say “After me the deluge” as it is engulfed in the Communist ocean.
It is now imperative for our own security that we should formulate an American policy, made in Washington, instead of following, despite moments of brief opposition, policies made in New York, London, Paris, or Tel Aviv. This can be done only if we study the problem without prejudice or fear, and free ourselves from the illusion that all Jews are Zionists, who together with their Christian supporters have the power to decide elections in key states.
Up to now nearly everyone who so much as admitted that the Arabs have reason for their hatred and fear of Israel was in danger of being smeared as anti-Semitic, or even accused of Nazi sympathies. It has therefore been mainly Jews themselves who have had the courage to expose and denounce Israel’s misdeeds, and to oppose Zionist influence in America; and these Jews, because they believe Judaism is a religion, not a political, racial or national movement, have been called “traitors” to their “race.”
It is also a significant fact that the Jews who have had the courage actively to oppose Zionism are among those who never went along with the liberal friends of the Soviet Union. Notable among them is Rabbi Elmer Berger, Executive Vice-President of the American Council for Judaism, who wrote a most valuable, informative and courageous book, published in 1956, called Who Knows Better Should Say So. In an address he delivered at the Fifth Annual Conference of the American Friends of the Middle East in New York in March 1957, he said that it was incomprehensible to him that Western policy-makers could “hope to challenge Soviet influence without recognizing the centrality of the Arab-Israel dispute.” He expressed the hope that:
The realists – distinguished from the expedient-servers – will see
that unless this sore in the Middle East is healed by a justice that
is sensitive to the past and compensatory for the future, it will
facilitate the Soviet Union’s plan to infect the whole area with
As Rabbi Berger also said, he was most troubled by the tendency of men “even at authoritative levels of our own government” to be either pro-Israel or pro-Arab, instead of their proclaiming “a clear, ringing, firm declaration of fundamental American policy for Arabs, Israelis and Americans to hear.” “If we continue to try and play God,” he concluded, “choosing first the Arabs and then the Israelis, in frantic efforts to apply palliatives in order to avoid a policy ofAmerican fundamentals we shall not only not help the Middle East but we shall lose our own soul.”
We must face the issue instead of running away from it. Although America has no desire to presume to play God, or to be the arbiter in the seemingly irreconcilable Arab-Israeli conflict, we must perforce attempt to find a solution which will do justice to both sides – or do as little injustice as possible to both. In the words of Alfred M. Lilienthal, another courageous American of the Jewish faith, “There will be no lasting peace in the Middle East until justice becomes more than a lofty-sounding word.”
Dr. Fayez A. Sayegh, Acting Director of the Arab States Delegation Office in New York, who also spoke at the 1957 conference of the American Friends of the Middle East, is not only the most brilliant and forceful spokesman in America for the Arab world; he also knows us well, thanks to his having studied at the American University in Beirut for his B.A. and M.A. degrees, and subsequently at Georgetown University in Washington for his Doctorate in Philosophy. Dr. Sayegh is both pro-American and anti-Communist; but, in welcoming the Eisenhower Doctrine as “the beginning of a process of formulating an American policy for the Middle East,” he warned that it could not be a substitute for assurances of security to the Arabs against “the danger of colonial aggression or Zionist expansion.”
In Dr. Sayegh’s words”
The Eisenhower Doctrine leaves out of account the dangers which
are, in the opinion of the Arabs, most imminent and most real…. The
danger to our sovereignty and territorial integrity comes from the
predatory designs of European colonial powers and from the
aggressive expansionism of Israel. In the past as well as in the
present, it has been greedy colonialism and expansionist Zionism
which have coveted our resources and intruded on our territories….
Soviet aggression on the Arab world is viewed by most Arabs as
remote geographically, unknown historically, and . . . unlikely to
occur in the foreseeable future. . . . The silence of the [Eisenhower]
Doctrine about colonial or Zionist aggression must be considered as
likely to encourage such aggression.
As Dr. Sayegh and others have also pointed out, although Communism is alien to the Arab or Islamic mind, resentments against European “colonialism and Zionism” and disappointment at the failure of the United States to give more than lukewarm support to legitimate Arab national aspirations, could combine to render the Eisenhower Doctrine useless as a shield against Communist conquest.
This does not mean that America should abandon Israel. But it does mean that we should cease to be so prejudiced in favor of the surviving victims of Nazi persecution, or feel so guilty concerning Western anti-Semitism, that we refuse to do justice to the Arabs who, incidentally, are also Semites.
We considered it an invalid excuse that the Germans either said they had no knowledge of, or that they dared not oppose the Nazi liquidation of millions of Jews. Today, as Rabbi Elmer Berger points out, both Jews and Christians give material and political support to Israel, without having any conception of what Zionism is. I do not here mean to imply that Israel has perpetrated any such great crimes against humanity as Hitler. There is, nevertheless, a basic similarity in kind, although not in degree, between her treatment of the Arabs and the Nazi attitude toward the Jews. In both cases the conception of themselves as a “master race” or “chosen people” has led to the perpetration of injustices and crimes against “inferior” races. As Arnold Toynbee writes in Volume VIII of his A Study of History:
The Jews’ immediate reaction to their own experience was to
become persecutors in their turn . . . at the first opportunity that
arisen for them to inflict on other human beings, who had done
the Jews no injury, but happened to be weaker than they were,
some of the wrongs and sufferings that had been inflicted on the
Jews by their many successive Western Gentile persecutors during
the intervening seventeen centuries. . . . The Arabs in Palestine . . .
became in their turn the vicarious victims of the European Jews
indignation over the “genocide” committed upon them by their
Gentile fellow Westerners in A.D. 1933-45.
Because of the above-quoted text and other passages from his writings, Arnold Toynbee has been denounced as an anti-Semite, although he made it clear that “the impulse to become a party to the guilt of a stronger neighbor by inflicting on an innocent weaker neighbor the very same sufferings that the original victim had experienced at his stronger neighbor’s hands” is not a Semitic or Jewish characteristic, but one unfortunately common to all mankind.
The fact that the Arabs have been made to pay compensation for Nazi crimes, and for centuries of persecution or discrimination against Jews in Europe, is all the more unjust because until the State of Israel was carved out of their territory, they had lived in amity with the Jews among them. In general they have shown far greater tolerance for those who professed other faiths than Christian Europe during most of its history. And even today, with the exception of Iraq, there have been no mass expulsions of Jews from Arab countries to match Israel’s treatment of her Arab population.
As Alfred Lilienthal writes in There Goes the Middle East:
In Egypt, Jews lived for millenia side by side with followers of
Islam – some of them descendants of ancient Hebrews whom Moses
left behind in his exodus. Others fled to Egypt following the first
destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem at the hands of the
Babylonians. In 250 B.C. Philo tells us there were more Jews
in Alexandria than in Jerusalem. Jews gained sanctuary in Egypt
from Christian persecutions in Spain and Portugal in the 15th
Century, from Soviet excesses at the time of the Russian
Revolution and from Hitler’s racial persecution. The invasion
of Egypt by Israel on October 29, 1956, no doubt brought to an
end this Egyptian sanctuary for the Jews of the world.
But what has taken place in Egypt in the wake of the Israeli-
British-French aggression has not been anti-Semitism. There
has been no discrimination against Jews as Jews, but an
identification of Jews with Israelis whom the Arabs oppose on
political, not religious grounds. Israel is regarded by Egyptians
as foreign colonial power whose leadership and funds come from
Europe and the United States.
In view of these facts, Nasser has every right to get mad at the American press when charged with being anti-Semitic. In his own words, “How can I be anti-Semitic? The Egyptians are a Semitic people too.”
At least they are probably as justified in claiming to be Semitic as the Jews, who are also a mixed “race” and no more all of “pure” Hebrew ancestry than Egyptians are all Arab.
Arab hostility against the State of Israel is not merely the result of the expropriation and expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Arabs from the territories awarded by the United Nations to the new State. The deep and abiding hatred and fear of the Zionists, in every Arab country from “pro-Western” Iraq to “anti-Western” Syria and Egypt, is due as much or more to Israel’s treatment of the Arabs who stayed, and her threat to impose her rule over others.
As the English author, Gerald Sparrow, writes in his book called The Sphinx Awakes (London: Robert Hale, 1957):
I soon realized that the Egyptian attitude was based less on the plight
of the Arab refugees than on the situation of what has become the Arab
minority (formerly a big majority) in Israel. . . . In direct violation of
the elementary principles of human rights, and of the specific provisions
of the [U.N.] Partition resolution, the 175,000 odd Arabs who had
stayed behind, after the expulsion of the great majority of their fellow
countrymen, have been subjected to patent discrimination, in law as
well as in practice.
In America, Israel is usually represented as a democratic Western-type state, and it is generally unknown that it has oppressive and discriminatory laws similar to those of the Nazis in Germany, only upside down. Indeed there never has been a State more openly and completely based on a racial myth.
Israel’s 1952 nationality law automatically grants citizenship to all Jews, who have unrestricted right of entry by the Law of Return of 1952 and are also permitted dual citizenship – which enables some of them to remain Americans while also owing allegiance to Israel. The Arabs, on the other hand, can become citizens in the land of their birth only if they can prove continuous residence since the establishment of the Israel State, if they have some knowledge of Hebrew, and if they are approved by the Ministry of the Interior as worthy of Israeli citizenship. Moreover, even the minority who can qualify are distinguished officially as “Class B citizens.”
They are not marked out by having to wear arm bands with a crescent, to match those with the Star of David emblem which Jews had to wear in Nazi Germany. But their identity cards, marked with the letter “B,” enable the police to subject them to the many harsh regulations to which all Arabs are subjected, including a prohibition to travel even a few miles from home without a military permit.
The Arabs have for the most part been concentrated in areas under military rule – Galilee, the Negev and the “Little Triangle” where 145,000 of the total remaining 175,000 Arabs under Israel rule are compelled to live. The Israeli army in these areas has the a uthority to banish Arabs and confiscate their property, to remove those villages from one zone to another, and to try all Arabs by court martial. Civil rights have virtually been suspended for the Arabs in Israel; and the harshness of the military rule under which they live is one of their main causes of complaint. Since they are unprotected by the right to trial by due process, individuals can be banished from their villages, or imprisoned by military court on suspicion of harboring infiltrators, or thrown into jail simply because they are regarded as trouble makers. In the words of Rabbi Morris Lazaron, as reported in the New York Times, “There is no habeas corpus for the Arabs in Israel.” As this principled and brave Jewish Rabbi has also written:
The military forces at times ignore even the decisions of the highest
Israeli courts. For instance an Arab takes his claim to home or land to
court. The court confirms his claim and orders his property restored.
The military destroy the property on the grounds of “security” and no
one does anything about it.
Thus it is not only the property of the six or seven hundred thousand Arabs who fled in 1948 which ahs been confiscated. That of many other Arabs still resident in Israel has also been seized. Whole Arab villages have been destroyed and their inhabitants forced to leave to make way for Jewish settlement. Bedouin tribes have been deprived of the means of existence by being ordered to get out to make way for new Jewish settlements. Sometimes this is done as collective punishment for acts allegedly committed by some individuals. In other cases even this excuse is not given. Instead the military governor simply declares a certain area as a “prohibited zone” into which no Arab may enter and then applies the 1953 law which prescribes the confiscation of all Arab lands which the owners have failed to cultivate! To make it all very legal the Arab, first prohibited from cultivating his land and then deprived of it because he failed to cultivate it, is offered a token compensation amounting to less than a year’s yield of his farm. The total areas so confiscated are estimated to amount to about a quarter of the total of 880,000 acres of Arab land expropriated by the Israeli Government.
Israel’s justification for her treatment of her Arab minority is the state of semi-war, or armistice, between her and the Arab states. Most of the Arabs within her borders are, or must be presumed to be, in league with their relations and friends across the border in Jordan or the Gaza Strip who constantly raid her territory. Any state in Israel’s situation would undoubtedly treat a minority belonging to a hostile nation as enemy aliens.
Israel’s treatment of her Arabs, like her slaughter of other Arabs in border raids in retaliation for their retaliatory killing of her people, is all part of the tragic cycle which began in 1948. Opinions may differ as to who is most guilty of most massacres and crimes, but since Israel is stronger than her neighbors she seems usually to have come off best in the horrible count of how many lives each side has exacted from the other in revenge. The main difference is that whereas Arab murders of Israelis are well publicized in America, Israeli liquidations of Arabs are only occasionally reported in our press.
Non-Zionist American Jews and even some Zionists have been shocked at what they found in Israel, and it has been mainly through them that some knowledge of the facts has seeped into American newspapers, which are generally too frightened of the consequences of being accused of “anti-Semitism” to publish the Arab side of the story. A recent example is the report in the New York Times datelined Tel Aviv, June 23, 1957, which says that Ben Gurion had that day “rejected advice by U.S. Jewish leaders to abolish favoritism for Jews in the acquisition of Israel nationality.”
A change in policy, continued the Times report, had been urged by a delegation representing the American Jewish Committee (which is not Zionist but has supported Israel Israel and raised funds to finance immigration to Palestine). Mr. Irving M. Engel of New York City, head of the Committee, said, “his organization had crusaded for equal treatment of Jews throughout the world and consequently was embarrassed by the fact that when the Jews got their own State, their Nationality Act discriminated between Jews and non-Jews.”
Mr. Engel was also reported to have remonstrated with Ben Gurion concerning statements by Israeli leaders which implied “that Jews abroad owed loyalty to Israel.” This, he dared to say, “exposed American Jews to charges of dual allegiance.”
In contract to the Israeli treatment of her Arab minority, the 50,000 Jews in Egypt remained unmolested until the Suez War, with no discriminatory legislation of any kind to separate Jewish, Christian or Moslem citizens – a fact which, incidentally, also proves that most Jews in Arab countries are not Zionist. Even following the 1956 Israeli attack on Egypt, Nasser, whom the Zionists like to call an Arab Hitler, refrained from taking oppressive measures against Jewish Egyptian citizens. Had he interned all the Jewish population in Egypt, as America interned her Japanese citizens after Pearl Harbor, he could have claimed to be following, not Nazi but democratic precedent. Instead, the Egyptian Government left Jewish Egyptian citizens free, and interned or expelled only enemy nationals and some others who had never become Egyptian citizens. Moreover, as I discovered in Egypt in December 1956, while alleged Israeli atrocities against the Arabs in Gaza were being played up in Jordan and Lebanon, in Egypt little was published about them by the government-controlled press in order to obviate any danger of mob violence against the Jews. Of course, the Egyptians, being human, have not refrained from taking revenge on some of the Jews among them, and many Jews now find it hard to make a living in Egypt. But there has been nothing comparable to the wholesale confiscation of German and Japanese private property by the United States, Britain and France during and After World War II. Nevertheless, it is Egypt which is accused of persecuting and driving out her Jewish inhabitants, whereas Israel is usually represented in the American press as a gallant little State bravely defending “its” territory, and even as having brought democracy and material advancement to her Arab “citizens.”
Our double-standard judgment of Israel and Egypt is also seen with respect to their foreign policies. Nasser, who describes his policy as “positive neutrality” – whatever that means – is represented in the American press as “anti-Western” and as leading or attempting to forge a pro-Soviet bloc in the Middle East; and it has become customary for United States newspapers to couple “Egyptian and Communist” influences in Jordan and Syria as if they were one and the same thing. But Israel, whose policy has been just as positively, or negatively, neutral as Egypt’s, is regarded as a reliable ally, and a bulwark against an advancing Communist tide. In actual fact she is not and never has been anything of the kind. On the contrary, Israel not only owes her very existence as much to Stalin as to Truman, who beat the Soviet dictator only by a short head in the race to recognize the new State in 1948. Israel is also the only State in the Middle East with a legal Communist party and with a majority of pro-Soviet or “neutral” members in her governing body, the Knesset, or Parliament.
In her July 1955 elections, 25 seats out of 120 were won by the Communist Party and their a vowedly pro-Soviet allies in the Achidut Avoda and Mapam parties, whose foreign policy platform proclaims “friendship between Israel and the Soviet Union as well as other progressive forces of the world.” In addition, 40 seats were won by the Mapai (Israel Labor Party), which defines itself as “a Zionist Socialist Party” aiming at the establishment of “a State planned economy,” and whose foreign policy “stands for non-identification with any bloc.” This neutralist socialist party, to which Prime Minister Ben-Gurion belongs, is by far the largest party in Israel. (The next largest, with 15 seats, is the near-fascist Heirut Party, founded by the Irgun terrorists and openly proclaiming its intention to dispossess the Arabs of more territory, its aim being “The territorial integrity of Israel within its historic boundaries on both sides of the Jordan.”)
Thus out of a total of 120 members in the Israeli Parliament there is a majority of 65 who are either Communists and their fellow travelers or who proclaim their “neutrality” between the free world and the Soviet Empire. Prime Minister Ben-Gurion’s Cabinet is a coalition which includes members of the fellow-traveling Mapam and Achidut Avoda parties, as well as his own party, the powerful left-wing socialist and neutralist Mapai. (Two members of the Mapam Party who resigned in 1952 gave as their reason, “There is practically no field in which Mapam acts independently without the overt or covert partnership of the Communists.” Alfred M. Lilienthal, There Goes the Middle East, p. 20.)
The record also proves that the Israel Government is and has all along been as neutral against us as Nehru’s India. This is demonstrated by the following facts:
Israel was one of the first nations to recognize Red China. She failed to send even a token force to fight in Korea; and, on November 21, 2951, Prime Minister Ben-Gurion sent a note to the Soviet Union assuring Stalin that Israel would never be a “member of any kind of union or agreement which pursues aggressive aims against the Soviet Union.” Unlike Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Israel has refused to permit the Western Powers to establish an air base on her soil for the defense of the free world against Soviet imperialism.
In a word, Israel is just as suspect as Egypt insofar as its attitude to Soviet Russia is concerned. Whereas any action by the United States falling short of complete support of Zionist objectives arouses vehement denunciation in Israel and in powerful sections of the American press, whatever Moscow does or fails to do, Israel continues her endeavor to maintain friendly relations with the Soviet Power. This is not only because of Communist, left-wing socialist and neutralist influences in Israel. Nor is it mainly because of grateful remembrance of “Russia’s support at the time of the establishment of the Jewish State, and the fact that the Soviet Government gave de jure recognition to Israel immediately after the proclamation of its independence,” to quote the statement made by the Israeli Minister to Moscow in December 1953. Israel does indeed remember the support Russia gave her, including the delivery of arms in 1948 which helped her win the war against the Arabs. But the compelling reason why all parties in Israel continue to try to maintain good relations with the Soviet Government is the Zionist aim to “ingather” the two or three million Jews in the Soviet Empire. Thus neither the bomb which exploded in the Soviet Legation in Tel Aviv in February 1953, nor the Russian anti-Semitic campaign that year, nor even Moscow’s espousal of the Arab cause in the United Nations in 1956 caused wither a lasting rupture in diplomatic and other relations between Israel and the Soviet Empire, or any fundamental change in the attitude of Israel’s powerful left-wing neutralist political parties.
In taking the initiative in resuming diplomatic relations, broken off by Moscow following the bomb incident, Israel asked only that the Kremlin permit Jews in the Soviet Empire to emigrate to Israel. Israel’s ambition to “ingather” the Jews from everywhere in the world has placed the Soviet Union in the enviable position of being able to strengthen its influence among both the Arabs and the Israelis. The Arabs fear that Israel will be rendered stronger and even more intent on expansion by the influx of a million or more Jewish refugees from Russia, Poland and Romania. The Arabs therefore hope to prevent this accession of strength to their enemies by establishing or maintaining and strengthening friendly relaitons with Moscow. And on the other hand, the Israelis can be counted upon by Soviet Russia not to j oin any Western alliance against her, because this would destroy their hope that Moscow will permit the emigration of her Jewish subjects to Palestine. Since such permission can only exacerbate the conflict between Israel and the Arabs to the advantage of Moscow, it is probable that a flood of Jewish refugees from the Soviet Empire will soon arrive in Israel. In any case, the net result is that Communist Russia is the only power which was ever enabled to utilize anti-Semitism to its political advantage among both Jews and their enemies.
According to Walter Z. Laqueur’s article in the June 1957 issue of Commentary, while the Soviet Union has grown more and more hostile, Israel has “steadily refrained from effective political counter-action” and has continued “trying to persuade” Moscow of her “friendly intentions.” Since Commentary is a publication sponsored by the American Jewish Committee, and therefore cannot be accused of being anti-Semitic or prejudiced against Israel, Mr. Laqueur’s article is of particular interest.
Reporting on his recent visit to Israel, he says that “many of the old illusions about the Soviet Union are still current in Israel – most widely, of course, on the left, where the lessons of both Khruschchev’s revelations about Stalin and of the Hungarian revolution have been learned only in part and with great reluctance.” He notes that many members of the “traditionally fellow-traveling” Mapam (Socialist) Party reveal their disillusionment in private conversations, but “when it comes to public declarations” the Mapam Party “has been less outspoken in its condemnation of Soviet actions than Pietro Nenni in Italy or Jean-Paul Sartre in France,” because it apparently” fears that it would have to repudiate Socialism if its confidence in the Soviet Union were shattered.” Thus, Mr. Laqueur says, the Mapam Party “officially continues to support Soviet policies and goes on cooperating with the Communists and with their front organizations such as Partisans of Peace, the WFTU, World Youth Movement, etc., and tends to regard Russia’s present hostility as a temporary aberration.”
Whereas in Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world there is fear that unless the Arab nationalists commit themselves irrevocably to Moscow, the Kremlin and the “Western imperialists” will gang up against them, in Israel this possibility gives ground for hope. As Mr. Laqueur writes:
There are people around who point out that another sudden change in
Soviet foreign policy – in this case, from hostility to friendship for
Israel – should not be precluded. Many members of Mapam are firmly
convinced that such a change of heart will come about when the Kremlin
realizes that its policy in the Middle East represents a deviation from the
sacred principles of proletarian internationalism.
Mr. Laqueur also reports that other Israeli groups expect that the Russians may in the end drop Nasser as a bad bet, not only because his military strength is less than Israel’s but because his “attachment to the Soviet bloc is doubtful.” As well they might, since Communist and fellow-traveler influence in Israel is evidently so much stronger there than in Egypt.
Some of the reasons why the Israelis are so ill-informed about Russia and Communism are given in this same article by Walter Laqueur. Israeli publications, he says, “compare rather unfavorably in make up and content with their Egyptian counterparts,” and “Radio Israel . . . trails behind broadcasting in Egypt and other Arab countries.” Consequently, he writes:
Many Israelis turn to foreign books, magazines and newspapers … [and]
all too often read the wrong publications … [because] the familiar
publication is often the one expressing the traditional left position,
which has been the position of many Israelis. . . . This is a matter of
greater political importance than appears on the surface. The impact
of periodicals from London, Paris, and New York is far greater in Delhi,
Beirut or Jerusalem than in their own countries…. The influence on
Israeli thinking of the London New Statesman or of a political journalist
like Isaac Deutscher – each of whom has a decidedly slanted view
toward world affairs and the nature of the Soviet regime – can hardly
be overrated, and this influence extends to the highest levels of the
Foreign Ministry. Such sources may be one-sided, they may have
been proved wrong many times, but since nothing better is known,
dependence on them remains strong.
I have quoted at such length from Walter Laqueur’s article because the testimony of a Jewish writer in a Jewish publication concerning the strength of Communist or fellow traveler influence in Israel is far more convincing than any statement by the Arabs or other enemies of Israel.
Israel has now, it is true, endorsed the Eisenhower Doctrine, but with reservations and only after a long and stormy debate in the Knesset, in which Premier Ben-Gurion had to exert all his influence to prevent an adverse vote. The motion was finally carried by a vote of 59 to 5, with 39 abstentions, it having been agreed beforehand that the Mapam and Achidut Avoda parties might remain within the coalition government if they abstained from casting negative votes. They had strongly objected that acceptance of the Eisenhower Doctrine would involve Israel in the Cold War between East and West and that it might jeopardize the chances of the Jews in the Soviet Union being permitted to emigrate to Israel.
In his speech to the Knesset the Israeli Premier made much of the point that the Doctrine guarantees economic and military assistance to any nation in the Middle East attacked not only by the Soviet Union, but also by another nationcontrolled by international Communism. Since this might at some future date be chosen to mean Egypt or Syria, Mr. Ben-Gurion was able to use the powerful argument that it “strengthens the security of Israel.”
The Premier also made important reservations which seem to render Israel’s adherence to the Pact only formal or nominal. According to the New York Times report from Jerusalem, datelined June 3:
Despite Israel’s acceptance of the doctrine, her policy will be to
continue to seek friendly relations with every “peace loving” nation
without inquiring into its system of government, Premier Ben-Gurion
But in one vital respect Israel is different from other nations, he
added. This, he said, is in her determination to provide a national
home for the Jewish people.
Because of this, Israel’s statement supporting the doctrine was
different from most of the declarations made by other Middle
Eastern nations, Ben-Gurion said.
This difference was said to center on two points: Israel stated
that she was opposed to any aggression from any quarter and that
she entertained no aggressive intent against any nation; she also
refused to denounce any other nation. [Italics added.]
The Times correspondent also reported that during the debate “the Eisenhower Doctrine was also attacked by the Herut Party, the extreme Right wing group founded by former members of terrorist organizations.”
If it were only resentment at past and present injuries which prevents a reconciliation between the Arab States and Israel, it might be possible to bring peace to the Middle East by resettling the Arab refugees and raising the standard of living of the miserably poor people of the Arab East by means of generous American economic aid. Unfortunately no such comparatively simple solution of the problem posed by the State of Israel is possible, unless and until the Zionists abandon their aim to “ingather” millions more Jews from all over the world.
As Senator Ralph E. Flanders, whom it would be impossible to accuse of being anti-Semitic or illiberal, said in a speech he gave on May 9, 1957:
One thing of which the Arab world needs to be assured is that limits
will be set on immigration into Israel. Present policies of unlimited
immigration – practically speaking of invited immigration which may
be beyond the natural resources of the region – must be abandoned.
There can be no peaceful relations in the Mid-East so long as Israel
is prepared to flood its area with a population which will inevitably
exceed existing living room. A peaceful Mid-East requires that by
word or action this policy is seen to be abandoned.
Of course, as the Vermont Senator warned, if any adjacent countries make continued existence for their long established Jewish communities impossible, there would be justification for expansion of Israeli territory to make room for them.
Israel’s “open-ended policy of immigration,” in Senator Flanders’ words, is the visible evidence of the basic problem posed for the Arabs:
[The Arabs] would like to know whether or not they can deal with
the nation Israel. Are they dealing with a nation like other nations of
the Mid-East, or are the dealing with some broad-spread movement such
as goes under the name of “Zionism” with its material support, and
likewise its ideals and purposes, spread throughout world Judaism?
For a peaceful settlement in the Mid-East the Arab nations must be
convinced that they are dealing with a nation like themselves and not
with some massive supernational organization.
Commander E.H. Hutchison, USNR, who was a member of the United Nations Truce Supervising Organization in Palestine before becoming head of the Israel-Jordan Mixed Armistice Commission in 1954, expresses the same view. “The Arabs,” he writes in Violent Truce (New York: Devin Adair, 1956), “cannot but fear that the constant drive by leaders of Israel and world Zionism, for the ingathering of Jews, must mean eventual aggression by Israel for the acquisition of more territory.”
The record justifies these Arab fears.
At the time of the Balfour Declaration, November 2, 1917, there were only 57,000 Jews in Palestine – most of whom accounted themselves Arabs while professing the Judaic faith. By 1922 there were still only 84,000 Jews, and they owned only two and a half per cent of the land. According to the November 1947 United Nations Resolution partitioning Palestine, the population of the Zionist State it established was to consist of slightly more Jews than Arabs – 497,000 as against 485,000 – but with equal rights for both. Today there are only 175,000 Arabs lest in Israeli territory, while the Jewish population has increased to a million and three-quarters and now owns almost all the land. Moreover, the area taken by Israel by force of arms already exceeds by 36 per cent that assigned to the “Jewish State” by the United
Nations partition plan. According to Arab calculations, about half of the dispossessed and destitute Arab refugees come from the areas Israel has occupied in defiance of the United Nations. Nor were all these extra lands taken as spoils of war in 1948. Many were seized by Zionist terrorist bands during the last months of the British mandate. Others were taken over during and since the cease-fire ordered by the United Nations. Today Israel has already taken possession of 20 million of Palestine’s 26 million dunums of land. The means by which this has been accomplished were described by Dr. Stephen B.L. Penrose, President of the American University of Beirut, in No. 4 of the “Minaret” series of pamphlets, published by American Friends of the Middle East:
On both sides dreadful deeds were committed but, in the main, the
Zionists made better use of the terrorist tactics which they learned only
too well at the hands of Nazi taskmasters. There is no question but
that frightful massacres such as that which took place at Deir Yassin
in April, 1948, were perpetrated for the major purpose of frightening
the Arab population and causing them to take flight. The Zionist
radio repeated incessantly for the benefit of Arab listeners “Remember
Deir Yassin.” It is small wonder that many Arab families began a
hasty exodus from the battle area and from sectors which might soon
become battlegrounds. Terror is contagious, and it built up the
tremendous migration which has led to the results which may be
witnessed in the refugee camps.
When the military front was finally stabilized on lines which do
not correspond at all to the original partition boundaries, there were
nearly a million Arab refugees displaced from their homes or else
rendered destitute by the descent upon them of hordes of Arab
families fleeing from their native localities. Most of them fled so
precipitately that they took with them only what belongings they
could carry and generally only such funds as would last them for
a period of a week or two.
One reason why this ousting of the original population by the State of Israel h as either been condoned or excused in the United States, is the fact that, thanks to the movies, the word “Arab” conjures up the image of sheiks on Arab steeds, impersonated by Rudolph Valentino and his successors on the no-longer-silent screen, or pictures of Bedouin tribes riding camels, tending their flocks and herds and living in tents which they could easily fold when required to move elsewhere. Alternatively, the Arabs, thanks largely to Zionist propaganda, are thought of as semi-savage nomads, resembling Red Indians, raiding the pioneer settlements of peaceful farmers in Israel or French settlers in Algeria.
These images, although they are to a limited extent true as regards French, or formerly French, North Africa, are little more representative of Palestine today than Hollywood cowboys and Red Indians represent twentieth-century America.
A large part of the world which calls itself Arab was civilized, and included great centers of learning in the days when our forebears in Europe were barbarians. It was the Arab conquerors of the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire who preserved and eventually passed on to Europe the knowledge of Greek science and mathematics of which they made themselves masters, and which, thanks largely to the Arabic numeral system, modern man has developed to become master of the universe while remaining a slave to his passions. Yet today, few Americans even know that the majority of the people calling themselves Arabs, who have been dispossessed by Israel, were either urban dwellers or farmers whose skill and industry in raising crops or fruits from infertile or mountainous lands without benefit of modern science and machinery has been equalled in Europe only by the Italians and the part-Arab population of southern Spain.
True, under Turkish misrule Palestine, like Syria of which it was an integral part, fell into decay, and its cultivators were reduced to a condition of acute poverty and semi-servitude under a privileged landowning class supported by the Turkish Government. It is also true that the small area left to the Arabs by the United Nations partition of Palestine (now part of the Hashimite Kingdom of Jordan) consists mainly of desert; but in lovely Lebanon, which is like a huge garden, one can see the result of Arab skill and industry.
To return to the main point: While it is important for us to know what kind of people the Israelis have dispossessed and what kind of means have been used to dispossess them, it is more illuminating for us to know the proclaimed aim of Zionism. The Zionist vision is the creation of a State in the entire area which they call “Eretz Israel” – meaning thereby the whole territory of Palestine and Jordan, comprising territories eight times as large as those assigned to the Jewish State by the United Nations.
It is not only the Israel extremist nationalists in her second largest party, the Herut, who aim at her expansion up to and beyond her so-called “historic boundaries.” Premier Ben-Gurion himself, writing in the Israeli Government Yearbook, asserts that the State of Israel has been “resurrected” only in “a portion of the land of Israel” and goes on to say:
Even those who are dubious as to the restoration of the historical
frontiers, as fixed and crystallized and given from the beginning of
time, will hardly deny the anomaly of the boundaries of the new State.
The State of Israel, according to its formal declaration when it constituted itself, is dedicated to the “Ingathering of the Exiles” – meaning all Jews from everywhere in the world dispersed nearly two thousand years ago by Rome.
In the words of Max Ascoli, editor of the Reporter, in his “Report on Israel,” published in the July 11 issue:
The tendency [of Israeli leadership today] is to date back the origin
of Zionism – and therefore of Israel – to the series of events,
approximately two thousand years ago, that forced the Jews to move
away from the land then called Judaea. The Israeli leaders want to
redress the wrongs the Jewish people suffered at the hands of Greek
kinglets and Roman emperors.
These leaders are a formidable lot. With trenchant relentlessness,
secretiveness, and unending inventiveness, they have gotten around
all obstacles, and have made their interpretation of destiny into the
destiny that rules the lives of nearly two million human beings – as
Zionism, this man-made destiny for people called Jews, has succeeded
in making Israel – a nation dedicated to what they call the Ingathering
of the Exiles.
Actually, Mr. Ascoli could have said that the Israeli leaders tend to date back the origins of Zionism not two, but three thousand years, since it was only during the reign of King Solomon that the Jews ruled over the area today designated as “Eretz Israel.” In pursuance of this fantastic aim she needs more land to accommodate the millions of Jews she is endeavoring to “ingather,” and they in turn are expected to give her the military manpower to conquer the land she needs. Of course, she will never succeed in inducing all Jews to return to Judaea, since millions of them have been assimilated in the countries of their birth, residence or ancestry, have no desire to become subjects of the “Jewish State,” and repudiate its Messianic pretensions. Only a handful of America’s five million Jews, or of England, France and Italy’s substantial Jewish population, have emigrated to Israel. But there are millions of other Jews, in North Africa and the Middle East where they are as desperately poor as their Arab neighbors, and in Eastern Europe where they are both poor and oppressed, who grasp at the chance of a free passage to Israel and the opportunity to acquire land or decently paid jobs. Hence the yearly influx, which rose to 239,076 in 1949 and, after a subsequent decline, is now proceeding at the rate of about 100,000 a year and expected to go higher.
Every immigrant of military age is at once trained as a soldier, and all immigrants are expected to dedicate themselves to the achievement of Zionist aims.
Can we wonder why the Arabs are afraid and want to destroy the State whose policy requires the conquest and expropriation of millions more of the Arab people? As Dr. Penrose writes:
[In the light of their experience the Arabs] have no faith whatsoever
in the desire of Israel for a peaceful settlement on any terms but her own,
and they fear that such negotiations, if initiated, would only be used as a
sounding board by Israel for further intensive propaganda in the United
States and elsewhere. The public protestations on the part of Israel of a
desire and a need for peace ring as falsely in Arab ears as do those of
Russia to the western world. The parallel is almost exact.
The Arabs are further infuriated and given grounds for fear by what several eminent non-Zionist Jews have called the “Messianic pretensions” of Israel – her claim to represent a superior and older culture than any other nation – her “chosen people” complex.
The claims made by Israeli spokesmen to be a very special people are illustrated by an address given by Dr. Ebba Eban at Georgetown University on April 9, 1957. The Israeli Ambassador to the United States, ignoring Egypt, Babylon and China, not only claimed for the Jews “mankind’s oldest tongue and culture” which “more than Greece and Rome have determined the spiritual evolution of all generations,” but also said: “This planet passed from barbarism to civilization at the moment when it was touched in Israel by the lucid radiance of the Hebrew mind.”
Continuing, he claimed that for three thousand years the Jewish people in their march across the stage of history “had been the standard bearers of order and progress in the universal design,” and that Modern Israel “is something of intrinsic merit and interest in itself as a human phenomenon, as the unfolding of a great mysterious and inscrutable design of history.”
It would be easy to quote other less restrained and scholarly statements by Zionists than the above speech by Ambassador Eban. But it is not my purpose here to do more than call attention to Israel’s exaggerated pretensions, which recall Nazi claims to “Aryan” superiority and which her neighbors regard as constituting a menace to them similar to Hitler’s to the Jews.
If Israel were merely a little State of less than two million people, the threat would be meaningless. It is on account of Zionism as “a massive supernational organization,” seemingly backed by Jews everywhere in the world, that the menace it constitutes to its neighbors becomes something more than a mere figment of Arab imagination.
The Reverend Edward L.R. Elson, Minister of the National Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., and Chairman of the National Council of the American Friends of the Middle East, writes:
[The Arabs] regard Israel as a protectorate of the United States and the new
State as a projection of Western imperialism into the Middle East. . . . They
were presented with a proposition along these lines: “We are going to give
half of your land to strangers, but if you are decent about it and do not make
trouble for your new neighbors, we may let you keep the other half of your
land.” It is against this background that disputes about water rights and
fields on the borderline assume deadly importance. The Arabs, seeing the
expanding population of Israel and knowing the flow of financial and moral
aid from the West, live in fear of further expansion of Israel. Hence, their
military budgets go beyond what the economy of small states can afford.
Their political leadership turns to those who promise resistance. Their
foreign policy has to be oriented away from those states which are
considered responsible for the creation of the new state. And no Arab
and very few Jews will ever doubt that America played a decisive role
in the creation of the State of Israel.
Rabbi Elmer Berger, Executive Vice-President of the American Council for Judaism, in answering the question “Why the Arabs should be so unyieldingly determined that Israel should not occupy territory beyond the lines established in the 1947 Partition plan,” said:
Only those can understand who know what psychological patterns
have been built into the Arab mind by watching the Zionist experiment
grow from the vague Balfour Declaration, in which Arab rights were
guaranteed, to a full-bodied nation with a powerful military
establishment and rejecting the right of repatriation for Arab refugees.
Only those who know and understand – in any degree equal to their
understanding and knowledge of the psychological factors of Zionism –
will comprehend why psychologically the Arab insists on remembering
the history of this problem…. It is not enough to say the Arab remembers
these – and his political agitators use them – to nourish vengeance and
bitterness. This memory is the psychological reason why the Arab
cannot start from any point in present history and just go on from there,
to a settlement predicated upon some latest crisis, rather than an
understanding of the history in which Zionism eroded Arab rights
with a diplomacy of faits accomplis.
In an enlightening and moving passage from the same speech Dr. Berger drew attention to the fact that whereas Hitler had dramatized for the West the tragedy of insecurity and disability for the Jews, nothing as yet has dramatized in a comparable fashion for the West the tragedy of a colonial and imperial attitude “toward the people who endured these manifestations of Western development” so often “glorified by the West.” In sum, the Arabs too have been opressed and cannot forget it any more than the Jews.
Dr. Penrose expresses a similar view:
The Arab peoples have deeply ingrained in their souls a feeling of
the injustice which has been dealt to them ever since the First World
War and particularly since November 29, 1947 [the date of the United
Nations Resolution to partition Palestine]. “On top of that and
associated with it is the deeper bitterness toward the United States and
the United Nations out of whose action has developed the picture of
destitution, demoralization and suffering which is constantly before
their eyes in the refugee camps. Even if they would forget the past
they cannot do so with this constant reminder. . . . They feel that this
is a situation brought upon them from without and that it is therefore
from outside the Arab world that justice and recompense must come.
It would seem only too obvious that we are in danger of alienating not only the Arabs but also the far larger Islamic world, because our most-favored-nation treatment of Israel does give grounds for the accusation that she is “the spearhead of Western imperialism which still endeavors to divide and rule.” The Arabs see that Israel is subsidized by huge, tax-free donations by American-Jewish citizens and by United States grants far larger than our economic aid to the Arab States, which, in spite of Israel’s small population, have made her militarily the most powerful State in the Middle East. This leads the Arabs to the false suppositions that America controls Israel, and that we are thus responsible for what she does. As I found during my brief visit to the Middle East, it was difficult to convince the Arabs that, although we pay the piper, we do not call the tune. Americans for sentimental reasons may like to hear music that evokes memories of King Solomon’s temple; but the tune that Israel plays with our permission, if not at our bidding, so grates on the nerves of Israel’s neighbors that they are tempted to call in a Soviet “policeman” to throw both the piper and the sentimental visitor out.