HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

August 18, 2008
Why Should Israel Be Surprised by its
Own Doubts, Cynicism, and Pessimism?

James Adler


This is a letter sent to a wonderful, humane, and decent human being, who happens to be a Zionist, and who often expresses in his blogs  both poignant reflections both on the value and integrity of the Zionist and Israeli enterprise-- and sadness and pessimism about its prospects.

It is a real letter to a fine and decent writer whose anonymity and privacy I would like to preserve in this forum.  The letter has been slightly revised, but retains some of the rough-hewnness of an actual letter.

Dear --

Please forgive me if I register some surprise.  Something in your recent column and blogs haven't fit right, and finally the problem occurred to me.  And so my question is this: You sound surprised at what has happened.

But Why?-- Why?, that, in a nutshell.  After all, from the earliest 1900s, have the local Arabs ever made any secret of their opposition to this enterprise? In 1918 and 1922-23, the years of the British and Mandatory Balfour declarations, when you were about 5-10 or so percent of the population?  When did the local Arabs ever give you any hint that they wanted you to build a state there? It's not like they welcomed you, gave you a false hint that they'd be good and hospitable hosts, and gave you leave to come, and then suddenly betrayed you like Macbeth did his guests. 

Rather, they couldn't have made more perfectly plain and clear their implacable opposition from the very beginning, from long before you had a state, to 1937 when you were still a small minority, to 1947, and beyond.  In 1947 David Ben-Gurion knew there would be no war if he did not ask the UN for partition, no war if he lost the vote, and a war if he asked and won.  He knew there would be a war and did it anyway.  He brought on the war, and this because the Arabs never made any secret of their opposition. 

People say the Arabs should have grabbed the 1937 partition when they could.  Why should they have, when you were only a small minority even then, and they had every right to oppose partition.  And you never asked them, you asked only outsiders, like the British empire, then the British Mandatory, then the new Europe-American dominated UN. 

You never asked them, and from Balfour (personally Balfour and his
colleagues) onward it was perfectly clear that they knew that if there was a democratic vote, the vast Arab majority would emphatically vote No, that this was "the weak point" in the plan, and that the principle of self-determination of the inhabitants was to be deliberately withheld because they knew a democratic vote of the inhabitants would defeat the enterprise; and for that reason you too never asked, never wanted to ask, but continually, ever step of the way in opposition to elementary democratic process, went over the obviously hostile heads of the local Arab community to outside powers like Britain and the League and the UN, because you knew the regional and local Arabs did not want this, and even that they would fight it with open arms. 

But you write like Herzl, as good-naturedly as Herzl did, but please forgive me again, almost as naively, like a disillusioned but naive Herzl,  Please forgive me again. I'm just trying again to register my surprise.  When did any Arab community ever indicate by the remotest indirection or allusion or hint that you would ever be even distantly or coolly welcome here?

Always, implacably, the exact opposite, but you -- i.e., the Zionist movement -- always went over their heads, trucked with outsiders, asked for partition to others rather than the Arabs and knowing there'd be a war against you if you won in the UN General Assembly but did it anyway.
And then you, ---,  repeatedly cite all the many wars, including the Intifadas, etc., and meticulous recapitulate all these 7, or 8, or 9 wars, and emphasize and repeat that they are continuations of the first one. 

But even the first one was after 50-60-70 years of implacable opposition to your coming, beginning when you were only 5% of the population and had few homes and no state.  And now you make it sound like an inexplicable hostility between say, France and Spain, two countries that have, as it were, always been there.  But it's not.  Your movement came in the teeth of implacable opposition and sought outsiders to do it anyway.  The opposition was before you ever had a functioning state and homes, it's not like the inexplicable wanting to take away homes that are already there, though of course now it is that, because before you were ever a Spain, that is, a state and people there as you are now, there was always nothing

BUT opposition and this and always was the last thing but ever a secret, but declared most outspokenly since 1900, 1917, 1922, 1937, 1947, and
8-9 wars..

What did they leave out in indicating this, that they might not have left out, in order to get your movement not to do it anyway, what did they miss in letting you know their wishes and intentions so you would not implement them over their heads despite their implacable and overwhelming majority wishes no matter what?  This is what I don't understand.  And you do have somewhere to go.  You would be welcome in America, all of you, we would welcome you with open arms. 

Once again: if your fine writing represents attempts to state and account for your perplexity and sadness in a rational way, nonetheless all it does is induce in me the same rational way a colossal perplexity, like the so-called elephant in the living room.  When in the last century, back when you were 5% of the people and the Arabs 95%, did the Arabs give even the slightest hint  to you that you were anything but completely uninvited and unwelcome by them and that they would oppose and if necessary fight your coming to the bitter end? 

What did they leave out in conveying this? What, if they had done it or said it, anytime in the past century, would have left you not surprised as you and your movement seem to be right now, or decide to honor their wishes? What did they miss or omit in conveying and telegraphing to your movement their implacable wishes about what they did not want to happen, from the time when they were 95% of the people and your movement was still Herzl's dream--and in all the years and decades to follow? 

Why are you puzzled, surprised, distressed? I guess that is my question, and what so surprises me.  And now your movement's wish to continue it in the face of the same teeth of their opposition and willingness to go to war over it threatens the peace and safety of the entire world. 

Does the world deserve the conflict -- and even clash of civilizations
-- because you decided to do it anyway?

All best to you and yours, always and especially in the many periods of trouble and danger.

Sincerely and with all warm regards,

James Adler


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