Hart of the Matter – Norman Finkelstein
The question Americans asked in the immediate aftermath of the horror of 9/11 was “Why do they hate us?” And in many American minds the “they” of the question were not only the violent Islamic fundamentalists who, according to the official version of events, were solely responsible for bringing down the Twin Towers, but Arabs and Muslims everywhere – about a quarter of humankind.
Since that particular shocking and awesome event, I have often asked myself how different the world today might have been – how much less destruction and killing there would have been – if President Bush had said something like: “That’s a very good question. We must and will seek the answer to it before we decide how to respond.”
If an attempt had been made to answer the question, the first thing that would have been established is that the overwhelming majority of Arabs and other Muslims everywhere do not hate Americans or America. If they could, very many Arabs and other Muslims, perhaps even half of them, would live in America to enjoy the apparently good life there.
What they hate is American foreign policy. And the underlying prime cause of that hatred is Congressional and White House support for the Zionist state of Israel right or wrong. But Israel’s American-endorsed arrogance of power and contempt for international law is only one of two factors in the equation that, over the past 60 years, has seen Arab and other Muslim hurt, anger and humiliation turn to hatred on account of the conflict in and over Palestine. The other is the impotence of the regimes of the existing mainly corrupt and repressive Arab Order, regimes which, generally speaking, are perceived by their masses to be, in effect, American-and-Zionist stooges.
On 11 September 2001, I was well into the writing of Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews, so I didn’t start out with the idea of answering the “Why do they hate us?” question, but the book does provide for Americans a complete, comprehensive, detailed and fully documented answer to it.
With The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, Mearsheimer and Walt have provided taboo-breaking insight into one aspect of what used to be called the Arab-Israeli conflict. My book is concerned with the making and sustaining of the conflict in all of its aspects. My purpose is to enable readers to make sense – I dare to say for the first time ever in many cases – of the whole thing, by seeing how all the pieces of the most complicated and complex jig-saw puzzle fit together. And that’s why what happened behind closed doors in London, Paris, Washington and Moscow has its place in the story as I tell it as well as events in Palestine that became Israel and the capitals of the Arab world. My purpose is also to assist citizens to understand why a resolution of the conflict has remained, and seems set to remain, beyond the reach of politics and diplomacy, and who must do what and why for justice and peace. The alternative is catastrophe for all, and by all I don’t mean only the Arabs and Jews of the region. I mean all of us wherever we live. (In Volume One I recall an interview I did for the BBC’s Panorama programme with Mother Israel, Golda Meir. At a point I interrupted her to say: “Prime Minister, I want to be sure that I understand what you’re saying… You are saying that if ever Israel was in danger of being defeated on the battlefield, it would be prepared to take the region and the whole world down with it?” Without the shortest of pauses for reflection, and in the gravel voice that could charm or intimidate American presidents according to need, Golda replied, “Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying.” Within an hour of that interview being transmitted, The Times of London changed its lead editorial. The new one quoted what Golda had said to me and added its own opinion – “We’d better believe her.”)
My only reservation about M&W’s excellent presentation is over their use of the term “Israel lobby”. Way back in 1980 when I used that term in private conversation with Shimon Peres, who was then the leader of Israel’s main opposition Labour Party and hoping to become prime minister and deny Menachem Begin a second term in office, he, Peres, said to me: “It’s not an Israel lobby. It’s a Likud lobby.” The point being made was that the lobby in America represented hardcore, uncompromising Zionism and pushed (at least sometimes) for policies that were not in Israel’s own long term best interests. For reasons that my book makes clear, the phenomenon W&M have exposed (supplementing Paul Findley’s They Dare To Speak Out) is best and most accurately described as the Zionist lobby.
In my view and also that of all real experts I know including, for example, the two leading Israeli “revisionist” (honest) historians of our time, Professors Ilan Pappe and Aviv Shlaim, the key to understanding is knowledge of the difference between Judaism and Zionism. The mainly Gentile Judeo-Christian or Western world has been conditioned to believe that they are one and the same thing. They are not. They are total opposites.
Judaism is the religion of Jews (not “the Jews” because not all Jews are religious), and, like Christianity and Islam, it has at its core a set of ethical principles and moral values.
Zionism is a secular, colonialist ideology which, in 1948, and mainly by resorting to terrorism and ethnic cleansing, established a state for some Jews in the Arab heartland. (At the time of Zionism’s birth and first mission statement in 1897, its colonial ambition was supported by only a very small minority of the Jews of the world; and it can be said that without the obscenity of the Nazi holocaust – a European crime for which, effectively, the Arabs of Palestine were punished – Israel would not have come into being). Simply stated, Zionism in action has made a mockery of, and actually has contempt for, the ethical principles and moral values of Judaism. Which is why those most often described as “ultra orthodox” religious Jews say that Zionism is destroying Judaism
- For those who might wish to have a much deeper understanding of the difference between Zionism and Judaism than my book provides, I recommend another recently published book – A Threat From Within, A Century of Jewish Opposition To Zionism. Its author is a Canadian Jew, Yakov Rabkin, who is Professor of History at the University of Montreal. When Yakov was in London, I asked him on-the-record a very explicit question: “Is it reasonable to say that the Jews of the world now have a choice to make – either to reaffirm or affirm their commitment to Judaism and renounce Zionism, or to reaffirm or affirm their commitment to Zionism and renounce Judaism?” He replied with one word, “Yes!”
Knowledge of the difference between Judaism and Zionism is the key to understanding why it is perfectly possible to be anti-Zionist (opposed to Zionism’s colonial enterprise either in whole or in part) without being in any way, shape or form anti-Semitic. The significance of that statement is in the following.
The false charge of anti-Semitism is the blackmail card which the obscenity of the Nazi holocaust enables Zionism to play to silence criticism of its self-righteous and aggressive child, Israel, and to suppress informed and honest debate about who must do what and why for justice and peace. But when citizens know the difference between Zionism and Judaism (and the truth of history, of which more later) they do not have to be frightened into silence, as most Gentiles currently are, by the fear of being falsely charged with anti-Semitism for criticising the Zionist state of Israel.
There is, however, another reason why it is essential for the citizens of the Western nations, among whom most of the Jews of the world live, to be aware of the difference between Judaism and Zionism. Knowledge of the difference is the explanation of why it is wrong to blame all Jews for the crimes of the few (hardcore Zionists in Israel/Palestine).
Though I was aware that it would be very uncomfortable for many Jews, and though I knew that it would provoke the Zionist lobby into red flagging my book and doing its best ( I mean its worst) to cause the book to be suppressed to the maximum possible extent, I insisted on Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews as the title because it reflects in seven words two related truths for our time.
The first is that the sleeping giant of classical anti-Semitism has been re-awakened in the mainly Gentile nations of the Western world (where, to repeat, most of the Jews of the world live as integrated citizens). The second is that the prime cause of the re-awakening is the behaviour of the Zionist (not Jewish!) state of Israel – as most of the best Jewish minds prior to the Nazi holocaust feared would be the case if Zionism was allowed by the big powers to have its way.
As background context to the statement above there is the warning (quoted opposite the title page of Volume Two of my book) of Yehoshafat Harkabi, Israel’s longest serving and universally respected Director of Military Intelligence. In his book Israel’s Fateful Hour, first published in Hebrew in 1986, he wrote the following (emphasis added):
“Israel is the criterion according to which all Jews will tend to be judged. Israel as a Jewish state is an example of the Jewish character, which finds free and concentrated expression within it. Anti-Semitism has deep and historical roots. Nevertheless, any flaw in Israeli conduct, which initially is cited as anti-Israelism, is likely to be transformed into empirical proof of the validity of anti-Semitism. It would be a tragic irony if the Jewish state, which was intended to solve the problem of anti-Semitism, was to become a factor in the rise of anti-Semitism. Israelis must be aware that the price of their misconduct is paid not only by them but also Jews throughout the world.”
It’s my view that after the obscenity of the Nazi holocaust, and because of it, the giant most likely would have gone back to sleep, remained asleep and, in all probability, would have died in its sleep – IF Zionism had not been allowed by the major powers, first Britain, then America, to have its way, as Balfour put it, “right or wrong”. (There is a case for saying that with British and American politicians as “friends”, the Jews of the world have not needed enemies).
What, really, is the basis for believing that anti-Semitism is seriously on the rise? The increase in the desecration of synagogues and Jewish graves (and the like), verbal abuse and assaults on Jews are a pointer. But there is something far more sinister. It’s what a growing number of Gentiles, middle to upper class people in particular, are thinking and now beginning to say behind closed doors and at dinner parties. What do they say? “These fucking Jews!” And it’s grown, this antipathy, in response to Israel’s arrogance of power and the correct perception of Israel as the oppressor. And the more it becomes apparent that Israel is the obstacle to peace on any terms most Palestinians and other Arabs and Muslims could accept, the more this antipathy will grow, with the real danger that it will break out, become unsuppressed, and manifest itself as violent anti-Semitism.
As things are, and look like going, Holocaust II, shorthand for another great turning against Jews, is a real possibility in a foreseeable future.
It’s also my view, which I know is shared in private by some eminent Jews, that if the monster of anti-Semitism goes on the rampage again, it might well start its journey in America.
Two summary reasons why:
* Many members of Congress (past and present) hate themselves for doing the bidding of the Zionist lobby. If the opportunity to let rip with their suppressed, guilt-driven anger arises, they will want revenge.
* The prime pushers for the invasion of Iraq were neo-cons who are also hardcore Zionists. While few want to admit this publicly, many know it to be so.
QUESTION: What can be done to eliminate the danger of the monster of anti-Semitism going on the rampage again?
Short answer… The Gentiles of the Western nations must be informed and educated about the difference between Judaism and Zionism, and thus why it is wrong to blame all Jews for the crimes of the hardcore Zionist few. And that’s one of the reasons why I devoted more than five years of my life to researching and writing Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews. I want to do my bit to stop the monster of anti-Semitism going on the rampage again. And that’s the essential difference between the Gentile me and hardcore Zionists. They want, even need, anti-Semitism, to justify their crimes – past, present and future.
If and when I take to the public speaking and debating trail coast-to-coast across America (as I’ve done in the past), I will have the following message for American audiences:
- DON’T blame the Jews who live among you for Zionism’s crimes.
- DON’T even blame the Zionist lobby for buying influence on American foreign policy because it, the lobby, has only played the game according to the rules.
- DO blame your corrupt, pork-barrel system of politics which puts what passes for democracy up for sale to the highest bidders.
My book has two central and related themes.
One is how Israel, the child of Zionism, became its own worst enemy and a threat not only to the peace of the region and the world, but also the best interests of Jews everywhere and the moral integrity of Judaism itself.
The other is why, really, the whole Arab and wider Muslim world is an explosion of frustration and despair waiting for its time to happen.
The book is epic in length (two volumes) as well as sweep and substance because it is a complete re-writing of the history of the making and sustaining of the conflict in and over Palestine, replacing the Zionist mythology upon which the first and still existing draft of Judeo-Christian history is constructed with the documented facts and truth of history. As I noted in an Open Letter to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (published by Information Clearing House on 7 November), the first draft of history is mainly Zionist propaganda nonsense. At its core are two myths.
One is that the Zionist state of Israel has lived in constant danger of annihilation, the “driving into the sea” of its Jews. The truth of history is that Israel’s existence has never, ever, been in danger. Not in 1948/49. Not in 1956. Not in 1967. And not even in 1973. Zionism’s assertion to the contrary was the cover which allowed Israel to get away where it mattered most, America and Western Europe, with presenting its aggression as self-defense and itself as the victim when it was, and is, the oppressor. </p
The other is that Israel has not had a Palestinian partner for peace. The truth of history on this account is that the ground for peace on the Palestinian side was prepared by Yasser Arafat as far back as 1979 – more than a quarter of a century ago. In that year, 1979, Arafat persuaded the Palestine National Council, the highest decision-making body on the Palestinian side, to back his policy of politics and, until then, unthinkable compromise with Israel. (Unthinkable for Palestinians because accepting Israel inside its pre-1967 borders required them to renounce their claim to 78% of their land).
As I recorded in my book Arafat (the title of the American edition, the original title was Arafat, Terrorist or Peacemaker?), it took him six long years to persuade first his Fatah leadership colleagues and then other PNC members to accept the reality of Israel’s existence. When the vote was eventually taken, in 1979, it was 296 for his policy of politics and compromise and four against. Arafat, who had risked his life as well as his credibility to turn his people around, was then at the height of his powers; and from that moment on, and as President Carter knew, there could have been successful negotiations for a real and lasting peace based on a genuine two-state solution – Israel back behind its pre-1967 borders with Jerusalem, preferably as an open city, the capital of two states.
The problem was that Arafat did not have a partner for peace on the Israeli side – because Zionism was not, and is not, interested in peace on any terms the vast majority of Palestinians and other Arabs and most Muslims everywhere could accept. It’s true that in 1993, and thanks in part to President Clinton’s stage management and pulling power, Arafat did have a “perhaps” Israeli partner for peace in the shape of Yitzhak Rabin, but he was assassinated by a gut-Zionist. And Rabin was succeeded by Israeli leaders whose prime objective was to re-demonise and destroy the Palestinian leader. Arafat the terrorist they could handle. Arafat the peacemaker they could not. (Didn’t Barak offer Arafat “95 percent” of everything he had said he wanted? No, he did not! That, too, was a propaganda lie. Was Arafat poisoned? Probably. Is his successor, President Abbas, effectively an Israeli-and-American puppet? Sadly yes, or so it seems. But even if he is, we can be certain of one thing. Stooge leadership or not, the Palestinian people will never accept crumbs from Zionism’s table in the shape of two or three bantustans which they could call a state).
In my book and on public platforms I also take head-on the matter of Israel’s right or not to exist.
According to first and still existing draft of history, Israel was given its birth certificate and thus legitimacy by the UN Partition Resolution of 29 November 1947. This is nonsense.
- In the first place the UN without the consent of the majority of the people of Palestine did not have the right to decide to partition Palestine or assign any part of its territory to a minority of alien immigrants in order for them to establish a state of their own.
- Despite that, by the narrowest of margins, and only after a rigged vote, the UN General Assembly did pass a resolution to partition Palestine and create two states, one Arab, one Jewish, with Jerusalem not part of either. But the General Assembly resolution was only a proposal – meaning that it could have no effect, would not become policy, unless approved by the Security Council.
- The truth is that the General Assembly’s partition proposal never went to the Security Council for consideration. Why not? Because the US knew that, if approved, it could only be implemented by force; and President Truman was not prepared to use force to partition Palestine.
- So the partition plan was vitiated, became invalid, and the question of what the hell to do about Palestine (after Britain had made a mess of it and walked away) was taken back to the General Assembly for more discussion. The option favoured and proposed by the US was temporary UN Trusteeship. It was while the General Assembly was debating what do that Israel unilaterally declared itself to be in existence – actually in defiance of the will of the organised international community, including the Truman administration.
The truth of the time was that the Zionist state, which came into being mainly as a consequence of Zionism terrorism and ethnic cleansing, had no right to exist and, more to the point, could have no right to exist unless ….. Unless it was recognised and legitimized by those who were dispossessed of their land and their rights during the creation of the Zionist state. In international law only the Palestinians could give Israel the legitimacy it craved. And that legitimacy was the only thing the Zionists could not take from the Palestinians by force.
Complete understanding of the true nature of Zionism’s colonial enterprise also requires knowledge of this fact. Most of the Jews who went to Palestine in answer to Zionism’s call had no biological connection to the ancient Hebrews. The incoming Zionist Jews were mainly foreign nationals of many lands, descended from those who became Jewish by conversion to Judaism centuries after the fall of the ancient Jewish kingdom of Israel and what is called the “dispersal” into “oblivion” of its people. The notion that there were, are, two entire peoples with an equally valid claim to the same land is an historical nonsense. The relatively few Jews with a valid claim were the descendants of those who stayed IN Palestine through everything. They numbered only a few thousand at the time of Zionism’s birth; they regarded themselves as Palestinians; and they were fiercely opposed to Zionism’s colonial enterprise – because they rightly feared that it would make them as well as the incoming, alien Zionist Jews enemies of the Arabs among whom they had lived in peace and security. (Though not even many of today’s Jews are aware of it, it is also a fact that the return of Jews to the land of biblical Israel by the efforts of man – one possible but woefully inadequate definition of Zionism – was proscribed by Judaism).
The question that should be answered by President Bush and all who are demanding that Hamas recognise Israel is this: Which Israel is to be recognised… Israel inside its borders as they were on the eve of the 1967 war and thus in accordance with Security Council Resolution 242, or a Greater Israel which, on a daily basis, is grabbing more land and expanding its settlements on the occupied West Bank?
There is, in fact, no mystery about what Hamas’s real position is. If tomorrow Israel said and meant that it was ready to negotiate a full and final peace on the basis of a genuine two-state solution – one that would see Israel back to its pre-1967 borders with Jerusalem an open city and the capital of two states, Hamas would say, “Let’s do the business”.
Hamas’s leaders would say that, and mean it, because they are not stupid and know they would have no choice – because a genuine two-state solution is still what the vast majority of Palestinians are prepared to settle for. But they are never going to get it.
The truth of the present is that the two-state solution is already dead, if not yet buried….. killed by the settlement facts Israel has created, and is still creating, on the West Bank – in defiance of UN resolutions, in defiance of international law, and even in defiance once upon a time of the expressed wish of the Bush administration. At least on the matter of illegal settlement activity, it IS the Zionist tail that wags the American dog.
In the last chapter of Volume Two of my book, A Resurrection, a Crucifixion and a Road Map to Nowhere, I make the statement that Zionism’s own end-game strategy for a final solution to the Palestine problem now leaves nothing to the imagination. Zionism’s in-Israel leaders and their lobbyists in America still believe that by means of brute force and reducing them to abject poverty, they can break the will of the Palestinians to continue the struggle for their rights. The assumption being that, at a point, and out of total despair, the Palestinians will be prepared to accept crumbs from Zionism’s table in the shape of two or three bantustans, or, better still, will abandon their homeland and seek a new life in other countries. In my view the conviction that Zionism will one day succeed in breaking the Palestinian will to continue the struggle for an acceptable minimum of justice is the product of minds which are deluded to the point of clinical madness. (Some say that Israel is on its way to becoming a fascist state. I think the more appropriate terminology is lunatic asylum).
The question that’s almost too awful to think about is something like this: What will the Zionists do when it becomes apparent even to them that they can’t destroy Palestinian nationalism with bombs and bullets and brutal repressive measures of all kinds?
My guess is that they, the Zionists, will go for a final round of ethnic cleansing – to drive the Palestinians off the West Bank and into Jordan and beyond. That, I fear, will be Zionism’s final solution to the Palestine problem… If that happens, the West Bank will be turned red with blood, mostly Palestinian blood. And honest reporters will describe it as a Zionist holocaust.
But that does not have to be the end of the story of Palestine. There still could be a new beginning.
Many years ago, in the Introduction to my first book, Arafat, Terrorist or Peacemaker? I said that, generally speaking, the Jews are the intellectual elite of the Western civilisation and the Palestinians the intellectual elite of the Arab world. What those two peoples could do together in peace and partnership was, I suggested, the stuff that real dreams are made of. They could change and develop the region for the better and, by so doing, give much needed hope and inspiration to the whole world. I still believe that dream could be made to come true, but only within the context of a ONE STATE solution to the Palestine problem. By definition it would be secular, democratic state in which all of its citizens, Arabs and Jews, would enjoy equal rights.Yes, that would mean the de-Zionisation of Palestine, but it would not mean the end (any kind of end) for the Jews now living in Israel/Palestine. Those who wished to stay as citizens of a de-Zionised Palestine would at last have peace with enduring security.
My book’s Epilogue is titled The Jews as the Light Unto Nations, and it ends with the following words, my words, which also have pride of place on the back jacket of Volume Two:
If the Jews of the world can summon up the will and the courage to make common cause with the forces of reason in Israel before it is too late for us all, a very great prize awaits them. By demonstrating that right can triumph over might, and that there is a place for morality in politics, they would become the light unto nations. It is a prize available to no other people on earth because of the uniqueness of the suffering of the Jewish people. Perhaps that is the real point of the idea of the Jews as Chosen People… Chosen to endure unique suffering and, having endured it, to show the rest of us that creating a better and more just world is not a mission impossible.
Why do I think it is important for Americans to know the truth of history as it relates to the making and sustaining of the conflict in and over Palestine and who must do what and why for peace?
Short answer: Because of the awesome influence of the Zionist lobby (as documented by Mearsheimer and Walt and before them former Congressman Paul Findley), no American President is ever going to summon up the political will to call and hold Zionism to account unless and until he or she is pushed to do so by informed public opinion – by a manifestation of real democracy in action. The problem in America, generally speaking, is that public opinion is too uninformed (and mis-informed) to do the pushing – to make democracy work for justice and peace.
Why can’t Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews be published in America?
Short answer: Because Zionism does not want it to be; and all American publishers, the minors as well as the majors, are, apparently, too frightened of offending Zionism as much as they would need to do by taking my book on.
It was, actually, the same story in the UK, despite the fact that my literary agent received letters and other messages of rare praise for my work from the CEO’s of some of the major publishing houses. One such letter, from which I quote in the first paragraph of Volume One of my book as published in its first edition hardback form, describes my manuscript as “awesome… driven by passion, commitment and profound learning.” This letter added, “There is no question it deserves to be published.” But when push came to shove, I had to set up my own publishing company. I was not supposed to get access to the retail trade. I did but… To sell well through the retail trade, books need publicity. The prime provider of it for the general reading public is the media, but not in the case of my book. Not one newspaper or magazine and not one radio or tv programme was prepared to give my book any attention, review or other. The media’s complicity in the suppression of the truth of history, and the betrayal of democracy, proved to be rock solid. That’s the situation here and in the UK (and throughout Western Europe), and I know it’s worse, much worse, in the “Land of the Free”.
In the Preface to Volume Two I say I have no doubt that publishers, editors and politicians who are complicit in the suppression of the truth of history honestly believe that they are serving the best interests of the Jews as well as their own short-term vested interests. And I go on to say to them all (publishers, editors and politicians) the following: “You are wrong. Dangerously wrong. By refusing to come to grips with the truth of history and, in particular, the difference between Judaism and Zionism and why it is perfectly possible to be passionately anti-Zionist without being anti-Semitic, you are helping to set up all Jews to be blamed for the crimes of the relative few.”
And I conclude with the following observation:
“It would also be helpful if more than a few of the Jews who live in the nations of the mainly Gentile Judeo-Christian world could find the will and the courage to end their silence on the matter of Israel’s “misconduct” (Harkabi’s terminology), and come to grips with the fact that Zionism is, as the title of this book asserts and its substance demonstrates, their real enemy. Silence is not the way to refute and demolish a charge of complicity in Zionism’s crimes.”
The problem for Zionism with my book is its title. The prime source of Zionism’s power, blackmail and other, is its success to date in persuading the guilt-ridden Gentile world that Judiasm and Zionism are one and the same thing. The more people become aware that this is not so, and that it’s therefore perfectly possible to be passionately anti-Zionist without being anti-Semitic, the more naked and vulnerable Zionism will become. Only then will stopping the countdown to catastrophe for all be a mission possible; and only then will peace have a chance – its very last chance.
In their Preface to The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, Mearsheimer and Walt write that the United States will not be able to address vexing problems in the Middle East effectively “if Americans cannot have a civilised conversation about our interests in the region and the role of all the factors that shape U.S. foreign policy, including the Israel lobby. To encourage that continued conversation, we have written this book.”
I wrote my book to empower citizens to participate in informed and honest debate and play their necessary part in making democracy work for justice and peace in the Middle East. If there are Americans who want to step up to the plate and assist me to get my version of the truth of history to their fellow citizens – then it will be “game on”. And this ‘ain’t Little League.
Alan Hart, author of Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews
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