Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Menachem Begin Escape's Notice

From a book's review;

Some of the book’s many weaknesses are due to the fact that Judis doesn’t really possess the command of his subject that he pretends to have. His narrative is full of the sort of errors and omissions that abound in polemics disguised as history...More revealing, perhaps, of his failure to do his homework is his statement that “Palestine was quiet during World War II.” While he knows that the “Stern Gang” staged terrorist attacks against the British during the war, he seems to be utterly unaware of the Irgun’s revolt in 1944 (or, for that matter, of any of its activities during the next couple of years, except for the bombing of the King David Hotel in 1946, which he mentions in passing, without explaining in any way).

If Menachem Begin altogether escapes Judis’ notice, his mentor, Vladimir Ze’ev Jabotinsky, comes in for more than his share of criticism. Jabotinsky’s defense in the 1920s of a militant “iron wall” policy, which rested on the assumption that “the Jews would succeed in gaining Palestine only by defeating, or intimidating, the Arabs militarily,” confirmed, he writes, “the Arab population’s worst fears about Zionist intentions.” What Judis fails to note is, to quote Walter Laqueur’s A History of Zionism, that “Jabotinsky wrote in his programme that in the Jewish state there would be ‘absolute equality’ between Jews and Arabs, that if one part of the population were destitute, the whole country would suffer.” (One suspects that Judis is aware of these things, for it is Laqueur himself who heads the list of people he thanks in his acknowledgments for supplying him with reading material.) While Judis pounces, when he can, on any reference on the part of a Zionist leader to the transfer of the Palestinian Arab population to some other territory, Judis makes no mention of the fact that Jabotinsky vociferously opposed any such notion.
It is Jabotinsky’s people that Judis blames, too, for the descent of Palestine into violence in 1929. In the midst of a year-long dispute over the Western Wall in Jerusalem, several hundred members of the Revisionist youth group “shouting ‘The wall is ours!’ and carrying the Zionist flag, marched to the mufti’s home, where they held a large demonstration. That set off a succession of Arab demonstrations that degenerated into large-scale riots.” What Judis conveniently neglects to describe fully, however, is the central role the owner of the house in question, the Grand Mufti, Hajj Ammin al-Husseini, had in stirring things up. He didn’t just convene international conferences, as Judis notes. Throughout the 1920s, he distributed The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and regularly taught hatred of the Jews. In 1929, as Efraim Karsh has shown, he incited a youth rally to unleash “a tidal wave of violence.” (Judis is consistent, one might note, in his protection of the Palestinian Arab leader’s soiled reputation, touching only very lightly on his later collaboration with the Nazis, which seems to be deplorable in his eyes mostly because his “identification with Hitler’s Germany had allowed these Zionists to reframe their own role in Palestine and on the world stage to avoid any taint of imperialism or settler colonialism.”)


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