Sunday, December 24, 2006

A Letter on Arendt, Zionism to the London Review of Books


In his review of Hannah Arendt's thought and literary output, Cory Robin, touching on her opposition to Zionism, writes "Zionism left the Palestinians with no options other than emigration or 'transfer', which could be accomplished only using Fascist methods, or second-class status in the land of their birth" (LRB, 4 January 2007). That should be
amended more properly to read "Palestinians, having refused to accept any compromise
offered, left Zionists with no option".

Even if the argument is to be debated on the grounds that the Zionist claim to a national homeland in the area the world knew than as "Palestine" (although no one had heard of Palestinians) is in question, no one surely can disregard the many attempts made by officials, semi-official persons and private individuals to reach a compromise with the Arab nationalists there. This was done despite the purposeful non-recognition of any specific non-Jewish national rights to the country as reflected in the Mandate's Article 9 which stated there was to be respect solely for the "personal status" of non-identified "various peoples and communities". Arabs, whether Syrian or otherwise - there was no such classification of "Palestinian Arab" at the time - were not a factor.

Nevertheless, Arab violence brought about the considerable decrease of the original land dimension of the Jewish national home guaranteed by international law in decisions both of the San Remo Conference in 1920 and the decision of the Supreme Council of the League of Nations in 1922. This was in violation of Article 5 of the Mandate that "no Palestine territory shall be ceded or leased to, or in any way placed under the control of the Government of any foreign Power". CisJordan was handed over to one Abdullah, a Saudi Arabian refugee set on regaining the throne of Damascus for his brother Feisal who had to make do with the throne of Iraq, so as to create TransJordan, an entity, however, thast was nevertheless administered under the Palestine Mandate regime.

Other compromise proposals such as an Arab Agency idea floated by the British to counter the Jewish Agency were rejected by Arabs. The 1939 Partition plan was rejected by Arabs who even refused to sit on the same floor with the Zionist in St. James' Palace. In the years in-between, over a thousand Jews had been killed in Arab riots in 1920, 1921, 1929 and during the 1936-39 disturbances.

Throughout the late 1920s and the 1930s, Jewish pacifists and bi-nationalists attempted to persuade Arabs that any agreement, even including the idea of halting Jewish immigration, could be accomplished if only they would sit and talk. Even David Ben-Gurion engaged in discussions. Nothing was forthcoming: no recognition of Jewish national rights, of Jewish need before the Holocaust to escape Nazi intentions and of their own distinct non-position vis a vis the overwhelmning international legitimacy that Zionism had gained.

If we fast-forward to 2007, we can, perhaps, rephrase the question thus: if after
15 months following a complete Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and and the
declaration of yet another cease-fire on November 26, 51 Qasam missiles have been
fired into Israel by December 24, is Israel left with any other option except to act in its self-defense and to assume that Arabs will never agree to any Jewish political sovereignty anywhere in what the Arabs call "Palestine" and what the Jews refer to as the "Land of Israel"?

Will it be published?


Anonymous said...

The letter is unlikely to be published since it does not deal with Arendt's views. Arendt and her political thought were the subjects of the article, not the general question of Zionism and the Palestinians. Read in context, it's clear that the sentence you quote is a paraphrase of Arendt's views, not a direct statement of Robin's.

YMedad said...

Of course it doesn't deal with Arendt's views; it deals with those of the reviewer. I thought that was quite obvious. And the sentence I quote, " Zionism left the Palestinians with no options other than emigration or ‘transfer’, which could be accomplished only using Fascist methods, or second-class status in the land of their birth" is Robin's, directly.

If it isn't published, it'll not be because of what you, dear Anon., suggest.

Anonymous said...

Hi Yisrael, thanks for the quick response, but I'm afraid we'll have to agree to differ.

I quote the wider context below. The sentence comes in the middle of a paragraph otherwise entirely consisting of quotation or paraphrase. The sentence you cite is not direct quotation, but I find it hard to read it in any other way than as paraphrase.

My point in the original post was that letters on an article should deal with the specific topic of the article. Your response has nothing to say about Arendt, but is a general opinion piece on Zionism. If, in response to, say, a review of Bob Woodward's books on the workings of the US govt., I wrote a general letter on why I disagreed with the Iraq war, no editor on earth would publish it. Why would they? It wouldn't be addressing the topic of the article.

"While Arendt had worried about Zionism’s darker tendencies and imperial dalliances from the beginning, her awareness of the Arab question came slowly. By 1944, however, she had come to see it as the ‘most important’ challenge. Without ‘Arab-Jewish co-operation,’ she wrote in 1948, ‘the whole Jewish venture in Palestine is doomed.’ Zionism left the Palestinians with no options other than emigration or ‘transfer’, which could be accomplished only using Fascist methods, or second-class status in the land of their birth. This last option, she remarked in 1943, assumed ‘that tomorrow’s majority will concede minority rights to today’s majority, which indeed would be something brand new in the history of nation-states’..."

YMedad said...

Let's try this once again.

What I quoted was certainly a direct quotation - a direct quotation of Robin (not Arendt).

I am quarreling with Robin, not Arendt.

If it will be published - we'll have to wait and see.

I wrote about what bothered me about Robin and his interpretations (not about Arendt).

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure you read my post carefully, or went back again and looked at the paragraph: the sentence is paraphrase. Do you accept that there is such a thing, a *third* thing, different from a) an author quoting another author (e.g. Robin quoting Arendt) and b) an author directly stating their views (e.g. Robin later in the piece writing of careerism)?

Here's what I suggest: take the passage to the most Zionist historian you can find - Robert Wistrich or David Cesarani spring to mind, in the UK, I'm sure you can think of many more. Ask them their opinion - not on whether Zionism is good or bad, and not on what they think of Arendt, just on the question of this as citation/paraphrase. I think you'll find they agree with my interpretation.

Since your understanding of your letter's relevance is based entirely on your reading of this one sentence, I can understand why you're defending your assertion so stubbornly, but I honestly think you're mistaken here.
anon andon.

YMedad said...

I give up.

I am willing to admit that I haven't a clue what you mean. So, either you are an absolute genius or, well, not.

Let me go slow here. I am not criticizing (sorry, criticising) Arendt but Robin. He's not quoting her there but making a statement that may or not be Arendt's opinion but for sure it is his. Until the next issue of LRS.

Anonymous said...

I am really trying here. People who are giving other people's arguments use two main techniques. The first is direct quotation. The second is paraphrase, which Marriam-Webster defines as " a restatement of a text, passage, or work giving the meaning in another form". Neither quotation nor paraphrase necessarily implies agreement. They are not the same as stating an opinion of one's own.

E.g. I might write "Medad claims that there were many attempts at compromise on the Jewish side. 'Even David Ben-Gurion engaged in discussions.' But Arab intransigence prevented any compromise. Ultimately, 'nothing was forthcoming.'"

In which case the sentence "But Arab intransigence prevented any compromise." is a fair statement of your views, not necessarily mine.

Likewise, Robin here uses both. From the context, the sentence you cite as Robin's view is a paraphrase of Arendt's view, not a statement of his own.

Do I sense, though, that somehow, you might just be a teeny bit disappointed if the LRB did actually publish your letter? ;o)

YMedad said...

b) no, i'd be very glad to have my letter published. it has happened before.

a) while Robin is, perhaps, paraphrasing Arendt's thinking, nevertheless, I am dealing with his views, as expressed in his review about Zionism which, I am convinced, reflects not only on Arendt but on a camp of anti-Zionists very powerfully represented in cultural and media circles and that is why I am dealing with the subject. I am not, excuse the metaphor, beating a dead horse but dealing with a live wire.

Anonymous said...

"...a camp of anti-Zionists very powerfully represented in cultural and media circles..."
Just don't say "cabal", eh...?

You think I keep missing your point, I think you're deliberately misreading Robin, in part from the blindness of paranoia and in part from a none-too-hidden desire to play the silenced victim of a media dominated by dark forces. But I enjoyed our little exchange. Arrivederci, signor!

YMedad said...

Please, don't teach me English. If I wanted to write cabal, I would have but since I don't think they work in tandem or are directed by a central committee, the term "camp" is more than adequate. Of course, the LRS is one big camp - ever see any other Israeli besides a post-Zionist one or a Jew who openly supports Israel unabashedly there? Did you see the promotion of the anti-Israel Lobby in the States effort there? That isn't a cabal?

I am not misreading anyone.