Thursday, June 18, 2009

Like The Clash of a Motor with a Camel

Jeffrey Goldberg, not one of Yesha's friends (he penned that biased anti-Levinger piece in The Atlantic some 8 years ago), thinks that:

Settlements make Israel insecure, and they make it seem immoral in the eyes of the world.

And while we're on the subject, let's go back in time, to 1927 and Henry Nevinson:

‘By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept, when we remembered thee, O Zion.’ In our English country churches we sing the words with a certain pathos, vaguely identifying ourselves with the mourners, and inclined to gloat over the hideous cry for bloodthirsty vengeance with which the little Psalm terminates. Very few of our congregations give a thought to the people who for nearly nineteen centuries have wept beside so many rivers far from Babylon, remembering Zion. It is only in the last few years that their passionate yearning for their ancestral and consecrated country has been granted a fresh and steadfast hope.

Throughout all those centuries, it is true, an occasional Jew would struggle to Jerusalem as a pilgrim, there to live out his remaining years in study and meditation; there to join in the lamentation at the Wall of Wailing; and there to die, awaiting the Messiah’s advent so long deferred. About fifty years ago, some enterprising Jews from Jerusalem began to establish ‘colonies’ in their old country, partly with the aid of Baron Edmond de Rothschild, who poured money lavishly into the cause; and the still flourishing settlements of Petah Tikvah (‘Dawn of Hope’), famous for its Jaffa oranges, the neighboring Rishon-l'Zion, famous for its wines, Rehoboth close by, Rosh Pinah, the beautiful hillside town above Lake Merom, and one or two more, prove the success of the experiment, though all are run upon the old-fashioned lines of private ownership and hired labor.

But the present Zionist movement for acquiring land in Palestine, and planting upon it towns and agricultural villages, is not yet twenty years old. My friend Israel Zangwill, whose recent loss is lamented by all who love high literature and noble enthusiasm, thinking that Palestine was already too full of Arabs and other inhabitants, sought for other lands as a Jewish national home, and consulted me upon the character of various places in Africa where I had traveled. He consulted Professor Gregory, the famous geologist of Glasgow, also, but our reports were not favorable. Nor did the Jews as a body favor any scheme for settlement outside Palestine. For it was to Palestine they were attached by all the sentiments of tradition and worship...

...the settlers worked without much hope, being also harassed by the Arabs and the Turkish officials, and plagued with malaria and want of drainage. A change came with the foundation of the Palestine Land Development Company in 1908, and from that time we may date the rapid growth of the present Zionist Organization...The famous ‘Balfour Declaration’...greatly encouraged the earlier Zionist hope, and the present rapidly growing movement may almost be said to have started from the Declaration's date. Its object is simply to create a national home for Jews in Palestine, not to convert Palestine into a Jewish country, as the Arabs feared, and as certain English officials and clergy still pretend to believe. The total of the Jewish population is now about 150,000, as against some 700,000 or 800,000 Arabs, and only about one tenth of the cultivatable land is owned by the Jewish race, while it is estimated that something like 4,000,000 population could find good livelihood in Palestine if the land were properly developed...

...the objection of the Palestinian Arabs is easily understood. The meeting of European immigrant Jews with Arabs means the clash of two civilizations—or of two ages in history. It is like the clash of a motor with a camel. One’s tastes are naturally on the side of the camel. What an interesting and picturesque creature he is! How dreamlike, prehistoric, full of our childhood’s religious associations! How finely adapted to his desert life! With what aristocratic detachment he stalks through the puddle of a world, disdainful as an English lord whose land has been nationalized by a Labor Government! He serves as a frieze; he makes a memorial. On each side of the new roads let us leave him a soft, dusty strip to pad along. But down the centre here comes the motor, all Europe and America behind it!

When the Balfour Declaration was first published, the Arabs expected the Jews to come swarming into the country by hundreds of thousands, driving the Arabs out and occupying their lands. In 1920 there were serious anti-Jewish riots in Jerusalem, and the next year in Jaffa. Outwardly, at all events, things are quiet now, though leaders of the Arabian policy have indignantly assured me that they would welcome a Wahabi invasion under Ibn Sa’ud rather than see Jews entering the land under British protection...No one likes to have the habitual standard of his life altered, even if raised, and the Jew will certainly alter the standard of life in Palestine. For the immigrants are progressive, intellectual people, making demands upon life for body and spirit that Arabs have never dreamed of... I surveyed the work of the Zionist cause in tangible or visible form I was filled with a sympathetic exhilaration at the sight of so many young men and young women released from the perpetual fear under which their fathers had suffered for so many centuries; able to follow their own chosen way of life without restrictions; able to enjoy the light of the sun and the beauty of the sea, as I saw one Sabbath day upon the beach of Tel-Aviv; and able, as I saw in their communal villages, to work side by side in hope, no longer trammeled by the petty regulations and obsolete observances of an oppressive past.

Of course, historically, there was another point of view, which in February 1921 stressed Greater Syria:

In order to be ready to give useful information before the [Kinf-Crane] Commission, branches of the Moslem and Christian League were formed at Jaffa, Gaza, Hebron, Djenin, Nablus, Acre, Haifa, Safed, and other places. All branches worked under a constitution approved by the Military Governor of Jerusalem. It was decided to draw up three resolutions to be presented to the Commission:

1. The independence of Syria, from the Taurus Mountains to Rafeh, the frontier of Egypt.
2. Palestine not to be separated from Syria, but to form one whole country.
3. Jewish immigration to be restricted.

The entire Christian and Moslem population agreed to these resolutions.

It should be said here that there is no justification, from an ethnological or geographical point of view, for dividing Syria into the northern part under the French and a southern part, namely Palestine, under the British. This has already been pointed out by the greatest authority on the history and geography of Palestine, Sir George Adam Smith. One race, the Syrian, or Palestinian, is dominant throughout the territory, from Aleppo to Beersheba; and there is no natural frontier that can divide the two halves of this land...The inhabitants of the land should be called Syrians — or Palestinians, if Palestine is to be separated from Syria

which would mean, as Goldberg wrote up at the beginning:

"Those who are familiar with life in Palestine, where the feeling between Moslem and Christian and Jew is perhaps more intense than in any other land, are fully cognizant that this scheme for a Jewish state not only accentuates and increases the animosities that have always existed, but invites another tragic chapter in the history of the Hebrews."

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