Sunday, April 08, 2018

Mazower Wow

Mark Mazower is a historian at Columbia University and the author, most recently, of the memoir “What You Did Not Tell: A Russian Past and the Journey Home.” That is how he is identified in the New York Times which published on April 6 his op-ed on anti-Semitism in Great Britain and especially the Labour Party.  Entitled "Anti-Semitism and Britain’s Hall of Mirrors", it appeared to be a bit rambling.

But he does come to an early conclusion that

the scale of anti-Semitism inside the Labour Party is insufficient to warrant the kind of reaction we have seen recently.

And he is upset that the head of the Board of Deputies criticized that Jewdas Seder in which Jeremy Corbyn participated:

Is fighting Jewdas really a priority in the struggle against anti-Semitism?

In addition, it appears the main thrust of his piece is to denounce England's Brexit policy:

In Brexit, Britain faces the most consequential foreign policy decision of the past half-century, one that will transform the country’s position in the world. So far, the government has handled the negotiations like amateurs...Britain itself, losing its way in a hall of mirrors, distracted by secondary issues while the country’s fate hangs in the balance.

So, what of the Jews?

Well, he does inform us his grandfather was a Bundist, that is, a fierce anti-Zionist. Mazower thinks of the Bund that it was "this big, courageous strand of the Russian left".

 But I was informed that:

"He’s a virulent anti zionist. Wrote an article claiming Zionist approaches to colonisation were drawn from proto-Nazi German ones, based on his analysis of Arthur Ruppin’s work. Married to an Egyptian secular Muslim."

Could that be? 

I found this:

Mazower finds common origins between Nazi racial theory and aspects of Zionist thinking. Similarly, the Zionist Arthur Ruppin, who purchased land from non-Jews in Palestine, is described as mirroring the policies of his pre-Nazi Prussian homeland in its struggle to dominate the Polish borderlands through land acquisition.

I turned to Shlomo Aronson's review of Mazower's book, Hitler's Empire: How the Nazis Ruled Europe who writes that the book a very good summary of largely secondary sources, going all the way back from the Prussian Colonization Commission to the Nazi extended version thereof – until the author’s arrival at “The Jewish Question: From Europe to the Middle East” on page 597. 

What begins to go wrong?

Well, the 

“hero” in these pages was Dr. Arthur Ruppin...transformed to “Prussian” by Mazower, whose main motivation [to settle the Land of Israel] seems to have been acquired from the Prussian Colonization Commission, which was further used by the Zionists to bring about the “ethnic expulsion” of the Palestinians

Aronson is a bit critical, for Aronson anyway, and notes

While tracing the sources of other alliances of that kind in Europe, Mazower remains silent when it comes to the Palestinians and their role in closing the gates of Palestine to Jewish immigration in 1939, when Hitler was still pushing Jews out. As a result of this, and Hajj Amin’s efforts to prevent any future rescue efforts, hundreds of thousands died. Palestinian refugees, whose leaders tried to destroy Israel upon its birth, are alive, if under dreadful conditions related – among other things-to their own leaders’ call upon them to leave until the Arab armies extinguished the “illegal Jewish quest for a national state on Arab soil.” 

He continues:

Mazower’s methodology – paying tribute to Eric Hobsbawm and other scholars in his acknowledgment – is a basically anti-nationalist or anti-nation state ideology and praxis, while trying to create continuums between pre-WWI nationalisms all the way to the post WWII period of decolonization. Yet Jewish nationalism was, and is, a fact, which was hardly the result of “Prussian” influence, even in the case of the half-assimilated Dr. Arthur Ruppin. Fighting nationalism and Zionism is one thing, and history-writing is something else. 

and ends so:

Mazower’s strategy and tactics in studying this chapter before WWI, in the inter-war years, during the Holocaust and after the Holocaust, using a few paragraphs pertaining to much more complex processes, are ideologically – not historically – grounded. They are possibly one more example of a post-Zionist syndrome in American academia, probably a continuum of previous anti-Zionist traditions in this country, which in Israel itself belong obviously to a very small, but loud minority, quoted by Mazower as best he could.

Another reviewer writes

Ethnic homogenization is no central European practice spread to Arabs. They found their own way with Jews: tolerating them, driving them out of Arabia or killing their male half and selling the other half into slavery. Arguing that Israel was the motor for this (p. 601), that is Arabs drove Jews out, for Israel’s single-minded pursuit of an organized, state-led return, distorts the facts. This was the result of hostilities after three lost wars until 1967. That the Jewish state embraced Sephardim, Jews from the neighboring Middle East, and often supported them, goes without saying.

The reviewer is quite knowledgeable. He disputes portraying Ruppin as the "architect of Zionist settlement", pointing out the ideas of Kalischer, Alkalai and others a century before and is just as critical as Aronson:

Saying that the end of Europe’s Jewish question turned out to be the start of the Middle Eastern one, is wrong (p. 597).

There is more to a NYTimes op-ed than is printed.

1 comment:

Joe in Australia said...

It's astonishing how, for some people, every subject is simply a prelude to a lecture on Why Zionism is Wrong. And if you sit through that lecture, they almost always have another one prepared: Why Antisemitism Isn't a Problem.

One might even think that the two are connected.