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Geoffrey Wheatcroft: An Atrocity Helped Bring Israel into Being
uploaded : Saturday 21st Oct 2006 at 07:48
by : Carol Gould
Modern Tel Aviv
The obsession Britons have with the ‘atrocity’ that is the Jewish State can easily render one ill when attempting to deal with this national disease. In the past month the ‘Independent’ has been running a series of dramatic front pages with images of death and destruction caused by --you guessed it -- America and Israel. The Guardian has had its usual hate-fest, whilst the media and British political party conferences have been filled with vituperation levelled at Tony Blair’s ‘caving in to Bush and the American Zionist lobby,’ hence allowing Israel to rain bombs down on Lebanon.
Recently the British journalist Melanie Phillips criticised the Anglo-Jewish community for its lack of robustness in dealing with the daily onslaught from white British anti-Semites, obsessed Israel-haters and the huge, loud, well-funded and vociferous Anglo-Muslim community. She was right, but…
If the tiny Jewish community of Britain is as tired, shell-shocked and blown away as I am by the constant attacks on everything Jews represent and care about post-Holocaust, then one cannot blame the Jewish community for being less than forceful. It has reached the stage that many Anglo-Jews feel kicked and stabbed every day. Their souls are eaten by the distorted and sneering articles, radio spots and TV appearances of an endless stream of British men and women who have an irrational hatred of that -- horror or horrors! -- little Jew-filled country that has more symphony orchestras than all of the other nations in the Middle East and Africa put together.
Last year I took time off from making three films about British heroism on the Home Front during the Second World War to attend the ‘Global Peace and Unity’ Conference in Canary Wharf. This was advertised as a celebration of Islamic culture. I was in such a state of alarm afterwards that I do believe I developed a serious and crippling case of shingles from the profound shock this Jihadist, incendiary event caused me. Its aftermath was a hateful attack by the Muslim Public Affairs Council UK on critics of the event because some of those critics dared write to one of their even more incendiary blogs.
Putting aside the Muslim rage at everything many Anglo Jews are -- many supporters of the survival of wee Israel and in my own case a patriotic American and, as a dual national, a Briton proud of the unique and sublime culture this country of Britain must endeavour to maintain -- the vicious attacks on Israel, on Zionists and on post-Holocaust Jewish aspirations by non-Muslim Britons are worrying indeed.
Before examining Geoffrey Wheatcroft’s article about the birth of Israel, I would like to set British non-Jews and British anti-Zionists ( this includes Jews against Zionism) a challenge. I would like them to sit down and think about what it must be like to be born Jewish. When one is born Jewish it is likely one’s parents start telling their offspring about the unspeakable tragedy of the Holocaust from the time said progeny are young enough to grasp language. This does not turn one into a Jewish terrorist (Wheatcroft’s accusation), but it does make one feel that after Christian Europe stood by and allowed its magnificent Jewish population to be carted away and tortured, sterilised, and exterminated one needs to be a bit more able to defend oneself than did those six million who marched away to be eliminated. Growing up non-Jewish means NOT hearing about the various ways one’s family members were tortured and exterminated. It means tea and hockey sticks and cricket bats and perhaps a bit of unpleasantness at school.
Just as Jews born after 1945 feel a wee bit more wary of those hell-bent on one’s demise, Israelis do need to think from time to time about avoiding annihilation. After sixty years of Arab countries being only brutal and inhospitable to the tortured remnant of European Jewry who arrived in Palestine after the Holocaust, an Israeli begins to think it is useful to have some way of defending oneself against said endless streams of terrorists, rockets and hostile armies.
But no, according to the British media -- and to those who have hit me in the face with this in recent years as if it does not cut me to the very depths of my soul -- Jews invented terrorism and Israel has proven what an abomination Jewish nationhood is. This is a slur against a Jew’s very being and actually turns some into what they did not used to be: a rabid Zionist who will defend the great Jewish faith and people to the death.
The Jewish people gave the world Einstein, TIME’s man of the Century. The Jewish people gave the world the man the British media acknowledged as the greatest playwright of the twentieth century, Arthur Miller. The Jewish people gave the world Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin, who eradicated Polio, their vaccine stopping billions of Muslims and Christians from contracting the disease. The Jewish people gave the world the Weizmann Institute in Israel, which works tirelessly to develop cures for all diseases for all the peoples of the world. The Jewish charity ORT helps everyone in need, whatever their creed. Jews give millions every year to charities at Rosh Hashanah and Passover with no regard to the religion of the recipients. The British media, however, spend endless hours demonising ‘lobbies’ of aggressive, self-absorbed Zionists.
I am also weary of the Episcopal and Presbyterian Churches, and their followers in Britain, boycotting Israeli goods. I am sick of academic boycotts of Israel. I lament that tiny nation, so small that it can be seen end-to-end from the top of a hotel in Tel Aviv, being slammed for defending herself when under perpetual attack since her founding.
Robert Fisk's new article about the birth of Israel will be covered in a separate editorial here, but in Geoffrey Wheatcroft’s editorial of 14 September 2006, he paints a picture of an Israel born in violence and brutality engineered by an army of ruthless killer Jews. He even brings in the Broadway playwright Ben Hecht, author of ‘The Front Page’ and uses a plea at the time of the establishment of the Jewish State to prove his point that Jews were rampant terrorists bent on overrunning the Middle East.
Well, Mr Wheatcroft: just imagine what it was like to be a Jew in 1948. When in the history of mankind had one whole civilisation nearly been obliterated by your fellow Christians? When had the surviving Jews -- including Ben Hecht -- been in such a collective state of shock? Do you have any idea how utterly stunned and vulnerable world Jewry felt when the news of the death camps emerged from ravaged Europe? What were you doing? My mother told me that her father, the grandfather I never met, read a letter posted to him in Philadelphia from a relative in Poland in 1936. The news of the beginnings of deportations of Jews and anti-Jew laws in Germany, and of his kin’s desperate fears was so shocking to Grandpa that he lay down and died.
That, Geoffrey Wheatcroft, is how deeply Jews felt about their destiny in those terrible, dark years. In Woody Allen’s ‘Radio Days’ the lead character is seen holding up a Blue Box to raise pennies for a Jewish national homeland in Palestine. How many Jewish children, shocked from their earliest years of comprehension of thought, held these little tin boxes with the hope of a homeland being established? Why is it that this cherished hope is such anathema to the non-Jewish British media? Yes, Israel has fought bloody wars and is no more an angel than any other nation, but what is it about Jewish aspirations that so angers British writers when there are other, infinitely more bellicose and massively larger countries in the world requiring media attention?
In the Wheatcroft article he says, ‘Israeli state violence has always more than matched that of its opponents’ and he adds that this dates from before the creation of the State of Israel. With a tiny handful of Jews in Palestine at that time, how could this be true? Yes, Israeli might and military genius have quelled the endless decades of hatred and violence from her uncharitable neighbours. Imagine if Geoffrey Wheatcroft’s Britain had not been an island and had been surrounded by violent countries perpetually bent on Britain’s destruction? How would Britain have reacted had we been attacked on Good Friday or Christmas, as Israel was on Yom Kippur in 1973?
How generous of Wheatcroft to acknowledge that Jabotinsky was 'brilliant and charismatic.' He explains the background of the Irgun, Stern, Herut, Likud and now Kadima to which Olmert and Livni attach themselves. In this context the concept of an 'iron wall' envisaged by Jabotinsky is brought into the present day. The British media are fixated on the separation or 'apartheid' wall. In the violence of rampantly anti-Semitic turn-of-the-century Europe Jews dreamed of a place where they could go out for a loaf of bread without being beaten to death. In pre-World War II Europe Jews could go nowhere and ended up in concentration camps. In the context of those times the likes of Jabotinsky and Begin had a right to imagine a world where Jews might just live in dignity and peace for a day or so. Since the wall was built the plague of suicide bombings has dropped. That, of course, has not stopped thousands of rockets from being launched into civilian Israel.
The Jews who had lived in Palestine for centuries and those who arrived from Europe to set up communal farms -- some based on Soviet models -- were non-violent intellectuals, artists, scientists and agricultural experts who wanted to reach out to their Arab neighbours. They were met only with hostility and violence. Imagine the awesome Greater Middle East had the Arab countries reached out with generosity and magnanimity to the European Semitic arrivals !
Wheatcroft describes with barely concealed horror a comment made by Israeli Cabinet Minister Tzipi Livni to Germany’s Der Spiegel. She says that as a youngster all she ever heard was that the Jewish people had a right to a state spanning both sides of the Jordan, and that her father’s grave bore a map of Greater Israel. He then goes on to make a snide aside about her being a ‘princess.’ We hear a lot about virulent critics of Jewish nationhood not being anti-Semites. I have great difficulty reading Wheatcroft’s article without feeling he has a deep and abiding hatred of anything Jews want to do other than bow and scrape and say ‘Yes, I’ll go to that detention camp, sir, just as you wish.’
Americans in the United Kingdom are fair game because of a widespread and often visceral anger in Britain that successive administrations have supported the Jewish State. So, whenever I have found myself at the receiving end of a shouting, red-faced attack in thirty years as an adult in Britain, I am always told about 1) the British soldiers lynched by Jewish terrorists; 2) the blowing up of the King David Hotel and 3) the Jews habitually attacking Arab civilians. Despite the founders’ fervent dream of a peaceful new life in a shared land, the birth of Israel was a bloody and tragic episode engendered by her furious Arab neighbours. The right of Jews to a small homeland in the sun was small cheese considering what Europe had done to this previously large, civilised and productive people.
What is so pernicious about Geoffrey Wheatcroft’s article is that he cherry-picks Jewish history. He finds a bizarre quote from the oft-explosive ben Gurion, who in a fit of pique referred to the Zionist Jabotinsky as ‘Vladimir Hitler.’ This Wheatcroft uses in his perverse prose as yet another example of the true vileness of the Zionist movement. He goes on to quote Chaim Weizmann, who expressed concern about the tiny band of Jewish extremists who evinced ‘Hitlerism.’
This, dear reader, is code for ‘Israel is like the Nazis.’ It implies that even Weizmann foresaw Hitlerite behaviour in Jews. This is a reprehensible twisting of a comment taken out of the context of the sweep of history.
Wheatcroft ends his piece by taking out of context the vow of ‘blood and fire’ that post- Holocaust Jews nurtured in their souls by making the unbelievable statement about the right-wing legacy of Tzipi Livni and Ehud Olmert, ‘Mightn’t that possibly give them some insight into the other ‘terrorists of Palestine’ who have been tempted by ‘blood and fire’ and who also believe they have the right to a state?’
The Guardian article is a dangerous polemic because it gives the impression that Jews were a violent, spiteful and ruthless band of terrorists who sought to wreak havoc on the otherwise peaceful Levant. There had been Arab violence for decades against the British presence. Jews trying to live in harmony -- with their eminently worthy Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, Hadassah Hospital and other virtuous enterprises-- were under constant attack. Wheatcroft describes a world Jewish community demanding violence to achieve its goals. Describing the uprooting of Palestinians, he makes this look lie a mass pogrom.
It needs reiterating here again that after the Holocaust many Jewish families across the globe shared a dream of a small place in the sun where they could farm, do business and raise families in harmony with their neighbours. The demonic picture of the early Zionist movement has now permeated British social discourse to such an extent that if one asks for a bottle of Kiddush wine in a shop in Maida Vale one gets a tirade from a young cashier about ‘Zionist apartheid and genocide.’ Aside from the fact that in South Africa the major warriors against apartheid were all Jews, the idea that Israel is perpetrating genocide is a vile slander.
The rewriting of Jewish history in the British media is frightening. This is a fact: no Jew would ever have had to take up arms had the surrounding communities not been hell-bent on the destruction of any remote idea of a Jewish settlement. Jews wanted to wield scythes, not swords, when they ventured away from anti-Semitic Europe to the Holy Land. Jews have lived as very possibly the most non-violent peoples of the world for two-thousand years and it is not in their nature to convene massacres and expulsions. Israel has had to be in a state of war for fifty-eight years, but this was not the aspiration of the original Zionists. This is a fact that is never told when the British media are fulminating about the Jewish State and ‘Bush’s Zionist Lobby.’
Only when I came to Britain as a very young woman did I ever hear anyone refer to Israel as a terrorist state. It is unacceptable that British people continue to use the incidents of the lynching of their two soldiers and the bombing of the King David Hotel to totally repudiate the miracle of the Jewish State. It diminishes one’s opinion of Britons that they can obsess about a tiny minority of Israeli Jews in the Stern Gang and Irgun, who were a small part of the birth of the great nation of Israel.
Had the Palestinians had larger-than-life leaders like Theodor Herzl. Chaim Weizmann, David ben-Gurion, Golda Meir or Yitzhak Rabin -- or for that matter Menachim Begin who went from right-winger to peacemaker embracing the President of Egypt -- they might have had a state as awesome as Israel.
It is time for Great Britain and its many media pundits to understand what Israel means to every Jew born after the Holocaust, to every Jew still alive with a Nazi tattoo on their withered arms, to every Jew across the globe who keeps in the back of their minds that another Shoah could unfold and that the Jewish State would be the only haven in the world for the remainder of world Jewry.
When commentators in Britain, including art historians and novelists, demand the ‘dismantling of Israel,’ one is bound to ask if they are not really asking for the Final Solution to be completed. When in January 2001 Faisal Bodi’s headline in the Guardian was, ‘Israel Simply Has no Right to Exist,’ was this not a distinguished British newspaper saying that six million Jews have no right to exist? If this is not anti-Semitism, what is? If a newspaper had said one of the scores of Muslim nations had no right to exist, would this not have been a blatant case of Islamophobia by a respected publication?
It is time for those who have never grown up Jewish or been repeatedly beaten up, as was the gentle young Stephen Spielberg, to stop writing and ranting on television about the dangerous ’Zionist Lobby.’
It is time for non-Jews who have never experienced the endless stories of unspeakable sadism committed against Jewish brethren that Jews listen to at family gatherings every day since 1945, to stop demonising a sovereign nation that has a right as does any other nation to defend itself against eternal attack and terror.
It is time for those who have never experienced since childhood being abused and ridiculed for adhering to one of the oldest and most civilised faiths humankind has ever generated to stop writing hurtful diatribes about ‘Jewish terrorism’ and instead pay heed to the grave dangers the world faces from the medieval, violent and turbulent regimes that degrade women, that cut off tongues and hands for minor misdemeanours and that threaten the demise of all of us.
Here is the link to the original Guardian editorial by Geoffrey Wheatcroft: