May 15, 2008
History disproves myth that founding Zionists were naive
(Page 2 - Previous Page)
If indeed there is among the Arabs a national movement, we must relate to it with the utmost seriousness.... The Arabs are concerned about two issues:
1. The Jews will soon come in their millions and conquer the country and chase out the Arabs... Responsible Zionists never said and never wished such things.
2. There is no place in Eretz Israel for a large number of inhabitants. This is total ignorance. It is enough to notice what is happening now in Tunis, Tangier and California to realize that there is a vast space here for a great work of many Jews, without touching even one Arab.
(Haaretz, Dec. 15, 1919, Reprinted in Dvarim, vol 1 1936, p. 129.)
Ben-Gurion and Palestinian Self-Determination
In November, 1930, about a year after the Arab riots that led to the Hebron massacre, Ben-Gurion delivered a keynote lecture entitled "The Foreign Policy of the Hebrew Nation" at the First Congress of Hebrew Workers. In this lecture, later published in Ben-Gurion's first book, "We and Our Neighbors" ("Anachnu U'Shcheneinu, Tel Aviv, 1931. p. 257), he makes statements that would have toppled Rabin's government ten times over.
There is in the world a principle called "the right for self-determination." We have always and everywhere been its worshipers and champions. We have defended that right for every nation, every part of a nation, and every collective of people.
There is no doubt whatsoever that the Arab people in Eretz Israel have this right. And this right is not limited by or conditional upon the result of its influence on us and our interests. We ought not to diminish the Arabs' freedom for self-determination for fear that it would present difficulties to our own mission.
The entire moral core encapsulated in the Zionist idea is the notion that a nation -- every nation -- is its own purpose and not a tool for the purposes of other nations. And in the same way that we want the Jewish people to be master of its own affairs, capable of determining its historical destiny without being dependent on the will -- even good will -- of other nations, so too we must seek for the Arabs.
Naivete? Denial? Disrespect? Hardly.
I don't believe Ben-Gurion would be prepared to make such bold statements today, given what we know about Hamas' charter and rocket terror. I am sure, however, that the Middle East would look substantially different today had one Arab leader, any time in the past 75 years, had the courage to reciprocate Ben-Gurion's offer with as generous a recognition of Jewish self-determination.
Jabotinsky and the Sobering Days Before the Holocaust
The next pearl belongs to Zev Jabotinsky, Ben-Gurion's main rival, and by far the most militant Zionist leader of that time.
Jabotinsky garnered a reputation as an advocate of a tough, "iron-wall" approach toward the Arabs. Yet even he expressed respect for Arab nationalism, and explained, even identified with, Arabs' fears of reciprocating Ben-Gurion's offer.
I chose to translate several excerpts from this article because they dispel not only the myth of Zionist denial and naivete, but also the myth of Arabs' fear of dispossession by Jewish immigrants. Here is what Jabotinsky says in his book "A Hebrew State" ("Medina Ivrit," Tel Aviv, 1937, pps. 71-79), published a few months after the break-out of the Arab Riots of 1936-1939 (which one UCLA historian glorifies as "The Great Arab Revolt").
There is no point talking about the possibility that the Arabs in Eretz Israel would consent to the Zionist plan while we are a minority here. I express it with such confidence not because I enjoy disappointing decent people but, simply, to save them disappointments: All these decent people, except those blind from birth, have understood already that this is something that is utterly illogical -- to obtain the Arabs' consent and goodwill to turn Eretz Israel from an Arabic country to a country with Jewish minority.
Every indigenous people, regardless of whether it is primitive or advanced, views its country as a national home and aspires to be and remain its sole and eternal landlord; it does not voluntarily agree to accommodate, not only new landlords, but even new partners or new participants. And our most misleading argument would be to rely on the fact that our agricultural settlements bring them economical advantages. Though this is an undisputed truth, there is no nation in the world that sold its national aspirations for bread and butter
So much for Zionists' naivete, denial and disrespect. Now to the core of the Arab objection to the Zionist plan.
Many of us still think in full honesty that a terrible misunderstanding has occurred, that the Arabs did not understand us, and that this is the reason why they oppose us; but if only we could explain to them how benevolent our intentions, they would stretch their hands back to us. This is a mistake that has been proven so again and again. I will bring one such incident.The Arab's argument is rather compelling, but Jabotinsky confronts them with an equally compelling moral dilemma:
Several years ago, when the late N. Sokolov visited Eretz Israel, and he was one of the most moderate and diplomatic Zionists at that time, he delivered an elaborate speech on this misunderstanding. He explained clearly how mistaken Arabs are in thinking that we wish to steal their property or dispossess them or oppress them.
"We do not even want to have a Jewish government, we want merely a government representing the League of Nations." Sokolov's speech received an immediate response in the main editorial of the Arab newspaper, Carmel, the content of which I convey here from memory:
"The Zionists" -- so wrote the Arab editor -- "are tormenting their nerves unnecessarily."
There is no misunderstanding here whatsoever.
The Arabs never doubted that the potential absorption capacity of Eretz Israel is enormous and, therefore, that it is possible to settle here enough Jews without dispossessing or constraining even a single Arab. It is obvious that "this is all" the Zionists want. But it is also obvious that this is precisely what the Arabs do not want; for, then, the Jews will turn into a majority and, from the nature of things, a Jewish government will be established, and the fate of the Arab minority will depend on Jewish good will; Jews know perfectly well what minority existence is like.
There is no misunderstanding here whatsoever.