Kattan: Truman administration threatened sanctions against ‘brutal’ Israeli stance on refugees
Posted: 17 May 2010

I am reading From Coexistence to Conquest, by Victor Kattan, an English journalist-scholar (or “hackademic,” as Ilan Pappe once put it), an amazing work of archival archaeology, uncovering the trail of broken promises that is the history of international law and consensus on the Arab-Israeli conflict from Balfour to the Armistice Agreement of 1949.
One of Kattan’s most riveting chapters is about the return of the Palestinian refugees, which all the world sought in 1948. As the Nakba was commemorated over the weekend, I sought Kattan’s permission to reprint portions of that chapter. They follow my spiel.
Bear in mind a couple of points as you read. Leave aside the issue of the right of return in 2010. The right of return in 1948-9 was not controversial: the world recognized the principle and understood that equitable treatment of refugees, driven out by “terrorism,” as the U.S. State Department stated, was essential to peace in the region. Even the United States embraced the principle and some in the administration were willing to undertake sanctions in response to Israeli refusal.
 But Israel was intransigent and gamed the international bureaucracy. It had gotten its way through the Nakba–a state with a strong Jewish majority–and it now proceeded in a Never-again/no-one-will-tell-us-what-to-do manner. Note Israel’s political confidence in flouting U.S. policy.
In this way the argument absolutely mirrors the fight over the colonization of East Jerusalem. The world is against it, so is the U.S. Israel doesn’t care.
Note that Harry Truman is for the right of return. And note that the strongest moral voice in the discussion, U.N. mediator Folke Bernadotte, the Swedish diplomat who freed thousands from concentration camps during the Holocaust, whose clear statement concludes Kattan’s piece, was murdered by Jewish extremists in Jerusalem in 1948.
Kattan’s scholarship begins with the Lausanne Conference of 1949, which convened to try and get at the very least the 250,000 refugees from the Jewish portion of Partition back to their lands.

The Lausanne Conference officially opened on 27 April 1949. A month prior to this, the Archbishop of York told the House of Commons that: 
“They [the Palestinian Arab refugees] have been driven out of the land they have occupied for nearly a thousand years and are asking when are they going back to their homes. In many cases their homes have been taken over by the State of Israel and given to Jewish immigrants or have been destroyed or looted.
It would be breaking every law of justice if the United Nations accepted the position that these people must be permanently expelled from their homes.”
But the UN did not accept the position that the Palestinian Arabs should be permanently expelled from their homes and nor for that matter did the US Government. On 13 April, during the negotiations in Lausanne, Mark F. Ethridge, the US delegate on the Palestine Conciliation Commission (PCC) sent a secret memorandum to the US Secretary of State reporting on his talks with Comay, the second man at Israel’s Foreign Office in Sharett’s absence (Moshe Sharett was then the Foreign Minister of Israel).
In the memorandum Ethridge pointed out to Comay that ‘since Israel had once accepted [a] state with 400,000 Arabs in it she should be prepared to take back at least 250,000 refugees and compensate others’. At the time, there were 150,000 Arabs remaining in Israel. Ethridge was making the point that if Israel had really been sincere about accepting the 1947 UN Partition Plan with its population of 400,000 Arabs, then it should not have a problem with repatriating at least 250,000 of those Arabs which had been displaced during the war.
However, Comay responded by telling Ethridge that his suggestion was ‘completely impossible’. This prompted Ethridge to comment in his memo to US Secretary of State, Dean Acheson: 
“Israel does not intend to take back one refugee more than she is forced to take and she does not intend to compensate any directly if she can avoid it. Ben-Gurion and Comay have both argued that refugees are inevitable result of war and no state in modern history has been expected to repatriate them.
Both cite Baltic states and Turkey. They contend also that number greatly exaggerated and they can prove it. Israel refuses to accept any responsibility whatever for creation of refugees. I flatly told Ben-Gurion and Comay that while Commission was not tribunal to judge truth of contentions, I could not for moment accept that statement in face of Jaffa, Deir Yassin, Haifa and all reports that come to us from refugee organizations that new refugees are being created every day by repression and terrorism such as now being reported from Haifa.
I have repeatedly pointed out political weakness and brutality of their position on refugees but it has made little impression.”
…it is clear from the Israeli archives that their Foreign Ministry was pushing for the Palestinian Arab refugees to be resettled in the Arab states rather than be returned to Israel. In a letter to Mr de Boisanger, the French chairman of the PCC [UN Conciliation Commission for Palestine] Walter Eytan [director of the Israeli Foreign Ministry] wrote:
“There can be no return to the status quo ante, as I have been at pains to demonstrate, since the destruction wrought by war and the changes brought about by immigration have decisively and unalterably transformed the whole aspect of the country. The clock cannot be turned back … If an Arab refugee counts upon living again in the house he abandoned, or plying his trade in the workshop he formerly rented, or tilling the fields in the vicinity of the village he once knew, he is living under an illusion which it seems to me essential to dispel.”
On 29 May, Ben-Gurion received a letter from James G. McDonald, the first US Ambassador to Israel, by which the US President informed the Government of Israel that it was “seriously disturbed by the attitude of Israel with respect to a territorial settlement in Palestine and to the question of Palestine refugees”. The letter continued:
“As a member of the U.N. Palestine Conciliation Commission and as a nation which has consistently striven to give practical effect to the principles of the U.N., the United States Government has recently made a number of representations to the Israeli Government, concerning the repatriation of refugees who fled from conflict in Palestine.
These representations were made in conformity with the principles set forth in the resolution of the General Assembly of December 11th, 1948, and urged the acceptance of the principle of substantial repatriation and the immediate beginnings of repatriation on a reasonable scale which would be well within the numbers to be agreed in a final settlement.”
The letter reiterated that the Israeli Government “should entertain no doubt whatever” that the US Government expected it “to take responsible and positive action concerning the Palestine Refugees”. It then concluded:
“If the Government of Israel continues to reject the basic principles set forth by the resolution of the General Assembly of December 11, 1948 and the friendly advice offered by the United States Government for the sole purpose of facilitating a genuine peace in Palestine, the United States Government will regretfully be forced to the conclusion that a revision of its attitude toward Israel has become unavoidable.”
In response to this letter, Foreign Minister Sharett wrote a stern reply, verging on a rebuke, to McDonald, in which Israel disclaimed any responsibility for creating the Palestine refugee problem. He also rejected any idea of territorial compensation for land the Haganah/Israeli Army had acquired beyond the boundaries established by the UN Partition Plan.
An elderly Chaim Weizmann, who by 1948 had been elevated to the position of President of Israel, also joined in the fray, writing a personal letter to President Truman in which he claimed that the Palestinian refugees were ‘part of an aggressor group’. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, he wrote: “It was not the birth of Israel which created the Arab refugee problem, as our enemies now proclaim, but the Arab attempt to prevent that birth by armed force. These people are not refugees in the sense in which that term has been sanctified by the martyrdom of millions in Europe”.
The US Government did not, however, accept Israel’s view of its role in the 1948 conflict. Instead it issued Israel the following aide-mémoire:
“The United States Government regards the solution of the refugee problem as a common responsibility of Israel and the Arab States, which neither side should be permitted to shirk. It is for this reason that it has urged Israel to accept the principle of substantial repatriation and to begin immediate repatriation on a reasonable scale, and has urged the Arab States to accept the principle of substantial resettlement of refugees outside Palestine.”
The US Government envisaged a solution to the refugee problem, which involved both repatriation and resettlement as provided for in UN General Assembly resolution 194 (III). This show of strength from the US Government induced the Israelis to discuss figures for a potential refugee return between themselves.
In July, Sharett sent a telegram to Aubrey Eban, Israel’s UN Ambassador in New York, in which he said that he had been authorised ‘to admit total 100,000 on peace’, which included 25,000 refugees they claimed had already ‘infiltrated’ back into Israel. In other words, they envisaged a net refugee return of 65,000 people. However, Dean Acheson, the US Secretary of State did not think the Israeli offer of 100,000 met the provisions of paragraph 11 of UN General Assembly resolution 194 (III). On 13 August, Truman replied to Weizmann:
“With regard to the general question of the Arab refugees, you may recall that the General assembly resolution of December 11 provided that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return.
I am, therefore, glad to be reassured by your letter that Israel is ready to cooperate with the United Nations and the Arab states for a solution of the refugee problem; that Israel pledges itself to guarantee the civil rights of all minorities; that Israel accepts the principles of compensation for land abandoned by Arabs; that Israel declares its readiness to unfreeze Arab accounts under certain conditions; that Israel has set up a custodian of absentee property; and that Israel is ready to readmit members of Arab families.”
Truman added that he ‘would be less than frank’ if he did not tell Weizmann that he was ‘disappointed’ when he read the reply of the Israeli Government written by its Foreign Minister Sharett. He wrote that he thought the views of the Israeli Government ‘are in many respects at variance with the General Assembly resolution of December 11’ and failed ‘to take into account the principles regarding territorial compensation advanced by the United States as indicated in our Aide-Mémoire of June 24’.
[Israel continues to be refractory, saying that the refugees must become citizens of the Arab countries.]
On 27 October, Eban, Israel’s UN Ambassador sent a letter to Mr Yalçin, the Turkish member of the UNCCP, in which he wrote:
“The Government of Israel, in the fulfilment of its duty to preserve the security, welfare and, indeed, the very existence of the State, must retain full responsibility for deciding at which point the return of refugees would prejudice the prospect of Arabs and Jews living in peace with each other, and at which point such return would raise insurmountable practical difficulties at any time.
 It may be added that recent developments in the Middle East have aggravated our fear that any measure of Arab repatriation is liable to prove gravely prejudicial to Israel’s security.”
Israel seemed to be relenting on its offer to resettle 100,000 Arabs, which the UNCCP thought was unacceptable in any event, as they wanted Israel to readmit 250,000. On 15 November, in his reply to Eban, Yalçin wrote: 
“… in the light of the statement made in your letter that ‘recent developments in the Middle East have aggravated our fear that any measure of Arab repatriation is liable to prove gravely prejudicial to Israel’s security’ it is not clear that the Government of Israel is still prepared to accept within its borders a total Arab population of 250,000, in accordance with its offer made to the Commission in Lausanne. The Commission assumes that the terms of this offer remain unchanged.”
On the general question of the right of refugees to return, the Commission would again point out that the Israeli position does not conform to the terms of paragraph 11 of the resolution of 11 December 1948 which was passed by the General Assembly after listening to the several interested parties.
Talks between the Arab states and Israel broke down as Israel refused to relent from its position of barring a refugee return. As mentioned already, the US State Department threatened Israel with financial sanctions, but they were forced to back down, due to possible opposition from Congress where continued funding for the Economic Survey Mission was being made dependent on the progress of peace talks at Lausanne.[xxxvii] It may, however, be questioned whether Israel’s uncompromising position at the Lausanne talks did itself any good as it could have ended the conflict then and there had it been more willing to compromise. The US delegate at Lausanne was certainly upset:
“If there is to be any assessment of blame for stalemate at Lausanne, Israel must accept primary responsibility … Israel’s refusal to abide by the GA assembly resolution, providing those refugees who desire to return to their homes, etc., has been the primary factor in the stalemate. Israel has failed even to stipulate under what conditions refugees wishing to return might return; she has given no definition of what she regards as peaceful co-existence of Arabs and Jews in Israel and she consistently returns to the idea that her security would be endangered; that she cannot bear the economic burden and that she has no responsibility for refugees because of Arab attacks upon her.
I have never accepted the latter viewpoint. Aside from her general responsibility for those who have been driven out by terrorism, repression and forcible rejection.”
He continued: 
“Israel was a state created upon an ethical concept and should rest upon an ethical base. Her attitude toward refugees is morally reprehensible and politically short-sighted. She has no security that does not rest in friendliness with her neighbours. She has no security that does not rest upon the basis of peace in the Middle East. Her position as conqueror demanding more does not make for peace. It makes for more trouble.”
In his memoirs, the UN Mediator Bernadotte recorded his recollections of a meeting he had in August 1948 with Moshe Sharett (in Hebrew, Shertok), the Provisional Government of Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, in which he told him that he could not understand why the Zionists were so hostile to the UN and to the Palestinian Arab refugees.
His account of the meeting, when he tried to persuade Sharett to ask his government to review its policies, which he dictated to his secretary, Miss Barbro Wessel, and which were published posthumously in Sweden were as follows: 
“In the first place [the Provisional Government of Israel] must surely realize that there could be no longer any doubt as to the continued existence of the Jewish state in Palestine. In the second, it must also recognize that what mattered most for the Jews was to increase their good-will in the world at large, and that they ought to set themselves forthwith to counteract the prevailing hatred between Arabs and Jews – whatever happened, the Jews must always reckon to have Arabs for their neighbours.
To take one example: the Israeli Government had had a very great opportunity in connection with the Arab refugee question. It had missed that opportunity. It had shown nothing but hardness and obduracy towards those refugees. If instead of that it had shown a magnanimous spirit, if it had declared that the Jewish people, which itself had suffered so much, understood the feelings of the refugees and did not with to treat them in the same way as it itself had been treated, its prestige in the world at large would have been immeasurably increased.”
Alas, Bernadotte’s advice was ignored. The refugees were prevented from returning to their homes and the UN Mediator was assassinated by a Lehi hit squad allegedly dispatched on the orders of Yitzhak Shamir, who was elected Israel’s Prime Minister in 1983. As is clear from the records of the negotiations in Israel’s own archives, some of which have been reproduced in the text above, the Jordanians and the Syrians were prepared to resettle a substantial number of Palestinian refugees in their territories in the interests of peace.
However, they also desired a refugee return, especially for those Palestinians who had families remaining in the territories occupied by Israel in 1948.

‘NY Review of Books’ goes after the Israel lobby, Jewishly
Posted: 17 May 2010

The NY Review of Books has an important piece in its forthcoming issue on the idea that the American Jewish establishment has rigidly sided with Israeli leadership and abandoned liberal American values and endangered the Zionist project. I.e., the New York Review is slamming the Israel lobby from a Jewish place. Or giving it a friendly slap–the word “lobby” is never used. The author is Peter Beinart:

In Israel itself, voices from the left, and even center, warn in increasingly urgent tones about threats to Israeli democracy. (Former Prime Ministers Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak have both said that Israel risks becoming an “apartheid state” if it continues to hold the West Bank. This April, when settlers forced a large Israeli bookstore to stop selling a book critical of the occupation, Shulamit Aloni, former head of the dovish Meretz Party, declared that “Israel has not been democratic for some time now.”) But in the United States, groups like AIPAC and the Presidents’ Conference patrol public discourse, scolding people who contradict their vision of Israel as a state in which all leaders cherish democracy and yearn for peace.
The result is a terrible irony. In theory, mainstream American Jewish organizations still hew to a liberal vision of Zionism. On its website, AIPAC celebrates Israel’s commitment to “free speech and minority rights.” The Conference of Presidents declares that “Israel and the United States share political, moral and intellectual values including democracy, freedom, security and peace.” These groups would never say, as do some in Netanyahu’s coalition, that Israeli Arabs don’t deserve full citizenship and West Bank Palestinians don’t deserve human rights. But in practice, by defending virtually anything any Israeli government does, they make themselves intellectual bodyguards for Israeli leaders who threaten the very liberal values they profess to admire….
Not only does the organized American Jewish community mostly avoid public criticism of the Israeli government, it tries to prevent others from leveling such criticism as well. In recent years, American Jewish organizations have waged a campaign to discredit the world’s most respected international human rights groups.

The piece concludes with good sociological insight and a call on American Jews to revive Zionism among the young, based on liberal anti-Sheikh Jarrah principles:

This obsession with victimhood lies at the heart of why Zionism is dying among America’s secular Jewish young. It simply bears no relationship to their lived experience, or what they have seen of Israel’s…. The year 2010 is not, as Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed, 1938. The drama of Jewish victimhood—a drama that feels natural to many Jews who lived through 1938, 1948, or even 1967—strikes most of today’s young American Jews as farce.
But there is a different Zionist calling, which has never been more desperately relevant. It has its roots in Israel’s Independence Proclamation, which promised that the Jewish state “will be based on the precepts of liberty, justice and peace taught by the Hebrew prophets,” and in the December 1948 letter from Albert Einstein, Hannah Arendt, and others to The New York Times, protesting right-wing Zionist leader Menachem Begin’s visit to the United States after his party’s militias massacred Arab civilians in the village of Deir Yassin. It is a call to recognize that in a world in which Jewish fortunes have radically changed, the best way to memorialize the history of Jewish suffering is through the ethical use of Jewish power.
…What if American Jewish organizations brought these young people [protesting Sheikh Jarrah] to speak at Hillel? What if this was the face of Zionism shown to America’s Jewish young?

A few thoughts:
–The piece is undoubtedly important, because the New York Review of Books has power. Maybe now Rick Hertzberg of the New Yorker will write about the Sheikh Jarrah protest he attended. David Remnick will move further left on the issue. More centrist American achievement Jews will finally come out against the colonization program and even the East Jerusalem messianism, because they realize it won’t hurt their careers; Robert Silvers of the NY Review is saying the water is safe. Moshe Halbertal is at the Sheikh Jarrah protests, so is Bernard Avishai; they have helped to move the left-center, and good for them.
–The piece demonstrates the fact that the NY Review is a follower not a leader. All these ideas have been expressed before in Jewish life. Haaretz has expressed them, Jerry Haber at Magnes Zionist has expressed them, Rebecca Vilkomerson at Jewish Voice for Peace, Cecilie Surasky at JVP, Richard Silverstein, Daniel Fleshler, I could go on and on. Max Blumenthal has been a siren on the fact that Jewish-American liberal values are being corrupted by Israel’s militarism. Tony Judt said verbatim four years ago that American Jewish leadership thinks it’s 1938 and they’re nuts. The New York Review turns to none of these intellectuals who have done the tilling of the hard ground. It turns to one of George Bush’s useful idiots, to echo Judt, in Beinart, a man who helped push the U.S. to war in Iraq and who worked for AIPAC during the 2008 election and has evidently bethought his attachment.
–Beinart and the NY Review nowhere credit Walt and Mearsheimer here. The NY Review has never reviewed their bombshell book. But their ideas are remarkably similar to the ideas that Beinart is straining through his latke strainer, four years on. Walt and Mearsheimer are for the two-state solution, or were. Again, followership. Mike Desch has talked about the disastrous role of Never-again-ism in our foreign policy. Yes the Review has an enormous effect inside Jewish life, but does official Jewish life have a damn clue about where the conversation is now? No, they are following the conversation…
Beinart’s piece is avowedly parochial. And it is also very smart in many places. Maybe it represents a break with Marty Peretz? Yes: I hope he reaches the Jews, as I hope that J Street gets Jewish congressmen to stop speaking in tongues. But can you have any larger moral authority if you don’t talk about the massacre in Gaza and the Kent-State treatment by the Israeli army of Palestinian demonstrators? Beinart won’t go near either of these truths.

‘Washington Post’ says boycott of West Bank products hurts Palestinians
Posted: 17 May 2010 07:21 AM PDT

Here’s an article in the Washington Post about the Palestinian boycott of West Bank settlement products. Unbelievable take on it: that it’s the Palestinians who are provoking bad will by boycotting products made in settlements that of course are part of the good will Israel is promoting towards a fair and just peace. When really, the situation is just horrible for the Palestinians who work in and help build the settlements. They take these jobs to help feed their families yet in the end the goal of the settlements is to rob them of their homes. Essentially they are working to dispossess themselves.
I see parallels with what is happening in the Gulf Coast. Fisherman who were making an honest living are forced to work jobs for BP, the company that has destroyed their livelihood, so they can feed their families.
At least the Post has brought attention to the non-violent movement.
[Weiss adds: Note the statement in the piece that BDS may well be a cover for violent Hamas goals.]

Chomsky and Zionism
Posted: 17 May 2010 07:17 AM PDT

My money says that Noam Chomsky will get in to the West Bank within a day or two; exiling him is killing the Israeli brand. Speaking from Amman, Chomsky has likened Israel to a Stalinist regime in its denying him entry, Amira Hass reports.
Yesterday I said that Noam Chomsky is a left Zionist. I asked Norman Finkelstein about his friend. “The accurate term is a CULTURAL Zionist, meaning he (like his father) was (and remains) committed to the revival of Hebrew culture in Palestine.  Politically, before 1974 he supported a version of binationalism but after 1974 believed it was not politically feasible anymore and supported the international consensus for a 2-state settlement, although fully aware of its limitations.”
Robert Barsky’s superb bio of Chomsky fills the picture in somewhat. Barsky says that as a young man Chomsky was associated with Avukah and Hashomer Hatzair, leftwing Zionist movements that promoted Jewish emigration to Israel because of their concerns with anti-Semitism in the west. But Chomsky did not believe in a Jewish state. “The creation of such a state would necessitate carving up the territory and marginalizing, on the basis of religion, a significant portion of its poor and oppressed population, rather than uniting them on the basis of socialist principles,” Barsky writes. By the 1970s, Chomsky endorsed “a gradual move towards binationalism.”

I prefer the word ’shared Jerusalem’
Posted: 17 May 2010 05:55 AM PDT

but Tom Toles is the only one speaking up about the issue in the Washington Post…toles

War is Peace. ‘Settlements’ are ‘Jewish housing.’
Posted: 16 May 2010

If only George Orwell could come back from the dead.
In a column today titled “Semantic Minefields,” New York Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt asks whether “new construction authorized by Israel in East Jerusalem” should be called “Jewish ‘housing’ or ‘settlements’?” I wonder…
Here’s more from Hoyt’s column:

Nathan Dodell of Rockville, Md., said it was “tendentious and arrogant” to use the word “settlements” four times in the article when the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has explicitly rejected it in relation to East Jerusalem. Obama has used the term himself to refer to construction in East Jerusalem, and [Helene] Cooper told me, “I called them settlements because that’s the heart of the dispute between the Israelis and the United States: settlement construction in Arab East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want for an eventual Palestinian state.”
But to Dodell, she was taking sides. He asked why she didn’t use a neutral term like “housing construction.”
Settlement is a charged word in this context, because it suggests something less than permanent on someone else’s land. Israel argues that all of Jerusalem is its undivided capital, a claim not recognized by the United States and most of the world. Articles by Times reporters in Jerusalem do generally use words like “housing” instead of “settlement.” Still, Ethan Bronner, the bureau chief, said it would be unwise to adopt a hard and fast rule, because some areas of the city taken by Israel in 1967 had long been Jewish neighborhoods while others, built more recently, had the feeling of settlements.
I think Cooper should have found a more neutral term. As with Katrina, it is best to use language as precise as possible. But like Bronner, I don’t think a rigid rule is the solution.

Using the term “settlement” is itself a euphemism. “Colonies” is probably the best way to describe the illegal Jewish areas built on Palestinian land. Like other colonial-settler enterprises, these areas privilege Jews over the indigenous Palestinians, decisions are made by Israelis for the benefit of Jews only, and economic exploitation of Palestinian resources takes place routinely, among other hallmarks of colonialism.
Hoyt thinks “settlements” is a charged word because it merely “suggests” that Israelis are living on Palestinian land. It seems like Hoyt is woefully ignorant about the facts in Palestine: the use of the word “settlement” is factually accurate because Israeli Jews who live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are stealing Palestinian land, period. They are living on land that is not theirs, and any agreement within the two-state solution framework will have to mandate that these colonies be dismantled.
International law is clear. But apparently, Hoyt believes that a neutral term like “Jewish housing” should be used, because Israel argues that all of Jerusalem is theirs, while the rest of the world and international law say otherwise.
Using the term “Jewish housing” is complete hasbara. How can you deny Jews the right to live somewhere, a layperson could reasonably ask, if they see the term “Jewish housing” in regards to the row about East Jerusalem?
Sometimes I forget: facts and the truth mean little to the Times when it comes to Israel/Palestine. War is peace, settlements are Jewish housing.

Chomsky says Israelis were upset that he was only lecturing at a Palestinian school
Posted: 16 May 2010
Al Jazeera interview with the great linguist from Amman, below. “I’m not very angry about it, I was disappointed and surprised…” Chomsky wasn’t the only one turned back: “My daughter and I were informed that we were denied entry.”

Q. “The Interior Ministry is saying that it was a misunderstanding.”
“I can’t see anything to misunderstand.” Chomsky says he was invited to give several lectures at Birzeit. “I do it all the time in many countries…. What was conveyed to me in the discussion with the official…He was receiving instructions from the Ministry of the Interior….[The concerns] One was that the government of Israel does not like the kinds of things I say… The second was that they seemed upset about the fact that I was just taking an invitation from Birzeit and I had no plans to go on to speak in Israeli universities, as I had done many times in the past but not this time.”
I wonder if that felt like delegitimization, BDS to the Israelis?

A thought from Jean Amery
Posted: 16 May 2010
The thought is this: that the judgment against the torturer that persists in the mind of the tortured has a moral authority unequaled by any verdict of official justice. Thus Amery offers a clue to the metaphysical lie underneath the political lie of omission in Barack Obama’s assurance to Americans that he would “look to the future not the past.”

Though certain acts carried out under the previous administration were declared to have been torture and henceforth illegal, Obama in effect pledged to hold no-one accountable for those acts. This has meant in practice a denial by the government of appeals by the tortured to bring to light the evidence of their sufferings.
Jean Amery was the pen name of Hans Mayer, an Austrian-born essayist whose resistance work in Nazi-occupied Belgium led to his internment in Auschwitz, Buchenwald, and Bergen-Belsen. The following passage comes from his book of memoirs and speculative essays, At the Mind’s Limits; the title of the chapter is “Resentments”:

When I stand by my resentments, when I admit that in deliberating our problem I am “biased,” I still know that I am the captive of the moral truth of the conflict. It seems logically senseless to me to demand objectivity in the controversy with my torturers, with those who helped them, and with the others, who merely stood by silently. The atrocity as atrocity has no objective character. Mass murder, torture, injury of every kind are objectively nothing but chains of physical events, describable in the formalized language of the natural sciences. They are facts within a physical system, not deeds within a moral system.
The crimes of National Socialism had no moral quality for the doer, who always trusted in the norm-system of his Fuehrer and his Reich. The monster, who is not chained by his conscience to his deed, sees it from his viewpoint only as an objectification of his will, not as a moral event. The Flemish SS-man Wajs, who—-inspired by his German masters–beat me on the head with a shovel handle whenever I didn’t work fast enough, felt the tool to be an extension of his hand and the blows to be emanations of his psycho-physical dynamics.
Only I possessed, and still possess, the moral truth of the blows that even today roar in my skull, and for that reason I am more entitled to judge; not only more than the culprit but also more than society—-which thinks only about its continued existence.
The social body is occupied merely with safeguarding itself and could not care less about a life that has been damaged. At the very best, it looks forward, so that such things don’t happen again. But my resentments are there in order that the crime become a moral reality for the criminal, in order that he be swept into the truth of his atrocity.


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