Shlomo Avineri? disgusting
My Arabic teacher suggested that maybe the Israelis would interpret the march as a threat to their security. So I wondered what the sniper training his gun on peaceful Palestinians from his watch-tower was thinking; if he was thinking of the Holocaust.
Anyway, the day before I had read Shlomo Avineri’s despicable essay in Haaretz:
One sametimes encounters the Palestinian argument that there is a basic injustice in the fact that they appear to have to pay the price for Europe’s crimes during the Holocaust. It’s true, of course, that Nazi Germany and its allies, and not the Palestinians, are those guilty of perpetrating the Holocaust.
Nonetheless, any argument that links the establishment of the State of Israel exclusively to the Holocaust ignores the fact that modern Zionism preceded the annihilation of the Jews in World War II, even if the Holocaust clearly strengthened the claim for Jewish sovereignty.
Yet the Arab argument that places all responsibility on Europe is not completely correct. When the Arab revolt against British rule in Palestine broke out in 1936, its aim was to change the British position, which had supported Jewish immigration to Palestine since the Balfour Declaration.
The revolt was also meant to hurt the Jewish community and discourage Jews who were planning to immigrate. The British, in time-honored colonial tradition, cruelly suppressed the revolt, assisted by the Jewish community and helped by the British Mandatory government.
Guilt for the Holocaust lies with Nazi Germany and its allies. But an untold number of Jews, perhaps as many as hundreds of thousands – including my grandparents from the Polish town of Makow Podhalanski – were not saved and did not reach Mandatory Palestine because of the position taken by the Arabs:
They succeeded in shutting the country’s gates during the darkest hour of the Jewish people. Anyone seeking reconciliation between us and the Palestinians must insist that both sides be attentive to the suffering of the other side, and that goes for the Palestinians as well as for us.
Put aside Avineri’s bullshit claim that the Holocaust “clearly strengthened the claim for Jewish sovereignty,” except in the obvious historical sense that guilt over the Holocaust contributed to the swell of support that led to the founding of Israel. (I think Avineri means “claim” normatively.) Avineri’s argument that “the Arab argument that places all responsibility on Europe is not completely correct,” because Arabs tried to shut the gates to Palestine in 1939, and Jewish immigration was cut off drastically, still, is considerably worse.
1939 was not the “darkest hour of the Jewish people.” Systematic extermination–genocide–had not started then. That wasn’t until 1942. What Avineri is saying, shorn of dis-ingenuousness, is that the Palestinians should have consented to national self-immolation because Jews were being persecuted in Europe, and because the Palestinian people didn’t accede to Jewish immigration as a component of a settler-colonial project, the same as any people would resist a settler-colonial project, they are responsible for the deaths of Jews who were not allowed into Palestine, even though the rest of the world turned them down, too.
Anyone can be held responsible for anything using such a ridiculous, fun-house measuring tool. Avineri is correct that responsibility should be shared. Nazis, Europeans generally; America, Australians. But anyone serious about distributing blame for the deaths of European Jewry wouldn’t resort to stateless Palestinians. The Jews of Europe were not desperate to flee from one conflict zone to another, anyway.
Avineri ducks and weaves around any phrasing edging close to: “Arabs/Palestinians are in part responsible for Jewish deaths in the shoah.” He does have a little shame. But there is no question that this is what he means. Otherwise, what’s the point of the essay? To narcissistically reflect on Jewish suffering? (That, too). To effect “reconciliation” between Arabs and Jews? Because Palestinians have something to be penitent about other than being born here?
Here’s a suggestion for Avineri, if he wants reconciliation, with no quotation marks: stop abusing the memory of the Holocaust to justify the abuse of the Palestinians, and stop blaming them for anti-Semitism and its worst manifestations.
Anti-Semitic is a classically European bigotry. A position that blames the Palestinians for not surrendering their territory to Zionist settlers is one that is creating hierarchies of human beings: classical racism. You don’t reconcile two national groups when you insist that one has less rights than the other. You inlay bigotry and breed fury.
Any day of the year, that would be despicable. But on the day that Jews commemorate the Holocaust, isn’t promoting bigotry more sickening, sad, pathetic, tragic?
Technorati Tags: Holocaust, Palestine, Shlomo Avineri, Shoah, Yom Hazikaron, Zionism
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