Israel: The Two Halves of the Nation

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9780938245148: Israel: The Two Halves of the Nation
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Vision of Zionism as a national movement for all the people of Palestine. The unique, little known and long forgotten characteristics of Palestinian Zionism, which made the emergence of modern Israel possible. Told, in part, from the author's first hand experience. For the general American reader.

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About the Author:

The author is a graduate of the Hebrew Gymnasium of Jerusalem and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; at one time a scientist with the Weizmann Institute in Israel; currently a professor at the University of Alabama.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Everything written here is dedicated to Israel, to Palestine. Not as two separate entities but as one. . . In other times this same region was known by other names: "Judea," "Cana'an" . . . There have been many contenders for the role of leading it. Their conflicting claims had to be resolved by many means, not least of which was armed combat.

I have been witness to one such partial resolution, for this is how I view the war of 1948/49. I witnessed it from the inside of the upstart minority group that was willing to settle for half but was forced to take more, that was expected to be wiped out, but proved the stronger element.

Having sprung from within the Zionist movement and the Palestinian Hebrew Settlement, I feel a strong affinity to the world view that permeated us and to the ideology that underlay it. Discussing the forties, I cannot but refer to the Settlement in the first person as "we."

I tell of the forties in Palestine from first hand experience. I relate the history of Zionism as we understood it then. Mainly, Zionism was a process of self education. It was a movement that rebelled against Jewish traditions in the bulk, but distilled from them selectively the elements it needed. It was a movement that rolled the clock back thousands of years. It was a movement that considered Palestine foremost. It viewed the Jewish diaspora as its recruiting ground. Yet viewed it with contempt unless the diaspora responded and recreated itself in our image.

I am writing for and about all the people of Palestine. I feel great respect for all Palestinians, "Hebrew" and "Arab," who fought and who fell in 1948. I feel today that they were all serving one cause, trying to assure the country the best possible identity and leadership, even if they did not know it then, even if I did not know it then.

That is where Israel took a wrong turn. It had the clear opportunity to lead the country on its own terms. It had a clear opportunity to unite all its people in its own mold. Failing that, Israel jeopardized its mission and its future.

Zionism was a process of self renewal. Trial and error showed what it took to be a nation. Whatever it took, we reeducated ourselves to comply. By 1949, we had come a long way. Outsiders did not understand then, and everybody seems to be forgetting now, that without this process of remolding, modern Israel would not have been possible. But in 1949, the process was far from finished. This book is about the next step, the one Israel failed to take when it started regressing on the previous ones.

This book is about the "Palestinians," about their historic origins, about their claim to Palestine over and above just being there, about Israel's obligation to absorb them, over and above the natural obligation of any country to integrate all of its citizens.

Using insights that Zionist leaders have had over the years and corroborated from Jewish historical documents, the roots of the Palestinians are traced. They lead to ancient Judea, to ancient Israel. It is not for nothing that the fellahin frequent the tomb of Rachel and celebrate the memory of Moses. In many, many ways they are the better and more natural Zionists.

The uprooted Jewish people has always been less than a nation. It was somewhat like a head without a body. The early Zionists recognized that a disembodied head could not constitute a nation. They made heroic efforts to grow a new body. For a time, we believed that those efforts were successful. We know now that they have failed. The "Palestinians" are the missing body, left behind in place.

Many Israelis wish that the "Palestinians" were not there, that they vanish into thin air. If that happened, Israel would still be in deep trouble. Top heavy with brainpower and devoid of a labor pool, it already relies on imported labor in the style of Kuwait. Instead of a nation, it is becoming a ghetto, manned by "gentiles of the Sabbath," a living pitfall and a calamity waiting to happen. The "Palestinians" are not Israel's problem $-$ they are the solution!

I had these insights in the sixties. At that time I tried to express them to the Israeli public. In the late sixties Israel held all the keys. However, Israel elected to move in the opposite direction. The whole world regressed towards sectarian separatism and religious fanaticism. Israel let itself be carried with the wave. In the process, it lost even those Zionist values that, in the forties, had been well established. . . .

When I discuss the US, I also cannot refrain from saying "we." I am a naturalized American. I view my oath of allegiance very seriously. When I took it in 1971, I immediately informed Israel's minister of the interior of what I had done and suggested that he lift my Israeli citizenship. But the Israeli bureaucracy insisted on keeping me on its roster. I have an "American hat" and an "Israeli hat." I try not to mix them. I recognize that the two countries can have conflicting interests. However, for the most part, I find no conflict. With my American hat on, I find that the US should not offer Israel economic aid. With my Israeli hat on, I find that Israel should not accept any.

In either place, I am out of date and out of touch. . .

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