Thoughts out of Season

by on November 17, 2007 · 13 comments

in World News

Published in the forthcoming November/December issue of
Because People Matter (BPM)

“Yet, the identity between the state and the people is itself a myth.”

Are All Critics of Israel’s Policies Anti-Semitic?

It’s difficult in the US today to write or say anything critical of Israel without being accused of being “anti- Semitic” or a “Jew hater,” or if you are Jewish, a “self-hating Jew.” It is a very effective method of stifling discussion. While there are indeed anti-Semites who hate Israel simply because they hate Jews, it is a great disservice to essential debate when the accusation is used improperly. Recently, former President Jimmy Carter was attacked in the pages of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz for being an anti-Semite for his book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. Scholars John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt have also been labeled anti-Semites for their writings on “the Israeli lobby.”

During the 1960s, three Jewish intellectuals influenced how I viewed the world: journalist I. F. Stone, MIT linguist Noam Chomsky, and the utopian philosopher, Herbert Marcuse. Stone and Chomsky criticized Israel for the oppressive treatment of the Palestinians and for building settlements on Palestinian lands. In the Hebrew edition of One Dimensional Man, Marcuse called for a social transformation, a “human liberation,” that included all groups, even the forlorn Palestinians. This Enlightenment dream of a universal human liberation has since faded into a sorry cloud of nationalistic ethno-decrepitude.

I.F. Stone was initially a strong advocate of the establishment of a Jewish state. Yet, he consciously spoke out against the denial of Palestinian rights and the denial of the denial. He viewed Israel’s policies as counterproductive because they fed the cycle of violence. He complained about the repressive atmosphere in the US that suppressed examination and discussion of this critical issue. He was attacked by Israel’s supporters as being “anti-Semitic,” a preposterous claim given Stone’s indisputable strong support for Israel’s existence.

Stone was a critical Zionist-emotionally committed to Israel’s existence, yet critical of its repressive policies. He complained that he was “ostracized” whenever he tried to speak about Israel. He said it was rare for dissidents on the Middle East to enjoy even “a fleeting voice in the American press.” He observed that Israel was creating a dilemma for world Jewry which in the outside world benefited from secular and pluralistic societies. Stone wrote: “In Israel, Jewry finds itself defending a society in which mixed marriages cannot be legalized, in which the ideal is racist and exclusionist.”

Noam Chomsky, a leading critic of Israel’s violation of Palestinian rights, has also been attacked as an anti-Semite and a “self-hating Jew. He has also been attacked by the likes of Alan Dershowitz, who just recently led an indefensible but successful witch-hunt to deny tenure to another Jewish dissident intellectual, Norman Finkelstein. In books and essays, Chomsky maintains that Israel and the United States have been the leading “rejectionists” of a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Organizations like the Anti-Defamanation League (ADL) and the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), part of what Professors Walt and Meirsheimer call “the Israeli lobby,” have adopted smear tactics against anybody criticizing the Israeli occupation. It is also forbidden to criticize Israel’s “separation wall,” which confiscates additional Palestinian lands and fragments their villages. If you raise the issue of WMDs (nuclear, biological, and chemical), or mention Israel’s failure to abide by the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT), again you may be accused of anti-Semitism. You will be told that Israel is a “special case” and doesn’t need to abide by international treaties or the Geneva conventions like other nations. If you argue that Israel needs to be held to the same standards of international law as other countries, you may be attacked as an “anti-Semite.”

Where does this blind and unconditional emotional devotion to Israel stem from? Certainly, European pogroms against Jews and the subsequent Nazi holocaust explain why Western powers and the UN felt a need to give “Palestine” to the Jewish people as a kind of “war reparation.” Nevertheless, Israel was only given about half (53%) of former Palestine. The other side of the UN bargain, promising Palestinians”self-determination in the rest of Palestine has not been upheld. Since the founding of Israel in 1948, Israel’s borders have illegally expanded with every war. To this day, no one knows where the borders of Israel end!

Zionism defines Israel as a state of the Jews, by the Jews, and for the Jews. Israel claims to be the representative of all Jewish people throughout the world. If one declares an absolute identity between any particular Israeli government and its policies, and the universal interests of all Jewish people, it is easy to understand how criticism of Israel could be seen as “anti-Semitic.

Yet, the identity between the state and the people is itself a myth. The notion that because of the horrors of the Holocaust, present and future Israeli governments should be given an unconditional blank check for their behavior through the remainder of history is absurd. Frankly, no government deserves that kind of unconditional devotion!

Fortunately, there is more diversity of opinion among Jews than the apologists of Israel would like to admit. From regular readings of Haaretz, I get the impression that there is a lot more open discussion in Israel than in the United States, which just signed a deal to give Israel 30 billion dollars over the next ten years. For example, the Israeli organization Peace Now argues that the settlements on Palestinian lands are obstacles to peace that must be removed. They emphasize that present US and Israeli policies are unacceptable because they feed the cycle of violence that does damage to both Palestinians and Jews.

Obviously there are dissident Jews beyond Peace Now existing in Israel who recognize the danger of the one-dimensional nationalism that reduces all Jewish people to an immediate identity with Israel’s expansionist state policies. One example is the Israeli “refuseniks,” soldiers who risk imprisonment rather than take part in what they consider an “unjust occupation.”

Throughout history there has been a critical tradition of Jewish dissent and Socratic questioning beyond AIPAC’S suffocating censorial reach. Jewish dissidents, such as Albert Einstein, Martin Buber, and Sigmund Freud, voiced their dissent over what was occurring in Israel. A number of these oppositional voices have been published in an excellent book entitled Prophets Outcast: A Century of Dissident Jewish Writing about Zionism and Israel.

Historically, the Israeli colonization of Palestine displayed patterns similar to the European colonization of America, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. The indigenous peoples were dehumanized, ethnically cleansed, and forcefully relocated into “reservations,” (“Bantustans, “refugee camps” and “cantons”) to make room for conquering settlers. The expropriation of native lands and the violence done to indigenous peoples was an inevitable consequence of such colonization. A group of new Israeli historians (Benny Morris, Illan Pappe, Avi Schlaim, and Tom Segev) are only now beginning to expose the violent history of the colonization and “ethnic cleansing of Palestine.” Telling the truth is not anti-Semitism.

Richard Nadeau has been a peace and environmental activist since the 1960s. He lives in Sacramento and is a writer and editor of Sacramento’s bi-monthly journal Because People Matter

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Richard November 17, 2007 at 5:45 pm

Price controls do not work no matter who tries them, I suggest the government read some history.


avatar Richard Nadeau November 17, 2007 at 7:17 pm

Yes, I agree, its a good day for a banana fish sandwich! Lets hope that the price of a banana fish sandwich remains stable.

Also, govenrments don’t read history and seldom learn form it, they just make it – often unconsciously, emotionally, and against their people’s genuine long term interests. No blank checks!


avatar OB Joe November 18, 2007 at 10:43 pm

The difference that you make is very important – criticism of Israel is not criticism of the Jewish people, who have a right to live, just like any other people. But in establishing their own land, they ended up oppressing the Palestinians. Of course, some Palestinians, and some in the Middle East deny that the holocaust ever happened. But many Israelis deny that the Palestinians are being oppressed.
There is anti-Semiticism, as Jews could not buy a house in La Jolla until the early 1960s. There are still subtle ways that prejudice against Jews comes out within this country still. However, many of Pres. Bush’s neo-con policy people are Jewish and supportive of Israel.
Yet, we all just cannot sweep through our generalizations with broad brushes; for example, the Anti-Defamation League has done a lot of good things – for other minorities as well.
The main thing, though, I got out of your piece was that there is a constant atmosphere still in this country where Israel critics are slammed by the press and powers to be.


avatar Molly Maquire November 18, 2007 at 10:02 pm

I must be getting older because I remember a Rick Nadeau as the head of Greenpeace in San Diego. Is this the same RN?


avatar anon anarchist November 18, 2007 at 11:09 pm

hey, i thought you guys were into ‘no borders’. how can you advocate borders in one region and not another?


avatar Richard Nadeau November 19, 2007 at 4:48 pm

Molly: Yep – The same but hopefully older and wiser RN.

OB Joe:

There are no sweeping statements about the ADL, just a particlular observation about how they contribute to a repressive/ censorial climate regarding discussions of Israel.

Also, there is no claim anywhere in my essay that prejudice against Jews does not exist. But how does that prejudice justify the systemic prejudice suffered by the Palestinians whose main crime is that they are not Jewish? So the point is not that there is no longer any anti-semitism, but that one form f prejudice does not justify the others. Also, i have heard people say that all Jews are alike and they are incapable of critical thought on Israel. That notion of a one dimensional opinion among Jews feeds antisemtism I am fortunate ot have read and met many complex, decent, and caring Jewish people in the peace and environmental movements who do not fit the stereotype.

Anon Anarchist

The critique is of a state that is expanding borders through military force in violation of the UN charter.

Hitler was a “no borders” guy in the opposite sense than we usually use it -the Nazi wehrmatcht marched across numerous borders and militarily occupied other countries! Osama Bin Laden is also a no borders guy and lives nowhere and everywhere.

Are there pathological forms of anarchism in the interstate system?

Context and historical specifity are important. rn


avatar Monty Reed Kroopkin January 10, 2008 at 8:07 am


Comparisons between Zionism and European colonialism need to also discuss what is less similar about the immigration resulting in the current Israeli Jewish population, i.e., Sephardic populations from North Africa and Middle East, etc., and also the small numbers of Jews already in Palestine prior to Zionism, and of course also discuss the issues of diaspora (regardless of duration of absense from the region that the Roman Empire dubbed “Palestine”, are Jews included among the “indigenous peoples” of the region?) and the tendency of many anti-Zionists to accept Palestinian refugee rights to live in Palestine, but dismiss Jewish diaspora rights to the same. By this I do not intend an equation between a right of “return” and any right of “national” self-determination (and this distinction is one I do insist on making).

The article did not take that up. It is really understandable, as it would need a whole article of its own, with exploration of nationalism, statism, refugee rights, “race”, and all the complications. Regarding race and nationality questions, one Jewish critic of Zionism, if I recall correctly the name was Abram Leon (a high ranking member of the Fourth International who was a victim of the Nazi’s) wrote a book which asserts that today’s Palestinian Arabs are descendants of the Jewish peasant population during the Roman era). Still, although the last paragraph of the article is weaker than the rest of it, the issues raised cannot be emphasized enough in peace movement discussions about imperialism and the Middle East.

Monty Reed Kroopkin


avatar Richard Nadeau January 10, 2008 at 2:39 pm

I stand by my article as written, especially, and most importantly, the last paragragh. No apolgies. You really should read Illan Pappe’s book, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, if you want to understand why I say this. 400 Palestinian villages wiped off the face of the earth in just months creating over 700,000 refugees. Did Nazi violence against the jews justify the Jewish massacres of Palestinians? Not in my moral universe.

I also stand by the notion that it is a colonizing movement, as Herzl correctly pointed out it was formed within the context of European colonialism. It has gone from the original 53 % control (given to it by the UN) to controlling over 82 % of Palestine, precisely in the name of Jewish diaspora rights. What’s that about, if not continued colonization? Take a look at a map of the current West Bank if you really want to open your eyes and see whats occuring.

The Jews were given diaspora rights in 53 % of Palestine. Are you saying that under these rights from 2000 years ago that they can control all of what was ancirent Israel including parts of Lebanon and Syria? in my view, hat’s a reactionary position given whats going on in the West Bank where each year new “jewish settlements are forcing Palestinians to loose their homes.

And be careful about going from Zionism, a justification for the creation of Israel (which I do not dispute) to a reactive neo-zionism -a justification of its expansionist policy based on a situation that existed 2,00O years ago. Currently, it is not the Jews of Israel (which is a nuclea power and the fourth largest military on the earth) that are threatened with extinction, but the Palestinian people.


avatar Richard Nadeau January 10, 2008 at 10:41 pm

Note: There is a typo above. Pappe claims that the major portion of “”ethnic cleanising’ was accomplished in 1948 , when he estimates two hundred villages were erased from the face of the earth and several hundred thousand expelled. The Palestinains call this period the NAKBA, the catastrophe. For them it was a catastrophy created by a people fleeing a catastrophe. To me this makes it tragic.

The other two hundred villages were erased in the next four years, so that in five years 400 villages were destroyed.

The term “cleansing,” according to Pappe, was actually used as part of the systemic policy of expulsions and compulsive transfers. He relies on newly released Israeli archives to validate these claims. The notion of voluntary transfers is critiqued.

Ideally, I don’t like the idea of an ethnically based state, and would rather see a secular state where Jews and Palestinians were equal citizens with equal rights. But I am a dreamer, I admit.


avatar Monty Reed Kroopkin January 11, 2008 at 8:04 am

Let’s not attack a straw man. I oppose all statism and Zionism is no exception. And I do not dispute the data you cite regarding the treatment of Palestinian Arabs.

But Zionism should not be reduced to a variant of the European colonialism which formed such a large part (although not the whole) of its originating context. Despite much similarity, there are distinctions which have to be addressed. Most Jews now in Israel are NOT of European ancestry. And Jews are among the “indigenous peoples” of the region.


avatar Richard Nadeau January 12, 2008 at 8:10 am


I said this to someone else who incorrectly accused me of not mentioning my Jewish intellectual teachers (Chomsky, Marcuse, and I.F. Stone) in my essay. Now I’ll say it to you ! You really should read what I wrote, and note the particular words used. When historians make historical comparisons arguing that phenomenon are “similar,” it is not the same as saying that they are “identical” or “the same.” Frankly, that is your “reductionist” performative, not mine.

I did not say the conquest or colonization of Palestine was “identical” or “reducable” to the European conquest of America, South Africa, etc. I said they were “similar.” For instance, the Zionist myth that Palestine was “a land without a people, for a people without a land” was repeated in different but similar forms in North America, South Africa, and New Zealand regarding the “Virgin lands” and “frontiers” that were being settled. All of them were similar in that they treated the dispossessed natives with contempt and developed self-justifying narratives based upon denial and denial of the denial. Certainly, there are some differences in each example of colonization –in America, in South Africa, in New Zealand, and in Palestine etc. However, to say that there are “similarities” is not to deny particular “differences” and disparities in each comparison. Had I wanted to say that they were the same, I clearly would have said they were “identical.” When Jimmy Carter wrote the book PEACE NOT APARTHIED, he was also referring to a similarity, not an identity as many of his Zionist critics claimed.

Also, as you well know, I have admitted several times to you in personal conversations that I am aware that there was a small number of Jews who remained in Palestine after the Roman period. There were about ten thousand in Palestine at the beginning of the 19th century, but they still constituted a minority. I do not think that changes my argument about the “similarities.” So for you to raise this point in this manner now, to make an issue of it as if we had never discussed it before, is somewhat disingenuous and troubling.

There were also some Christians, Druze, communities etc. living in Palestine. But the majority of the population in Palestine was the Arab population, and they were the vast majority for close to 2000 years. Also if we go back even further, it is a fact that the Israeli tribes conquered other people in the region when they founded ancient Israel. Can those people now come back and make claims on the land taken form them several thousand years ago because a small number of them stuck around Palestine?? What a bloody and hellish earth it would be if everyone could go back and claim possession of the land based upon what happened thousands of years ago.

Furthermore, Herzl, Jabotinsky, and other founding ethnic nationalists in the Zionist movement, actually used the language of “colonization” when they referred to Palestine. Many Jewish historians, both Israeli and Americans, have made similar comparisons, and I can provide you with a long list of books and quotes supporting my claim if you are interested in researching them. If you are relying on Joan Peters hoax book entitled FROM TIME IMMEMORIAL, or Alan Dershowitsz’s writings for your source, than I can at least understand where your coming from.

Here is a quote from the Zionist Jabotinsky that pulls no punches in describing the notion that what happened in Palestine was a “colonization” process:

“Zionist colonization, even the most restricted, must either be terminated or carried out in defiance of the will of the native population. This colonization can therefore, continue and develop only under the protection of a force independent of the local population – an iron wall which the native population cannot break through. This is, in toto, our policy towards the Arabs. To formulate it in any other way would be hypocrisy.”

Note that when Jabotinsky used the term “native population” he was clearly referring to the Arab majority. Are you suggesting that he was not aware of a small Jewish population living in Palestine when he said this? Furthermore, the first principle of the FIRST ZIONIST CONGRESS articulated was: “The promotion on suitable lines of the colonization of Palestine by Jewish agricultural and industrial workers.”

In 1948 during a systemic colonization campaign of murder and massacres, the Zionist expelled 80 per cent of the indigenous Arab population (approx 750,000 Palestinians were expelled in 5 months) of Palestine, and this expulsion is what caused the weak Arab military efforts to stop it. In spite of my awareness of this violence, I am not a rejectionist because I see Jewish nationalism as a response to pogroms and anti-semetic persecution in Europe, just as I see Palestinian nationalism as a response and reaction to the Zionist project of colonization and conquest. What I reject is the neo-Zionist claims to restore Eretz Israel. Much violence stems from these claims. I also feel peace will not come until Israel and its supporters face up to these crimes, to their own legacy of violence and discrimination, before this mess can be resolved. Continued settlement activity and more “ethnic cleansing” in the name of what happened in 1000BC is preposterous.

Amazingly, “Yishuv” (Jewish community) settlement companies in Palestine were properly named: THE JEWISH COLONIZATION ASSOCIATION and THE PALESTINE JEWISH COLONIZATION ASSOCIATION, and were involved gobbling up Palestinian land for the Jewish National Fund so that the land could never again be owned by Palestinians. The theft of Palestinian lands continues to this day, and is in fact a major source of the cycle of violence. It is just a fact.

You can rewrite history if you wish. This will be my last post on this matter. I stand by what I wrote.


avatar Monty Reed Kroopkin January 12, 2008 at 9:44 pm

Why do I think you think I oppose anything you wrote? I do not. I raised questions which, if explored well, would have resulted in you writing a much longer article (and one I’d really like to read.) You have now touched on some of these questions. I hope you will do more. Perhaps a series of articles?

I think it is time well spent, and the peace movement needs to devote the time to education on the history. It is vital to building the long term unity and effectiveness of the peace movement and ending imperialism. The region, and the oil, are central.

My comments are not so well prepared as yours, and I apologize if my meanings are at all unclear. And I have not kept up with the literature to the extent you have, so I do hope you will change your mind about not writing any more on these and related topics.

When I mentioned the continuous (and small) population of Jews living in Palestine prior to the rise of the Zionist movement, it was not for the sake of putting forward a defense of the Zionist claim to a right to the land. It was to caution against a definition of the “indigenous peoples” of the region that did not include Jews. Such a definition would in fact be ahistorical and would not serve well to combat Zionist ideology. And of course I know you are very well versed in the history and did hope you would elaborate.

Similarly, when I mentioned the Sephardic Jews now in Israel, it was to invite your elaboration on the history. Zionists make much of the fact that the majority of Jews in Israel are not of European ancestry. More now are from North Africa and other parts of the Middle East than from Europe. Does this prove that Zionism is really not a movement more similar to (and rooted in) European colonialism than dissimilar to it? No. European colonialism recruited people from all over the globe to populate its colonies.

We may agree that attributing various modern social processes to ancient historical events is preposterous, but we do need to be cautious about where we draw the line, especially when we are talking about cultures with long historical memories (unlike America’s boob-tube affliction). One area where we may agree it is not preposterous to reflect on the relationship between events long past and those of the present is the legacy of the Roman Empire in modern European and world history. It is relevant to the pre-1948 distribution of Jews in many urban centers which were once part of a unified Roman state — in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.

Another aspect of the recent history of the region is the treatment of Jews living in Arab countries after 1948. Jews living in, say, Egypt, were not responsible for the Zionists abuses of Palestinian Arabs. Nevertheless, they faced reprisals and many had to leave. Zionists have often compared this process to the British partition of India into separate majority Hindu and Moslem states. To many uneducated in the history, this may sound like a fair trade: one group on this side of a line and another group on the other side. There are a host of reasons why neither example of partition was a good idea. European colonialism is full of examples of lines drawn on maps for the long term benefit of the imperial powers, and in their interest of controlling subject populations. Divide and conquer, and control. People tend to not hear these alternative views enough.

Another issue is the one of manipulation of European Jews by the imperial powers, and the complicity of Zionist leaders in this. Between World War I and World War II, the British Empire had its own agenda in encouraging the Zionist project, and it had little to do with any remedy for anti-Semitism or for the oppression of Jews in Europe. Similarly, U.S. support for partition of Palestine in 1948 had very little to do with any U.S. interest in reparations for European Jews, for survivors of the Nazi holocaust. Reparations were not crafted to be enacted in Europe, where the crimes took place. Pitting Jews against Arabs and manipulating Middle East dynamics for the benefit of imperialist interests had much more to do with it.

And there is no justification for making the Palestinian Arabs pay for the crimes of the Nazis.

I have no desire to “airbrush” history (as in the images of Trotsky disappearing from photographs of the early Soviet leadership). But I do agree with those who have said if we do not like the news, we need to make our own!

It is fine for you to stand by what you wrote. I just hope you will sit and write more.



avatar Richard Nadeau January 12, 2008 at 10:27 pm


I do appreciate your questions and comments, and could not agree with you more that the complexities of history are important, and more can always be said about it. I actually agree with many of your insightful comments. In Peace, Rick


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