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Israel's dangerous ignorance
of its own history



Jonathan Power
TFF Associate since 1991

Comments directly to

Juky 15, 2010

If the Jews of Israel want to go back to their memories of their war against the Arab nations after they had been attacked following the handover of the British in 1948; if they want to go back to the Holocaust; if they want to go back to the anti-Jewish violence, the first so-called “pogrom” in 1819 when the Jewish ghetto in Frankfurt was ransacked; or to twelfth century England when began the libel that the Jews ritually murdered Christian children to mix their blood in the unleavened bread baked at Passover, then they should recall some equally important other events.

What about the welcoming of the large numbers of Jews by the Moslem Turks when they were expelled from Spain in 1492? What about the long period up to the 12th century when Jews lived unpersecuted for the most part in Europe? What about the centuries up to the twentieth when the good periods of toleration outnumber the bad years of repression, discrimination and, ultimately, the gas chambers?

Or, going back even further, what about Moses’ act of genocide which God told Moses he must carry out?  Moses’ army in the land now called Palestine, the “land of milk and honey”, attacked its resident tribes: the Canaanites, the Hittites, Midianites, the Amorites, the Jebusites and the Hivites, and then, on God’s instructions, Moses told his victorious generals to return to the Midianites and kill the women and their young sons. (It is all recorded at length in the Old Testament’s Book of Geneses and the Book of Numbers.)

Let’s interrupt this history a while and recall Shakespeare’s great work of dramatic art, the Merchant of Venice, where Shylock was treated as an unpleasant Jew (with a lovely, self-effacing daughter) who dealt mainly in shady usury.

His speech to the court is one of Shakespeare’s most remembered:

“Hath not a Jew eyes? / Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? /If you prick us, do we not bleed? /If u tickle us do we not laugh? /If you poison us, do we not die? /And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?"

But what if we turn this around and now ask these questions to a Palestinian?

Four decades have passed since Israel in 1967 crushed a new Arab attack. It was following that that Israelis started to settle beyond the border of their state in contravention of international law which prohibits an occupying state from transferring population into seized territory.

For around two-thirds of its history Israel has been an occupying state, one that by fear has extended its settlements. The state of Israel has been free of the malignancy of occupation for only nineteen years of its existence. The vast majority of the 7 million Israelis do not know any other reality. The vast majority of the 4 million Palestinians who live under occupation similarly do not know any other reality.

It was not that long ago Israel’s Defence Forces intelligence division submitted a document to the head of military intelligence. They recommended that an independent Palestinian state should be established in the territories of the West Bank as quickly as possible, based on the 1947 truce, with minor adjustments. “In order to enable an honourable agreement”, the document said, Israel “would examine the possibility of relinquishing some Arab villages in its territory.” Moreover, Israel would “take upon itself to solve the refugee problem once and for all and head an international project to rehabilitate and settle the refugees.”

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If implemented the document’s proposals would have changed the recent history of Israel and, indeed, that of the whole of the Middle East.

Contemporary records do not record if these officers were aware of their nation’s long history. Probably not, for an overwhelming majority of rabbis of this and the last century have shunted it on one side.

If the Jews could face up to their history and to the events from 1949 on, the world would no longer be threatened by the Israel/Palestine dispute and the madness of this conflict. Israel would not have nuclear weapons and Iran, if it is, would not be trying to build nuclear weapons of its own. The lion would lie down with the lamb. 


Copyright © 2010 Jonathan Power


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Jonathan Power 2007 Book
Conundrums of Humanity
The Quest for Global Justice

“Conundrums of Humanity” poses eleven questions for our future progress, ranging from “Can we diminish War?” to “How far and fast can we push forward the frontiers of Human Rights?” to “Will China dominate the century?”
The answers to these questions, the author believes, growing out of his long experience as a foreign correspondent and columnist for the International Herald Tribune, are largely positive ones, despite the hurdles yet to be overcome. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, London, 2007.

William Pfaff, September 17, 2007
Jonathan Power's book "Conundrums" - A Review
"His is a powerful and comprehensive statement of ways to make the world better.
Is that worth the Nobel Prize?
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Jonathan Power's 2001 book

Like Water on Stone
The Story of Amnesty International

Follow this link to read about - and order - Jonathan Power's book written for the 40th Anniversary of Amnesty International



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