Essay in Noam Chomsky, Toward a New Cold War: Essays on the Current Crisis and How We Got There (London: Sinclair Browne Ltd., 1982). "Parts of Chapter 12 appeared in the Nation, July 22, 1978; the rest in Seven Days, September 8, 1978. The entire review-article was published under the title "War after War" in Gazelle Review of Literature on the Middle East (London; 1978).
ARMAGEDDON IS WELL LOCATED (1978)
The current U.N. Disarmament Session offers a suitable occasion to consider the turbulent Middle East. Nowhere has the social pathology of the arms race reached such heights, the superpowers aside. And there is a fair chance that these armaments will be used, as in the past.
Each successive war brings new levels of ferocity and destruction. In an "incursion" that will not even appear in the list of wars, yet another quarter-million Arabs were driven from their homes in Lebanon only a few weeks ago (March 1978). General Mordechai Gur was asked, in an interview in the Independence Day Supplement to Al Hamishmar,1 to comment on the reported practices of the Israeli Army in Lebanon, including plunder and demolition of houses "even with no sign that they had been occupied by terrorists." His response came as a shock even to the noted Israeli military analyst Zeev Schiff, who gave this accurate summary: "In South Lebanon we struck the civilian population consciously, because they deserved it . . . the importance of Gur's remarks is the admission that the Israeli Army has always struck civilian populations, purposely and consciously . . . the Army, he said, has never distinguished civilian [from military] targets . . . [but] purposely attacked civilian targets even when Israeli settlements had not been struck."2
Gur recalled that during his thirty-year service the Israeli Army had looted extensively after its attacks on Jaffa and Haifa in April 1948, had bombed Arab villages and the Jordanian city of Irbid, finally clearing the Jordan Valley of all inhabitants, and had driven a million and a half civilians from the Suez Canal area during the 1970 "war of attrition." "For 30 years, from the War of Independence until today, we have been fighting against a population that lives in villages and cities."
These observations, well attested in the historical record though rarely so frankly proclaimed, give some indication of the impact on Arab civilians of the long and bitter conflict, during which the Palestinians, among others, have suffered the fate that Israel justly fears, with little reaction in the West.
During the 1973 war, when Israel's survival seemed momentarily in question, Israel threatened to resort to nuclear weapons, Nadav Safran alleges,3 and it might well carry out this threat in extremis, as might its enemies. Great-power tensions in October 1973 led to a worldwide U.S. nuclear alert. Given the economic and strategic significance of the region, a local conflict might easily explode into a general conflagration. Armageddon is well located.
The imminence of catastrophe was clear enough when Israel invaded Lebanon in March 1978. A Syrian response could have had incalculable consequences. The same was true a few months earlier. In a rare factual review of what transpired in early November 1977, the London Economist reported that on November 4, the Lebanese town of Nabatiya "came under heavy artillery fire from Lebanese Maronite positions and also from Israeli batteries on both sides of the frontier -- including some of the six Israeli strongpoints inside Lebanon." The attacks continued the next day, with three women killed among other casualties. On November 6 two rockets fired by Fatah guerrillas killed two Israelis in Nahariya, setting off an artillery battle and a second rocket attack that killed one Israeli. "Then came the Israeli air raids in which some 70 people, nearly all Lebanese, were killed."4
It is quite possible that these events, typically described in the United States as a Palestinian atrocity with Israeli retaliation, were the immediate cause for Sadat's sudden offer to visit Jerusalem in November. Sadat too may have asked himself, as did the Economist, "Could the next Middle East war, and heaven knows what else, start at Nabatiya?"
The Arab-Israeli conflict is not the only potential source of disaster in the Middle East. In Senate Hearings of September 1973, Henry Kissinger commented that the 1970 invasion of Jordan by Syrian forces "in my judgment got us closer to the brink of a war than some of the more highly publicized crises."5 A radical Arab nationalist or Russian-backed threat to the oil-producing heartland of U.S. interest in the region will not be tolerated by the United States. The Jackson Committee report is hardly alarmist when it states that "threats to the continuous flow of oil through the Gulf would so endanger the Western and Japanese economies as to be grounds for general war."6
The report is no less realistic in noting that "the most serious threats may emanate from internal changes in Gulf states . . . if Iran is called upon to intervene in the internal affairs of any Gulf state, it must be recognized in advance by the United States that this is the role for which Iran is being primed and blame cannot be assigned for Iran's carrying out an implied assignment." Thus "a strong and stable Iran" serves "as a deterrent against Soviet adventurism in the region" and "against radical groups in the Gulf. "7
But client states may still pursue their own interests or undergo internal change. Iran, the Senate report warns, may find the temptation irresistible to seize Saudi Arabian oil as its own reserves decline. "There is presently no substitute for the U.S. presence in Middle East oil," the report concludes (112), though the involvement of European states and Japan might be encouraged "in such ways as to diminish the political impact of what may well become too great a U.S. presence in the national affairs" of Iran and Saudi Arabia.
The report notes, but does not discuss, Iranian-Israeli relations, which "are conducted far from the public view," and are based on the perceived threat of "Arab radicalism." It also alleges that the Arab oil producers show some "ambivalence towards Iran's continued military build-up from the other side of the Gulf but not the total opposition often described in the Western press" (80). The analysis seems plausible. An intricate alliance linking Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Israel under the American aegis, in part tacit and in part corroded with mutual suspicion and fear, has been the basis for American control of the world's major reserves of relatively cheap and abundant energy.8
The U.S. military and economic involvement, and even large-scale Iranian military intervention in counterinsurgency in the Arabian peninsula, is regarded in the West as an entirely natural contribution to "stability." It has been a basic principle of international affairs since World War II that the energy reserves of the Middle East constitute an essential element in the U.S.-dominated global system. American policy towards affairs of the region cannot be understood apart from this fundamental principle.
The Senate report deals with Saudi Arabia and Iran. The books by Quandt, Reich, and Safran are concerned primarily with the U.S. relation to Israel (though Safran's has a broader scope).9 I know of no comprehensive study of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East with a sufficiently broad scope to render specific issues fully intelligible.
Safran is certainly correct in emphasizing that the evolution of America's relationship to Israel "has been determined primarily by the changing role that Israel occupied in the context of America's changing conceptions of its political-strategic interests in the Middle East" (571). After the Suez war of 1956, he writes, the U.S. policy of "containing [Nasser's] influence and rolling it back . . . created an obvious harmony between America's immediate objective and Israeli interests" (372). "The United States relied in large measure on Israel to check and balance the pro-Soviet Arab states" (384), and "to counter what seemed to it to be a series of challenges calculated to erode the American position in the Middle East" (449). "Israel's role as a check on forces and potential developments detrimental to American Middle East interests reached a high point in the 1967 crisis" (582). During the Jordanian crisis of 1970, "when the entire American position in the Middle East appeared . . . to be in jeopardy, the United States was able to retrieve the situation and turn it around only through the effective cooperation of a powerful Israel," an episode which "had a far-reaching effect on the American attitude toward Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict" (455), and incidentally led to a substantial increase in U.S. aid to Israel. Two years later the United States effectively adopted the Israeli thesis "that unequivocal American support for Israel would not, in the long run, undermine the American position in friendly Arab countries and benefit the Soviets there, because those countries needed American support against their Soviet-supported, radical, sister Arab countries as much as the United States needed their friendship" (465).
We know from other sources that American analysts regarded Israel as a "protector" of Saudi Arabia against Nasserite influence during the 1960s.10 The most advanced military and technological power in the region, Israel -- along with Iran -- stands as a deterrent to Russian influence and radical nationalist threats. It is important to remember, as Safran points out, that the prospect of Arab unity "appeared quite remote before 1973" (261). U.S. support for Israel was not regarded as endangering American access to (better, domination of) Middle East oil, and many specialists even believed that "there is no lack of oil elsewhere in the world"." Even now, despite the fabulous wealth concentrated in narrow circles in the oil-producing states, Israel, at the economic level of a European state, is rich and powerful by the standards of the region, even in comparison with Saudi Arabia, basically still a Third World country with a reported average life expectancy of forty years and a scattered population that is largely illiterate.12
The Saudi ruling elite has a stake in American dominance of the region, hence indirectly in Israeli strength. The United States has rarely taken Saudi threats very seriously, for this reason. So far this stance has been fairly well justified from the point of view of American global interests.
U.S. aid to Israel has been enormous. Prior to 1967, before the "special relationship" had matured, Israel received the highest per capita aid from the United States of any country, according to Safran (576), who also notes that this is a substantial part of the unprecedented capital transfer to Israel from abroad that constitutes virtually the whole of Israeli investment (110).13 During the past four years, Vice-President Mondale recently stated, Israel has received $10 billion in U.S. aid, more than any other country. In the coming year, Israel is to receive nearly half of total U.S. military aid and 56 percent of the outright grants, a figure that would rise considerably if the standard waiving of repayment is considered.14 More than half of U.S. credits to Israel since 1974 have been "forgiven," a unique privilege.15 In Iran and Saudi Arabia there are tens of thousands of U.S. technicians and military advisers. The aid and direct U.S. involvement, which takes many forms, serve to tie the regimes to the United States and support them against threats, internal or external, to U.S. interests, though the system is highly unstable and rife with internal contradictions.16
Traditionally, one function of foreign aid has been export promotion. In the present case, military aid to Israel inspires arms purchases in Saudi Arabia, for example. The dispatch of advanced armaments to the oil producers tightens the links to the United States, which must provide technicians and advisers, helps to recycle petrodollars, and serves as an impetus for arms sales elsewhere. During the recent debate over F-15 sales to Saudi Arabia, defense analysts reported that "the precedent would almost certainly encourage other third-world countries to seek similar equipment," further stimulating the $13 billion arms export business.17 Meanwhile a recent Commerce Department study reported that nearly all the money paid to oil exporters has returned to the United States in bank accounts and investments.18 All of these factors are relevant for understanding American policy in the Middle East.
Given the explosive potential of the Arab-Israeli conflict, particularly since 1967, it has clearly been in the U.S. interest to reduce the threat of war. Recognition of this fact has been the cornerstone of Sadat's diplomacy since his accession to the presidency of Egypt in the fall of 1970. His policies have been based on two principles: that a comprehensive peace settlement can be achieved on the basis of the pre-June 1967 borders (the "green line"), and that the United States essentially "holds the cards." In February 1971 Sadat offered a peace plan through U.N. mediator Gunnar Jarring, including respect for Israel's "sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence" and "right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries," freedom of navigation in the Suez Canal and Straits of Tiran, demilitarized zones along the borders, etc. At that time there was no mention of a Palestinian state; to this day, Sadat has made no clear commitment to Palestinian self-determination. Israel, in response, welcomed what it recognized as a genuine offer of "a peace agreement," but rejected it, stating that "Israel will not withdraw to the pre-June 5, 1967 lines," thus effectively terminating Jarring's initiatives
Sadat attempted in a variety of ways to gain acceptance as an American client state but was rebuffed, until the surprising Egyptian-Syrian successes of October 1973 led to a reassessment of Egypt's potential role in the American-dominated Middle East system.
American policy for the past ten years has oscillated between a position exemplified by the Rogers Plan, calling for a peace settlement on the green line with "insubstantial" modifications,20 and what should be called the "Kissinger Plan," namely, support for Israel's slow expansion in the occupied territories leading to ultimate integration of substantial portions within Israel. The latter programs are analyzed in an outstanding study by Amnon Kapeliouk,21 which was unfortunately unable to obtain an American publisher. None of the books under review deal with this topic in any detail.
Sadat's misfortune was that his attempt to enlist the United States in the search for a general peace settlement conflicted with the growing perception in Washington that Israel served as a bulwark for U.S. interests. The October 1973 war was a direct consequence of the U.S. rebuff, one of the many disasters that can be attributed in part to Kissinger's narrow vision and incomprehension of international affairs.22 A major consequence of Kissinger's "shuttle diplomacy" after the October 1973 reassessment was to remove Egypt from the conflict, thus permitting the Israeli programs of expansion to continue. Kissinger's efforts are presented in detail in several of the books under review, with much admiration, but their basic import is missed.23 Despite rhetorical objections, the United States continues to support the Israeli programs in practice. Next year's Israeli budget proposal recommends a 30 percent increase in real terms in development beyond the green line,24 financed, in effect, by the American taxpayer.
There is a growing international consensus that peace is possible in roughly the form outlined by Sadat in 1971 -- but now, with a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza -- but the United States stands aloof. In January 1976 the United States vetoed a Security Council resolution along these lines, backed by the USSR and the Arab states. Quandt, Reich, and Safran mention the debate but ignore its contents and significance.25 It is fairly clear that Israeli withdrawal to something like the green line will lead to a Palestinian state organized by the PLO, which has approximately the status and legitimacy of the Zionist Organization in 1947. Within the mainstream of Israeli politics, there is a general refusal to accept any meaningful recognition of Palestinian national rights, and with the United States backing this position, it will stand. The consequence will be military confrontation, with all that it entails: the danger of war for those directly concerned and the world at large, and the corrosive effects of militarism, chauvinism, and intensifying hatred in the warring societies.
The immediate backgrounds of this situation, but not these conclusions, are discussed by Reich, Quandt, and Safran. Reich's Quest for Peace is a narrowly focused, well-researched diplomatic history giving a virtually day-by-day account of U.S.-Israeli interactions from 1967 to 1976. Its assumptions are the standard ones in American foreign policy studies. Thus, the "American assumption of responsibility in the Middle East" is taken as the natural order of things (would one speak in the same way of "Russian responsibility in Eastern Europe"?), and U.S. policy is generally described in defensive terms: averting "hostile domination" or a Russian "expansionary role in the Middle East" (17,36). Though there is little attempt to explore issues in any depth, the work is nevertheless useful as a reference.
Reich's final conclusion is that "the euphoria that characterized U.S.-Israeli relations in much of the period between the June  and October  wars has been replaced by a greater uncertainty," though the "special relationship" persists (403). That seems an accurate assessment. The reasons are easy enough to discern through the veil of alleged moral concerns and idealistic support for freedom and democracy. In an earlier footnote, Reich cites Moshe Dayan's August 1973 observation that "the total balance of forces is in our favor and this outweighs all other Arab considerations and motives." Israel will "forge ahead" in the coming years (239-40). These assumptions were shared in the United States. Quite generally, American support for Israel corresponds to perceived Israeli strength and usefulness in maintaining U.S. interests in the Middle East.
Quandt surveys the same decade, in less detail, bringing out the central issues somewhat more clearly. Currently (1978) in charge of Middle Eastern affairs on the National Security Council staff, where he also served between 1972 and 1974, Quandt relies on public sources for the most part and gives an often enlightening account of evolving American strategies. Again, the analytic perspective is limited. Quandt concentrates on "the key role of the president and his advisers." He is skeptical of analyses that do not emphasize such factors as "the psychology of decision making," about which he has nothing to say. Americans are said to value a certain "type of stability," nowhere analyzed, and the government prefers regimes "viewed as moderate, status quo powers" (16). The term "moderate," as he points out elsewhere (298), simply means "pro-American," and he does not explore the vision of the status quo that the government seeks to preserve. Presumably, it does not include the status quo in Cuba, Indochina, Angola, or Eastern Europe, for example.
Quandt is also skeptical of attempts to find "the 'real causes' behind events" and "nonobvious connections," as in what he calls "Marxist approaches," which "often fail lamentably," he claims, "from the standpoint of science and psychology" (8). It is unclear what he means by "Marxist approaches" and he tells us nothing about "the standpoint of science and psychology." Specifically, "United States support for Israel has also been difficult for Marxists to explain" (7), presumably because this support allegedly does not accord with "the concrete economic interests of the United States in the Middle East," which "lie in the Arab world, not in Israel."
This kind of rhetoric merits comment only because of its prevalence in academic social science. No "Marxists" or "Marxist approaches" are ever identified, though Quandt outlines the gyrations that "Marxists" are driven to in an effort to defend their theories, which he claims are "simply indefensible on empirical grounds." Without awareness of the self-contradiction, he himself provides empirical grounds for these theories and in fact, in scattered and unsystematic remarks, reaches conclusions akin to those he ridicules.
For example, Quandt's unnamed "Marxists" argue that U.S. policy should "try to minimize the United States relationship with Israel and to concentrate its attention on the Arab oil-producing states instead." He concedes that "American policy throughout the 1950s followed this pattern rather closely." But he thinks that a problem arises for "Marxists" in that from 1967, "despite the growing importance of Arab oil, United States support for Israel increased enormously." Quandt's "Marxists" therefore seek a "new explanation," claiming that "by defeating Nasser, Israel opened the way for the conservative Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, Libya, and Kuwait to use their financial resources to neutralize the threat to their societies from Nasser's Egypt."
Note first that it would be a rather stupid "Marxist" who would not offer this "new explanation" as an application of the same theory to changed circumstances: The theory that the United States seeks to maximize its control over energy remains intact. What of the validity of this "new explanation"? Though Quandt seems to be dismissing it, he nevertheless notes that the chief of Israeli intelligence, visiting Washington in May 1967, gained the impression that "if Israel were to act on her own, and win decisively, no one in Washington would be upset" (57), and that it was feared in Washington that "any increase in Nasser's prestige would eventually bring pressure to bear on the oil-rich Arab countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Libya" (70); evidently, Israel's victory substantially diminished Nasser's "prestige." In a backhanded way, Quandt appears to accept the "new explanation" as reasonable, thus confirming the unchanged "Marxist theory" from which it derives.26
Quandt also points out that "the mood of the late 1960s was one of comparative optimism regarding oil" and there was little fear of "blackmail and pressure" (13), so that presumably U.S. support for Israel did not prejudice the primary U.S. interest. By 1969, there was a "feeling that U.S.-Arab relations were growing in importance because of oil" (171), but the Jordanian crisis of 1970 led to "an unusually cooperative phase in [the] often troubled relationship" between the United States and Israel because Israel was seen as a "strategic asset," blocking threats to the oil-producing centers; he notes "nearly a tenfold increase in aid" to Israel at this point (i63).27 Again, the "Marxist theory" seems vindicated.
After the Jordanian crisis, Quandt observes, "the U.S.-Israel relationship came to be seen as the key to combating Soviet influence in the Arab world and attaining stability" (106). Later it was felt that "it was the American special relationship to Israel that compelled the Arabs to deal with Washington instead of Moscow when it came to diplomacy" (285). Why any of this should prove an embarrassment to "Marxists," Quandt does not explain. Indeed, the causes do not seem very "hidden," when ideological blinders are removed. It is unfortunate that Quandt makes no systematic effort to explore any of these issues. The causes seem particularly obvious when we decode the mystical term "stability" and recognize that the phrase "Soviet influence" is being employed in its customary fashion (see the Introduction to this volume and Chapters 7 and 8). Then Quandt's observation translates as follows: "the U.S.-Israel relationship came to be seen as the key to maintaining U.S. dominance over the region," including its incomparable petroleum resources.
A closer reading tends to reinforce the "Marxist" analysis still further. U.S.-Israeli relations, Quandt notes, deteriorated somewhat in the late 1960s as support for Israel appeared somewhat of an embarrassment for U.S. policy, flourishing after the Jordanian events of 1970 when it was believed "that stability in the Middle East was ensured by Israeli military predominance" (nof.,200). Arab successes in October 1973 caused a modification in the "prevailing attitude" (201), with corresponding modification of policy -- all as the "Marxist" theory would predict.28
Quandt's logic, throughout this discussion, is deeply flawed. He argues that one might suppose policies to be based on "a stable national interest" insofar as they "seem invariant," but that policy reversals defy such analysis (15). Here one must, he claims, turn to public opinion, cultural style, the psychology of decision-making, etc. But without reference to these factors, one might argue consistently that as the situation changes -- e.g., after the Israeli victory of 1967 or Israel's service to American interests in 1970 -- the very same "national interest" dictates policy reversals. Quandt's rejection of a "national interest" perspective (itself a mystification) in favor of nebulous cultural and psychological factors is without empirical or logical grounds. His "case studies" contain much of interest, but remain in effect a collection of unanalyzed data -- though their import seems rather clear.
Quandt concludes by citing the 1975 Brookings Institution study as a possible "framework for peace." This study (endorsed by Zbigniew Brzezinski, among others) called for Palestinian "self-determination" and a settlement essentially along the green line, in accord with the general international consensus, a position so far rejected by the American government, and of course Israel.
Safran's book is an ambitious review of American-Israeli relations and of the social, political, economic, and military history of Israel. Safran is less reserved in drawing general conclusions than Quandt or Reich. Some of these have already been noted. Often his conclusions seem to me to have merit, but he offers so little documentation that they carry little conviction. One would like to know more about the nature of the evidence, e.g., that the intervention of Transjordan in the 1948 war "provoked other jealous Arab countries to send in their armies as much to block its expansion as to fight the Jews" (342) or that Israel threatened to employ nuclear weapons in October 1973, raising the haunting prospect in later years that U.S. pressure might drive it "to resort to a nuclear strategy" (489, 549; see note 3).
Safran too was a signer of the Brookings Institution report, but he does not evaluate its prospects in the light of Israel's interest "in a settlement only to the extent that it would satisfy certain undefined territorial demands that it deemed essential for its national interest" (505), and its refusal to contemplate any meaningful form of Palestinian self-determination. He foresees a "severe confrontation between the Carter administration and the new [Begin] regime in Israel" (569). He does not examine the likelihood that the United States will modify its tacit support for Israel's expansionist policies, or, indeed, the opportunities available in view of possible consequences, given Israel's military capacities and options, a matter that has caused some concern in the Pentagon, to judge by recent articles in the Armed Forces Journal.
Safran's lack of appreciation for the plight of the Palestinians is evident throughout. Thus he writes of "the broad humanitarian impulse that had moved statesmen in London to adopt a decision of principle in favor of the Jews" in issuing the Balfour Declaration (28), and explains U.S. support for Israel on grounds of the "long tradition of sympathy for peoples striving for nationhood and independence generally and for persecuted peoples in particular" (572) -- so well exemplified in Latin America and Southeast Asia, for example. Why "humanitarian" commitments and sympathy for persecuted peoples did not manifest themselves in a concern for the inhabitants of Palestine in 1917 and do not for their scattered and oppressed remnants today, he does not explain.29 In fact, all of this talk is standard academic sentimentality and ideological claptrap.
Similarly, in discussing Israeli policy towards the Arabs, Safran notes the expropriation of Arab lands and the fact that 92 percent of the area within the green line is administered by the National Land Authority, but fails to add that this authority is, by law, under the control of the Jewish National Fund (JNF), which is committed by its charter to discriminate against non-Jewish citizens, a fact that puts matters in a rather different light.30 He notes that JNF deeds preclude hired labor, but there is more to the story, which has been very little studied. Copies of leases have proven difficult to obtain, but it is a fact that some, at least, specifically prohibit only non-Jewish labor, a crucial difference.31 His statement that Israel "has no masses of land-hungry peasants confronting a few big landowners" is technically correct; dispossessed land-hungry Arabs are a minority, not a mass, of the total population, and it is the JNF-controlled Land Authority, not private landowners, that they confront. But the statement is surely misleading. Safran's further claim that by the early 1960s, though Arabs "still suffered the agonies of identity and alienation," they "made up a generally free, prosperous, healthy, educated community" is difficult to reconcile with the few studies that have actually dealt with the forced proletarianization of Arabs, the complex network of devices that direct development funds and restrict land use to Jews, the state of Arab education, and other crucial matters that he ignores, though there is literature on the subject, discussed in Chapter 9, above.
Safran's investigation of international affairs, while unusual in its attempt at fairness, still is distorted by the strong pro-Israel, anti-Arab bias of most of the English-language literature. Consider, for example, his account of the events leading to the 1956 Israeli-French-British attack on Egypt. He states that Nasser's attitude shifted in 1955-56 "from one of apparent moderation to one that seemed bent on mobilizing Egypt's military resources and leading the Arab countries in an assault on Israel" (168); the apparent willingness of the Arab states "to accept a Jewish state" changed in the mid-1950s to a commitment "to eliminate that state" (225). He offers no explanation for this change in attitude. Nasser repeatedly identified the Israeli raid in the Gaza Strip in February 1955, shortly after Ben-Gurion's return to office, as the occasion for his policy reassessments
Safran does cite the "raid on Gaza in which nearly forty Egyptian soldiers were killed" (and also civilians, Love reports), but describes it as "retaliation" for the hanging of two saboteurs of an Israeli ring engaged in arson and bombing in Egypt. He states that it only became known six years later that "the spying-sabotage adventure had in fact been mounted by Israeli intelligence" (351). But surely the Israeli government knew that the Egyptian charges were valid, despite the public show of outrage. Extracts from Prime Minister Moshe Sharett's journal published in the Hebrew press in 1974 indicate clearly that he understood what had happened,33 and surely other high government officials were aware of the facts. Safran's explanation of the Gaza raid as "retaliation" is senseless. Here, as elsewhere, the failure to cite relevant documentary evidence is a serious flaw.
Safran again ignores crucial documentary evidence when he reports fedayeen terror raids and Israeli retaliation prior to the outbreak of the 1956 war (similarly Reich, p. 32). The Israeli Arabist Ehud Yaari published an important collection of captured Egyptian and Jordanian documents which offers strong support for the thesis advanced by Love, based on Arab sources, that Egypt had been making serious efforts to prevent infiltration prior to the Gaza attack, and that the fedayeen groups, organized only after the Gaza raid, were again controlled in the summer of 1956 in an effort to calm the border.34 This material has yet to be discussed in the English-language literature, to my knowledge, though Amnon Kapeliouk has written about it in Le Monde. It simply will not do merely to state, as Safran does, that the sabotage and terror attacks of the fedayeen organized by Egyptian intelligence in 1955-56 "contributed significantly to Israel's decision to go to war in 1956 and was the principal reason for its refusal to evacuate the Gaza Strip until it had obtained some international assurances that fedayeen action would not be renewed" (266). This is far from the whole story. Israeli initiatives played a major role -- perhaps the major role -- in maintaining and intensifying the level of tension and violence. These examples are typical of major flaws in the general account that Safran and many others present, ignoring crucial evidence.
Uri Davis is an Israeli anti-Zionist who was jailed in the 1960s for participating in the resistance of an Arab village in the Galilee to the expropriation of its land, under the guise of military necessity, for the establishment of the city of Karmiel, from which Arabs are excluded. He describes his book as an "anthropological study."35 It is carefully documented from Hebrew-language and other sources, and includes a glossary with valuable information on Israeli institutions, some personalities, and other topics. He presents a revealing "kinship analysis" of leading elements in Israeli society and an analysis of industrial and economic structure.
Bitterly critical of the entire Zionist enterprise, Davis presents a scathing indictment of Zionist ideology, institutions, and culture. He describes the opposition to the rescue of European Jews except within the context of Zionist aims. (Cf. also Chapter 9, above, note 29.) The kibbutzim he regards as providing the "managerial elite of the Labour Zionist effort," relying heavily on "Oriental-Jewish hired labour from the surrounding moshav and development town hinterland" (28, 120), and more recently Arabs. He provides statistical data and press accounts of working conditions. He believes that the Oriental Jews are permanently relegated to second-class status, their culture and history obliterated, and sees them as potential allies for the Palestinian movement if the latter can change its political character in a socialist-internationalist direction -- a doubtful prospect. Davis regards Israel as "a completely dependable local ally to the United States," though not necessarily a "docile" ally, because of "its position as a colonial society in confrontation with a native Palestinian-Arab population and the neighbouring Arab states" (108,114). He expects it to play a central role if the United States determines to intervene directly in the oil-producing regions.
Given the prevailing political culture in the United States, such studies as this are unlikely to be granted any attention. That is a pity. Whether one agrees with the thrust of Davis's analysis or not, it is a serious and provocative study, which will repay careful scrutiny.
David Hirst, who has been Middle East correspondent for the Manchester Guardian for twenty years, intends to tell "the other side of the story," redressing the balance of the English-language, particularly American, literature, "overwhelmingly Zionist in sympathy or inspiration.'36 He describes the abortive efforts of the Palestinians to resist what they saw as a European colonization that aimed to drive them from their homes or reduce them to a barely tolerated minority in their native land. The book has been banned in Jordan because of its allegation that Jordan requested Israeli cooperation during the 1970 war,37 and for all the attention it has received in the United States, it might just as well have been banned here as well.
Hirst reviews the early Zionist goal of removing the native population, a recurrent theme throughout this history, and the impact of Jewish settlement on the peasant society compelled by land sales, Arab usurers, the Jewish boycott of Arab labor and produce, and deteriorating social conditions to flock to the cities where "many of them ended up as labourers building houses for the immigrants they loathed and feared," living in squalor and despair. He discusses the bitter peasant revolt of 1936-39, put down by the British with thousands of Arabs killed, and the murderous terrorism of both Jews and Arabs, particularly the postwar Zionist terrorism and the military operations of 1948 that led to what Chaim Weizmann called "a miraculous clearing of the land: the miraculous simplification of Israel's task." Safran's more conservative estimate is that about half of the 700,000 Arab refugees were expelled.38 Hirst also emphasizes some further aspects of the "special relationship" between Israel and the West, including Western willingness to credit clumsy fabrications regarding the flight of refugees and British government complicity in Zionist terror.
This record, partisan though documented and accurate to my knowledge, offers a valuable corrective to the flood of propaganda about Arab terrorism -- which Hirst reports and condemns -- that inundates the English-language press, journals, and books. Hirst notes that the perpetrators of the terrorist acts of that period are now honored in Israel. He is quite correct. The commander of the major terrorist army is prime minister, the speaker of the Knesset was a commander of the group that assassinated U.N. mediator Folke Bernadotte, among other atrocities, and the secretary-general of the Jewish Agency is a man who murdered several dozen Arab civilians under guard in an undefended Lebanese village during the land-clearing operations of October 1948 -- he was sentenced to seven years in prison but was quickly amnestied, then granted a second amnesty which "denies the punishment and the charge as well," and later granted a lawyer's licence by the Israeli Legal Council on grounds that his act carried "no stigma."39
Terrorism is no invention of the Palestinians, as hypocritical commentators now pretend. The U.S.-Israel position that the PLO is no fit partner for negotiations because it condones terror can only be dismissed with contempt.40
Hirst reviews the later history as well: the expulsion of thousands of Bedouins, the terror, reprisals, and wars, the further expulsion of hundreds of thousands from the West Bank in 1967, the growth of the Palestinian movements with their own terror and torment. The book ends on a suitably gloomy note with an excerpt from the Jerusalem Post on the "only alternative to our gradual destruction by arms race," namely, a nuclear deterrent which "may wipe out the entire area, or it may not."
Hirst gives an accurate account of Zionism as perceived by its victims, a standpoint rarely adopted, or even regarded as comprehensible, in the West. The Palestinians have never understood the moral basis for the demand by Americans and others that they must bear the burden of compensating the Jews of Europe for their savage persecution. Dispersed and reviled, oppressed everywhere, their story is one of unremitting tragedy. However one may adjudicate conflicting claims, it is callous hypocrisy to prate of "moral impulses" and "humanitarian commitments" while ignoring their fate and denying their claim to human and national rights.
As noted, Hirst's account is frankly partisan, intended as a corrective to an unbalanced record rather than as a full-scale history. At times, this leads to distortion. For example, the Jewish victory in 1948 was not so simple an affair as he makes it out to be; there were times when the survival of the Jewish settlement seemed far from certain. But this is a book that Americans concerned with the Middle East should read and think about with care.
One of the sources on which Hirst relies is the study of Palestinian nationalism by the Israeli scholar Yehoshua Porath, the first volume of which appeared in 1974. The second volume carries the record through the 1936-39 rebellion and the 1939 White Paper.41 This judicious and scholarly study breaks new ground in exploring the complex strands of evolving Palestinian nationalism. The second volume traces the abortive political effort to achieve self-governing institutions in Palestine in the face of British and Zionist opposition, and the growing opposition to Jewish immigration, leading to general strike and rebellion when it had become obvious that there was "no real chance of effecting any significant change in the British policy in Palestine through peaceful means" (159) and that Palestinian Arabs were destined to "become a minority community of no significance in the country where they had constituted the overwhelming majority" (140).
Porath observes that "the effect of the dreadful situation of the Jews in Germany and Poland on the British Parliament was totally overlooked by the Arabs" (158), which is perhaps not too surprising; we may add that this dreadful situation was ignored in the West quite generally.42 Every effort at resistance came to naught. The general strike was exploited by the Jewish leadership to open "new horizons for the implementation of the Jewish policies of economic self-sufficiency and 'Hebrew Labour'," for what Ben-Gurion called "economic liberation" for the Jewish settlement (175). A wave of violent attacks on Jewish settlers soon became a revolt against the British, suppressed after bloody warfare and "the pan-Arabisation of the Palestine problem" (225) as the native leadership came to recognize its limitations.
The partition proposal of the 1937 Royal Commission was rejected "with deep indignation" (228). A subsequent campaign of terror against Jews, "moderate Arabs," and British officials led to Jewish reprisals and the outlawing of the Arab national organizations by the British. The Munich agreement of September 1938 allowed the British to send sufficient military force to suppress the rebellion, with ample brutality. Seriously weakened by internal struggle and unable to face the military forces arrayed against it, the revolt collapsed.
In a careful analysis, Porath concludes that "the Revolt was carried out mainly by Muslim villagers of the lower strata." It was a national revolt, "devoid of any social ideology" (264-65), though the tactics employed (e.g., cancellation of rents and a debt moratorium) reveal some "class animosities" (267). Porath concludes that the failure of the revolt confirms the Leninist thesis that there can be "no revolutionary action without revolutionary ideology and a revolutionary party" (269).
Porath estimates that no more than several thousand Arab families were evicted through land purchase, though the political repercussions were significant: "It is no coincidence then that the main centres of the 1936-9 Revolt were close to the main areas of Jewish colonisation" (297).
Porath's study is uniquely significant in the insight it provides. There is no comparable study of Zionist policies in Palestine during the same period, or the interactions between Jewish and Palestinian national movements.
One can hardly view the prospects in the Middle East without grim forebodings. The United States shows little inclination to recognize Palestinian rights, specifically, the right of national self-determination, and is, for the present at least, not under serious pressure from the Arab states to change its stance in this regard. With continued American backing, Israel will no doubt continue to temporize, on the assumption that after "seven lean years," as Prime Minister Rabin used to say, the significance of Arab oil will decline and Israel will remain as an advanced industrial society, closely tied to the Western capitalist democracies and the most viable society in the Middle East. How it will come to terms with a growing Arab minority remains to be seen. The temptation to "encourage" emigration will very likely increase. "Transfer" of the population has long been a motif of Zionist thinking, and Arab hostility and terror will continue to provide excuse and opportunity. The successive waves of expulsion, often but not only in the course of war, offer a precedent that will seem ever more appealing as the bitter conflict persists.
For the Arab world at large, the future also looks very dim. In an interview published in Beirut, French economist Maurice Guernier, one of the founders of OECD and the Club of Rome, offered a grim prognosis.43 If the wealth of the oil states is not invested for industrial development in the next thirty years, he warned, the Arab world may not survive into the twenty-first century. This "is the region with the fewest resources in water and in cultivable land" and is even now incapable of feeding its rapidly growing population, many living in subhuman conditions. Even Saudi Arabia "will cease to exist" if current tendencies persist, while Egypt faces imminent disaster. The Arab world, and Africa as well, are "heading for tragedy." The situation is far worse even than India, where it is "catastrophic enough." A rational investment policy in the next few decades might avert disaster, but nothing of the sort is being pursued, and the persistence of the Arab-Israeli conflict, not to speak of the abominable internal social organization of the Arab states, virtually precludes the required effort. In a generation there may be a tragedy of colossal proportions as the Arab world, impoverished and lacking basic resources, will have lost its sole opportunity to enter the stage of modern history or even to guarantee survival for hundreds of millions of people.
Israeli writers have warned of a "Samson complex"; they will die with the Philistines, if need be. As the scale of the impending disaster becomes clearer in the coming years, Arab states armed to the teeth by the superpowers and probably possessing nuclear weapons may also decide to bring down the Temple walls.
Apart from considerations of simple humanity, even narrow self-interest dictates that the Arab-Israel conflict must be settled, with the recognition and safeguarding of the national rights of Palestinians and Jews. This will offer no guarantee, surely, of lasting peace or justice, or of sane policy within the few years of grace granted the Arab world. But it will at least eliminate one fundamental barrier to decent existence and to the efforts that are essential if indescribable calamities are to be avoided.
1. Al Hamishmar, May 10, 1978.
2. Ha'aretz, May 15, 1978.
3. Nadav Safran, Israel: The Embattled Ally (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1978). Safran provides no evidence, but Jack Anderson has reported that "locked in secret Pentagon files is startling evidence that Israel maneuvered dangerously near the edge of nuclear war after the 1973 Arab assault. The secret documents claim that Israel came within hours of running out of essential arms. At this crucial moment, 'the possibility of nuclear arms was discussed with the U.S.,' declares one report." These secret papers, Anderson claims, show that the fear that Israel might resort to nuclear weapons was "the most compelling reason" for rushing conventional weapons to Israel. Washington Post, March 10, 1980.
4. Economist, November 19, 1977.
The question of what is a terrorist attack and what is a reprisal is more a matter of ideology than of simple fact. See., e.g., Chapter 10, note 2, and the discussion of terrorism in notes 29, 33, 39, and 40 below. In the United States, it is standard to describe Israeli attacks as "reprisals" or "preemptive," but each terror attack has its precedents, and there are differences of perception as to what counts as violence (displacing people from their ancestral lands? returning to these lands to "steal" crops? killing innocents in retaliation for earlier violence?). Few Western commentators would regard the kidnapping at Ma'alot as "retaliation" (a number of the teenage hostages were killed during an Israeli military attack attempting to free them after Israel rejected negotiation efforts). Rather, it is regarded as terrorism (as it was), unprovoked (a different question). Two days before the Ma'alot raid, an Israeli air attack on the village of El-Kfeir in Lebanon killed four civilians. This is not regarded as terrorism, but rather as "defensive." Similarly, hijackings are regarded as terrorism -- in some cases; not when the hijacker is attempting to escape the Soviet Union. Or consider the capture of a Syrian civilian airliner shortly after takeoff by Israeli military aircraft in December 1954. In his personal diary, Israeli Prime Minister Moshe Sharett notes that the U.S. State Department informed him that "our action was without precedent in the history of international practice." I do not recall seeing this precedent-setting act mentioned in the history of modern terrorism. In fact, a comparison with Ma'alot would be quite to the point, as Livia Rokach points out in her study Israel's Sacred Terrorism (Belmont, Mass.: Association of Arab-American University Graduates, 1980), which is based largely on Sharett's Personal Diary (Yoman Isbi, Hebrew, Ma'ariv, 1979). The Israeli hijacking took place the day after five Israeli soldiers were captured while installing wiretap equipment on the Syrian telephone network. Concerning the hijacking, Sharett wrote in his diary that "it is clear that [Chief-of-Staff] Dayan's intention . . . is to get [Syrian] hostages in order to obtain the release of our prisoners in Damascus," exactly the intent of the PLO terrorists at Ma'alot. The Western reaction is not exactly identical.
The same might be said about such actions as the Israeli attack on El-Kfeir. In fact, that was not reported in the U.S. media, and is known at all in the United States only because this happened to be the village of the parents of U.S. Senator James Abourezk. The regular Israeli attacks on Lebanon, with many civilian casualties, are rarely noted, or if the press reports shelling, abduction, and killing by Israeli forces (e.g., James Markham, New York Times, August 17, 1975), there is generally no comment. For a rare general discussion, see Judith Coburn, "Israel's Ugly Little War," New Times, March 7, 1975. American correspondents in Beirut report privately that the New York office of a major television network suppressed a documentary in 1975 on the effects of Israeli military actions in southern Lebanon. Some day, perhaps, a study will be done on home-office decisions on correspondents' reports, not only in the case of Lebanon. On Lebanon, see the Afterword to Chapter 9, pp. 294-97, and Introduction, note 195.
Sharett reports (secondhand) some interesting views of Moshe Dayan's on the reprisal policy (April 26, 1955; Rokach, op. cit.). Dayan's reported view was that "the main thing" is that reprisals "make it possible for us to maintain a high level of tension among our population and in the army. Without these actions we would have ceased to be a combative people and without the discipline of a combative people we are lost." Sharett writes that "the conclusions from Dayan's words are clear: This state . . . must see the sword as the main, if not the only instrument with which to keep its morale high and to retain its moral tension. Toward this end it may, no -- it must -- invent dangers, and to do this it must adopt the method of provocation-and-revenge. . . . And above all -- let us hope for a new war with the Arab countries, so that we may finally get rid of our troubles and acquire our space." While Sharett himself strongly objected to this tendency, he was unable to prevent it from developing.
5. Henry Kissinger, American Foreign Policy, expanded ed. (New York: Norton, 1974). In the memorandum cited in note 27 of Chapter 11, Kissinger claims that the United States "sent an armored division down the Autobahn," "flew aircraft from the Sixth Fleet to Lod Airport in order to pick up staging plans," and "put the 82nd Airborne on alert," causing the Syrians to withdraw. He also notes that "none of this was in the newspapers." It is an open question whether it happened, or whether the story was put together to impress his audience of Jewish leaders. If the point was to "send a signal to Syria" (to adopt some Kissingerese), it is difficult to see why secrecy would have been helpful. Furthermore, others who should have known about it do not report these actions. It seems more likely that it was Israeli warnings that deterred Syria from moving to defend the Palestinians who were then being routed in Jordan. See below.
Kissinger is not noteworthy for his accuracy. See Chapter 6, above.
6. U.S. Senate, Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Henry M. Jackson, chairman, Assess to Oil -- The United States Relationships with Saudi Arabia and Iran (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1977). Cf. Chapter 8, above.
7. Ibid., pp. 84, in.
8. Ibid., pp. 81, 80. Cf. Chapter 11, above.
9. William B. Quandt, Decade of Decisions (Berke\ty: University of California Press, 1977); Bernard Reich, Quest for Peace (New Brunswick: Transaction Books, 1977); Safran, op. cit.
10. See Chapter 11, above.
11. Walter Laqueur, The Struggle for the Middle East (New York: Macmillan, 1969).
12. The Middle East (May 1978).
13. The latter fact sheds some light on the idea, occasionally voiced, that Israel's "economic miracle" can serve as a model for developing countries.
14. New York Times, May 19, 1978.
15. Christian Science Monitor, May 25, 1978.
16. Just how unstable the situation is became clear in Iran, not long after this article appeared; and shortly after, in Saudi Arabia, where a rebellion centered in Mecca in November 1979 reached threatening proportions. See "Instability and Insurrection in Saudi Arabia," International Currency Review (London) (January 1980), where it is claimed that there have been a dozen coup attempts in Saudi Arabia in recent years, and massive corruption and thievery.
17. New York Times, May 15, 1978. See Chapter 7, above p. 190.
18. Boston Globe, April 29, 1978.
19. Cf. Quandt, op. cit., pp. 135-36. For the documents, see John N. Moore, ed., The Arab-Israeli Conflict (Princeton: Princeton University Press 1974), vol. 3, pp. 1107f. Israel agreed that Egypt had "expressed its willingness to enter into a peace agreement with Israel" -- in fact, on better terms for Israel than in Sadat's subsequent trip to Jerusalem in November 1977, which was regarded as such a dramatic breakthrough since there was no mention of Palestinian self-determination, which Israel now claims to be the main stumbling block barring a settlement. On Israel's unwillingness to accept Sadat's 1971 offer, see the comments by General Haim Bar-Lev, a cabinet member in the Meir and Rabin governments, in the Labor Party journal Ot, March 9, 1972: "I think that we could obtain a peace settlement on the basis of the earlier [pre-June 1967] borders. If I were persuaded that this is the maximum that we might obtain, I would say: agreed. But I think that it is not the maximum. I think that if we continue to hold out, we will obtain more." Cited by Amnon Kapeliouk, LeMonde diplomatique (October 1977). See also Chapter 11, note 27.
It is intriguing to see how American commentators committed to Israeli power and the denial of Palestinian national rights deal with these annoying facts. According to Theodore Draper, for example, Sadat's 1977 "program called for peace on the most extreme Arab terms, except for those Arab extremists who would be satisfied with nothing but the total destruction of the state of Israel" -- we are presumably to understand that Sadat's program called for the partial destruction of Israel. Draper continues:
(Review of Ezer Weizman, The Battle for Peace [New York: Bantam, 1981]; N. Y. Times Book Review, May 17, 1981.)For Israel, the dilemma was excruciating. Why and how Israel came to be in the Sinai, Gaza and the West Bank are too often forgotten or ignored. They had been occupied as the result of a war openly instigated by Egypt, Syria and Jordan with the outright, boisterously proclaimed aim of doing away with the very existence of Israel. Even Mr. Sadat admittedly did not accept its existence until he decided to come to Jerusalem. Never having contemplated a victory on the scale of 1967, the Israelis did not know what to do with it and first thought of trading occupied territories for a peace treaty. Nasser's Egypt could have had Mr. Sadat s Jerusalem peace plan for the asking in the summer of 1967.
Let us put aside this rather simple-minded version of the events of 1967 and the claim, for which Draper presents no particle of evidence, that Israel would have agreed to total withdrawal to the pre-June 1967 borders in 1967 (Sadat's "extremist program" of 1977, according to Draper). What is more interesting is Draper's claim that Sadat "admittedly" did not accept the existence of Israel prior to November 1977, and his complete silence concerning the plain fact, typically "forgotten or ignored," that more than six years earlier Sadat had offered Israel terms more favorable to it than those of 1977 while clearly and explicitly "accepting] its existence," only to meet with a complete rebuff on the part of Israel and the United States.
20. See Reich, Quandt, op. cit., for details.
21. Kapeliouk, Israel: la fin des mythes (Paris: Albin Michel, 1975). See also Jon Kinche, There Could Have Been Peace (New York: Dial Press, 1973).
22. See Chapter 6, above.
23. For discussion at the time, see my paper "The Interim Agreement," New Politics (Winter 1975-76).
24. See Emda, Tel Aviv (April 1978). For an attempt to estimate the actual cost of the settlements in the occupied territories, see Zvi Sholinder, Ha'aretz, July 25, 1980. While much is obscure, it is clear that the sums are extremely high. For example, it appears that over 80 percent of the state budget for construction in agricultural communities is devoted to the occupied territories.
25. The U.N. session was convened at Syrian initiative; the "confrontation states" (Egypt, Jordan, and Syria) participated by invitation in the debate, as did the PLO (it was boycotted by Israel). The vetoed resolution was an adaptation of U.N. Resolution 242 to include the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and the PLO denounced the American veto, Syria calling it "a betrayal" and the PLO condemning "the tyranny of the veto." Their support for the resolution, with its explicit proposal for a two-state settlement with recognized borders and guarantees for territorial integrity, security, etc., was further noted by U.N. Ambassador Malik of the USSR in his closing statement (New York Times, January 13, 27, 1976). Subsequently, Egypt, Syria, and Jordan "informed the United States that they would sign peace treaties with Israel as part of an overall Middle East settlement" (Bernard Gwertzman, New York Times, August 21, 1977). There had, in fact, been many indications on the part of the Arab states and the PLO that they would accept a two-state settlement, prior to Sadat's November 1977 offers. See Afterword to Chapter 9, above.
26. Note that this is also essentially the thesis of U.S. intelligence analysts. Cf. Chapter 11, above. See also Kimche, op. cit.
27. Quandt's figures are inaccurate, as Reich's more detailed account shows, but the point stands.
28. It is difficult to see why the thesis that Quandt disparages, while providing evidence to support it, should be called "Marxist." In fact, this term, like "economic determinism" or "conspiracy theory," seems to serve in mainstream scholarship merely as a device for deflecting attention away from rational analysis of policy formation in terms of the distribution of domestic power, as noted several times in these essays.
29. Arabs constituted about 90 percent of the population of Palestine at the time of the Balfour Declaration, but as Lord Balfour explained, "Zionism, be it right or wrong, good, or bad, is rooted in age-long tradition, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land." Quoted in Christopher Sykes, Crossroads to Israel (London: William Collins, 1965).
A fact often ignored is that the Jewish inhabitants of Palestine at the time by no means generally supported the Zionist program, a fact that bears on the justification for these policies based on the persistence of Jewish settlement in Palestine, specifically, Jerusalem. I know of no careful study of their attitudes, but whatever the breakdown may have been, the threat to Zionist goals was clear and was disturbing to the early settlers. We can learn something about this from the official history of the Haganah ("self-defense" forces), the military arm of the Jewish community (Toldot Habaganab, vol. 2, Ma'arachot Publishing House, pp. 251f., a section on "special activities"). The section concerns a Dutch Jewish poet, Dr. Israel Jacob de Haan, who came to Israel and became involved with the Orthodox Jewish community (the "old Yishuv," the pre-Zionist Jewish settlement). He began to organize them in anti- Zionist political activities and "to construct a united front of the old Yishuv with the Arab Higher Committee against the new Yishuv and the Zionist enterprise." His activities took on a "pathological character" when, together with Rabbi Sonnenfeld, he proclaimed "the opposition of native-born Jews to Zionism" (the pathological character of his activities was further revealed, the official history states, by his homosexuality). The Central Bureau of Haganah gave an order "to remove the traitor from the land of the living," and he was duly assassinated by two Haganah agents, recent immigrants from Russia, "as he left the small synagogue in the 'Shaarey Tsedek' hospital" on June 30, 1924.
The section concludes with a description of another "special action," the placing of a bomb in the house of an Arab leader who lived near the Wailing Wall where Arab youths were alleged to have been disturbing Jews at prayer (summer 1927).
Contrary to the impression often conveyed by the American literature, terrorism has not been a monopoly of the PLO. See notes 4, 33, 39, and 40.
30. See Chapter 9, above.
31. See the references of Chapter 9, note 55.
32. See Kennett Love, Suez (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1969).
33. See Livia Rokach, Le Monde diplomatique (April 1978). The man in charge of the Israeli terrorist group in Egypt, which bombed U.S. and British installations (as well as public buildings) in an attempt to create hostility between the United States and Nasser, describes these activities in a personal memoir: Avni el-Ad, Decline of Honor (Chicago: Regnery, 1976).
Israeli terrorists are reported to have carried out similar acts in Iraq in 1949, under instructions from Yigal Allon, a leading representative of the kibbutz movement: "In attempts to portray the Iraqis as anti-American and to terrorize the Jews, the Zionists planted bombs in the U.S. Information Service library and in synagogues. Soon leaflets began to appear urging Jews to flee to Israel" (Wilbur Crane Eveland, Ropes of Sand [New York: Norton, 1980], p. 48). Eveland, who was the military attache of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad and later worked for the CIA in the Middle East as well as serving on the White House and Pentagon policy planning staffs, adds that "although the Iraqi police later provided our embassy with evidence to show that the synagogue and library bombings as well as the anti-Jewish and anti-American leaflet campaigns had been the work of an underground Zionist organization, most of the world believed reports that Arab terrorism had motivated the flight of the Iraqi Jews whom the Zionists had 'rescued' really just in order to increase Israel's Jewish population." Iraqi Jews in Israel have testified to the same effect (cf. Uri Davis and Norton Mezvinsky, Documents from Israel [London: Ithaca Press, 1975]), but their reports received little notice. It will be a long time, no doubt, before a serious account of all of this enters the general or academic literature on Israel.
Prime Minister Sharett's personal diaries constitute another historical source that is likely to be consigned to oblivion. For informative excerpts and analysis, see Rokach, Israel's Sacred Terrorism. See pp. 37f. on the sabotage operations in Egypt in 1954. Though Sharett was informed of the facts immediately after the sabotage ring was broken up by Egyptian police, when the trial of the saboteurs took place he denounced "the plot . . . and the show trial . . . against a group of Jews . . . victims of false accusations," and his party's paper (Davar, Labor Party), accused the Egyptian government of "a Nazi-inspired policy." Privately, Sharett was much distressed; he described Defense Minister Lavon, whom he apparently regarded as bearing responsibility for this affair, in these terms, to the secretary-general of the Labor Party: "He inspired and nurtured the unworthy adventuristic army and preached the lesson that not the Arab countries but the Western Powers are the enemy, and the only way to deter them from their conspiracies is by a direct action that will terrorize them."
Sharett was no less outraged by the Gaza raid of February 1955, and by the many other acts of violence and terror initiated by Israeli military forces during the period, but did nothing about them.
After his participation in the terrorist actions in Egypt, Lavon became the secretary-general of the Histadrut (the socialist labor union, which plays a major role in Israeli society and in the economy). According to the respected Israeli journalist Nahum Barnea, Lavon gave orders that were "much more severe" than those leading to the sabotage operations in Egypt during his tenure as minister of defense, including an attempt "to poison the water sources in the Gaza Strip and the demilitarized zone on the Syrian-Israeli border." Barnea does not make explicit whether these alleged orders were executed (Nahum Barnea, Davar, January 26, 1979).
34. Mitsrayim vebaFada'in [Egypt and the Fedayeen], Givat Haviva, 1975. See also Love, op. cit.; and Rokach, op. cit., for important material from the Sharett diaries.
35. Uri Davis, Israel: Utopia Incorporated (London: Zed Press, 1977). See Chapter 9, above, note 48.
36. David Hirst, The Gun and the Olive Branch (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1977).
37. Manchester Guardian Weekly, April 2, 1978.
38. The public and propaganda pretense is that the Arabs fled, expecting to return after the victory of Arab armies. In internal records, the pretense is abandoned. See, e.g., the discussion in Sharett's diaries of the cabinet meetings of March 1955 discussing Ben-Gurion's proposal to attack the Gaza Strip, then held by Egypt, and to disperse its inhabitants. In Sharett's words: "The first round would be: Israel aggressively invades the Gaza Strip. The second: Israel causes again the terrified flight of masses of Arab refugees." Sharett opposed this proposal, believing that "what we succeeded in achieving . . . in 1948, cannot be repeated whenever we desire it." For lengthy quotes, see Rokach, Israel's Sacred Terrorism.
39. Al Hamishmar, March 3, 1978; a somewhat sanitized version appeared in the Jerusalem Post, February 28, 1978. It is hardly possible to imagine that the history of this man, Shmuel Lahis, or the significance of the fact that he was appointed to the highest executive position in the World Zionist Organization, would be discussed in the American press or in the massive literature devoted to the country which is the prime recipient of U.S. military and economic aid. The New York Times had a good opportunity, however. On February 19, 1981, the Times reported that Lahis had resigned his position in protest over the failure of the government to act on a report he wrote urging that financial benefits be provided to induce the 500,000 Israelis who, he contends, are living in the United States to return to Israel. On the same day, the Times published a report by Kathleen Teltsch headed "400 Intellectuals Form 'Struggle for Freedom' Unit," describing a new organization directed by Midge Decter, who said, "The idea for the committee emerged almost two years ago after she and others attended a meeting in Jerusalem on international terrorism" from which "she came away convinced of the need for action against those who kidnap and throw bombs, many of whom are trained in the Soviet Union and Cuba." Surely the coincidence offered a fine opportunity for an editorial on terrorism and the ways in which it is viewed in various countries of the world.
For a description of the massacre in the Lebanese village of Hula for which Lahis was responsible as perceived by the victims, see Rosemary Sayigh, From Peasants to Revolutionaries (London: Zed Press, 1979), a study based on interviews with Palestinian refugees. She reports, for example, the case of a young Lebanese boy who later joined the Palestinian resistance; his family fled their village "because the Zionists carried out a massacre in Hula, a village near ours," he informed her. If he takes part in a terrorist attack leading to an Israeli bombing of a village, the press will denounce this unprovoked act of Arab terrorism followed by an unfortunate (but understandable) Israeli reprisal.
40. The standard interpretation is so familiar that it is perhaps superfluous to document it. The most interesting examples, in my opinion, are those produced in left-liberal circles. See, for example, Michael Walzer, "The New Terrorists," New Republic August 30, 1975. He considers the evolution in patterns of terrorism in the past generation. The "new terrorists," such as the PLO, are "thugs and fanatics" who murder at random, whereas in the good old days terrorism was a political weapon (which of course we deplore) directed to specific targets, as when the Zionist Stern Gang killed Lord Moyne in 1944, taking pains not to shoot the Egyptian constable who apprehended them. Walzer might have added that, as in the cases discussed earlier, the killers are honored in Israel; in this case, one of the commanders of the operation is speaker of the Knesset, while "the Israeli Ministry of Education and Culture published a special booklet to mark the thirtieth anniversary of the execution" of the two patriots who killed Lord Moyne (Al Hamishmar, April 4, 1975).
History records some other incidents that go unmentioned in Walzer's account, e.g., the murder of Jacob de Haan by Haganah in 1924 (see note 29), or the exploits of Shmuel Lahis (see note 39), or the terrorist bombings in Iraq and Egypt (see note 33; official state terrorism in this case). There are a few other examples that are similarly overlooked. Within a year of its founding in 1937, the Irgun Zvai Leumi claimed about one hundred Arab civilian dead in random terrorism (e.g., dozens killed by bombs in marketplaces). Another ninety-one civilians (British, Jewish, Arab) were killed in the Irgun bombing of the King David Hotel in 1946, and Irgun and LEHI (the Stern Gang) killed 250 civilians at Deir Yassin, among many other examples. For a grisly and rather admiring report of Irgun-LEHI atrocities, including bombing, assassination, kidnapping, arson, often with random civilian targets, see J. Bowyer-Bell, Terror out of Zion (New York: St. Martin's, 1977) -- as history, this account, based largely on Irgun and LEHI sources, is not worth very much, but the record suffices to refute the stories about "military targets" and "warnings."
These avowedly terrorist organizations had no monopoly on atrocities in the pre-state period. Consider the sabotage of the ship Patria by a Haganah agent in Haifa harbor in 1940, with 240 Jewish refugees and a dozen British police killed (not intended, but then one might say the same about many terrorist acts of the PLO years later), or the Haganah atrocities at Khissas in December 1947 and Sassa the following February. Terrorism continued after the state was established, both official terrorism, as in the cases mentioned earlier (see also Chapter 10, note 1), and "retail terrorism" such as the murder of U.N. mediator Folke Bernadotte in 1948 when he was attempting to realize the U.N. provisions for an internationalized Jerusalem; one of the murderers, never prosecuted, was a close friend and fellow kibbutz member of Ben-Gurion (see Yediot Ahronot, February 28, 1977, where it is also reported that Gideon Hausner, the Eichmann prosecutor who was then legal advisor to the prime minister, helped conceal the identity of the assassins). Or the brutal murder of innocent Bedouins in a "reprisal" by a group led by Meir Har-Tsion of Kibbutz Ein Harod in March 1955 (on the events, and Prime Minister Sharett's reaction both to the actions and to the contrasting behavior of Jordan, which arrested Arab terrorists, and Israel, which adopted the "shameful procedure" of releasing Har-Tsion and his group, see Rokach, op. cit.).
These examples barely touch the surface. The memoirs of the U.N. commanders give an ample record of terrorism on both sides; and Israeli terrorism, in particular, is well documented in semiofficial histories in Hebrew (e.g., Uri Milshtein's Wars of the Paratroopers, 1969; a Hebrew collection from these sources has been compiled by Israel Shahak: "Sefer Hateror Hatsioni," Jerusalem). Many examples also appear in the Hebrew press. See, e.g., Uri Milshtein (Ha'aretz, supplement, November 17, 1978), describing murderous Haganah and Palmach attacks on Arab villages and provocations that incited violence in late 1947 and early 1948, well before the engagement of armies of the Arab states in May 1948. Or Eyal Kafkafi, a kibbutz member of the Labor party (Davar, September 4, 1979), who deplores the "ghetto mentality" revealed in attitudes towards Israeli Arabs, which must be combated in the manner of earlier years when Arabs were simply expelled "to make room for a flourishing culture, which will help many others live," in the words of Yoseph Weitz, who was in charge of settlement in the pre-state period, referring to expulsion of Arabs in 1933. Kafkafi reports a letter written on November 8,1948, reporting eyewitness testimony by a soldier who arrived in the Arab village of Doeima the day after it was occupied, where Brigade 89 "had killed 80-100 Arabs, women and children. They killed the children by crushing their skulls with sticks. There was not even one house without dead people." Arabs left in the village were put into houses which were then blown up, among other atrocities reported, "not during the heat of the battle" but "as a system of expulsion and elimination." There are many other examples.
It is hardly the case that old-fashioned selective terrorism has now given way to random murder by fanatical Palestinians, or that acts of Jewish terrorism are "the rare exceptions in terrible moments that cannot in any way be compared with the odious consistent terrorism of the Arabs" (David Schoenbrun, New York Arts Journal, September-November 1977), pretty much the standard line.
As noted above, the terrorists are now honored in Israel (e.g., Moshe Brilliant, New York Times, June 14, 1977: "Mr. Shamir and his associates, now acknowledged as patriots, were condemned and hounded in their time by a Jewish community that regarded them as ruthless killers" -- a misleading statement, as we see from the reaction to Haganah terrorism). The reaction to earlier terrorist atrocities is also sometimes remarkable. Consider the village of Kafr Kassem, where Israeli border guards slaughtered forty-seven villagers in 1956 in a completely unprovoked attack; this was acknowledged as a crime -- the military commander held responsible was fined one piaster; in 1960, a lieutenant who served a brief term in prison for the murder of forty-three Arab civilians was appointed officer for Arab affairs in the town of Ramie. At the time of the establishment of the State of Israel, 4,000 dunams, a third of the land of the village, had been expropriated. After the 1967 war, the government decided to take another 3,000 dunams, but the courts, recognizing that Kafr Kassem was something of a special case, determined that only 2,000 dunams should be expropriated (cf. Ran Kislev, Ha'aretz, July 27, 1976, one of a series of articles that details many examples of the real treatment of Arab citizens of Israel).
Perhaps the last word should be left for Deir Yassin, scene of the most atrocious single massacre, conducted by the armed forces commanded by the current prime minister, who is quite eloquent in his denunciations of crimes against Jews. A report in Middle East International (August 1, 1980) describes how bulldozers are "busily erasing the last traces of Deir Yassin" to prepare the ground for a new settlement for Orthodox Jewish families, where "streets will be named after units in both the Irgun and the Haganah" -- perhaps in memory of the fact that, contrary to what is commonly assumed, the attack on Deir Yassin was authorized by Haganah, and units of Palmach (the kibbutz-based strike force of Haganah) participated in the attack (see the accounts based on eyewitness and participant reports in Yediot Ahronot, April 4, May 5, 1972; see also [Res.] General Meir Pail, an eyewitness, who reports that the slaughter of the 250 victims by Irgun and LEHI took place after the departure of Palmach forces that "completed the capture of the village"; Yediot Ahronot, April 20, 1972).
Further details appear in the Ha'aretz supplement (Kol Ha'ir), June 6, 1980, where it is reported that the prime minister's office had received a letter from a private citizen requesting that one of the streets in the new housing development in Deir Yassin be named after his uncle, who "was one of the commanders of the Deir Yassin operation." But "the request had to be rejected" because the Jerusalem municipality "had decided that only the names of entire units [of Palmach and the Irgun] would be immortalized on the site." Cited in Israeli Mirror, June 27, 1980.
41. Yehoshua Porath, The Palestinian Arab National Movement: 1929-1939 (London: Frank Cass, 1977). See Chapter 9, above, note 74.
42. There is by now an ample literature on this shameful topic. On the U.S. role, see Arthur D. Morse, While Six Million Died: A Chronicle of American Apathy (New York-Random House, 1967); David S. Wyman, Paper Walls: America and the Refugee Crisis 1938-1941 (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1968); Saul S. Friedman, No Haven for the Oppressed: United States Policy toward Jewish Refugees, 1938-1945 (Detroit-Wayne State University Press, 1973). The American Jewish Community also did less than it might have. For example, in early 1941 a Polish Jewish lawyer, Zorach Warhaftig, who had managed to reach Japan through Russia, arranged with a Japanese shipping company to send as many East European Jewish refugees as could reach Japan to the United States; transit visas would be issued as soon as the money for steamship tickets was guaranteed. Warhaftig, who had been a member of the executive board of the World Jewish Congress in Warsaw and had contacts with the Joint Distribution Committee, transmitted the offer by cable to these organizations, but was informed in response that the money could not be provided until the refugees reached Japan. The proposal was aborted, and many more victims ended in crematoria. See Rabbi Marvin Tokayer and Mary Swartz, The Fugu Plan (New York: Paddington Press, 1979).
On the unwillingness of American Zionists to support plans for bringing European Jews to the United States in 1942, see Alfred M. Lilienthal, The Zionist Connection (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1978). See also Davis, op. cit.
43. Maurice Guernier, An-Nahar Arab Report and Memo, Beirut, April 17, 1978.