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Founding in Tel Aviv
On Friday May 14th, 1948, David Ben Gurion the Chairmen of the Executive of the World Zionist Organization formally declared the establishment of the State of Israel and its Provisional Government. Within hours of the declaration of Independance the United States surprised the world and granted Israel recognition.
From the moment the partition plan had been approved by the United Nations, Civil War had been taking place in Palestine. The Arabs in Palestine refused to accept the proposal and vowed to oppose it by force. The British, who were still the nominal rulers, did little to stop the fighting. After some initial setbacks, the nascent Jewish army, the Haganah, generally gained the upper hand. The British had designated May 15th as their last day in Palestine. The Arab states surrounding the mandate vowed to attack if the Jews declared a state. Much of the world, including the US Secretary of State Marshall, urged the Jewish government led by David Ben Gurion not to declare a state, warning that the much larger Arab armies would defeat it.
Ben Gurion was convinced that this was a moment in history that could not be missed and convinced the Zionist Executive to declare independence on the afternoon of the 14th, the 15th being Saturday. The ceremony was to take place at the Hall of the Israel Museum on Rothschild Street in Tel Aviv. The hall was packed. In front sat the member of the Zionist executive. All were there except for Chaim Weizmann. At 4 PM, everyone rose to sing Hatikvah. Then Ben Gurion began reading from the hastily drafted declaration of independence. After he finished reading it, the declaration was adopted unanimously. Hatikva was sung once again, and Ben Gurion declared the State is established. In the 30 minutes, the most momentous event in modern Jewish history was over. Within hours the United States had recognized the new provisional government, and by dawn, surrounding Arab armies were attacking.
The State of Israel
The State of Israel was formed on May 15 1948 as a Jewish state and a democratic republic. Over time it became one of the only two democracies in the Middle East, the other being Turkey.
In the West – the Mediterranean Sea and the Gaza Strip in the North – Lebanon and Syria in the East – Jordan and the Palestinian Authority's autonomous territories and in the South – Egypt and the Red Sea.
Israel holds territories that it captured in 1967 from Syria (the Golan Heights), Jordan (the West Bank) and Egypt (Gaza). In certain sections of the West Bank, an autonomous Palestinian Authority was established.
Government and Administration
The state of Israel is republic, defined as a parliamentary democracy with proportional representation. The legislative authority is the Knesset and the executive authority is the government.
Since the country's inception, no political party has achieved an absolute majority, thus making all of Israel's governments coalition governments.
The Israeli president is chosen by the Knesset once every seven years. His role is primarily symbolic: the president in the highest office, he has no part of the three branches of government and no political status.
The President is the one who delegates the job of establishing that government on one of the members of Knesset after an election Presidential consent is required for the dissolution of the Knesset, should it be required.
The President authority also extends to granting presidential pardons, appointing secular court judges, rabbinical judges to religious courts, and Kadis to the courts of Muslim law appointing members to the Council on Higher Education, the National Academy of Science, the Broadcasting Authority, the Authority to Rehabilitate Prisoners, the Chief Rabbinical Council and the Governor of the Bank of Israel The President also confirms and endorses the credentials of the Israeli ambassadors leaving for posts abroad and receives the credentials of the foreign diplomats posted in Israel.
Israel is administratively divided into 6 districts and 14 provinces. Judea, Samaria and Gaza have a separate administration. The regional authorities – municipalities and local or regional councils – have legal jurisdiction in their area, as well as responsibility to provide residents with legal, social and sanitary services.
The country has a mandatory education law, which states that all Israeli children are entitled to eleven years of State funded, free education, ranging from kindergarten to the 10th grade. Israel's higher education system includes universities, colleges and institutions of religious instruction (yeshivot, midrashot).
Israel provides general health care, making an array of medical services available for every citizen. Healthcare enforcement is divided between the Ministry of Health and the health maintenance organizations. Israeli citizens are required to pay a health tax to the National Insurance Institute to ensure their social rights.
State of Israel: History
The State of Israel was established in 1948, amidst clashes with British Mandatory forces, Arab residents, and the Arab states which declared war on the nascent state on the very day of its founding.
The struggle for Israeli independence
In the wake of the Holocaust, the Jewish community in the Land of Israel, as well as the worldwide Zionist Movement, became increasingly cognizant of the fact that an independent and sovereign Jewish state was necessary to provide a safe haven for the decimated Jewish nation.
The struggle was carried out on two fronts: An armed and political battle against the British Mandatory forces, and a worldwide diplomatic campaign for the cause, especially in the United States. Concurrently, much effort was invested in the Ha’apalah, the so-called “illegal” Jewish immigration to Israel, which was, in effect, against British Mandatory policies.
Although Britain emerged victorious from World War II, during the post-war years, the British Empire began to unravel. Once the British Raj ended in India, the Land of Israel lost much of its strategic importance, as the British no longer required a foothold adjacent to the Suez Canal.
In 1947, Britain requested that the UN retract its Mandate on Israel. The UN appointed a special committee (UNESCOP), which recommended the land west of the Jordan River be partitioned into two states: one Jewish and one Arab.
On November 29, 1947, the General Assembly voted in favor of partition, which became known as UN Resolution 181 according to which, the British Mandate was set to expire on May 15, 1948. Since the 15th came out on Shabbat that year, the National Council convened on Friday, May 14, and declared the establishment of the State of Israel – acknowledging the historical connection between Am Yisrael (the nation of Israel) and its land, but flailing to specify its borders.
The Declaration of Independence further introduced the name of the Jewish State: “We hereby declare that as from the termination of the Mandate… the present National Council shall act as the provisional administration and… shall constitute the Provisional Government of the Jewish State, to be called Israel.” The name was derived from the Land of Israel, the historic name of the Jewish national homeland.
Both the US and the USSR immediately recognized Israel, and additional countries followed suit. However, the Arab League was determined to destroy the new state, and on May 15, the Egyptian, Jordanian (then called Trans-Jordanian), Syrian, Iraqi and Lebanese armies, together with irregular forces from other Arab nations, invaded Israel.
From the War of Independence until the Sinai War (1948-1956)
The War of Independence evolved from a conflict between two resident populations to a full-fledged war between organized armies. Following a year and a half of fighting, an Armistice Agreement was reached between Israel and most of the Arab countries. Iraq, which continued to maintain a state of war with Israel, remained the lone exception.
War of Independence: Hagana troops practicing (Photo: La'am)
From this point on, Israeli history was shaped by wars with its Arab neighbors, each leaving a unique, lasting impact on Israel’s foreign affairs, economy, and social fabric.
Even as the war raged, the new state’s institutions were organized: The Assembly of Representatives became the Knesset, and the National Council became the government, under the leadership of David Ben-Gurion. The government assumed the Mandatory Government’s authorities, but since the British left without orderly transferring powers, the process was complex and difficult.
Meanwhile, large immigration waves reached Israeli shores: Between 1948 and 1951, some 700,000 Jews arrived, entire communities from Libya, Yemen, Bulgaria, and Iraq. In 1950, the Law of Return, which granted full Israeli citizenship to every Jewish immigrant, was enacted. 1955-1957 saw more immigrants arrived, including around 160,000 North African and Eastern European Jews.
The War and immigration waves took their toll on the young state and an austerity program (1949-1952), which involved much rationing, was instituted. In 1952, the government signed a controversial reparations agreement with Germany. Despite the resulting political and public storm, the agreement increased the market’s momentum.
Arab infiltrations began almost immediately following the Armistice. Palestinian refugees would cross Israel’s borders to commit crimes and, later, acts of sabotage, to which Israel responded with reprisal attacks.
Although the situation escalated gradually, some historians cite the Black Arrow attack of February 28, 1955, as a key turning point: On that night, the IDF attacked an Egyptian army installation in the Gaza Strip. In response, Egypt began organizing bands of Palestinian infiltrators called “fedayeen”, which, in essence, comprised the first Palestinian terror organization.
Israel then began strengthening its military ties with France, since Ben-Gurion insisted that Israel not go to war without the support of at least one major power. Blaming Egyptian leader Gamal Abed an-Nasser for much of its Algerian troubles, France was amenable to Israeli overtures. After Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal on July 26, 1956, Britain joined the conflict. On October 22, senior representatives of France, Britain and Israel met in Sèvres, outside of Paris, and agreed to go to war against Egypt. The Sinai War began on October 29.
From the Sinai War until the Six Day War (1957-1967)
The Sinai War ended on November 6, 1956. The world’s superpowers soon forced Israel to relinquish all its territorial achievements and the IDF pulled back from the Sinai and the Gaza Strip in March 1957, when a UN Emergency Force was mobilized along the border.
A period of relative quiet ensued, and Israel strengthened its economy and developed the national infrastructure during the interlude. By 1966, another 300,000 immigrants had arrived but faced with the severe recession of 1965, immigration rates dropped.
Israeli politics was jolted when David Ben-Gurion resigned and left the Mapai party and Levi Eshkol became the next prime minister and Israel sent out diplomatic feelers to a number of newly independent Asian and African nations, as well as to several South American countries.
IDF Chief Rabbi, Goren, at the Kotel (Photo: La'am)
In 1964, neighboring Arabs began infiltrating the borders again. In addition, the Palestinians formed the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and terrorists entered Israeli territory.
Meanwhile trouble was brewing in the northern border: Following the completion of the National Water Carrier, both Syria and Lebanon repeatedly attempted to divert the sources of the Jordan River Israel responded with fire, the situation quickly deteriorated, and the IDF and Syrian army were involved in heavy fighting, referred to as “the War for Water”.
The southern border saw trouble of its own: Egypt expressed concern over Israel's alleged Dimona nuclear reactor and after a dogfight over the Golan Heights on April 7, 1967, during which six Syrian aircraft were downed, Egypt allied itself with Syria. On May 15, Egyptian forces entered Sinai, in violation of the 1957 Sinai War agreement. Egypt further closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli ships and ordered UN forces to withdraw from their positions along the border.
War was imminent The IDF called in its reserves, and Prime Minister Eshkol transferred the defense portfolio to Moshe Dayan. A historical first was achieved when the Herut party joined the newly formed national unity government.
On June 6, the Six Day War broke out, as the IDF went to war against Egypt, Syria, and Jordan.
From the Six Day War until the Yom Kippur War (1967-1973)
Unbridled euphoria swept through Israel in wake of its stunning victory in the Six Day War. The IDF had acquired the Golan Heights, Judea, Samaria, the Gaza Strip, and the entire Sinai Peninsula up to the Suez Canal but most important – Jerusalem had been reunified, and for the first time since 1948, Jews were able to pray at the Western Wall.
Israel immediately annexed the eastern portion of Jerusalem, declaring other territories were being held in the hope of a peace treaty. “We are waiting for a telephone call from the Arabs,” said Dayan.
Yet, despite Dayan’s declaration, the government officially authorized Jewish settlement to be built in the Golan Heights, the Jordan Valley, southern Sinai, and, eventually, also the area around Rafah. Official policy was more ambiguous in Judea and Samaria, where the government preferred Jews not move into areas heavily populated by Arabs. Nevertheless, many such settlements were established, supported by numerous government ministers and Knesset members. In addition, a construction wave was initiated in eastern Jerusalem, which the Arabs and much of the world insisted on calling “occupied territory”.
In November 1967, the UN Security Council accepted Resolution 242, which included the concept of “land for peace”, but the vote had no practical significance. In February 1969, Prime Minister Eshkol passed away, and Golda Meir the first – and only women so far – to be Israeli prime minister.
The PLO built bases in the eastern Jordan Valley and sent terrorists into Israel. Several pursuits were launched in the valley during 1968-1970, until Jordan expelled the terrorists following 1970's “Black September”. Most Palestinian organizations relocated to southern Lebanon and Syria.
Arab terrorism also targeted Israeli civilian aviation and high profile attacks were committed in Israel itself, aided at times by foreign terror organizations: examples includ the hijacking of an El-Al airplane to Algeria on July 23, 1968, which was the first of its kind the massacre at the Lod Airport on May 30, 1972, which was committed by Japanese terrorists masquerading as passengers and the abduction and subsequent murder of 11 Israeli Olympians in Munich on September 5, 1972.
In March 1969, Egyptian President Nasser instructed his army on the Suez Canal front to open fire on all exposed targets, setting off the War of Attrition, which comprised of heavy fire exchanged across the canal, several raids behind enemy lines (on both sides) and Israeli air attacks deep into Egyptian territory. In August 1970, the US imposed a ceasefire, the war ended and Nasser died a few weeks later.
Despite ongoing fighting along the borders, Israelis felt safe and secure, as the country places its full confidence in the IDF’s ability to protect the nation. It was the first time since the Israel was formed that the public believed its existence was guaranteed.
From the Yom Kippur War until the Political Upset (1973-1977)
Disillusionment was exceptionally painful. Egypt and Syria clandestinely planned a full-fledged surprise attack on Israel, hoping to retrieve the territories they lost during the Six Day War. The assumption was that even if they were unable to regain the land themselves, Israel would be forced to give up the territories, due to the international pressure which would surely result from the war. On Yom Kippur, October 6, 1973, the Yom Kippur War broke out.
The IDF was caught off guard, but soon recovered: The territory lost on the Golan Heights was regained within three days, and ten days after the fighting began, IDF forces penetrated Egyptian territory but the sense of defeat, which had characterized the first few days of fighting, did not abate even once the war had ended.
En route to battle. The Yom Kippur War (Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
The aftermath of the war saw a national commission of inquiry, headed by Chief Justice Shimon Agranat, appointed to probe the war. The commission made several recommendations concerning high-ranking military leaders, including then IDF Chief of Staff David Elazar, but refrained from discussing the political echelon.
A number of Arab countries sent troops to fight alongside Egypt and Syria and the oil-rich Arab nations, collectively known as OAPEC, announced they were placing an oil embargo on the US and Holland, due to their support of Israel.
Shockwaves raced around the world as the so-called “first energy crisis” had begun as crude oil prices quadrupled within just a few months. The energy crisis threatened most of the world’s non-OPEC members, many of whom blamed Israel. Israel lost much of its international standing as a result of the war, and it economy, largely dependent on oil imports, suffered.
Nonetheless, Israel managed to weather the war’s economic fallout, mainly due to unprecedented American aid. Since 1974, American foreign aid to Israel, comprised of both military and economic aid, has equaled several billion dollars a year. Still, the economic upswing of the prewar period was considerably overturned.
The settlement enterprise continued and so did terror. In 1976 the infamous hijacking of an Air France plane to Entebbe, Uganda occurred. The subsequent IDF rescue mission on July 4, 1976, resonated throughout the world. On June 7, 1981, Israel conducted another daring raid and destroyed Iraq’s nuclear reactor a short while before it was scheduled to go live.
Labor won a proportional majority in elections held shortly after the war, but the public's faith in the party’s veteran leadership was gone. Prime Minister Meir and Defense Minister Dayan were forced to resign. Yitzchak Rabin became the next prime minister.
From the Political Upset until the Lebanon War (1977-1982)
The 1977 elections have often been described as a dramatic political upset: for the first time in Israeli history, a group of center/right parties, collectively known as the Likud, formed a government. Menachem Begin, who had led the opposition since the state’s founding, became the prime minister. Although the upset can be attributed to the aftershocks of the Yom Kippur War, other factors also contributed to the political turnaround, as a great rift began tearing through Israeli society.
A radical turnabout in Israeli-Arab relations occurred near the end of 1977: Clandestine talks between Israeli and Egyptian officials resulted in Egyptian President Anwar Sadat publicly announcing his intention visit Jerusalem, address the Knesset, and discuss peace.
Israeli PM Begin with Egyptian President, Saadat and US President Carter
Sadat arrived in Israel on November 19, as Egypt and Israel launched peace talks, under American auspices. Two years later, in 1979, the two signed the Camp David Accords. Virulent public storms arose in the wake of the subsequent Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai and the evacuation of Yamit in 1982.
A series of governmental countermeasures soon followed and included the enactment of the Jerusalem Law of 1980 and the declaration of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights in 1981.
A major social development of that time was the growing strength of the Orthodox (haredi) sector. Prior to 1977, this closed community had been relatively insignificant with minimal involvement in the nation’s politics, but in 1977, Begin invited Agudat Yisrael, a haredi party, to join his coalition. As a result, the haredi public’s ranks swelled, and its members became more politically and economically active.
The northern border new some unrest again, as the Lebanese civil war, which had begun in 1975, grew steadily worse. Israel’s anti-terrorist activities included forming the South Lebanese Army (SLA) under Saad Hadad’s command and opening the so-called “Good Fence” but the terror continued, and on March 14, 1978, the IDF entered Lebanese territory as part of Operation Litani. Israel retreated approximately three months later, after a UN peacekeeping force was stationed as a buffer between the Israeli border and PLO positions throughout southern Lebanon, creating, in effect, the SLA-controlled security zone.
The arrangement soon proved ineffective, and on June 6, 1982, following an assassination attempt on the Israeli ambassador to Britain, the Lebanon War began.
From the Lebanon War until the Oslo Accords (1982-1995)
Unlike previous Arab-Israeli wars, the Lebanon War did not end with either a ceasefire or an armistice agreement. Although the IDF controlled about half of Lebanon’s territory, Israel had managed neither to destroy the PLO nor to impose a “new order” on Lebanon.
Lebanese Phalangist leader Bashir Gamayel was assassinated on September 14 and in the aftermath Christian Lebanese forces massacred Palestinian residents of the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, igniting a storm of protests in Israel and throughout the world. The Israeli government and the IDF were accused of ignoring the massacre, and the Kahan Commission, appointed to investigate the killings, recommended that Defense Minister Ariel Sharon be dismissed.
IDF forces patrolling the Lebanese border (photo: GPO)
IDF forces in Lebanon came under continuous fire and terror attacks by the assorted paramilitary organizations operating in Lebanon. In 1985, the IDF began slowly retreating southward, and a “security zone”, under joint IDF-SLA control, was established in southern Lebanon. Relative calm prevailed on Israel’s northern border, but flare-ups persisted within the security zone.
Socially and economically, this was a tempestuous period in Israeli history: The Likud-led government oversaw certain economic steps which quickly led to galloping inflation, reaching 400% by its 1983 peak and throwing the Israeli economy into chaos. In August 1983, the Lebanese quagmire and the country’s desperate economic straits caused Begin to resign, citing “personal reasons”. Yitzchak Shamir became the next prime minister.
The 1984 general elections resulted in a “hung” Knesset, and a national unity government was formed on a rotation basis. Shimon Peres was the prime minister for the first two years, and then Shamir, maintaining the same coalition, replaced him in October 1986.
In order to stabilize the economy, the national unity government took a number of drastic steps, including the implementation of a comprehensive price freeze, and managed to curb the inflation. Nevertheless, the economy did not immediately rebound. In the following 1988 elections, the Likud achieved a very narrow margin of victory, resulting in another unity government, but this time, there was to be no rotation. In March 1990, Peres, seeking to regain power, tried to topple Shamir's government but failed.
Although some Palestinian Arabs had become members of terror organizations and a small number had committed terror attacks, most refrained from protesting Israeli rule. In December 1987, however, everything changed. A wave of uprisings, later to be known as the Intifada, broke out in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip. Israel proved unable to quell the riots.
A reluctant Shamir agreed to take part in the Madrid Conference, an international peace conference which included Palestinian representatives, albeit as part of the Jordanian delegation but the Palestinian uprising continued, unabated.
In early 1991, Israel became an unwilling participant in the First Gulf War. Iraq responded to US-led Coalition attacks by launching Scud missiles at Israel. Although there were few causalities and property damage was relatively minimal, the constant fear of unconventional weapons led to widespread panic. Nevertheless, life quickly returned to normal once the war had ended.
Rabin replaced Peres as Labor party chairman and garnered a majority in the 1992 elections, largely as a result of the optimism generated by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the ensuing large immigration wave which began in late 1989. The economy flourished, and the government’s primary concern was the Intifada.
Clandestine talks between Israeli and Palestinian officials in Oslo, Norway, climaxed in the Oslo Accords. As part of the controversial agreement, Israel accepted the PLO as the official representative of the Palestinians and granted it autonomy over a large portion of Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip. In return, the Palestinians promised to recognize Israel’s existence, to refrain from further terrorist activities, and to end the Intifada. The Accords were signed in Washington on the White House lawn on September 13, 1993, accompanied by am historical handshake between Rabin and PLO leader Yasser Arafat.
From the Oslo Accords (1993) until Today
The Oslo Accords significantly impacted Israel. As per the agreement, the Palestinian Authority (PA) was founded. Shortly thereafter, in October 1994, Israel signed an historic peace treaty with Jordan, and tentative peace talks were initiated with Syria.
Israel’s international standing improved dramatically, and immigration continued to soar. In the period between 1990 and 1995, over 500,000 immigrants arrived from Eastern Europe and other nations, and the economy boomed.
Yet, Israel paid dearly for the Accords: The Palestinian attacks continued unabated, as Israel accused Arafat and the PA of not preventing the terror In addition, the PA established military or paramilitary armies in excess of their Oslo mandate and the Palestinians claimed that new Israeli settlements violated Oslo's "spirit”.
The Oslo Accord: Rabin, Arafat and Clinton (Photo: AP)
On November 4, 1995, the so-called peace process came to a screeching halt. Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by an Israeli right-wing extremist, Yigal Amir.
Peres, who took his place as prime minister, pushed-up the general elections to the beginning of 1996 (direct prime ministerial elections had been introduced in the meantime) and was defeated by the Likud’s Binyamin Netanyahu, whose political views were diametrically opposed to Rabin’s and Peres’.
The peace process advanced sporadically at best, and many Israelis began vociferously opposing the Oslo Accords. The new government was short lived, as Netanyahu resigned in 1999. In May of that year, Ehud Barak was elected as the next prime minister.
Barak was unable to get the peace process back on track, but was able to keep his election promise of an Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon. In May 2000, the last IDF tank retreated to the Israeli border the SLA collapsed and an uneasy calm reigned along the northern border.
Although the Syrian talks resumed, no breakthrough was achieved. US President Bill Clinton attempted to jumpstart the peace process and, modeling himself after his predecessor Jimmy Carter in 1978, invited Barak and Arafat to Camp David in July 2000. Disappointingly, the talks failed and in the following September, the Intifada resumed with a vengeance.
Jewish-Arab relations deteriorated further during the bloody riots of October 2000. Then-opposition chairman Ariel Sharon’s controversial visit to Temple Mount enraged the Arab sector, triggered a raging Palestinian uprising: thousands of Israeli Arabs participated in violent disturbances efforts were made to attack Jewish communities major highways were closed to Jewish traffic numerous structures were destroyed and a Jew was killed when a rock was thrown at his vehicle.
Israeli police attempts to control the riots resulted in the deaths of 13 Arab citizens and many more were wounded Palestinians in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip continued to clash with Israeli and Israeli-Arabs evidenced unprecedented levels of cooperation and identification with their brethren on the other side of the Green Line, dramatically increasing the sense of hostility between Israeli Jews and Arabs dramatically increased.
Riots at Umm al-Fahm (Photo: Yariv Katz)
In the riots' aftermath, then Prime Minister Ehud Barak set up the Or Commission to investigate the riots and as well as the governmental response, including police behavior.
In 2003, the Or Commission would publish its findings, including the following review of Jewish-Arab relations: “Minority-majority relationships are problematic in every place, and especially in a state that defines itself according to the majority’s nationality… In any event, establishing reasonable harmony in majority-minority relations is a difficult task imposed on every societal sector. This task requires a particular effort from state institutions which express the majority’s hegemony.
"Refraining from such an effort, or only partially attempting it, creates a sense of neglect and a reality of neglect among the minority, which are likely to become more severe with the passage of time. These phenomena also characterize the Arab minority in the State of Israel, which, in many respects, is the victim of discrimination.”
The end of 2000 saw Barak resign from office, as new elections were held in early 2001. The direct election law was meanwhile revoked and the Likud, headed by Ariel Sharon, returned to power.
The renewed Intifada hit Israel hard: Seemingly overnight, the economy plummeted into a recession, immigration decreased and Israeli society became more fractured. Sharon’s Likud garnered a large majority in the 2003 elections, and he remained prime minister. Meanwhile, the so-called “Al-Aksa Intifada” raged on, and Israeli efforts to decrease the terror had little to no effect.
In March 2003, Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, became PA prime minister under Arafat, and many were optimistic that change was in the air. By that time, the Israeli government had declared that Arafat was “irrelevant”. The Palestinians declared a “hudna” (a temporary ceasefire) and claimed that they were refraining from terror attacks. At the same time, Israel pulled back some of its forces from PA-controlled territory, but the hudna led nowhere: within a very short while, the Palestinians were once again committing terror attacks, and the Israelis were forced to respond.
In mid 2003 Abbas resigned his position as Palestinian prime minister but in late 2004, faced with Arafat's deteriorating health he returned to office. After Arafat's death on November 11 2004, Abbas was named chairman of the PLO and in January 2005 was voted Palestinian president. Israel was optimistic regarding the chances of peace with the PA once more.
The disengagement from the Gaza Strip
In 2004 Prime Minister Ariel Sharon started pushing the idea of a unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip. The move called for the removal of 21 Israeli settlements in the Strip and from four settlements in the northern West Bank. The move, said Sharon, was designed to improve Israel's security and international status in the absence of an active political negotiation process to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The idea sparked controversy from the moment of its inception, provoking political outbursts and mass public objection, especially from the political right, which tried rallying up the Israeli public against the move through mass protest rallies and the blocking of major highways.
Likud members demanded their leader hold a referendum on the plan, prior to an Israeli cabinet vote. Held on May 2, 2004, the referendum ended with 59.5% of the voters deciding against the disengagement plan.
In early June, Sharon's government approved an amended disengagement plan 14 to 7, but the bill was to go back and forth numerous times in the following year.
The government subsequently formed the Disagreement Authority, which was supposed to oversee all the logistic, infrastructural, financial and social aspects of the disengagement.
In August 2005 the Gaza pullout began: Some 142,000 IDF soldier, Border Guard troops and police officers tool part in the operation, named Operation Yad La'ahim (reaching out to our brothers) and delivered the evacuation orders to the residents.
Within two weeks 23 settlements – Bedolah, Beni Atzmon, Dugit, Elei Sinai, Gadid , Gan Or, Ganei Tal, Katif, Kfar Darom, Kfar Yam, Kerem Atzmona, Morag, Neveh Dekalim, Netzarim, Netzer Hazani, Nisanit, Pe'at Sade, Rafiah Yam, Slav, Shirat Hayam and Tel Katifa in the Gaza Strip and Homesh and Sa-Nur in the West Bank, with their 9,400 residents were evacuated. The West Bank settlements of Gamin and Kadim, which were also included in the disengagement evacuated voluntarily, prior to the pullout's onset.
Many agreed to leave peacefully, but security forces also found themselves clashing with those who refused to do so. The pullout's most violent altercation took place at Amona, as thousands of settlers and right-wing activists clashed with IDF and police troops. The three-and-a-half scuffle ended with 200 casualties, including some 80 security forces' personnel and MK Effie Eitam (National Union).
Security forces, settlers clashing at Amona (Photo: AP)
The disengagement was seen by the Palestinians as evidence to Israel's defeat and Hamas' true power. Soon, any hope of a normalization of relations between the neighboring Jewish and Palestinian communities faded, as Hamas upped the attacks on Israel, barraging the city of Sderot, Gaza vicinity communities, western Negev with Qassam rockets and mortar shells.
On November 21 2005, Sharon announced he was leaving the Likud and forming a new party which would allow him the freedom to carry out his new political vision, and so came Kadima.
The move sent shockwaves through Israeli politics, as prominent figures from all ends of the political map soon joined the new party: Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni, Meir Sheetrit, Gideon Ezra, Avraham Hirschson, Roni Bar-On, Haim Ramon and Shimon Peres, to name a few, rallied to Sharon's side, as Kadima rounded 150 members in its first day of founding alone, emerging as a new political force to be reckoned with.
In January 2006, Ariel Sharon suffered a mass stroke which left him comatose. His deputy, then Finance Minister Ehud Olmert, took over as acting prime minister.
In March 2006, Kadima won the general elections by a landslide. The party won 29 sits in the Knesset and Ehud Olmert became the prime minister of Israel.
In September 2008, Olmert resigned from office due to the police's recommendation to indict him in various corruption affairs and following Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's election as Kadima chairwoman.
He was replaced as prime minister by Benjamin Netanyahu following the 2009 elections.
Three reasons Israelis stopped being secular
Religious Zionism is the strongest, most deluded elite in Israel
Why nationalist and Jewish orthodoxy are taking over Israel
It sometimes seems that words are nothing more than props in the hands of talented circus acrobats. For example, there is a profound connection between the terms secularism and atheism, but they are by no means congruent or identical. Among Israeli intellectuals, and not by chance, the differences between the two are far more vague than in other areas of the national discourse.
For example, a person can be secular in the political sense of the word and believe in a higher power (like the late Prof. Yeshayahu Leibowitz), or an atheist who is not really secular (like the late Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion). Secularism is – not only, but mainly – a political viewpoint, whereas atheism is firstly a philosophical viewpoint.
In the historical development of liberal democracy – and, in effect, in the growth of some of the authoritarian democracies, too – secularism meant the separation of religion and state. Or, to be more precise, a severance of the traditional Gordian knot between political society and the Church (or churches).
Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, in Kibbutz Sde Boker. Shlomo Buchbinder
It’s true that the secularization of the public-political space was never total – see, for example, the flags of Sweden and Norway – or the enduring relationship between the United Kingdom and the Anglican church. But legislation regarding marital status, neutrality on issues of belief and ritual, public education without the intervention of the priesthood, and defining citizenship and nationality without religious criteria, all became the norm in most countries in the 20th century (with the exception of those in the Middle East and North Africa).
Zionism as a national movement that rebelled against historical Judaism was mainly atheistic. Most of its leaders and activists ceased believing in redemption through the coming of the Messiah, the long-standing essence of Jewish belief, and took their fate into their own hands. The power of the human subject replaced the power of the omnipotent God.
The rabbis knew that, and were terrified – and, therefore, almost all of them became avowed anti-Zionists. From Hasidic rebbes Sholom Dovber Schneersohn, the Admor of Lubavitch (Chabad) and Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter (the Admor of Gur) to leading U.S. Reform Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, founder of the Reform Central Conference, mitnagdim and Hasidim, Orthodox, Reform and Conservative, all saw the rise of Zionism as the end of Judaism. Due to the sweeping opposition of the rabbis of Germany, Theodor Herzl was forced to transfer the First Zionist Congress from Munich to the Swiss city of Basel.
Israeli tanks during the Six-Day War in 1967. A large non-Jewish population was brought together under the country’s muscular Jewish wing. AP
But beginning with the first stages in the consolidation and settlement of the Zionist movement, it was forced to meticulously sort and thoroughly nationalize some of the religious beliefs in order to turn them into nation-building myths.
For the atheistic Zionists, God was dead and therefore the Holy Land became the homeland all the traditional holidays became national holidays and Jerusalem stopped being a heavenly city and became the very earthly capital of an eternal people. But it wasn’t these decisions, or many others, that prevented secular nationalism from serving as the foundation for the establishment of the State of Israel.
The main reason for Zionism’s inability to establish a secular entity with a constitution – in which religion is separated from the state – lay elsewhere. The problematic nature of defining the “Jew” according to secular criteria – cultural, linguistic, political or “biological” (despite all efforts, it’s still impossible to determine who is a Jew by means of DNA) – was what eliminated the option of a secularized identity.
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For example, in 1918, Ben-Gurion – the future founder of the state – was convinced, as were many others, that most of the population of the Land of Israel had not been exiled, but converted to Islam with the Arab conquest, and therefore was clearly Jewish in origin.
In 1948, he had already given up on this confused and dangerous idea, and instead asserted that the Jewish people had been exiled by force and had wandered in isolation for 2,000 years. Shortly before that, he presented the weak and depleted religious Zionist stream with a valuable gift: In the famous “status quo” letter, all the laws pertaining to marital status, adoption and burial were given over to the Chief Rabbinate. The fear of assimilation was the nightmare shared by Judaism and Zionism, and it won out in the end.
Within a short time, the principle of the religious definition was accepted in identity politics: A “Jew” is someone who was born to a Jewish mother or converted, and is not a member of another religion. In other words, if you don’t meet those conditions, you cannot be a part of the revival of the “Jewish people,” even if you adopt Israeli culture, speak fluent Hebrew and celebrate on Israeli Independence Day. It’s a very logical historical process: Since there is no secular Jewish culture, it’s impossible to join by secular means something that doesn’t exist.
And then came 1967. The State of Israel expanded significantly, but at the same time a large non-Jewish population was also brought together under the country’s muscular Jewish wing. The Jewish constraints also had to be tightened in the face of the confusing misunderstandings that were liable to be created as a result of the territorial-demographic booby trap.
From now on, more than ever, the emphasis had to be on the heading “Jewish” – in other words, the state belonging to those who were born to a Jewish mother or converted according to Jewish law and, God forbid, not the country of all its citizens.
The justifications for the appetite for renewed settlement also relied less on the Zionist demand for independent sovereignty and far more on the biblical idea of the Promised Land. That’s why it is no coincidence that the clerical establishment became increasingly inflated at the same time.
Like socialism and political-civil nationalism, the crisis of secular ideologies in the face of capitalistic globalism also created an inviting atmosphere for the rise of “premodern” identities, mainly ethno-religious but also ethno-biological as well. And if these identities have yet to achieve total victory throughout the Western world, in other corners of the planet – from Eastern Europe to the Third World – they have chalked up considerable achievements. In Israel, due to the previous ethnocentric background, the new-old identities have become very popular. The synthesis of Zionism and socialism has disintegrated totally, making way for a winning symbiosis of religion and strong ethno-nationalism.
For pseudo-secular Zionists – and not only for them – this new situation is difficult and oppressive. But because they do not have answers to the identity problems and contradictions that have been part of Israeli society since its inception, we can apparently anticipate additional catastrophes.
Illuminati, Nazis & The Illegal State of Israel
If we wish to end the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, we need to know who created Israel and why. In 1917 British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour penned a letter to Zionist Second Lord Lionel Walter Rothschild in which he expressed support for a Jewish homeland on Palestinian-controlled lands in the Middle East.
This Balfour Declaration justified the brutal seizure of Palestinian lands for the post-WWII establishment of Israel. Israel would serve, not as some high-minded &ldquoJewish homeland&rdquo, but as lynchpin in Rothschild/Eight Families control over the world&rsquos oil supply. Baron Edmond de Rothschild built the first oil pipeline from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean to bring BP Iranian oil to Israel. He founded Israeli General Bank and Paz Oil and is considered the father of modern Israel.
The Rothschilds are the planet&rsquos wealthiest clan, worth an estimated $100 trillion. They control Royal Dutch/Shell, BP, Anglo-American, BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Bank of America and scores of other global corporations and banks. They are the largest shareholders in the Bank of England, the Federal Reserve and most every private central bank in the world. They needed a footprint in the Middle East to protect their new oil concessions, which they procured through Four Horsemen fronts like the Iranian Consortium, Iraqi Petroleum Company and Saudi ARAMCO.
Rothschild&rsquos Shell and BP formed these cartels with the Rockefeller half of the Four Horsemen- Exxon Mobil and Chevron Texaco. This new alliance required a &ldquospecial relationship&rdquo between Great Britain and the US, which still exists today. Rothschild and other wealthy European shareholders could now utilize the United States military as a Hessianized mercenary force, deployed to protect their oil interests and paid for by US taxpayers. Israel would serve the same purpose in closer proximity to the oilfields. The Israeli Mossad is less a national intelligence agency than it is a Rothschild/Rockefeller family security force.
The Rothschilds exert political control through the secretive Business Roundtable, which they created in 1909 with the help of Lord Alfred Milner and Cecil Rhodes- whose Rhodes Scholarship is granted by Cambridge University, out of which oil industry propagandist Cambridge Energy Research Associates operates. Rhodes founded De Beers and Standard Chartered Bank.
The Roundtable takes its name from the legendary knight King Arthur, whose tale of the Holy Grail is synonymous with the Illuminati notion that the Eight Families possess Sangreal or holy blood- a justification for their lording over the people and resources of the planet.
According to former British Intelligence officer John Coleman, who wrote Committee of 300, &ldquoRound Tablers armed with immense wealth from gold, diamond and drug monopolies fanned out throughout the world to take control of fiscal and monetary policies and political leadership in all countries where they operated.&rdquo
Rhodes and Oppenheimer deployed to South Africa to launch the Anglo-American conglomerate. Kuhn and Loeb were off to re-colonize America with Morgan and Rockefeller. Rudyard Kipling was sent to India. Schiff and Warburg manhandled Russia. Rothschild, Lazard and Israel Moses Seif pushed into the Middle East. At Princeton, the Round Table founded the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) as partner to its All Souls College at Oxford. IAS was funded by the Rockefeller&rsquos General Education Board. IAS members Robert Oppenheimer, Neils Bohr and Albert Einstein created the atomic bomb.
In 1919 Rothschild&rsquos Business Roundtable spawned the Royal Institute of International Affairs (RIIA) in London. The RIIA sponsored sister organizations around the globe, including the US Council on Foreign Relations. The RIIA is a registered charity of the Queen and, according to its annual reports, is funded largely by the Four Horsemen. Former British Foreign Secretary and Kissinger Associates co-founder Lord Carrington is president of both the RIIA and the Bilderbergers. The inner circle at RIIA is dominated by Knights of St. John Jerusalem, Knights of Malta, Knights Templar and 33rd Degree Scottish Rite Freemasons.
The Knights of St. John were founded in 1070 and answer directly to the British House of Windsor. Their leading bloodline is the Villiers dynasty, which the Hong Kong Matheson family- owners of the HSBC opium laundry- married into. The Lytton family also married into the Villiers gang.
Colonel Edward Bulwer-Lytton led the English Rosicrucian secret society, which Shakespeare opaquely referred to as Rosencranz, while the Freemasons were symbolized by Guildenstern. Lytton was spiritual father of both the RIIA and Nazi fascism. In 1871 he penned a novel titled, Vril: The Power of the Coming Race. Seventy years later the Vril Society received ample mention in Adolf Hitler&rsquos Mein Kampf. Lytton&rsquos son became Viceroy to India in 1876 just before opium production spiked in that country. His good friend Rudyard Kipling introduced the swastika to India and later worked under Lord Beaverbrook as Propaganda Minister, alongside Sir Charles Hambro of the Hambros banking dynasty.
Children of the Roundtable elite are members of a Dionysian cult known as Children of the Sun. Initiates include Aldous Huxley, T. S. Eliot, D. H. Lawrence and H. G. Wells. Wells headed British intelligence during WWI. His books speak of a &ldquoone-world brain&rdquo and &ldquoa police of the mind&rdquo. William Butler Yeats, another Sun member, was a pal of Aleister Crowley. The two formed an Isis Cult based on a Madam Blavatsky manuscript, which called on the British aristocracy to organize itself into an Aryan priesthood. Blavatsky&rsquos Theosophical Society and Bulwer-Lytton&rsquos Rosicrucians joined forces to form the Thule Society, out of which the Nazis emerged.
Rothschild, Rockefeller and the rest of the Illuminati bankers backed the Nazis. Max and Paul Warburg sat on I. G. Farben&rsquos board, as did H. A. Metz, who was director at the Warburg Bank of Manhattan- later Chase Manhattan. Bank of Manhattan director and Federal Reserve Board member C. E. Mitchell sat on the board of I. G. Farben&rsquos US branch. In 1936 Avery Rockefeller set up a combination with the German Schroeder family, who served as Hitler&rsquos personal bankers. Time magazine called the new Schroeder, Rockefeller & Company &ldquothe economic booster of the Rome-Berlin Axis&rdquo. Morgan Guaranty Trust and Union Banking Corporation (UBC) also funded the Nazis. UBC board member Prescott Bush is W&rsquos grandfather.
In 1933 at the home of banker Baron Kurt von Schroeder, a deal was cut to bring Hitler to power. Attending the meeting were brothers John Foster and Allen Dulles- Rockefeller cousins and partners at law firm Sullivan & Cromwell, which represented Schroeder Bank. Schroeder, managing director T. C. Tiarks, was a director at the Rothschild-controlled Bank of England. In the spring of 1934 Bank of England Chairman Montagu Norman convened a meeting of London bankers who decided to covertly fund Hitler.
Royal Dutch/Shell Chairman Sir Henri Deterding helped in this effort. Even after the US went to war with Germany, Exxon Chairman Walter Teagle remained on the board of I. G. Chemical- the US I. G. Farben subsidiary. Exxon was integral in supplying the Nazis with tetraethyl lead, an important component of aviation fuel. Only Exxon, Du Pont and GM made the stuff. Teagle also supplied the Japanese with his product.
Exxon and I. G. Farben were such close business associates that by 1942 Thurman Arnold- head of the US Justice Department&rsquos Anti-Trust Division- produced documents that showed, &ldquoStandard and Farben in Germany had literally carved up the world markets, with oil and chemical monopolies established all over the map.&rdquo
In 1912 railroad magnate Edward Harriman&rsquos widow joined John D. Rockefeller in funding a eugenics research lab at Cold Spring Harbor, NY. That same year the First International Congress of Eugenics was convened in London with Winston Churchill presiding. In 1932 the conference was held in New York. Hamburg-Amerika Shipping Line, owned by George Walker and Prescott Bush, brought the German contingent to the gene-fest. One member of the German delegation was Dr. Ernst Rudin of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Genealogy in Berlin. He was unanimously elected president for his work in founding the German Society of Race Hygiene- a forerunner to Hitler&rsquos race institutes.
As of 1998 there were still scores of lawsuits pending against Ford, Chase Manhattan, J.P. Morgan, Deutsche Bank, Allianz AG and several Swiss banks for their dealings with the Nazis.
At the heart of Hitler&rsquos inner circle were the secret societies Germanordern(brothers of Yale&rsquos Skull & Bones), the Thule Society, and Vril. The concepts &ldquoGreat Masters&rdquo, &ldquoAdepts&rdquo and the &ldquoGreat White Brotherhood&rdquo, which the Nazis used to justify their idea of Aryan superiority, were ancient ideas carried forth from the Egyptian Mystery Schools by the Teutonic Knights, the Illuminati, and Hebrew Cabalists. These same concepts can be found in today&rsquos New Age Movement, whose New Age magazine was first published by the Grand Orient Masonic Lodge of Washington, DC. Henry Kissinger was an early supporter.
Nazi occultists believed ancient German tribes were the true keepers of the Ancient Mysteries which had their origin in Atlantis, when seven races of God-men were introduced to Earth. Thule was a Teutonic Atlantis believed by the Nazis to house these long-vanquished races, who lost their godly Annunaki powers by interbreeding with humans. At the inner core of the Thule Society were Satanists who practiced black magic.
Hitler was once described as a &ldquochild of Illuminism&rdquo.
According to Dr. Walter Langer, who did a war-time psychoanalysis of Hitler for the CIA-predecessor OSS, Hitler was also a Rothschild. Langer uncovered an Austrian police report proving Hitler&rsquos father was an illegitimate son of a peasant cook named Maria Anna Schicklgruber, who at the time of her conception was a servant in the Vienna home of Baron Rothschild.
In May 1941 Rudolf Hess parachuted into the estate of the Duke of Hamilton, saying a supernatural force told him to negotiate with the British. Hitler was ostensibly visited by this same apparition and suddenly turned vehemently against occultism. He ordered a crackdown against Freemasons, Templars and the Theosophical Society. Suddenly the international banker crowd pulled the plug on Hitler&rsquos finances and began to denounce him. Six months later the Hessianized US military entered WWII.
Hitler&rsquos fate was no different than that of Saddam Hussein or Manuel Noriega. The Illuminati bankers&rsquo modus operandi is to use men of low integrity to do their dirty work, before conveniently discarding and distancing themselves from them.
The horrific Holocaust that ensued assured sympathy for the already-planned state of Israel. Towards the end of WWII, the murderous Haganah and Stern Gangs were deployed by the Rothschild bankers to terrorize Palestinians and steal their land. Jews who escaped Hitler&rsquos gas chambers were those of means who bought into Zionism. For a fee of $1,000- lots of money at that time- these right-wingers bought passage to Israel and escaped the fate of the poor Jews, Serbs, communists and gypsies. The whole bloody affair was a massive eugenics project. It had more to do with culling the herd along class lines, than it did with ethnicity or religion.
The key to this historic puzzle is to understand that the Rothschild/Rockefeller sangreal international bankers supported both the rise of the Nazis and the creation of Israel. None of this has anything to do with religion. It has everything to do with oil, arms, drugs, money and power. The Rothschilds say they are Jewish. The Rockefellers claim to be Christian. These are irrelevant smokescreens. Any demagogue- who blames injustice a religion or race of people- is sadly misinformed. Throughout history the Illuminati Satanists have sacrificed people of all race and religion to further their agenda of total planetary control.
Israel is not a &ldquoJewish homeland&rdquo. It is an oil monopoly lynchpin. Its citizens are being put in harms way- used by the Four Horsemen and their Eight Families-owners as geopolitical pawns in an international resource grab. No peaceful solution is possible until the stolen land is returned to its rightful Palestinian owners.
Creation of the State of Israel
Following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, the British assumed control of Palestine. In November 1917, the British government issued the Balfour Declaration, announcing its intention to facilitate the "establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people." In 1922, the League of Nations granted Britain a mandate over Palestine which included, among other things, provisions calling for the establishment of a Jewish homeland, facilitating Jewish immigration and encouraging Jewish settlement on the land.
The Arabs were opposed to Jewish immigration to Palestine and stepped up their attacks against the Jews. Following an increase in Arab attacks, the British appointed a royal commission in 1936 to investigate the Palestine situation. The Peel Commission recommended the partition of the country between Arabs and Jews. The Arabs rejected the idea while the Jews accepted the principle of partition.
At the end of World War II, the British persisted in their immigration restrictions and Jewish survivors of the Holocaust were violently turned away from the shores of Palestine. The Jewish Agency and the Haganah continued to smuggle Jews into Palestine. Underground cells of Jews, most notably the Irgun and Lehi, engaged in open warfare against the British and their installations.
The British concluded that they could no longer manage Palestine and handed the issue over to the United Nations. On November 29, 1947, after much debate and discussion, the UN recommended the partition of Palestine into two states one Jewish and one Arab. The Jews accepted the UN resolution while the Arabs rejected it.
Meanwhile, since the time of the British Mandate, the Jewish community in Palestine had been forming political, social and economic institutions that governed daily life in Palestine and served as a pre-state infrastructure. Zionist leader David Ben-Gurion (1886-1973) served as head of the pre-state government.
The British mandate over Palestine officially terminated at midnight, May 14, 1948. Earlier in the day, at 4:00 p.m., David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the creation of the State of Israel and became its first prime minister. Longtime advocate of Zionism in Britain Chaim Weizmann (1874-1952) became Israel's first president. On May 15, the United States recognized the State of Israel and the Soviet Union soon followed suit.
The fledgling State of Israel was faced with many challenges. While fighting a war of survival with the Arab states who immediately invaded the new nation, Israel had to also absorb the shiploads of immigrants coming in daily to the Jewish homeland. Many were penniless refugees from Europe broken in body and in spirit. They needed immediate health and social services in addition to acculturation to their new home.
The STATE OF ISRAEL FOUNDED - History
Al Nakba &mdash written and directed by Rawan Damen, produced and first run on Al Jazeera Arabic in 2008, and reversioned by Al Jazeera World to English in 2013 &mdash is precisely the sort of documentary one would expect to be promoted by Al Jazeera, the Qatari government-funded news channel.
The four-part documentary is an over three-hour long attack on the Zionist movement and the state of Israel. The first quote to flash across the screen at the start of the documentary is from Arnold Toynbee: &ldquoThe tragedy in Palestine is not just a local one it is a tragedy for the world, because it is an injustice that is a menace to the world&rsquos peace.&rdquo
Damen&rsquos Al Nakba presents an entirely anti-Israeli perspective, eliding and ignoring the national, religious, historic, and cultural connection between Jews and the Land of Israel/Palestine, and blaming Zionists for the current troubles in the Middle East &mdash and perhaps for the lack of global peace, too. It&rsquos a propaganda film for a propaganda news channel.
Apparently, though, Al Nakba&rsquos narrative is also exactly what the editors of the British online newspaper The Independent wanted to convey to readers by publishing writer and blogger Joe Sommerlad&rsquos &ldquoA brief history of the Israel-Palestinian conflict&rdquo (May 13, 2021) during the recent eleven days of fighting between Hamas and Israel.
About three quarters of the content of Sommerlad&rsquos 2,300-word article is taken directly from Al Nakba, often word for word &mdash but with no mention of Damen or her documentary. It seems that, having gone that far, Sommerlad may as well have plagiarized more of Damen&rsquos propaganda film. When he doesn&rsquot have her documentary to rely on for information, or veers from her script and begins interjecting content not spelled out there, his writing is usually incorrect or false anyway.
I&rsquoll leave detailed criticism of Damen&rsquos documentary for another time. The questions I want to raise here are why The Independent&rsquos editors thought that it was acceptable to run Sommerlad&rsquos plagiarized article and why they thought his writing would afford The Independent&rsquos readers useful context about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or about the May battle. Sommerlad&rsquos article was also picked up by MSN, and the same questions apply to MSN&rsquos editors. I&rsquoll provide five examples demonstrating Sommerlad&rsquos plagiarism, and several other examples of the misinformation he gives when he deviates from Damen&rsquos documentary.
There are many historical events with which one might begin a brief history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. One could go back to the destruction of the Kingdom of Israel by the Assyrian Empire, or to the conquest of the Kingdom of Judah by the Babylonian Empire, or to the catastrophe of the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem and the exiling of Jews from the Land of Israel to Babylon, or to the subsequent Jewish return to the Land of Israel and rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Second Temple, or to catastrophe of the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem by the Roman Empire, or to the destruction and exile that followed the initially successful Jewish Bar Kohkba revolt against Roman rule, or to the Muslim conquest of the Land of Israel/Palestine centuries later, or to the Crusades, or to the rise of the Zionist movement in the nineteenth century, or to World War I, or to World War II&hellip
A rather unusual historical event to begin with, however, is Napoleon Bonaparte&rsquos siege of Acre. That is how Damen&rsquos narrator begins Al Nakba:
"Our story starts here in 1799, outside the walls of Acre in Ottoman-controlled Palestine. An army under Napoleon Bonaparte besieged the city, all part of a campaign to defeat the Ottomans and establish a French presence in the region. In search of allies, Napoleon issued a letter offering Palestine as a homeland to the Jews, under French protection."
Sommerlad begins his article the same way:
"The modern state of Israel was founded in May 1948 in the aftermath of the Holocaust and Second World War but the conflict that has raged between Israelis and Palestinians since can be traced back much further.
"Napoleon Bonaparte proposed a Jewish homeland in Palestine as long ago as 1799 in the wake of the siege of Acre during his war against the Ottoman Empire."
Damen&rsquos narrator continues:
"At the time, there were estimated to be no more than 3,000 Jews in Ottoman-controlled Palestine. Over the years Jewish immigration to Palestine increased, helped on by wealthy benefactors. One of these was the aristocrat Baron Edmond de Rothschild. He spent over 14 million French Francs to establish 30 Jewish settlements. The most important was Rishon Le Zion, founded in 1882."
"While there were only around 3,000 Jews living in Palestine at that time, wealthy benefactors such as French aristocrat Baron Edmond de Rothschild began to sponsor others from Europe to join them and establish settlements, the most notable being Rishon Le Zion, founded in 1882."
Damen&rsquos narrator then posits the origin of the term &ldquoZionism&rdquo:
"In 1885 the term &ldquoZionism&rdquo was first coined by Austrian writer Nathan Birnbaum."
And one of Damen&rsquos talking heads, an Israeli historian named Dr. Hillel Cohen, adds:
"The Jews who came from Europe, especially Eastern Europe, in the late 19th century wanted to assert a new Jew."
Sommerlad combines that segment of Damen&rsquos film into:
"Austrian writer Nathan Birnbaum coined the term &ldquoZionism&rdquo in 1885 as Jews, particularly from eastern Europe, continued to arrive in Palestine."
Next, Damen&rsquos narrator turns to Theodor Herzl and Max Nordau:
"In 1896, Theodor Herzl, an Austro-Hungarian journalist, wrote a book called The Jewish State. It is considered one of the most important texts of early Zionism. Herzl envisioned the founding of a future independent Jewish state during the 20th century. His colleague, Max Nordau, sent two rabbis to Palestine to investigate the prospects for a Jewish state there. Their report concluded: The bride is beautiful but she is married to another man.&rdquo
And so Sommerlad turns his attention to Herzl and Nordau, too:
"Austro-Hungarian journalist Dr Theodor Herzl&rsquos book The Jewish State appeared a decade later, envisioning the establishment of such an entity with the coming of the 20th century. Two rabbis were sent by Herzl&rsquos friend Max Nordau to Palestine to investigate the feasibility of the prospect but reported back: The bride is beautiful but she is married to another man.&rdquo
Before moving on to a fifth example of Sommerlad&rsquos plagiarism of Damen&rsquos documentary, it&rsquos worth taking a closer look at the story about Nordau that is found in both Damen&rsquos documentary and Sommerlad&rsquos article.
In 2012, I published an article about stories in which &ldquoThe bride is beautiful, but she is married to another man&rdquo phrase is used (&ldquo&lsquoThe bride is beautiful, but she is married to another man&rsquo: Historical Fabrication and an Anti-Zionist Myth,&rdquo Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies, Vol. 30, No. 3, pp. 35-61). More recently, I followed up that article with &ldquo&lsquoThe bride is beautiful, but she is married to another man.&rsquo The tenacity of an anti-Zionist fable&rdquo (Fathom Journal, December 2020). I pointed out in both the Shofar and Fathom articles that the stories about the Land of Israel/Palestine being reported as lovely but already taken lack a primary source and that there is no basis for recounting them as historical events that occurred during the early years of the Zionist movement.
While different versions of these stories were previously around for several decades, they started to spread quite rapidly after the publication of The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World (W. W. Norton & Co., 2000), Oxford University Professor Avi Shlaim&rsquos influential history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. By now, they are found in a host of books, articles, and films. (Shlaim makes an appearance in Damen&rsquos film, as does Al-Zaytouna Research Centre&rsquos Mohsen Saleh. I discuss both in my 2020 Fathom article.) In his introduction to The Iron Wall (p. 3) Shlaim writes of Jewish reactions to Herzl&rsquos 1896 book, claiming:
The publication of The Jewish State evoked various reactions in the Jewish community, some strongly favorable, some hostile, and some skeptical. After the Basel Congress [i.e., the First Zionist Congress, in 1897] the rabbis of Vienna sent two representatives to Palestine. This fact-finding mission resulted in a cable from Palestine in which the two rabbis wrote, &ldquoThe bride is beautiful, but she is married to another man.&rdquo
In some versions of &ldquoThe bride is beautiful, but she is married to another man&rdquo stories, the explorers to the Land of Israel/Palestine aren&rsquot sent by the rabbis of Vienna, but rather by the First Zionist Congress or by Herzl. Writers have altered the details of the stories as they&rsquove told them over time, which isn&rsquot surprising given that the core of the stories, in all their variations, lacks a primary source to refer back to, and given that those telling them have usually been less concerned with historical accuracy than with advancing political agendas.
And so it is with Damen and Sommerlad, whose version of the story has Nordau sending two rabbis to Palestine and hearing back that &ldquoThe bride is beautiful, but she is married to another man&rdquo: they are less concerned with historical accuracy than with advancing a political agenda by telling this story.
Now back to a fifth example of how Sommerlad plagiarized Damen&rsquos documentary.
Damen&rsquos narrator discusses Chaim Weizmann:
"In 1907, Chaim Weizmann, a chemist who had emerged as a leader among British Zionists, visited Palestine for the first time. He set out to establish a company in Jaffa to develop the land of Palestine, a practical means to pursue the Zionist dream of building a Jewish state.
"&hellipWithin three years a major deal was struck. The Jewish National Fund, set up to buy land in Palestine, purchased some 10,000 dunums in the Marj Bin Amer region of northern Palestine."
In Damen&rsquos documentary, a Palestinian NGO named Wakeem Wakeem states:
"Over 60,000 Palestinians in the Marj Ibn Amer area were forced to leave."
And Azmi Bishara (a former member of Israel&rsquos parliament who fled the country in 2007 to escape charges of treason for aiding Hezbollah during its 2006 war with Israel) adds:
"Expelling the farmers accomplished two aims: seizing the land, or the &ldquoJudaization&rdquo of the land, and replacing Arab farmers with Jews from Eastern Europe and Yemen."
Sommerlad combines that segment of Damen&rsquos documentary into this paragraph:
"British Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann, a biochemist, would arrive in Jerusalem at this time to establish a company engaged in buying up land near Jaffa. Within three years, about 10,000 dunums, an old land measurement equivalent to acres, had been acquired in the Marj Bin Amer region of northern Palestine, forcing out 60,000 local farmers to accommodate Jewish arrivals from Europe and Yemen."
I think the five examples I&rsquove provided sufficiently illustrate Sommerlad&rsquos plagiarism of Damen&rsquos documentary, though readers are invited to continue comparing the rest of Sommerlad&rsquos article to Damen&rsquos work and finding others. As mentioned, not all of Sommerlad&rsquos article is taken from Damen&rsquos documentary, but those places where he diverges from his unacknowledged source are replete with error. Below are three examples.
There is a sole instance in Sommerlad&rsquos article in which Jews aren&rsquot the supposed instruments of injustice: his reference to the Holocaust. Sommerlad writes:
"The wider world would once more be plunged into war in 1939 in the fightback against Adolf Hitler&rsquos Nazi Germany, whose Third Reich would ultimately be found responsible for executing six million Jews in concentration camps."
Surely, it&rsquos not too much to expect that a writer for The Independent would know that most of the six million Jews murdered during World War II were not executed in concentration camps. According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:
"Concentration camps served primarily as detention and labor centers, as well as sites for the murder of smaller, targeted groups of individuals. Killing centers, on the other hand, were essentially &ldquodeath factories.&rdquo German SS and police murdered nearly 2,700,000 Jews in the killing centers either by asphyxiation with poison gas or by shooting.'
"With the start of Hitler&rsquos &ldquowar of annihilation&rdquo against the Soviet Union in June 1941, the scale of Einsatzgruppen mass murder operations vastly increased&hellip Under the cover of war and using the pretext of military necessity, the Einsatzgruppen organized and helped to carry out the shooting of more than half a million people, the vast majority of them Jews, in the first nine months of the war.
"&hellipConcerns about the inefficiency of the shootings and their psychological impact on the shooters led to the development of special vans outfitted with engines that pumped carbon monoxide into sealed passenger compartments. Jews were packed into the compartments, then driven to a mass grave, asphyxiating during the journey.
"&hellipThroughout the German occupation of seized Soviet territories, mass shootings continued to be the preferred method of murdering Jews. At least 1.5 million and possibly more than 2 million Holocaust victims died in mass shootings or gas vans in Soviet territory."
World War II is mentioned again in Sommerlad&rsquos next paragraph:
"Not long after the US entrance into the conflict, American-Zionist relations would be cemented with a 1942 conference at the Biltmore Hotel in New York, occurring just as an armed Zionist paramilitary force known as Irgun was rising up in Palestine and attacking local Arab groups."
But the Irgun was actually founded in 1931, and began launching widespread paramilitary operations towards the end of 1937. Had Sommerlad paid just a little more attention to Damen&rsquos documentary, he might have caught the year found in this sentence: &ldquoIn 1938, an underground Zionist paramilitary organization called Irgun began to increase attacks against Arab targets.&rdquo
And here is Sommerlad&rsquos description of the Six Day War:
"Israel&rsquos military advance on the Gaza Strip, West Bank, Golan Heights and Egyptian Sinai in 1967 sparked fresh bloodshed and saw the UN Security Council pass Resolution 242 ordering it to withdraw from territories it considered occupied. The council was ignored."
Sommerlad offers nothing about the circumstances leading up to the Six Day War, including the fact that Israel&rsquos military &ldquoadvanced&rdquo on the 'West Bank' only after Israel was attacked from there by the Kingdom of Jordan.
He immediately follows his description of the Six Day War with this account of events in the Kingdom of Jordan in 1970:
"Following further fighting with Palestinian soldiers in Jordan in the &ldquoBlack September&rdquo of 1970, the Security Council would pass another resolution, 338, calling for a ceasefire and again demanding Israel retreat from its 1967 incursions. Again, Israel refused."
Reading that paragraph, one would assume it was Israel&rsquos military that was engaged in &ldquofurther fighting with Palestinian soldiers&rdquo in Jordan in September 1970, rather than there having been a civil war in which the Palestine Liberation Organization tried to overthrow King Hussein, ending with the PLO&rsquos defeat and the expulsion of its fighters to Lebanon. UNWRA, an organization not known for its sympathies towards Israel, gives this summary of the events of September 1970: &ldquoA conflict, now known as Black September, breaks out between the PLO and the Jordanian Armed Forces. Thousands of Palestine refugees are expelled from the country, and the PLO leadership moves from Jordan to Lebanon.&rdquo
Moreover, UN Security Council Resolution 338 had nothing to do with what took place in Jordan in 1970. That resolution was passed in 1973, during the Yom Kippur War, which began when Egypt and Syria&rsquos combined militaries advanced on the state of Israel on Judaism&rsquos holiest day of the year.
Sommerlad&rsquos imprecisions about the Six Day War, the Black September conflict, UN Security Council Resolution 338, and other matters are indications that he&rsquos not really concerned with giving readers &ldquoA brief history of the Israel-Palestinian conflict&rdquo that will help them understand the past and contextualize current events. Rather, he&rsquos simply interested in portraying Zionism and Israel as negatively as possible. Likewise, Damen&rsquos decision to tell a version of &ldquoThe bride is beautiful, but she is married to another man&rdquo story, and Sommerlad&rsquos decision to lift this story from her documentary, reveals much about their motivations. The potential anti-Zionist uses inherent in the stories featuring &ldquoThe bride is beautiful, but she is married to another man&rdquo phrase are irresistible to many writers, accounting for much of their popularity.
Regardless of their different details, the stories&rsquo central point is usually the same: Already in the early years of the Zionist movement, the suggestion goes, Jews recognized that it would be wrong for them to try to reestablish a state in the Land of Israel/Palestine, as it was inhabited by Arabs and &ldquowedded&rdquo to them. Despite this, the Zionists proceeded with their plans. From the outset, therefore, Zionism was resolutely immoral, and at its core the establishment of the state of Israel was an act of willful iniquity. It&rsquos but a small step from there to the conclusion that the Zionist state should now be dismantled, ending decades of injustice.
That is the conclusion promoted by Damen&rsquos documentary, and it&rsquos also the conclusion that Sommerlad hopes readers of his plagiarized article will reach. Apparently, it&rsquos the conclusion that The Independent&rsquos editors want readers to reach as well.
Was Israel created because of the Holocaust?
Michigan Democratic Representative Rashida Tlaib (the first Palestinian-American woman elected to Congress) recently sparked another partisan controversy over Israel with her comments about the Palestinians’ role in Israel’s creation in the wake of the Holocaust of European Jewry. Republicans have accused her of antisemitism, while her fellow Democrats have rushed to her defense, but what has gone largely unchallenged amid the partisan rancor has been her insinuation that Israel was created because of the Holocaust. In my new book, The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: What Everyone Needs to Know, I debunk this widely-held assumption.
The chronological proximity of the Holocaust and Israel’s establishment has led many people to assume that the two events are causally connected and that Israel was created because of the Holocaust. Contrary to this popular belief, however, a Jewish state would probably have emerged in Palestine, sooner or later, with or without the Holocaust.
Political Zionists like Theodore Herzl made the case for Jewish statehood decades before the mass murder of European Jewry took place, and the Zionist movement had spent many years actively building in Palestine the political and economic infrastructure for an eventual Jewish state. Zionists, in Palestine and elsewhere, did not need the Holocaust to convince them of the Jews’ existential need for statehood, although it did make them even more determined, and less patient, to achieve this long-held objective.
Most Jews in the diaspora, who had previously been opposed to Zionism or largely indifferent toward it, were convinced of the need for Jewish statehood upon learning about the near-annihilation of European Jewry and the desperate plight of those who managed to survive. In the wake of the Holocaust, Zionism became the dominant ideology across the Jewish world. The Holocaust seemed to vindicate the Zionist argument that Jews needed a state of their own to protect, rescue, and shelter them from their enemies. This led many Diaspora Jews, especially those in the United States, to become vocal and energetic advocates for the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. American Jews also provided much-needed money and arms to Jews in Palestine to help them develop and defend such a state.
The mass mobilization of American Jewry in support of Jewish statehood after World War II undoubtedly played a role in persuading the U.S. government to support the partition of Palestine in the pivotal UN vote in November 1947, and then to immediately recognize the State of Israel after it was declared. Historians continue to debate just how much this support was a factor in the Truman administration’s decision-making at the time. President Harry Truman was concerned about winning the influential Jewish vote in the presidential election of November 1948, and he was subjected to intense lobbying by American Jewish Zionists. But it is by no means clear that these were the main reasons why Truman supported the partition of Palestine and recognized the State of Israel, going against the advice of his own State Department.
American public opinion was deeply affected by the Holocaust, and consequently the United States became more supportive of Jewish statehood in its aftermath. This certainly influenced U.S. foreign policy, as did President Truman’s genuine sympathy for Jewish suffering in the Holocaust and for the plight of Jewish Holocaust survivors (shortly after he became president at the end of World War II, for instance, Truman asked the British government, unsuccessfully, to admit 100,000 Holocaust survivors into Palestine).
None of these factors, however, outweighed the influence of pragmatic considerations in determining U.S. foreign policy regarding the future of Palestine. Above all, it was driven by the pressing need to resettle up to 250,000 Jewish refugees and displaced persons in Europe (many of whom were unwilling to return to their countries of origin), and by an equally important desire to avoid a war in Palestine that might destabilize the Middle East and be exploited by the Soviet Union.
Some American policymakers, including Truman himself, also expected a Jewish state to be democratic and pro-Western, thereby helping to contain the spread of Soviet influence in the region. In the context of the emerging Cold War with the Soviets, U.S. strategic interests shaped American foreign policy more than humanitarian concerns for Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. A belief that Jews should be compensated for their suffering in the Holocaust and morally deserved to have their own state was, at most, a secondary factor.
Other states, particularly Great Britain and the Soviet Union, were even more motivated by realpolitik than by sympathy for the Holocaust in their stances toward the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. The British opposed Jewish statehood largely out of a desire to maintain good relations with Arab states (whose plentiful oil supplies they needed). The Soviets, on the other hand, supported Jewish statehood because they wanted to get the British out of Palestine and hoped that a Jewish state, led by the socialist-oriented Mapai Party, would have good relations with the USSR.
Although there was certainly widespread international sympathy for the victims and survivors of the Holocaust, this sympathy was transient, and it did not automatically translate into popular support for the creation of a Jewish state. Nor was the public support that did exist the main reason why the UN General Assembly voted to divide Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state. The vote primarily reflected the wishes of Washington and Moscow — which, for once, happened to be aligned — and the perceived national interests of the UN member states (some were heavily pressured to vote for partition).
The Holocaust, therefore, was not nearly as much of a factor in Israel’s creation as many people, including Rep. Tlaib, think. Though it has generated popular support for Israel’s existence, particularly in some Western countries, it was not the cause of Israel’s establishment.
Pence and Pompeo push “holy war”
Though several Trump officials spoke at the recent CUFI summit, two stand out — not just for their high-ranking positions but also for their open admissions that their Christian Zionist beliefs guide their policies. These officials are Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State and former CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
After Trump chose his running mate, Pence’s religious fervor came under media scrutiny , with several outlets noting that he was known to be an ardent Christian Zionist. Pence’s faith gained particular attention owing to his past statements on Israel, which he has often described in prophetic terms.
Though raised Catholic, Pence gradually transitioned to an “evangelical Catholic” and then to an evangelical Protestant and has since become a key political figure representing the fundamentalist Christian movement that promotes “dominionism,” an ideology that varies in its interpretations but ultimately seeks to see the secular nature of the U.S. government shift towards one governed by “Biblical law.” Pence’s association with this movement has led prominent voices in the media to accuse him of supporting a theocratic form of government.
Though many of the initial concerns about Pence revolved around his likely effects on domestic policy, much of his influence has instead been seen in foreign policy, including the administration’s Middle East policy . His public identification as a Christian Zionist and his speech to the 2017 CUFI summit, the first vice president to ever speak at the annual event, have led some to worry that the Christian Zionist view of prophecy is guiding Pence’s political actions.
Pence visits the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site in Jerusalem’s Old City, Jan. 23, 2018. Oded Balilty | AP
Following Pence’s first speech at CUFI, Daniel Hummel, a scholar and fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School, told the Washington Post :
Christian Zionism has a long history in American politics, but it has never captured the bully pulpit of the White House. Past administrations often used general biblical language in reference to Israel, but never has the evangelical theology of Christian Zionism been so close to the policymaking apparatus of the executive branch.
By identifying with Christian Zionism while in office, Pence risks the Trump administration’s ongoing search for an ‘ultimate deal’ to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and erodes the U.S.’ claim that it can be an ‘honest broker’ in the Middle East.”
Concerns that the U.S. is under the influence of extremist religious Zionism and Christian Zionism that would prevent the country from acting as an “honest broker” in the Israel-Palestine conflict have, unsurprisingly, been proven true . In fact, Pence’s religious beliefs are believed to have been a major factor in Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to move the U.S. Embassy to the contested city.
Though Mike Pence is the highest-ranking member of the Trump administration who is openly a Christian Zionist, it is Pompeo that is the most overt and open about how his religious beliefs regarding the end times guide his decision-making as head of the U.S. State Department.
For uch of his political career, Pompeo has framed U.S. counterterrorism policy as a “ holy war ” between Christianity and Islam, which he believes is the earthly equivalent of a cosmic battle between good and evil. In 2017, as CIA director, Pompeo claimed:
Radical Islamic terror [will] continue to press against us until we make sure that we pray and stand and fight and make sure that we know that Jesus Christ is our savior [and] truly the only solution for our world.”
That same year, Pompeo created a new CIA “mission center” targeting Iran headed by Michael D’Andrea, whose CIA nickname is “ The Prince of Darkness .” Pompeo, like many Christian Zionists, believes that war between the United States and Iran is part of the end times, a belief that is outright alarming given his prior control over CIA covert operations and his focus on Iran, as well as his current role as the U.S.’ chief diplomat, in which he has also been laser-focused on promoting an aggressive policy towards Iran.
In addition to his views on “holy war,” Pompeo also frequently discussed his views on the rapture while serving as CIA director. TYT reported last year that Pompeo had spoken about the rapture so frequently that it had reportedly frightened top CIA officials.
According to Michael Weinstein — founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation , a watchdog group on issues of religious freedom in the military and intelligence community — who was quoted in the TYT report:
He [Pompeo] is intolerant of anyone who isn’t a fundamentalist Christian. The people that worked under him at the CIA that came to us were never confused — they never had time to be confused. They were shocked and then they were scared shitless.”
A 2015 video of Pompeo that surfaced while he was CIA director also shows the former congressman describing politics as “a never-ending struggle … until the rapture.”
More recently, a New York Times article published in March again brought Pompeo’s obsession with the end times back into public view. Titled “ The Rapture and the Real World: Mike Pompeo Blends Beliefs and Policy ,” the article detailed how Pompeo has made it standard operating procedure to mix his Christian Zionist views with his approach to foreign policy. That article also referenced the statement Pompeo made earlier this year, in which he opined that it was “certainly possible” that President Trump had been sent by God to “save the Jewish people from the Iranian menace.”
Pompeo made those statements during an official trip to Jerusalem that was also controversial for other reasons. Indeed, in a state department video shared on social media and meant to publicize Pompeo’s trip, footage of a model of the Third Jewish Temple was included while footage of the Al Aqsa mosque was notably excluded, despite it being the most iconic building in Jerusalem.
Given that Pompeo had also visited the tunnels that have worn away the historic mosque’s foundations, many Palestinians took the video as a sign that the Trump administration was colluding with the Temple Activist movement in Israel, which was discussed in detail in Part II of this series.
The Holocaust and the Founding of Israel Scholar and Journalist Speaks in 'Israel at 50' Series
On the eve of Yom Ha-Shoah, Holocaust Memorial Day, Shlomo Aronson, scholar-in-residence at the Library and professor of political science at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, discussed Hitler's policy of genocide against European Jews during World War II and its relationship to the subsequent founding of the state of Israel in 1948. The April 22 presentation was the second of three lectures at the Library marking Israel's 50th anniversary.
Born in Israel during the British Mandate, Shlomo Aronson was educated at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the University of Munich and the Free University of Berlin, where he received his doctorate. Besides his work in academia, Aronson served as correspondent and later news and current affairs director of the Israel Broadcast Authority. He has also served as director of Hebrew University's Center of European Studies and has been a visiting scholar with the Brookings Institution and the University of California at Los Angeles.
His published works include Conflict and Bargaining in the Middle East, Beginnings of the Gestapo System and The Politics and Strategy of Nuclear Weapons in the Middle East. During his sabbatical at the Library, he is researching a new work, The Quadruple Trap: Hitler, the Allies and the Jews.
"Beginning in the early 20th century," with expanding restrictions on Jewish immigration and the post-World War I Bolshevik Revolution, Mr. Aronson observed, "there was created an ever-growing trap" -- culminating in the Holocaust -- "into which Jews were maneuvered until there was no escape."
Mr. Aronson cited two currently popular lines of thought on the Holocaust. In one, the United States, Britain and the Allies, aware of Hitler's "final solution," abandoned the European Jews to their fate. In another, Hitler was bent on destroying the Jewish people from the beginning, with the entire German nation as his "willing executioners," to use writer Daniel Goldhagen's phrase. "These are simple arguments," he said, "but historical reality is rarely so simple." He added that his job as a historian is not to cast blame, but to understand why.
He has researched recently unsealed wartime records of the Office of Strategic Services -- the precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency -- and British Foreign Service documents, particularly those related to British Palestine in the 1920s and '30s. These documents offered up "tragic treasures," in Mr. Aronson's words, including 5, 000 letters to and from Palestinian Jews routed to a joint U.S.-British censorship agency in Bermuda. The British closely monitored the activities of Palestine's Zionist leaders. The documents showed acute Jewish concern, both in Palestine and America, over the worsening fate of European Jewry.
Palestine, a British protectorate after 1917, was gradually closed to Jewish immigration by 1939, due in no small part to native Arab pressure on the British administrators.
"Hitler didn't decide to kill the Jews until 1941," Mr. Aronson said. Up until that time, the Nazi leader was content to simply push the Jews out of German territory, "not only to get rid of them, but to promote anti-Semitism elsewhere," due to the pressures of the resulting crush of refugees.
Prior to 1941, the Nazi policy was to place Jews in concentrated ghettos, and they even had a plan to send all European Jews to the African island of Madagascar. But Hitler needed British cooperation for that plan.
However, when the war erupted, neither the British nor their American allies were eager to accept the potential flood of Jewish refugees or make any deals with Hitler -- not due to any lack of charity, but because of a fear that it might blur their defined war objectives. Reminding the audience of the strong thread of international anti-Semitism at the time, Mr. Aronson said that Allied military and political leaders needed to keep their public consensus that they fought the Nazis in a war against dictatorial evil -- not a war to save the Jews.
"The Allies made a conscious political decision to separate the Jewish issue from war aims," Mr. Aronson said. On the other hand, Hitler's propaganda machine took every opportunity to paint their Allied opponents as fighting a "Jewish war," and some took the bait. Prior to Pearl Harbor, for example, the U.S. Senate launched an investigation of pro-war motion pictures and how a "Jewish-dominated" film industry might be dragging America into the war.
By the time the United States was committed to the war effort, the Nazis increased the persecution of the Jewish population. As the war progressed and the plight of the Jews became more drastic, Germany hoped the Allies would accept refugees. The Nazis even offered deals -- Allied concessions in exchange for the lives of Jews.
But the Allies considered any such rescues or deals as "war damaging" and potentially walking into a trap set by Hitler. They would not fall into that trap -- "and that sealed the fate of the Jews," Mr. Aronson said. "So the 'final solution' wasn't a matter of simple racial hatred, but a complex political decision."
Only at the close of the war did the complete story of the Holocaust begin to reach a mass audience. And since that time, Mr. Aronson contends, the world has begun to perceive the Holocaust as something universal -- a crime against the entire world, rather than one people.
Nevertheless, the political plight of the Jewish people had not diminished. "They were stateless, powerless -- pawns in the struggle between nations," said Mr. Aronson. "Having no country of their own, they were unable to assert their political self-interest or self-defense. Instead, they were forced to rely on others to act on their behalf."
But on May 14, 1948, when the British formally ended their mandate, Zionists in Palestine declared an independent state of Israel, changing everything. After fighting and winning their war of independence, Jews "decided to return to history, victims no more," noted Mr. Aronson.
Fifty years later, the argument has been made that Israel, surrounded by hostile neighbors, still lives in a trap. Mr. Aronson disagrees, asserting that Israel's situation is difficult but workable. "The trap is behind us. We won our war. We can make concessions. We can make peace with our neighbors. We control our lives and destiny. We are not trapped anymore."
Mr. Aronson's lecture was sponsored by the Hebraic Section of the African and Middle Eastern Division, the Office of Scholarly Programs and the Embassy of Israel, and made possible by a grant from the Naomi and Nehemiah Cohen Foundation.
The Library will commemorate the founding of Israel in 1948 through an exhibition of Judaica, slated to open on Sept. 16 in the North Gallery of the Great Hall of the Jefferson Building. The exhibition will include approximately 50 items selected from the Library's acclaimed Judaica exhibition "From the Ends of the Earth: Judaic Treasures of the Library of Congress," as well as a number of items chosen especially for this exhibition.
Israel Defense Forces: The Founding of the IDF
The existence of armed forces commanded by the elected government of a nation is a hallmark of democratic rule. Before the establishment of the State of Israel in May 1948, there were a number of armed Jewish defense organizations that operated for its protection. In addition to the Haganah and Palmach, which answered to the elected leadership of the Jewish national institutions, other armed defense group including the Lehi (Lohamei Herut Israel or 'Fighters for the Freedom of Israel') and the IZL (Irgun Zevai Le'ummi or 'National Military Organization') operated independently.
It was only natural that when Israel's independence was declared, the new legal government would decide to establish a single, unified armed force loyal to the Government of the State of Israel: The Israel Defense Forces.
On May 28, 1948, the Provisional Government of the State of Israel issued Defence Army of Israel Ordinance No. 4. This ordinance, signed by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, established the Israel Defense Forces, which would be comprised of "land forces, a navy and an air force". The ordinance was published in the Official Gazette No.3 of May 31, 1948 (below in English and Hebrew).
In a state of emergency, conscription would be instituted and the age for conscripts would be set by the Provisional Government. The existence or establishment of any armed force other than the Israel Defense Forces was prohibited. Additionally, every individual serving in the IDF would be required to swear allegiance to the State of Israel, to its laws, and its legal bodies.
The general officers of the nascent Israel Defense Forces were sworn-in in a ceremony conducted on June 27, 1948.
The process of establishing a unified Israel Defense Forces was protracted. It began in the midst of the fighting against invading Arab armies. The Lehi resistance organization dissolved itself immediately upon the creation of the State of Israel and its members joined the IDF on an individual basis. However, in the Jerusalem area, the Lehi continued to function as an armed fighting force until 17 September 1948, when the organization in that sector was dissolved according to a government order issued after the assassination of the UN mediator Count Folke Bernadotte.
Individual battalions of the IZL joined the IDF with the exception of those fighting in Jerusalem. However, following the Altalena incident, these battalions were disbanded on September 20, 1948, and their soldiers joined the IDF on an individual basis as did all other citizens of the State of Israel.
The companies and battalions of the Palmach joined the IDF in a process which extended until the Chief of Staff ordered the dissolution of the Palmach on 29 October 1948, which became effective on 7th of November.
The creation of a unified IDF lasted almost 6 and a half months, from May 28 until November 7, 1948.