SHARON SHOULD SURRENDER TO HISTORY
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SHARON SHOULD SURRENDER TO HISTORY

May 25, 2001

Like many nation states born out of war, Israel must re-evaluate its past in order to move forward, argues Mark Mazower*

[The Financial Times, 24 May]:As the violence escalated in the Middle East, it waseasy to miss last week's announcement by Limor Livnat,the Israeli education minister, that the country'schildren would henceforth be required to receive aJewish-Zionist education. Commenting that schools werepart of the internal security of the state of Israel,the minister was responding to a widespread senseamong the country's conservatives that basic patrioticvalues have been undermined.

At the heart of her initiative lies an attempt toreassert the validity of Israel's most cherishedfoundation myths. Over the past decade a newgeneration of historians has questioned the idea thatthe 1948 war of independence was a glorious victoryfor the Jewish David over the Arab Goliath. Theirresearch suggests that the atrocities against Arabcivilians that punctuated this victory were not alwaysthe random excesses of trigger-happy troops in thefield and that at least some senior Zionists saw thewar as an opportunity for permanent demographicengineering.

These conclusions are highly unpalatable to thegovernment of Ariel Sharon. The prime minister himselfrecently referred to the war of 1948 as only thebeginning of a continuing struggle which is stillunder way. But while the authorities are pledged toput the shine back on their formative victory, IsraeliArabs are joining Palestinians in commemorating 1948as the year of catastrophe. There could be no clearerindication of the cleavage that now exists within thecountry than this diametrically opposed contest ofhistorical memory.

Not that Israel is the only country arguing over itsmyths of origin. In the Irish Republic, the standardnationalist narrative of the country's emergence outof civil war in 1916-1922 has been challenged in asimilar fashion to Israel's: there too, historianshave shed light on aspects of the independencestruggle that had been ignored, neglected or hidden byearlier generations.

In Italy, where the 1940s are the subject of highlycharged disputes, it is very likely that SilvioBerlusconi's government will try to intervene in theteaching of modern history in schools.

At the heart of this tussle over the past is a largelyunspoken distinction between shameful and inspiringacts of violence. On the one hand, there is the heroicexpulsion of the invading foe, usually commemorated bystatues, street names, national anthems and publicceremonies; on the other, there is the killing ofunarmed neighbours -a matter best swept under thecarpet and quietly forgotten.

The trouble is that the creation of nation statesgenerally involves both. The Turkish republic, forexample, was born out of a glorious war ofindependence against invading Greek armies but it wasalso facilitated by the earlier massacre of hundredsof thousands of Armenians.

India and Pakistan jointly owe their existence to the1947 partition of the sub-continent, which toreprovinces apart and led within weeks to 1m dead and10m refugees. These events remained until veryrecently largely untouched by historians in bothcountries, as though recalling the brutality thatattended national independence might cast a shadow onwhat followed.

Similar taboos are visible in eastern Europe, too: itis only now that Poles and Czechs can admit that theevents of the 1940s - in which the Germans firstkilled their Jewish co-citizens before being drivenout in their turn - led to two of their largest andmost vocal minorities disappearing from the nationalcommunity.

All these cases illustrate how hard states and theirpeoples find it to give up their self-image ashistory's victims and heroes - and to acknowledgetheir own role as perpetrators and beneficiaries too.Victim and perpetrator are not, after all, mutuallyincompatible categories.

It was the second world war that accustomed theinternational community to the idea that huge,unwanted populations could be moved by force acrossstate borders. The chief lesson of Europe's inter-wardifficulties for many of Hitler's opponents was thatonly ethnically homogeneous states were likely to makefor international stability. Eastern Europeanpoliticians had already determined that when the warwas over they would throw out their ethnic Germanminorities. Eventually, millions - including Germananti-Nazis and even surviving German Jews - wereexpelled westwards in Europe's largest-ever refugeemovement.

Less well known is that in 1941 such senior Zionistleaders as David Ben-Gurion and Chaim Weizmann werealso privately contemplating a transfer of Arabs outof an eventual Jewish state to make room forimmigrants from the ravaged continent. It is history'sgreat irony that half a century after Europe toreitself and much of the rest of the world apart in thequest for ethnic purity, the forces of economic changeand globalisation have shown the futility of thatquest and underlined the need for mobility of labouras well as trade and capital. In Israel, as elsewhere,prosperity has brought with it the need for importednon-Jewish hands and only impoverishment could endthis trend. Economic dynamism is hard to reconcilewith national exclusivism but we should be naive toassume that the former will always win out.

Attitudes to the past attest to a country's vision ofitself in the world. Dealing politically with one'sopponents and neighbours requires an effort tounderstand their experience and to accept the moralcomplexity of the past. Thus Ireland's shift to a moresecular, outward- looking society has been reflectedin a gradual willingness to abandon once-cherishednationalist myths about the civil war. In that sense,the peace process has been prefigured in Irishscholars' readiness to accept the ambiguity andmessiness of the historical record.

To this openness, the Sharon government's educationalproposals make a depressing contrast. The so-calledpost-Zionist historians it detests are - by bringingthe experience of Palestinian and neighbouring Arabsinto the frame - at least attempting to forge thebasis for a new dialogue with Israel's neighbours. Butwhat alternative does the administration have tooffer? Still committed to a form of settlercolonialism, still in thrall to a mystique of the landthat can be justified not in political but intheological terms only, its very actions show the warof 1948 in a new light. Unable to offer a wearyelectorate the promise of glorious wars to come, it istrying at least to preserve the country's pride in thestruggles of the past. And in refusing to acknowledgethe facts of history, it reveals the poverty of itspolicies for Israel's future.

* The writer is professor of history at Birkbeck College London


May 2001


Magazine



FEISAL HUSSEINI - DEAD AT 60 IN KUWAIT
(May 31, 2001)
Feisal Husseini will be buried tomorrow in Jerusalem with great circumstance. However whatever else he was, and many think he was a good and committed man, he was a fairly simple man and he certainly was not a great man.

SHARON SHOULD SURRENDER TO HISTORY
(May 25, 2001)
Like many nation states born out of war, Israel must re-evaluate its past in order to move forward, argues Mark Mazower*

THE GAZA GHETTO/PRISON
(May 25, 2001)
The "Gaza Strip" is a huge ghetto; created of course by the Israelis. In a sense it is also the largest prison in the world as the great majority of those who reside in Gaza are unable to leave and return through any of the handful of Israeli army checkposts which control who comes and goes.

APARTHEID ISRAEL
(May 24, 2001)
"There is a huge gap between us (Jews) and our enemies -- not just in ability but in morality, culture, sanctity of life, and conscience. They are our neighbors here, but it seems as if at a distance of a few hundred meters away, there are people who do not belong to our continent, to our world, but actually belong to a different galaxy."

WATER WARS
(May 24, 2001)
In the end its not really the "settlements" that will determine which civilization will prosper in the once Holy Land now so fought over by the descendants of Abraham. Control and use of WATER is even more at the heart of the conflict between the two competing societies.

CONTINUE THE INTIFADA
(May 23, 2001)
It's a terrible deal for the Palestinians actually -- they expected to give up their very justifiable struggle against the occupier in exchange for another promise to "freeze settlements". Gee...it was just last year that Yasser Arafat was proclaiming ad infinitum that no matter what there would be a Palestinian State by the end of the year!

WHAT THE "MITCHELL COMMISSION REPORT" REALLY SAYS
(May 23, 2001)
"Here's your lifeline Yasser, Nabil, Jabril, and all you Palestinian VIPs -- and you better grab it because it may be the last one you get".

THE MITCHELL COMMISSION REPORT -- A LONG SORDID HISTORY
(May 22, 2001)
The big fix is on of course with the "Mitchell Commission Report". Other madmen desperately scampering from one TV studio to the next are "Ambassador" Dennis Ross, now back at the Israeli/Jewish lobby from whence he came, and of course Senator Mitchell, himself retired from the most pro-Israeli political body on the planet ...

ARAFAT AND THE WORLD FORCED TO DANCE TO SHARON'S WAR TUNES
(May 21, 2001)
The Israelis are pushing their lies, schemes, deceptions, and brutality more than ever these days. It's all designed of course to demoralize and confuse the Palestinians, to twist and torture them into submission.

BREAKING NEWS - RAJOUB HIT
(May 20, 2001)
Jibril Rajoub is a favorite of the CIA, the headquarters of which he has personally visited numerous times in recent years on his visits to Washington. His force is the main one trained by the CIA in order to keep the Arafat Regime in power ...

TRUE MARTYRDOM
(May 20, 2001)
Mahmoud Ahmed Marmash -- 21 and now departed -- never knew anything other than Israel's brutal military occupation. He never knew anything other than Arab "client regimes" and the Arafat "Authority". He never knew anything other than a savage Israeli army, fueled by an increasingly racist ideology, armed and financed by America.

ISRAEL - APARTHEID IN THE MIDDLE EAST
(May 20, 2001)
A little trip back in history's lane will result in all kinds of close connections between Israel and South Africa in the days of Apartheid. And during that trip one will discover that Shimon Peres and Yossi Beilin were at the top of the list of those promoting those relations.

THE ARAB AMERICANS and their "CLIENT ORGANIZATIONS"
(May 19, 2001)
There are many desperate and depressed people out there these days, especially among Palestinians, their friends, and the Jewish left that is mortified to awaken to find itself with Ariel Sharon as Prime Minister, the hoped for salvation of the Oslo "Peace Process" destroyed, and one of their false prophets, Shimon Peres, at Sharon's side.

SUICIDE BOMB, ISRAELI AIR STRIKES CAUSE NEW CARNAGE
(May 18, 2001)
A suicide bombing followed by retaliatory Israeli air strikes killed 16 people and injured 200 on Friday in one of the bloodiest days since a Palestinian uprising erupted nearly eight months ago.

ISRAEL'S ARMY - A NEW, PERHAPS DANGERSOUS, FREEDOM
(May 18, 2001)
TRIGGER-HAPPY troops set loose? Questions about the response of Israeli soldiers facing Palestinian demonstrators are being asked, and not just by Palestinians. But suspicions about individual behaviour are less relevant than the clear fact that the army, given its head by Ariel Sharon, has made a deliberate decision ...

SEVEN KILLED, OVER 50 INJURED IN SUICIDE BOMB ATTACK
(May 18, 2001)
A Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance to the Hasharon shopping mall in the center of the coastal town of Netanya at around 11.30 A.M on Friday morning. Seven people were killed in the blast, one of them most likely the bomber himself.

ISRAELI ARMY ON THE RAMPAGE
(May 17, 2001)
The Israelis are more and more specifically targeting children, journalists, and Palestinians at all levels. The goal is to create such fear, such intimidation, such apprehension, that ...

MORE BLOOD AND MEMORIES FLOW ON "DISASTER DAY"
(May 16, 2001)
Yesterday was the 53rd anniversary of what the Israelis believe was the start of their independence and the Palestinians believe was the start of their ongoing and tortuous "disaster", the "nakba".

"SCHOLARS, INTELLECTUALS, EXPERTS BETRAY THEIR VOCATIONS..." - MER FLASHBACK
(May 15, 2001)
The recent orgy of 'activism' surrounding the new "Har Homa" settlement has given 'peace groups' and various Arab Americans groups something to do again.

THERE WERE WARNINGS THEN, THERE ARE WARNINGS NOW
(May 15, 2001)
It's 53 years now since Palestine was fractured, a Jewish State was born, the Palestinian refugee crisis created. There were warnings from both Arab and Jewish leaders what would result if a "Jewish State" were declared when the British withdrew from Palestine in 1948.

NO JUNITY, NO ALLIES, NO FUTURE
(May 14, 2001)
Let's get right to the bottom line here first. Those American Jews, and whoever else for that matter have been looking to what is called "JUNITY" (that's "Jewish Unity For a Just Peace" so they say) ...

AN AFFRONT TO CIVILISATION
(May 13, 2001)
I was on my way to Khan Yunis, a desperately poor Palestinian refugee town in the Gaza Strip, when we learned it was under heavy bombardment. Please, urged my Palestinian guides, could I postpone my visit to the next day?

IN MEMORY OF PROF. CHARLES BLACK
(May 12, 2001)
"Against hugh odds...they decline to submit, and instead go out on the streets and pick up stones. They are beaten without let or mercy. They are imprisoned under obscene conditions, after kangaroo trials, or no trials at all.

THREATENING WRITERS AND MORE ASSASSINATIONS
(May 12, 2001)
Of course what the Israelis are doing in so many areas to many classes of people is dastardly and deserves widespread condemnation. The first article details what the Israelis are doing to Palestinian writers who are citizens of Israel; the second to Palestinian activists who are struggling against Israel's occupation.

HASHEMITE COLLUSION AND REPRESSION
(May 11, 2001)
The Hashemite Regime of King Abdullah the Second is running more and more scared; and for good reason. After all, the collusion of this regime with the Israelis, going way back to the beginning of the conflict...

MAHMOUD DARWISH ON 53RD NAKBA ANNIVERSARY
(May 11, 2001)
Next Tuesday, 15 May, is the 53rd Anniversary of what the Palestinians call the Nakba, the "Disaster", and what the Israelis call their Independence. In a very unusual move some 250 Arab Professors and Intellectuals have issued a call for their own countries to finally join in a serious way the Palestinian struggle.

FROM HERZL TO SHARON - STEALTH DISPOSSESSION
(May 10, 2001)
"The removal of Arabs bodily from Palestine is part of the Zionist plan to 'spirit the penniless population across the frontier' by denying it employment... Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly."

THE POLITICAL PROSTITUTION OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH IN PALESTINE
(May 10, 2001)
We're talking here about political prostitution; for it too is an age-old profession and it too leads to many other vices.

THE POPE GOES VISITING
(May 9, 2001)
With the creation of a "Jewish State" in the Holy Land, in a sense a new era began twisting the modern-day concept of nationality back to one of ethnic and religious identification.

FROM HELL WITH LOVE
(May 8, 2001)
Ironically, in the early years of this ignoble "Peace Process", Dr. Sarraj himself -- a dignified psychiatrist and recipient of the Physician for Human Rights Award -- was arrested three times, tortured, and threatened with death...not by the Israelis but by the forces of the Arafat "Palestinian Authority".

ISRAELIS SEE THROUGH GLOSS OF LIFE AMID ORANGE GROVES
(May 7, 2001)
When the real estate sharks of California began to coax Americans to Los Angeles early in the last century, they stuck oranges on the trees to make the desert more alluring. The oranges are real enough in the groves on the hills around Jerusalem, but the hard selling is just the same.

WE ARE ACCUSED OF TERRORISM
(May 7, 2001)
The incomparable Nizar Qabbani was buried in Damascus earlier this week. "We Are Accused Of Terrorism" was one of his last poems first published a year ago; key excerpts from that poem follow.

GUNNING DOWN ISRAEL SHAMIR - Part II
(May 4, 2001)
Previously we outlined how the regimes-sponsored Arab American establishment, using the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) to try to control everyone as usual...

SHARON'S RISE TO THE PINNACLE OF POWER - HELPED BY THE ARABS THEMSELVES
(May 3, 2001)
Ariel Sharon's becoming Prime Minister of Israel didn't happen overnight. He pursued the job for a very long time and whatever one thinks of his person and policies he carried out a masterful political coup.

GUNNING DOWN ISRAEL SHAMIR
(May 3, 2001)
The worst thing that happened to the people of the Middle East in recent history was the imposition on them by the Western powers of the "Client Regimes" -- those who read MER regularly know what we are talking about...

ARAB REGIMES COWER AND BEG; ISRAELIS CONTINUE TO KILL AND DESTROY
(May 2, 2001)
Shimon Peres runs around the world, especially to the gullible American media, and especially to CNN and PBS, with soothing rhetorical jibberish while his Generals further demolish Palestinian homes making fools of those who believed in the "Oslo Peace Process" and its associated "agreements".

FORMER SHIN BET HEAD TALKS SOME SENSE IN PUBLIC....BUT WHY?
(May 2, 2001)
Motives are of course a very important aspect of life and politics...as is timing. And when it comes to someone who has been head of the Shin Bet, like Ami Ayalon, and who is saying these things now, at this particular crucial and sensitive time, there are good reasons to have many suspicions, and many questions, and many doubts.

EXTINGUISHING THE INTIFADA
(May 2, 2001)
A major effort is underway to somehow smother and snuff out the Intifada, one way or another. Those heading up the effort, in order of importance, are:

ARAFAT'S FIRST INTERVIEW SINCE THE INTIFADA BEGAN
(May 1, 2001)
Yasser Arafat often describes his struggle as a "long march" to the "spires and minarets" of Jerusalem, capital of his Palestinian state-to-be.




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