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Book review: The year Palestine became a zero-sum game - 1929

After 1929, Arabic-speaking Jews who had lived in peace and cultural affinity with fellow residents, and orthodox Jews who had shunned Zionism, could no longer feel safe among their erstwhile neighbors and friends. They had to rely on the new Yishuv to protect them from then on, and they never looked back. Introducing new information and highlighting forgotten facts, a new book by Hillel Cohen brings fresh context to the 1929 massacres in Mandate Palestine.

By Ran Greenstein

Funeral for a victim of the 1929 Hebron Massacre. (Photographer unknown)

It is not easy to write history in a popular and accessible manner, all while retaining academic precision and professional credibility. Prominent historians of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, such as Benny Morris and Ilan Pappe, tried to do that in recent books and have been subject to criticism for sloppiness and overtly political bias that detract from the scholarly value of their earlier work. Hillel Cohen’s new book, 1929: Year Zero of the Jewish-Arab Conflict (Keter, 2013), however, proves it can be done.

’1929: Year Zero of the Jewish-Arab Conflict’, by Hillel Cohen (Keter, 2013)

This is a remarkable book not only for its content but its structure as well. It is written in a non-linear fashion, using a question-and-answer format that breaks the story into small easily digestible chunks, and uses plain prose avoiding academic jargon and fancy theory. All this aims to remove the usual entry barriers that generally make academic work less accessible. And yet, its simple style does not make for simplistic analysis, nor does the easily flowing narrative come at the expense of the need to remain grounded in written documents and oral evidence, and use the standard tools essential to serious historical writing.

What is special about 1929? It was the year in which serious country-wide ‘disturbances’ (to use the official term) took place for the first time during the British Mandate period, including mass attacks on Jewish settlements and neighborhoods. Above all, it became notorious for the massacres carried out in Hebron and Safed, homes to well-established Jewish communities that preceded the new Zionist settlement project by centuries. In the Israeli-Jewish collective memory, 1929 provides the ultimate proof that there is ‘no partner’ for a political agreement with Palestinians, who would stab any Jew – regardless of his/her personal history or political affiliation – in the back, if given half a chance. The notion that all Arabs wish to throw Jews into the proverbial sea has its origins in that year. But, as Cohen demonstrates in the book, this is the impact not so much of the real, historical, events of 1929, but the way in which they have been reconstructed and represented in subsequent political and cultural discourses.

In a sense, all historical events are mediated through politics and culture. They never reach us in a pure form. This is true, of course, for 1929 as well, though its crucial role in shaping the course of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict means that the degree of political manipulation, use and abuse, has been larger than usual. Cohen does not wish to debunk the main story line from a Zionist perspective – the attack on and massacre of innocent civilians – but rather to contextualize it, sort out narrative discrepancies and queries, and provide an explanation, where possible, for its specific course and effects.

In the process he presents information not known before or not sufficiently highlighted. That the Arab attackers felt provoked by Jewish moves to change the prevailing arrangements in the Western Wall prayer space, that rumors of atrocities committed by Jews against Arabs fueled the wrath of Arab rioters, that Jewish attacks on Arab pedestrians in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv preceded or coincided with the Arab attacks, that Jews also murdered Palestinians in the course of the events, though not on a large scale, that many Palestinian residents helped their Jewish neighbors by standing up to the attackers and preventing them from harming Jews, that no solid evidence exists that the Palestinian leadership – especially Hajj Amin al-Husseini, the grand villain of Zionist historiography – incited the rioters, let alone that they operated on its instructions, that the British forces did not facilitate the attacks and usually tried to stop them but were not always quick enough, and so on. Most of the evidence Cohen presents is not new but he digs up evidence that remained obscured and organizes it into a coherent narrative that gives an overview of developments in different parts of the country, and makes sense of the story.

A funeral for Jewish casualties in the 1929 ‘disturbances’ in Tel Aviv. (Photo: Shoshana Ulstein/Bezalel Studio)

Beyond the general picture he tries to understand the specific features of each case, particularly that of Hebron. The tendency of younger Jews in that community to identify with the Zionist movement was a factor that contributed to it being targeted. Evidence about clashes between Jewish newcomers – American religious students – and local residents, and tensions related to the role of a Jewish-owned bank in the lives of indebted peasants in the region, provides a context for the particularly vicious nature of the violence in that town, though of course it cannot possibly justify any of it.

All these useful and interesting details cannot disguise the central question: why were the attacks focused on the one section of the Jewish population that had the least to do with the new Zionist-inspired and led settlement of the country? How can the Palestinian historical narrative, that presents the 1929 events as a popular insurrection against the growing impact of Zionist settlement, explain the specific concentration of attacks in places and on communities that had little to do with Zionism and apparently became victims only because of their shared Jewish identity?

Cohen does not provide a single answer, but there are various possible explanations. In part, this is because small and isolated communities were easier targets. In part, because Palestinians living in rural areas were more likely to be influenced by unsubstantiated rumors and act spontaneously with little regard for the consequences. The better organization of the new Jewish community (the Yishuv), including its access to arms, made the prospect of attacking it more risky and therefore less likely, and in cases where attacks did take place, armed Jewish fighters could repel them and thus prevent serious loss of life among the defenders.

Beyond all this, the context was crucial. In an environment inflamed by religious conflict over access to and ownership of the holy places, reason was replaced by emotion and the differences between Jews of different backgrounds and affiliations became blurred. This had been noted already in a previous round of ‘disturbances’ in 1921, when the Haycraft Commission of Inquiry concluded: “During the riots all discrimination on the part of the Arabs between different categories of Jews was obliterated. Old-established colonists and newly arrived immigrants, Chalukah [Halukka] Jews and Bolshevik Jews, Algerian Jews and Russian Jews, became merged in a single identity, and former friendships gave way before the enmity now felt towards all.”

The Jewish Quarter in Hebron, 1921. (Photographer unknown)

Cohen rightly presents a similar explanation as central not only to our understanding of what happened in 1929, but also – more importantly – for what has happened since. Armed conflict always tends to strengthen the support of disparate members of the community for their nationalist leadership. In fact, conflict creates the national community by eliminating internal boundaries and enhancing solidarity against the external enemy. Both for practical and political reasons, 1929 eliminated the space that had existed for cross-cutting loyalties and affiliations. The Arabic-speaking Jews who had lived in peace and cultural affinity with fellow residents, the orthodox Jews who had shunned Zionism, could no longer feel safe among their erstwhile neighbors and friends. They had to rely on the new Yishuv to protect them from then on, and never looked back.

The consolidation of Jewish unity was mirrored by the growing recognition among Palestinians that the fate of the entire country was at stake, and that only resolute struggle would allow them to save their homeland. It opened the way to the national strike in 1936 and the Arab Revolt of 1936-39. and, in turn, it led to the growing militarization of the Jewish community. The result was increasing conceptualization of the conflict in mutually exclusive terms, eventually leading to the climax of 1948, the creation of Israel and the Palestinian Nakba. In an evocative side-story, Cohen links the early childhood experiences of future military leaders – whose families were attacked in 1929 – to their attitudes in 1948. People like Mordechai Maklef and Israel Tal, who played a role in driving Palestinians from their homes in 1948, had been shaped by the formative violence of the 1929 events, as were an entire generation of young Jews in Palestine.

Cohen recognizes that there were forces opposing these trends but does not pay much attention to them, for understandable reasons: they were weak to start with and were further marginalized by the events. Nevertheless, their story is important and deserves a more thorough exposure. The bi-nationalist association Brit Shalom was shaken by the events in a way that became typical to Jewish liberals in the history of the conflict: some of them moved to the mainstream while others became radicalised. Among the members of the association, its prominent founder Arthur Ruppin became disillusioned regarding the prospects of Jewish-Arab agreement and effectively abandoned the quest for bi-nationalism, coining the famous phrase: “What we can get (from the Arabs) – we do not need, and what we need – we cannot get.” His colleague, Hans Kohn, moved in an opposite direction, leaving the association because of its inability to offer radical criticism of political Zionism, eventually departing both from the Zionist movement and from Palestine itself. Bi-nationalism, whose advocates were rooted in one national group only, without a clear partner on the other side, faced a serious problem during the entire period in question.

The Palestinian Communist Party – the only Jewish-Arab political force in the country, then and since (albeit at that period still with majority Jewish membership), experienced a similar process. When its central committee members found themselves caught between potential Arab rioters and armed Jewish militants, they allowed themselves to be evacuated from their secret headquarters in Beit-Safafa near Jerusalem. Years later, its only surviving leading member Joseph Berger-Barzilai, wrote up the story in an article titled “Jerusalem, August 1929” (in Keshet Magazine in 1965). His party initially referred to the events as a pogrom, only to be severely reprimanded by the Communist International as suffering from Jewish tribalism and Zionist sympathies, for which the only solution was a thorough process of Arabization. The outcome was the promotion of an Arab leadership at the expense of Jewish cadres, the departure of many disillusioned Jews, and the beginning of a period of ripping the movement apart between competing nationalist agendas.

How can we learn from these developments and create new bi-nationalist and Jewish-Arab political forces that will overcome the limitations, and correct the mistakes, of their predecessors? The answer cannot be found, of course, in Cohen’s book, but he raises crucial questions that provide us with a necessary background for subsequent discussion and analysis. The book is essential reading in order to gain a better understanding of the past, and is useful for drawing lessons for the present.

Ran Greenstein is an Israeli-born associate professor in the sociology department at the University of the Witwatersrand, in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Related:
How the 1929 Hebron massacre invigorated the Zionist movement

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  • COMMENTS

    1. Kolumn9

      “How can we learn from these developments and create new bi-nationalist and Jewish-Arab political forces”

      You can’t. If the Communists couldn’t do it when the violence first began and when political identities were still immature, there is no way it can be done 85 years later with both narratives fed by events of the intervening years.

      The Arabic-speaking Jews who had “lived in peace and cultural affinity with fellow residents” were taught a lesson again that before being ‘fellow residents’ they were Jews to be massacred or expelled when the need arose to display anger. The same lesson was taught profusely to the Jews of the Arab countries when they were expelled.

      Decent review, and thanks for the reminder of how ancient Hebron’s Jewish community is, and how prone to massacre they are absent protection from the IDF.

      Reply to Comment
      • Joel

        ‘If the Communists couldn’t do it.’

        The autobiography of Leopold Trepper recounts an incident in 1924 where a communist agitator was lynched by the Arabs he’d tried to recruit.

        Reply to Comment
        • The Trespasser

          Lynched by Arabs?

          But how could it be?

          Arabs are the single most peace loving people on the planet. They never lynched anyone. Mwahaha.

          Reply to Comment
    2. Goldmarx

      The events of 1921 and 1929 show that the Palestinian Arabs were not innocent of anti-Semitism. Their way of dealing with their Jewish neighbors was no different than those of the Polish peasantry toward Poland’s Jews.

      In leftist anti-colonialist speak, the indigenous population is assumed to be innocent. Not so here. The violent episodes started with Palestinian against Jews, and the Jews only fought back after enduring these assaults for years. What took them so long?

      Reply to Comment
      • andrew r

        In leftist anti-colonialist speak, the indigenous population is assumed to be innocent.

        Not exactly. It’s assumed that the natives are suffering invasion for material gain, which was no less the case with Zionism that attached itself to British imperialism. Anti-colonialism is usually agnostic on innocence.

        Reply to Comment
        • goldmarx

          “It’s assumed that the natives are suffering invasion for material gain, which was no less the case with Zionism that attached itself to British imperialism. Anti-colonialism is usually agnostic on innocence.”

          Nope.

          First, the Ashkenazic Jews who settled in what was first the Syrian province of Falastin (later becoming the British Mandate of Palestine) went there primarily to flee anti-Semitism. In contrast, for the French in Algeria, the Boers in South Africa and the whites in North America, it was all about the money.

          Second, leftist anti-colonialist sympathy for the native Americans, Algerians and South Africans was based in large part on the fact that they were benevolent people who were not out to pick a fight with others. There’s nothing agnostic about that.

          What the events of 1921 and 1929 showed was how the Palestinian Arabs stood apart from those three aforementioned groups.

          Reply to Comment
          • andrew r

            We need to establish upfront that any portrayal of the Zionist movement as a rescue mission is propaganda. Jewish emigrants to the US outnumbered Palestine by 100-1. And the moshavot plantations were not a work-refuge program; they relied on lower paid Arab labor which made it difficult for European Jewish laborers to achieve a stable existence. While it’s certain the Zionist movement would not have existed without antisemitism, the actual building of settlements in Palestine played out with the same logic as any capitalistic enterprise.

            Most anti-colonial uprisings involved violence against civilians of the settler group, including North America, Algeria and India.

            Reply to Comment
          • Goldmarx

            “We need to establish upfront that any portrayal of the Zionist movement as a rescue mission is propaganda.”

            What do you mean, ‘we need’? Maybe you need to, but I don’t. (Besides, not all propaganda is false) Certainly for those Ethiopian Jews airlifted to Israel, this is quite real. As well as for those Israeli Jewish citizens who are more than OK with a government bound by law to have their backs after thousands of years of being at the mercy of Gentile regimes.

            Reply to Comment
          • Goldmarx

            “And the moshavot plantations were not a work-refuge program; they relied on lower paid Arab labor which made it difficult for European Jewish laborers to achieve a stable existence”

            I made no reference to moshavim. But since you bring this up, you make it seem as if they existed in a vacuum. There were lots of socialist kibbutzim, and urban workers organized in the trade union Histadrut. European Jewish laborers therefore had a stable existence.

            Reply to Comment
          • Goldmarx

            “Most anti-colonial uprisings involved violence against civilians of the settler group, including North America, Algeria and India.”

            Yeah, but in those cases, those were in retaliation for armed violence initiated by the settlers, who came armed almost from the start. Most of the Jewish immigrants did not come armed. As Chaim Weitzman once told Ernest Jones (literary executor of Freud’s estate), the pioneers came with Das Kapital tucked under one arm, and Die Traumbadeitung (The Meaning of Dreams) tucked under the other.

            By the way, I did like your other posts, particularly about the Nobelists.

            Reply to Comment
    3. Rehmat

      Jewish communities were expelled 108 times from various European nations. Some of them preferred to take refuge in Muslim nations like Spain, Sicily, Syria and Albania.

      Muslim Spain has been called the “Jewish Golden Age”. Jews held many high-level positions under Muslim rulers. Rabbi Moses Maimonides became royal physian of Sultan Salahuddin the Great in Egypt. He was buried in Tiberias according to his wish. In 2005, the city elders named one of city’s square ‘Cordoba Square’ and placed a large statue of the Rabbi.

      http://rehmat1.com/2011/10/08/spain-jewish-history-without-muslims/

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        Can I ask you a question?

        What is the reason why Arabs have only 10 Nobel prizes, while Jews have over 170?

        Reply to Comment
        • Joel

          Facing forced conversion, or worse, by the Muslim Almohad Dynasty, Maimonides and family fled that persecution and move to Egypt.

          Reply to Comment
        • Elisabeth

          Only white Jews that lived or worked in Europe or America. You should be precise if you are racist.

          Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            1) I’m not a racist
            2) You haven’t answered my question

            Reply to Comment
          • andrew r

            There are very few Nobel Laureates from third world countries. China only has 10 winners while Germany has over 100. This is another stock argument that shows Israel proponents have a rather high estimation of their own intelligence.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Nobel_laureates_by_country

            Reply to Comment
          • andrew r

            And of course to ask the question itself is racist. It’s the extreme opposite of the classic antisemitic trope where Jews are cast as carriers of communism, only now they are the carriers of achievement, making them superior to whatever group you wish to denigrate.

            Reply to Comment
        • andrew r

          You might want to ask why there’s no Jewish Laureate from the Levant or the Arabian Peninsula (Two are of North African origin). Do Mizrachim get some kind of credit for scientific awards they never win?

          Reply to Comment
          • anna

            You might as well ask why only 4-5 of them were born and educated in Israel, while most of the rest are products of the ‘gentile’ Europe/US education and research institutions?

            Reply to Comment
        • Felix Reichert

          Because the Nobel Prize only exists since 1901. Had it existed between the 8th and 13th century, most laureates would have been Arabs.

          Also, you’re asking the wrong question. So i’m asking you the right one: why is the vast majority of Nobel Laureates from Europe or heavily European influenced cultures?

          Let’s see what your answer is, and then we’ll see if your claim that you’re not a racist holds any truth.

          Reply to Comment
    4. “tensions related to the role of a Jewish-owned bank in the lives of indebted peasants in the region” : Banks in a largely agrarian economy tend to create long distance obligations which short circuit local ties. One takes out a loan and then finds oneself unable to fulfill local somewhat traditional norms of reciprocity and aid. So a neighbor says “you are doing well, help me as is our way, I will help you later,” and gets in answer “I cannot, for while I am doing well right now, I have promised to send much to my creditor, who is indeed the reason I am doing well.” The less well off see this as an affront to local relations and insult to past aid (perhaps a generation or so removed). This happened in the US Bank Wars c 1810-40 or thereabouts, leading in part to the two terms of Andrew Jackson (1828-1836, I think).

      One reply to this local distance disruption of locales (good or bad) is a local solidarity which can become proto-nationalism (as it was the Democracy of Andrew Jackson). When the intervening Bank is controlled by one ethnicity (albeit a small percentage of that ethnicity), the locale can evolve a forced solidarity which, when connected with other locales/communities, is nationalistic. Nationalism acts as a conformity tool locally but also connects people over greater distances, providing trust and aid, which would seem absurd without the external entity and growing nationalistic feeling. So Arab nationalism appears, just as Jewish nationalism had begun elsewhere through social and political and economic marginalization. I am not saying “Jews caused it” nor “Arabs caused it,” which is why I give the US bank war example.

      My impression is that both sides of the present conflict want to see themselves as unique. Well, they are, just as an evolved species is unique. But a species evolves via processes common to other species. Does it help to see the Jewish/Arab conflict as similarly sharing processes outside of its history? I tend to think that those wedded to the conflict as inevitable resist such common background. Just as the birth of Jesus as incarnated God is an incursion into history from outside of history, they want to see their own struggle as beyond all else. I guess parents think of their children as equally unique, models of evolution be damned.

      And, no, by using a species example of common process I am not saying either Jews or Arabs are a “species.”

      Reply to Comment
    5. Richard Witty

      A stimulating review, that motivates me to read the book itself.

      I don’t know if it is in the book, not in the review, that prior to 1929, and later, the primary leadership of the yishuv was pursuing conciliatory relationship with the Palestinian community, if not as far as a bi-national state (in whatever format).

      And, that at that point (gradual with pivotal events), the prevailing sentiment in the yishuv leadership was that it would not be possible politically, personal relationships not withstanding.

      I thought that I had read that Qassam (a Syrian radical ex-sufi) orchestrated the massacres in Hebron and Safed. (There were also riots in Jerusalem.)

      “The Arabic-speaking Jews who had lived in peace and cultural affinity with fellow residents, the orthodox Jews who had shunned Zionism, could no longer feel safe among their erstwhile neighbors and friends. They had to rely on the new Yishuv to protect them from then on, and never looked back.”

      Reply to Comment
    6. Richard Lightbown

      “I thought that I had read that Qassam (a Syrian radical ex-sufi) orchestrated the massacres in Hebron and Safed.”

      So did you read it or not? If so give the reference. If not, stop peddling rumour: this site is already infested with prejudice without you feeding it with unsubstantiated thoughts.

      Reply to Comment
      • Richard Witty

        I was mistaken about Qassam’s involvement that early.

        Apparently he didn’t start militant organizing until 1930.

        “The Black Hand group[edit]

        Main article: Black Hand (Palestine)
        In 1930 al-Qassam’s preaching was instrument in laying the foundations for the formation of the Black Hand (al kaff al-aswad)), an anti-Zionist and anti-British militant organisation, which he used to proclaim jihad and attack Jewish settlers.[18] The idea for such a group appeared to crystallize after the 1929 riots, though one source says a decision was taken after the Day of Atonement incitement at the Wailing Wall in September 1928. From the outset a split occurred in the movement, with one militant group led by Abu Ibrahim arguing for immediate terror attacks, while the other headed by al-Qassam thought an armed revolt premature, and risked exposing the group’s preparations. According to Subhi Yasin, the terror attacks in the north were executed by this dissident group in defiance of Qassam, though in 1969 Abu Ibrahim denied these allegations. The ensuing terror campaign began with the ambush and murder of three members of Kibbutz Yagur, 11 April 1931, a failed bombing attack on outlying Jewish homes in Haifa in early 1932, and several operations that killed or wounded some four members of northern Jewish settlements. It climaxed with the deaths of a Jewish father and son in Nahalal, from a bomb thrown into their home, on 22 December 1932.[19]
        By 1935 he had recruited several hundred men,-the figures differ, from 200 to 800,- organised in cells of 5 men, and arranged military training for peasants.[18][20] The cells were equipped with bombs and firearms, which they used to raid Jewish settlements and sabotage British-constructed rail lines.[11] Though striking a responsive chord among the rural poor and urban underclass, his movement deeply perturbed the Muslim urban elite as it threatened their political and patronage connections with the British Mandatory authorities.[21]
        According to Shai Lachman, between 1921 and 1935 al-Qassam often cooperated with Mufti of Jerusalem Hajj Mohammad Amin al-Husayni. They were on good terms, and al-Qassam’s various official appointments required the mufti’s prior consent. He suggests their cooperation increased after the 1929 riots, in which one source claims al-Qassam’s men were active. The two fell out in the mid-thirties, perhaps due to al-Qassam’s independent line of activism.[22] When the Mufti rejected his plans to divert funding marked down for mosque repairs towards the purchase of weaponry, Qassam found support in the Arab Nationalist Istiqlal Party. Qassam continued his attempts to forge an alliance with the Mufti in order to attack the British. He was not successful for the Mufti, who headed the Supreme Muslim Council, was still committed to a diplomatic approach at the time. Qassam went ahead with his plans to attack the British on his own.”

        Reply to Comment
      • Joel

        Qassam was out of the country and uninvolved in the 1929 disturbances.
        Mufti Husseini, on the other hand, was involved. Someone had been distributing doctored photos to the fellahin showing that the Jews had desecrated Al Aqsa mosque and a religious blood frenzy ensused.

        Reply to Comment
    7. andrew r

      Among the members of the association, its prominent founder Arthur Ruppin became disillusioned regarding the prospects of Jewish-Arab agreement and effectively abandoned the quest for bi-nationalism, coining the famous phrase: “What we can get (from the Arabs) – we do not need, and what we need – we cannot get.”

      This book is going to be critically flawed (Though I’ll read it at some point) if it conceals the basic aims of Zionism and Ruppin in particular. Ruppin proposed as early as 1914 transferring fellahin to Syria. His position as head of the WZO branch in Palestine was due to a 1907 memo in which he laid out a plan for Jewish political autonomy through purchase of most of the land and creation of a Jewish majority through immigration. Like many Zionists, he certainly hoped to reach an agreement with some Arab leaders or other that would make implementation much easier, but he was perfectly aware that a Jewish state couldn’t be implemented without expelling the Palestinians.

      So that brings us to Brit Shalom and the myth of his disillusionment. He never entertained any serious program of a bi-national state and saw Brit Shalom as a device to push a more humanistic image of Zionism (Though his colleagues Kohn, Buber and Magnes were genuine). In a 1928 letter to Kohn, he summed up Zionism in terms we rarely hear from its proponents:

      “In founding Brit Shalom, what mattered to me was the fact that the Zionist aim had no parallel in history. This aim is: to bring the Jews as a second nation into a country that is already settled by a nation – and to achieve that by
      peaceful means. History knows such intrusion [...] only by way of occupation, but it has not yet happened that a nation agreed of its own good will to let another nation come and demand complete and equal rights as well as national
      autonomy.” [1]

      This is a theme of the conflict that should be harped on more – the Labour Zionists never had peaceful intentions. They just didn’t have the power to achieve their basic aim until 1948, and even then the British departure rushed them into an imperfect result.

      [1]
      http://www.tau.ac.il/tarbut/tezot/bloom/EtanBloom-PhD-ArthurRuppin.pdf
      (above quote p. 379)

      Reply to Comment
      • Anna

        Andrew, read carefully what Ruppin is saying (in the quote you cite from Bloom’s work): “let another nation come and demand complete and equal rights as well as national autonomy.” In other words, he was talking NOT about Jewish domination and NOT about expulsion of local Arabs but rather about two communities living alongside each other, autonmously, in the same state, with complete and equal rights.

        Reply to Comment
        • andrew r

          You might do well to read more of Bloom’s work (Like the whole thing) before engaging in micro-parsing. In fact, on the page I cited is another excerpt from that same letter:

          “Land is the essential condition for putting down economic roots in Palestine [...] wherever we purchase land and settle people on it – its current workers [the Arabs] must of necessity be removed, whether they be owners or tenants [...] in future it will be much harder to purchase land, because sparsely settled
          land is no longer available – what is left is land settled with considerable density”

          A remark like this shows up the “equal rights” trope as doubletalk. Ruppin proposed economic coercion for transferring the fellahin as early as before WWI and during the ’36 revolt he escalated to speaking of forced removal.

          Reply to Comment
          • Anna

            Andrew, if you wish to understand Ruppin perhaps it’s better to read him directly in his own words, rather than the selections chosen by Bloom. Then you’ll see that he raises the issue of land as a critique of the inherent problem in Zionist practices rather than an endorsement of coercion towards Palestinians. And, you’ll see that he emphasizes that the problem can be solved only through peaceful means and through purchase of land, rather than through conquest or expropriation. True, he also expressed support for transfer at other points in time, but you cannot evaluate what he said in 1928 on the basis of what he said in 1936. Historical analysis – such as Cohen’s – means looking at how events such as 1929 shaped the consciousness of political activists and forced them to re-think their ideas and strategies. This applies to Ruppin and Kohn, as well as to Magnes and Ben-Gurion and all others.

            Reply to Comment
          • Anna

            BTW, it is very curious that Bloom somehow failed to see Ruppin’s diary entry, only 4 days before his letter to Hans Kohn. It appears on the same page, immediately above the letter from which Bloom quotes (selectively). Ruppin reports a meeting with Kohn and Hugo Bergmann and says: “it became clear in that conversation how difficult it was to realize Zionism in accordance with the demands of general ethics. I was deeply depressed after the meeting. Will Zionism indeed deteriorate into pointless chauvinism? Is there really no way to allocate a sphere of action for a growing number of Jews in Palestine without dispossessing the Arabs? I envisage particular difficulty with the limited land area. No doubt, a day will come soon in which no empty land will be found, and the settlement of a Jew will inevitably result in the removal of an Arab peasant (except for the coastal area, in which there is still plenty of plantation land). And then what?” (p. 149 in Ruppin’s diary, Hebrew edition, 2nd volume).

            Now, if Ruppin was simply using liberal language to mislead others, and was intent on expelling the Arab peasants all along, why would he bother to write this in his private diary? And why would Bloom ignore this important revelation in his own study if he really wanted to analyse Ruppin rather than score political points?

            Reply to Comment
          • andrew r

            I fail to see how that quote substantially contradicts Bloom’s portrayal of Ruppin. Since the long-term goal of his work was to create a Jewish majority state, it follows that any ethical hand-wringing about dispossessing the Arabs on his part can only be chalked up to self-pity. He clearly had no intention of abandoning Zionism, which he would have done had that remark been sincere. All he’s saying here is that he wishes the problem would go away.

            Reply to Comment
      • Marcos

        Oh well. Now what Andrew? Please enlighten us on how to remedy the situation. You will be judged on the realism and pragmatism of your response

        Reply to Comment
      • Joel

        @Andrew, who said, ‘..it conceals the basic aims of Zionism and Ruppin in particular. Ruppin proposed as early as 1914 transferring fellahin to Syria.’

        What Ruppin actually said was:

        “We are considering a parallel
        Arab colonization. Thus, we are planning to buy land in the regions of Homs, Aleppo etc. which we will sell under easy terms to those Palestinian fellahin who have been harmed by our land purchases.”

        This consideration doesn’t exactly sound like a transfer to me.

        Reply to Comment
    8. tomroshko

      tryoing to comment, pls do not approve

      Reply to Comment
    9. Ron Grant

      Really,we are talking about the arrogance of the occupier-cum-colonialist.It is inherent in our makeup.Thank God we have The Golden Rule.

      Reply to Comment
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