Appreciate this article? +972 depends on your support -- click here to help us keep going

Analysis News

'I am pro-Israel too': Reflections on +972's use of the term

The term ‘pro-Israel’ should mean anti-occupation, support for human rights, equality, democracy for all peoples under Israel’s control – not hard-line Zionism. Reflections and commentary on +972’s use of the term.

A right-wing Israeli activist yells at a left-wing Israeli activist in East Jerusalem. (Photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

My colleague Noam Sheizaf’s article about the addition of David Makovsky to the American negotiating team for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process carries the following headline:

‘A pro-Israel hawk to draft Kerry’s peace plan?’

The subheading reads, with some indignation:

‘That one must be a pro-Israeli Zionist in order to be eligible for the State Department’s Israel-Palestine team is indicative of the problem with U.S. policy in the region.’

I disagree with the heading and the subheading and with full respect for our editorial decisions, I decided to express my critique here.

The words “pro-Israel” mean simply to be supportive, or “for” Israel. Yet the term has been hijacked by a portion of Jews (including and perhaps primarily non-Israelis) who have anointed themselves defenders of the faith; they have unilaterally set the gold standard for everyone else in determining what supporting Israel means.

The meaning of pro-Israel, in the eyes of those Jewish-American organizations who often refer to themselves this way, is twofold: first, it involves being apologists for every policy of every Israeli government, and second, it is a permanent mission to prove that Palestinians are 1. Bloodthirsty, 2. Primitive and unready for peace or democracy – essentially, inferior 3. Sinister, all-powerful manipulators of global media, minds and public discourse 4. Politically incompetent. 5. Islamic jihadis, every last one. The camp that calls itself “pro-Israel” has added a third cause du jour of late – broad insistence on a maximalist, warmongering position vis-à-vis Iran.

So-called pro-Israel types are not only saying that these two/three are the best and only ways to support Israel. They are also saying that anyone who thinks differently is against Israel. Such a person who is also unfortunately Jewish or Israeli may be branded no less than a traitor, self-hater, lunatic, idiot or worse. The Israeli mainstream press has adopted the wrong definition wholesale.

Here is what permanent apologists for all Israeli government policies and demonizers of Palestinians actually accomplish. They perpetuate conflict, by supporting Israeli government policies that perpetuate the conflict, and they command that Israel’s greatest enabler, the U.S.A., do so too. They scream down criticism in a most hysterical and undemocratic way that is antithetical to both American and Jewish traditions. They employ and entrench shameless racist stereotypes that ought to make “never again” crusaders shiver, although many won’t.

Put simply, those who embrace the term “pro-Israel” support the occupation of over four million Palestinians who live permanently under military law or as refugees, while Israeli Jews living next to them walk free.

How this behavior supports the country of Israel or the People of Israel is a moot question. It does not. It maintains the policies that maintain the conflict; that’s about as anti-Israel as you can get.

Therefore, I disagree with how we at +972 Magazine used the term in Noam’s piece, for three reasons: first, because “pro-Israel” should mean anti-occupation, support for human rights, equality, democracy for all peoples under Israel’s control, regardless of the accident of citizenship or ethnicity – not hard-line Zionism. We may have different means of doing this, but I personally think that my own version, moving to Israel at the start of my adult life and voicing dissent against policies I consider wrong pretty well advances both democratic culture and conflict resolution – and therefore counts as full-throttled support for Israel.

Second, in using the term the wrong way, +972 Magazine conveys unwittingly that it is opposed to having people on the negotiating team who support Israel. Personally, I would not be against such a thing, provided that the person was equally pro-Palestinian. But Makovsky can hardly be accused of that. For a third-party negotiator, America was already deeply suspect in the eyes of Palestinians: in a November survey, only 11 percent viewed the U.S. as an honest broker, and 90 percent believe the U.S. is biased toward Israel. Reinforcing this view can’t possibly help.

Finally, in accepting the mainstream media’s use of ‘pro-Israel’ we go along with exactly what’s wrong with the Israel discourse. But that “plus” sign at the beginning of our name isn’t just a quirky reminder of the country code. I hope that we add something of substance to debates. This comment is my attempt to demolish the failed and hollow notion, thoughtlessly churned out, that being for Israel means being against someone else.

Related:
The end of ‘pro-Israel’ in American political discourse
What do ‘pro-Israel’ image-mongers actually stand for?
NYC subway ad: When ‘pro-Israel’ rears its ugly head 

For additional original analysis and breaking news, visit +972 Magazine's Facebook page or follow us on Twitter. Our newsletter features a comprehensive round-up of the week's events. Sign up here.

View article: AAA
Share article
Print article
  • COMMENTS

    1. maflah

      this debate is not new. it has always existed within the Israeli Communist Party (Maki & Rakah) in its congresses. To this day, the party’s platform define’s the party as an “Israeli patriotic party.”

      Reply to Comment
    2. tod

      With full respect I have the impression that Dahlia didn’t fully understand Noam’s article.
      “Personally, I would not be against such a thing, provided that the person was equally pro-Palestinian”: that’s the point. There was never in the history a pro-palestinian or simply palestinian (or of palestinian origins) negotiator in the US team. If most of the negotiators are Jewish or pro-Israeli and not even one is/was pro-palestinian or palestinian means that the system is sick. And if for somebody this is fine it means that she/he is part of the problem.

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        No, it just means that the American government and people support Israel rather than the Palestinians. The Palestinians on the other hand are too weak to walk away from negotiations mediated by a moderately pro-Israeli country. That is all that it reflects.

        Reply to Comment
        • tod

          Kolumn if the American government and people (btw, not sure about people, on the contrary) support only Israel rather than the Palestinians, it means that the US cannot be an efficient and credible mediator (and in fact they always failed on this issue). But I don’t expect that you understand or agree with this simple fact.

          Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            One of greatest lies of Palestinian Arabs is invention of the “Palestinian people” as some distinc people.

            However, if one takes these negotiations for what they are – Israel vs. Arab Ummah, it becomes clear that USA is efficient and credible mediator.

            Reply to Comment
          • miriam

            Trespasser, the fact that you don’t know or understand them doesn’t mean that Palestinians are an invention. Please, don’t let hatred takes over you. I would suggest you to start with this:

            As efforts to renew the Palestinian-Israeli peace process move ahead, the claim that Palestinians do not exist as a people has become increasingly common. Israeli Tourism Minister Uzi Landau recently asserted that Palestinians “never existed as a nation [but] suddenly everyone talks about a state.” During his last visit to Israel casino magnate Sheldon Adelson called Palestinians just “southern Syrians” or Egyptians until Yasir Arafat “came along with a pitcher of Kool-Aid and gave it to everybody to drink and sold them the idea of Palestinians.” Previously, Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz noted that the number “of Palestinians with deep roots in the area of Jewish settlement” constitutes “a tiny fraction,” while American scholar Berel Wein pointed out that pre-Zionist Palestine was almost a desert populated mainly by “Arab immigrants” that “came in great part because of the Jews.”

            The rationale behind such declarations is clear. If Palestinians do not exist, or are recent immigrants, why would there be a need to negotiate with them, much less permit them a state?

            Indeed, each of the above considerations, besides not bringing any real benefit to the interested parties, is vitiated by the transposition of values, uses and traditions which are as relevant in the West as they are negligible within the realities to which they refer.

            Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish used seven words to indirectly clarify most of the current “misunderstandings.” “Who are they,” he asked in his Une rime pour les Mu‘allaqāt (“A Rhyme for the Odes”) referring to he the native majority, “That’s someone else’s problem.” In many respects this was indeed a problem of “others,” of “outsiders.” What made the difference for the “insiders” was, besides religion, the provenance from a certain village, the belonging to a specific family clan, the use of a particular dialect, a way of dressing, a product of the earth, a religious festival (the Nabi Musa festival, for example, was a clear expression of a proto-national cohesion), a dance.

            Before the imposition of the nationalist ideologies and the emergence of exclusivist approaches, it was these factors, not primarily political identity, that defined “Palestinianness.” These characteristics form the “rudiments of a nation” in Anthony Smith’s sense of the concept—a set of identifiers so fundamental and so long-existing, so taken for granted, that virtually no one had any need to investigate. “The whole game of identity definition,” Meron Benvenisti noted, “reflects the immigrant’s lack of connection. Natives don’t question their identity.”

            In the context of this “game of identity definition” it is relevant to mention that some scholars have suggested that the use of the term Palestine was not an exclusive prerogative of the Arabs and that therefore a more precise distinction should refer to two distinct realities: the Arab Palestinians (or Arabs of Palestine) and the Palestinian Jews. In this sense it was noted that from 1932 to 1950 the Jewish newspaper Jerusalem Post was called The Palestine Post. The clarification is relevant, and in fact the Jews that over the centuries did remain on the spot can be defined Palestinian Jews.

            The charter of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) itself, a document certainly not very inclined to compromise, recognized that “the Jews who had normally resided in Palestine until the beginning of the Zionist invasion are considered Palestinians.” This means that before the emergence of insular and exclusivistic approaches, such as the avodah ivrit (“Hebrew labor,” i.e. only “Jewish hands” could work the “Jewish land”) logic, there was no urgency to define the different ethnicities in a clear-cut way. Moreover, even if we focus the attention on an “ethnocentric perspective” it is necessary to keep in mind that such an aspect does not alter the terms of the question in a substantial way. Referring to an overwhelming “Palestinian Arab majority,” or to an overwhelming “Palestinian majority,” as opposed to a possible “Jewish-Palestinian minority” or “Jewish minority,” is little more than a semantic disquisition.

            The reference to a “Palestinian Arab majority” is not a secondary one. The reference to a majority, and thus to numbers, is relevant in as much as it directly tackles the common thesis according to which that majority was indeed composed by “Arab immigrants” that “came because of the Jews.” In the context of our interest, numbers and “identity” are strictly related. In other words, answering to the question of how many the Palestinians were also helps to explain who these people were.

            The first official census was taken in Palestine in 1922, by the British mandated government. In that occasion a total population of 757,182 individuals was found, of whom 590,390 were Muslims, 83,694 Jews, and 73,024 Christians. The previous surveys presented obvious difficulties. The Ottoman authorities usually counted, for tax and military service purposes, almost exclusively adult males or heads of family. The various Christian denominations, like the Jewish millet and the consulates that were gradually created, kept their own records.

            The most reliable estimates of previous centuries reveal that in 1800 the total population of Palestine numbered 250,000 individuals, reaching 500,000 in 1890. Justin McCarthy, an acknowledged expert on the issue, indicated the number of residents in Palestine in 1860 as 411,000, the overwhelming majority of which (around 90 percent) Arabs.

            From a Eurocentric perspective these numbers might seem negligible. To get an idea, one has only to think that when Paris reached one million inhabitants in 1846, Jerusalem and Haifa numbered, respectively, little more than 18 thousand and a bit less than 3 thousand. It would, however, still be wrong to choose countries on the Old Continent instead of those in the Oriental Mediterranean area for a reliable comparison. It is more logical to compare Egypt at the start of the 1800s with Palestine in the same period. It is estimated that the first one had at the time a population of around three million inhabitants: today it numbers 77 million. The second, inhabited at that time by 250,000/300,000 people (therefore 225,000/270,000 Arabs), registers today little more than five million individuals. In comparison, these data demonstrate substantial “comparative convergence” between Palestine and the historically most important, as well as most populous Arabic country.

            Among the Arab majority of Palestine different senses of identity (connected to religious, local, transnational and family allegiances) coexisted without any contradiction between various loyalties being felt. In fact, they were identities as both distinguishable and overlapping. Not by chance, as Barnett and Telhami also noted, one of the ways in which the entire area differs from other regions “is that the national identity has had a transnational character.”

            It is in this “regional” context that it is worthy to explain the inconsistency of the “Arab immigrants” thesis mentioned above. The reference is to an assumption made popular by Joan Peters in her From time immemorial. In the latter, through an analysis of migratory processes registered throughout the course of the 1800s and in the period of the British mandate, the author depicted Palestinian Arabs as “foreigners” coming from “outside areas.” Following Peters’s approach, many later scholars tried to demonstrate that Palestine was a semi-desert and that the inhabitants the first Zionists encountered were nothing more than “travelers” attracted by the Jewish immigration.

            At least until the 1920s the growth of the Arab population — not an isolated case in the region (in Iraq, for example, between 1867 and 1905 the population went from 1 million 250 thousand to 2 million 250 thousand) — had, in reality, little to do with Jewish immigration. As Justin McCarthy noted, “the province that experienced the greatest Jewish population growth (about .035 annually), Jerusalem Sanjak, was the province with the lowest rate of growth of Muslim population (.009).” The increase in Palestine’s Arab population was mostly due to high demographic growth: a phenomenon which started already in the middle of the 1800s, thus prior both to the first wave of Zionist immigration and the first construction company founded in the 60s in Jerusalem by Yosef Rivlin.

            Such demographic growth was accompanied by a reduction in average mortality — placed well below the 40 years in the first decade of the XX century — prompted mostly by the innovations introduced by the Jewish component of the population. The latter, on the contrary, multiplied thanks to immigration, embodied mainly by worshipers, often persecuted, coming from other continents.

            This (immigration) is one of the main points which merits further clarification. Small groups did indeed immigrate in earlier years from outside Palestine. Among these was a group of Egyptians, which settled in Palestine during the years in which the region was subject to the rule of Muhammad Alì. Not long after, a small number of Bosnian, Algerian and Circassian immigrants arrived, who then settled primarily in the Galilee (their presence today is seen in the villages of Rehaniya and Kfar Kama) and at the “border” with Lebanon. Unlike the Jews who arrived in later decades during the Second and Third aliyot — the latters, through practices such as the above mentioned “Jewish Labor,” opted for exclusion and therefore the non-integration with the local Arab population — the aforementioned groups almost immediately integrated with the local majority.

            Most of the Arab Palestinians that Peters and many other “outsiders” defined as “foreigners,” or “former invaders,” were, in reality, people deeply rooted in what Khayr al-Dīn al-Ramli (1585-1671), an influential Islamic lawyer from Ramla, defined in the XVII century “Filastīn bilādunā” (“Palestine our country”); the fact that it was not a separate political and administrative entity did not make al-Ramli’s “Filastīn” less real.

            Maxime Rodinson explained the “former invaders’s myth” taking the English people as a term of reference. “It is ridiculous,” Rodinson clarified, “to call the English of today invaders and occupiers, on the grounds that England was conquered from Celtic peoples by the Angles, Saxons and Jutes in the fifth and sixth centuries. The population was ‘Anglicized’ and nobody suggests that the peoples which have more or less preserved the Celtic tongues — the Irish, the Welsh or the Bretons — should be regarded as the true natives of Kent or Suffolk, with greater titles to these territories than the English who live in those counties.”

            The “foreigners’ approach” is problematic on many other grounds; it is not necessary, in order to realize this, to go back to a far past. The minority whose origins were from other areas lived, in great percentage, in the context of Bilād al-Shām. “Filastīn,” in other words, was/is an integral part of the Arab world without erasing its peculiarities. Considering the movement within the region as a migratory process among reciprocally “foreign” populations, is a simplistic way to define a reality that was anything but simple. In Adel Manna’s words: “A Palestinian who moved to south Lebanon or a Lebanese who moved to Palestine — or a Syrian or a Jordanian, for that matter — is surely not a foreigner because he is part of the culture of the society of Bilad-al-Sham, or Greater Syria, where there were no borders between countries […] there is a big difference between them and foreigners who came from Europe, whether Christians or Jews.”

            Manichean temptations have always been harbingers of misrepresentations, as well as of great suffering. The “black or white” approach according to which Palestinians were/are a well defined nation, or were/are nothing more than “Arab immigrants” that “came because of the Jews,” and so people who would be relatively easy to dislocate to any other region in the Arab world, has for long been an inaccuracy diffused in the literature on the issue. An inaccuracy that, on the one hand, contributes to further radicalize the present day history of the region, and, on the other, continues to foster the long-established attempt of simplifying the local universe.

            As Haim Gerber once noted, “one basic claim is that the Palestinians lacked positive values in their nationalism, their ideology being confined to a fundamental hatred of Zionism […] Other historians (Zionist and other) claim that […] the people we today call ‘Palestinians’ saw themselves at the time as simply Arabs and nothing more specific […] I shall argue that not one of the historians who have dealt with these questions really got it right.”
            http://www.mepc.org/articles-commentary/commentary/palestinians-ongoing-attempt-simplify-others

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            ” What made the difference for the “insiders” was, besides religion, the provenance from a certain village, the belonging to a specific family clan, the use of a particular dialect, a way of dressing, a product of the earth, a religious festival (the Nabi Musa festival, for example, was a clear expression of a proto-national cohesion), a dance.”

            In other words, what constituted ‘Palestinianness’ was being in no distinctive way different from someone from over the border North, South or East. By the same definition you can define a Nablusness, a Gazaness and a Hebroness or the ‘ness’ of being from any village, hamlet or farm. Such vague distinctions make the concept itself irrelevant. If there was no political identity then there could not have been a ‘people’. There were certainly people here, but they were not particularly different from those in what were the other Arab Levantine parts of the Ottoman Empire, in what is now Syria, Jordan or Lebanon. The Baathists and SSNP in Syria have a better argument in claiming that everyone in the region is a Syrian which at least makes sense on linguistic grounds, rather than this metaphysical mumbo jumbo which you are forced to jump through to invent the existence of the Palestinian people before they existed.

            This would be like a claim on the part of Jews that the Israeli people are not a recent invention. Of course they are. Were there Jews? Sure. Israelis? No. Were there Arabs here? Yes. Palestinians? No. No such thing existed.

            I have sat through enough classes taught by enthusiasts of the Palestinian cause to know that the best they can do is to point to some small number of rebellions in the region in the past couple of centuries, none of which defined themselves as Palestinians. Up until the British Mandate there is nothing to differentiate between the Arabs here and the Arabs across the borders. And even afterwards the ‘Palestinians’ demanded to be recognized as Arabs first with ‘Palestinian’ at best being a geographic designation if not entirely rejected as part of the rejection of the colonial nature of the British/French control of the region.

            Reply to Comment
          • tod

            kolumn@
            you claim that “Americans can be credible mediators. They are the only ones that actually have any influence on both sides”. The fact that (allegedly) “without them you are left with nothing” is not an argument an certainly not one in favour of your claim that “Americans can be credible mediators”.
            The “UN Agency for Bureaucratic” is certainly more credible and representative than your honest broker. “To accept and admit”: two words that you should start to make yours.

            Reply to Comment
          • miriam

            KOLUMS I am not sure that you really read it.
            “..what constituted ‘Palestinianness’ was being in no distinctive way different from someone from over the border North, South or East”…
            The Nabi Musa festival, just 1 example among others, was a clear expression of a proto-national cohesion that you could not find “over the border North, South or East”.
            They were Nablusess..ect.. and part of “Filastin biladuna”. Why one should exclude the other? As you perhaps read, most of the Arab Palestinians that you try to erase were, in reality, people deeply rooted in what Khayr al-Dīn al-Ramli (1585-1671), an influential Islamic lawyer from Ramla, defined in the XVII century “Filastīn bilādunā” (“Palestine our country”); the fact that it was not a separate political and administrative entity did not make al-Ramli’s “Filastīn” less real.

            This awareness was not only confined to arab palestinians. The Persian geographer al-Istakhri (?-957) wrote…… “Filastīn is the most fertile among the Syrian provinces […] In the province of Filastīn, despite its narrowness, there are around twenty Mosques […] At its maximum extension [Filastīn goes] from Rafh [Rafah] to the edge of Al Lajjûn (Legio), a traveler would need two days to travel across its entire length; and [this is also] the time [necessary] to cross the province across its breadth from Yâfâ (Jaffa) to Rîhâ (Jericho) […]”.

            “to invent the existence of the Palestinian people before they existed”…is a superficial sentence. I don’t have to invent anything. “The whole game of identity definition,” Meron Benvenisti noted, “reflects the immigrant’s lack of connection. Natives don’t question their identity.”

            “Up until the British Mandate there is nothing to differentiate between the Arabs here and the Arabs across the borders”…. They were Arabs with their Palestinian peculiarities. If you ignore them is your problem, not theirs. Haim Gerber wrote the most authoritative study on this issue. These are his conclusions: “One basic claim is that the Palestinians lacked positive values in their nationalism, their ideology being confined to a fundamental hatred of Zionism […] Other historians (Zionist and other) claim that […] the people we today call ‘Palestinians’ saw themselves at the time as simply Arabs and nothing more specific […] I shall argue that not one of the historians who have dealt with these questions really got it right.”

            “‘Palestinians’ demanded to be recognized as Arabs”…….they are and were arabs and palestinian at the same time: with all their peculiarities. One does not exclude the other. I put you again the all article. If you want to discuss this issue you have to go deeper (and to respect the other).

            “As efforts to renew the Palestinian-Israeli peace process move ahead, the claim that Palestinians do not exist as a people has become increasingly common. Israeli Tourism Minister Uzi Landau recently asserted that Palestinians “never existed as a nation [but] suddenly everyone talks about a state.” During his last visit to Israel casino magnate Sheldon Adelson called Palestinians just “southern Syrians” or Egyptians until Yasir Arafat “came along with a pitcher of Kool-Aid and gave it to everybody to drink and sold them the idea of Palestinians.” Previously, Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz noted that the number “of Palestinians with deep roots in the area of Jewish settlement” constitutes “a tiny fraction,” while American scholar Berel Wein pointed out that pre-Zionist Palestine was almost a desert populated mainly by “Arab immigrants” that “came in great part because of the Jews.”

            The rationale behind such declarations is clear. If Palestinians do not exist, or are recent immigrants, why would there be a need to negotiate with them, much less permit them a state?

            Indeed, each of the above considerations, besides not bringing any real benefit to the interested parties, is vitiated by the transposition of values, uses and traditions which are as relevant in the West as they are negligible within the realities to which they refer.

            Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish used seven words to indirectly clarify most of the current “misunderstandings.” “Who are they,” he asked in his Une rime pour les Mu‘allaqāt (“A Rhyme for the Odes”) referring to he the native majority, “That’s someone else’s problem.” In many respects this was indeed a problem of “others,” of “outsiders.” What made the difference for the “insiders” was, besides religion, the provenance from a certain village, the belonging to a specific family clan, the use of a particular dialect, a way of dressing, a product of the earth, a religious festival (the Nabi Musa festival, for example, was a clear expression of a proto-national cohesion), a dance.

            Before the imposition of the nationalist ideologies and the emergence of exclusivist approaches, it was these factors, not primarily political identity, that defined “Palestinianness.” These characteristics form the “rudiments of a nation” in Anthony Smith’s sense of the concept—a set of identifiers so fundamental and so long-existing, so taken for granted, that virtually no one had any need to investigate. “The whole game of identity definition,” Meron Benvenisti noted, “reflects the immigrant’s lack of connection. Natives don’t question their identity.”

            In the context of this “game of identity definition” it is relevant to mention that some scholars have suggested that the use of the term Palestine was not an exclusive prerogative of the Arabs and that therefore a more precise distinction should refer to two distinct realities: the Arab Palestinians (or Arabs of Palestine) and the Palestinian Jews. In this sense it was noted that from 1932 to 1950 the Jewish newspaper Jerusalem Post was called The Palestine Post. The clarification is relevant, and in fact the Jews that over the centuries did remain on the spot can be defined Palestinian Jews.

            The charter of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) itself, a document certainly not very inclined to compromise, recognized that “the Jews who had normally resided in Palestine until the beginning of the Zionist invasion are considered Palestinians.” This means that before the emergence of insular and exclusivistic approaches, such as the avodah ivrit (“Hebrew labor,” i.e. only “Jewish hands” could work the “Jewish land”) logic, there was no urgency to define the different ethnicities in a clear-cut way. Moreover, even if we focus the attention on an “ethnocentric perspective” it is necessary to keep in mind that such an aspect does not alter the terms of the question in a substantial way. Referring to an overwhelming “Palestinian Arab majority,” or to an overwhelming “Palestinian majority,” as opposed to a possible “Jewish-Palestinian minority” or “Jewish minority,” is little more than a semantic disquisition.

            The reference to a “Palestinian Arab majority” is not a secondary one. The reference to a majority, and thus to numbers, is relevant in as much as it directly tackles the common thesis according to which that majority was indeed composed by “Arab immigrants” that “came because of the Jews.” In the context of our interest, numbers and “identity” are strictly related. In other words, answering to the question of how many the Palestinians were also helps to explain who these people were.

            The first official census was taken in Palestine in 1922, by the British mandated government. In that occasion a total population of 757,182 individuals was found, of whom 590,390 were Muslims, 83,694 Jews, and 73,024 Christians. The previous surveys presented obvious difficulties. The Ottoman authorities usually counted, for tax and military service purposes, almost exclusively adult males or heads of family. The various Christian denominations, like the Jewish millet and the consulates that were gradually created, kept their own records.

            The most reliable estimates of previous centuries reveal that in 1800 the total population of Palestine numbered 250,000 individuals, reaching 500,000 in 1890. Justin McCarthy, an acknowledged expert on the issue, indicated the number of residents in Palestine in 1860 as 411,000, the overwhelming majority of which (around 90 percent) Arabs.

            From a Eurocentric perspective these numbers might seem negligible. To get an idea, one has only to think that when Paris reached one million inhabitants in 1846, Jerusalem and Haifa numbered, respectively, little more than 18 thousand and a bit less than 3 thousand. It would, however, still be wrong to choose countries on the Old Continent instead of those in the Oriental Mediterranean area for a reliable comparison. It is more logical to compare Egypt at the start of the 1800s with Palestine in the same period. It is estimated that the first one had at the time a population of around three million inhabitants: today it numbers 77 million. The second, inhabited at that time by 250,000/300,000 people (therefore 225,000/270,000 Arabs), registers today little more than five million individuals. In comparison, these data demonstrate substantial “comparative convergence” between Palestine and the historically most important, as well as most populous Arabic country.

            Among the Arab majority of Palestine different senses of identity (connected to religious, local, transnational and family allegiances) coexisted without any contradiction between various loyalties being felt. In fact, they were identities as both distinguishable and overlapping. Not by chance, as Barnett and Telhami also noted, one of the ways in which the entire area differs from other regions “is that the national identity has had a transnational character.”

            It is in this “regional” context that it is worthy to explain the inconsistency of the “Arab immigrants” thesis mentioned above. The reference is to an assumption made popular by Joan Peters in her From time immemorial. In the latter, through an analysis of migratory processes registered throughout the course of the 1800s and in the period of the British mandate, the author depicted Palestinian Arabs as “foreigners” coming from “outside areas.” Following Peters’s approach, many later scholars tried to demonstrate that Palestine was a semi-desert and that the inhabitants the first Zionists encountered were nothing more than “travelers” attracted by the Jewish immigration.

            At least until the 1920s the growth of the Arab population — not an isolated case in the region (in Iraq, for example, between 1867 and 1905 the population went from 1 million 250 thousand to 2 million 250 thousand) — had, in reality, little to do with Jewish immigration. As Justin McCarthy noted, “the province that experienced the greatest Jewish population growth (about .035 annually), Jerusalem Sanjak, was the province with the lowest rate of growth of Muslim population (.009).” The increase in Palestine’s Arab population was mostly due to high demographic growth: a phenomenon which started already in the middle of the 1800s, thus prior both to the first wave of Zionist immigration and the first construction company founded in the 60s in Jerusalem by Yosef Rivlin.

            Such demographic growth was accompanied by a reduction in average mortality — placed well below the 40 years in the first decade of the XX century — prompted mostly by the innovations introduced by the Jewish component of the population. The latter, on the contrary, multiplied thanks to immigration, embodied mainly by worshipers, often persecuted, coming from other continents.

            This (immigration) is one of the main points which merits further clarification. Small groups did indeed immigrate in earlier years from outside Palestine. Among these was a group of Egyptians, which settled in Palestine during the years in which the region was subject to the rule of Muhammad Alì. Not long after, a small number of Bosnian, Algerian and Circassian immigrants arrived, who then settled primarily in the Galilee (their presence today is seen in the villages of Rehaniya and Kfar Kama) and at the “border” with Lebanon. Unlike the Jews who arrived in later decades during the Second and Third aliyot — the latters, through practices such as the above mentioned “Jewish Labor,” opted for exclusion and therefore the non-integration with the local Arab population — the aforementioned groups almost immediately integrated with the local majority.

            Most of the Arab Palestinians that Peters and many other “outsiders” defined as “foreigners,” or “former invaders,” were, in reality, people deeply rooted in what Khayr al-Dīn al-Ramli (1585-1671), an influential Islamic lawyer from Ramla, defined in the XVII century “Filastīn bilādunā” (“Palestine our country”); the fact that it was not a separate political and administrative entity did not make al-Ramli’s “Filastīn” less real.

            Maxime Rodinson explained the “former invaders’s myth” taking the English people as a term of reference. “It is ridiculous,” Rodinson clarified, “to call the English of today invaders and occupiers, on the grounds that England was conquered from Celtic peoples by the Angles, Saxons and Jutes in the fifth and sixth centuries. The population was ‘Anglicized’ and nobody suggests that the peoples which have more or less preserved the Celtic tongues — the Irish, the Welsh or the Bretons — should be regarded as the true natives of Kent or Suffolk, with greater titles to these territories than the English who live in those counties.”

            The “foreigners’ approach” is problematic on many other grounds; it is not necessary, in order to realize this, to go back to a far past. The minority whose origins were from other areas lived, in great percentage, in the context of Bilād al-Shām. “Filastīn,” in other words, was/is an integral part of the Arab world without erasing its peculiarities. Considering the movement within the region as a migratory process among reciprocally “foreign” populations, is a simplistic way to define a reality that was anything but simple. In Adel Manna’s words: “A Palestinian who moved to south Lebanon or a Lebanese who moved to Palestine — or a Syrian or a Jordanian, for that matter — is surely not a foreigner because he is part of the culture of the society of Bilad-al-Sham, or Greater Syria, where there were no borders between countries […] there is a big difference between them and foreigners who came from Europe, whether Christians or Jews.”

            Manichean temptations have always been harbingers of misrepresentations, as well as of great suffering. The “black or white” approach according to which Palestinians were/are a well defined nation, or were/are nothing more than “Arab immigrants” that “came because of the Jews,” and so people who would be relatively easy to dislocate to any other region in the Arab world, has for long been an inaccuracy diffused in the literature on the issue. An inaccuracy that, on the one hand, contributes to further radicalize the present day history of the region, and, on the other, continues to foster the long-established attempt of simplifying the local universe.

            As Haim Gerber once noted, “one basic claim is that the Palestinians lacked positive values in their nationalism, their ideology being confined to a fundamental hatred of Zionism […] Other historians (Zionist and other) claim that […] the people we today call ‘Palestinians’ saw themselves at the time as simply Arabs and nothing more specific […] I shall argue that not one of the historians who have dealt with these questions really got it right.”
            http://www.mepc.org/articles-commentary/commentary/palestinians-ongoing-attempt-simplify-others

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            Miri, copy-pasting same nonsense over and over won’t make it credible.

            “Maxime Rodinson explained the “former invaders’s myth” taking the English people as a term of reference.”

            A laughable comparison. English people speak English and identify as a distinct people.

            Palestinian Arabs do not speak “Palestinian” language and still does not identify as a distinct people, which is why, by the way, there is no “Palestinian” unity government or anything similar – diverse hamulot – clans – have very little in common to create a nation.

            Reply to Comment
          • miriam

            “Miri, copy-pasting same nonsense over and over won’t make it credible”…I don’t expect to change a person like you.

            “A laughable comparison. English people speak English and identify as a distinct people”…Maxime Rodinson was a little bit more prepared than you. Putting aside this,
            the fact that Arab is spoken by almost 300millions of person does not make them 1 single people.
            I know that you dont like it because it breaks the mental walls that you created around you. But I write it again:

            The Nabi Musa festival, just 1 example among others, was a clear expression of a proto-national cohesion that you could not find “over the border North, South or East”.
            They were Nablusess..ect.. and part of “Filastin biladuna”. Why one should exclude the other? As you perhaps read, most of the Arab Palestinians that you try to erase were, in reality, people deeply rooted in what Khayr al-Dīn al-Ramli (1585-1671), an influential Islamic lawyer from Ramla, defined in the XVII century “Filastīn bilādunā” (“Palestine our country”); the fact that it was not a separate political and administrative entity did not make al-Ramli’s “Filastīn” less real.

            “there is no “Palestinian” unity government or anything similar”…simply because of what happened in the last century and is still happening. Study, Study, and Study (and respect the other).

            Reply to Comment
          • Tony Riley

            So if Palestine really existed as an independent nation state, who were its leaders?

            Reply to Comment
          • miriam

            Tony Riley, you ask… The “state” is a modern concept imposed on the region by “outsiders”. It was totally irrelevant for the insiders. To ask this question means to read the local non-Western reality with Western glasses.
            As for the “leaders”, they were not political leaders but religious, “economic”, cultural”…leaders. Start from studying Dāhir al-‘Umar (1690c.–1775) and Khayr al-Dīn al-Ramli (1585-1671).

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            Miriam, you seem to confuse the existence of a province in Syria with the existence of a Palestinian people. I could be from New York or London without there being a New York or a London people. So, that argument is a pretty empty.

            Then there is the argument that there could be a Nablusness, a Hebroness and a Palestinianess all at once. I suppose there was also a Syrianess, and an Ottomaness. Truly conflicted people these must have been. So yes, they could have juggled all these identities, but no one is going to make the argument that there is Nablusi people with a right to self-determination on that basis, yet that is precisely what people seem to grab onto in the case of the Palestinians. Or maybe they are striving for self-determination as part of the Syrian people?

            That there was a “Syrian” (itself a vague and meaningless term) province called Palestine (and there wasn’t. look at the Ottoman maps. there wasn’t even an administrative province that included all the land of Israel separate from Damascus) somehow translates to their being a people with a unique identity living in that province. This is like arguing for the breakdown of any of the countries in the region down to individual villages or cities because each has a ‘people’ that must be granted self-determination. It is a meaningless and empty argument on which to base the existence of the Palestinian people.

            That the Palestinians need not have a defined Palestinian identity is fine, and that is exactly the point. They didn’t have an identity separate from that of the surrounding Arabs. They were living in villages like those in Jordan and Syria and Lebanon with nothing in particular to distinguish themselves and no particular reason why they are a ‘people’ that need self-determination as ‘Palestinians’, an identity that you admit they didn’t have.

            And the part about “natives don’t question their identity” is really dumb. That’s right. They didn’t question their identity. Under the Ottomans they were mostly Muslims (with Christians being a tolerated minority). Under the British they were Arabs. Under the Israelis they became Palestinians. It is only people that wish to elevate them to some magical level that choose to lower the standards of identity so far as to invent some artificial consistent line of them being ‘Palestinians’ even when even geographically that would be meaningless until 1920 and not long ago these ‘natives’ would overwhelmingly and violently insist that they are Arabs and reject the whole idea of Palestine as a separate entity from the Arab World.

            If a village in northern Israel had wound up on the other side of the Sykes-Picot Lebanese border the people there would have magically become part of the ‘Lebanese people’. That is how “deep” the “Palestinian” identity and people go. It extends just about as far as the artificial lines drawn by the French and British on a map in 1916. So now you want to find an eternal explanation for why people that basically randomly wound up on this side of the border are members of the ancient Palestinian people. It is hogwash. Complete hogwash.

            You can argue that there were many non-Jews living here, but there was no Palestinian people that resided here. That ‘people’ is the direct result of the borders drawn in 1920 and the struggle of the Arabs to eliminate the Jewish yishuv ever since.

            Reply to Comment
          • miriam

            KOLUMS, you made a few mistakes. I try to clarify few of them.

            “This is like arguing for the breakdown of any of the countries in the region down to individual villages or cities because each has a ‘people’ that must be granted self-determination”…
            You continue to ignore what i write you. The Nabi Musa festival, just 1 example among others, was a clear expression of a proto-national cohesion that you could not find “over the border North, South or East”. It was much more than a matter of single villages.

            “Or maybe they are striving for self-determination as part of the Syrian people?”…
            Excluding some isolated cases which are traceable to explicit political calculations, there has been no document produced by the local population prior to 1918 or after 1920 which “nullified” Palestine and all it represented in favor of the concept of “Southern Syria”.

            “You can argue that there were many non-Jews living here, but there was no Palestinian people that resided here”…that 9/10th of the local population should be called simply “non-jews” confirms your biases, not surprisingly very common in colonial times.

            “That ‘people’ is the direct result of the borders drawn in 1920 and the struggle of the Arabs to eliminate the Jewish yishuv ever since”…this is what you need to believe. This is a myth that Haim Gerber proved to be baseless: “one basic claim is that the Palestinians lacked positive values in their nationalism, their ideology being confined to a fundamental hatred of Zionism […] Other historians (Zionist and other) claim that […] the people we today call ‘Palestinians’ saw themselves at the time as simply Arabs and nothing more specific […] I shall argue that not one of the historians who have dealt with these questions really got it right.”

            “Miriam, you seem to confuse the existence of a province in Syria with the existence of a Palestinian people. I could be from New York or London without there being a New York or a London people. So, that argument is a pretty empty”.
            If you are from London and you write “London my city”, you participate in cultural and religious festivals that you only have in London, dances and traditions that you only have in London…than you are
            a Londinese, and what a new immigrant might think about it is irrelevant.

            “I suppose there was also a Syrianess, and an Ottomaness”…you suppose wrong. In many documents of the 1700 and 1800s we can find a distinction between ibn ‘Arab (Arab son) and ibn Turk (Turkish son). This means that the local population considered the Turks who did not speak Arabic as foreigners. At the same time the origin from a certain village, the hamula of belonging and the local customs were all factors which marked a certain peculiarity between the various protonations present in the region.
            “It would be an interesting subject for an artist – wrote in 1822 J.L. Burkhardt – to portray accurately the different character of features of the Syrian nations [...] a slight acquaintance with them enables one to determine the native district of a Syrian, with almost as much certainty as an Englishman may be distinguished at first sight from an Italian or an inhabitant of the South of France”.

            “but no one is going to make the argument that there is Nablusi people with a right to self-determination on that basis,”…there is a palestinian people which specific traditions (line the NAbi Musa Festival that you try to continue to ignore), and city like Nablus represent a sort of protonation in the protonation.

            “…and there wasn’t. look at the Ottoman maps. there wasn’t even an administrative province that included all the land of Israel separate from Damascus”…
            …in the official correspondence by Ottoman you would have found always the expression Arz-i Filastīn. it did not represent a politically independent area, butit held, in popular as well in the official use, a peculiar meaning.

            “They were living in villages like those in Jordan and Syria and Lebanon with nothing in particular to distinguish themselves and no particular reason why they are a ‘people’ that need self-determination as ‘Palestinians’”….again, you are wrong. Of course they could remain, with all their peculiarities, part of the arab world if external dangers would not have kicked their doors. “A Palestinian who moved to south Lebanon or a Lebanese who moved to Palestine — or a Syrian or a Jordanian, for that matter — is surely not a foreigner because he is part of the culture of the society of Bilad-al-Sham, or Greater Syria, where there were no borders between countries […] there is a big difference between them and foreigners who came from Europe, whether Christians or Jews.”

            “and not long ago these ‘natives’ would overwhelmingly and violently insist that they are Arabs and reject the whole idea of Palestine as a separate entity from the Arab World”.
            ..Excluding some isolated cases which are traceable to explicit political calculations, there has been no document produced by the local population prior to 1918 or after 1920 which “nullified” Palestine and all it represented in favor of the concept of “Southern Syria”. Prove the opposite, if you can.

            The reasoning beneath your mental approach is clear: I don’t know and/or understand them, thus they don’t – or didn’t – exist.

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            >Trespasser, the fact that you don’t know or understand them doesn’t mean that Palestinians are an invention. Please, don’t let hatred takes over you. I would suggest you to start with this:

            Miriam,
            1) I know and understand Palestinian Arabs well enough. Probably too well.

            2) The fact that “Palestinians” had to invient “Philistia” proves that they are an invention. Obviously, only invented people have to invent their national roots.
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philistia

            3) I can not hate invented people who never existed.

            >In the context of this “game of identity definition” it is relevant to mention that some scholars have suggested that the use of the term Palestine was not an exclusive prerogative of the Arabs and that therefore a more precise distinction should refer to two distinct realities: the Arab Palestinians (or Arabs of Palestine) and the Palestinian Jews. In this sense it was noted that from 1932 to 1950 the Jewish newspaper Jerusalem Post was called The Palestine Post. The clarification is relevant, and in fact the Jews that over the centuries did remain on the spot can be defined Palestinian Jews.

            Who wrote this crap? There were much more ethnicities to Palestine than Arab and Jewish. Bedouin, Druze, Samaritans, to name a few.

            And ALL of them were Palestinians. Because at one point they came to Palestine and remained here.

            >The charter of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) itself, a document certainly not very inclined to compromise, recognized that “the Jews who had normally resided in Palestine until the beginning of the Zionist invasion are considered Palestinians.”

            PLO had no right whatsoever to define who can and who can not be considered a Palestinian.

            >This means that before the emergence of insular and exclusivistic approaches, such as the avodah ivrit (“Hebrew labor,” i.e. only “Jewish hands” could work the “Jewish land”) logic, there was no urgency to define the different ethnicities in a clear-cut way.

            Bullshit. Just bullshit.

            Palestinian Arab congress of 1919 was called so because at the time no “Palestinians” as an ethnicity or nationality existed.

            Reply to Comment
          • miriam

            Trespasser, you write “I know and understand Palestinian Arabs well enough. Probably too well”.
            If this was true, you would argue in a different way.

            ““Palestinians” had to invient “Philistia” proves that they are an invention”…no sure what you mean, but that the history of the region has a lot of continuity is clear, as also the local toponymy confirms.

            “I can not hate invented people who never existed”….this shows that you are ignorant and I just can be sorry for you.

            “There were much more ethnicities to Palestine than Arab and Jewish. Bedouin, Druze, Samaritans, to name a few. And ALL of them were Palestinians. Because at one point they came to Palestine and remained here”.
            …..exactly! 1) Before the emergence of insular and exclusivistic approaches there was no urgency to define the different ethnicities in a clear-cut way. 2) Even if we focus the attention on an “ethnocentric perspective” it is necessary to keep in mind that such an aspect does not alter the terms of the question in a substantial way. Referring to an overwhelming “Palestinian Arab majority”, or to an overwhelming “Palestinian majority”, is little more than a semantic disquisition.

            “PLO had no right whatsoever to define who can and who can not be considered a Palestinian”…no one claim the opposite, Read better.

            “Palestinian Arab congress of 1919 was called so because at the time no “Palestinians” as an ethnicity or nationality existed”. Sure? During the war First World War, Arab nationalists cooperated with Sharif Hussein and his sons in order to have an Arab kingdom. The Palestinians, who were part of this ideology, thought at that time, tactically, that it would be in their interest to be part of the Faisal kingdom in the Bilad al-Sham. That’s why it is the only two years (1918-1920) during which they speak about Palestine as Southern Syria or the kingdom of Faisal. After Faisal is kicked out of Damascus, the next conference doesn’t speak about being part of Syria or the kingdom of Feisal. In the summer of 1920 the episode is finished.

            It seems to me that you chose to bury your head in the sand, ignoring everything that you don’t like. This damages you and not the persons that you think to hurt.

            Reply to Comment
          • TJ

            The “American people” – as that term is typically used – were also born out of resistance to colonial oppression. Similarly, the “founding” of Israel effectively brought “the Palestinians” into existence as a distinct people, if only as an unintended consequence of the Zionist project. The real question is simply whether one sides with the oppressed or the oppressors. In Europe, for centuries Jews were among the oppressed; in Palestine, they could only become the oppressors, no matter how noble the original intentions might have been (and, as with most undertakings, the intentions were very mixed).

            Reply to Comment
          • miriam

            TJ, “the “founding” of Israel effectively brought “the Palestinians” into existence as a distinct people, if only as an unintended consequence of the Zionist project”…this is wrong and superficial, a myth.
            Study Haim Gerber to know a bit more: “One basic claim is that the Palestinians lacked positive values in their nationalism, their ideology being confined to a fundamental hatred of Zionism […] Other historians (Zionist and other) claim that […] the people we today call ‘Palestinians’ saw themselves at the time as simply Arabs and nothing more specific […] I shall argue that not one of the historians who have dealt with these questions really got it right.”

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            Of course the Americans can be credible mediators. They are the only ones that actually have any influence on both sides. Without them you are left with nothing. The Palestinians are left floating praying for a deus ex machina that would return them to relevance. Again, the Palestinians can walk away if they want. That they don’t is a reflection of the fact that they can’t. This is a simple fact that even the Palestinians, when they aren’t grandstanding about threats of joining the UN Agency for Bureaucratic Paperwork, accept and admit.

            It is the Palestinians, not the Israelis that are demanding that the Americans get more involved with negotiations. That should tell you a lot.

            Reply to Comment
          • tod

            kolumn@
            you claim that “Americans can be credible mediators. They are the only ones that actually have any influence on both sides”. The fact that (allegedly) “without them you are left with nothing” is not an argument an certainly not one in favour of your claim that “Americans can be credible mediators”.
            The “UN Agency for Bureaucratic” is certainly more credible and representative than your honest broker. “To accept and admit”: two words that you should start to make yours.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            In negotiations theory the only thing a credible mediator needs to be able to do is to provide a safe environment for both sides to negotiate and to occasionally help with the formulation for potential agreements.

            There is nothing about being a ‘credible mediator’ that requires the mediator to be neutral. Likewise an ‘honest broker’ is not one that can’t be more friendly with one party than the other in a transaction.

            What you want is not a mediator or broker. What you are complaining about is that the United States isn’t forcing the two sides into an agreement that is to your satisfaction, but that isn’t what a mediator or broker is supposed to do.

            Reply to Comment
          • tod

            kolumn
            ‘The only thing a credible mediator needs to be able to do is to provide a safe environment for both sides to negotiate’: a credible (and potentially successful) mediator is much more than this. And history confirms that.

            ‘A credible mediator’ that relies in its team only on militant pro-Israelis completely ignoring the other side, is not a credible mediator and it is doomed to fail. As history, again, confirms.

            ‘you are complaining about is that the United States isn’t forcing the two sides into an agreement that is to your satisfaction’: no, I am opposing the fact that a person like you can be considered a credible mediator. Martin Indik is not less unreliable (and biased) than you are.

            Reply to Comment
      • Aaron Gross

        For what it’s worth, that’s how I read “pro-Israel” in context, too, not the way Dahlia read it. I think Noam simply meant biased more towards Israel than towards the Palestinians.

        Reply to Comment
      • Aaron Gross

        But that “plus” sign at the beginning of our name isn’t just a quirky reminder of the country code.

        I read it as a quirky reminder that the articles here are mostly written to be read long-distance.

        Reply to Comment
    3. Ah, recall the “United We Stand” t-shirts during the Iraq war? If you weren’t with “us”–you were outside. I fondly remember those days. It was so easy to fit in–just don’t say anything. Now we have Satancare, er, Obamacare, and vocal opinion is required.

      Few people would do what you did–move to Israel with your beliefs, coming from a socially secure background (as you told us who you mom is). There is an objective measure of daftness in it, and daft you shall be called. Spinoza was daft too. Do you know why he put the Ethics aside for awhile to write the political treatise?

      Anyhow, Noam is daft too calling for a Palestinian on the impartial American team. As you note, Palestinians are all mini bombers, even the eight year olds.

      I couldn’t survive what you have already survived, nor what you will endure in the future. Ostracism is a foundational human force. I would take solace knowing that fighting anger and hatred has always been a very uphill battle.

      Of course you are pro-Israel; otherwise, you would have left by now.

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        Nonsense. Dahlia is unlikely to be ‘ostracized’. She is unlikely to pay any penalty for her political views. In Tel Aviv I am more likely to be ostracized for being right-wing than Dahlia is for being left-wing.

        No, she does not need to be pro-Israel to come or stay here. This place has plenty of people who see themselves as warriors for a left-wing vision of the world of which this conflict plays [at least in their minds] a crucial battleground.

        Reply to Comment
        • Neither you nor Dahlia is likely to be ostracised for anything in Tel Aviv. It’s a place where you can sit around and discuss all the vital issues of the day (like the True Meaning of the term ‘pro-Israel’) without anyone caring about anything other than the fact that the drinks are overpriced. That is the problem with this article – lack of substance and little wider relevance that I can see.

          Reply to Comment
          • @Vicky, if you are the same person who has commented sometimes in the past, I’m somewhat surprised as I remember you being more nuanced than that. The myth of idle banter in a heartless, materialist Tel Aviv “bubble” is quite shallow. Consider this: if we were high-tech millionaires, corporate lawyers, or say, career officers in the army, none of us would be worried about the price of a drink. Sure you can find those types in TA. You can also find the heart of the activist community, the highest concentration of those who think and act and write and at least try to influence our audiences to see things differently. Like any urban environment, we have all kinds here – I hope you’ll learn a bit more about them.

            Reply to Comment
          • I am the same person. I have also been involved in this long enough to learn that the thousands of left-wing activists whom I’ve seen packing out Rabin Square with Peace Now placards and Meretz balloons won’t be found blocking army bulldozers in Walajeh two days later. Tel Aviv is the heart of the activist community, it’s true – and most people who would consider themselves to be part of that community can’t be relied upon to head out of the heartland and into the Territories all that often. I lose count of the number of times that I’ve witnessed home demolitions and child arrests and whatever else and the only Israeli civilians around have been the same half-dozen faces from Ta’ayush and Shovrim Shtika. There is nothing particularly nuanced about that. It does seem to me that a lot of what passes for activism in Tel Aviv is ineffective and quite self-centred. Not all, but a lot. (And my recognition of this is not a dismissal of what that relatively small number of committed activists is capable of doing, or the contribution that they already make.)

            You are bothered by Noam’s treatment of a term you like to use for yourself, so you have written an article to try and reclaim it. Meanwhile, my host mother risks home confiscation. Neither she nor the many other Palestinians in the same position are likely to be saying, “What we really need now from our solidarity partners in the Israeli community is a debate on the semantic underpinnings of the term pro-Israel. When will they deliver?” Terms such as ‘pro-Israel’ are basically just hechsers for people’s political views, and in this respect, fighting for your right to call yourself pro-Israel is no different from the behaviour of political figures the world over who argue over whose policies really are in ‘the national interest’ (a concept that’s pretty meaningless when you think about it). What do these contests in patriotism ever achieve practically, except to reinforce the idea that you have to affirm nationalist commitment in order to be taken seriously? I don’t see loyalty to any nation-state as some rubber stamp for the validity of my ethical outlook, so I find little use in trying to get that stamp when there are far more pressing and painful issues at stake than the sloppy shorthand that gets used in the press. This is what feels superficial to me, and I don’t think it’s coincidence that I hear this discussion most often in TA among people who are relatively privileged in how they live and whose greatest claim to anti-occupation activism is the one time they went on a bus tour with Combatants for Peace.

            Reply to Comment
          • @Vicky – well, I guess I’ve been around long enough not to take your frustration personally, although I hear you and I do get it. But at this stage I’ve also seen how out of this generation of demonstrators in the square, a few will remain to stand against demolitions tomorrow, replenishing the ranks. I know because in my early years here, I too was a mere demonstrator. And now I do a lot more. Maybe you’d say it’s not enough but I”ve also learned that if you really are committed to a cause, what you – yes, even you, do is never enough. Today I am fighting over language and semantics, but yesterday and tomorrow I may write about military policy and law, and some other day I may be in the field, or contributing professionally in ways that probably haven’t occurred to you because we don’t know each other. What’s more, language, terminology and mainstream Rabin Square demonstrations do have a role in generating change. Maybe you’ve found the way that works best for you, but why judge others so categorically? Better they do something, than nothing. Then surely you’d say – why do people sit and do nothing…

            Reply to Comment
    4. I agree that pro-Israel should be ereserved as an opposite to wants-state-of-Israel-erased.

      The better term for the newest of the USA’s DoS negotiating team members is supporter-of-Israeli-hardline-rightwing-position-anti-international-law-anti-Palestinian-right-of-return-anti-sharing-of-Jerusalem-and-anti-Palestinian-human-rights.

      A mouthful. descriebs quite a few Israelis too, irf I am correctly informed.

      What could be a short-form for this mouthful?

      You can see why

      Reply to Comment
      • sh

        Anti-compromise. You can add “of any sort” if you insist.

        Reply to Comment
    5. I think Noam’s article is realistic reporting and analysis of the situation, and Dahlia is emotionally stating what she would like words to mean. I am not pro-Israel or anti-Israel, I want to see justice for the peoples of the Middle east. I am also not pro-Britain or anti-Britain (where I live). I take positions on particular issues and I support principles and peoples, not nation-states.

      To say you are pro-Israel puts you on the wrong side of the moral divide because the reality is that Israel is an increasingly right-wing, ethnically based ‘Jewish state’ that denies rights to millions of others, including its won citizens (check the Negev Bedouins/Prawer Plan). Sorry Dahlia.

      That doesn’t mean you want to see all Israeli Jews driven into the sea, any more than opposing apartheid South Africa meant you were in favour of a massacre of all the whites or a ‘communist takeover’ of the country.

      To declare you are ‘pro’ a country that is engaged,say, in an unjust war, means what? You could be an admirer of German culture, but to say you were pro-German in 1944 would have more significance than appreciating Beethoven and Thomas Mann.

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        >I want to see justice for the peoples of the Middle east.

        That is very nice of you.

        Such a shame that you are not aware that “justice” is a highly subjective matter.

        For example, for you or me it is, probably, unjust to kill a girl for dating a wrong men, but it is 100% just for an average Middle-Eastern Arab.

        I’d suggest that you start wanting equality for these peoples.

        >To say you are pro-Israel puts you on the wrong side of the moral divide

        You have to moral right to speak about morals until you sorted out you standing on immoral issues such as honour killings, child labor and woman circumcision.

        >because the reality is that Israel is an increasingly right-wing

        The reality is that Israel was extremely left-wing in 1990′s but turned to right after years of dealing with immoral terrorists

        >ethnically based ‘Jewish state’

        Nonsense. Just nonsense.

        > that denies rights to millions of others

        More nonsense.

        >including its won citizens (check the Negev Bedouins/Prawer Plan).

        And even more nonsense. You have not even remote idea of what you are talking about.

        >That doesn’t mean you want to see all Israeli Jews driven into the sea

        As a matter of fact it does. An example: In Palestinian Arab justice system, Jews MUST be 4th grade (after women and dogs) citizens, meaning that ANY system where Jews and Arabs are equal is unjust from Arab point of view.

        > any more than opposing apartheid South Africa meant you were in favour of a massacre of all the whites or a ‘communist takeover’ of the country.

        You can’t really compare these.

        Blacks in SA wanted equality. Palestinian Arabs want Judenfrei Palestine.

        >To declare you are ‘pro’ a country that is engaged,say, in an unjust war, means what?

        Means that first you have to define what is “just war” and what is “unjust war”

        >You could be an admirer of German culture, but to say you were pro-German in 1944 would have more significance than appreciating Beethoven and Thomas Mann.

        “pro-German” or “pro-Israeli” are meaningless by definition.
        In 1944 a person might have been member of SS and define oneself as pro-German or a member of the Red Army and define oneself as pro-German as well.

        Reply to Comment
    6. btw why are these comments headed by a text (advert?) stating:
      The True Jesus Christ
      http://www.rcg.org
      Unknown to Christianity— A Single Book can Change People Forever.
      Not good.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Seth Morrison

      J Street made some headway on this with their campaign, “We Are The Future of Pro-Israel”. Changing minds after years of very well done Israeli propaganda is very tough.

      The reality is that one can love and support Israel in many ways. Allowing the debate to focus on who is pro-Israel is just what the propagandists on the right want. The right issue is how to best support Israel and encourage it to become the state that we can be proud of.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Confused

      I hope and pray someone can help me obtain answers to the following questions.

      1. I understand that we should pray for peace in Israel. Oh, how I yearn for that peace. But, I must ask about the Gaza Strip and the Israeli settlements within. To me, it appears that Israel is issuing the Palestianians an ultimatium. That is, get out or die. I can with a clear consciousness support Israel with prayers for peace as well as pray that they find Jesus. However, I find it very difficult to “support” them with material things (as the Apostle Paul directed) such as money or guns or anything that could be sold and thus turned into funds for the purchase of weapons. I fully support self defense. However, I can’t believe that Jesus would have me “support” Israel right now in a materialistic way with money or anything that could be converted to money that would be used to kill Islamic Palestinians, Christian Palestinians or innocent children. So, should I send them funds or objects that can be turned into funds?

      2. If the answer to the above question is yes, should we send our sons and daughters over there to help Israel conquer and move out the Palestinians? My heart says that Jesus would say no.

      3. If it is true, that “Blessed are the peacekeepers for they shall be called sons of God,” how in the world can I answer yes to the previous questions?

      4. I don’t want to think that God would ever contradict himself, but I have to ask how I can be a son of God as a peacemaker and on the other hand support Israel with funds that I know are going to be used to kill in an effort to obtain a piece of land whether it is God’s command that Israel have it or not?

      5. One can say that God works in mysterious ways. I totally agree. But He can’t contradict Himself. Right?

      I’m sorry if these are difficult questions. They sure are confusing to me. I just can’t wrap my mind or heart around them. If someone can help me understand them, I would really appreciate it.

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        >1.But, I must ask about the Gaza Strip and the Israeli settlements within. To me, it appears that Israel is issuing the Palestinians an ultimatum. That is, get out or die.

        No. It is more like “live in peace or die”

        >I can with a clear consciousness support Israel with prayers for peace as well as pray that they find Jesus.

        Thank you so much for your concern, but Jews does not really need Gentiles to be praying that some Jews will find another Jew.

        >I fully support self defense.

        Jesus did not, as a matter of fact.

        >However, I can’t believe that Jesus would have me “support” Israel right now in a materialistic way with money or anything that could be converted to money that would be used to kill Islamic Palestinians, Christian Palestinians or innocent children.

        Jesus would have you smacked hard for making any difference between Jewish Palestinians, Muslim Palestinians and Christian Palestinians.

        >So, should I send them funds or objects that can be turned into funds?

        Send everything to Hamas.

        >2. If the answer to the above question is yes, should we send our sons and daughters over there to help Israel conquer and move out the Palestinians? My heart says that Jesus would say no.

        My heart says that Jesus is deeply ashamed of you, especially in the light of the fact that a) no “palestinians” existed ever and b) Israel is not conquering or moving out anyone.

        >3. If it is true, that “Blessed are the peacekeepers for they shall be called sons of God,” how in the world can I answer yes to the previous questions?

        What makes you think that peacekeeping might not include extermination of those who are against peace?

        >4. I don’t want to think that God would ever contradict himself

        First, you should think what is g-d.

        >but I have to ask how I can be a son of God as a peacemaker and on the other hand support Israel with funds that I know are going to be used to kill in an effort to obtain a piece of land whether it is God’s command that Israel have it or not?

        You don’t seem to understand fully well what is g-d and who are peacemakers.

        >5. One can say that God works in mysterious ways. I totally agree. But He can’t contradict Himself. Right?

        g-d, being an almighty creature, can do anything, no?

        >I’m sorry if these are difficult questions. They sure are confusing to me. I just can’t wrap my mind or heart around them. If someone can help me understand them, I would really appreciate it.

        They are not difficult, rather laughable. I strongly suggest you change your pastor/priest/church or even religion.

        Reply to Comment
      • Correcting Misinformation

        “But, I must ask about the Gaza Strip and the Israeli settlements within.”

        There are no Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip.

        Reply to Comment
    9. Woody

      An important view, but as much as you say you’re “Pro-Israel”, the 90% who believe that this should be an exclusivist state simply don’t care. Even if you sacrifice your life and liberty to fight for a country that has a more stable, economically viable, and proud future, they don’t care. You’re anti-Israel. For example, try writing a piece about how being “smolani” is important and necessary. You know what that 90% would think – it’s the same thing in trying to actually argue you’re pro-Israel. There is almost no point…and who needs recognition for a struggle you know it correct anyway.

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        >the 90% who believe that this should be an exclusivist state simply don’t care.

        The 90% are existing solely in your racist mind.

        >Even if you sacrifice your life and liberty to fight for a country that has a more stable, economically viable, and proud future, they don’t care.

        An Arab state can not be more stable or economically viable. It haven’t happened during last 1000 years and nothing suggests that during next 1000 years anything would change.

        >For example, try writing a piece about how being “smolani” is important and necessary.

        Pieces like that are written by thousands daily. However, events of last couple decades had proven that being smolani does not worth much.

        >You know what that 90% would think

        Again, the 90% are the product of your own racism and hatred, nothing else.

        Reply to Comment
    10. Kolumn9

      “voicing dissent against policies I consider wrong pretty well advances both democratic culture and conflict resolution – and therefore counts as full-throttled support for Israel”

      If your version of democratic culture and conflict resolution leaves no room for a county called Israel, then no, by definition it can’t count as full-throttled support for Israel.

      There are these people walking around saying things like ‘I am pro-Israel’ I just wish it would do things x, y, and z which to anyone with a lick of common sense lead to the elimination of Israel. You yourself have published articles here where you suggest ‘solutions’ which would see the gradual elimination of a country called Israel and its replacement with something else. How can then you get offended that you are classified as not being pro-Israel?

      Call yourself a progressive, call yourself a Jew, call yourself pro-Palestinian, call yourself someone who cares about peace, but I am sorry, anyone who is ambivalent about whether Israel continues to exist is not pro-Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Kolumn9

      And another thing. This whole article is nonsense. You have your logic backwards. Pro-Israel hasn’t been hijacked. It has been redefined by people like Noam to refer to right-wing Jews. You want to blame somebody for that? Blame Noam and his ilk.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Richard Witty

      Its an important discussion.

      The ideological fashion of being anti-Zionist (revolution) vs liberal pro-Zionist (reform) vs conservative pro-Zionist (fearful defense) vs reactionary pro-Zionist (expansion/entitlement) is a fundamental one.

      Comparisons with South Africa (90/10) and Israel/Palestine (50/50) are frankly idiotic in that the political relations of a small minority ruling over a large minory are fundamentally different than two nearly equal ethnicities with very varying political perspectives in each.

      It is possible by that the civilist Israelis will join parties with the civilist Palestinians and form a cosmopolitan party. It hasn’t been done yet. On the Palestinian side, they risk the accusation of normalizer to do so, and then stay in their box (no change).

      Until there is a significant electoral success for civilist parties in BOTH Israel and Palestine, the two state is the only prospect.

      To that end, Dahlia’s pro-Israel approach (whether equally or just also pro-Palestinian) is the right one, the ONLY one that actually proposes improvement in lives.

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        I am going to go out on a limb here and say that the vast majority of the ‘improvement in lives’ of Israeli citizens has been the result of work done by people that don’t even remotely share Dahlia’s views.

        Reply to Comment
        • Richard Witty

          Definitely on a limb, or rather off of the limb.

          A community’s development is comprehensive.

          Economy
          Culture
          Legal and other institutions
          Infrastructure
          Health
          Self-determination

          By all of those measures, Israel has hindered Palestinian development, with the remote possible exception of health. Prior to the falling down of Oslo during the first Netanyahu administration, Israel had been assisting with Palestinian infrastructure development, not since (except to support the settlements’ infrastructure).

          You can’t just talk Kolumn9. Things are seeable, and seen.

          Reply to Comment
    13. un2here

      Pro-Palestinian implies right of return.

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        >Pro-Palestinian implies right of return.

        Behold, the beauty of the left.

        The RoR is so holy that it permits to keep Palestinian Arabs in subhumane conditions so that they could return sometime.

        Reply to Comment
        • un2here

          I am talking about Rafah and Jenin.

          Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            Obviously, you don’t really care about Arabs being kept in sub-humane conditions by other Arabs.

            Reply to Comment
          • un2here

            No, I am saying that the Jewish regime is no different from that of Assad!!

            Reply to Comment
    14. Red

      I think it makes more sense to be an anti-Israel Zionist, than it does to be anti-Zionist and Pro-Israel.

      There are plenty of worthy streams of Zionist thought. There are also a few terrible streams, and Israel as an expression of Zionism embodies many of the bad parts of Zionism and some of the good pieces too.

      There is much more to criticize about the Soviet Union then about the ideas in socialism.

      Reply to Comment
    15. Click here to load previous comments

    LEAVE A COMMENT

    Name (Required)
    Mail (Required)
    Website
    Free text

© 2010 - 2014 +972 Magazine
Follow Us
Credits

+972 is an independent, blog-based web magazine. It was launched in August 2010, resulting from a merger of a number of popular English-language blogs dealing with life and politics in Israel and Palestine.

Website empowered by RSVP

Illustrations: Eran Mendel