Michael Neumann’s ‘Pro-Jewish’, ‘Pro-Israeli’ Case against the Occupation of Palestine

Tom Easton in Lobster 52, for Winter 2006/7, reviewed two books criticising Israel. One of these was The Case against Israel, by Michael Neumann, published in America by CounterPunch, and in Britain by the radical, Anarchist publishers AK Press. Neumann’s an American philosophy professor, whose family were the victims of Nazi persecution, and who grew up strong disposed towards Israel. He describes his bias as ‘pro-Israel and pro-Jewish’. He further stated that the only material he used in writing the book came from Israeli, not Palestinian sources, and stated that he intended his book to be ‘anti-Israeli’ but not ‘anti-Israeli’.

Neumann is critical of both the establishment of Israel, Zionism and the occupation of the West Bank. He states:

The Zionist project, as conceived and executed in the 19th and early 20th century, was entirely unjustified and could reasonably be regarded by the inhabitants of Palestine as a very serious threat, the total domination by one ethnic group of all others in the region. Some form of resistance was, therefore, justified. That Zionist Jews, and Jews generally, may later have acquired pressing reasons for wanting a Jewish state does not change this. The legitimacy of the Zionist project was the major cause of all the terror and warfare that it aroused.

He then goes on to argue that the resulting conflicts weren’t due to ancient ethnic tensions between Jews and Arabs in the area, but were the result of the colonialist policies of the Zionist settlers. He states that the Zionists sought

to implant an ethnic sovereignty in what was to them a foreign land, on the basis of a population expressly imported to secure that end. Unlike other occasions for territorial compromise, this one did not involve two existing people pursuing competing claims. Instead, there was a claim at whose service a people was to be created by immigration from outside the area. That claim was to be pursued against the existing inhabitant, who had never thought to advance some claim of their own against the Jewish people.

He squarely blames Israel for the resulting carnage of the wars and terrorism between the two peoples.

The illegitimacy of Zionism has important implications for the legitimacy of Israel itself and for the early history of that state. It was wrong to pursue the Zionist project and wrong to achieve it. For that reason, how it was pursued and achieved has little bearing on the fundamental rights and wrongs of the Israel/Palestinian conflict … Zionism initiated a process whose evolution was foreseeable and understandable. Zionists are, therefore, to an unusual degree responsible for the consequences of that fateful step. Their project was not like raising a child who, unexpectedly, turns psychotic, but like releasing a homicidal maniac – a child of ethnic nationalism – into the world. This is why the blame for the conflict lies to heavily on Zionist and so lightly on Palestinian shoulders.

Neumann does not argue from this that Israel should be destroyed or abolished. He points to America, which is similarly the result of the genocide, massacre and exploitation. He argues instead that Israel’s existence is tainted, not sacred, but it is protected by the same useful international conventions that allow others, in the name of peace, to retain their ill-gotten gains.
Instead, Israel should ensure its survival by withdrawing from the Occupied Territories.

With the acquisition of the Occupied Territories in 1967, Israel had a chance to make handsome amends for the crimes on which it was built. Saintliness or selfless optimism were not required. Israel could have sponsored and supported, with true generosity, the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state by backing those amenable to reconciliation and attacking those who were not. This might not have been a just settlement, but it would have worked.

I realise this is very controversial stuff, but the author’s own family history and his statement that he is indeed pro-Jewish and pro-Israel, should carry weight. If nothing else, it should show that critics of Israel are not necessarily anti-Semites and not necessarily anti-Israel, even if anti-Zionist.

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One Response to “Michael Neumann’s ‘Pro-Jewish’, ‘Pro-Israeli’ Case against the Occupation of Palestine”

  1. Michael Neumann’s ‘Pro-Jewish’, ‘Pro-Israeli’ Case against the Occupation of Palestine | Beastrabban’s Weblog | Vox Political Says:

    […] Source: Michael Neumann’s ‘Pro-Jewish’, ‘Pro-Israeli’ Case against the Occupation of Palestine | B… […]

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