Posts Tagged ‘Menachem Begin’

Gerald Scarfe Caricature of Menachem Begin

June 11, 2018

I found this caricature of the former Israeli premier, Menachem Begin, as a desert tank, on page 71 of Scarfe’s book, Scarfeface (London: Sinclair-Stevenson 1993).

I’m posting it as a rebuttal of the latest attempts to silence criticism of Israel, and particularly the censorship of cartoons commenting on Israeli atrocities and human rights abuses. Like the Guardian’s spiking of Steve Bell’s cartoon of Netanyahu and Tweezer having a chin-wag, while the murdered Palestinian medic Razan al-Najjar burns in the fire. Or the German cartoon, which was censored for anti-Semitism, because its depiction of Netanyahu was held by the censor, Klein, to be like the Nazi caricatures of Jews. And then there was the case of Scarfe’s own cartoon of Netanyahu building his wretched wall to keep the Palestinians out a few years ago. Mark Regev, the odious Israeli ambassador, speciously claimed that because it showed Netanyahu building it using the blood and bodies of Palestinians, that it was somehow a reference to the infamous ‘Blood Libel’.

It’s all rubbish. None of these cartoons were anti-Semitic. And as Mike has pointed out, in these cases authorial intention have to be taken into account. Scarfe isn’t an anti-Semite, and neither is Bell, who has vigorously denied that there was any anti-Semitic intention in his cartoon. But the people making these accusations aren’t interested in whether they’re really anti-Semitic. They’re interested solely in using the issue of anti-Semitism as a convenient weapon for shutting down criticism of Israel.

I don’t know when Scarfe’s cartoon of Begin was published, but it was clearly a much freer time journalistically. It’s a comment on his militaristic character and period in office. And I’m very sure that there were no accusations of anti-Semitism, and it was accepted as ‘fair comment’. And looking at it, it is not very different in its intent and comment on Israeli politics as the others that have recently been censored.

How very different to today, where if you draw a cartoon that the Israelis and their supporters don’t like, you will be automatically libelled as an anti-Semites and your cartoon spiked.

It’s time this grotesque infringement of free speech and libelling of perfectly decent people stopped. Journalists should hold everyone to account, including Israel and its leaders, just like every other nation, without fear of defamation and censorship.

It’s

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Ilan Pappe on Israel’s Foundational Myths and the Oppression of the Palestinians: Part 1

May 26, 2016

I’ve been blogging recently on Israel’s oppression of the indigenous Palestinians, because of its relevance to the recent allegations of anti-Semitism against leading members of the Labour party, such as Ken Livingstone, Jackie Walker, Naz Shah and so on. None of the accused are anti-Semitic. Ken Livingstone has always stood against any and every form of racism. Indeed, back in the 1980s the former GLC under his leadership was notorious for it and its campaigns against sexism. Shah has the support of her local synagogue, which argues profoundly against her having any hatred of Jews. As for Jackie Walker, she is half-Jewish, and her partner is Jewish. Her mother was a Black civil rights activist, who was thrown out of America as a Commie during the McCarthyite witch-hunts. Her father was a Russian Jew, and so probably knew all too well from his personal experience, or that of his parents, what real anti-Semitism is like. Their real crime was that they made comments critical of Israel, which the militant Israel lobby, BICOM, the Labour Friends of Israel and Blairite faction in the Labour party, all automatically and quite arbitrarily defined as anti-Semitic.

Criticism of Israel is not automatically anti-Semitic, just as criticising the government of my country and its policies does not automatically make anyone ‘anti-British’, and certainly not when real historic or present oppression is involved.

The video below, made by the human rights group Americans for a Just Peace in the Middle East, is a long interview with the courageous Israeli historian and pro-Palestinian activist Ilan Pappe in his office at the University of Haifa in Israel, where he formerly taught. Dr Pappe no longer teaches there, as his scholarship and views are now so controversial and bitterly hated in his native country, that he has been forced abroad, and is now head of the history department at Exeter University in Devon, here in Britain.

Pappe had conventional views on the foundation of Israel, until his examination of Israel’s own archives and those of the British government revealed that the standard, accepted view of his country’s origins was merely a myth, contrived to justify the state’s oppression and dispossession of the Palestinians, the country’s indigenous inhabitants. He was one of a group, who became known as the New Historians, 3-4 historians, who working independently came to the same views. They included Benny Morrison, who since then has recanted. In the interview, Pappe talks about his experience researching the origins of Israel, the country’s founding myths, and his own experiences and that of some of the history students around him of academic and personal persecution and ostracism, and Israel’s possible future. Pappe states that he was interested in researching the British files on the foundation of Israel, as Britain under the Mandate was the occupying power, and he wondered how we saw the situation, as he believed the British hated both sides equally. Interspersed with Dr Pappe’s own comments are quotations from some of Israel’s leaders, such as David Ben-Gurion, Moshe Dyan and Menachem Begin. These are chilling and horrifying in their cold-blooded espousal of violence, brutality and massacre in their ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.

Pappe states there are three myths about the foundation of Israel. These are:

1. It was a struggle between David and Goliath, with the nascent Jewish state the weaker combatant.

2. The Palestinians were hostile to the Jewish settlers from the start, and that they threatened the Jews with another Holocaust.

3. Israel has offered the Palestinians peace countless times, which they have repeatedly turned down.

He goes on to refute each of these.

He states that the War of Independence of 1948 certainly was not a conflict in which Israel was the weaker party. Israel and the invading Arab armies both had the same number of men and armaments. Israel was additionally helped by the fact that they had cut a deal with the Jordanians, who had been promised the West Bank if they did not fight alongside the other Arab nations. Nevertheless, the myth that Israel won against overwhelming odds has given the Israeli people the idea that they are invincible supermen. He states that this image can be seen in American movies, and the converse is true about Arabs and in particular the Palestinians. They are presented as the mysterious Other, hostile and cowardly.

He states that the Palestinians were not immediately hostile to the Jewish immigrants when they began to settle in Palestine. He states that Palestinians are Arabs, and the Arabs are very hospitable. This is true. It’s one of the characteristics, that have endeared the Arab people to many Westerners. People I’ve known, who’ve travelled to Egypt have told me about the unforced generosity of its people. Pappe states that many of the new settlers were taken in by their new Arab hosts, as the Palestinians felt sorry for them because many of them were very poor. This changed in the late 1920s when it became clear that not only did the Jewish immigrants not want to be guests, they wanted to be the possessors of the whole house, and its sole possessors at that.

As for rejecting the Israeli peace deal, the truth was it was the other way around. It was the Palestinians who first sued for peace in 1948. Furthermore, many of the peace deals that have been advanced by the Israelis since then have demanded such major territorial concession from the Palestinians, that they would be automatically unacceptable to every other nation as well, if they were placed in a similar position.

He also discusses the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. He states that after Israel’s victory in the 1948 War, the Jewish population was only 690,000 against 900,000 + Palestinians. They therefore began a deliberate policy of terror and harassment in order to force them out, as shown very clearly by the quotations from the Israeli leaders used in the video. The Israelis justified this through another myth: that the Palestinians had been encouraged to leave their homeland by the other Arabs, who told them that they could return to their homes after victory had been won. Pappe states that his examination of the records of the British listening posts showed that no such call was ever made. He also states very clearly that leading Israeli politicians, like David Ben-Gurion, who served as its president, are deeply implicated in this cleansing. Ben-Gurion was head of the organisation which had overall authority over the resettlement programme, and so had ultimate responsibility for its policies.

Alexander Cockburn and the Row Over the Israel Lobby

May 4, 2016

As I said in a previous piece I put up this evening, Mike has reported the suspension of two more Labour MPs for supposed anti-Semitism. They’re the Newport Councillor Miqdad Al-Nuaimi, and Terry Kelly, a councillor for Renfrewshire. Mr Kelly is supposed to have discussed the ‘Jewish lobby’ in the US, claiming that it influenced foreign policy and rigged the Oscars. See the article: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/05/04/anti-semitism-row-labour-suspends-two-more/

In fact, as I’ve posted several pieces about the subject, it’s perfectly reasonable to talk about the Israel lobby and its very strong influence on American foreign policy without necessarily being either an anti-Semite or even anti-Israel. One of those, who does so is the veteran radical academic and scholar of linguistics, Noam Chomsky. Chomsky has said in an interview that one of the right-wing organisations in the America tried to uncover something with which they could smear him a decade or so ago. They were disappointed. After digging around, they found that personally, Chomsky was actually very boring, living in bourgeois American domesticity with his family, and mowing his lawn on Sundays. They therefore had to content themselves with making a sneering remark about his linguistic theories, like he hadn’t properly understood the role of such and such in his transformational grammar. Or some such asinine remark.

Ten years ago there was massive controversy over in the US when Mearsheimer and Walt published their study, The Israel Lobby, in 2006. Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard professor whom the radical journo Alexander Cockburn described as America’s most manic Zionist, went off on a rant and compared it to the anti-Semitic conspiracy text, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. He was joined by Eliot Cohen in the Washington Post. Cockburn discusses the furore in the chapter ‘The Row Over the Israel Lobby’, in his and Jeffrey St Clair’s End Times: The Death of the Fourth Estate. He points out that the book and its conclusions are entirely unremarkable and not remotely anti-Semitic. He begins the chapter thus:

This spring of 2006 a sometimes-comic debate has simmering [sic] in the American press, focused on the question of whether there is an Israeli Lobby, and if so, just how powerful is it?

I would have thought that to ask whether there’s an Israeli Lobby here is a bit like asking whether there’s a Statue of Liberty in New York Harbour and a White House located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington D.C. For the past sixty years, the Lobby has been as fixed a part of the American scene as either of the other two monuments, and not infrequently exercising as much if not more influence on the onward march of history.

The late Steve Smith, brother-in-law of Teddy Kennedy and a powerful figure in the Democratic Party for several decades, liked to tell the story of how a group of four Jewish businessmen got together two million dollars in cash and gave it to Harry Truman when he was in desperate need of money amidst his presidential campaign in 1948. Truman went on to become president and to express his gratitude to his Zionist backers.

Since those days the Democratic Party has long been hospitable to and supported by rich Zionists. In 2002, for example, Haim Saban, the Israel-American who funds the Saban Center at the Brooking Institute and is a big contributor to AIPAC, gave $12.3 million to the Democratic Party. In 2001, the magazine Mother Jones listed on its website the 400 leading contributors to the 2000 national elections. Seven of the first 10 were Jewish, as were 12 of the top 20 and 125 of the top 250. Given this, all prudent candidates have gone to amazing lengths to satisfy their demands. There have been famous disputes, as between President Jimmy Carter and Menachem Begin, and famous vendettas, as when the Lobby destroyed the political careers of Representative Paul Findley and of Senator Charles Percy because they were deemed to be anti-Israel.

None of this history is particularly controversial, and there have been plenty of well-documented accounts of the activities of the Israel Lobby down the years, from Alfred Lilienthal’s 1978 study, The Zionist Connection, to former U.S. Rep. Paul Findley’s 1985 book They Dare To Speak Out to Dangerous Liaison: The Inside Story of the U.S. Israeli Covert relationship, written by my brother and sister-in-law, Andrew and Leslie Cockburn, and published in 1991. (pp.319-20)

Looking at Mearsheimer’s and Walt’s book, Cockburn stated that it’s actually unremarkable and really rather boring.

In fact, the paper by Mearsheimer and Walt is extremely dull. The long version runs to 81 pages, no less than 40 pages of which are footnotes. I settled down to read it with eager anticipation but soon found myself looking hopefully for the end. There’s nothing in the paper that any moderately well-read student of the topic wouldn’t have known long ago, but the paper has the merit of stating rather blandly some home truths which are somehow still regarded as too dangerous to state publicly in respectable circles in the United States. (P. 322.)

Of the denunciations of the book as anti-Semitic, Cockburn states that they’re actually funny, as the Lobby does exist, the authors weren’t ant-Semites, and even the Washington Post and New York Times have pointed out that the book had a point.

This method of assault at least has the advantage of being funny, because there obviously is a Lobby – as noted above and because Mearsheimer and Walt aren’t anti-Semites any more than 99.9 per cent of others identifying the Lobby and criticizing its role. Partly as a reaction to Dershowitz and Cohen, the Washington Post and New York Times have now run a few pieces politely pointing out that the Israel Lobby has indeed exercised a chilling effect on the rational discussion of U.S. foreign policy. The tide it turning slightly. (P. 323).

Except in 21st century Britain, apparently. It looks very much like another case where someone has confused the Israel Lobby with ‘Jews’. In the case of the accusations against the Oscars, unfortunately there have always been stupid conspiracies about the Jewish influence in show business. Jews have been very prominent in American cinema, as has been pointed out by historians of the American film industry. They’ve stated, however, that this isn’t due to some dodgy conspiracy, but the simple fact that there much less prejudice against them in the entertainment and film industries than there were elsewhere. At times, there have been anti-Semitic accusations levelled because of this, as during the 1930s when Father Coughlin accused the Jewish film moguls of trying to destroy American culture. At other times, the situation has been much more complicated. Private Eye a few years ago ran a story about how the career of US entertainment journalist had been torpedoed after they ran an article, which described the large number of Jews in the film industry as a ‘Jewish mafia’. However, a Jewish author in a later article also used the same words to describe the strong Jewish presence in American cinema, with no complaints.

I very much doubt that there is any kind of Jewish conspiracy to rig the Oscars. But that shouldn’t stop any reasonable discussion of the possible influence of Jewish organisations, or organisations claiming to represent Jews, in such areas. This should be for the same reason that talking about the role of Evangelical Christians in promoting the Satanism scare a few years ago, or describing how, horrifically, many Christians in the Fascist countries during the War were all too willing to collaborate with the Nazis should necessarily make you anti-Christian.

These are very emotive, very controversial topics. Let’s show a bit of common sense and calm rationality before throwing accusations like anti-Semitism around, shall we?