Wednesday, August 15, 2012


First, the letter of the week from yesterday's Australian

Wrong on Israel

JOHN Lyons's article on historian Tom Segev ("Israeli widows reveal the reality of land built on myths", 11-12/8) made the absurd claim that before the "new" historians such as Segev, Israeli "children were taught that when Israel was established in 1948 it had been empty - it was a land without people for a people without land".

This is not true. There has certainly been criticism of past Israeli curriculums for having paid insufficient attention to the 1948 Palestinian refugees, and Palestinian plight generally, but students were never taught that the land was completely empty.

Indeed, the line about "a land without people for a people without land" has nothing to do with the 1948 refugees. It is the core of a twisted criticism of the whole Zionist movement from 1895 onward by Edward Said and his followers.

The misrepresentation is two-fold. First, while there was a slogan used by a small part of the Zionist movement for a few years after 1900 that spoke of "a land without a people for a people without a land", this is materially different from "a land without people". The early Zionists were aware that Palestine had Arab inhabitants but noted they were not considered a separate nationality or people at that time. But for those dedicated to Israel's destruction, such as Said, it is more convenient to dishonestly rewrite the slogan to pretend that the "racist" Zionists declared Palestinians were not people.

Moreover, to characterise Zionist and Israeli history on the basis of this single slogan, employed by a few Zionists for only a few years more than 100 years ago, is to indulge in the crudest form of propaganda.

Tzvi Fleischer, Australia-Israel Review,
South Melbourne, Vic

Followed by a nasty piece of hearsay upon hearsay and more hearsay which does nothing other for me than to prove Tzvi Fleischer's proposition that
it is more convenient for some to dishonestly rewrite history and "to pretend that the "racist" Zionists declared Palestinians were not people."

Terra Nullius myth
TZVI Fleischer claims history is being dishonestly misrepresented on the basis of a "single slogan" used by "a few Zionists for only a few years more than 100 years ago" (Letters, 14/8).

In 1935, my husband (then a teenager, now deceased) spent six months in a training camp for German Jews being prepared to work on kibbutzim in Palestine. He was told the land of Palestine was empty except for a few nomadic Arabs down in the desert. Similar "indoctrination" (my husband's word for the training) must have been practised on Australian Jewish youth in that period, as I've heard older Australians born and educated here reciting similar untruths. Funnily enough, another slogan I've heard recalled implicitly admits the land was already occupied and farmed: "Yard by yard, goat by goat."

Robyn Walton, Toorak, Vic


Trout said...

A bit of a dumbo is this Robyn Walton person (if that's her/his name). What Jew in the 1930's was so misinformed that they didn't know that Jews were being massacred by Arab Nationalist thugs in the Arab Riots. I don't believe the story.

geoffff said...

I have no memory of the slogan
It,s absurd
People who talk lkie this want to pretend it was a land without Jews

Anonymous said...

A more questioning person may ask WHY it was necessary for young German Jews to be in training camps for life in the Middle East in 1935?

My grandmother, who fled with her family from Germany in 1937 to Czeckoslovakia also joined such a training camp for young people after her mum and dad and brother had received one of the few precious visas to British Palestine (the borders having been closed to most Jewish refugees by the British in response to the Arab riots in 1936).

My grandmother had just turned 17 and was too old to travel as a child on the family visa. The plan was for her to join her family in Palestine as soon as possible. Unfortunately within months the Germans invaded and she was ultimately sent to Terezin and then on to a series of slave labour camps in and around Riga, Latvia.

None of this means that the Arabs of Palestine are not victims of the tides of history. But the sad facts of the 1930s and 1940s made victims of millions. And uprooted the lives of countless more. Wholesale population transfers took place, and millenia old communities were wiped off the map. Baltic Germans, Eastern European Jews, Middle Eastern Jews, Indians and Pakistanis, Greeks and Turks.

Only the Palestinians have a UN Agency and a wider Arab world, dedicated to perpetuating their refugee status.