Monday, November 26, 2007
Bernard Lewis, Dean of Orientalists, on the Jewish Question
November 26, 2007
On the Jewish Question
By BERNARD LEWIS
November 26, 2007; Page A21
Herewith some thoughts about tomorrow's Annapolis peace conference, and
the larger problem of how to approach the Israel-Palestine conflict. The
first question (one might think it is obvious but apparently not) is,
"What is the conflict about?" There are basically two possibilities: that
it is about the size of Israel, or about its existence.
If the issue is about the size of Israel, then we have a straightforward
border problem, like Alsace-Lorraine or Texas. That is to say, not easy,
but possible to solve in the long run, and to live with in the meantime.
If, on the other hand, the issue is the existence of Israel, then clearly
it is insoluble by negotiation. There is no compromise position between
existing and not existing, and no conceivable government of Israel is
going to negotiate on whether that country should or should not exist.
PLO and other Palestinian spokesmen have, from time to time, given formal
indications of recognition of Israel in their diplomatic discourse in
foreign languages. But that's not the message delivered at home in Arabic,
in everything from primary school textbooks to political speeches and
religious sermons. Here the terms used in Arabic denote, not the end of
hostilities, but an armistice or truce, until such time that the war
against Israel can be resumed with better prospects for success. Without
genuine acceptance of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish State, as the
more than 20 members of the Arab League exist as Arab States, or the much
larger number of members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference
exist as Islamic states, peace cannot be negotiated.
A good example of how this problem affects negotiation is the
much-discussed refugee question. During the fighting in 1947-1948, about
three-fourths of a million Arabs fled or were driven (both are true in
different places) from Israel and found refuge in the neighboring Arab
countries. In the same period and after, a slightly greater number of Jews
fled or were driven from Arab countries, first from the Arab-controlled
part of mandatory Palestine (where not a single Jew was permitted to
remain), then from the Arab countries where they and their ancestors had
lived for centuries, or in some places for millennia. Most Jewish refugees
found their way to Israel.
What happened was thus, in effect, an exchange of populations not unlike
that which took place in the Indian subcontinent in the previous year,
when British India was split into India and Pakistan. Millions of refugees
fled or were driven both ways -- Hindus and others from Pakistan to India,
Muslims from India to Pakistan. Another example was Eastern Europe at the
end of World War II, when the Soviets annexed a large piece of eastern
Poland and compensated the Poles with a slice of eastern Germany. This too
led to a massive refugee movement -- Poles fled or were driven from the
Soviet Union into Poland, Germans fled or were driven from Poland into
The Poles and the Germans, the Hindus and the Muslims, the Jewish refugees
from Arab lands, all were resettled in their new homes and accorded the
normal rights of citizenship. More remarkably, this was done without
international aid. The one exception was the Palestinian Arabs in
neighboring Arab countries.
The government of Jordan granted Palestinian Arabs a form of citizenship,
but kept them in refugee camps. In the other Arab countries, they were and
remained stateless aliens without rights or opportunities, maintained by
U.N. funding. Paradoxically, if a Palestinian fled to Britain or America,
he was eligible for naturalization after five years, and his locally-born
children were citizens by birth. If he went to Syria, Lebanon or Iraq, he
and his descendants remained stateless, now entering the fourth or fifth
The reason for this has been stated by various Arab spokesmen. It is the
need to preserve the Palestinians as a separate entity until the time when
they will return and reclaim the whole of Palestine; that is to say, all
of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Israel. The demand for the "return"
of the refugees, in other words, means the destruction of Israel. This is
highly unlikely to be approved by any Israeli government.
There are signs of change in some Arab circles, of a willingness to accept
Israel and even to see the possibility of a positive Israeli contribution
to the public life of the region. But such opinions are only furtively
expressed. Sometimes, those who dare to express them are jailed or worse.
These opinions have as yet little or no impact on the leadership.
Which brings us back to the Annapolis summit. If the issue is not the size
of Israel, but its existence, negotiations are foredoomed. And in light of
the past record, it is clear that is and will remain the issue, until the
Arab leadership either achieves or renounces its purpose -- to destroy
Israel. Both seem equally unlikely for the time being.
Mr. Lewis, professor emeritus at Princeton, is the author, most recently,
of "From Babel to Dragomans: Interpreting the Middle East" (Oxford
University Press, 2004).
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2. Oxford and the Neo-Nazis:
3. Taking apart the Scarecrow of Oz:
4. About that non-fashionable case of genocide that Abe Foxman did NOT
take a stand about:
November 26, 2007
STATE OF THE UNION
By VIKTOR YUSHCHENKO
November 26, 2007
Seventy-five years ago the Ukrainian people fell victim to a crime of
unimaginable horror. Usually referred to in the West as the Great Famine
or the Terror Famine, it is known to Ukrainians as the Holodomor. It was a
state-organized program of mass starvation that in 1932-33 killed an
estimated seven million to 10 million Ukrainians, including up to a third
of the nation's children. With grotesque understatement the Soviet
authorities dismissed this event as a "bad harvest." Their intention was
to exonerate themselves of responsibility and suppress knowledge of both
the human causes and human consequences of this tragedy. That is reason
enough for us to pause and remember.
During the long decades of Soviet rule it was dangerous for Ukrainians to
discuss their greatest national trauma. To talk of the Holodomor was a
crime against the state, while the memoirs of eyewitnesses and the
accounts of historians like Robert Conquest and the late James Mace were
banned as anti-Soviet propaganda. Yet each Ukrainian family knew from
bitter personal memory the enormity of what had happened. They also knew
that it had been inflicted on them deliberately to punish Ukraine and
destroy the basis of its nationhood. It is to honor the victims and serve
the cause of historical truth that independent Ukraine is today working to
promote greater understanding and recognition of the Holodomor, both at
home and abroad.
We are not doing so out of a desire for revenge or to make a partisan
political point. We know that the Russian people were among Stalin's
foremost victims. Apportioning blame to their living descendents is the
last thing on our minds. Our only wish is for this crime to be understood
for what it truly was. That is why the Ukrainian Parliament last year
passed a law recognizing the Holodomor as an act of genocide and why I am
asking our friends and allies to endorse that position. A world that
indulges historical amnesia or falsification is condemned to repeat its
Genocide is a highly charged term, and there are those who still dispute
its applicability in the case of Ukraine. It is therefore worth looking at
how the 1948 United Nations Genocide Convention legally defines the issue.
It describes genocide as "acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole
or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group" including
"deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life, calculated to
bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part." The Holodomor
falls squarely within the terms of this definition. Significantly, that
was also the opinion of Raphael Lemkin, the legal scholar who conceived
the Genocide Convention.
There is now a wealth of historical material detailing the specific
features of Stalin's forced collectivization and terror famine policies
against Ukraine. Other parts of the Soviet Union suffered terribly as
well. But in the minds of the Soviet leadership there was a dual purpose
in persecuting and starving the Ukrainian peasantry. It was part of a
campaign to crush Ukraine's national identity and its desire for
self-determination. As Stalin put it a few years earlier: "There is no
powerful national movement without the peasant army...in essence, the
national question is a peasant question." In seeking to reverse the policy
of "Ukrainianization" that promoted limited cultural and political
autonomy during the 1920s, Stalin decided to target the peasantry,
representing as it did 80% of the population. His solution to the national
question in Ukraine was mass murder through starvation.
Stalin's cruel methods included the allocation of astronomic grain
requisition quotas that were impossible to meet and which left nothing for
the local population to eat. When the quotas were missed, armed units were
sent in. Toward the end of 1932, entire villages and regions were turned
into a system of isolated starvation ghettos called "black boards."
Throughout this period, the Soviet Union continued to export grain to the
West and even used grain to produce alcohol. By early 1933, the Soviet
leadership decided to radically reinforce the blockade of Ukrainian
villages. Eventually, the whole territory of Ukraine was surrounded by
armed forces, turning the entire country into a vast death camp.
The specifically national motive behind Stalin's treatment of Ukraine was
also evident in the terror campaign that targeted the institutions and
individuals that sustained the cultural and public life of the Ukrainian
nation. Waves of purges engulfed academic institutions, literary journals,
publishing houses and theaters. Victims included the Ukrainian Academy of
Science, the editorial board of the Soviet Ukrainian Encyclopedia, the
Ukrainian Orthodox Church and ultimately the Ukrainian Communist Party.
This was a systematic campaign against the Ukrainian nation, its history,
culture, language and way of life.
The Holodomor was an act of genocide designed to suppress the Ukrainian
nation. The fact that it failed and Ukraine today exists as a proud and
independent nation does nothing to lessen the gravity of this crime. Nor
does it acquit us of the moral responsibility to acknowledge what was
done. On the 75th anniversary, we owe it to the victims of the Holodomor
and other genocides to be truthful in facing up to the past.
Mr. Yushchenko is Ukraine's president.
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5. The Madrassa on the upper west side:
6. Cleveland's Museum of Jihad:
7. Commie shilling: