I’d love to see Colin Shindler debate George Galloway:
“To those who believed that the Israeli state was the natural and just creation for a Jewish people exiled from their homeland in biblical times and wandering rootless ever since, Galloway said this was a fable, and a ridiculous one at that. Highlighting a new book by the leading Israeli historian Sholomo Sand, ‘The Invention of the Jewish People’, he said Jewish claims to a 2,000 year old lineage that justified theft of Palestinian land had about the same credabilty as the ‘descendents of the Romans, Normans, and Vikings’ laying claim on Britain today.
“George explained the evolution of his own views on a solution. Describing himself as a life long supporter of the PLO and the leadership of Yasser Arafat, he had believed that the Oslo Agreement was the best that the Palestinians could have hoped for, in view of the collapse of the socialist bloc and allies there, and the extinguishing of progressive Arab nationalism. However, Oslo had been a disaster for the Palestinians and Zionist aggression has killed the possibility of a two-state solution. The only solution was now a single state, called either ‘Israel/Palestine or Palestine/Israel and running from the Jordan river to the Mediterranean Sea’ in which all people are entitled to live as equal citizens under the law.”
Z: I actually agree that we shouldn’t base any claim on ‘a Jewish people exiled from their homeland in biblical times and wandering rootless ever since’.
Me too – though I’m not a jew.
I like Galloway – he’s a ‘prominent’ leftie, of sorts. But…..what is he doing saying this stuff? Does it make any difference? I’m an atheist (is Galloway?) On that basis any religious claims are moot anyway. But religious people are entitled to make religious claims – surely? That they might coincide with “the material facts” shouldn’t surprise Galloway, as a socialist. But tracing “facts” about genetics and “real” history is hardly the point, is it? Unless the point is to simply delegitimise “Israel” no matter what?
As “a fellow leftie” I don’t understand why Galloway, for example, makes it such an issue. It’s AN issue……but THE issue? Hmmm. But why is Palestinian nationalism so important? That’s what I don’t get. It’s like the mirror image of nazi fetishism about jews and Israel. Palestinian nationalism is seemingly an ideal, whilst Israeli nationalism is a world-threat. From my Welsh perspective, I am a little offended that Welsh nationalism is so obscured by a fixation on Palestinian and Israeli nationalism. :) But personally – as a leftie internationalist – I’m against borders and “nations”, period. Making “a new state” out of “palestine” isn’t something I’m necessarily drawn to: I’d like to exist in a world with no borders. In that sense, I too could be accused of wanting the destruction of Israel……..but also of Palestine…..Germany…..the UK…..USA……all of it. And only destruction of the borders, racism, whatever — not the destruction of entire peoples or their means of obtaining sanctuary and security. (same goes for ‘Palestinians’, and everyone else)
I shan’t be going to that lecture – but is it going to be made available online? I’d like to see it because as “a leftie” I’m interested in the criticism of the left for its anti-semitism. I’m sure it exists……and also that some is misplaced. Anti-semitism is ultimately wholly anathema to the left: racism = class division.
Part of the issue is the complexity of “jew”? It is both religion and an ethnicity/race? (I don’t much care about all that, but that is the definition? It is considered both a religion and a race, right? And that is the source of a degree of complexity, isn’t it? (I’m a male, ‘white’ atheist….welsh, british, european…..I don’t have any complexity with overlapping religion and ethnicity. My ‘nationality’ and ‘ethnicity’ is just a…..fact? So I don’t really understand these issues – hence all the questions.)
for someone who likes Galloway, you come pretty far towards someone like me. I can’t write a detailed answer just now, but shall confine it somewhat to these points.
“But…..what is he doing saying this stuff? Does it make any difference?”
Galloway thinks it does. He thinks if he can debunk the notion that Jews are in anywise historically a national group or a national group dispossessed, he can strip Zionism and its product, Israel, of anything in its favour. It is after all these matters, and their unique relation with the land of Israel, albeit among others, that makes Jewish colonizing in Palestine different from that in other parts of the world.
It doesn’t help that Palestinian Christians and Muslims have historically shared many of these these assumptions: that is quietly passed over. That helps transform the relationship between Palestinian Muslims and Christians and Palestinian, Israeli or other Jews into that between settlers in other parts of the worlds and their respective indigenes.
Yet, ass you may imply, what Galloway does does resemble what not a few professed socialist demagogues did with Jews, Judaism and Jewishness long before any Jewish state of Israel existed (Marx’ “Jewish nationality is the chimerical nationality of the merchant”, perhaps).
The notion that Jews are a nation dispossessed is very old, not only among Jews, but among the host societies among which they lived, pagan Greek and Roman, then Christian Greek and Roman. Then it enters into Arab and other Islam.
I’m doing a PhD in Cardiff (shwmai, btw): all the church fathers assume, to a man, the Jews are a nation dispossessed for their rejection of Jesus and the prophets, and they date ftom immediately after the apostoles. Yes, this was a long time ago. But, these ideas become part of the culture and civilization of Christendom (and, to a degree, Islam), with at least one result being that, in the 19th and 20th centuries, most European, North African and Asian Jews are regarded, not so much as ethnically or nationally European, Arab or whatever, but, rather, as Judean,. With one other result being that most are either killed or effectively driven out: before 1914, mostly to America, after 1914 mostly to Palestine or what became Israel.
It doesn’t matter that the exile was not strictly historical by modern historical criteria. It came to be a short hand for the Jewish experience generally: dispossession of temple, Jerusalem and Jewish state, most of Judea (whence Palestine), but also the subsequent subjugation, humiliation and powerlessness (that was why a Jewish Khazaria was important) endured in Christendom and, to a degree, Islam (though Talmudic Judaism and Jewish identity was formulated before that period).
I’m not saying this justifies any wrongdoing (however one defines it), against Palestinians or others. But Palestinian Muslims and Christians are scarcely innocent of wrongdoing themselves (and they too subscribed to the beliefs I mention above), and ethno-national groups have done and generally continue to do wrong. What is odd is Galloway’s unique fascination for the Jewish ethno-national group or state, a focus on its wrongdoings above any other’s, and an elevation of Palestinian Muslims’ and Christians’ rights (however one defines it) to an absolute, quasi-religious standard.
There is another matter, which is Galloway’s quasi-Islamic nationalist sympathies, to which he is perfectly entitled. But how does he reconcile declaring at a Cairo peace conference that Muhammed rose on his miraculous steed, Barak, from the rock of the Dome of Jerusalem, to heaven, with his professed historicist consciousness?
He did it this year, too:
“Along with Galloway, two renowned spiritual leaders will share the stage to offer a compelling and inspiring narration of Isra and Mi’raj and to discuss the importance of interfaith dialogue in Islamic Thought. Isra and Mi’raj is the miraculous journey through the heavens embarked on by Prophet Muhammad from the holy city of Jerusalem.”
Thanks very much for the reply. I was a bit surprised to see the Welsh, but I did mention it, so……. shwmai, but!
(I don’t understand your last line in Welsh……..I’m a dispossessed anglicised taff…..sorry. ;) That sort of contradiction in me is all I have to assess I/P issues tbh. It’s valuable, but…..relevant? I dunno. Probably not – but what can I do?)
I appreciate the historical context you supplied. And how it all hangs together. Thank you. I can’t admit to understanding all that you said though, sorry. I am mulling it over – and trying to understand – but forgive me for not adding anything to do it, as I simply can’t and I doubt I can understand what your real points are properly.
(My interest in this stuff is from socialism, I guess, rather than religion and history. I know almost nothing about the things which you speak of, so I appreciate you making some connections for me, though I really can’t offer anything in addition or argument. I like big picture stuff though – well spotted? – thanks.)
I’m not too impressed by “lefties” who take what seems to be a knee-jerk position in support of Islam against “the west” or “zionism”. (I’m more against the cluster-bombing of children though.) It’s a natural position for lefties, to support the poor and dispossessed and blah blah blah…..but……hmmm…..it seems to me to be an “ethical” avenue in which anti-semitism can flourish. John Pilger has also been approaching the same ground of offering ammunition for the far-right and anti-semitism, imo, and I’ve always found Pilger a real inspiration. I never understood how the left could possibly be anti-semitic, but perhaps I’m beginning to learn. (I’ve argued elsewhere, and will do again, that this sort of anti-semitism isn’t of the same character as far-right anti-semitism: left anti-semitism is unconcious – or an unintended consequence of some principle – rather than a central organising theme and article of faith such as with the far-right. Not to say it isn’t harmful, but it is different in character and it is far less malevolent than that of the far-right. Also, I imagine, the left would be open to change once concious of the issue.)
Anyway – thanks for your reply. I think I’ll read a lot more here before jumping in feet-first again. I really don’t have much to say in addition to what is already being said, I’m not sure why I imagined I did! I’m ignorant, essentially. But I’m interested………and I think I’ll keep reading. Well, I’m sure I will. Makes a change from all the far-right gack I’ve been reading (and criticising) the last……too long.
I lived in Cardiff over 10 years. Nice place. Windy though. :) As cosmopolitan as Wales gets. Good luck in the PhD! What’s your thesis about?
But the ‘descendants of the Romans, Normans, and Vikings’ already do live in Britain today. Is Galloway suggesting they should be chucked out? Is this a plea for ‘Anglo-Saxons only?’ Not even the BNP are that exclusive.
More seriously, I actually agree that we shouldn’t base any claim on ‘a Jewish people exiled from their homeland in biblical times and wandering rootless ever since’. In fact, that’s largely a Christian myth, with the exile deemed to be a punishment for the Jews’ refusal to accept Christ. In this view, the ‘exile’ is usually deemed to have dated from the destruction of the temple in 70CE – itself regarded as part of the punishment.
In fact, while it’s obviously true that major Jewish outmigration from biblical Israel occurred, and created the large diaspora communities with which we’re familiar, it’s also true that there was never a time when there wasn’t a significant Jewish population in Palestine itself. Some of this consisted of those who never left, while others were part of various in-migrations throughout the post-biblical period.
Hence there was still a Jewish community large enough to stage the Bar Kochba rebellion 60 years after the supposed exile. Hence the Jerusalem Talmud (written up to around 400CE). Hence the Kabbalistic literature written in Sfat in the 17th/18th centuries. Hence the continuous Jewish population of Hebron from biblical times up to 1929. Hence the continuous Jewish population of Jerusalem for all except 3 short periods when Jews were banned from the city (Hadrian to Constantine, the medieval crusader kingdom and the Jordanian occupation from 1948 to 1967). And one could cite many other examples.
I think it’s important that Israel’s case is based on the same right of self-determination as that of any other people, not on its ‘unique’ history.
“I think it’s important that Israel’s case is based on the same right of self-determination as that of any other people, not on its ‘unique’ history.”
Not only Israel’s “case”, but the “case” too for a sovereign Palestine. (Although I am not sure who the parties are who pressing charges that implies that Israel has a “case” to answer, at least in terms of its existence as a sovereign state).
But that would entail treating Israel like any other country and “the Jews’ like any other people………….a distinct problem for the anti-Zionists (almost by definition).
Sure there are a multiplicity of reasons for Israel as a Jewish state. Isn’t that the kind of pluralism (i.e. multicausality) that normally appeals to educated and academic minds rather tha unicausal explanation and interpretations.
One could for example, if one was being sceptical but generous, look on the “biblical” justification for Israel as the kind of “folksy” mythical history that most countires have inone way or another and which particularly in the case of third world nations is indulged as e.g. “charming” by the very kind of middle class left wind intellectuals who have such a downer on Israel yet wear their African beads and buy CDs of Caucasian songs telling of (sometimes rather murky) national histories.
Many such nations also have huge civil rights problems too -far greter than anything that Israel could be accused of – yet their histories are generously deferred to.