During World War I, President Wilson's enunciation of his Fourteen Points in January 1918 briefly signaled a more activist American global policy, and inspired hope in peoples the world over seeking to escape from oppressive European colonial rule. In the Middle East, the president's pronouncement was understood as meaning that World War I was being fought in order to help the peoples achieve self-determination. It was heralded as welcome support from a new great power that had never entertained designs on the region and might counter­balance the overwhelming weight of Britain and France and their imperialist ambitions. This was especially welcome com­ing after the new Bolshevik regime in Russia in December 1917 published the czarist government's secret treaties, revealing among other things the agreements between Britain, France, and Russia to partition the Middle East among them. Known as the Sykes-Picot accords, the agreements eventually became the basis for the postwar division of the region into colonial spheres of influence between Britain and France. This revelation shocked the people of the region and represented the confirmation of their worst fears about the objectives of the two major Western powers. In the end, these countries, as well as Iraq and Jordan, received Britain and France as mandatories. The two old imperialist powers, with extensive interests and long-standing expansionist ambitions in the Middle East.

People in the Middle East apparently did not  know at the time that in fact Wilson and his advisors were primarily  thinking of the peoples of Europe when they talked about World War I as aimed at self-determination of the peoples. Plus also the United States would prove unable, to stand up to the machinations of the British and French leaders, Lloyd George and Clemenceau, at the Versailles peace conference.  President Wilson would soon be incapacitated; and his global policies would be repudiated by the United States Senate and the American electorate.

The United States' return to isolation did not harm its standing in the Middle East in the interwar period, when its prestige remained high. Even what thereafter became the momentous involvement of the United States in Saudi Arabia, which began with the 1933 agreements on oil exploration between U.S. companies and the regime of 'Abd al-'Aziz ibn Sa'ud, founder of the kingdom, was initially seen by many in the Middle East in a positive light. It enabled the Saudi regime to decrease its stifling dependence on what had previously been its sole external patron, Great Britain.

The entry of the United States into World War II in 1941, which led to a major military campaign in North Africa and the establishment of bases in several parts of the Middle East, was also generally viewed favorably by people across the region. The arrival of a "new" great power with an anticolonialist tradition, and which although allied to Britain and France did not appear to share their imperialist ambitions. When the United States rapidly withdrew its forces from most Middle Eastern countries after the war, and helped to force Britain and Soviet Russia to withdraw theirs from Iran,  positive impressions were reinforced.  But during the Suez War of 1956 and the Algerian War of Liberation from France in 1954-62,  the Middle East's honeymoon with the United States was already coming to an end. The partition of Palestine in 1947-48,  plus the Middle East Command, the Middle East Defense Organization, and the Baghdad Pact, (whose ostensible purpose was opposing Soviet expansion) came to be regarded with deep suspicion by Middle Eastern nationalists.

This of course also tied in with  the  conspiracy theory surrounding Zionism. For example, as Bernard Avishai explained in his 2002 book “The Tragedy of Zionism”, few had given attention to  the Zionist arguments which predated Labor Zionism. And focus instead on the changes in the moral perceptions of Israelis since 1967, plus the diplomatic changes brought on by the  Israeli/Arab War with as a result the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

For the early Zionists, democratic values were embedded in a number of prior questions, many of them complex and charged with emotion. Zionists asked themselves if they should choose Palestine or some other country, if they should start collective farms or promote private enterprise. Another question was even more fundamental: Should immigration be organized en masse, by a sovereign Zionist "corporation," though any such method of settling the Jewish national home was bound to produce a mix of European languages there? Or should priority be given to supporting small groups of cultural pioneers who were devoted to evolving modern Hebrew, however gradually? Should Zionism wait for support from the imperial powers or go it alone in small vanguard groups?

Though Napoleon (who simple followed the lead of Emperor Joseph II of Austria) had emancipated the Jews of his empire in 1807, eighteen years later, in 1825, Czar Nicholas I intensified persecution of the million and a half Jews who lived in his. For example in 1835, czarist officials were conscripting thousands of Jewish boys every year for a virtual lifetime of military service-a form of forced conversion.

The economic initiatives of the 1840’s forced Jews out of the liquor trade, and  the czarist state expropriated the livelihoods of tens of thousands of Jewish agents, manufacturers, and wholesalers. Heavy railroad construction, some of it financed by a small, rising class of Jewish bankers, damned to poverty more thousands of Jews engaged in the carriage trade. Tens of thousands made their way to the cities, desperate to practice some acquired craft or trade. But finally the Jews' hopes for liberal emancipation were disappointed when, in March 1881, Czar Alexander II was assassinated.

After the assassination, anti-Semitism as it had become in France after the invasion of German troops, became Alexander III's great obsession. "It was the Jews who crucified Our Lord," he announced, "and spilled His precious blood." The chief procurator of the Holy Synod, Constantin Pobedonostsev, one of the leaders of the Slavophile movement, held that Jews were a foreign growth on the Russian body politic, were purveyors not only of a subversive religious creed but of "materialism." The Jews, he said, would undermine the bond of family between the Czar, the Russian people, and the Mother Church. Pobedonostsev subsidized the influential conservative and na­tional press in an insidious campaign of Jew-baiting.Weird conspiracies were ascribed to Jews, precursors of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which would appear mysteriously twenty years later. (See: "Action Racique Contre Les Forces Occultes.")

In this climate, Jews began to fear that those whom the state could not assimilate would have to disappear. An apocryphal story began to circulate that Pobedonostsev had already arrived at a formula that would doom them: one third by assimilation, one third by expulsion, one third by murder. One should note here that Russia's industrial proletariat increased more than sixfold between 1860 and 1913; only 8 or 9 percent were Jews, though a disproportionately large number of them joined-and led-proletarian movements. Still, Jews were far more concentrated in trades: 50 percent of the Russian work force in petty capitalism were Jews, most of them becoming more and more marginal to the industrializing cities ' where they had sought to make a new life.

The 1881 pogroms started in April. By the end of that year, 215 Jewish communities had been attacked by mobs; about 100,000 Jews were left without means of gaining a livelihood. In Minsk, fully a fifth of the city-1,600 buildings-was razed. Deaths numbered in the hundreds, and the pogromists seemed particularly bent on abusing Jewish women. These deeds humiliated all Jews; but particu­larly young men so recently caught up in the struggle for enlightenment and, in consequence, unable to find solace in prayer or in a traditional faith in Judaism's superiority. (One Yiddish song of the day included the haunting words: "Brides taken from their grooms, children from their mothers: Shout, children, loud and clear ... you can wake your father up, as i f he were asleep for real.") In May 1882, Minister of the Interior Nikolai Pavlovich Ignatiev promulgated the May Laws. Once in the cities, the laws decreed, Jews could not return to the countryside, and those who remained in villages-perhaps two fifths of the total Jewish population-could expect little protection from the Czar's provincial governors. Jews could expect harassment from the police and, indeed, could be expelled to the cities by summary verdicts of rural courts made up of half-literate muzhiks.

The flow of Jews to the cities now turned into a flood. By 1897, the Jewish population of Minsk was 47,562; it was 32,400 in Dvinsk. In Minsk, the Jews finally comprised 52 percent of the whole population; in Bialystok, 63 percent. Nor did the Russian urban capitalists welcome these new arrivals. Even Jewish capitalists continued to prefer Russian workers over destitute Jewish craftsmen. In time the total Jewish population swelled to nearly 5 million, and 'hundreds of thousands were intimidated and went hungry. Young Jews felt themselves caught between the lure of modern life and a new age of barbarism, unable to go forward and unable to go back. To many, the ideal of a Jewish national home in biblical Eretz Yisrael only mocked their condition.

But it was not only in the 19th century Europe that same period the position of Jews also worsened in Muslim countries. There was a massacre of Jews in Baghdad in 1828. There was a massacre of Jews in Barfurush in 1867. (Benny Morris,  Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881–2001, 2001, pp 10–11.)

Throughout the 1860s, the Jews of Libya were subjected to what Martin Gilbert called punitive taxation. In 1864, around 500 Jews were killed in Marrakech and Fezin Morocco. In 1869, 18 Jews were killed in Tunis, and an Arab mob looted Jewish homes and stores, and burned synagogues, on Jerba Island. In 1875, 20 Jews were killed by a mob in Demnat, Morocco; elsewhere in Morocco, Jews were attacked and killed in the streets in broad daylight. In 1891, the leading Muslims in Jerusalem asked the Ottoman authorities in Constantinople to prohibit the entry of Jews arriving from Russia. In 1897, synagogues were ransacked and Jews were murdered in Tripolitania. (Martin Gilbert, Letters to Auntie Fori: The 5,000-Year History of the Jewish People and Their Faith, 2002, pp 179–82.)

Although a latecomer since a lot of the literature focuses on him  short mention should be made of the Austrian Theodore Herzl. While  studying Roman law at the University of Vienna, he joined the Burschenschaft Albia, a strongly nationalist dueling fraternity. In 1883, when that group participated in an anti-Semitic ceremony to commemorate Wagner's death, Herzl protested and was forced to withdraw. But maybe Herzl had not intended to make a stand for the sake of the Jews so much as to honor civility itself.

The year before, the year of the czarist May Laws in Russia, Herzl had  noted in his diary that Jews everywhere would best be absorbed by intermarriage: "Cross-breeding of the occidental races with the so-called oriental one on the basis of a common state religion, this is the great desirable solution."

Then shortly after Herzl moved there, in 1892 France was shocked by the Panama Scandal, a commercial bubble fraud in which several Jews were implicated. The Paris mobs now proved themselves as openly anti-Semitic as the ones Karl Lueger had been stirring up in Vienna. Insults were everywhere hurled at French Jews; Jewish shops were attacked. As the provocations reached a peak, several Jewish officers in the French Army answered those affronts in duels. This all impressed Herzl enormously. And in 1893, his solution to the Jewish question was the mass conversion of Jewish children to Christianity.

He toyed with the idea of contacting the Pope and inviting him to preside over such a ceremony at Vienna's St. Stephen's Cathedral; Herzl felt that honor demanded that he remain Jewish, but the children, at least, would be saved.

In 1895 then, Herzl witnessed Paris in an uproar again, this time over the trial of Captain Alfred Dreyfus. And it is in the wake of this, that "in a flash," or so he wrote, the idea of a Jewish state came to him, and he began frantically to jot down some ideas outlining his plan. In May 1895, he requested an interview with Baron Maurice de Hirsch, who was then funding the settlement of Jews in Argentina. But Hirsch was unreceptive both to Herzl's proposals and to him. So Herzl decided to compose a series of appeals to Dr. Moritz Güdemann, the Chief  Rabbi of Vienna, who gave him some encouragement. Thus Herzl  proceeded with an  address to Edmond de Rothschild, the source of countless conspiracy theories including in the USA today where the ‚Rothschild’, alleged ‚Illuminate conspiracy’ theory, just like in Arab countries, is widespread.

Thus during Zionism's formative period, there were two major efforts to provide answers: "political" Zionism and "cultural'  Zionism. The dominant trend, which developed mainly in Eastern Europe in response to political Zionism, was cultural Zionism.

But confusion of the mystical Jerusalem with the iconic one was precisely what traditional Judaism, and original Zionism, for that matter, were trying to avoid. But already one year  after Herzl’s death , the victory of cultural Zionists at the Seventh Zionist Congress ensured that the fate of the Zionist cause would next  be determined by Jewish settlers in Palestine.

For Cultural Zionism initially, Hebrew and Jewish culture such as language, arts identity, and religion, however, had been important rather than the potential establishment of a state. They, in effect, saw Zionism as a solution to the problems of Judaism and they were associated with the thinking of the writer Asher Ginsberg (1856-1927). The second grouping, the political Zionists, argued that the need for territory was the most important requirement of the Zionist movement. Indeed, Herzl's pragmatic reaction to the proposals for the Ugandan option was a clear illustration of the aim of the political Zionists. As the Zionist movement as a whole grew, so more and more people started to emigrate to Palestine. These new immigrants expanded existing Jewish colonies and founded new ones. In 1909, the first Kibbutz was started by the Sea of Galilee, called `Kibbutz Degania', and in the same year Tel Aviv was founded along the shoreline from Jaffa.

Perhaps the greatest myth surrounding the arrival of the various waves of Jewish immigration to Palestine during this time (Aliyah) was the question of their motives for coming in the first place. The majority of the immigrants who came to Palestine did not do so for Zionist reasons. Rather, they came for a variety of reasons that involved both persecution in their country of origin and a lack of third country option. The latter became an increasingly important factor when the United States closed its doors to Jewish immigration at the end of the 19th century.

Many who came to Palestine found life there to be too harsh and left. Emigration has been a constant problem for the Zionist movement, both in Palestine and subsequently in Israel. In both the Yishuv and the subsequent state of Israel, there is clear linkage between immigration and security. In short, as much of the land as possible had to be settled in order to control it.

In the early days of the first and second Aliyahs, the immigrants, most of whom came from Eastern European urban backgrounds, struggled with having to make the land fertile. It is here that one of the great dilemmas of the Zionist movement became apparent. Who should farm the land? The first immi­grants took the view that local Arab labor was both better equipped to undertake this arduous task and also very cheap. The second wave of immigrants took the view that the state for the Jews would be built using Hebrew labor, and they clashed with the veteran immigrants over this question. Eventually, the second group carried the day, but the debate about using Arab or foreign labor never really went away.

In Eastern Europe, Zionism remained a rather small movement, particularly when compared with socialistYiddishist groupings like the Allgemeiner Yiddisher Arbeiterbund-the "Bund"-which had been founded in 1897, the same year as the World Zionist Organization. Zionists also found themselves in competition with Jewish activists drawn to a non-sectarian Marxism.

However the settlement activities in Palestine represented the practical approach to Zionism, and this combined with political Zionism to form what was termed `synthetic Zionism', which became closely associated with Chaim Weizman (1874-1952). Born in Russia, Weizman played a central role in the develop­ment of the Zionist movement and was to become Israel's first president. In 1904, Weizman emigrated from Russia to Britain, where he lobbied for the Zionist cause and played an influential role in winning some degree of British recognition for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Along with David Ben-Gurion, Weizman became one of the central figures of the pre-state Zionist movement, serving as President of the World Zionist Organisation during 1921-31 and 1935-46.

The cultural Zionists succeeded in defining the goals which the Labor Zionist parties would eventually implement. The first trend in Zionism, political Zionism, appealed mainly to Western European intellectuals and contributed little in the way of an ideology to the people who built up the Yishuv. Political Zionist prejudices were absorbed into Zionist myth as the Yishuv moved inexorably toward self-determination during the 1930’s. Only after they were thought-rightly or wrongly-to anticipate the bitter lessons of World War II did they put cultural Zionism in eclipse.

Especially the Holocaust had two effects on the Zionist leadership and on the subsequent state of Israel. The lack of an alternative host country made Jewish immigration to Palestine all the more important. And during the Second World War, violence in Palestine had increased as the Jewish military forces became more active. In 1946 the violence escalated following the British decision to set up relocation camps in Cyprus for the Jewish refugees. To make matters worse, all Jewish illegal immigration ships that were intercepted on the high seas or even when within sight of Palestine were taken to Cyprus and the immigrants detained in camps surrounded by barbed wire and guards. The British took this a stage further with the interception of the ship Exodus, which was carrying nearly 4,000 immigrants to Palestine. The ship arrived and was able to dock in the port of Haifa in northern Palestine, but the British would not let the passengers disembark, and insisted upon the ship returning to its French port of origin. When the Jews refused to disembark in France, the British government sent the ship back to Germany.

Peter Novick argues in The Holocaust in American Life (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1999) that American Jewish attitudes toward Zionism were profoundly changed in response to the Holocaust. American Zionists were only able to make credible claims that there was majority support among the American Jewish community for their position after an American Jewish conference they organized in Pittsburgh in January 1943: Richard Stevens, American Zionism and U.S. Foreign Policy 1942-1947 (New York: Pageant Press, 1962).

After the war Winston Churchill, speaking in the House of Commons on 1 August 1946, exclaimed that the idea that the Jewish problem could be  helped by a vast dumping of the Jews of Europe into Palestine is really too silly to consume our time in the House this afternoon. (In: the Best of Winston Churchill's Speeches, London: Pimlico, 2003, p. 426.)

But while the world was horrified by the Holocaust, most Western governments did little to increase Jewish settlement in their respective countries. The realization that nothing was too horrible to happen, the shattering of the myth that these things just don't happen in a modern civilized world. This also affected Israeli foreign policy-making and Israeli national identity later on. Second, the development of the notion that the Jews must always be prepared to protect themselves - they could not rely upon others to do this for them. They had perished as a result of the failure of  other party’s to defend them. And explains why the  notion of self-sufficiency in defense became a cornerstone of Israeli defense doctrine and played a role in the decision at the start of the 1970s to develop a military industrial complex  in Israel that would arm the Israeli military.

When  next  the power of the US  in the world and in the Middle East expanded during and after the Cold War, in the eyes of many arabs in the region the United States  gradually changed. It went from being considered a benevolent, disinterested outsider to something quite different: a power with a massive presence in the Middle East, a broad range of interests there, and objectives not always compatible with those of the people of the region. The gap in perceptions is wide on this score: Americans still tend to regard their country as benevolent and disinterested, as acting in the world only for the highest purposes or in self-defense. While most Middle Easterners for the first century and a half of American involvement with their region shared this view, they do so no longer. It is in the context of this wide divergence between the two sides that the post-9/11 American interventions have taken place, with many Americans seeing not only the invasion of Afghanistan but also the much more fraught invasion of Iraq in these high-minded terms, and people in the region generally taking quite a different view. For some of the Arab reactions to Cold War-driven American policies, see R. Khalidi, "The Revolutionary Year of 1958 in the Arab World," in The Revolutionary Middle East in 1958, edited by Wm. Roger Louis, Woodrow Wilson Press, 2002, pp. 181-208.

For example under the Eisenhower Doctrine, the United States pledged to give increased economic and military aid to receptive Middle Eastern countries and to protect,with U.S. armed forces if necessary,the territorial integrity and political independence of these nations from the threat of "international Communism." Although the United States officially aimed to protect the Middle East from Soviet encroachment, the Eisenhower Doctrine had the unspoken mission of containing the radical Arab nationalism of Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser, whom Eisenhower regarded as an unwitting agent of Soviet expansionism. By offering aid and protection, the Eisenhower administration hoped to convince a majority of Arab governments to side openly with the West in the Cold War, thus isolating Nasser and decreasing the likelihood that the Middle East would fall under Soviet domination.

But the Eisenhower administration had come to the conclusion that any action beyond shoring up Lebanon  would be futile and dangerous, in fact at the time only one third of Lebanon’s territory was under Government control when U.S troops started backing it. In fact at the time the Jordanian regime was in a perilous position with widespread popular opposition and the treat of assassination hangs of King Hussein. And while King Saud of Arabia was privately jubilant over US intervention in Lebanon, he dared not say so in public.

The actual position of the US  was made clear in a conversation between President Eisenhower, Allen Dulles, and other officials where  John Foster Dulles said;”We must regard Arab nationalism as a flood which is running strongly. We cannot successfully oppose it, but we can put sandbags around the positions we must protect-Israel, Lebanon-and the oil positions around the Persian Gulf.” (Salim Yaqub, Containing Arab Nationalism: The Eisenhower Doctrine and the Middle East, 2004, p.241)

But in the Arab world, these historical memories are reinforced daily by live reporting on a variety of current crises presented in terms of foreign intervention, occupation, and local resistance, from Iraq to Afghanistan to Palestine, available on a half-dozen satellite channels. (See François Burgat, Face to Face with Political Islam , 2003).

And more recently radical Islamic activists have operated freely in Britain, raising money for their cause, beaming satellite TV spots or running Internet sites condemning America in support of al-Qaida.

In conclusion I would could add in regards to the Palestine/Israel conflict that peoples involved in the Arab-Israeli dispute are in conflict over holy land, by of claims derived from holy texts is not factual. Christians have made much of Jerusalem as the site of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, something that never has been proven historically. Contrary to myth, the Middle East is  not part of a `religions of war' in regards to a Jewish and Palestine State.

There are plenty of bases in the holy texts, histories and traditions of Middle Eastern religions on which to construct a modern politics and international law of cooperation, respect for the general rules of war and coexistence between states and communities. Moreover, while it is possible - as is often the case - to use religious authority to legitimize modern nationalism and the claims of specific nationalisms (Zionist, Iranian, pan-Arab, local Arab), there is also in each religion a strong element of universalism and appeals for a shared humanity within a recognition of the positive diversity of peoples, cultures and religions.

As earth, rocks, trees and rivers have no religious character, there cannot, as such, be such a thing as a `holy' land. If land is valued, in human terms, it is because people live, love, work and die on it, without claims to special divine or other interventions, or other exclusionary aspirations. Nor are there any such thing as `holy' texts. The written word is put there by human beings; by, in large measure if not entirely, men. Any reasonable, textually educated specialist who examines the `holy' texts of Middle Eastern religions would see at once that these texts are composites, written at different times by different hands and in different circumstances. Hence their flexibility and, at times, their charm.

Another erroneous claim assumes a  close relation between the Zionist movement, established in 1897 at a conference in Basle, Switzerland, and the major states (that ended up supporting the establishment of a Jewish state in the Middle East) of the time.

But none of the major powers either helped create, funded or  supported the goal of a Jewish state until World War II when, in the face of Nazi persecution of European Jews, the US, the USSR and later Britain came to accept this goal. The assimilation of Zionism as a non-state social and political movement with imperial strategy in the Middle East in the first part of the twentieth century is, therefore, a simplification. And not a single founding father of the State of Israel was a Freemason a legend created by the fraudulent ‘Protocols of the elders of Zion.

Rather the origins of Zionism lie in political and intellectual discussion in Europe in the latter part of the nineteenth century amongst Jews concerned about the rise of anti-Semitism, especially in the Czarist Russian empire but also in Western Europe. As such Zionism was a spontaneous, in contemporary terms `non-governmental' movement which, as any such movement or NGO (non-governmental organisation) does, sought to win governments over to its side. And European Governments did not  support  the goal of a Jewish state until World War II when, in the face of Nazi persecution of European Jews, the US, the USSR and later Britain came to accept this goal. The assimilation of Zionism as a non-state social and political movement with imperial strategy in the Middle East in the first part of the twentieth century is, therefore, a simplification.

At the end of WWII however it became a means of solving a particularly European problem, that of anti-Semitism. The claim to statehood and recognition thus rests not on some particularity of history, religion or internal conduct, but on a feature of the modern world.

Another myth in reverse is that Palestinian groups and nationalists - who later emerged as al-Fatah on the one hand and the more radical Popular and Democratic Fronts on the other - were independent of the Arab states' control. Within occupied Palestine, the Communist Party continued to articulate Palestinian ideas. And after the war of 1967, the Palestinian organizations all sought to build alliances with the states of the region and beyond.

A comparative element may help, however, since a rather similar process took place in Latin America in the first decades of the nineteenth century after the Spanish withdrawal: broad aspirations, inspired by Simon Bolivar, for Latin American unity, foundered on regional, elite and popular resistance, which ended up yielding, as in the Arab world, around twenty distinct states.

 



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