"Zionist Ideology and the Reality of Israel" - The Thoughts of Nahum Goldmann
Former President Jimmy Carter's book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid has created a new stir in the public discourse about Palestine and Israel. His book has already earned on the one hand high accolade from around the world that already knows about the plights of the Palestinians in the "Occupied Territories" and serious ire of Israel's defenders, particularly in Israel and USA, on the other.
Immediately after the publication of the book, there is an orchestrated effort to discredit the message and the messenger. Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, an incorrigible defender of Israel, who claimed that he had voted for Presidential candidate Jimmy Carter, proclaimed that this is an "indecent book" by a "decent man." Kenneth Stein, director of the Institute for the Study of Modern Israel at Emory University, has been a Carter Center fellow for Middle East Affairs. He resigned as a Carter Center fellow and joined Simon Wiesenthal Center's petition to protest the book. The petition read: "President Carter there is no Israeli Apartheid policy and you know it. I join with the Simon Wiesenthal Center in respectfully reminding you that the only reason there is no peace in the Holy Land is because of Palestinian terrorism and fanaticism."1
So, the bottom line for Kenneth Stein, Simon Wiesenthal Center, Alan Derschowitz and other critics of his book is straight-forward: "there is no peace in the Holy Land is because of Palestinian terrorism and fanaticism." But is that the reality?
To place the book of President Carter in context, one needs to recognize the long reach of the power of Israel as reflected through the powerful pro-Israel and pro-Zionism media. Quite a few notable critics of Israel and the stranglehold of its supporters over the corridors of US power have already exposed the reality. The Zionist connection: What price peace? by Dr. Alfred M. Lillienthal, a Jewish-American historian, journalist, and lecturer, and They Dare to Speak Out: People and Institutions Confront Israel's Lobby by former US congressman Paul Findley are among the must readings in this regard. Here and there many notable American leaders, politicians and officials have also expressed there frustrations with the Israeli stranglehold on American foreign policy regarding the Middle East.
Former Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff [1970-1974] Admiral Thomas Moorer has candidly shared his experience about the Jewish-Israeli hold on the United States2:
I've never seen a President - I don't care who he is - stand up to them [the Israelis]. It just boggles the mind. They always get what they want. The Israelis know what is going on all the time. I got to the point where I wasn't writing anything down. If the American people understood what a grip those people have got on our government, they would rise up in arms. Our citizens certainly don't have any idea what goes on. 2
Even a well known Jew and a friend of Israel, Henry Kissinger revealed the following in his book White House Years: "Occasionally Nixon was tempted to impose a settlement. On one of my memoranda in late 1969, informing him of King Hussein's pessimism about peace prospects in the face of Israel's tough stand, Nixon wrote in longhand: 'I am beginning to think we have to have to consider taking strong steps unilaterally to save Israel from her own destruction.'"3
President Carter's is a powerful and influential voice to bring to bear on the most important foreign policy issue for the United States. Even the Iraq Study Group, which the Bush administration and its neo-con backers are poised to discredit and bypass, calls for a more comprehensive approach to the Middle East, linking the issue of Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the American quagmire in Iraq and elsewhere. However, in one respect, Jimmy Carter's book deserves a special, even a unique, place in this discourse. No American president before him has written a book on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, let alone highlighting the plight of the Palestinian people in the hands of an entity that came into existence by reminding (rather exploiting) the memory of the horrible Nazi Holocaust.
There are many who have held deep respect for President Carter for his morally-nuanced approach and vision, but they never could understand how such a conscious and conscientious person could be so silent and complacent in regard to the most pivotal of all international conflicts, in which the Palestinian people have continued to bleed under the apartheid-like oppression in the Occupied Territories. This book would go a long way in reassuring a large number of people around the world, who have seen Carter as a distinctively moral voice in American politics. There is no doubt this book will have an enduring place in this discourse. However, Alfred Lillienthal, a Jew, Congressman Findley and President Carter, American Christians - all of them can be dubbed as "anti-Semitic" and dismissed by the friends and patrons of Israel.
In that context, there is a especially relevant voice that many might not know (but they should) and that's a voice the Zionists and the patrons of Israel cannot dismiss the way they dismiss and discredit others. That voice is Nahum Goldmann [1895-1982]. He was one of the pivotal figures in the Zionist Movement leading to the creation of the state of Israel and, who continued to remain influential in global politics, involving Israel, without holding any political office of that country. He was known as a "statesman without a state." His role and influence is not easy to duly appreciate without some knowledge about his powerful position as an independent-minded, conscientious voice in the Zionist movement. He was a Founder President of the World Jewish Congress and served as its President from 1951 to 1977. He is former President of the World Zionist Organization and of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
To duly appreciate his role and status one has to be familiar to some extent with the World Zionist Organization. The World Zionist Organization (WZO) was founded as the Zionist Organization in 1897, at the First Zionist Congress held in Basel, Switzerland. Since then, the organization has served as an umbrella organization for the global Zionist movement. By the time the State of Israel came into existence in 1948, many of its new administrative institutions were already in place, through the valuable role of the regular Zionist Congresses of the previous decades. In January 1960 the Zionist Organization changed its name to the World Zionist Organization, with its headquarter in Jerusalem.
Nahum Goldmann was in the thick and thin of the Zionist movement leading to the establishment of Israel and continued to play vital role in the interest of Israel without holding any official position with the Israeli government. Yet, as the president of WZO, he was a veritably powerful voice to reckon with. According to the Jewish Heritage Online:
"Dr. Nahum Goldmann was one of the most prominent leaders of the Jewish people and the Zionist movement during the twentieth century. ... The story of his life is an integral part of the history of the Jewish people and of the State of Israel."
The readers should consider his book The Jewish Paradox [New York: Fred Jordan Books, 1978] a must reading. It is only a Jewish-Zionist, who could be so enlightening in understanding the State of Israel and the people for which it was established. According to him, " ... the Jewish people is the most paradoxical in the world. It is not better than others, or worse, but unique and different - by virtue of its structure, history, destiny and character - from all other peoples, and paradoxical in its contradictions. The Jews are the most separatist people in the world."4
Drawing upon his own experience as a Jew, he points out an important facet of Jewish psyche. "... the Jews of Visznevo we lived in a rural setting, and most of my grandfather's patients were peasants. Every Jew felt ten or a hundred times the superior of these lowly tillers of the soiled: he was cultured, learned Hebrew, knew Bible, studied the Talmud - in other words he knew that he stood head and shoulders above these illiterates. ... every Jew knew then that he would be going to Paradise. He did not believe: he knew!"5
The above perspective helps one understand the Israeli/Zionist attitude and propaganda that they are the perennial victim in this drama. Israelis even complain against the Jews outside Israel that they don't serve the cause of their Jewish people enough. As Goldmann put it: "The Israelis have the great weakness of thinking that the whole world revolves around them."6 Such a view creates a one-sided, absolute view of right and wrong, which is counter-productive. Goldman explains:
"What the Israeli negotiators have to learn is that no one is ever altogether right. Absolute situations do not exist, because the absolute is impossible to reach. When the Israelis negotiate they are so sure of their own rights that they overlook those of the Arabs, thereby weakening their own positions in the eyes of the world."7
With such absolutist mind, they think that through propaganda anything is possible. It's a sort of propaganda-mania.
[T]he Israelis overestimate the importance of propaganda and 'public relations'. The Israeli press keeps saying: 'Our propaganda is badly handled, we have a poor image', and so forth. I am familiar with the subject, since the World Zionist Organization has spent millions of dollars on propaganda. Well, I regret that, because it is worth very little. The decisive factor to influence world opinion is the character of Israel's policies, and if those policies are criticized by the majority of the states, the best propaganda is helpless. The Israelis have inherited this misjudgment and this infatuation for slogans from the Americans. In the United States, everything is sold by what they call 'Madison Avenue' methods, from the street where their biggest advertising firms are based. This technique may be terrific for launching a brand of soap or toothpaste, or even a new newspaper, but not when it comes to disseminating a political idea by distorting it.8
Goldmann did not harbor a lot of hope with the old generation of Israelis. Instead, he felt that it is the younger generation, liberated from the past baggage, that would take up the revolutionary challenge to recast Israel into an instrument of "peace and justice", away from its current propensities as a superior and overwhelming military machine. One should notice the word "justice": Israel is constantly talking about peace and blaming others for the lack of peace, but the issue of "justice" rarely comes up in the propaganda of Israel. It is no coincidence, but Goldmann pinned his hope on the younger generation for the desired change.
"So the problem consists in finding new challenges for them, and I am very ready to suggest one: to make Israel different from what it is today. To build an Israel which is not content with having the best army in the Near East, spending most of its resources on the acquisition of new armaments, and being proud of winning yet another war which solves nothing and in any case may end in disaster. To build an Israel which concentrates instead on religious, cultural and social creativity. The new Jewish youth must become revolutionary. World Jewry, inspired by an Israel of peace and justice, must become a revolutionary movement. Not with barricades, bombs and terrorists, but as a champion of the war against poverty, illiteracy and inequality, for the abolition of the sovereign state, and for peace.
That is what would give new meaning to the sufferings of the Jewish people. After all, the Jews could have lived quite happily if they had had themselves baptized and renounced their condition."9
In Goldmann's estimation, the monotheistic religion of Judaism that is against idol-worshipping has elevated the new state to an object of worship.
"To speak more precisely of Israel, I believe that the worship of the state does Israel harm. After all, one of the greatest Talmudists of our own day has declared that the worship of the state in modern Israel is the equivalent of the idolatry of ancient times. ... The struggle against the arrogance of the state takes precedence over all the rest. Fulbright has written a good book on the subject, The Arrogance of Power."10
As the Golden Rule is of fundamental importance in the three major monotheistic religions, including Judaism, Goldmann highlights this rule before his own people, a people that is now so accustomed to war that it can't think peace.
"Since emancipation we have been becoming a more and more conformist people. The Jews follow the opinion of the majority; they support dictatorships if they are not anti-Semitic; they made Israel a state like all the rest. But a conformist people has nothing to offer to its young idealists; it must be contented with the sort of prosaic young generation whose only aims are to live well, make love and make money. ...
So it seems to me that the only solution is to create a young generation which is nonconformist, revolutionary and Jewish all at one. The success of that synthesis depends very much on Israel, which is taking the opposite attitude today, but without which nothing can be done in the Diaspora. It is all a function of peace. War is ruinous: it ruins the economy of Israel, its policy and its culture. It is impossible to state whether the people responsible are the Jews or the Arabs. I am simply stating the facts of the disaster."11
One can't but be amazed at the keen understanding of Goldmann of Israel as a nation state. He was strongly opposed to the role of Israel as a colonial outpost of the global powers. He proposed that for its own interest and viability in the midst of Middle East, Israel should be a "neutralized" state.
"If Zionism has an ideological task, it is to create a spiritual centre within the State of Israel, then to proclaim to all the world that Jews must be loyal to the State of Israel unless there is a political conflict, in which case each is free to choose.
It is precisely in order to avoid this kind of wrench that I am in favour of the permanent neutralization of Israel. I wrote as such in an article printed by Foreign Affairs, and I say again: Israel ought to be a country (and if need be the only country) which keeps out of international politics. I was even against its joining the United Nations, because the UN is no longer a neutral institution, above the battle, but a conglomerate of contradictory political interests. In every session of the United Nations, Israel is obliged to adopt a set position - against the USSR, for America, for the Blacks, against South Africa, and so on."12
At every single opportunity for peace, Israeli leaders' intransigence served as the stumbling block.
... throughout her four years as Prime Minister, Israeli policy did not budge; the Yom Kippur War and the complete isolation of Israel were the consequences of this rigidity.
Once again we missed the chance of a solution then. The government kept saying that there must be no concession, Israel must maintain its super-armament and not give the Arabs the impression of being weak and afraid. Everything springs from this theory: ... In politics one can never be sure, but I have a strong impression that on more than one occasion we might have obtained peace."13
A few years before his death, he presented a new vision for Israel and the Zionist Movement in a self-critical manner. What Goldmann wrote in that context articulating how Israel has been a part of the problem and how it can be overcome is quite fascinating. The following is a rather long excerpt, but worth reading.
"To those who dismiss me as a daydreamer when I air this plan, I can only reply that if they do not believe that Arab hostility some day be alleviated then might just as well liquidate Israel at once, so as to save the millions of Jews who live there. On this point I am categorical: there is no hope for a Jewish state which has to face another fifty years of struggle against Arab enemies. How many will there be, fifty years from now?
But I feel sure that we can live as friends within the framework of genuine alliance. Certain it has become a lot harder after thirty years of hidebound, ingrown Israeli policy is largely the fault of Ben Gurion. Yet there is still time to convince the Arabs that the Jews would bring them an immense contribution with their knowledge and technology, their two thousand years' experience throughout Europe. There are no great policies without great designs.
A major section of Israeli public opinion and some influential leaders adhere to a theory according to which the Arab character will never allow them to suffer the presence of the state of Israel willingly. They back up this hypothesis by stressing the intolerance of the Arabs and their negative attitude to all minorities. I reject this theory utterly.
I do so, first, because if it were true there would be no hope of a future for the State of Israel: an Arab world of over a hundred million inhabitants would necessarily end up by annihilating the little Jewish if the Arabs were not prepared to accept it.
Secondly, I repudiate this idea, which is based on a racist concept. The character of a race or people undoubtedly plays an important, but never a decisive role in its history. In the conflict between racism and the environment (see Taine and Gobnineau), nature and nurture, I make no final judgment, but I do think that the two elements carry different weights in different eras. During the 'golden age' of their Spanish domination, for example, the Arabs were more tolerant towards the Jews than the Christian world ever was, and the same spirit characterized them too at other other times - even as regard the Christians. ...
It is the different living conditions in the Diaspora and in an independent state which have produced so striking a change in so short a lapse of time. The same could happen with the Arabs, once liberated from the complexes of colonial domination and restored to a sense of security and human respect.
The first condition of success is, of course, that the Jews should adapt to the Arab world. Take the oil question for example. In my opinion the oil producers were quite right; they behaved brutally, but we must not forget that the capitalist world was exploiting them cynically. Western governments were making far more out of the re-sale of oil than the Arabs were making from the price of crude. It is thanks to the exploitation of the Third World that the Western countries went through an era unprecedented prosperity. Well, on this point in particular Israel should have taken the side of the Arabs and not lined up with America and the exploiters. Its position on this problem has had a disastrous consequence, because the Arabs said to themselves: 'Israel is decidedly a foreign element. It is an agent of imperialism and we've got to eliminate it.'
The clinching proof for the Arabs that the State of Israel was interfering with their international policy and so was not to be tolerated was provided by the Sinai war. They could not accept either the Israeli attack which sparked off the conflict or, still less, the collusion with the French and British, who in retaliation against Nasser for nationalizing the Suez Canal used Israel as a spearhead. I consider that war as one of Ben Gurion's major mistakes.
I have often defended the notion of a confederation uniting all the states in the Near East, Israel included. Each state would be sovereign in its domestic policy, but when it comes to foreign policy the Jews would have to adapt to the main lines laid down by the Arab majority. I have had hours of discussions on this subject, and have drawn the following conclusions: what disturbs the really responsible Arab leaders is not that Israel possesses half of Palestine; actually this is of little interest to them, especially if the Palestinians are granted a state of their own. No, what troubles them is the Jews setting themselves up as an independent minority inside the Arab world.
I had a close friendship with the late Dag Hammarskjold, the secretary general of the United Nations: I was one of ten people, I discovered, who were on a first-name terms with him. 'Go and see Nasser for me,' I once suggested to him, 'and propose this solution to him: let him recognize Israel and make peace, and Israel will become a member of a confederation of Near Eastern states including not only the Arab countries but Turkey as well. In that way the Jews will form a minority, which means that they will not be able to conduct an individual policy determined by the Americans, the British or the French, but will have to bow to the collective decision. Israel will have to adapt, just as the members of the EEC do, like it or not.'
Hammarskjold passed on the message and Nasser replied: 'This actually may be a solution. The Arabs will steel themselves to accept the partition of Palestine, because we have vast amounts of land available which will take centuries to develop. But we will never accept Israel as a wedge inside the Arab world. Our plan is to form a bloc stretching from Morocco to Iraq. Unfortunately at the center of that block there is an Israeli state which does not care a rap for our plans. We want to create a policy of nonalignment and Israel practices a pro-capitalist policy. We cannot tolerate that.' It was a very good answer, and a year later, when I submitted the suggestion to Nehru, he was so impressed by it that he altered his schedule of visits and stopped in Cairo to talk to Nasser. 'I have already discussed it with Hammarskjold,' Nasser told him, 'and I instructed him to let Nahum Goldmann know that it really was a valid idea. Only, this Mr. Goldmann cannot deliver the goods. It is Ben Gurion who makes the decisions, not Goldmann, and we will never sign an accord with Ben Gurion, who is a brutal man, an aggressor and imperialist.'14
The significance of Nahum Goldmann's thoughts and works is that even the Zionists and Israel cannot dismiss him as an anti-Semitic or anti-Israel, un like they can dismiss Alfred Lillienthal, Paul Findley, Norman Finkelstein, Noam Chomsky or Jimmy Carter. Not everyone might have access to Nahum Goldmann's book Jewish Paradox. But his bold and provocative vision for Israel and the Middle East was presented in an article in Foreign Affairs, Fall 1978. It's title is the title of this essay: "Zionist Ideology and the Reality of Israel." I found it more than fascinating. The readers are encouraged to read it from the link provided. I also urge the readers to read that article in Foreign Affairs before sharing any comments on this essay.
In light of the Simon Wiesenthal Center's letter of protest against Carter's book, where Palestinian terrorism and fanaticism are identified as the reason lack of peace in that part of the world, for the sake of the truth, the world needs to know and understand that, contrary to the propaganda of the pro-Israeli establishment, the reality is the other way around. For the sake of peace and justice, the world needs to hold Israel accountable for its role as the stumbling block.
History can't be reversed. For a world with workable peace and justice, the parties to conflict need to have a forward-looking vision, where everyone with a stake in such conflicts need to come forward and see things at the human level, rather than at ethnic or other divisive level. Even though it will require all parties with a stake to move toward peace and justice, it is critically important to know reality of the problems and challenges, and how Israel with its overwhelming "military mentality" and abetted by its unconditional and one-sided patron United States continue to stand in the way of any genuine and lasting resolution. Nahum Goldmann's thoughts and ideas are of great relevance in this context.
1. International Herald Tribune, 12/6/06.
2. Interview with Moorer, Aug. 24, 1983. Quoted in: Paul Findley, They Dare to Speak Out: People and Institutions Confront Israel's Lobby (Lawrence Hill, 1984 and 1985), p. 161.
3. pp. 372-373.
4. pp. 7-8; all emphases are mine, unless otherwise noted.
5. pp. 12-13.
6. pp. 56-57.
7. p. 63.
8. p. 63.
9. pp. 67-68.
10. p. 108.
11. pp. 70-71.
12. pp. 84-85.
13. pp. 104-105.
14. pp. 202-204.
Dr. Mohammad Omar Farooq is an associate professor of economics and finance at Upper Iowa University.
Email: [email protected]
Related posts from similar topics: