“Human Beings of Another People”

Neo-Zionist Babble in Babel

People always send me articles by Uri Avnery. I never ever post them. Never was a fan — and I didn’t admire his war years [in Lebanon] on behalf of the Israel occupation forces…Avnery reproduces generalizations from The Arab Mind — almost word-for-word.

— As’ad Abu Khalil, The Orientalism of Uri Avnery

Casing the joint

Uri Avnery has long aired his commentary on progressive and pro-Palestinian websites with scarcely a demurral. His generally unchallenged presence on such venues has been puzzling since his commitment to Zionism has been unwavering throughout his long career.1 In fact, Avnery’s ideology was put in its proper place back in 1971 by Camille Mansour in a PLO publication entitled: Uri Afniri wal-sahyuniyah al-mustahdatha (“Uri Avnery and Neo-Zionism”), published in response to Avnery’s promotion of a two-state solution.

Ah but those were the good old days — before resistance was redefined as terrorism — when there was vigorous discussion amongst Palestinians and Arabs about a single secular democratic state in Palestine, the stated aim of the PLO in 1969. But this bracing discourse was soon buried in a relentless wave of Zionist violence and hasbara that continues unabated to this day to which we must add — sorry folks — the efforts of Avnery and his fellow neo-Zionists so plentiful among western progressives. Although the idea of a single democratic state has recently been oh-so-timidly resurrected the concept has always been viewed with the gravest alarm by Zionists of all religious and political persuasions. And as some of you young ‘uns may not know, in 1975 the U.N. General Assembly passed resolution 3379 that concluded:

Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.2

True, the resolution was later overturned thanks to the efforts of the repellent John Bolton. And it is likewise true that Avnery has courageously battled some of the more brutal aspects of occupation Zionism. Furthermore he occasionally makes good points about Israeli and Arab politics and pokes frequent fun at Israeli psyche and society. But he has always used his very public efforts for a “kinder, gentler” Zionism to soften his commitment to the core Zionist objective: The maintenance of the Jewish ethno-theocracy in Palestine by opposition to BDS, the Right of Return and any chatter whatsoever about a single state. Avnery’s liberal avuncular aura engenders deference from western progressives and Arabs perhaps desperate for any Israeli who seems in any way kinder and gentler than the usual brutal sahyuni. In this way he might be said to approximate the classic role of “good cop”.

But Avnery’s neo-Zionism is rarely absent. He has hinted that Palestinians who support a single state solution do so as code “for the elimination of the State of Israel”. I would suggest instead that the code phrase “elimination of the State of Israel” (along with its correlate “Israel’s right to exist”) has been used to anthropomorphize the Israeli state thus making its elimination not an act of political change but rather an act of murder. Avnery has pleaded that the world can’t expect the “Israeli public to be fifty years ahead of the times” by supporting a one state solution.3 He scores progressive brownie points by acknowledging the inherent justness of the single state but — shaking his grizzled head ever so sadly — regrets that Israeli reality will never permit it: “In Israel, that is a beautiful dream for the end of days.”4 Thus does Avnery in 2007 push the feasibility of the single state beyond his 2003 estimate of only fifty years — safely far away to a distant messianic time. It is not for nothing that Avnery frequently resorts to scriptural reference subliminally reminding us Judeo-Christians of those covenanted property rights.

Avnery’s neo-Zionist musings recently reached an apogee in an essay entitled “The Rot of Occupation”. The title seems promising but the piece is essentially a whitewash of early Zionist settler motivation during which Avnery presents us with this astonishing phrase describing early Zionist pioneer motivation:

It did not occur to them that they were hurting human beings of another people.

In one sentence Avnery not only absolves the early settlers because (oops!) it just didn’t occur to them that what they were doing was wrong but — far more significantly — he demotes the entirety of humanity to the status of a lesser group, a mere subset of “people”, while simultaneously elevating the category “people” (no doubt bound by blut) to the premier divisor of humankind. In short, the Tower of Babel obtaineth still — nay is preeminent — in Avnery’s retrograde and Biblical worldview. Indeed, the Babelian concept runs through the entire spectrum of Zionist thought, from Likud to Gush Shalom; from Buber to Begin; from Larry Oliphant to Jerry Falwell. Thus Avnery constructs a verbal Apartheid Wall whilst projecting early Zionist settlers as starry-eyed romantics with no connection whatsoever to the “thieving thugs” of the Gush Emunim variety who — what impudence! — dare to claim the holy mantle of those early idealistic but apparently absent-minded settlers.

But here comes the industrious and principled Ilan Pappe with his Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine putting paid to Avnery’s romantic vision. The early pioneer claim to innocence is demolished with Pappe’s revelation that between 1930-1947 those selfsame idealists deliberately and with malice aforethought compiled a detailed inventory of an entire country (aka “The Village Files”) in which Palestinian villages were systematically inventoried as to topography, access to roads and water, quality of land, descriptions of economic life and other socio-politico-religious data. As data collection expanded these rosy-cheeked romantics compiled minute descriptions of village mosques, the type and quality of the villagers weapons, the number of trees, the quality of each fruit grove (down to the productivity of individual trees), “precise accounts” of village notables’ living rooms, a census of automobiles, lists of artisans and their skills, lists of village notables and civil servants in the mandatory government and detailed descriptions of clan relations. A Hebrew University topographer and professional photographers (no doubt similarly innocent) were recruited to augment the files with photography and maps.

The Village Files were nothing less than a monumental “casing of the joint” executed with an ice-cold attention to detail. Most repulsive of all, Avnery’s starry-eyed pioneers were able to extract their heads sufficiently out of the clouds to record the names of all men between the ages of 16-50 as well as the names of anyone involved in or who lost family members in the 1936 Palestinian Revolt thus establishing an index of each village’s “hostility” vis-à-vis Zionist activity and giving historic resonance to Mahmud Darwish’s famous poem which begins: “Write down, I am an Arab!” In the project’s final phase Avnery’s idealists created lists of “wanted” persons in each village which human inventory facilitated the mass executions, torture, and arrest operations carried out by Jewish troops in 1948.5

But, you will say, give Uri a break! He has changed, has he not? Why so harsh to someone who has labored long in the Israeli peace movement, put his body on the line in protests and openly hobnobbed with Yasser Arafat and other Arabs (not to mention those bikini-clad Christian cuties during that famous Evening in Jounieh when he was an embed with Sharon’s troops in Lebanon) thereby credentialing himself as a bonafide Arab-lover?6 Didn’t he claim — rather like some sort of military version of Bill Clinton — that although he carried arms during the motorized Samson’s Foxes ethnic cleansing operations in 1948 that “he did not shoot”?7 Has he not written reams supporting Palestinians in their struggle to end the 1967 occupation and even gone so far as to bravely criticize the harsher aspects of Zionism internal to Israel? Does this not make him a valuable ally in the Palestinian struggle for justice? Isn’t he just being realistic when he says the secular democratic state is a great idea but simply not feasible until the messiah shows up?3 As a sort of eminence grise of the Israeli left should we not encourage him?

Oren ben Dor knows better: “The truth is that there has virtually never been any real ‘left’ in Israel. So-called left-wing Israelis share their right-wing compatriots’ support for the state ideology” which is based on the premise “that it is morally acceptable to have a state whose legal structures assign preferential stake to all those who pass some test of Jewishness”.8 Might we be mistaken in supposing that progressives would at least question those who categorically state in scriptural terms that ending such a political entity is only a dream?

Apparently we are mistaken. The ideology of the Biblical Babel — in which by the way the west is also thoroughly soaked — has long trumped any kind of consistent progressive analysis when it comes to Zionism. Avnery-like gatekeepers have quite successfully Walled off discussion of Palestine in most western progressive groups which has contributed in part to their current paralysis. Therefore Avnery should not be accorded the privilege of going uncriticized or unchallenged, just as the quasi-hasbaritic progressives of all religious and irreligious persuasions who swarm through western peace and justice organizations must be continually challenged, exhausting though this effort may be. “Did they read it” asks Abu Khalil about those who sent him copies of An Evening in Jounieh “or do they just endorse whatever he writes?”9 By all means read Avnery but do so closely and with the watchwords caveat lector in mind.

A magical, musical red herring

As wary readers therefore let us now revisit an example of Avnery’s essays, “Death of a Myth” featured on progressive websites in 2005.10 Not only is it an excellent display of Zionist psychology it also showcases his breezy and engaging western-oriented style. The essay’s ostensible aim is to gently mock Israeli popular uproar over a “stolen song”. However, the key word in the essay is not the noun song but the adjective stolen. As is typical with psychological denial the narrative simultaneously reveals and conceals.

Israeli singer Naomi Shemer’s deathbed confession to stealing a Basque lullaby is but a musical red herring meant to divert attention from the real theft that all Zionists are hiding, buried so deep they cannot own up to it without experiencing considerable psychic pain: That they deliberately and with meticulous planning carried out a crime of historic proportions — the theft of an entire country. And although they have been unable to confess to their crime it nevertheless continues to gnaw away at them, all of them. Avnery’s breathless reporting of the contretemps and his part in promoting the song indicates that he too has internalized this denial.

I submit that the stolen song is simply a metaphor for the theft of Palestine. Even at death’s door Shemer engaged in good old PR-style spin. She declared she did not steal the song “consciously” but had “absorbed it into her subconscious” in what she felicitously downgraded to the status of “work accident”. Even facing death, Shemer was unable to salve her conscience by admitting the real theft so she confessed instead to petty larceny hoping thereby to find relief.. But her confessional deflection left a clue to what was really eating away at her. The guilty are known to harbor a desire to be caught out in their lies.

Shemer’s confession reveals that Zionists justify the theft of Palestine as “unconscious” because, as Avnery instructs us, it did not occur to them that they were harming human beings of another people. Moreover, they plaintively insist that because they changed a mere “eight notes” of the melody (reducing to the status of a “work accident” the razing of a paltry 418+ villages and the ethnic cleansing of upwards of a million Palestinians) they “have every right” to the royalties (land ownership). It is instructive to note that the work accident motif recurred in 2006 when the Israeli army apologized for shelling a Gaza beach and killing 10 civilians (including two infants) suggesting the war crime was a “work accident”. Zionists are past masters of verbal manipulation and projection, nimbly attributing their own dark desires and practices to the Other.

This secret of the deliberate theft of an entire country is so monumental that it requires elaborate psychological and cement walls to be erected around it with religious mythology and Babelic babble veiling the whole structure. For if the secret remains buried there will be no painful need to implement the Right of Return, to establish truth and reconciliation commissions, to pay reparations, to wash any feet in contrition or to simply try (as Harry exhorts Voldemort) for some remorse. The fourth largest army in the world is ever alert with its vast armory ready to assassinate, imprison or harass anyone who tries to reveal the secret by opposing it. Legions of loyal spin doctors — salaried and volunteer, on the left and on the right, religious and secular — are ready to deflect, mitigate and project to keep it hidden. The secret of the deliberate theft of a country has attained an almost magical quality whereby any words uttered by anyone anywhere that reveal it must be pounced upon to prevent the spell from being broken.

When Zionists are able to confess to theft; that, yeah, they did inhale; when they are able to fully grasp the healing concept that “human being” is the indivisible classifier of humankind and one’s blut is inconsequential, when they face the reality that a single secular democratic state is the only equitable solution, justice will be possible and peace will follow. Meanwhile as you peruse Avnery’s words keep in mind his lifelong allegiance to Babel and Zionism which, as the UN once so bravely but briefly resolved, is a form of racism.

  1. Avnery has never denied his Zionism. In fact, in 1977, he and his colleagues won a libel case against the Sephardi Community in Jerusalem who had alleged that they were anti-Zionist thereby making them “the only Jewish citizens of the State of Israel who can produce a court ruling attesting to their Zionist credentials”. See Uri Davis, Apartheid Israel, pp. 146-7. []
  2. General Assembly Resolution 3379 []
  3. Uri Avnery, “The Bi-National State: The Wolf Shall Dwell with the Lamb.“ [] []
  4. Uri Avnery, “Israel and Apartheid: Freedom Ride.” []
  5. Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, 2007, p. 17-22. []
  6. Uri Avnery, “An Evening in Jounieh.” []
  7. Uri Davis, Apartheid Israel. p. 147-8. []
  8. Oren ben Dor, “There has never been a true left in Israel.” []
  9. As’ad Abu Khalil, “The Orientalism of Uri Avnery.” []
  10. Uri Avnery, “The Basque Roots of ‘Jerusalem Gold.’” []

J.A. Miller is a grandmother activist from the Middle West who spent many years traveling and studying in the Middle East. She has published essays on Counterpunch, Dissident Voice and StateofNature. Her poetry also was included in Remi Kanazi’s 2008 anthology Poets for Palestine. Miller is currently writing a book on the Protestant origin of the Zionist project. She can be reached at: jsec_miller@hotmail.com. Read other articles by J.A..

10 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Hatuxka said on September 17th, 2007 at 7:17am #

    I stopped reading Avnery after his contorted, weird attempt to shirk off the application of the term apartheid to Israel (your reference no. 4).

  2. gerald spezio said on September 17th, 2007 at 1:03pm #

    J.A., your probing expose of Avnery drives deep into the entire Israeli propaganda machinery with its insidious variants. Pervasive variants that are carefully designed to cover all possible bases from every political perspective. Avnery is just one of them. Billions for peeyar and pepper in the eyes of the dumb goyim; not one shekel for truth.

    Just try to find where the Zionist line isn’t surreptitiously pitched in all manner of frames and disguises from phoney scholarship, fears of Arab oil, sustainability, and soup to nuts blurbs about anything in any media.

    Holocaust, anti-semitism, Madonna in the holy land, filthy rich Arab sheiks, mad dog Ahmadinejad, polluted Arab minds, Islamofascism, independence from Arab oil, Palestinian duplicity, Muslim TERRORISTS, Muslim clitorectomies, Muslim denigration of women and feminism, Muslim suicide bombers, communities of spirit to free us from oily materialism, more Holocausts, more sufferings from rampant anti-semitism, even more Holocausts …

    You confirm my suspicions about Avnery with your exhaustive depth. Most importantly, you lay open how slickly and subtly it intrudes into every facet of our everyday lives.

  3. Hatuxka said on September 17th, 2007 at 5:15pm #

    I just can’t get over the detail that you cite from Ilan Pappes work, concerning how these starry-eyed, innocent Zionists were in fact “casing the joint”. Sickening. Especially in light of the narrative he tries to sell. This blows to smithereens any pretense that people like Avnery have of seeking justice in this situation. So with your excellent essay and one a couple days ago we have two pseudo-clear-eyed, faux iconoclasts that “radical” communities often give a platform to: Chomsky and Avnery, who need to be ridden out of town on a rail for selling their snake oil.

  4. gerald spezio said on September 17th, 2007 at 7:17pm #

    Hatuxka, I have read much of Chomsky’s prolific writing over the last forty plus years. Although I am his greatest opponent about Cartesian Linguistics (a separate intellectual issue of great significance), I am respectful of his objectivity, humanity, and terrific brain.

    Chomsky’s stated position about Israel being the follower and not the leader in the Palestine/Iraq murdering has shaken me about Chomsky’s objectivity. I have argued with my colleagues about what I consider Chomsky’s serious specific intellectual error about Israel’s preponderant influence. Ditto for Mearsheimer and Walt and the degree of influence.

    Chomsky and James Petras went head to head about the power of the Israel Lobby, and I thought that Petras made an vastly superior case for the power and pervasiveness of the Israel lobby. That debate is on line. I still wouldn’t write Chomsky off.

    J. A. Miller is one tough lady.

  5. Mulga Mumblebrain said on September 17th, 2007 at 7:22pm #

    The concept of hasbara permeates the Western media entirely.Not surprising given the extent of Jewish, invariably Likudnick, ownership and the overwhelming presence of Jewish journalists, editors and opinion writers, once again invariably of the ‘morally pure’ Right. I am personally disinclined to attack the likes of Chomsky, whose work in outlining Israeli atrocities over decades has been tremendous. There is no one ‘truth’ concerning, Israel, Palestine, the Jews or the Palestinians. Some Jews are evil, some saintly, most somewhere in between. They are capable of spiritual and intellectual growth, and, sadly, regression. The same, naturally, is true of Palestinians, or any other group. No one group is uniformly saintly, certainly not by self assertion. One incontestable fact, however, is that Jewish diaspora communities are now dominated by the worst amongst them. The incessant arrogant bellicosity and endless bullying and denigration of those who refuse to toe the line of total obeisance to Israel and its Messianic aggression and cruelty, is clearly psychopathological. It is a real risk to human welfare that such totalitarian absolutists have hundreds of nuclear weapons at their disposal. It is even more chilling to contemplate the fact, that through exercise of their unparalleled money power, they have gained complete control of the governing organs of the global hegemon, and command Stalinist majorities for their racist and belligerent attacks on the Arab world. The disappearance of Israel no more means the extermination of the Jews that the disappearance of Israel’s old love, apartheid South Africa meant the extermination of the Afrikaaners. The continued existence of a cruel, infinitely aggressive and vehemently racially supremacist Israel, however, can only be maintained by mass murder on an unimaginable scale. Already over two million Iraqis have died in the current aggression and the odious sanctions regime, and the Israelis and their propaganda apparatchiks are furiously pushing for more of the same against Iran. Their agitation also includes action against Sudan, taking utterly hypocritical advantage of the social strife in Darfur, the result of climate change, but portrayed, of course, as Moslem evil. These vile hypocrites have no concern over the vastly greater casualties in the Congo, as there are no Moslems there to demonise and Israeli businessmen are profiting nicely from mineral exploitation there, the acknowledged catalyst of most of the violence. And needless to say, they strongly approve of the vastly greater, than Darfur, carnage in Iraq. Their vile and cynical double standards are despicable.

  6. Adam Goldsztajn said on September 17th, 2007 at 10:25pm #

    Oh my god….Avnery is a Zionist?!?!….and he’s a….two-stater!!! the shock….what are we to do?…I know….let’s trash him, because we in the self-righteous north American rrrrrrevolutionary left are soooooo strong we don’t need allies, we can basically pontificate with poems and skreeds against whomever, which will surely achieve more than actually doing something….like putting your life on the line and meeting Arafat in 1982….and when the settlers call for Avnery’s assassination, who cares, right? cause’s he’s just the other side of the Zionist coin…a wonderful piece highlighting the path for eternal irrelevancy and marginality.

    as for Mulga Mumblebrain’s comment– “Jewish diaspora communities are now dominated by the worst amongst them.” wtf? and what white-bread USA isn’t dominated by the worst? the Asian-American community, what about “them”? or Indian-Americans…?

  7. Hatuxka said on September 18th, 2007 at 3:17pm #

    G. S.-

    Re: Chomsky
    Two essays I found particularly revealing and convincing about where Chomsky is “coming from”:

    http://www.leftcurve.org/LC29WebPages/Chomsky.html

    http://www.axisoflogic.com/cgi-bin/exec/view.pl?archive=144&num=21643

    On the other matter of Avnery, that his ready acknowledgment of the crimes of Israel (while attempting to deflect attention from its apartheid nature) has earned him death threats from settlers is neither here nor there. Those who would be fanatically motivated to kill him would kill opponents of lower visibility who had done much less. That says more about how fanatical his opponents are than serving to balance or compensate for his spinning. I don’t think when all the ranting is done about how this viewpoint vis a vis Avnery makes those holding it irrelevant, that he is any less compromised by the myths he perpetuates. Letting his disingenuousness slide (as with Chomsky’s) is the kind of good politics that will move us from marginality to relevancy? Yes, that’s been working so well, let’s stay that course.

  8. Mulga Mumblebrain said on September 18th, 2007 at 5:24pm #

    Dear Adam; Indeed you are correct. Living under the terminal stage of capitalist self-destruction has led to the worst rising to the top in society and politics, almost everywhere. It was called ‘kakistocracy’ by the Greeks, rule by the worst people in society. I just consider it is particularly marked amongst Jews, where the voices of resistance to crimes against humanity undertaken in the cause of Jewish exceptionalism, have been cowed. The torrent of violent abuse that descends on the head of any Jew who questions Israel’s crimes may explain, but does not excuse, this cowardice. And it will redound not necessarily to the benefit of Israelis if Jews continue to either close their eyes to, or covertly support Israel’s multifarous crimes against human decency.

  9. gerald spezio said on September 18th, 2007 at 7:05pm #

    Hatuxka, when a giant of an intellectual such as Chomsky becomes so emotionally bewildered by his commitment to his religious heritage that his judgment is maimed, we must confront what we are up against.
    I had an identical reaction to Steven Weinberg’s unflinching public support of Israel’s murderous behavior.

    Lesser mortals with much less brains such as Alan Dershowitz, Elliott Abrams, Doug Feith, Pipes, Podhorentz, Kristol, Lieberman, Wolfowitz, etc. are far far less amenable to factual and objective argument.

    How in the hell can we stop the murdering of innocent Palestinians and Iraqis if we can’t count on a man like Chomsky to help identify the causes?

    As you know there are several articles on DV now by professed progressives and peace activists that slickly or even blindly evade the critical Israel connection. Whether cyber-typists for the Lobby, deluded new agers , or self deluded intellectuals like Chomsky: we are sailing into the rocks.

    It is the Palestinians and Iraqis who are suffering and dying. Our turn may come sooner than later

  10. Jaap said on March 21st, 2008 at 8:45am #

    FYI: I believe the ‘village files’ were composed in the period 1940-1048, and not 1930-1948. Please check this link: http://71.18.226.238/final/en/journals/printer.php?aid=7175. It’s an article by Pappe in which he writes: “By the late 1940s, the “archive” was almost complete.”, while in his book he writes “By the late 1930s, the “archive” was almost complete.”. The article contains details that indicate that the date in the book is a mistake.