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04 June 2018


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William R. Cumming

Interesting but complex post for an outsider to history of Zionism. My belief is that the unusual pluralism of the USA is largely due to historical accident not determinism. But it seems you post argues that the Zionist thought that they could in fact control history. Sorry folks but no one and no group and no nation-state controls history. Those groups including tribes, nation-states, or other ethnic or religious blocks or political believers in some system or another that think they are "exceptional" or "chosen" may well find out that history treats them very very harshly. Hey maybe that great American philosopher Rodney King who asked that wonderful question "Why can't we just get along?" hit the proper question in asking forgiveness for those who had abused him! The answer of course is always going to be "to be determined later and maybe never"!

We are watching the largest and most cohesive society in the world--the Japanese--struggle with an incredible event with concurrent hazards occurring. Perhaps their efforts will give others hope. So far all I see is that thank goodness there are few "others" in Japan or the finger pointing would have begun. Always blaming others of course is the key today to the political situation in the US. The fault in never within our "Stars"!

 Charles I

"a sophisticated understanding of Zionism and its complexities is necessary if we wish to deal adequately with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict."

Nonsense. Two eyes, two ears and brain will suffice. Adherence to international law or overwhelming brute force are alternatives, or better yet, both applied peine et dure.

Just depends on what your definitions of "adequate" and Human being" are.

Clifford Kiracofe


Great post, nice to see you here.

The linkages between extremists in Israel and Christian Zionists in the US are important to understand.

The Republican Party has evolved to a point over the past two decades where a substantial part of its political "base" is Christian Zionist. Falwells, Hagees, etal.

Thus, blind and militant support for Israel and its extremists is deeply entrenched in US politics. It might be some time before this influence fades from the political scene. Best, Cliff


This is an interesting and informative post, but I think you misread Habakkuk: the quote you give was qualified. Habakkuk's entire point was that if the premise held by neo-conservatives and (not all) zionists that Arab and Mideast hostility to jews was intrinsic, virulent, and part of those people's basic character - rather than significantly influenced by Israel's actions - then the conclusion is that it is an ultimately doomed enterprise. Doomed from the start given that premise. So I suppose, yes, if as you state it, Zionism itself is based on this premise, then a purely Zionist Israel is ultimately unsupportable.

But obviously, Israel as a nation isn't entirely a zionist undertaking and never had been. Significant non-zionist support was instrumental in it's creation, and instrumental in its continued survival.

The question is, can Israel find the courage to throw off the excesses of its belief that its neighbors are intrinsically hateful and, as a matter of survival, change its actions to change the calculations of its neighbors (and its allies)?

Hard saying not knowing.


I emphasize in conclusion that a sophisticated understanding of Zionism and its complexities is necessary if we wish to deal adequately with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

No, you don't. People have been mining that sophisticated understanding for 63 years to no avail.

You need a sense of justice.


Thanks to both Dr. Mezvinsky and Col. Lang for hosting this very important exchange. And thanks to David Habakkuk for getting the dialogue going. I want to add an addition to William Cumming's thoughtful comment about the folly of "controlling" history. A further look at the history of Zionism must take up the fact that Zionism was both a movement with an ideology AND an instrument for various competing European colonial powers to get their hooks into the Middle East. The British got in on the Zionist act by the middle of the 19th century, in the pre-petroleum rush period. Prince Edward Albert, later King Edward VII, established the Palestine Exploration Society and began studying the ways to exploit the religious conflicts and disputes over the real estate of the Holy Land, from the standpoint of British colonial interests. The history of Zionism, the history of Islamist movements like the Muslim Brotherhood, cannot be understood without factoring in the colonial manipulations of these movements. With the end of World War I, the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the Sykes-Picot imperial arrangement between France and Great Britain, the overlap of these rival colonial interests and Zionist groupings and factions became even more pronounced.

It is my view that, as the era of 19th and early 20th century European colonial rule over the Greater Middle East came to an end at the close of World War II, the British, in particular, exploited the Arab-Zionist conflict to establish a permanent state of conflict in the region through the means of partition. They did the exact same thing, at the same time, in the Indian subcontinent. I have a good friend who served in the BCI Theater in World War II, and was in India, waiting to return home in 1946. He saw the revolt against the British, and saw that there was a great deal of unity among the Hindu and Muslim populations of India, at the point they were fighting for independence from Britain. Soon afterwards, they were at each other's throats, and partition of India assured that those conflicts would be permanent.

So, yes, Zionism is a crucial factor, and the Zionist notion of the inevitability of antisemitism in any society where Jews are in the minority is a driving factor in the conflict that persists to this day inside historic Palestine. But these ideological distortions and diseases are easily exploited, particularly by experienced colonial powers, well-versed in the art of playing off religious, tribal and ethnic differences for purposes of maintaining controls, if only indirect controls tied to natural resources, etc. Go to almost any Persian Gulf emirate, and you will find that the media, finance and security institutions are all run by British advisors and vice-ministers--to this day.

So I think that it is always necessary to strive for the bigger picture. In this case, "partition" has been a weapon throughout the post-World War II period. Zionism is a prototypical ideological abberation that makes these kinds of permanent conflict manipulations easy as pie.


. It is enough to state that the essence of political Zionism rests upon the following absolute theory of anti-Semitism: Jews have been in the past and/or are being in the present and/or will be in the future persecuted by non-Jews in all nation-states in which they are a minority. In Zionist logic it follows that Jews will only be safe in a nation-state in which they begin as the majority of the residents of the state (or at least of the citizens who control the state) and thereafter remain the majority.

What has happened in the past can happen again. The Jews in Germany found that their country did indeed turn on them and no other country came to their rescue. Nor were any countries willing to serve as a place of refuge.
A Jewish majority state is thus a necessity to provide a source of deterrence and defense and refuge should any country with a Jewish minority attempt what Germany attempted.

Thus is is not illogical for Jews to decide to reside in countries in which they are a minority but in which they are currently safe and at the same time to perceive the existence of a predominantly Jewish state as a form of insurance against extermination.


thanks for posting this article by Mr. Mezvinsky. It's good to see that Prof. Shahak's work is carried on.

Clifford, the linkage between Israel and Christian zionism no mistake, it's quite deliberate: Samuel Untermyer forms an extraordinary nexus, marrying the US government to the purposes of elite European and American financiers a la Federal Reserve; creating SEC; the production of the Scofield bible, basis of Christian zionism with the deliberate purpose of creating a support system for zionism as well as "Diaspora nationalism" in the US (see Yonathan Shapiro in "Leadership of the American Zionist Organization, 1897-1930); placing Brandeis at Wilson's elbow to ensure the 'right' decisions were made wrt zionism in Palestine; pushing US into war with Germany in 1914; influencing the peace at Versailles; imposing boycott on Germany, 1933; organizing propaganda campaign in US to convince Americans of necessity of hating Germans, 1933-1940.


Harper, thank you for the very important perspective on British (especially) and European colonial interests in a mutually exploitative relationship with zionism.

It's noteworthy that Italy left Libya with at least some attempt at redressing the wrongs of colonization. And, Italy left behind some great architecture -- hope it's not bombed to smitherliberationeens.

clifford kiracofe


thanks for the comment. I wrote a book on the subject recently: Dark Crusade. Christian Zionism and US Foreign Policy (London: IB Tauris, 2009). I could not get into all aspects of the issue in the limited space available but hit some high points.

I explain the use of Christian Zionism as a tool of imperialism beginning with Napoleon's early attempt and then Palmerston's use in the service of the British Empire and interests in the Middle East. The US phenomenon is an offshoot of the British and began about the middle of the 19th century in North America (US and Canada).

My book is oriented to the political side while books by Rev. Stephen Sizer and Rev. Don Wagner take up the theological side.

Christian Zionism emerged in the UK in the early 19th century while Herzl's political Zionism emerged in the late 19th century. It is interesting that the chaplain of the British Embassy in Vienna coached Herzl on the matter of Zionism to include carefully going over maps of the Holy Land with him.

When I refer to Jewish political Zionism, it is to the 1897 Basel Program and to the 1942 Biltmore Program as a basis for a definition.

As for Libyan-Roman antiquities, there is a fabulous bust of Septimius Severus in a museum in Berlin. It includes some indication of the cult of Serapis.


Jane, What is an "absolute theory?"

Do "absolute theories" demand absolutely correct and verified facts based on ALL the evidence? Are they peer reviewed? Back tested? Subjected to negation?

Is the standard for an "absolute theory" raised when decisions based upon that theory involves the loss of life and well-being of millions of people?

Is only one set of facts permitted in creating an "absolute theory?"

How do "absolute theories" go about predicting the future, particularly if, as is the case with, for example, Graetz's history, practices like kabbalism that perdured for hundreds of years are written out of the "facts" because they are inconvenient?


Mr. Mezvinsky, thank you very much for this informative post. I was familiar with the colonial history, but all of what you write here is new to me. It is very depressing, and makes very clear that the disturbing stories of Rabbis in IDF briefings telling the troops that killing women and children in Gaza is not a sin might not be an aberration but rather the expression of a long standing, even foundational premise within Zionism.

It is really very disappointing. I originally felt intuitively that the existence of the State of Israel makes sense within the world, if only as an attempt to rectify the failures of the West in WWII. Unfortunately, this seems more and more a mirage. The ugliness, hatred and racism that I more and more associate with the Israeli state and populace is an embarrassment to human feeling. I am a student of history and religion, and I am keenly appreciative of the mystical experiences found within and outside of religious traditions. It is always so sad to see the belief in an us-them reality internalized so deeply as to excuse the absolute dehumanization of another group of people. Human history teaches us that when this projection is intertwined with religious sanction, tragedy and wholesale killing are all too often the result.

Thank you for your voice. It is always difficult to stand against a group mentality that is invested in rationalizing their xenophobia. Truly, to be human is to be more alike than different, and the history of ideas shows that the notion of any fundamental difference between human beings as human beings is in actuality an error in thought. Tracing these errors, whether in political philosophy, social identity or theology is a great service to the betterment of humanity.


A Jewish majority state is thus a necessity to provide a source of deterrence and defense and refuge should any country with a Jewish minority attempt what Germany attempted.

Baloney. No it's not. Look at the Muslims today. Because of their numbers they do have a few countries that appear to be exclusively Muslim, and Jews (no less) are trying to wipe them off the map and, in addition, eliminate them from the USA. (Daniel Pipes. Frank Gaffney, Norman Podhoretz, Steve Emerson, Whatshername Geller, David Horowitz, Douglas Feith)

Jews don't get special dispensation for existence over any other group anymore than Muslims or Catholics do. (And their behavior in Israel should tell you how appallingly medieval they are handling it.) Your carrying water for this decades-old idea is out of line. Let them assimilate like the rest of us, go to synagogue, and be done with it.


Fiorangela, what problem do you have with the Kabbalah? Would you condemn the early humanists too. Some were influenced by it? What's wrong with mystical traditions in religion?

It feels you see it as something else: Sorcery? Something devilish?


I'd like to throw in one more variable based on my experience in Israel. That is the nationalism prevelent amoung the Russian Jews who are more than a million strong. They have made a marriage of convenience with religious Jews of the Eratz Israel school of Zionism. Together they are driving much of the settlement fever in the West Bank.

I have to echo Pat's thoughts that Israel is well on its way to a full blown apartheid state and I see nothing on the horizon that will derail that inevitability.


To build on what jdledell wrote and to further impugn Jane's ridiculous fawning over Jewish suffering like a bad Holocaust movie, any country that gets their clapping seals out in support of clergy (in this case, rabbis) who offer up treatises for their military on how killing non-Jews, or Gentiles, is an act of God and protected under the state religion, is sick.

Ding dong: SICK.

You can read about the murderous rabbis here:

There's a quote from Avrum Burg, a former Israeli elected official who ditched sick Israel to live in France -- he coulda' been a contenda for PM -- and former head of the Jewish Agency:

November 16, 2009 – Avrum Burg on how this kind of Judaism inspires murder: “”Just go to a synagogue on Sabbath eve. Go in and pick up the weekly Parasha [Torah portion] commentary pages, read them and you will see that Teitel is not alone. Teitel is just one of an entire plantation of bad weed. Some of those pages are actually financed by the state, through the Ministry of Religious Affairs. The racist lore, as taught by the rabbis of Hebron and Bet El, is everywhere. In the end, someone gets up and does the deed. We tend to ignore this, but horrible things happen there. It is in the air. I know those people. Some of them are my relatives. They do terrible things and we fail to notice.”

These people are sick and ugly and it is not anti-semitic to tell the truth and call them what they are: beneath contempt.

To pull back to Mezvinsky's post about Zionism, this is the crew that is deciding what should happen to Palestinians on the Palestinians' own land stolen by these religious zealot ex-Russians and Eastern Europeans, Americans and whatnot. These heathens are low-rent morally and mentally. [They have more power to affect foreign policy from the WB than Brooklyn...that should tell you something, and give you pause.]

Diane Mason

Thus is is not illogical for Jews to decide to reside in countries in which they are a minority but in which they are currently safe and at the same time to perceive the existence of a predominantly Jewish state as a form of insurance against extermination.

Well fine. Just so long as the emergency, backup, just-in-case-we'll-need-it, Jewish state isn't forcibly imposed on a place like Palestine, which already has an established, indigenous, overwhelmingly non-Jewish population who already call it home - not in a "maybe we'll need it one day" kind of way, but in a "this is our home, right now" kind of way.

Because that overwhelmingly Muslim and Christian Arab population would have to be killed, expelled, discriminated against and disenfranchised until kingdom come, in order to gerrymander and preserve enough of an artificial Jewish majority in Palestine to keep the place open for future generations just in case they need it.

And that sort of behavior really isn't going to turn out well in the long run, what with Palestine sitting in the midst of 200 million sympathetic Arabs and 1 billion Muslims.

Sidney O. Smith III


You come across as a well-read and knowledgeable person and one can learn much from reading your comments. I certainly have, notwithstanding the fact I don’t have much time right now to read closely these threads.

But all that said, your arguments, imo, would have much greater power to persuade if you wrote under your true name.

It is as if you are an attorney who stands before a judge and jury with a paper bag over his head when arguing his case. Not very convincing.

Imagine if Phil Weiss were writing under a blog name that goes something like “Married to a Philly blueblood” and that’s all we knew. He would be lucky if three people a day surfed into his website.

To word differently, you have no skin in the game and that makes all the difference. And unless there is some valid reason not to write under your name -- and I am certainly open to be persuaded otherwise -- one cannot help but presume that you unwilling to leave a comfort zone. Consequently, you greatly weaken your point of view.

I assume you use the name LeaNder as a reference to the Greek myth. But right now, the N in LeaNder seems to suggest Noncommitted when it is on the line, at least on the big issues at sst.

And taking a stand today is a hell of lot easier than a few years ago. So I hope you will reconsider.


All,the ethnic composition of modern Israel state is very complicated; the provocative book by Shlomo Sand is all about it.('Invention of Jewish People')


LeaNder, I don't have a problem with kabbalah -- don't know much about it, and if you read my comment carefully, you'll see that what I said is that Graetz had a problem with the kabbalah -- mysticism did not fit into the narrative Graetz had constructed as Jewish history, so he did not include any discussion of kabbalah.

The larger point I was trying to make is that it's important to fact-check the historical narrative, because different authors use historical interpretation to achieve different agendas.


For those who have more time than sense, here is a long, and IMO genuinely informative review of Yakov Rabkin's book A THREAT FROM WITHIN: A CENTURY OF JEWISH OPPOSITION TO ZIONISM.

It's called Explaining the Long — and Largely Untold — History of Jewish Opposition to Zionism by Allan C. Brownfeld

It is a worthwhile read, even as a review, because it traces the history of how Zionism came to be the dominant force behind the creation of Israel, and how Israel was created by guys who weren't the sharpest knives in the drawer. They were peasants without a plan:

Agassi notes that Professor Rabkin “mobilizes little known historical data in order to make distinctions between the following concepts: Zionism and Judaism; Israel as a state, as a country, as a territory and as the Holy Land ... this creates a real and dangerous confusion between faith and nationality ... One need not be religious in order to protest the exploitation by Israel of religious concepts. I am not religious and am not part of the current fad to find fault with Zionism and its history. But as an Israeli patriot and a philosopher, I find it imperative to make Judaic anti-Zionism a part of the badly needed debate about Israel’s past, present and future.”



Had the British chosen the Malvinas instead of the Middle East Israel would only have to worry about Argentina. As an additional advantage the British actually own the former.


Sidney, Pat knows who I am. There is really not much you need to know about me, apart from what he once wrote: i have a German inhibition about some of the subjects discussed here. And I surely haven't expertise in the central topics discussed here. And yes, I like to read to the point of escapism from the duties at hand.

I changed to LeaNder, signalling nothing Greek, in spite of the fact that it sounds like the Leander of Hero. It was a rather spontaneous invention meant to signal No leader.

In the post 911 net universe I was unfortunately reading the list of a paranoid conspiracy nut for a while. He struggled with a list member, who he felt was trying to take over his list, as happened before, might be from some agency out to destroy it, was an antisemite or had some other sinister agenda. The strange thing was he didn't object when other century old right-wing conspiracy lore was posted as the real thing ultimately the same context as 19th century antisemitic matters. E.g. he allowed a list member to publish the Protocols, the infamous hoax as the most important document to read reality.

I wrote him a private mail, basically questioning his "research" on the person and his obsession with him.

I still used an automatic address block at the time. He posted my private mail including my address on his list. I can tell you, I was really shocked and questioned my nativity at the time. I had admittedly considered the guy a nice but not so intelligent hippie... A huge mistake. ...

Basically if I would use my name now, it would automatically connect with my address Google-wise and the unfortunate place I chose to read in confused moments in the 911 world. It was an interesting self-experiment in paranoia. In a nutshell, paranoia gives importance to the not so important, count me among them, although one without any need to bloat his ego.

Sidney O. Smith III


Well…with that background info…more people will probably have an interest in your work.

You mention the ego, and I mistakenly assumed you were writing under the name LeaNder to protect your ego at the expense of taking a stand on the more important issues. It did not seem consistent with many of the works you have referenced, at least the ones in which I am aware. You appear genuinely influenced by many of these works and, yet, it appeared you were playing it safe. Hence the inquiry.

Knowing full well that exceptions exist, taking a stand in these situations under one’s own name is much like giving to a church, synagogue, or any charity anonymously. In both situations the ego is saying, “Now wait just one darn moment here, I didn‘t sign up for this.” So I thought you were just following your ego. But again, exceptions to the rule abound.


Such scholarly posts & comments: such erudition! I cannot hope to compete but since things Jewish are much in my mind these days, it might be useful to comment on Zionism from the perspective of film and popular myth-making.

One must of course start with Exodus, all three-and-a-half-hours of which I watched last night on WNET in New York. I had not seen the film in 50 years.

As an Israeli creation myth, it is remarkable. The one Palestinian character portrayed in any depth is Taha, whose family donated part of their land to the Jews to allow them to create a kibbutz and "live in peace with the Arabs." So much for Jewish expropriation of Palastinian property!

The emotional Zionist theme that this has always been Jewish land comes through loud and clear, of course, and is so much easier to rationalize when there is no theft involved. The film nakedly justifies this as Western payback for the Holocaust.

The ending is curious and quaint, especially in light of current events. Ari Ben Canaan (Paul Newman) heads off with his cohorts to take part in the first Arab-Israeli war with the stated purpose of winning so that all Jews and Arabs may live in peace together again, albeit in a partitioned Palestine.

Fast forward half a century. In the more interesting and contemporary Walk on Water (2004) the hero is a Mossad assassin whose Apollonian physique is as well chiseled as Paul Newman's in his prime. Here the marginalization, dehumanization and oppression of Palestinians is a given, as is their murder overseas when it serves Israeli interests.

There is absolutely no pretense of Arab-Jewish peace and the one concession to the unsustainability of Israel's actions is the hero's nervous breakdown when he discovers that continued killing is actually destroying him. (It's clear, however, that there are many more where he came from, so the killings will continue). The Holocaust as justification for the new Jewish state is seen as an historical irrelevancy, though modern German guilt for Jewish genocide is a significant sub-theme, as is idealized Jewish existence on a kibbutz.

Walk on Water works nicely as a standalone drama, but when contrasted with Exodus is quite a commentary on the complete bankruptcy of the 1948 Israeli creation myth, and the impossibility of the status quo. It's quite a "compare and contrast" if one cares to invest the time.

One other common thread that's amusing: the central and most desirable female characters in both films are blondes. Seems like more than a coincidence to me.

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