paypal

Reflections and Meditations


Originally published as two articles, and then included as an appendix
to the 1978 re-issue of I. F. Stone's 1946 book Underground to Palestine.
The original 1946 Epilogue to Underground to Palestine is also online.


By I.F. Stone
March 1978



Part I: Confessions of a Jewish Dissident


Abstractly speaking, I should be quite a popular person in the American Jewish community. I am a dissident. I am also, at a time when the search is on for moderate voices on the Palestine question, a moderate. And I proved my devotion to displaced persons in and out of the Middle East years ago. I have a medal to prove it, from the Haganah - the illegal Jewish army that fought what Prime Minister Begin calls the Jewish war of liberation and established the state of Israel in 1948.

Yet despite all these credentials I find myself - like many fellow American intellectuals, Jewish and non-Jewish - ostracized whenever I try to speak up on the Middle East. This demonstrates what slight changes in time and space can do to familiar categories. Dissidents, Jewish and non-Jewish, in the Soviet Union are - deservedly - heroes. They may be forced to circulate their views in samizdat, they may be dependent for circulation in their homeland on the type-writer and carbon paper. But at least they make the front pages of the American and world press, and the correspondents in Moscow hang on their words. Here at least their books are best-sellers.

But it is only rarely that we dissidents on the Middle East can enjoy a fleeting voice in the American press. Finding an American publishing house willing to publish a book that departs from the standard Israeli line is about as easy as selling a thoughtful exposition of atheism to the Osservatore Romano in Vatican City.

In this respect, our lot is worse than that of the Arabs. Even before Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem made it fashionable, there were synagogues willing to invite Egyptian and even Palestinian Arabs, and occasionally an American of Arab origin to explain his viewpoint. Only a few days ago Mohammed Hakki, an able and eloquent Egyptian newspaperman who now works for his country’s embassy here in Washington, was given a Sabbath forum and heard with courtesy at Adas Israel, one of the capital’s most prestigious congregations.

But I have yet to hear of an American journalist of dissident views, Jewish or gentile, accorded similar treatment. I will not name them but there are top figures in the profession, with long records of championing Israel and the Jewish people, who complain bitterly in private that if they dare express one word of sympathy for Palestinian Arab refugees, they are flooded with Jewish hate-mail accusing them of anti-Semitism.

As for Jewish dissidents in America, we get the standard treatment. We are labeled “self-hating Jews.” American Jewish intellectuals are lectured on what is stigmatized as their weakness for “universalism.” One distinguished academic was summoned to an Israeli consulate for a scolding and put into deep freeze by colleagues for advocating a generous peace policy toward the Palestinian Arabs. We are asked why we cannot be narrow ethnics, suspicious of any breed but our own. Isaiah is out of fashion.

Gentile dissidents are generally treated simply as anti-Semites, no matter how often they have demonstrated friendship for Israel and the Jews in the past. A pro-Israel Republican senator, many of whose closest aides are Jewish, suddenly found himself treated as an enemy by the organized Jewish community in his state because on a trip to the Middle East he had ventured some expression of sympathy for the Arabs, too.

Even the Quakers are on the blacklist; they have demonstrated that the peacemakers may be blessed in heaven but they have a hard time on earth. At their Mideast peace conference in Washington last summer they were picketed by Jewish organizations. The State Department cooperated by denying a visa to a Palestinian moderate scheduled to speak there. (The Jewish dissidents of Breira, meeting at the same 4-H Club headquarters in Chevy Chase a week later, got worse treatment: the Jewish Defense League invaded the meeting, breaking up furniture and tearing up membership lists.)

On the Middle East, freedom of debate is not encouraged. Much ill will has been piled up, though not publicly expressed, in Congress, the government, and the press by the steamroller tactics of the hard-liners.

My trouble originally began with my weakness for refugees. In the spring of 1946 I was the first reporter to travel with “displaced persons” (as they were then called) out of the Nazi camps from Poland to Palestine through the British blockade. After making that trip, I found myself a hero in the American Jewish community, a speaker at more than one national convention of Hadassah. I can even remember being trotted out by the Zionists to persuade the (then) Uncle Toms of the American Jewish Committee to overcome their fears of identifying with the Zionist cause.

Now their publication, Commentary, has become the principal pillory for Americans who dissent from the Israeli hard line. In the past twenty-five years I have been asked to speak in a synagogue only once, and I won’t name it lest I again embarrass its rabbi, for then I made the mistake of asking sympathy for Arab refugees as well. I remember, as if it were yesterday, the horror of statelessness in the thirties for those who fled Fascist and Nazi oppression. I feel for the scattered Palestinians who would like a state and a passport too.

My first taste of being a dissident came quite early. When I got back from my illegal trip, my series “Underground to Palestine,” in the New York newspaper PM, was an instant success. It pushed circulation to a high point which, if maintained, might have saved Ralph Ingersoll’s unique experiment in publishing a newspaper without advertising. I traveled with some of the most wonderful people I have ever met, both passengers and crew - including survivors of the death camps and the handful of American-Jewish sailors who volunteered to man the ships taking them to Palestine.

The story of their lives and adventures stirred sympathy for the Zionist cause among Jews and non-Jews alike. When publication in book form was planned, I was taken to lunch by friends in the Zionist movement, including a partner in one of the topmost advertising firms in America. They outlined a $25,000 advertising campaign to put the book across. But then came the awkward moment.

There was one sentence, I was told, just a sentence or so, that had to come out. I asked what that was. It was the sentence in which I suggested a bi-national solution, a state whose constitution would recognize, irrespective of shifting majorities, the presence of two peoples, two nations, Arab and Jewish, within Palestine, with two official languages, Arabic and Hebrew, which are now indeed the two official languages in the state of Israel.

That position may sound like dreadful heresy today. It was not that far out in 1946, a year before the United Nations decided to partition the country between two states, Arab and Jewish, with economic and other links between them. At that time the Hashomer Hatzair, the Left Zionists, an important sector of the Zionist movement then as now, had long advocated a bi-national solution. In addition I then suggested that the bi-national state be established in the whole of Palestine, as it was before 1922. It was then that the British carved out a new kingdom across the Jordan for the Hashemite dynasty, after the Saudi family drove them out of Mecca and established their fierce fundamentalist Wahabi state, where barbarous penalties straight out of the Bible are still imposed for adultery and theft. This was the consolation prize for Britain’s friend, King Abdullah.

I refused to take this passage out. “My boss, Ralph Ingersoll,” I said, “allowed me to make the three-month trip at considerable sacrifice for the paper. He did not tell me what to write. It was printed that way in PM. He would have a low opinion of me, quite rightly, if I submitted to such censorship for the sake of an advertising campaign.” That ended the luncheon, and in a way, the book. It was in effect boycotted.

But two years later the book was translated into Hebrew with the offending passage intact, though the translator was a leading member of the Mapai, the dominant party in Zionism and as deeply opposed as my interlocutors in America to a bi-national solution. And as the 1948 war approached, copies of the book were given out to sabras, or native-born Palestinian Jews, in the armed forces to help them understand how Jews had suffered and how some had survived the Holocaust.

As so often since, dissent frowned upon in the United States was allowed in Israel, so long as it was published in Hebrew. To this day few American Jews realize how much free debate goes on in the Hebrew press and in Hebrew book publishing there. The language barrier makes possible a most useful little Iron Curtain behind which American Jews can be herded into supporting the hard official line.

Arabs who read Hebrew, and many do, have free access to this debate, but we do not. Very little of Israeli debate, either in the press or the Knesset, filters through to the American public. Few American correspondents know Hebrew, and only the official statements are easily available in English. Consequently the coverage of the last Knesset session, after Sadat’s walkout from the peace talks, might just as well have been coverage of a rubber-stamp parliament in any Third World dictatorship. None of the dissenting voices were reported. All we got was what Begin said.

This failure to report Israeli debate is a great obstacle to wise decision making here. Many in Israel, too, feel that it is not anti-Semitic to believe that a generous attitude toward the Palestinian Arabs may be a better safeguard of Israel’s future than the niggardly something-for-nothing response of the hard-liners.

Moderates in Israel look to the leaders of the American Jewish community for leverage against the hard-liners, and the timid doves of the Jewish establishment here look to opinion in Israel for support; but communication between them is blocked off, and the result is a rigid, monolithic policy totally unsuited to the great opportunities opened up by Sadat’s courageous initiative.

Many here in the United States must have felt appalled at Sadat’s reception in Jerusalem. I knew Chaim Weizmann, and he was not only a masterly diplomat but could bring something of the poet to political discourse. Had he still been alive and the president of Israel, he would have risen to the occasion with a magnanimous gesture and a healing phrase. But all Sadat got from Begin was a warmed-over UJA speech. Begin’s response made me blush.

Quite a few people in Israel shared that same feeling of disappointment over Begin’s response to the Sadat visit, but you would hardly guess it from press coverage here. Ma’ariv, the biggest newspaper in Israel, ran a long interview covering more than one full page with the deputy prime minister, Yigal Yadin, taking issue with Begin after the Sadat meeting and calling for a more flexible policy. To have the deputy prime minister disagree publicly with the prime minister was a major political story, but so far as I know the only paper in this country that printed the deputy prime minister’s statement was the Washington Star (December 4). I didn’t see it even mentioned elsewhere. The headline in Ma’ariv indicated the divergence between Begin and his deputy prime minister: “The Moment of Truth Comes and Israel Will Have to State Its Willingness for Territorial Concessions in Judea and Samaria {the West Bank} Or Else There Will Be No Peace.”

One of the many other unreported voices of dissent was that of G. Schocken, editor of Israel’s most respected paper, Ha’aretz, who expressed his disagreement with Begin in an unusual signed editorial. The Knesset debate then too was meagerly reported. When I tried to get the Israeli Congressional Record (Divrei Ha Knesset) from the Israeli desk of the State Department, I was told after the usual bureaucratic indifference that the latest copies the State Department had were a few issues from the year 1965!

Yet it would help the administration to resist the monolithic hard-liners if the American Congress and public were made more aware of dissent in Israel. The most striking recent example was the editorial in the Jerusalem Post (international edition of January 24) on Sadat’s action in breaking off the peace talks. While expressing regret over the “tougher line” taken by Sadat in his speech recalling his negotiators from Jerusalem, the Post said:

His criticism about Israel’s handling of the talks and some of the public statements made here should however also lead to some self-review in Jerusalem. For certainly Sadat seemed to have every right to wonder about Israel’s intentions when bulldozers in Sinai, replete with fanfare, suddenly materialized while he was supposedly gaining agreement about Israeli withdrawal, and when Israeli rhetoric countered a commitment to desist from polemics.

The Jerusalem Post has long been the distinguished English voice of the Israeli community. Its scarcely veiled rebuke to Begin is quite different from the unrestrained condemnation in this country of Sadat by such figures as Rabbi Alexander M. Schindler, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations. He said Sadat’s “impatience conveys the impression that you disdain the negotiating process in its entirety” (The New York Times, January 30).


I was brought up to believe that a fundamental pillar of any stable political situation is - in that historic American phrase - “the consent of the governed.” How can there be a stable, secure relationship between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs, both those on the West Bank and those stateless in the Palestinian Diaspora, without their consultation and consent?

To impose the kind of “self-rule” Begin envisages on the Palestinians is to push Israel into an endless sea of troubles. How do you make sure the people they elect to office are not secretly sympathizers with the PLO, or not “moderate” enough to suit Israel, Hussein, or Carter?

Do you cross-examine candidates in advance to make sure they’re satisfactory? Do you open their mail, bug their phones, and police their social contacts to make sure they stay that way? And how much respect will Palestinians have for this variety of “self-rulers”?
The frown of the occupying power or of foreign statesmen may defeat itself by conferring legitimacy. When Carter on the eve of his recent trip abroad “ruled out” the PLO in advance, he invited embarrassing questions. If negotiations are to be limited to “moderates,” does that rule out Begin and the Likud too? If the Palestinians are to have self-rule, what gives Carter the right to cast the first ballot?

All else becomes negotiable if the principle of self-determination is recognized. A transition period in which old fears are allayed and both sides can settle down comfortably into coexistence has much to be said for it. But not if “self-rule” is a counterfeit and “transition” invites Gush Emunim to expand its settlements and erode a future Palestinian state even before it is born.

The latest warning signal was the news that a new West Bank settlement is being established in Shiloh, despite Begin’s promise to Carter, on the novel plea that this is only an “archeological” settlement. If archeology can excuse new settlements, and Gush Emunim disguise itself as a mere band of eager beaver Schliemanns, no place is safe. There is no spot in the Holy Land where some antiquity cannot be dug up. But the administration is so timorous that Carter’s note of protest to Begin, instead of being given full publicity, was leaked to James Reston’s column in The New York Times, Sunday, January 29, as if the White House were afraid to raise its voice directly.

Washington has not even reacted to Dayan’s remark in a recent Knesset debate that under “self-rule” the Israeli army would have the right not only to protect Jewish settlements on the West Bank but to enforce further land acquisition by Jews. Such threats hardly serve the cause of security and stability for Israel and the Middle East.

History over and over again has proven magnanimity a better safeguard than myopic military thinking. Those who wish to see the case for alternative policies in the precarious Middle East negotiations should read the thoughtful analyses by two Israeli doves in recent interviews here, which deserve far wider attention than they have received. One was the interview with Mattityahu Peled in the February 23 issue of The New York Review of Books, and the other with Arie Eliav in the December 24 Nation and (a longer version) in the January-February issue of Worldview magazine. Both these Israelis are seasoned by experience. Peled was a major general in the Israeli armed forces and Eliav was secretary general in 1970 to 1972 of Israel’s then ruling Labor Party. But both, despite their past eminence, now that they are dissidents are in danger of being reduced to non-persons. They get little attention in the press and television.

How can wise solutions be reached, and the opportunity for peace rescued, when such dissident voices are hardly heard here above a whisper in what passes for debate on the Middle East? How can we talk of human rights and ignore them for the Palestinian Arabs? How can Israel talk of the Jewish right to a homeland and deny one to the Palestinians? How can there be peace without some measure of justice?


PART II: The Other Zionism


The main current of Zionism has always nourished itself on the illusion that the Jews were “a people without a land” returning to “a land without a people.” But there was from the beginning of the movement another Zionism, now almost forgotten, except by scholars, which was prepared, from the deepest ethical motives, to face up to the reality that Palestine was not an empty land but contained another and kindred people. They were a lonely handful then, and a lonelier one now, when the pendulum of power has swung to the far right, to the ultra-nationalists, with their old leader, Menachem Begin, in office.

Perhaps never more than now has this Other Zionism seemed more like a voice in the political wilderness, but the time may be coming when more and more Israelis and Jews will wish these voices had been heard, and when their message will take on renewed life and meaning if there is to be peace and Israel is to survive.

In their time, the spokesmen for this Other Zionism were not obscure and peripheral figures, but among the most resplendent names in the history of the Return. They were among the greatest of the thinkers and the pioneers who prepared the way for the reestablishment of Israel. One of them, Ahad Ha Am, was the foremost philosopher to take part in the rebirth of Hebrew as a living language in our time. Among these Other Zionists was his disciple, the San Francisco-born American rabbi Judah L. Magnes, who emigrated to Palestine in 1922. His monumental achievement was in establishing the Hebrew University in Jerusalem; he became its chancellor when it opened in 1925 and served as its first president until his death in 1948.

Ahad Ha Am, a Russian Jewish intellectual, played a role in obtaining the Balfour Declaration by which the British government pledged itself in 1917 to establish in Palestine “a national home for the Jewish people.” Ahad Ha Am was also one of the few in the Zionist movement who stressed the parallel obligation expressed in the Declaration, “that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.” Ahad Ha Am called himself a “cultural Zionist.” He wanted the political aims of Zionism limited, as his biography in the Encyclopaedia Judaica expresses it, by “consideration for the national rights of the Palestinian Arabs.” This was a note rarely if ever struck by the spokesmen for mainline Zionism. These regarded the pledge to the Palestinian Arabs as a kind of British imperialist trick and insisted on reading the Balfour Declaration as a promise not to create a Jewish national home in Palestine but to turn all Palestine into a Jewish state.

Four years after the Balfour Declaration was promulgated, Ahad Ha Am expanded his views on it in a preface to the Berlin edition of his book, At the Cross Ways. He wrote then that the historical right of the Jewish people to a national home in Palestine “does not invalidate the right of the rest of the land’s inhabitants.” He recognized that they have “a genuine right to the land due to generations of residence and work upon it.” For them “too,” Ahad Ha Am went on, “this country is a national home and they have the right to develop their national potentialities to the uttermost.” He felt that this “makes Palestine into a common possession of different peoples.”

This was why, Ahad Ha Am explained, the British government “promised to facilitate the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish people and not, as was proposed to it, the reconstruction of Palestine as the National Home for the Jewish people.” Ahad Ha Am said the purpose of the Balfour Declaration was two-fold: (1) to establish a Jewish National Home there, but (2) also to deny “any right to deprive the present inhabitants of their rights” and any intention “of making the Jewish people the sole ruler of the country.” [1]

Ahad Ha Am died in 1927. But his younger American disciple, Magnes, followed in his footsteps. He made a life-long effort to bring Arabs and Jews together, and to work for a bi-national state in which the national rights and aspirations of both peoples would be safeguarded by fundamental constitutional guarantees. In such a state the constitution, regardless of which was at any time the majority, would recognize two nations within the one state, with full rights to cultural autonomy, fostered by two official languages, Arabic and Hebrew.

The considerations that led Magnes all his life to espouse this view were movingly set forth in his address opening the Hebrew University in Jerusalem for its 1929-30 academic year. This old address reads with fresh meaning and pathos in the wake of the South Lebanese invasion and the use by the Israeli army of cluster bombs against the civilian population. “One of the greatest cultural duties of the Jewish people,” Magnes said then, “is the attempt to enter the Promised Land, not by means of conquest as Joshua, but through peaceful and cultural means, through hard work, sacrifices, love and with a decision not to do anything which cannot be justified before the world conscience.”

There was much of the same spirit in the writings and example of an earlier pioneer, A. D. Gordon, who died in 1922, the year Magnes first settled in Palestine. Gordon was a Tolstoyan Zionist who left his family in Russia in 1904 to live in Palestine. He believed that the Jews could reestablish a nation in Palestine only if they began to build it, literally, with their own hands. Though he was already forty-eight years of age when he emigrated, and a writer and philosopher hitherto unused to physical labor, he set out to live as he believed. “He worked,” says his biography in the Encyclopaedia Judaica, “as a manual laborer in the vineyards and orange groves of Petah Tikvah and Rishon le-Zion” - two of the oldest Jewish farming settlements in Palestine - “and, after 1912, in various villages in Galilee, suffering all the tribulations of the pioneers: malaria, unemployment, hunger and insecurity.” He lies buried near the villages among which he worked and I remember, on my first visit to Palestine in 1945, standing beside his grave under the willows in the rustic peace of the little cemetery outside Degania where the Jordan reemerges from the sea of Galilee. Gordon is perhaps the most inspiring single figure among all the early pioneers, and the younger people beside whom he worked felt his saintly quality.

Gordon was a secular mystic, a nationalist who was also a universalist. This is how he himself saw the mission of the nation he helped to resurrect. “We were the first to proclaim,” Gordon wrote of the Jews, “that man is created in the image of God. We must go further and say: the nation must be created in the image of God. Not because we are better than others, but because we have borne upon our shoulders and suffered all which calls for this. It is by paying the price of torments the like of which the world has never known” - the Holocaust was still beyond even his vision - “that we have won the right to be the first in this work of creation.”

In Gordon’s opinion the test, the crucial test, of the Jews would be their attitude toward the Arabs. “Our attitude toward them,” he wrote, “must be one of humanity, of moral courage which remains on the highest plane, even if the behavior of the other side is not all that is desired. Indeed,” he concluded, “their hostility is all the more reason for our humanity.”

Gordon’s approach was rather singular. In an age of socialism, nationalism, and skepticism, his first consideration was the redemption of the individual. He once wrote, “Our road leads to nature through the medium of physical labor.” Hence his has been called “the religion of labor.” He felt, as a biographer put it, that “God cannot be known, but he can be experienced and lived.” He felt that the transformation of society must begin with the transformation of the individual, and he rejected utilitarianism and Marxism. For Gordon, though a nationalist, the nation was “the intermediary between the individual and humanity as a whole.” In his view, “each and every nation must see itself as a unit responsible for the fate of humanity and for the attainment of universal justice.” From this it followed that “the relationship between the Jews and the Arabs in Palestine was important because if the Jews were to recreate their nation as a just nation this could not be done on the basis of injustice.” The Jews, in his view, had a right to return “to Palestine and become once again a part of it, but the Arabs were part of it, too.” [2] Gordon believed, as his biographer in the Encyclopaedia Judaica expresses it, that “a people incarnate humanity only to the extent to which it obeys the moral law.”

In this, Gordon saw eye to eye with the Prophets and with Ahad Ha Am. For Gordon, the Arab problem was central. He recognized that the Arabs were “a living nation, though not a free one” (he was writing in 1919, remember), and that like it or not they would be “partners with us in the political and social life” of the country. He saw Arab-Jewish relations as “a great moment” because “here we have the first lesson and the first practical exercise in the life of brotherhood between nations.” He saw this as an essential test “in every one of us,” that is, the Jews, “individually,” and concluded that “if we shall aim at being more human, more alive, we will find the correct relationships to man and the nations in general and to the Arabs in particular.” [3] The test of Jewish humanity was to be in the Jewish attitude toward the Arabs.

Nor did Gordon see this relationship purely in terms of mystic vision. He translated it into terms of the land ques-tion, fearing the coming dispossession of the Arab peasant.

In 1922, when drafting statues for the guidance of Zionist labor settlements, he included a provision long forgotten. “Wherever settlements are founded,” Gordon advised,

a specific share of the land must be assigned to the Arabs from the outset. The distribution of sites should be equita-ble so that not only the welfare of the Jewish settler but equally that of the resident Arabs will be safeguarded. The settlement has the moral obligation to assist the Arabs in any way it can. This is the only proper and fruitful way to establish good neighborly relations with the Arabs. [4]

This may have seemed quixotic at the time and soon became a dead letter, but it held the key to fraternity and peace. A similar message came from a very different sector of European Jewry, from the German-Jewish philosopher Martin Buber. He too was influenced by Ahad Ha Am. He became a Zionist as early as 1898, but for him Zionism was to be different from all other nationalisms. It was to be Der Heilige Weg, the Holy Way. This was the title of a book he published in 1919 in his native Germany. In it he espoused a “Hebrew humanism.” He too saw relations with the Arabs as crucial. In his writings he “emphasized” - as his biographer in the Encyclopaedia Judaica phrased it- “that Zionism should address itself to the needs of the Arabs.” He set forth the germ of the idea of a bi-national state as early as 1921, in a proposal to the Zionist Congress held that year. He wanted the Congress officially to proclaim “its desire to live in peace and brotherhood with the Arab people and to develop the common homeland into a republic in which both peoples will have the possibility of free development.”

After Hitler came to power in 1933, Buber stayed on in Germany for five terrifying years, as long as he could help maintain the morale of his fellow Jews. When the new regime closed the doors of German universities to “non-Aryans,” Buber helped to organize and became the head of a communal organization to provide higher education for German-Jewish youth. He made himself the focus of a spiritual resistance by traveling about the country, lecturing to the Jewish communities. In 1935, when the regime forbade him to speak at Jewish gatherings, he found a way through the Quakers to evade that order. The German Friends invited him to speak at their meetings, which were open to all, including Jews. This too was soon forbidden. In 1938 Buber emigrated to Palestine. There I once had the privilege of speaking with him after the war. He had the aura of a Hebrew prophet.

In Palestine Buber made the search for Arab-Jewish friendship one of his main concerns. Even after the out-break of the first Arab-Jewish war in 1948, Buber “called for a harnessing of nationalistic impulses and a solution based on compromise between the two peoples.” He was a close friend of Magnes’s and taught at the Hebrew University until his death in 1965. His lovely German style makes his works among the treasures of German literature, and he belongs to the Other Germany as well as to the Other Zionism.

One of the earliest figures in the Other Zionism was Moshe Smilansky (1874-1953). The son of a tenant farmer near Kiev in Russia, Smilansky emigrated to Palestine in 1890. He was active as a farmer, writer, and Zionist. He too was among the bi-nationalists. He opposed the movement to restrict employment in Jewish colonies and fields to Jewish labor. He had the distinction of being the first modern Hebrew writer to write about the Arabs among whom he settled. Under the pen name of Hawaja Mussa, he published amiable short stories about Arab life before World War I. These stories, “the first of their kind in Jewish literature,” says the Encyclopaedia Judaica, revealed “to the Jewish reader a new world - exotic, colorful, throbbing with its own rich humanity.”

A similar figure, out of that same pioneering generation, was the agronomist Hayim Kalwariski-Margolis, a warm and ebullient man, whom I met on my first visit to Palestine in 1945; his was the only Jewish home in which I encountered Arab intellectuals. By 1945 he had already spent fifty years in Palestine devoted to Jewish resettlement and Arab-Jewish friendship. After leaving his native village in Russian Poland, Kalwariski prepared himself for life in Palestine by studying agronomy in France at the University of Montpellier. Upon his graduation in 1895 he emigrated to the Holy Land. There he became a teacher at the new Mikve Israel Agricultural School, the first of its kind in Palestine.

Many of the earliest and most famous pre-World War I settlements in Galilee owe much to Kalwariski for their foundation and survival. To protect these colonies, Kalwariski helped to organize the legendary Ha-Shomer, the Jewish armed watchmen’s organization, from which the Haganah, the underground self-defense force of the Jewish community, ultimately developed. He also pioneered in the search for better relations with their Arab neighbors. He persuaded the Baron Edmond de Rothschild to establish a Hebrew-Arab school, the first of its kind, for the children of the Arab village of Ja’uni near the Jewish village of Rosh Pina in Galilee.

Kalwariski played a part in a whole series of attempts to establish amicable relations between the rising forces of Arab and Jewish nationalism. As early as 1913 he arranged meetings in Damascus and Beirut between the famous Zionist leader Nahum Sokolow and Arab nationalists. After World War I, King Feisal I, who had led the Arab revolt against the Turks, paid Kalwariski an unusual tribute. Kalwariski was invited by the newly crowned king in Damascus and the presidium of the All-Syrian Congress “to suggest proposals for the regulation of Jewish-Arab relations in Palestine.” In 1922 Kalwariski participated in Arab-Jewish negotiations in Cairo, which were discontinued “because of the opposition of the British government.” (Ernest Bevin, as foreign minister, similarly upset plans for a secret meeting in Cairo after World War II at which the Egyptians hoped to mediate the Arab-Jewish conflict in Palestine. Bevin aborted the meetings by threatening to make it public and so embarrass the Arab participants.)

In those years Kalwariski was not acting merely as an unauthorized Zionist heretic. He was one of the three Jewish members of the Arab-Jewish Advisory Council set up for Palestine by the first British High Commissioner, Sir Herbert Samuel, under the post-World War I British mandatory government of Palestine established by the League of Nations. Kalwariski also served on the executive of the Va’ad Le’umi, or National Council, which was a kind of unofficial governing body of the Palestinian Jewish com-munity between the two world wars. From 1923 to 1927 he directed the Office of Arab Affairs of the Zionist Executive. In 1929, after the Arab uprising in that year, he was appointed head of the combined office set up by the Jewish Agency and the Va’ad Le’umi to deal with Arab-Jewish tensions.

Kalwariski did not limit his activities to these official Zionist bodies. He was a leading figure in a series of mav-erick organizations established in the twenties, thirties, and forties to bring about Arab-Jewish reconciliation. These all, in one form or another, advocated a bi-national state. [5] Though these were all politically marginal movements, with little impact on majority opinion, they attracted many of the best minds and most illustrious intellectuals of the Jewish community. The earliest was the Berit Shalom (Covenant of Peace). It was formed in 1925 by such leading pioneers and intellectuals as Arthur Ruppin, Hans Kohn, Gershom Scholem-now the leading authority on Jewish mysticism-and Kalwariski. This was the first organization to call for the establishment of a bi-national state in Palestine and it was bitterly attacked by most of the Zionist parties, especially by the right-wing Revisionist Zionist party to which Prime Minister Begin belongs. Berit Shalom was attacked as “defeatist,” but the attacks, as is usual in controversy, evaded the point-

Berit Shalom had no ideology; bi-nationalism, they said, is not the ideal but the reality, and if this reality is not grasped Zionism will fail. They were not defeatists who were ready to make any concession for the achievement of peace, they simply realized that the Arabs were justified in fearing a Zionism which spoke in terms of a Jewish majority and a Jewish state. Their belief was that one need not be a maximalist, i.e., demand mass immigration and a state, to be a faithful Zionist.... What was vital was a recognition that both nations were in Palestine as of right. [6]

The Berit Shalom lasted until the early thirties. It was succeeded by three similar organizations: Kedma Mizrachi (Forward to the East) in the thirties; the League of Arab-Jewish Rapprochement, established in 1939; and then in 1942 by the last and most important bi-nationalist group, Thud, which means unity in Hebrew, and here denotes unity with the Arabs. Kalwariski played a leading role in all these organizations.

These Jewish bi-nationalist groups, as their Zionist adversaries derisively pointed out, rarely if ever attracted Arab support. But the League of Arab-Jewish Rapprochement achieved a breakthrough in 1946. It came in Haifa, one of the three major cities in Palestine. The scene was significant. It could not have come in Jerusalem, where Arabs and Jews lived apart, or in Tel Aviv, which was all Jewish. But in Haifa the two communities had over the years achieved a bi-national form of government which was a miniature of what a bi-national Palestine could have been. The two peoples rotated the municipal officies between them. When the mayor was an Arab, the vice mayor was a Jew, and vice versa. There in 1946 a leading Arab intellectual declared homself for a bi-national Palestine.

This maverick, Fauzi Darwish el-Husseini, was a member of the most influential Arab clan in Palestine, the Husseinis. He was a cousin of the Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin el-Husseini, the bitterest opponent of Zionism in his time. The Mufti went over to the Axis in World War II. But his cousin, at a public meeting in Haifa in 1946, expressed his readiness for Arab-Jewish cooperation. He said the obstacles were great but that there was a way. He called for an Arab-Jewish agreement, under the auspices of the United Nations, for a “bi-national independent Palestine,” which would in turn link itself by “an alliance with the Arab neighboring countries.” [7]

Fauzi amplified his views in a talk before an Arab-Jewish gathering in the home of Kalwariski a few days later. Fauzi said he had taken part in the Arab uprising of 1929 as a follower of his cousin, the Mufti, but had begun to realize “that this road has no purpose. Experience has proven,” Fauzi went on, “that the official policy of both sides brings only damage and suffering to both.” He said that in Palestine “the Jews and Arabs once lived in friendship and co-operation,” and added that “there are Jews and Arabs from the older generation who nursed from the same mother.” He said: “The imperialist policy plays with us both, with the Arabs and the Jews, and there is no other way except unity and working hand in hand.”

Fauzi el-Husseini stressed that the moderates must organize. “A club must be set up immediately in Jerusalem to acquire friends, to begin producing a written organ, to visit other cities for propaganda and making ties.” An Arab organization was formed called the Falastin al-Jedida (the New Palestine) and on November 11, 1946, five of its leading members signed an agreement with the League for Jewish-Arab Rapprochement and Cooperation. The two sides agreed to “full cooperation between the two nations in all fields on the basis of political equality between the two nations in Palestine as a means to obtaining the independence of the country ... and the joining of the shared and independent Palestine in an alliance with the neighboring countries in the future.” They even reached agreement on the thorniest problem of all-Jewish immigration. This was to be regulated “according to the absorptive capacity of the country.” [8]

But this at first promising beginning was brought to an end twelve days later when Fauzi Darwish el-Husseini was murdered by unknown Arab nationalists. Never before (or since) had a Palestinian Arab leader dared openly to negotiate with the Jews and sign an agreement with them. Another cousin, Jamal Husseini, a leader of the Arab anti-Zionists, was quoted in the Egyptian paper Akbar al Yom as saying a few days after Fauzi’s death, “My cousin stumbled and has received his proper punishment.” According to one informed source, all other Arabs who had joined with him “were murdered by Arab extremists, one after the other.” [9] How much agony could have been spared both peoples had Fauzi succeeded. Four Arab-Jewish wars would have been prevented. Who knows how many more will be fought before both sides see the inescapable choice between coexistence and mutual extinction?

Looking back, the basic problem between the two nationalisms was so acute that it would have been miraculous if the moderates had won out and resolved the issue peacefully. The basic question was Jewish immigration, which grew so rapidly after the rise of Hitler to power in 1933 that the Arabs feared - quite rightly, as it turned out -that they might soon be swamped and become a minority in what they regarded as their own land. They protested that they were being asked to pay the price for persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany and in Eastern Europe. But from the Zionist point of view, immigration with the rise of Hitler had become a life-or-death question for the Jewish people.

Even before World War II, it became clear that many millions of Jews - indeed the 6 million who died in the Holocaust - could be saved only by being moved out of Europe before Hitler unleashed the war. The case was stated with passionate eloquence and prophetic vision by the poet Vladimir Jabotinsky, founding father of the Revisionists, the extreme nationalist right wing of the Zionist movement, in his testimony in 1937 before the Royal Commission in London set up under the chairmanship of Lord Peel to investigate the Arab uprising of 1936. Jabotinsky, speaking more truly than he could have known, said the Jews in Central and Eastern Europe were “facing an elemental calamity, a kind of social earthquake.” Jabotinsky despaired of “really bringing before you a picture of what that Jewish hell looks like.” But, he said, “we have got to save millions.” The number might be “one-third of the Jewish race, half of the Jewish race, or a quarter of the Jewish race.” And he recognized that “if the process of evacuation is allowed to develop, as it ought to be allowed to develop, there will soon be reached a moment when the Jews will become a majority in Palestine.”

This, of course, is what the Arabs feared and this was the root cause of the Arab uprising that the Peel Commission was set up to investigate. “I have the profoundest feeling for the Arab case,” Jabotinsky told the commission. But, he added, “no tribunal has ever had the luck of trying a case where all the justice was on the side of one party and the other party had no case whatsoever.” He thought the determining consideration should be “the decisive terrible balance of Need.” He said there was no question of “ousting the Arabs,” but that Palestine “on both sides of the Jordan” could hold many millions more of both Jews and Arabs. He asked for a Jewish state, with rights of unlimited immigration, and argued that the Arabs already had several national states and soon were to have many more. [10] This, in substance, has remained the basic argument of the main-line Zionists to this day. The Palestinian Arabs, in effect, were to bear the burden of the crisis created by Hitler and the unwillingness of the western powers, including the United States, to open their doors in time to the doomed masses of European Jewry.

The majority elements in Zionism finally adopted the Jewish state demand of the right-wing revisionists in December 1942, at the Biltmore Conference in New York. Even then, as the article on the Biltmore Program in the Encyclopaedia of Zionism and Israel explains, “Non-Zionist groups such as the American Jewish Committee regarded the Biltmore Program as a victory for the ‘extreme’ Zionist position, since it called for an independent Jewish Palestine rather than the mere lifting of barriers to future Jewish immigration.” But only a Jewish state would allow un-limited immigration of Jews: this was the dilemma. At the time the Biltmore Program was adopted, the Holocaust was still a well-kept secret. The first leak to the outside world, according to Raul Hilberg’s monumental and heart-breaking account, The Destruction of the European Jews, [11] was picked up by a Swedish diplomat on the Warsaw-Berlin express from a talkative Nazi official in the summer of 1942. But his report was kept secret by his own government. The full dimensions of the catastrophe were not “even imagined,” Ms. Hattis writes of the Biltmore Conference; “and most Zionists were thinking and speaking in terms of millions of Jewish refugees after the war.”[12]

Even so, resistance to a Jewish state was still a powerful undercurrent in the movement. The vote at the Biltmore was 21 to 4 for the new program. The four negative votes were cast by Hashomer Hatzair, the Marxist Zionists, who called instead for a bi-nationalist Palestine. They argued that the alternative to bi-nationalism would be partition, and partition would mean war with the Arabs. Events soon proved they were right.

Four months before the Biltmore Conference, a group of Zionist dissidents, among them two American Jews, Judah Magnes and Henrietta Szold, organized Ihud (Unity), an organization to establish friendly contact with the Arabs and work for a bi-national solution. Magnes testified for Ihud in 1947 before the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine in favor of a bi-national state. After the United Nations had voted for the partition of Palestine between an Arab and a Jewish state, with economic and other links between them, Magnes pressed for the establishment of a Semitic Confederation, including Israel, as a means of preventing the war he saw would result. Again, he was unsuccessful. With the 1948 war and the establishment of a Jewish state, the bi-national movement came to an end; but not the Other Zionism, which continued to struggle for justice to the Arabs in Israel, as later in the occupied territories, and for Arab-Jewish reconciliation.

Of the Other Zionist pioneers, Smilansky lived to make a last passionate cry for justice to the Arabs shortly before he died in 1953. The occasion was the passage by the Knesset of the Land Requisition Law of 1953, which legal-ized the expropriation of Arab lands. He wrote:

When we came back to our country after having been evicted 2,000 years ago, we called ourselves “daring” and we rightly complained before the whole world that the gates of the country were shut. And now when they [Arab refugees] dared to return to their country where they lived for 1,000 years before they were evicted or fled, they are called “infiltrees” and shot in cold blood. Where are you, Jews? Why do we not at least, with a generous hand, pay compensation to these miserable people? ... And do we sin only against the refugees? Do we not treat the Arabs who remain with us as second-class citizens? ... Did a single Jewish farmer raise his hand in the parliament in opposition to a law that deprived Arab peasants of their land? ... How does it sit solitary, in the city of Jerusalem, the Jewish conscience?

Yet the center of moral gravity in the Zionist movement has moved steadily rightward. It is hard to find any trace of that prophetic ethic and that compassion in Prime Minister Begin. He symbolizes what Hans Kohn, another of the early bi-nationalists and a noted historian of nationalism, once called the moral “ ‘double-bookkeeping’ which is so widely accepted in modern nationalism everywhere-a twofold scale of moral judgment, defining the same action as right for oneself but wrong in the neighbor.” [13]

Nothing could point up more the contrast between the Smilansky view and Begin’s than a footnote Begin appended to his story of the Deir Yassin massacre in his book The Revolt: Story of the Irgun. Begin defends the way the Irgun wiped out the Arab village of Deir Yassin near Jerusalem in the 1948 war as a military necessity. He even claims that the Irgun sacrificed the element of surprise to warn the villagers the attack was coming. But in a footnote he notes with undisguised satisfaction that the “wild tales of Irgun butchery” that resulted were so terrifying that Arabs throughout Palestine “were seized with limitless panic and started to flee for their lives. This mass flight soon turned into a mad, uncontrollable stampede. Of the about 800,000 Arabs who lived on the present territory of the state of Israel, only some 165,000 are still living there. The political and economic significance of this development can hardly be overestimated.” [14] Neither can Begin’s cold-blooded nationalistic calculation.

There is no greater, more fundamental and longstanding threat to Israel’s survival than such an attitude toward the Arabs among whom the Israelis must find a way to live. Despite the changes wrought by thirty years of development and four wars, it is remarkable how little the situation has altered since the days when the Other Zionism was still pleading for a bi-nationalist solution. The choice is still either a life in common or a partitioned Palestine. Nothing could more dramatically demonstrate that the same old choice is inescapable than Begin’s conduct in office. Though the government he heads controls all of Palestine west of the Jordan, he will not declare the occupied territories part of Israel, lest he thereby transform the present Jewish state into an Arab-Jewish state in which the Arabs might be, or soon become, the majority. Begin is equally unwilling to accept the only just alternative: to allow the Palestinians to build a life of their own in the so-called occupied territories. The Arabs fear that he plans instead to encroach on the land left them by expanding Jewish settlements and gradually force more Arabs to emigrate. No matter which the choice, the two peoples must live together, either in the same Palestinian state or side by side in two Palestinian states. But either solution requires a revival of the Other Zionism, a recognition that two peoples -not one occupy the same land and have the same rights. This is the path to reconciliation and reconciliation alone can guarantee Israel’s survival. Israel can exhaust itself in new wars. It can commit suicide. It can pull down the pillars on itself and its neighbors. But it can live only by reviving that spirit of fraternity and justice and conciliation that the Prophets preached and the Other Zionism sought to apply. To go back and study the Other Zionism is, for dissidents like myself, to draw comfort in loneliness, to discover fresh sources of moral strength, and to find the secret of Israel’s survival.




About the Author

I. F. Stone has become famous as a political analyst and reporter who has combined rare investigative ability with an outspoken commitment to principle and justice. He was born in Philadelphia in 1907, studied at the University of Pennsylvania, and launched his first publication in Haddonfield, New Jersey, at the age of fourteen. He has been a reporter, editorial writer, and columnist on the Philadelphia Record, Philadelphia Inquirer, New York Post, PM, New York Star, and New York Daily Compass; served as associate editor and Washington editor of The Nation; and was a contributing editor to the New York Review of Books. Between 1953 and 1971, he wrote and published his incomparable one-man newsletter, I. F. Stone’s Weekly, which became the subject of a film. Recipient of numerous honorary degrees as well as L.I.U.’s George Polk Memorial Award and Columbia University’s Journalism Award, he is the author of a dozen books and, since 1975, Distinguished Scholar in residence at American University.

I. F. Stone died June 18, 1989.




Footnotes

1. From an English translation by Judah L. Magnes in his own book, Like All the Nations?, published in Jerusalem in 1930, p. 65.

2. Gordon, as summarized by Susan Lee Hattis in her doctoral thesis at the University of Geneva, The Bi-National Idea in Palestine During Mandatory Times ( Jerusalem : Shikmona Publishing Company, 1970 ).

3. Translated from the Hebrew by Hattis, op. cit., from pp. 242 and 245 of the volume on The Nation and Work , in the Collected Works of Aharon David Gordon (Jerusalem : Zionist Publications, 1952-4 ).

4. Quoted from Studies in Nationalism, Judaism and Universalism, edited by Raphael Loewe ( London : Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1966 ).

5. I want to acknowledge my debt to Ms. Hattis and to recommend her book, already cited, for those who wish a fuller understanding of the bi-national movement. The book is the only one of its kind and it is written with a sympathetic and compassionate objectivity.

6. Hattis, op. cit., p. 46

7. From the text as printed July 25, 1946, in the Hebrew daily Al Ha Misbmar, organ of then bi-nationalist Hashomer Hatzair wing of the Zionist movement; translated at p. 303 of Hattis, op. cit.

8. This and preceding quotation were taken by Hattis from pp. 330 and 328 of Aharon Cohen’s Israel and the Arab World, Sifriyat Poalim, Israel-the publishing house of the Kibbutz Haartzi section of the Zionist movement, which was bi-nationalist until 1948.

9. Quoted in Norman Bentwich’s article on Ihud in the Encyclopaedia of Zionism and Israel. Bentwich was at one time attorney general of the British mandatory government of Palestine, and sympathetic to the bi-nationalists. But his statement that Fauzi and his group were actually members of Ihud is not confirmed in Ms. Hattis’s book.

10. The full text of his moving appeal may be found in Arthur Hertzberg’s The Zionist Idea (New York: Atheneum Publishers, 1969 ).

11. (Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1961 ), p. 622

12. Op. cit., pp 249-50

13. This quotation and the quotation from Smilansky are taken from an article on “Zion and the Jewish National Idea” by Hans Kohn, published in 1958 in the Menorah Journal, now defunct but once the leading journal of Jewish culture in America.

14. The Revolt (New York: Henry Schuman, 1951 ), p.164.




Published in the 1978 re-issue of I.F. Stone's 1946 book Underground to Palestine. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1978). The original 1946 Epilogue to Underground to Palestine is also online.

 

 

Subject Headings