Saturday, April 29, 2023

As part of our launch on Substack, we’re thrilled to share this fascinating guest essay from the political theorist David Polansky. This piece, like everything we publish, aims to explore the sources of our deepest differences—and the example of Israel, past and present, illustrates these tensions powerfully. In case you missed them, earlier this week, we published Damir’s Monday Note on learning to love democracy as well as a spirited debate between myself and Damir on what makes “the people.”

Now on to David Polansky on what makes the nation. We’d love to hear your thoughts, so please join us in the comments to continue the conversation.

—Shadi Hamid 

Everything below deleted, including my typos and his reply to me. He did the same thing on twitter years ago, deleting his half of a long exchange, about his stupid book. Islam is secularizing as Judaism did, through the transfer of juridical methods from religious texts to secular. Secularizing protestantism by comparison transferred faith, and the result is delusion.

He has a point about the first comment. It was long. 
It would be an excellent idea to call in respectable, accredited anti-Semites as liquidators of property.
To the people they would vouch for the fact that we do not wish to bring about the impoverishment of the countries that we leave.
At first they must not be given large fees for this; otherwise we shall spoil our instruments and make them despicable as "stooges of the Jews."
Later their fees will increase, and in the end we shall have only Gentile officials in the countries from which we have emigrated.
The anti-Semites will become our most dependable friends, the anti-Semitic countries our allies.
We want to emigrate as respected people. [p.84]
Mr. Cecil Rhodes:
For some months mutual friends have been trying on my behalf to arrange a meeting between us. At the moment, however, I am so inordinately busy that it would hardly be possible for me to come to London, unless I knew in advance that you took a serious interest in the matter. This, to be sure, would be a sufficiently strong reason to travel, for I need you. In fact, all things considered, you are the only man who can help me now. Of course, I am not concealing from myself the fact that you are not likely to do so. The probability is perhaps one in a million, if this can be expressed in figures at all.
But it is a big—some say, too big—thing. To me it does not seem too big for Cecil Rhodes. This sounds like flattery; however, it does not reside in the words, but in the offer. If you participate, then you are the man. If you don’t, then I have simply made a mistake.
You are being invited to help make history. That cannot frighten you, nor will you laugh at it. It is not in your accustomed line; it doesn’t involve Africa, but a piece of Asia Minor, not Englishmen, but Jews.
But had this been on your path, you would have done it yourself by now.

How, then, do I happen to turn to you, since this is an out-of-the-way matter for you? How indeed? Because it is something colonial, and because it presupposes understanding of a development which will take twenty or thirty years. There are visionaries who look past greater spaces of time, but they lack a practical sense. Then again there are practical people, like the trust magnates in America, but they lack political imagination. But you, Mr. Rhodes, are a visionary politician or a practical visionary. You have already demonstrated this. And what I want you to do is not to give me or lend me a few guineas, but to put the stamp of your authority on the Zionist plan and to make the following declaration to a few people who swear by you: I, Rhodes, have examined this plan and found it correct and practicable. It is a plan full of culture, excellent for the group of people for whom it is directly designed, not detrimental to the general progress of mankind, and quite good for England, for Greater Britain. If you and your associates supply the requested financial aid for this, you will, in addition to these satisfactions, have the satisfaction of making a good profit. For what is being asked for is money. 
What is the plan? What is the plan? To settle Palestine with the homecoming Jewish people.[p.1194]

The Zionist Federation of Germany Addresses The New German State (1933)

The emancipation of the Jews, begun at the end of the 18th, beginning of the 19th century, was based on the idea that the Jewish question could be solved by having the nation-state absorb the Jews living in its midst. This view, deriving from the ideas of the French Revolution, discerned only the individual, the single human being freely suspended in space, without regarding the ties of blood and history or spiritual distinctiveness. Accordingly, the liberal state demanded of the Jew, assimilation into the non-Jewish environment. Baptism and mixed marriage were encouraged in political and economic life. Thus it happened that innumerable persons of Jewish origin had the chance to occupy important positions and to come forward as representatives of German culture and German life, without having their belonging to Jewry become visible.

Thus arose a state of affairs which in political discussion today is termed "debasement of Germandom" or "Jewification."

NYT March 20, 1947 

Whatever the degree of their superiority complex, however, the Jews are certainly confident of their ability to bring the Arabs to terms—by persuasion if possible, by might if necessary. The program of the largest terrorist group, the Irgun Zvai Leurni, is to evacuate the British forces from Palestine and declare a Zionist state west of the Jordan, and "we will take care of the Arabs."

Yerachmiel Kahanovich 

Haaretz: How Israel Went From Atheist Zionism to Jewish State
For example, in 1918, Ben-Gurion – the future founder of the state – was convinced, as were many others, that most of the population of the Land of Israel had not been exiled, but converted to Islam with the Arab conquest, and therefore was clearly Jewish in origin.

In 1948, he had already given up on this confused and dangerous idea, and instead asserted that the Jewish people had been exiled by force and had wandered in isolation for 2,000 years. 
As to his own religious bellefs, Mr. Ben-Gurion replied:
"I believe—l am certain-there is a God. I believe that matter and spirit are the same thing—which really means pantheism. There are many Jews who are pantheists. As far as I know. Spinoza was a pantheist.

"this confused and dangerous idea" 

I'll add something that I was sure I'd linked before, but I guess I did that mostly in comments elsewhere years ago.

Jerry Haber 

"In A.D. 70, and again in 135, the Roman Empire brutally put down Jewish revolts in Judea, destroying Jerusalem, killing hundreds of thousands of Jews and sending hundreds of thousands more into slavery and exile."

Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post, May 5, 2006

"Well, now: We were expelled from the land and taken into captivity in the year 70 of the Common Era."

Leonard Fein, The Jewish Daily Forward, May 11, 2007–07–23

"After Bar Kochba…Jewish emigration, a more or less permanent feature of ancient Palestinian demography, now assumed alarming proportions."

Salo Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews (New York/Philadelphia, 1952), vol. 2, pp. 122-3.

Despite their ideological differences, what unites columnists like Charles Krauthammer and Leonard Fein, and what distinguishes them from Salo Baron,the greatest historian of the Jews in the twentieth century, is inter alia their acceptance of the myth that the Jews were forcibly expelled from the Land of Israel, and taken into captivity by the Romans. To this day, most lay people, Jews and non-Jews, accept the myth of the exile, whereas no historian, Jew or non-Jew, takes it seriously.

This post will look at the disconnect between popular and scholarly belief and try to examine the origin of the myth several centuries after the event occurred. I will follow pretty closely the first part of a comprehensive article on the subject by Hebrew University professor, Yisrael Yuval, which is available here. Because this article is under copyright, I can’t quote more than a few passages, and so I will just be paraphrasing him. But I urge you to read the article, especially his copious footnotes.

The myth was not invented by the Zionists, although it was greatly used by them, in part, to justify the return of the Jews to their ancestral homeland. For the tacit assumption of the Zionists was that if the Jews had left the land willingly, if they had merely “emigrated” because they found opportunities beckoning in the Diaspora, then they would have betrayed their allegiance to the land, and their return would have been less justified. That is one of the reasons why Zionists argued for years that the Palestinians left Palestine of their own free will – if they were forcibly expelled, then somehow their claim to the land would be stronger. Of course, the putative expulsion by the Romans was not the only claim of the Jewish people to the land – many peoples have been exiled from their lands, and the Zionists were not claiming that all of them had a right to return -- but it dovetailed nicely with the historical view of the wandering Jew that finds no rest outside of his native place from which he was expelled.

The first point to make is that well before the revolt against Rome in 66-70 c.e., there were Jewish communities outside Palestine, most notably in Babylonia and in Egypt, but elsewhere as well. References to the dispersal of the Jewish people throughout the civilized world are found in the book of Esther, Josephus, and Philo. There is no indication that these communities were small, satellite communities.

Second, there is no contemporary evidence – i.e., 1st and 2nd centuries c.e. – that anything like an exile took place. The Romans put down two Jewish revolts in 66-70 c.e. and in 132-135 c.e. According to Josephus, the rebels were killed, and many of the Jews died of hunger. Some prisoners were sent to Rome, and others were sold in Libya. But nowhere does Josephus speak of Jews being taken into exile. As we shall see below, there is much evidence to the contrary. There was always Jewish emigration from the Land of Israel, as the quote above from Baron indicates.

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