Tuesday, 13 October 2020

If SOAS Cares For Its Reputation It Should Send Racist Professor Hezser, Head of the Jewish Studies Centre, on an Unpaid Vacation to learn what Zionism means for the Palestinians

According to Hezser’s article in the Jewish Chronicle she is bewildered where the ‘erroneous and simplistic equation’ between Zionism & Colonialism comes from

According to the Head of SOAS’s Jewish Studies Centre, Junk Professor Hezser, Israel’s military rule and occupation of the West Bank is merely a ‘continuation of a forcefully interrupted 3,000-year old Jewish history in the Middle East.’

Let us leave aside the fact, as Tel Aviv University Professor Shlomo Sand has shown in The Myth of the Jewish Nation that there never was a Jewish exile from Palestine. The idea that rights deriving from where one’s ancestors lived 3,000 years ago trumping those who live there today is a product of Western Colonialism and Orientalism. The same myths of a 1,000 year Reich justified Hitler’s colonisation of  Eastern Europe and the expulsion of its inhabitants.

Catherine Hezser's racist article in the Jewish Chronicle - she purports to be surprised that students see Israel as a product of European colonialism

But in reality not even this is true. Jews from Europe and America had no physical connection whatsoever with Palestine or Israel.  Their only claim is that they profess a religion whose centre is Jerusalem. That does not confer any material rights over those living there.

The Jews who left Judea and Palestine over 2,000 years ago did so because the land would not support them. Palestine saw many peoples, among whom were the Hebrews, wander over the area. The idea that this gives people who are Jewish and living in London the right to displace the indigenous population is a fascist idea.  SOAS should not be in the business of propagating racial myths.

2,000 years ago a million Jews were living in Alexandria alone as well as other Hellenised cities such as Antioch and Seleucia. According to Jewish historian Salo Baron there was an explosion of Jews in the Middle East at the time owing to massive proselytising. He suggests there were 8 million Jews living in the Middle East. Sand suggests half that number. The Jews, like the Phoenicians before them, became a trading people.

David Feldman, based at Birkbeck College next door to SOAS, is Director of the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism

The pastoralist Jews who remained in Palestine after the destruction of the second temple either converted to Christianity or remained speaking Aramaic. With the Arab invasion they largely converted to Islam whilst continuing to speak Aramaic, a biblical form of Hebrew.

The irony, as Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben Gurion and its second President Yitzhak ben Zvi accepted, is that the Palestinians, not the Jewish settlers, are the descendants of the ancient Hebrews. [see e.g. Dov Ivri’s Most Palestinians Are Descendants Of Jews]. Ben Gurion even sent Moshe Dayan with a rabbi to convert the Bedouin!

Smiling on an occupation that imprisons and tortures children, keeps Palestinians short of water and steals their land - all in the name of 3,000 years of 'Jewish history'

In Jewish-Roots Arabs in Israel in the far-Right settler news agency Arutz Sheva, Tzvi MiSinai claimed that ‘Up to 85 percent of Arabs in greater Israel stem from Jewish ancestors, it is estimated’. The article describes how

‘One Arab says his father told him the secret of his family’s Jewishness on his deathbed, while another one, on the backdrop of a photo of the saintly Cabalistic sage Rabbi Abuchatzeira on his wall, says their roots have been known in his family for generations. Wrapping what apparently used to be kosher tefillin on his arm, he says, “My father used to do this, and he taught us to do it whenever someone was sick or in trouble.”

The myth of a Jewish ‘exile’ from Palestine and the idea of their ‘return’ is a Christian racial myth born of colonialism’s desire to establish a friendly settler state adjacent to the Suez Canal. That is why the first western Zionists were Evangelical Christians like Lord Palmerstone and Shaftesbury and also why the vast majority of western Jews were hostile to Zionism when it began.  Because if Jews belonged in Palestine they didn’t belong in England.

SOAS - founded to train colonial administrators has never shaken off racists such as Catherine Hezser

Yet according to Hezser, the right of Brooklyn bible basher to ‘return’ and steal the land is superior to that of indigenous Palestinians who have lived in Palestine for hundreds of years. The ‘right of return’ of Jews who’ve never  lived or even been to Israel trumps that of the indigenous population according to Hezser.

SOAS’s Jewish Studies Centre is nothing of the sort.  It is an Israeli propaganda institute. It is clear looking at its luminaries that there is no place for the third of Anglo-Jewry who don’t call themselves Zionists. It is equally clear that Hezser is unconcerned about the rich tapestry of Jewish life in the Diaspora. Racial myths of Jewish kingdoms only trump the rights of those who are suffering under Israeli apartheid in the minds of racist academics like Catherine Hezser.

SOAS was founded in 1916, a year before the Balfour Declaration, to train a generation of colonial administrators in the skills necessary to administer the British Empire.  Although it is now known as one of Britain’s more radical universities there are still some who look longingly at its former role.

I have written before about the Zionist attempt to control the narrative in higher education institutions.  At Sussex University a Propaganda Chair in Israel Studies was set up in 2012, named after Yossi Harel. It was funded by George Weidenfeld, the right-wing Zionist publisher who admitted that his motive was the fight against anti-Zionism and ‘antisemitism.’ As Electronic Intifada asked at the time

What is the real agenda behind the teaching of Israel studies in Western universities? While its leading advocates profess a commitment to “rigorous academic scholarship,” the subject cannot be considered politically neutral. The idea for these studies was conceived because of a perception among Israel’s supporters that some US-based professors were too sympathetic towards Palestinians.

In Nazi Germany there were Chairs in Racial Anthropology, a wholly bogus science. Today there are departments in Israel Studies, often masquerading as Jewish Studies, whose purpose is entirely political.

Whilst Catherine Hezser works in a Jewish not Israel Studies Department the suspicion must be that this department is flying under false colours. It clearly treats being Jewish as synonymous with being a Zionist which is itself a form of anti-Semitism. What is obvious is that Hezser doesn’t understand the difference. She is unsuited to running a car boot sale let alone an academic department.

Yale Pulled the Plug on Bogus 'Antisemitism' Institute

In 2011 Yale University closed the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism because it lacked academic rigour. Despite the outcry even Robert Wistrich, the director of the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University agreed with the decision. However America’s Zionists jumped up and down.

Denying the Undeniable – The Link Between Zionism and Colonialism

I must confess that I had to rub my eyes when I first read Hezser’s article, where she wrote:

In their essays, students often associate Zionism with European colonialism, presenting the State of Israel as the outcome of a European colonial takeover of Palestinian territory. I always wonder where this erroneous and simplistic equation comes from.

If Hezser seriously believes that there is no association between Zionism and European colonialism then she is clearly unfit to be head of department.

The history of Zionism is quite clear. The Zionist movement sought the sponsorship of an imperialist partner from its very beginning in the late 19th century. The whole of the life of Theodor Herzl, the founder of Political Zionism, was devoted to such a search. He journeyed to Czarist Russia, 3 months after the notorious Kishinev pogroms of  April 1903 to seek an audience with von Plehve, the Interior Minister who organised and financed the Black Hundreds pogromists responsible for the death of thousands of Jews. Herzl begged him:

Help me to reach land sooner and the revolt will end. And so will the defection to the Socialists.

This can be found in the Diaries of Theodor Herzl, p. 1,526.  It would appear that Hezser is unaware of this obvious primary source of information on the beginnings of Zionism.

Herzl was excoriated for his behaviour towards Plehve. The pogroms drove two and a half million Jews from Russia to the shores of America and Britain. Herzl’s servile behaviour towards the Czarist regime, in which he pledged that the Zionist movement would offer no criticism of the Czarist regime (he kept his word) prefigured similar behaviour towards the Nazi state.

Herzl visited the leaders of Europe, from the Pope to Kaiser Wilhelm II, the Italian King Victor Emmanuel and the Ottoman Sultan seeking an imperial sponsor. Herzl wrote in his Diaries (p.118) that the Grand Duke of Baden, the Kaiser’s uncle

took my project for building a state with the utmost earnestness. His chief misgiving was that if he supported the cause, people might accuse him of anti-Semitism’

When Zionism first arose its fiercest opponents were Jews. The anti-Semites were telling Jews to get out and the Zionists were saying ‘we agree’. As Professor Francis Nicosia, Professor of Holocaust Studies at Vermont University wrote

‘whereas today non-Jewish criticism of Zionism or the State of Israel are often dismissed as motivated by a deeper anti-Semitism, in Herzl’s day an opposite non-Jewish reaction, one of support for the Zionist idea, might have resulted in a similar reaction. [Zionism and Anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany (p.7)

Although Nicosia is a Zionist he is also an honest, well respected academic. Hezser isn’t so much an academic as a cheap ideologically driven propagandist.

Historically the main supporters of Zionism have been anti-Semites. Zionism was a means of being rid of their Jews. Even today anti-Semites like Donald Trump, Steve Bannon or Tommy Robinson are gushing in their support of Israel and Zionism.

For example William Stanley Shaw, President of the British Brothers League, a proto-fascist anti-Semitic group formed in London’s East End in 1901 to oppose the immigration of Russian Jews to Britain, wrote in a letter to the Jewish Chronicle : (8.11.01)

I am a firm believer in the Zionist movement, which the British Brothers League will do much incidentally to foster. The return of the Jews to Palestine is one of the most striking signs of the times…. All students of prophecy are watching the manifold signs of the times with almost breathless interest

Other anti-Semitic supporters of Zionism in its early years included the leader of the anti-Dreyfussards in France, Edouard Drumont. One of the principal supporters of Zionism in Britain was Arthur J Balfour. In 1905 Balfour as Prime Minister introduced into the House of Commons the Aliens Act designed to keep Jewish refugees out of Britain. Balfour didn’t much like Jews but he loved Zionism.

Balfour was known as ‘Bloody Balfour’ after the death of 3 people when Police opened fire on a political protest in Mitchelstown, County Cork. In a debate in Parliament in 1906 Balfour defended refusing to give the vote to Black people in South Africa.

‘We have to face the facts, Men are not born equal, the white and black races are not born with equal capacities: they are born with different capacities which education cannot and will not change.

Chaim Weizmann, Israel’s first President described a conversation he had with Balfour on 12 December 1914. Balfour told him of a conversation he once had with Cosima Wagner, the anti-Semitic widow of Richard Wagner. Balfour explained that ‘he shared many of her anti-Semitic postulates.’ Instead of protesting Weizmann

pointed out that we, too… had drawn attention to the fact that Germans of the Mosaic persuasion were an undesirable and demoralizing phenomenon…[Leonard Stein, The Balfour Declaration p.154].

Contrary to Hezser’s belief that there is a 3,000 year racial link between Jews and the Hebrew tribesman wandering around the land of Canaan, the reception for Political Zionism among Jews was anything but warm. The only member of Lloyd George’s War Cabinet to oppose the Balfour Declaration was its sole Jewish member, Sir Edwin Montagu, who wrote a memo to fellow members ‘on the Anti-Semitism of the Present (British) Government’.

It is no more true to say that a Jewish Englishman and a Jewish Moor are of the same nation than it is to say that a Christian Englishman and a Christian Frenchman are of the same nation https://tinyurl.com/yxpopr9b

The same sentiments were expressed by the Central Conference of American Rabbis in the Pittsburgh Declaration of 1885.

“We consider ourselves no longer a nation but a religious community, and therefore expect neither a return to Palestine... nor the restoration of any of the laws concerning the Jewish state.”  [Alan Taylor, Zionism and Jewish History, Journal of Palestinian Studies, Winter 1972,  p.41]

All of this is well known yet Hezser in her article complaints that ‘Judaism is reduced to a religion and often referred to as a “faith” by students.’ She calls this a ‘Christianising approach to Judaism (which) contributes to the Eurocentric view of Zionism as a form of European colonialism.’

Zionism formed an alliance with British imperialism in 1917 and the Palestine Mandate was created in 1920 (formally in 1922). To deny such obvious facts demonstrates that Hezser does not belong in an academic institution.

Herzl wrote to Cecil (above) asking for support because Zionism is 'something colonial'

At almost the same time as Britain’s Palestine Mandate began (1922) there occurred the Partition of Ireland (1921). The criminals and thugs of the Black and Tans, who had fought against Irish Republicans, were then transplanted to Palestine. None of this is relevant in Hefzer’s blinkered and racist myopia.

Quoting Aidan Beatty Hezser speaks of the “long and oddly intertwined history” of Irish nationalism and the Zionist movement. Total nonsense. There was a certain admiration for physical force Republicanism by Lehi, a Zionist terror group which proposed an alliance with the Nazis against the British (something that today’s Zionists keep quiet about) but Irish Republicanism was a movement of the left not right. What Beatty, in a very poor article, refers to as the attempted seduction of De Valera, was an approach by some Zionist stalwarts to the leader of the Free State in Dublin. By this time De Valera did not represent the Republican movement but was an opponent of it.

I am not faulting Hezser for knowing as little about Irish history as she does about Zionism and Jewish history. But it is well known that Irish Republicanism, as Beatty points out, since The Troubles began in 1969, have supported the Palestinians.  As Britain’s first Military Governor of Jerusalem, Sir Ronald Storres wrote the Zionist project was ‘a ‘little loyal Ulster in a sea of hostile pan Arabism.’ (Orientations)

If there is any doubt that Zionism saw itself as a colonial movement then we can go to Herzl’s Diaries again.

The founder of Political Zionism, Theodor Herzl, in his letter to Cecil Rhodes had no doubt that Zionism was 'something colonial'

No one doubts that Cecil Rhodes, the Prime Minister of Cape Colony from 1890-1896 after whom Rhodesia was named was a colonialist.  On January 11th Herzl wrote him a begging letter in which he said:

“You are being invited to help make history...it doesn’t involve Africa, but a piece of Asia Minor; not Englishmen but Jews… 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… I want you ... 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, and quite good for England, for Greater Britain…."

If Ms Hezser seriously wonders where the association between Zionism and colonialism comes from she should not be teaching at SOAS. Given her doctrinaire view of history, based on racial myth not serious study, she should not be an academic.

Extract from Ben Gurion's Rebirth & Destiny speaks about colonisation

There is no doubt that Zionists saw Zionism as a colonial project. David Ben Gurion’s Rebirth & Destiny refers repeatedly to ‘colonization’ and ‘colonies’. This of course was before the era of national liberation movements when colonialism became a dirty word.

Jabotinsky, the founder of Netanyahu's Revisionist Zionism had no doubts that Zionism was the same as colonialism

There is also the famous essay of Vladimir Jabotinsky, the inspiration for Likud, The Iron Wall, which appeared in Razsviet:

My readers have a general idea of the history of colonisation in other countries. I suggest that they consider all the precedents with which they are acquainted, and see whether there is one solitary instance of any colonisation being carried on with the consent of the native population. There is no such precedent. The native populations, civilised or uncivilised, have always stubbornly resisted the colonists, irrespective of whether they were civilised or savage.

For the benefit of Hezser, the text of The Iron Wall can be found on the website of the Jewish Virtual Library.

I don’t intend to devote much time to Hezser’s worthless article in the Jewish Chronicle. Suffice to say, she:

i.                   Fails to understand the difference between the ancient Roman, Byzantine and Greek empires and the modern European empires.  Just let us say that the mode of production, feudalism rather than capitalism, meant that there was no comparison with the extraction of surplus value and resources.  Ancient empires were not settler colonial empires they were intended for plunder not the export of capital. The colonists merged with the natives over time rather than setting up apartheid structures.

ii.                 Hezser’s talk of a ‘forcefully interrupted 3,000-year old Jewish history in the Middle East.’ is a projecting back into history of Zionist fables and her own fantasies. European Jews had nothing to do with Palestine. When 2.5 million Russian Jews fled the pogroms just 1% went to Palestine, the other 99% went to the United States and Britain. Jews no more thought of Palestine as their home than Kenya.

iii.              The Jewish religion was centred on Jerusalem but that was a religious/spiritual orientation. It had no political significance. That was why when the Zionists first colonised Palestine they did it in opposition to the Jews living there. Since Hezser has such difficulty finding sources I suggest that she reads Weizmann’s Trial and Error which speaks of the Old Yishuv, which was anti-Zionist.

iv.              Hezser speaks of the ‘liberation of Palestine from the British’. This is ahistorical nonsense.  Zionism formed an alliance with British imperialism from 1917 onwards. Its settler formation grew under the protection of British bayonets. It fought alongside and was armed by the British when they fought the Arab Uprising from 1936-39 in just the same as the Ulster Protestants were armed and trained by the British.

v.                 It is true that the Zionist militias came into conflict with the British and fought them from 1945 onwards but how is this different from the two Boer wars that the Afrikaaners fought against the British? There always comes a time when the settlers rebel against the mother country but this was not a war of liberation, at least not in the eyes of South Africa’s Black people.

vi.              Hezser speaks of a history that includes Jewish communities in Syria, Egypt, and Persia. There were Jewish communities all over the Middle East but it they never saw a need to uproot and go to Palestine. The oldest Jewish community in the world was in Iraq, some 2,500 years old.  The Babylonian Talmud is more authoritative than the Jerusalem version.

Extracts from Ben Gurion's Rebirth & Destiny Speak About Colonisation not National Liberation

vii.            The Zionist movement sought to destroy and uproot the Arab Jewish communities and transplant them to Israel as a substitute working class for the Palestinians whom they’d just expelled.  Their methods included planting bombs in Baghdad to simulate anti-Semitism.

viii.         From the start of the Zionist project the Ashkenazi Jews saw Yemenite Jews as inferior and a source of physical labour. There was and is the ongoing scandal in Israel of the theft at birth of thousands of mainly Yemenite babies by white Europe Jewish settlers.

ix.              The Zionist attitude to the Yemenite Jews was as racist as the Whites in South Africa. Arthur Ruppin, the most important figure in pre-state Zionist history, believed that racial differences within the Jewish people was crucial. The main body of Jewish settlers in Palestine had to come from the Ashkenazi Jews of Eastern Europe since the Oriental and Sephardic Jews ‘were not suitable since they carried Semitic dysgenic elements.’ Hezser’s belief that European Jews are semitic was also true of Wilhelm Marr, the anti-Semite who first coined the term ‘anti-Semitism’ in 1879! 

x.                 Yemenite Jews were imported as cheap labour to Palestine. They experienced such extreme suffering that the death toll between 1912 and 1918 approached 50%. They were paid far less than Ashkenazi Jews, starvation wages. They received next to no medical attention and Bloom described Ruppin’s attitude to the Yemenites as one of ‘pathological stereotyping.’  Hezser can read this in the essay by Etan Bloom What the Father had in mind. (p. 340)

Hezser might also want to read Etan Bloom’s Ph. D thesis for Tel Aviv UniversityArthur Ruppin and the Production of the Modern Hebrew Culture’ but I am conscious of having already given her more than enough reading material for the time being.

We should leave the rewriting of history to the anti-Semites that Zionism has so much in common with.  It might be helpful if SOAS were to give Hezser a long sabbatical in order that she can catch up with some long overdue reading!

SOAS recently made swingeing cuts of £17 million in its budget. There were fears that Hezser’s post might go but the Zionists ran a campaign to save her job. Whilst I’m not in favour of cuts in the case of this racist academic I am baffled as to why she wasn’t told to dispense her wisdom elsewhere.

Tony Greenstein

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