Thursday, January 17, 2013

Joseph Massad, IPMN and a false history of Zionism

With the words, “Zionism, anti-Semitism and colonialism,”the Presbyterian Israel/Palestine Mission Network using Twitter linked to Aljazeera and the article, “Zionism, anti-Semitism and colonialism” with the subtitle “Zionist leaders consciously recognised that state anti-Semitism was essential to their colonial project, writes Massad.” Palestinian Joseph Massad is a controversial professor of modern Arab Politics at Columbia University. Massad, in his article is attempting to portray Zionism as a parasite that feeds off of anti-Semitism.
He gives a history of Zionism and reverses all truths that are related to Zionism. But before considering the article, one needs to understand Massad and his views about European Jews who now makeup a great deal of the population of Israel. Massad believes that European Jews are not related to ancient Israel. And he blames Protestants for forging what he considers a lie. In doing so he shows some ignorance of Christianity. Massad, in a 2004 article in the Egyptian news site Al-Ahram Weekly writes:

In keeping with the Protestant Reformation's abduction of the Hebrew bible into its new religion and its positing of modern European Jews as direct descendants of the ancient Hebrews, post- Enlightenment haters of Jews began to identify Jews as "Semites" on account of their alleged ancestors having spoken Hebrew.
In a conversation with Jewish historian Benny Morris, Massad states:

The claim made by the Zionists, and by Professor Morris, that late nineteenth-century European Jews are direct descendants of the ancient Palestinian Hebrews is what is preposterous here. This kind of anti-Semitic claim that European Jews were not European that was propagated by the racist and biological discourses on the nineteenth century, that they somehow descend from first-century Hebrews, despite the fact that they look like other Europeans, that they speak European languages, is what is absurd. [1]
Massad’s background ideas are interesting but much of it is invented to fit his outlook on the Middle East. He seemingly does not understand that all Christian Bibles contain the Hebrew Bible. Massad believes that the European Jews are not descendants of ancient Israel. He believes that the Holocaust did happen, that it was a horrible occurrence. He rightly believes that the word anti-Semitism was invented in the nineteenth century by those who hated the Jews. But Massad incorrectly believes they were mistaken about the Jews being Semites. He also believes that the Arabs are not Semites either but he believes they are now the ones being treated as Semites by anti-Semites.

The Aljazeera article is lengthy and simplistic as well as incorrect. Pages could be written correcting the article. Massad goes to great lengths to insist that Zionists were glad for the rise of Nazism and collaborated with them. Here are some examples of Massad’s twists and turns:
The first one I will note is a simplistic account. It is this:

In 1933, Labour Zionism signed the Transfer "Ha'avara" Agreement with the Nazis, breaking the international boycott against the regime: Nazi Germany would compensate German Jews who emigrate to Palestine for their lost property by exporting German goods to the Zionists in the country thus breaking the boycott. Between 1933 and 1939, 60 percent of all capital invested in Jewish Palestine came from German Jewish money through the Transfer Agreement. Thus, Nazism was a boon to Zionism throughout the 1930s.
Of course this was something the Nazis wanted and it did break the boycott. But the important thing to consider is that most Jews in Germany had or were losing their jobs, property and rights. The boycott was only Jewish and as Walter Laqueur in his A History of Zionism puts it, “Neither the western powers nor the Soviet Union considered for a moment reducing or breaking off trade relations with Germany.” [2]

Laqueur also states that during that time half the Jews in Germany were able to leave, but they only had six years to do so. With the start of war “the doors closed.” [3] It was not that the Zionist needed Nazism and anti-Semitism to build Israel; it was Nazism and anti-Semitism that nearly destroyed the Jews.

As Laqueur points out, “… the imputation of cooperation and collusion with the Nazis is pernicious nonsense.” [4]
The next statement by Massad is a twisting of facts. He states:

… Zionism would always claim that its collaboration with anti-Semitism was strategic, namely to save Jews.

This however does not square with the facts that during Nazi rule, Jews from Britain and the United States were given priority by the Zionists over German Jews for immigration to Palestine. Indeed, two-thirds of German Jewish applicants to immigrate to Palestine were turned down by the Zionists, whose criteria for the ideal immigrant was a Jew's commitment to Zionism, youth, good health, training, wealth, needed skills and knowledge of Hebrew.
The first sentence simply isn’t true. The rest is the twist. It was the Palestinian government which set the standards. As Laqueur puts it:

The labour schedule became the bone of contention between the Palestine government and the Jewish Agency. In 1934 the Agency asked for 20, 000 certificates for labour immigrants and received 5, 600. For the year starting in April 1935 it asked for 30, 000 and obtained 11, 2000. In 1938, after the outbreak of the Arab riots, the government severely restricted immigration. Of the 22, 000 certificates requested by the Agency, little more than 10 per cent, 2,500, were granted. [5]
Laqueur goes on to explain that slowly, year after year the certificates for new immigrants were cut off.
Writing about the supposed later attempts by Israel to create anti-Semitism in other countries so as to encourage their Jewish citizens to move to Israel, Massad writes:

In light of the new post-war period that saw the end of state-sponsored anti-Semitism, the Zionists set out to attack Jews in a number of countries and to conjure up the spectre of anti-Semitism in countries that opposed Zionism. In Iraq, the Israeli Mossad planted bombs in synagogues, libraries and cafes in the early 1950s, which killed and injured Iraqi Jews and spread panic amongst them that Iraqi Muslims and Christians were targeting them. Collaboration ensued between Israel and the British-sponsored Iraqi regime to bring about the exodus of Iraqi Jews to Israel.
This is utter fabrication. In her book, Last Days in Babylon: The History of a Family, the Story of a Nation, Marina Benjamin writes of her family and community as the British were victorious over the Axis powers occupying Baghdad at the end of WWII. She writes of the thugs and looters who ravished the Jewish Community:

In Bataween, cries of horror and suffering could be heard throughout the night, drifting up from the old mahallah where women were being raped, babies crushed, children mutilated. In this free-for-all slaughter, Jews old and young were killed. Some were shot and some stabbed. Houses big and small were broken into and plundered [6]
This was after two war years of continuous harassment.

As Israel won her independence and Palestinian refugees fled to Iraq the Jews lost their freedoms. They lost jobs and property, there was a bomb thrown at a group of Jewish men in a coffee shop. Four were injured. The Jewish people of Iraq had been encouraged by the government to leave if they would renounce their Iraqi citizenship [7]
One final statement by Massad, he writes:

Israel and Zionism have been in deep mourning over the passing of actual anti-Semitic regimes and of regimes that they could cast in that role, as these regimes had provided them with so much propaganda power to justify their colonial project. After the fall of the USSR, the Zionists ran out of arguments and of regimes they could label "anti-Semitic". In this new situation, Israeli propaganda would become outright hysterical. Attempting to cast some of the anti-Zionist pronouncements of the Iranian President Ahmadinejad as genocidal anti-Semitism, Israel is hoping it could cover up its ongoing colonisation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
President Ahmadinejad is a hate filled leader who denies the Holocaust and has made it known that Israel should be pushed into the sea. He is the supreme anti-Semite.

There is so much more that could be said about Massad’s article. He rightly blames Israel for encouraging Egyptian Jews to bomb buildings in Egypt. But he states that it was to encourage Egyptian Jews to flee to Israel. Instead it was to encourage the British to stay in Sinai so that Egypt would not invade Israel.

Massad’s words are not trustworthy—so why is the Presbyterian Israel/Palestine Mission Network linking to it. Their intentions are not trustworthy either.

 [1]Note 21 at “Joseph Massad, Wikipedia, Joseph Massad, quoted in Andrew Whitehead, "History on the Line, ‘No Common Ground’: Joseph Massad and Benny Morris Discuss the Middle East," History Workshop Journal 53:1 (2002), pp. 214-215)

 [2Walter Laqueur, A History of Zionism: from the French Revolution to the Establishment of the State of Israel, paperback reprint (New York: Schocken Books 2003) 501-02.



[5] Ibid, 509.

[6]Marina Benjamin, Last Days in Babylon: The History of a Family, the Story of a Nation, (New York: Free Press 2006) 123.

 [7] Ibid, Chapter 11.


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