Opinions of Peter Belmont
Speaking Truth to Power

Why Palestine’s Arabs saw beyond Cultural Zionism in 1930

by Peter A. Belmont / 2010-10-18
© 2010 Peter Belmont


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Extract from “Arab-Jewish Unity in Palestine”, Fuad Shatara, 1931, published 1932.[1]:

By “Political Zionism” the Arab understands an attempt to set up in Palestine a Jewish state which shall be, to use Weizmann’s words, “as Jewish as England is English or America is American.” In this imperium in imperio, the Arabs will be forced either to “trek along” (Zangwill) or to be “hewers of wood and drawers of water.” In this Judenstat, a Jewish majority is a sine qua non.[2]

This is not the spiritual and cultural Zionism of Ahad Haam or Judah Magnes, with which the Palestine Arab has no quarrel. Between these two brands of Zionism—the right wing and the left wing—the Zionist Organization has taken a so-called central position: hence the Center Party in Zionist ranks, which I can best describe by quoting Herbert Solow’s article in the November-December 1930 issue of the Menorah Journal (a Jewish magazine):

Even most extreme Ahad Haamists seem to have reconciled themselves to the situation, and the Zionist movement merged the concepts of a “cultural center” and the Jewish State in the vague, elastic phrase “Jewish National Home” which each might interpret as he pleased and all might support. This compromise, an unstable mixture, was described by chemist Weizmann as “synthetic Zionism” and by him dignified as a new Ideology.

(footnotes and emphasis removed)

It is easy to understand why the Palestine Arab has mistrusted and dreaded this Center Party even more than the extreme right-wingers. To him it appeared that that party hobbled between the two extremes of Zionism, adopted a chameleon-like policy and changed its color to meet the environment and the occasion, and was everything to everybody. He read contradictory statements of policy, made by the same leaders on different occasions, and became convinced that the chauvinistic utterances more accurately represented the real intentions of Zionist leaders, while the mild and soothing statements were but anodynes intended to pour oil on troubled waters and to eliminate as much resistance as possible until the Zionists obtained a majority in the land and a constitutional sanction for their chauvinistic designs, which they lacked as a minority.

Arab opposition to political Zionism is therefore easy to understand—essentially it is an expression of the instinct of self-preservation and an assertion of an inalienable majority right which has been recognized from time immemorial. It is not religious, neither is it prompted by a “few mischievous effendies or agitators.”

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[1] Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol 164, Nov. 1932, p.178-179


[2] The 1919 report of the US King-Crane Commission foretold and warned of Zionist expulsive tendencies:
One feature for which the report is still remembered today was an early statement skeptical of the viability of a Jewish state in Syria. The logic of the commission went along the lines that the first principle to be respected must be self-determination. Since the commission had a very “maximalist” view of Syria – what would today encompass Syria, Israel, Palestine, Jordan and the Gaza Strip – it pointed out that a majority of Syrians were against the formation of a Jewish state. Therefore, the only way to establish a viable Jewish state would be with armed force to enforce it. This was precisely what the Commission wanted to avoid, so they dismissed the idea, saying that Zionists anticipated “a practically complete dispossession of the present non-Jewish inhabitants to Palestine”. That said, there would be nothing wrong with Jews coming to “Israel” and simply living as Jewish Syrian citizens, but noted “nor can the erection of such a Jewish State be accomplished without the gravest trespass upon the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.”
(Wikipedia article on King-Crane Commission.)


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