I write about the politics of the Palestine question in the US. My interest is in a universalist critique, drawing on the classical liberal traditions that rejected Zionism categorically. These include classical Reform Judaism, Marxist internationalism, and secularism. Since Israel’s dramatic victory in the June, 1967 war, these traditions have been totally eclipsed by “Jewish identity” and a truncated critique of “the occupation” of the territories conquered in the war. This effort has been led by Noam Chomsky, heading a broad class of left Jewish intellectuals, on behalf of a grateful left Jewish public.
The Chomskyite orthodoxy has suppressed understanding and criticism of the “Israel lobby”, and of the history and nature of Zionism. This view is often explicitly Zionist, where it does not avoid the subject. As Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians increasingly resembles Nazi Germany’s treatment of Jews, it is more urgent than ever that we overturn this orthodoxy.
A universalist view would acknowledge frankly the role of the “Israel lobby” and its catastrophic effects on the US, which include 9/11 and several wars; and the nature of Zionism as Jewish racialism, from the critical historiography of a handful of honest Israeli scholars. It would oppose Zionism explicitly, in the machinations of the protean “Israel lobby”, and in the theory and practice of the state of Israel. It would do this in the name of the classical liberal traditions that rejected Zionism, under whose aegis Jews contributed so much to liberal modernity.
Several proponents of these outlooks survived to see Zionism in its maturity and leave judgments—Rabbi Elmer Berger, Isaac Deutscher, Maxime Rodinson, Israel Shahak, and the Israeli Matzpen. They were all well to the left of the Chomskyite orthodoxy, which dominates in the US; they were much more substantive and critical. I have a book in progress.
The phrase “question of Palestine” has been in diplomatic and political usage since the Balfour Declaration and the diplomatic aftermath of World War I. It was well-established when J.M.N. Jeffries referred to it in his 1923 reporting on Palestine in the Daily Mail.
The general conclusion of my inquest on the “Palestine question” was that the name prejudged the issue. The Colonial Office talked so loudly about the “Question” that it concealed cleverly that there was no Question till we had made one.
Jeffries’ reporting contributed vitally to a wide-ranging debate over the Balfour Declaration and British policy. It was reprinted as The Palestine Deception, 1915–1923: The McMahon-Hussein Correspondence, the Balfour Declaration, and the Jewish National Home in 2014 by the Institute for Palestine Studies. After World War II, the “question” entered a new phase, which can be traced in United Nations documents.
This established usage was why Edward Said used the phrase for the title of his 1978 book, second edition 1992, The Question of Palestine. This web site and its views have no connection the late Edward Said, his family, or any aspect of his legacy.
The header photograph is of Israel’s Vernichtungskrieg against Gaza of July, 2014, “Operation Firm Cliff” (in Hebrew). I don’t know who the photographer is. The entire ghastly picture is at GazaWarsaw Ghetto
Another header photograph is of Gazans at prayer, as bombs fall nearby, and smoke drifts overhead. It cropped awkwardly; see Gazans at Prayer. I got it from the FB page of Rezamahdi Azami, who is in Mumbai; the Gaza photographer is not known to me, but he or she recognized a powerful image, a heartbreaking one.
Earlier headers include a version of Munch’s iconic “The Scream”, painted on the Wall near Qalqilya. The full photo is at The Scream (Photo by Alex Levac, Haaretz)
Another header was the Bab al-Shams (Gate of the Sun) village established by Palestinian activists in the West Bank area designated by Israel as E1, on January 11, 2013 (photo by Ma’an News). It was forcibly evacuated by Israel the night of January 12. See
Israeli Soldiers Attack, Evict, Bab Al-Shams, Arrest Dozens
See the letter by Elias Khoury, author of the novel Bab al-Shams, inspired by the stories of Palestinians in Lebanon, to the people of the village.
Letter to my people in the village of Bab al-Shams
Another header showed the Palestinians of Bilin dressed up as the Na’vi from the film Avatar (photo by Bilin activists). More info on Bilin’s heroic struggle against Zionism is at http://www.bilin-village.org/english/
I post on this site as “gantonius”, for George Antonius, author of The Arab Awakening, originally 1937, in print in the 1970s and again today.
Also available is a 2001 biography, The Betrayal of Palestine. The Story of George Antonius, by Susan Silsby Boyle.
“I” am Harry Clark, an independent student of the question of Palestine, among other things, living in New York City.
I decided to disable comments, because I don’t have time for them if they become numerous. Something could be lost, but one has limited time and energy. If you wish to comment on anything, you may email me directly: hfc1968 at gmail dot com. Thanks for your interest in my writing, and in the question of Palestine.