One Palestine Complete

<%image(20050720-one palestine.jpg|82|126|one palestine)%> In the event of sweltering heat and humidity we retreated to the cooler region of Lake George for the past two days. We had perfectly sunny days for swimming, reading, and sleeping. Since we’ve been working for a good chunk of our weekends, it felt good to have some time away from the home work zone. I was sucked into Tom Segev’s book, One Palestine Complete: Jews and Arabs Under the British Mandate. Before sharing my thoughts, I should mention off the top that its more of a book about Jews and their interaction with Arabs. Though “fair and balanced” in its presentation, the interests of the author clearly lie with the Jewish characters who helped form the Jewish state while under the rule of the British.

Here are some observations that I’ll have to elaborate on later:

1. Zionism was in many ways a huge bluff that played off the “common knowledge” of the day that Jews controlled the world, in particular the economy.

2. Zionist Jews were politically aggressive and harsh in their dealings with the Arabs. Caught in a position of political powerlessness, the Arabs responded in the only way possible: physical violence. On some occasions the Jews sought revenge, thus keeping the cycle of violence spinning.

3. Many Arabs, Jews, and Brits recognized the problems that were arising between the Jews and Arabs, but the government ignored the advice of their people in the field. In fact, many of the observations made by British commissions (there were 17 commissions sent to Palestine in about 30 years!) sound like the news analysts of today. In many cases the British changed personnel so often that it was impossible to keep one policy going for a long period of time.

4. I really feel horrible for the poor Palestinian Arabs who had their home land and were essentially denied it by the British. Though it can be argued that the Jews needed a homeland, I try to put myself in the shoes of the Arab guy who watches streams of Jews come into in his country, Westernize it, and then proclaim that they will rule it. It’s tough pill to swallow and I think that Tom Segev presents the difficulties of the Arabs with tact and sympathy. It should be noted that the main bone to pick with the Arabs came down to Zionism and Jewish immigration. Though not harmonious, the Arabs of the land got along fairly well with the Jews already residing there.

5. Some Zionist leaders such as Chaim Weizman wanted to gradually convert Palestine into a Jewish state over 50+ years and not rush it. He feared war and opposition if the more aggressive Zionists (David Ben-Gurion being one of them) had their way. Though we can’t say what would have happened if things had followed Weizman’s course, he at least was half right.

That’s about it for my thoughts right now. I’m about half way through, and so would, at this point, recommend this book. Segev weaves stories of fascinating people in with his history and politics. Though a bit heavy on the politics, it is well worth reading just to find out what lays beneath one of the most complicated situations facing our world today.