The idea that Israelis-Jews are interchangeable, or Palestinians-Arabs either, is racist

Letters to Editor
Letters to Editor

I note Colin Nevin’s inability to respond to the actual content of my own letter in his response (‘Israel will be around for some time’, June 10) and find his revisionism, coupled with banal propaganda, rather disjointed.

Misrepresenting the United Nations General Assembly resolution 181 (II) as a legally binding vote, I find it is important to return to the realm of historical fact.

There was indeed a non-binding recommendation from the UN made to the United Kingdom, as the mandatory Power in Palestine, that there should be an adoption and implementation of a partition plan.

Palestinians rightly rejected the partition plan, in what I can only describe as rational and principled anti-colonial response to the Zionist effort to disenfranchise and oppress them.

I am reminded of a piece by Joseph Massad, a professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia University in New York, where he highlights the fact that the UN could not just suddenly decide to partition what it had no legal authority to partition, much less to do so without the consultation, let alone the consent, of the people of Palestine.

There is not room to address all of Mr Nevin’s revisions of history or his misrepresentations of the meaning behind my own words; I have no desire to enter a ridiculous debate on which groups of people I believe to be included in the term Palestinian.

However, I do think it of some importance that I clarify that it is my position that Jews are most certainly indigenous to the wider region of Israel-Palestine and that they have historical, religious, cultural and ethnic ties to the land.

Having said this, I believe that Mr Nevin might benefit from reading Prof. Menachem Klein of Bar-Ilan University who said that historic roots cannot be used as justification for rule or dominance.

In fact, I would strongly suggest that Colin Nevin engage his brain with one of Prof. Menachem Klein’s books, Lives in Common: Arabs and Jews in Jerusalem, Jaffa and Hebron – where he might discover that before the advent of Zionism and Arab nationalism, Jews and Arabs in Palestine lived in relative peace and harmony in the Holy Land, enjoying a shared life at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries.

Speaking of Zionism, I understand why a religious fundamentalist like Nevin would look at a nationalist movement through the lens that he does, but he truly is presenting a very narrow definition of Zionism itself. He is describing religious Zionism – one of many manifestations of Jewish nationalism and perhaps one of the most dangerous too.

Israel didn’t ever officially admit it was driving out Palestinians in 1947-48. In fact, entire laws are based on the idea that the Palestinian population chose to join the Arab armies and therefore it’s somehow legitimate to take over their property (which it isn’t).

It’s also why teaching about the Nakba is banned in Israel. Largely because the Israeli government, in its desperate effort to prevent the truth being known, makes it illegal to teach of massacres, expulsions and forced evacuations perpetrated against the Palestinian population.

The idea that Israelis and Jews are interchangeable, and so are Palestinians and Arabs, is so outrageously racist that I don’t know why people bother making that argument.

As Prof. Yehouda Shenhav, of Tel Aviv University, has written, there are concerted efforts to create symmetry in public opinion between the Palestinian refugees and the “Oriental” (Mizrahi and Sephardi) Jews who arrived to Israel after being disgustingly expelled from Arab countries the 50s and 60s, presenting both populations as victims of the 1948 war.

Mr Nevin regurgitates these nonsense positions in what I can only describe as a chaotic hatchet-job of a letter that truly is below par with what I’d expect from someone who decries “air-brushing history and revisionism”.

Gary Spedding, Londonderry, Independent cross-party consultant on Israel-Palestine, Human Rights