69 Comments
May 17Liked by Ed West

Great historical reminder, thanks.

Israel was just one of many new lines drawn on the map/states created post WWII as former empires and mandates were carved up, and not one of the larger or more traumatic changes. The Indian partition is another example (followed by the split of E Pakistan/Bangladesh from Pakistan proper). Let’s also not exclude Mecca switching from the Hashemites to the Saudis as well as border and ethnic conflicts in Africa and Indochina. Naive leftist anti-semites talking about settlers usually know little of the actual history in the region let alone the overall historical context where borders were being drawn and states created all over the world, with millions of refugees and numerous wars.

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May 17·edited May 17Liked by Ed West

One thing I would add is that I think in many cases the creation of national identity, outside of larger entities like Italy and Germany was in many cases defensive. Many of the empires of the 19th century, in order to compete against more unified, industrial and military stronger rivals were going down the route of making themselves giant nation states. One only has to look at say modern France, China or Russia (the parts that remained attached to it) to see what this meant for the local customs and traditions involved. Britain's nations retained some sense of distinctiveness probably because the Burkean political developement allowed a degree of incongruity and eccentriity in what was once a relative efficient system but even there, how many speak Scottish Gaelic now? Whether these things are good or bad is a different debate, but the consequences of modernity means that even in cases where nominal empires survived as political structures, the concept of multi-ethnic empires and decentralised political entities faced extreme difficulties in the 20th century even without wars that pushed political systems to breaking points. It is noticeable that the one of the few countries that has retained anything like a plurinational and decentralised political system is Switzerland, a land protected by mountains and that has the luxury of effectively disconnecting itself from the rivalries of the great powers. All the European empires, except perhaps the Austro-Hungarian empire were going the way of centralisation and an attempt at creating a unified nationality - the Ottoman reform movement, National Orthodoxy in Russia, Bismarck's Kulturkampf against the Catholics and Poles. And the Austro-Hungarian empire's decentralisation was not really a policy choice but more an externally forced weakness forced on it by its rivals (especially Prussia) in order to keep it somewhat chaotic and pliable to the German empire's need. I perhaps lack the romanticism to imagine if the empires had survived that they would have continued to be multi-national cosmopolitan entities. I think, cynically perhaps, had they survived the result would have been instead large homogenised nation-states of the kind that actually did come into creation in the southern and eastern Asia. Maybe this would have been better, more efficient economically. Modern technology, war and economics all militate towards this conclusion I would say, unfortunately.

So it is this cynical perspective one needs, I think, in order to have the context in which Zionism can be understood. If one returned to the early 20th century, then there was actually two strands of Jewish thought in terms of how the Jewish people may adapt to the modern world. They were Zionism and Bundism. Both were impelled by the historical consequences of Russian rule in much of Poland. A great deal of the Jewish population had migrated there in the Middle Ages as the old Polish kingdom was a relatively safe place for them to be and had become deeply interwoven into the transnational structures of the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth. The first rupture for the Jews was the partition of that old commonwealth and the fact that Jews became the subjects of Empires with a lot less benign view of their existence. By the early 20th century the situation for Jews in Russia was an internal issue and perhaps the trigger for the first great wave of mass migration the world has seen - the large Jewish populations of London, New York or Buenos Aires owe their existence to the pogroms, such as those in Kishiev. Even outside Russia there were pograms in Romania, the passions aroused by Dreyfuss affair in France, the election of a pro-German nationalist anti-semite in pre-war Vienna.

Faced with the nationalising tendencies in Europe the solutions were: either the absorption of a subnational Jewish identity within existing national structures (Bundism) or a Jewish nation-state (Zionism). It's interesting to read the subtext say, of the character of Leopold Bloom in Ulysses. The book was written immediately after WW1 when these two directions were still live options. Bloom is clearly something of a Bundist. The book, by consciously paralleling Jewish and Irish visions are making specific reference to the parrallel solutions offered by both Jewish and Irish political movements. In his disavowal of nationalism (in the Cyclopes episode) and his association with the pre-WW1 Sinn Fein of Arthur Griffiths - who proposed an Austro-Hungarian solution for the 'Irish Problem' - is clearly sympathetic to Bundism and to the possibility of a solution that goes above and beyond nationalism. I digress on this just to show at this crucial turning point in history there were other ways considered, and the reason they were not ultimately sucessful was not due to fashion or caprice.

Why? The Holocaust shattered the political debate. Bundism ceased to exist. Great swathes of traditional Orthodox Jews who saw the creation of a seclar Jewish national state as outright heresy did a volte-face and became ardent Zionists. So this, to me, if the crucial context to understand Zionism. The Jews have a long history. They have been betrayed multiple times. Their devotion to one God, and one God only, saw their homeland turned into a desert and their capital turned into a pagan city after welcoming the Romans as protectors against their Seleucid tormentors. Romantic moralising about the duties Christian ideals or the promises of protection the English, French, Portugese or Castilian kings did not shield them from explusion when it became expedient to do so. Even the last throw of the dice: an attempt to modernise and become European and thoroughly integrated with the European nationalities and cultures was rewarded with mass extermination. Arab populations with whom the Mizrahi had played quiet roles of importance in society for centuries suddenly turned on their in an access of violence as Israel was created.

I am not a Jew. But given this history would you have anything other than cast-iron cynicism about the world? Romanticism - or naivity about human nature - under these circumstances is, as the modish phrase goes, a luxury belief. Yes, they had oases of peace and prosperity under the gentiles, but it almost always ends up in humiliation and catastrophe. In some sense the question of Zionism and nationalism is, except for a few early ideologues, almost irrelevant. Just as Portugese conversos had the strategem to pretend to convert to Christrianity and then after a century and a half suddenly reverted to Judaism in Amsterdam, well, more than anything the modern nation-state and nationalism is just a stratagem to survive. Jewish laws always put the emphasis on life, the continuation of life above all else (which is why Masada was shocking to the sensibilities of the time) and the propogation of tradition. Which is why, yes, the idea of Jewish nationality is anachronistic. Yes, the modern religion, forged in the post-exile years of Rabbianic tradition perhaps bares little relation to the pubic religion of the Judean kingdom. Yes, the modern Jewish population may well have once had periods of conversion, may have moved around the Roman empire long before the destruction of the second Temple, and yes may have a great deal of admixture from the genetic pool of the hosts of their centuries of exile. But none of this is relevant against the sheer admonition from God to *survive* as his people. Even secular, non-religious Jews are bathed in this tradition. I don't think Israel, with its focus on a sort of modern day Maccabean strength through mass conscription, a repudiation of the image of the weak and defenceless Jew that was propogated a 100 years ago, makes sense at all without understanding this. Even the USA, its main ally, is, if necessary, expendable and ignorable because ultimately gentiles, their ideas, their politics, their nations are just tools in the great task of survival. The Palestinians, for all the rationalisations, always were and always will be, just an irrelevancy in this goal. Palestinian territory was taken because it could be and because historical forces allowed it to be, and whatever the tortured argument over the validity of the claims to the land, the simple fact that this was the land promised and spoken of in their holy book gave a powerful romantic filip to the armies in 1948 and 1967. The emotions of the soldiers in that famous photo of the Waling wall in 1967 are very much real. They are also the reflective of the kind of messianic force that had led conquering armies, the kind the Arabs had once, that which Islamists are trying to encourage more and more of them to have once again.

Now the tragedy of this, what I think is a pefectly reasonable response to a doleful history is that this say realism and cynicism - and I would add the Arab populations have these same qualities in droves too - is that a little bit of romanticism is needed to carve out brief, often all too brief, historical moments of peace and prosperity. Not an execessive romanticism, which leads to folly, but enough that some degree of realpolitik can be left alone, for a time, or at least archived. Yes, realpolitik can generate peace too, but how brittle and bitter it can be - see Bismarck's fragile peace both domestically and internationally. In this case, a little romanticism on both sides could, as one saw in Northern Ireland, create a little space for something other than war, for a time, without any grand plan for actually solving the issues. It is why I feel some intristic sympathy for the Ukrainians despite my head knowing strategically and militarily it is a lost cause. But in the Middle East, both sides, burnt by the brutal fire of their modern history, have no reason to even entertain such a suspension of disbelief. And so, as you, say, it will go on, until, I fear, some yet another great tragedy is unleashed upon the world.

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Great comment. Full of knowledge and wisdom.

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Educational and well explained. Thank you.

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author

I agree. very interesting comment

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May 17·edited May 17

I agree that there is no sign of a solution. As some wit said, the Israelis just want to live, and the Palestinians just want them all to die, and both sides are refusing to compromise.

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Great article. Very interesting, and I learned a lot - thanks.

I remember at school learning about the Troubles in Northern Ireland, which back then were much more of an active part of life in the UK due to the IRA bombing campaigns. It must have been taught pretty well, as I distinctly remember being struck by the immense historical complexity of it all. Every time you tried to come up with a view on a contemporary event, you had to go back to previous ones, which then required going back to even earlier ones, until quite soon you'd reached places where all the categories and allegiances had changed completely, often such that even the terms of the original issue no longer really made sense. And even though some of what motivated the current animosities and loyalties was rooted in myths or half-truths, you couldn't just discount those, because after enough solidification they had long become the facts that mattered. As you say, what forms a nation or a people is often accidental, or the result of outside forces, or scholars LARPing around as empires crumble. It left me feeling that much of the angst around these long-running conflicts comes from applying rational, legalistic criteria to what are intensely emotional and (at least partly) non-rational expressions of hard-to-define group affiliations. Which doesn't mean that one shouldn't try to ground a view on historical facts, or on some notions of right of justice, just that it's fiendishly hard.

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author

Thank you.

Basically, all countries are fake except England :)

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A very well written article which came across as scrupulously fair minded, Ed. I think the comparison with the Greek 'Nakba' is a particularly insightful one. Paraphrasing, but as you said, no one would entertain the idea of Constantinople being returned to Greek dominion for a millisecond. Ditto the lost Polish territories in the East and the lost German cities of the East. Imagine if Germans were constantly banging on about Danzig and Königsberg?

But yet we are still expected, 76 years later, to accept the Palestinian claim to the British Mandate, a territory only created less than 30 years before that.

In no other territory, for no other people, are we expected to accept that refugee status is passed down the generations.

The Greeks lost in 1922, they were expelled, and that's that. The world should have the cojones to be tougher on the Palestinians. They attacked in 1948, they lost, and that's that. The sticking point for every deal since has been Palestinian intransigence on right of return. It's time to stop humouring them.

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A lot of it is also due to fertility. I think Eric Kaufmann calculated that had Germans the same TFR in the late 20th century as Palestinians, there would be 600m(?) now. Now imagine they all believed that Danzig and Konigsberg belonged to them still and wanted them back.

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The very idea of 600m Germans. 😱

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[Stan Boardman voice] 'imagine trying to find a free sunlounger'

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Ps as the above probably makes clear, I'm not as fair minded as you. 😉

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Israel is the only country that exists in the same territory, speaks the same language, and believes in the same God as it did 2,500 years ago. The mere fact that the term colonialism is mentioned in relation to it shows that there is no absurdity too great for a left-wing intellectual to proclaim. In contrast, colonialism can indeed describe the Muslim migration to Europe, where it is a colonialism facilitated by the cooperation of a cultural and legal elite of the natives, similar to how Montezuma, the Aztec king, enabled the invasion of Cortez.

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I wouldn't say colonialism is what's happening in Europe because it implies a level of state power, more like a form of imperial boomerang where the empire comes to the metropolis.

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It's just people moving from poor countries to rich ones.

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In Britain, until the Second World War, Zionism was largely a Labour cause, connected to their working class Jewish voters in the East End. Jewish industralists and Conservatives were largely highly integrated and suspicious of Zionism before the Second World War. Both Lloyd George and Balfour had little innate sympathy towards the movement and both saw it as a cudgle to use in the First World War tactically when the short term needs of British victory outweighed other considerations. Indeed many of the outright supporters of Zionism on the right were open anti-Semites like Wickham Steed - who had pipped Henry Ford to being the first to publish the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, although later retracted when he found it was a forgery - who saw Zionism as a means of removing the Jewish population - and as late as 1948 the USSR supported Israel's creation, assuming the socialistic and kibbutz like nature of many early Zionists would make it a naturally Soviet-aligned state. But this was a misreading of the nature of the new state. Again to many Jews, all of this is so much irrelevancy - that communists and anti-Semites were once in favour of the creation of Israel does not detract from its essential role - its raison d'etre to defend the Jewish people, and any ideology was secondary to that. Which is how now, these days, a man like Netanyahu can be ascribed to the same movement that was once occupied by people of radically different ideological bent. Left-wing opposition has far more to do with the shifting sand of Cold War geopolitics than any consistent sense of 'anti-colonialism'.

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Modern Hebrew is not ancient Hebrew any more than modern Greek is the same language Plato spoke. And modern rabbinical Judaism is very different from ancient Temple Judaism.

Also, it's a deep irony that the Palestinians are descended from the ancient Israelites- we have genetic proof of that. To some extent the strife over there is a civil war among very distant cousins.

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We have no evidence that Palestinians are descendants of ancient Israelites.. However, the Israelites themselves were extremely similar genetically to other levantine populations. So anyway it is indeed a civil war between distant cousins.

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We have solid genetic evidence. The population of Jerusalem was deported under the Roman Empire but the rural population was not. Much of it was Christianized eventually, and later there were large scale conversions to Islam.

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I am familiar with the research up close. Nothing like this has been proven.

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Occam's Razor should be invoked. What happened to the Jewish rural population and their descendants otherwise?

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You have no idea what you are talking about. Any Israeli kid can read the Book of Genesis and understand almost every word.

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The latter may be true since religious Jews are brought up educated to read the Old Testament. In the Byzantine Empire educated people were brought up to read classical Greek, though the contemporary Greek was well on its way to modern Greek. Deliberately archaic Katharevousa has only faded out of general instruction in the late 20th century.

Any notion that any language somehow was unchanging over the course of more than two millennia is BS on high, high stilts. You might as well tell me about some 80 year old ancestor who doesn't look a day over 20.

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I cannot imagine that there is an intelligent Hebrew speaker who is not capable of reading and understanding the simple stories written in the Book of Genesis. The metaphor of Ancient Greek simply does not fit. Hebrew was better preserved as a sacred language, probably because of generations who studied the holy texts and engaged with them all their lives.

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Sigh. No language exists unchanged over the centuries. Yes, written languages can preserve ancient forms-- Chinese has done that to an extraordinary degree, certainly. In the ancient Middle East scribes could read and write Akkadian long after no one still spoke it as a birth tongue. Our English spelling conventions, which give us such a headache, preserve the phonetics of an earlier period. But spoken languages do change, often rather quickly. If a modern day Israeli woke up in King Josiah's Jerusalem he would not be able communicate with people there except at a very simplistic pidgin level. For one thing, modern Hebrew necessarily includes a huge amount of vocabulary, some of it borrowed, for things and concepts that did not exist in antiquity. And ancient Hebrew texts preserved only a limited and elevated register of the language (true of all past written languages); spoken slang and variant dialects were lost.

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May 17·edited May 17

Well, ancient Judeans and Israelites to be pedantic.

What is certain is much of the Levantine population, including Judeans, came from a substratum of Canaanite populations, that shared a lot of cultural and linguistic connections. Much of the Old Testament was written after the Babylonian Exile, so we only have a dim sense of what happened, but the Judeans and Israelites seem to have developed a very distinctive sense of monotheism that set them apart from their ethnic cousins, which is why religious backsliding and conflicts with other Canaanite groups like the Ammonites and Moabites is such a recurrent theme of the Old Testament. Thus is not really such a simple task to disentagle native populations and Israelites/Judeans per se, as there was probably periods of conversation, forced integrations and population transfers by the great empires.

But in some sense this is irrelevant, from a perspective of a religious Zionist. The Book of Joshua didn't really regard the Amorites' autochthony as especially important as against the mandate of God.

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Am I right in thinking that 2500 years ago there was no Israel, it having been destroyed by the Assyrians in 720 BC? Yehud, the area around Jerusalem, was a province of Persia, soon to be conquered by Alexander. I also wonder about the language actually spoken in what is today Israel, 2500 years ago. Under the Persians, Aramaic had become at least the lingua franca, and I suspect the Hebrew spoken in Yehud was rather different to that spoken today (but I'm happy to be corrected). As for the God worshipped then and now, being a poor excuse for a Christian, I wouldn't dare to venture.

My point is, as Ed's post reminds us, that history may inform us and, happily, debunk the ignorant bile of our modern ideologues and fanatics. But, Israel's legitimacy rests not on ancient claims, subject as they are to much dispute, but on modern realities. That is, Israel is a lawful state, and as such it is entitled to defend itself.

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Nonsense. There is no Muslim state forcibly colonising Europe.

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The bureaucracy of the European Union, human rights organizations, and the international legal elite are not a state, but they possess more power than a state. And they are definitely forcibly colonizing Europe.

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May 17·edited May 18

Was the United States and Canada "Colonized" by hordes of non-Anglo Europeans plus some Asians, and, in the US, Africans brought over forcibly, all with the active cooperation of their governments? By your logic the answer is Yes.

There are a whole lot of very valid issues regarding present day immigration. I'm sympathetic, to an extent, to the restrictionists. But let's not pour gasoline on an already smoldering fire by use of hyperbolic fear-mongering language.

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I agree that historians will scratch their heads in astonishment at how a massive project of colonialism was carried out against the will of the native population, solely by the exercise of soft power. That's why I brought up the example of Montezuma and the Aztecs, and Cortez who conquered their empire with only hundreds of people. A collaborating elite makes the resistance of the natives very difficult.

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I can't speak to the UK and Europe, but in the US a majority of the population favors legal immigration.

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May 18Liked by Ed West

I recently read William Dalrymple's book 'From The Holy Mountain'. It was an excellent read, incredibly interesting, moving in parts, prophetic in others (it was written in the late 90s).

I was amazed to find out that there were around 200,000 Greeks leaving in Alexandria until the 1950's, when Nasser started making life difficult for them.

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Yes, and Italians. Andrew Ridgley of Wham fame’s father was an Italo-Egyptian from Alexandria I believe.

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Great article Ed. Very fair minded in my opinion. I’m going to show it to one of my best mates, who is Jewish and a big supporter of Israel, for his opinion. Hope you don’t mind, as he’s not a subscriber.

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for sure, It's not paywalled anyway so anyone can read it.

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You’ll be pleased to know that my proudly Zionist friend thought it was a good article.

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Ed, a very good post. One of the most fair and balanced discussions of the Israel-Palestinian conflict I have read since October 7th. And I say this as a pro-Zionist supporter of Israel. Your statement “I see no hope of an end to the wider conflict in the Holy Land, because neither side is willing or able to offer a territorial compromise that will satisfy the other,” sums up this entire historical tragedy. But as a historian, you know that just about all of history is tragic.

I disagree on some points, especially your dismissal of the importance of the Land of Israel as the ancient Jewish homeland, for the creation of modern Israel. When Palestinians and their supporters say the Jews should have established a state in Germany, my answer is that Jerusalem is not in Germany. At the end of the Passover seder we say “Next Year in Jerusalem,” not next year in Warsaw, London, or Boca Raton.

The Israeli historian Tom Segev writes in the new issue of “Foreign Affairs” that David Ben Gurion and other Zionist leaders concluded by 1936, if not earlier, that the conflict between the Jews and the Palestinian Arabs could not be resolved. In this he agreed with Vladimir Jabotinsky. The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is destined to be a “forever war.” Neither side will compromise on its insistence on exclusive control of the land “From the River to the Sea.” So, the conflict can only be managed. Netanyahu’s incompetence in managing the conflict enabled Hamas to pull off the October 7th Mini-Holocaust.

https://www.foreignaffairs.com/israel/israels-forever-war-gaza-tom-segev

As you discussed in detail, the 20th century was filled with ethnic cleansing and population exchanges: Greece and Turkey 1923, India and Pakistan 1947, Poland and Soviet Ukraine 1946, Germans expelled from Eastern Europe, and so on. About 850,000 Mizrahi Jews were expelled from Arab and Muslim countries from 1948 onwards. A Jewish Nakba. There was in effect a population exchange between Israel and Muslim nations. While Israel, a very poor country in its early years, worked hard to successfully assimilate the Mizrahi Jewish refugees, which it is rightly proud of, the Arab states, except for Jordan in part, kept the Palestinian refugees in refugee camps, promising them that they would return to Palestine once Israel was defeated.

The 700,000 Palestinians who fled or were expelled from Israel during the war of 1948, would not have had to leave if they had accepted the state offered them in the Partition. Instead, the Palestinians, and the neighboring Arab states, launched a war to destroy Israel at birth and complete the Holocaust. Of course, the Palestinian refugees were not allowed back into Israel. That would have been national suicide. And in 1949, just four years after the Holocaust, the Jewish people were not about to commit national suicide.

As another commenter (Stlrose) noted, the Israel-Palestine conflict is made even more tragic by the revelations of the new advanced tools of genetic research over the past twenty years, that Jews and Palestinians share a common Levantine ancestry “converging back into one less than 2,000 years ago.” Razib Khan sums up the findings of this research in a recent Substack post. As Razib puts it, Jews and Palestinians are Canaanite cousins. Maristella Botticini and Zvi Eckstein add that Palestinians are in part descendants of Jews who, unwilling or unable to meet the new requirements for education and literacy of Rabbinic Judaism after c. 200 CE, converted first to Christianity and later to Islam.

Both peoples have indigenous roots in the land they fight over. Both peoples mixed with others along the way: Jews with the European and Middle Eastern/North African peoples they settled among in the Diaspora; Palestinians with Arabs, Turks, and other migrants from the many lands of the Dar-al-Islam. Their conflict is a reenactment of the biblical conflicts between Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, and other paradigmatic brothers, which makes it all the more bloody and bitter.

https://www.razibkhan.com/p/more-than-kin-less-than-kind-jews

https://www.amazon.com/Chosen-Few-Education-Princeton-Economic/dp/0691163510/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1704943252&sr=8-1

The late Israeli author Amos Oz, believed a Chekhovian and not a Shakespearean conclusion to the Israel-Palestinian conflict is the best we can hope for from history:

“Tragedies can be resolved in one of two ways: there is the Shakespearean resolution and there is the Chekhovian one. At the end of a Shakespearean tragedy, the stage is strewn with dead bodies and maybe there’s some justice hovering high above. A Chekhov tragedy, on the other hand, ends with everybody disillusioned, embittered, heartbroken, disappointed, absolutely shattered, but still alive. And I want a Chekhovian resolution, not a Shakespearean one, for the Israeli/Palestinian tragedy.”

https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/11027005-tragedies-can-be-resolved-in-one-of-two-ways-there

When Oz wrote those words in 1993, at the start of the Oslo peace process, the Chekhovian resolution he hoped for may have been possible. Post October 7, 2023, unless there is some radical breakthrough or paradigm shift which I do not see happening, I fear that this cousins’ war will only end as a Shakespearean tragedy: in a second Holocaust or a second Nakba.

You write that “the Arabs are not going to accept the loss of Jerusalem as the Greeks have of Constantinople.” But the Israelis will never give up Jerusalem, whatever the cost; even if it means a forever war. The Palestinians, as you point out, may now have their own national identity, which they did not have 100 years ago, formed through resistance to Zionism, Israel, and the American-led Liberal World Order. But the hard, tragic, zero-sum reality is, that in the current state of history and geopolitics, you can have a Jewish State of Israel or an Arab State of Palestine, but you can’t have both. There are very few happy outcomes in history.

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Michael, thank you, a very thoughtful comment. I'm trying to be fair, and I don't think it's helpful for outside observers to pick a side and so inevitably drive the conflict further.

The best that we can hope for is indeed a settlement that leaves everybody disillusioned, embittered, heartbroken, disappointed, absolutely shattered, but still alive.

Regarding the 2,000 year argument, it's obviously hugely important to Jewish identity, but it's one that appears very weak to non-Jews.

My fear and feeling is that a solution becomes more difficult because a Chekhovian settlement would only be possible with western pressure and resolve, which would involve not just pressuring neighbouring states to take and integrate the descendants of former Palestines, but go beyond diplomatic recognition of Israel to an acceptance that it is a legitimate and permanent part of the Middle East (including a change of official tone in Arab media). In return Israel might recognise some form of 1948 border West Bank as a demilitarised Palestinian state, with the presence of some Israeli military bases as a security clause. Gaza is another problem altogether. But I don't see this happening.

Of course where one finds satisfying partners for peace is the big issue; I'm not an American or a Wilsonian so I find it frustrating that the default position on this is that there should be a Palestinian democracy with elections in this new state, because that seems like an obvious problem, considering public opinion in the region. Democracy is not necessarily always the answer, but rather a benign monarchial figure who can guide the country towards future growth (from which democracy might one day emerge). The obvious choice are the Hashemites, ruling Palestine as a separate kingdom, but I'm not sure they'd be keen on the idea.

But that western resolve is fading by generation, in large part because of the wider crisis of confidence in our civilisation which has allowed so many shoddy thinkers to frame the conflict as a colonial struggle.

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May 18·edited May 18

Ed, I have only a few things to add to your reply.

First, the 2000-year argument has a lot more support among non-Jews in the United States than it has in Europe. A legacy perhaps of America seeing itself as the New Israel since colonial times. In the Victorian era, Christian Zionism was about as strong in Britain as in America. It certainly influenced Arthur Balfour to issue his declaration in 1917.

Second, many if not most Palestinians don’t want a two-state solution, if it means a demilitarized state without the Right of Return. Palestinians understandably see a demilitarized state with Israeli military bases on its soil as less than fully sovereign. Nor would the Israelis trust any paper guarantees that this state would remain demilitarized and not be taken over by Hamas or another eliminationist group.

The shrunken, dependent, rump Palestine which is offered by the two-state solution, is seen by most Palestinians as a historic defeat and surrender after a hundred years of resistance to Zionism, Israel, and the American-led Liberal World Order. Which is why Arafat in 2000 and Abbas in 2008 walked away from proposed two-state end-of-conflict deals. Even a potential future economically developed rump Palestine, perhaps under a benevolent Hashemite monarch, would not satisfy the Palestinian national aspiration for a triumphant Jew-free Palestine “from the River to the Sea.”

Arafat had promised his people that the end of the Oslo process would be in effect a liberated Palestine from the River to the Sea. If all he delivered was a corrupt, authoritarian rump Palestine without full sovereignty, economically and militarily dependent on Israel, fighting a dirty civil war against Hamas, and with no right of return for the Palestinian diaspora, it would be to admit that Oslo was a defeat and surrender. That a hundred years of Palestinian resistance had been for nothing. The Palestinians will not sign on to a Chekhovian settlement. It’s just not in the cards.

I am in full agreement with you that Western civilization is having a massive crisis of confidence. If we don’t regain our confidence and resolve as a civilization that has created most of what is good in the world, we will face far worse things than shoddy post-colonialist thinking.

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I have nothing really to add because I suspect you'r right. It would take a leader of Mandela-esque proportions to accept a deal that would leave him widely hated (and probably dead)

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This is a great article, Ed.

The 20th Century really was a different experience for Western Europe and its off-shoots than so much of the rest of the world. For Western Europeans, the 20th Century (especially the latter half) was one of (increasing) diversity. For Eastern Europeans and Middle Easterners, it was the century of greater homogenization (often in a quite unpleasant fashion).

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thank you, Aidan. When AI allows us to enter completely immersive virtual reality worlds so we can out off all reality will look forward to visiting belle epoque Constantinople and Baghdad.

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Provided we still have the jobs to afford that luxury.

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May 17·edited May 17

It might be a glib point but it has never left me, when once it was pointed out, how the names of so many Palestinian leaders are linked to named indivduals and tribes from from the Arabian peninsula at the time of the Arab Conquests.

Mahmoud Abbas - Descended from Al-Abbas ibn Abd al-Muttalib, companion of Muhammad, from Mecca.

Yasser Arafat - 'Of Arafat' named for the plain outside Mecca, Hejaz. Yasser Arafat was actually born in Egypt to an Egyptian father

Amin al Husaini - descended from Husayn ibn Ali, of Medina in the Hejaz.

The names were sedulously kept as emblems of conquest, while the 'battle was to the strong' in Near Eastern affairs.

It was something the Arabs of Surya al-Janubiyya, (which they now calle 'Filastin' after the name of the British Mandate) were rightly very proud of when they were the reigning conquerors of the land. Now they are themselves conquered they seem to wan't to play down their imperial heritage - which is only understandable.

The same is true in India where Islamic names like 'Khan' (ruler), 'Amir'(commander), 'Aadil' (Justiciar), 'Ahmed (most commendable)', 'Asim (Defender) and so on, clearly associate the bearer of the name with the Turkic and Muslim conquests of the subcontinent.

This is not perhaps so widely advertised these days, now that the mantle of victimhood has usurped the imperial purple as the robe of honour.

But in their day of power it was something the Mohammdedans were only too proud of.

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I suppose quite similar to being able to trace your line back to one of the Companions of the Conqueror.

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May 17·edited May 17

Some exiled and displaced Palestinians have now invented the tradition of naming their children after their ancestral landholdings. Which is a bit like the way Andrew 'La Roussell' calls his son the plain old Marquess of Tavistock (Tavy-Stoc - Anglo Saxon for fort on the river Tavy), I suppose.

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Let’s expel anyone from Great Britain. With Norman, Saxon or Celtic roots- settlers all!

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If things get too rough here in Australia I'm comforted by the thought I could return to the ancestral homeland of Scotland. Many indigenous think that's where I belong. My working class forbears emigrated from the 1880s, so I'm about 4th generation living where in some peoples opinion I dont belong. The situation is a bit tricky due to several ancestors propensity for miscegenation.

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😊

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Vae Victis!

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"The Nakba was traumatic and unjust.".....Why was it unjust. Jews purchased much of the land, the UN sanctioned Israel's creation, the arab countries chose to invade it and the arabs of Israel were not forced to flee. Indeed the latter are still there as full, voting citizens.

For what its worth, genetic studies find palestinian Christians the most closely related to the inhabitants of the holy land at the time of Christ, jews having intermixed with Europeans, north Africans and middle easterners, muslim Arabs having more intermixing with sub-saharan africans (presumably from slavery) that their Christian Arab brothers. This I got from a study Razib Khan did comparing ancient DNA to modern. He published it in his substack.

If the surrounding arab countries had been as welcoming to the refugees as Jordan in 1948 and the years immediately after this problem wouldn't exist now. But they weren't, so going forward the two state solution is dead. Gaza must be occupied (it wasn't on Oct 7) and the west bank will be incorporated into Israel with its arab citizens becoming voting citizens just as the arabs who didn't flee the war of Israel's founding are now.

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It was certainly unjust to the individuals who were forced to flee their homes.

Yes I’ve seen those studies - indicates that President Bukele and Richard Hanania are the rightful heirs to Jerusalem. The former would certainly sort Hamas out

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Sorry to say I disagree with you. This is primarily a spiritual issue / hatred. Why does so much of the world care about a people that make up 1-2% of the population? There are no rational explanations. Only in the context of the Bible, where Jerusalem is the most important location by many times, over can one understand why these things are happening.

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I mean, in a sense what you are saying is almost trivially obvious. Half the world's population is either Christran or Muslim, and both have origins both continuous with and also hostile and in contradiction to the Jewish population and their historical monotheism. Of course they are going to matter despite the small size of their population.

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Even then it depends on ones reading of the Bible.

"Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence." John 18:36

"In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away." Hebrews 8:13

The orthodox Christian understanding of the Bible is that the earthly city of Jerusalem, established by force of arms, corrupted by human sin and forfeited through human conquest has been replaced by a heavenly Jerusalem, Jerusalem the Golden

For many Christians 'Jerusalem' is not a city in Palestine at all but the church of Christ which is the body of all true believers. It's home is not on this earth. This heavenly Jerusalem is the object of aspiration for all Christians in the tradition that draws down from Augustine.

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"many of whom wouldn’t have been aware of themselves as Poles, Romanians, Serbs or whatever. "

This would be less true of the Poles (Polish speakers), who I think were very sensitive from the start to the humiliation of losing their big kingdom and being divided up by their neighbors. Probably most true among those groups that had no recent political independence.

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I think definitely more established than with Romanians or Turks but not everywhere (and in some cases there was ambiguity about who become Polish and who became German)

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The ebb and flow of centralization defines history. It seems to nearly everyone to epitomize stability, but always results in fragmentation. Nationalism seems a modern phenomenon but is not that different from tribalism, which is perhaps older than the family unit. Despite the wishes of progressives, we are not really birds of a feather. Inclusivism cannot work in real life. The other inevitably grows larger while the in-group gets narrower.

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A few days ago, Nicholas Taleb brilliantly de-constructed the "white"/"non-white" dichotomy for that part of the world (The Levant):

https://medium.com/incerto/a-few-things-we-dont-quite-get-about-the-levant-da6ff702974f

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it's my goal to be called an 'idiot' by Taleb.

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If you are a "Barbarian supremacist", as he likes to call it, you wish is certainly granted!

https://x.com/nntaleb/status/1091384607042355200?lang=en

Taleb is in many ways like the real life version of the father from "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" if he was smarter and much, MUCH richer!

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