sweeping the sand from the golden door

We have just passed the forty-forth anniversary of the Six Day War. In part, a war based on certain reclamation myths and Jewish revisionism that appropriates necessary ingredients form the bible into the mythological recipe of a national homeland.  Somewhat simplistically, it encompasses Golda Meir’s statement that Israel was a “land without people for a people with no land.”; which has been misinterpreted and misattributed to fit the needs of the argument. To make matters worse, Britain made two independent promises which were in conflict during the WWI.  It is this which lies at the root of the present hostility between Jews and Palestinians; it can be said that two rights can make make a monumental wrong.

Robert Capa. Geering:But in November 1917 Earl Balfour, the British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, wrote to the Jewish financier, Lord Rothschild. His letter expressed sympathy for the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, on the understanding that 'nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.' Unfortunately Balfour had little knowledge of the nature and number of the 'existing non-Jewish communities' and thought Palestine was virtually unpopulated. This letter is now known as the Balfour Declaration. It was not prompted by any great stirring of conscience over the bitter fate of the Jewish people; rather, it was intended to encourage American Jews to influence the U.S. government to support British post-war policies. Read More:http://www.westarinstitute.org/Periodicals/4R_Articles/holyland3.html image:http://www.artsmia.org/viewer/detail.php?i=3&v=3&dept=7&artist=1526

A sketch of the history of the Holy Land over the last 1800 years makes it evident just who the Palestinians are in terms of cultural identity. They  do not have a common ethnic origin or a common religion. What binds them together is  the fact that they and their ancestors have lived in the land of Palestine from as far back as any of them can record. Palestinians can claim the ancestry  of the ancient Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Crusaders and Turks.

Lloyd Geering:Moreover, Muhammad taught the Arab people to regard themselves as the descendants of Abraham through his son Ishmael, just as Jews have long seen themselves as the descendants of Abraham through his son Isaac. Thus Islam is actually closer to Judaism than it is to Christianity. A Jewish scholar has put it this way. 'Islam is Judaism transplanted among the Arab people, whereas Christianity is Judaism transformed for the Gentile people'. Read More:http://www.westarinstitute.org/Periodicals/4R_Articles/holyland2.html image:http://www.islamic-architecture.info/WA-IS/WA-IS.htm


It is fairly ironic to find that if we go back three thousand years we find a very similar phenomenon.  The people of ancient Israel, far from being of one ethnic stock, resulted chiefly from the fusion of the indigenous Canaanites and other incoming tribes. There were pockets left from the retreating Hittite Empire, as the story of Uriah the Hittite so clearly illustrates. And did not Solomon boast of his many foreign wives? In the case both of the ancient Israelites and of the present day Palestinians, it was land possession which gave them their unity.

---Not even Norman Finkelstein, that bastion of anti-Zionist fervor, was able to drum up a single Zionist (other than the ubiquitous Israel Zangwill reference, of course) who used this slogan. In Finkelstein's book Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, after incorrectly crediting Zangwill with coining this phrase, Finkelstein falls back confidently on the accusation that it "typified Zionist propaganda on Palestine." He immediately supports this claim with an uncited recollection from Moshe Smilansky in which not even Moshe Smilansky gives a name or an example of any Zionist using this slogan. Finkelstein points out that the propaganda this slogan allegedly intended was "meant mostly for foreign Zionist consumption" and that it was "not taken seriously abroad outside Zionist circles." But he stops short of demonstrating it being taken seriously even within Zionist circles.---Read More:http://www.middleeastpiece.com/landwithoutpeople.html

The point is, human nature seems to be built around the lie  and the Palestine question is no exception. Whatever the origins and the claims they have been greatly obscured by lies of omission and commission.According to Ian Leslie, “lying isn’t a perversion of or nature, it’s central to it.” Leslie’s underlying theme is that self-deception is a powerful force, even a necessary and normal function of human life, and that minor deceits are not indicative of promoting major deceits. One of the best known series of photographs about Israel were the Robert Capa series from 1948-1950, in which a certain level of fudging helped sustain the narrative of the art form. The problem has been interpretation.

Journalistic texts are never created in isolation. The cultural context in which they are created and the viewpoint embedded in the work has to usually be deciphered. Robert Capa’s images of the birth of the state of Israel  are said to argue for a narrowly defined reading; a created reality that celebrates a presumption of rightness of the state and embraces a dominant cultural myth related to its settlement and actualization in which competing views were marginalized or in some cases assassinated. The Capa photographs are perceived to take the  perceived tack that Israel was creating a state ex-nihilo, by turning a desolate and essentially empty strip of land into an oasis.This is a debatable assumption. Capa’s images do tap into the reclamation myth of the land that settlers believed was rightfully theirs given their spiritual connection to that land, but this appears to be a leitmotif or secondary pattern.

Although the Capa photographs represent in a certain sense a culmination of myth, both predetermined and outlined, as Roland Barthes said, the myth is neither a lie nor a confession; rather a means of giving consistency to the world and make experience more understandable through a connection with the past. Ultimately, Capa’s Israel photographs were diaspora context juxtaposition of the past and the future, an artistic attempt at reconciliation of an even older myth,

of the Wandering Jew, and its Christian counterpart as seen from Hieronymus Bosch”s Prodigal Son and the Haywain.  This was coupled with the lyricism expressed by Emma Lazarus in her “Colossus” of which is known through the inscription on the Statue of Liberty:

“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Robert Capa. ---Michael Ezra:The most prominent defender of Arendt’s work was camp survivor Bruno Bettelheim who wrote a positive review for The New Republic. The book’s impact was ‘powerful.’ Bettelheim agreed with Arendt that Eichmann was not an anti- Semitic monster and that the Holocaust was not the climax of the long history of Jew-hatred but, in his words, ‘merely one part of the master plan to create the thousand year totalitarian Reich.’ For Bettelheim – and apparently for Arendt – ‘the issue was not Eichmann, but totalitarianism.’ He shared Arendt’s opinion that the Holocaust ‘was not the last chapter in anti-Semitism but rather one of the first chapters in modern totalitarianism.’ On Jewish ‘cooperation’ he stated: No doubt the stories of the ghettos would have been different if most Jews and their leadership had not been more or less willing, out of anxiety, to cooperate with the Germans, if they had not opposed the small minority that called for resistance at all costs, including violent fighting back. Read More:http://dissentmagazine.org/democratiya/article_pdfs/d9Ezra.pdf

Add to this an appropriation, as an artistic projection, of the American view of Exceptionalism, in which America alone among nations is beloved by god and in Israel a similar modern democratic experiment that reflects Lincoln’s response to a clergyman ” Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side. My great concern is to be on God’s side.”


Geering:Herzl did not find his mission all plain sailing. Many of his fellow-Jews were strongly opposed to political Zionism. The Reform section of Jewry, then strong in Western Europe, completely rejected it. The Jewish philosopher, Martin Buber, attended the conference at Basle but later became critical of political Zionism. Although he ended his days in Israel he became unpopular with many Israelis because of his insistence on open dialogue with the Palestinians with a view to creating a shared state.

Robert Capa. ---In similar fashion, the Website Z Communications has so many references to this slogan it was a tedious process just collecting them all. But at this point, would anyone be surprised to find out the collective body of articles at Z Communications fails to identify a single Zionist using the slogan they so adamantly declare to be Zionist?... Read More:http://www.middleeastpiece.com/landwithoutpeople.html image:

Most interesting of all was the response of a young Hasidic Jew from the Ukraine called Asher Ginzberg (1856–1927). He joined the ‘Lovers of Zion’ movement at the age of 22 and became known thereafter by his pen name, Ahad Ha’am (‘one of the people’). In 1889 he published his first essay, ‘Lo ze ha-derekh’ (‘This Is Not the Way’), where he outlined a spiritual basis for Zionism. He called for a renaissance of Hebrew-language culture, which came to be known as ‘cultural Zionism’. He did support the creation of a Jewish national homeland in Palestine, but mainly as a centre for the Jewish life of the Diaspora. He believed that the goal of re-creating Jewish nationhood required spiritual rebirth rather than political pressure. So in 1897 he severely criticised the political Zionism of Theodor Herzl, believing that a Jewish state should be the end result of a Jewish spiritual renaissance rather than the beginning. It was due to his efforts that the Hebrew University was founded in Jerusalem in 1927, some twenty years before the State of Israel. Read More:http://www.westarinstitute.org/Periodicals/4R_Articles/holyland3.html

Read More:http://www.middleeastpiece.com/landwithoutpeople.html

---Immigrant Transit Camp, Haifa, Israel Artist:Robert Capa Date:1949-1950 Read More:http://www.artsmia.org/viewer/detail.php?i=10&v=3&dept=7&artist=1526

Scott Copeland:Other Zionist leaders echoed Herzl. They held to the faith that the Zionist movement would, in time, be welcomed by the local peoples of the Middle East as a harbinger of development and modernization.

However, other voices within the Zionist movement challenged the optimism of deterministic progress. Ahad Ha-am, Herzl’s most potent critic, saw early on that Arab opposition to Zionism would not be easily assuaged. After a visit to the new Yishuv, Ahad Ha-am wrote:

“We tend to believe abroad that Palestine is nowadays almost completely deserted, an uncultivated wilderness, and anyone can come there and buy as much land as his heart desires. But in reality this is not the case. It is difficult to find anywhere in the country Arab land which lies fallow . . .

Robert Capa. 1950. Read More:http://www.artsmia.org/viewer/detail.php?id=5523&i=11&v=3&dept=7&artist=1526

…”We tend to believe abroad that all Arabs are desert barbarians, an asinine people who does not see or understand what is going on around them. This is a cardinal mistake…. The Arabs, and especially the city dwellers, understand very well what we want and what we do in the country…

“But when the day will come in which the life of our people in the Land of Israel will develop to such a degree that they will push aside the local population by little or by much, then it will not easily give up its place.” (“Truth from the Land of Israel,” The Complete Writings of Ahad Ha-am, 1946, p. 29.)

As a distinct national entity and movement, the Palestinian community went through a process of historic gestation from the 1920s and continuing through 1967. Palestinian national identity emerged as a reaction against the British Mandate and the growth of the Yishuv. Local Arab violence that began as sporadic mob actions in 1920 and 1921 was transformed into organized political and military action in the Arab revolts of 1929 and 1936-1939.

Bosch. Prodigal Son. Read More:http://www.art-prints-on-demand.com/a/hieronymus-bosch/the-prodigal-son-aka-the.html

Israel’s War of Independence, and the exodus of approximately 700,000 Palestinians, not only remains a central problem of the continuing conflict, but further cemented a shared sense of Palestinian history, memory, and suffering central to the formation of a national movement. Read More:http://mobile.myjewishlearning.com/israel/Jewish_Thought/Modern/Arabs_in_Zionist_Thought.shtml

Read More:http://temple.academia.edu/AndrewMendelson/Papers/164478/Vision_of_a_new_state_Israel_as_mythologized_by_Robert_Capa

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