ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
From the beginning, there had been trouble in Palestine between European Jewish immigrants
and the few thousand native Palestinian Jews whose way of life and culture made them
feel more at home with their Arab neighbors than with the newcomers.
Israel–a Kingdom Divided
By Leonard J. Schweitzer
Can the newest nation of the world continue to grow and prosper in spite of
its segregation and race prejudice? Or will history repeat itself and
fanaticism and internal strain cause its ultimate failure?
How many Arabs are there in the Middle East? Put that question to Arab leaders and you’ll get a variety of answers ranging from a low of about thirty-five million to a high of about sixty million. Your informants may not agree on numbers–a fact that is not too astonishing if it is remembered that some estimates are based on language identity and others on various racial characteristics–but they are unanimous on two points. There are a lot of Arabs in the Middle East and, right now, none of them like us.
In a world where our friends can be counted in the thousands but our enemies in the millions, that is not a pleasant state of affairs. The Arabs occupy a territory of great strategic significance. We have gone to considerable pains and tremendous expense to establish a strong point of Western defense in Turkey; but the Russians can turn that strong point by penetrating strife-torn Iran, overrunning the Arab states, and appearing in our rear. If they do that, we lose much more than the vital oil of the Middle East; we give the Soviet Communists a land bridge to India, Southeast Asia, and North Africa. In other worst, we give them easy access to our own “soft underbelly.”
To be on good terms with the Arabs ought to be a matter of simple precaution. Theoretically nothing should be easier. Their religion alone makes the Arabs our natural partners in the defense of the believing world against atheistic Communism.
How, then, have we muffed our opportunity and converted the friendship of the Arabs into unconcealed hostility? There is more than one reason, of course, but one is really outstanding. The Arabs accuse us of giving aid and comfort to the Zionists in carrying out the act of premeditated aggression which robbed them of Arab Palestine. And nothing, neither millions in subsidies, nor more generous oil royalties, nor boatloads of Point Four technicians, will ever induce the Arabs to believe that we acted with justice or reason when we encouraged the Zionists to expel the native population and set up a foreign state in territory that has been in Arab hands for 1300 years.
Time and again during my trip to the Middle East, Arabs, Christian as well as Moslem, asked me these questions: “Why does the United States distinguish between Nazi and Communist aggression and Zionist aggression? Why did you fight Hitler but encourage Zionism? Why do you oppose Stalin but support Israel?
Put in that way–and the Arabs, understandably, refuse to lessen an American’s embarrassment by putting them in some softer fashion–these questions are unanswerable. I went to Israel to find out, if I could, whether in place of the Arabs we had helped to dispossess, we had at least established other friends ready, willing, and able to support the Western position in the strategic Middle East. It was possible that the creation of a strong and viable Palestinian state under Jewish auspices, by bringing stability and the four freedoms to the Middle East, could serve as a beacon of progress and enlightenment for the politically backward Arabs and compensate them in some measure for the loss of their homes.
Shortly after the Jewish state was born, it was my good fortune to find relief from the boredom of a long European railroad trip in the company of an Israeli of Polish extraction. He held me spellbound with fascinating stories of his prewar work as an engineer. But the most eloquent portion of his recital was reserved for an account of the creation of the new country. As my chance acquaintance reminded me of the outrageous persecution to which his people had been subjected under Hitler and how the broken remnant of European Jews had looked toward Palestine as a land of renewed promise, some of his enthusiasm for Zionism communicated itself to me.
He spoke in glowing terms of how the Jews, at last, possessed their own homeland, a country of which they were as proud as Americans are of their own native land. he described the tremendous work of construction, the flowering of what had been desert, the colossal task of transporting his people from their overseas homes and refugee camps, the slow progress of building homes and industries, the tremendous financial help freely given by the American Jewish community. It was impossible not to be kindled by its enthusiasm and pride.
Before leaving the train, he gave me his address in Jerusalem and earnestly invited me to come to his country and see for myself if things were not as he described them, if his people had not deserved the help they had received from the United States.
His home was my my first stop in Israel this past summer. he greeted me with a wry smile amid a disorderly litter of suitcases, trunks, and cartons.
“You’ve timed it with only a few days to spare,” he told me. “We’re leaving for Australia next week. there’s a new start waiting for us there.”
I expressed my amazement but thought it would hardly be polite to remind him of what he had once told me, that come what might he, like the rest of his people, felt he was home at last and would live and die in Israel.
“I know what you’re thinking,” he said, “but our conversation took place a long time ago and conditions have changed since then.” he smiled apologetically and added, “Either that, or else I let my enthusiasm run away with me.”
Then he began to speak passionately, like a man with a burden on his mind. “The trouble here,” he said, “is that we really have no basis for a nation. In the beginning we were united by our remembrance of the past and by the hostility of the Arabs, But that doesn’t seem to be enough to make a nation out of people who speak sixty-four different languages and come from every possible cultural and educational level. maybe if we had time, if we had centuries, but even then I’m not sure.
“Look here!” He drew me to a window and pointed to the crowded street. Some of the pedestrians looked like Europeans, the kind of people you see in Paris or Vienna or Zurich. Others resembled the Asiatic and African types so commonly seen in the Middle Eastern bazaars.
My friend singled out an athletic looking Negro dressed in Arab style and trailed by three Negro women and half a dozen children. he was a Yemenite Jew and his harem.
“I assure you,” the Israeli engineer said earnestly, “that I’m as free from racial prejudices as the next man, but it’s madness to believe that my wife and children and I can co-operate harmoniously with people like that in the creation of a new nation.”
He went on bitterly, “The only thing we have in common is our religion, and even there the difference between the Yemenite Jew and myself is greater than the difference between me and the average European Protestant.”
“Do you know,” he asked, “that some of the Yemenite immigrants have actually had to be forcibly restrained from sacrificing live animals in their religious rites? No, my friend, I was wrong; it was a dream. if only it were possible to win these people away from their primitive habits, but it can’t be done. they have a dozen children to our one. Three generations from now we’ll all be Yemenites.”
My friend’s bitter words laid bare the roots of an unanticipated problem. Zionism was originally a movement of European and American Jewish origin. Its purpose was to find a safe haven for the persecuted Jews of Europe, and it was for that worthy aim that American Jews gave so generously of their fortunes. When Zionism reached its goal, the gates of the new country were flung open to Jews from all over the world.
From the beginning, there had been trouble in Palestine between European Jewish immigrants and the few thousand native Palestinian Jews whose way of life and culture made them feel more at home with their Arab neighbors than with the newcomers. Kipling’s “East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,” is nowhere better exemplified than in this ancient corner of the Middle East. Europeans and Orientals can and should respect each other’s habits and customs but usually find it disastrous to form a mixed community.
As Oriental Jews began to exercise their right to come to the new country and poured in by the hundreds of thousands, their European co-religionists were seized with panic. Forgotten was their own recent past, when they were the victims of fraudulent race and blood theories, and in their fear of being submerged by a strange and alien tide, they resurrected the questionable doctrines for which the Nazis once earned the scorn of the world. They soon made their feelings of superiority apparent to the oriental Jews who, in turn, are filled with religious anger. A great chasm splits Israel today.
It would be difficult to build a country out of such disparate elements under the best of conditions, and economic conditions in Israel have been bad from the very start. It is a tiny and impoverished land. The European immigrants are not farmers for the most part. the Yemenites resent being turned into a class of agricultural laborers. Israel has few natural resources to support industrial enterprises are in operation, but they are principally artificial growths on sentimental, not economic, roots.
Surrounded by a sea of self-created enemies and burdened by the influx of a population which has not yet had time to put down roots and fend for itself, Israel today is living on American charity. that was admitted by every responsible Israeli to whom I spoke. Government officials, businessmen, farmers, and journalists all agreed that the only way Israel can endure is for the United States to transmit sufficient capital–and that means billions on an even bigger scale than anything we have done for Europe–to establish a host of new industries and agricultural enterprises. Even then, they acknowledge, proportionately heavy annual subsidies will still be necessary until far into the indefinite future in order to pay for raw materials from abroad, make up for the food deficit, and pay for resettlement of the heavy flow of immigrants.
It is true that one Israeli faction, the leftwing Mapam Socialist and the Communists, believe, or pretend to believe, that some of the necessary help will come from Soviet Russia. The Israeli Government’s official policy is to accept help from wherever it comes. It recently offered concessions to the Soviet Union in exchange for Red experts and technical equipment. But most Israeli realists understand that Moscow neither will nor nor can assist them, and that the United States will continue to be their only source of help.
Although the Israelis lean heavily on their American co-religionists and the United States Government, I found the atmosphere heavily laden with anti-Americanism. The usual clichés can be heard in abundance: we are materialists; ours is a coca Cola civilization; the United States is anxious for war; the Vatican and the American Government are conspiring together against peace; we are trying to avoid a truce in Korea.
This distaste for Americans and America policies follows one channel, however, which is peculiar to Israel. Instead of praise for the American Jews for their magnificent help, I heard constant criticism of them for their wealth and for their reluctance to pack up their property and move bag and baggage to Israel. Instead of praise for the American Jews for their magnificent help, I heard constant criticism of them for their wealth and for their reluctance to pack up their property and move bag and baggage to Israel. The basis for this anti-Americanism seems to be the extreme left-wing orientation of the more articulate leaders in Israel, many of whom, like premier David Ben-Gurion, were members of the Socialist and other radical parties of Eastern Europe before the emigrated.
These are two great handicaps obstructing a viable economy, even if the additional American assistance bow being requested is granted. many of the European immigrants are elderly people who can make no great contribution tot he country’s industrial and agricultural prosperity, while others, notably the Oriental Jews, simply lack the skills to make an advantageous contribution. Usually this latter handicap as the pretext, the European Jews who control the country have lately adopted a policy of selective immigration, in the hope of keeping out the unskilled and the unfit and attracting newcomers with both skills and capital. Opponents of the new policy denounce it as a panic measure, inspired by the European fear of an Oriental influx.
In any case, the policy is floundering because American Jews evince no enthusiasm for leaving the United States and resettling in Israel. European Jews, right after the war, were willing to go to Israel only when no other place of refuge was open to them. many who are still in the European refugee camps, under the influence of complaining letters from friends and relatives already in Israel, are declining to move to that country. as for the French, British, and Belgian Jews, like the Americans they want to stay home.
But the very fact that the Israeli Government has advanced these proposals for selective immigration has antagonized the oriental Jews, who already form about half the population. they bitterly complain that European Jews are trying to perpetuate their control and establish themselves as a master race. government officials denied these accusations, but a number of Oriental Jews, interviewed in a reception center, alleged that the conditions under which they were housed and few were far inferior to those enjoyed by newcomers from the West. They also said their children received far fewer educational facilities, and that they themselves were rarely offered anything better than menial jobs.
Most oriental Jews are banned from returning to the lands of their origin by Arab restrictions, but nevertheless a number of them told me that they would gladly return to Iraq and Yemen if arrangements could be made and if arrangements could be made and of they had the money for their return passages. indeed, a number of Indian and Ethiopian Jews, not subject to these restrictions, recently returned to their homelands after protesting that they were subjected to humiliation in Israel because of their color. Nor is this immigration-in-reverse confined to the oriental Jews. Numerous Western Jews, like my engineer friend, are leaving the country as fast as other possibilities open for them.
Businessmen also have their complaints. They are worried by the increased pace of the march toward Socialism. The largest political party, premier Ben-Gurion’s Mapai, is wholly Socialist. Mapai, plus Mapam, the left-wing Socialist group, and the Communists and other splinter parties of the left, command the votes of more than half the electorate. a small-scale furniture manufacturer in Tel-Aviv said that Mapai, which has been treading carefully until now in order not to frighten away American capital, is now reverting to Socialist type.
“I sometimes wonder,” he said, “if all this money would have been sent to Israel if the donors realized they were financing another Socialist experiment.”
In the opinion of many, Mapai aims to create a Socialist economy even further to the left than the recent British try. Most of my informants thought that Mapai, under the pressure of their extremist Mapam rivals, would be forced to travel “as far to the left as you can go without calling it Communism.”
“I’m about ready to quit,” one businessman told me. “My brother in the United States is doing his best to get a visa for us. I see expropriation of all private property in another five years.”
A third source of discontent is the enormous burden of military service and military expenditures shouldered by the tiny country. Israel looks like an armed camp. Soldiers of both sexes and armed to the teeth are seen everywhere, accompanied by efficient-looking tanks and other lethal equipment. The regular budget includes a sizable item for military expenditures but, in addition, there is a huge secret fund for the same purpose. This so-called Special defense Budget is financed via the printing press and treasury notes, and thus has a terrific inflationary effect on the economy. But the inflationary effect is not the chief reason for the distaste of those who regret the enormous military expenditures and the maintenance of an oversize army.
“I know that in these times we need an army, even a big one,” a rabbi told me, “but I’m afraid that the establishment we have now is much too large. certainly it’s bigger than than we need to defend our borders. The only reason I can see for maintaining an army of the present size is because some of our jingoists are looking forward to a foreign ‘adventure’.”
He was reluctant to amplify his remarks. But from other, bolder sources I learned that a number of Israeli leaders, among them Menachem Begin, the terrorist leader, have been quietly but ardently pressing the Israeli claim for additional Lebensraum in the surrounding Arab territories.
Among these rather anachronistic Jewish advocates of a former Nazi tenet are spokesmen for part of the Orthodox sector of the population. It is their thesis that Israel must expand until its borders encompass all territory occupied by the Jewish state during its Biblical heyday. That takes in an amazing amount of territory, because at various times Biblical Judea and Israel conquered and controlled all of what is now the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and even portions of Iraq and Egypt. the danger of renewed Israeli aggression against the Arabs is a serious one.
The impression I gathered from conversations with government officials and private citizens alike is that under no circumstances will the present Israeli government carry out its obligation to withdraw from Jerusalem and permit the internationalization of that Holy City which contains so many religious monuments sacred to Christians and Moslems as well as Jews. on the contrary, their attitude is hardening against other religions. A Franciscan father told me that the Israeli Government was making it increasingly difficult to maintain the Catholic shrines by denying building permits and materials needed for their repair in many instances, and in others by granting the permits but obstructing the recruitment of a labor force. The father was of the opinion that many government officials have swallowed too much of the heady doctrine of Jewish racial and religious superiority.
One of my experiences bears this out. After I reached Israel I learned that the Government’s published policy is to grant entry permits to priests and religious of all nationalities. yet Israeli consulates abroad frequently deny these entry permits to priests of German and Austrian nationality. in the face of such fanaticism, and in the light of the internal strains and stresses which have already caused such enormous cracks in the Israeli state, the Zionist experiment hardly seems a stabilizing force for domestic and international peace in the Middle East. Their past sufferings have earned the Jews of Israel the sympathy of most Americans. one can only hope that their current policies, which most Americans would regard as serious errors, do not bring them a self-created repetition of tragedy.
Nothing can wipe out or even atone for the act of aggression committed by the Zionists against the Arab world or for the sufferings of the almost one million Arab refugees who are today homeless and without hope. however, it would have been good to be able to report that despite the bedrock of injustice and persecutions underlying the foundation of Israel, American aid was well deserved and that the new state was solid, strong, and thriving. That it is not so is a major tragedy of the times and a poor reward for that alienation of the Arab world which our alienation of the Arab which our pro-Zionist stand has earned for us.
Source: The Sign (January 1953)
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By Russell Simmons
Russell Simmons knows firsthand that wealth is rooted in much more than the stock market. True wealth has more to do with what’s in your heart than what’s in your wallet. Using this knowledge, Simmons became one of America’s shrewdest entrepreneurs, achieving a level of success that most investors only dream about. No matter how much material gain he accumulated, he never stopped lending a hand to those less fortunate. In Super Rich, Simmons uses his rare blend of spiritual savvy and street-smart wisdom to offer a new definition of wealth-and share timeless principles for developing an unshakable sense of self that can weather any financial storm. As Simmons says, “Happy can make you money, but money can’t make you happy.”
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By Michele Alexander
Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama’s political success and Oprah Winfrey’s financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today… than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don’t know the truth about mass incarcerationbut her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.Publishers Weekly
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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updated 15 December 2011