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Robin Yassin-Kassab

Archive for the ‘Zionist lobby’ Category

Shahid Alam’s Destabilising Logic of Zionism

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This review was written for Holy Land Studies.

M. Shahid Alam’s latest book “Israeli Exceptionalism: The Destabilising Logic of Zionism” is a fascinating historical analysis, densely detailed and referenced, of the nature and trajectory of Jewish nationalism. It is bracingly honest, dispensing with the usual Western pieties to describe three elements of what Edward Said called Israel’s “ideology of difference.” These are, firstly, the notion of Jewish chosenness and divine right to Palestine; secondly, the ‘miraculous’ creation and survival of the state; and thirdly, the uniquely tragic history of the Jewish people.

Many studies have deconstructed the first two myths. Less attention has been lavished on countering the third, the “lachrymose historiography” of the Jews (in Salo Baron’s words) and its employment to neutralise criticism of the Zionist project. Alam argues persuasively that Zionism was not simply a response to virulent anti-Semitism but also, crucially, the result of Jewish power.

Until the rise of fascism, the trend of Jewish involvement in modern Europe was one of phenomenal success. This is despite recurring episodes of anti-Semitism, particularly in the east. The European Jewish population increased more than tenfold in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (the general population increase was by a factor of 3.3). In the same period, Jews moved into the West’s urban power centres. Ironically, anti-Semitic discrimination had “endowed the Jews disproportionately with those assets that would give them vital advantages in Europe’s emerging capitalist societies.” By the early 19th Century, Jews owned 30 of 52 private banks in Berlin. In Vienna in 1900, 62% of lawyers, half the doctors and over half the journalists were Jews. An important strata of Jews now had both money and access to political and cultural elites.

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

November 29, 2010 at 6:18 pm

Palestine Reading – FiveBooks Interview

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Five Books asks writers, academics and othersuch to list recommended books on a given topic. The Five Books Israel-Palestine week features interviews with interesting figures like Steve Walt. And me. Here’s a video interview of me making several of my favourite points:

Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

July 29, 2010 at 1:00 am

A Process of Change – Nasrallah to Petraeus

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It’s important to remember that Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s speeches consist of more than mere rhetoric. One of the reasons for Nasrallah’s enormous popularity in the Arab and Muslim worlds is that, unlike other Arab leaders, he says what he means and means what he says. Hizbullah is the only force to have defeated Israel – once in 2000, when the brutal occupation of south Lebanon was brought to an end, and once in 2006, when Israeli troops attempted to reinvade in order to dismantle the resistance, but bled on the border for five weeks instead. During the 2006 war Israel bombed every TV mast it could find, but failed to put Hizbullah’s al-Manar off the air. Nasrallah spoke on al-Manar of “the Israeli warship that attacked our infrastructure, people’s homes and civilians. Look at it burn!” As Nasrallah uttered these words, a Hizbullah missile did indeed disable an Israeli warship, forcing Israel to move its fleet away from the Lebanese coast.

In mid-February 2010, Shaikh Nasrallah made a speech which may well mark a fundamental change in the Middle Eastern balance of power. The speech, quoted below, should not be read as a string of empty threats, but a signal of new weaponry and fighting capabilities.

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

March 23, 2010 at 7:16 pm

Criminal and Accomplice

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I didn’t watch Blair’s performance at the Chilcot inquiry, for health reasons, but I did read that he mentioned Iran 30 times, as in ‘the same good case for war applies to Iran’. This comes in the context of America concentrating ships and missiles in the Gulf. It is unlikely that the US will attack Iran directly, but increasingly likely that Israel will provoke a conflict. Blair may be preparing the ground for this.

Blair felt ‘responsibility but no regret’ over the destruction of Iraq which has killed over a million, created at least four million refugees, and turned a fertile land into a diseased desert. He focused on Saddam Hussain’s monstrosity, but refrained from explaining how Saddam’s most monstrous crimes were supported by his Western backers. He was allowed to refrain. He didn’t entertain the possibility that Hussain could have been deposed in other ways. He blamed Iran and al-Qa’ida, neither of which had a presence in the country before its collapse, for Iraq’s problems, and again his illogic was not questioned.

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

February 4, 2010 at 3:47 pm

Five Books on Israel-Palestine

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The interview below was published in the Five Books section of The Browser. I chose five books on the Israel-Palestine conflict.
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Tell me about the Ilan Pappe book, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.

Pappe has written a great historical work on the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1947/8 and he shows that it was organised and planned, called Plan D, or plan Dalit, and he has exploded the myths that were current until his work.

What myths?

Well, for example, that the Arab leaders told the Palestinians to leave, or that the Palestinians were Bedouin people who didn’t really live there anyway, and he showed that they were ordinary people in brick and mortar homes who were intentionally forced out. This is very important because the ethnic cleansing of Palestine is the original sin of Zionism and the root of the current problem.

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

December 9, 2009 at 4:12 pm

A Visit to Hebron

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This was published on the Reuters Great Debate blog.

Palestine 210There’s no pretty way to describe what I saw in Hebron, no tidy conceit to wrap it in.

I visited as a participant in the Palestine Festival of Literature, the brain child of the great British-Egyptian novelist Ahdaf Soueif. I was in the company of many wonderful writers and publishers, among them Python and traveller Michael Palin, best-selling crime novelist Henning Mankel, Pride and Prejudice screenplay writer Deborah Moggach, and prize-winning novelists Claire Messud and MG Vassanji.

Our first stop was Hebron University, where I ran a workshop on ‘the role of writing in changing political realities.’ The students were bright and eager; the only discomforting note was struck by a memorial stone to three killed while walking on campus, by rampaging settlers, in 1986.

After lunch we visited Hebron’s historic centre.

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

July 3, 2009 at 12:11 am

A Plague on Both their Houses

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The great thing about the forthcoming American presidential election is that Hillary Clinton won’t be the winner. The lamentable thing is that either Barack Obama or John McCain will be.

I have detested Hillary Clinton since she led a New York demonstration against ‘Arab terror’ in the first days of the second Intifada. This was before the Intifada became militarised, when it still centred around stone-throwing crowds and peaceful demonstrations, and when the zionist occupation was murdering dozens of Palestinians every day. This year her campaign website stated: “Hillary Clinton believes that Israel’s right to exist in safety as a Jewish state, with defensible borders and an undivided Jerusalem as its capital, secure from violence and terrorism, must never be questioned.” Just run your eyes over that again. Hillary Clinton doesn’t just believe that the citizens of Israel should be safe, but that Israel “as a Jewish state”, as an apartheid state for Jews only, not for its citizens or for those it has driven out, should be safe. She believes that illegally occupied and illegally colonised east Jerusalem, an ancient Arab city originally built by Canaanite Jebusites, should remain under eternal zionist occupation. And she believes not only that her immoral and stupid positions are right, but that they should never be questioned. Such is the weight of zionism on American political life – as heavy a taboo as God is in the east.

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

November 1, 2008 at 1:49 am