I have just started reading Avi Schlaim’s ‘The Iron Wall, Israel and the Arab World’. The first part of the title is a reference to the Zionist doctrine, which was first expressed by Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the founder of Revisionist Zionism, that any negotiations with the Arabs must be conducted from a position of military strength.
Although, I am only now about to embark on the first chapter, the prefaces and prologue to the book already pose the question we should consider before reaching a thesis of our own. Can there ever be any justification for ethnic cleansing?
This question was most certainly not lost on Jabotinsky, who was to write in his article ‘The Ethics of the Iron Wall‘ “If homeless Jewry demands Palestine for itself it is “immoral” because it does not suit the native population. Such morality may be accepted among cannibals, but not in a civilised world”. This was most certainly in keeping with a man who saw his people as being very much a part of a culturally superior Western Civilisation (Schlaim A.,The Iron Wall: 12,13 (prologue).
Yes, the West did tend to see itself as culturally superior and a few months after Jabotinsky had written his little ditty a certain Adolf Hitler was getting ready to formulate his own ramblings on cultural superiority in a book which, among other things, is also viewed as a blueprint for the Nazi death camps and so much for western cultural superiority.
A civilised world resorts neither to ethnic cleansing, nor to mass murder, and that is something we should think about when consider the post-Zionist narrative, which Ilan Pappe discusses in his book, ‘‘The Idea of History: A History of Power and Knowledge’. It is this narrative which allows serious historians, such as Pappe and Schlaim, not only to reach the right conclusions regarding the historical facts, but also to come to the right moral conclusions because of those facts.
This is important, because, it is obviously not enough that Jabotinsky and, indeed, the “Nakba”a quarter of a century after his he formulated his doctrine, are revisited, but it is also important to emphasise that ethnic cleansing can never be justifiable or necessary. It is important, however, not only from a moral perspective, but also from a historical perspective. as any other conclusion would imply that the Historian must inevitably consciously falsify history. After all, advocating ethnic cleansing after all is not going to go down well with the majority of us.
Therefore, because such a narrative is not sustainable, it has to be accompanied by blaming the Palestinians for any failure of the non-sensical imaginary peace process and to do that the history has to be falsified. For instance, in Benny Morris’s article, ‘Peace? No Chance’, which was published in the ‘Guardian’ on 21 February, 2002 and which prompted a response from Avi Schlaim the following day accusing Morris “a betrayal of history“.
It it would appear that the “land without people for a people without land” and the “the Palestinians left their homes voluntarily” “schools of thought” have been replaced by a new breed of falsification “gobbledegookers” in the land of Zion, but, then, when you are ethnically cleansing a country, you’ve got to come up with something a bit better than, “it is necessary”, after all, we are civilised, aren’t we?