Whose land is it anyway? A survey of immigration into pre-state Israel

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By Richard Mather

There is an old and rare book called Palestina ex monumentis veteribus illustrata, written by Hadriani Relandi (a mapmaker and scholar from Utrecht) and published in 1714. It documents Relandi’s trip to Eretz Israel/Palestine in 1695-96. On his travels he surveyed around 2,500 places that were mentioned in the Tanakh and/or Mishnah, and he carried out a census of the people who resided in such places. He made some very interesting discoveries. For a start, he discovered that not a single settlement in Palestine had a name that was of Arabic origin. Instead the names derived from Hebrew, Roman and Greek languages.

Another interesting discovery was the conspicuous absence of a sizeable Muslim population. Instead, he found that most of the inhabitants of Palestine were Jews, along with some Christians and a few Bedouins. Nazareth was home to less than a thousand Christians, while Jerusalem held 5,000 people, mostly Jews. Gaza was home to around 250 Jews and about the same number of Christians.  The only exception was Nablus where around 120 Muslims lived, along with a handful of Samaritans, whose ancestors belonged to the northern tribes of Israel.

Intrigued by the findings in Relandi’s book, I looked at other first-hand sources, such as travelogs, governmental reports and censuses. I wasn’t sure I would find anything. But there is a surprising quantity of data and anecdotal evidence. And all the evidence suggests that the majority of non-Jewish (i.e. Arab Muslim and Christian) immigration to Palestine began in the mid or late 1800s.

Drawing on work by statistician and demographer Roberto Bachi, it is estimated that there were 151,000 non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine in 1540. (Some sources indicate that many of these were descendants of Jews who had remained in Palestine following the failed Bar Kokhba revolt in 136 CE but had been forced to convert to Islam). By 1800, the non-Jewish population had grown to around 268,000, rising to 489,000 by 1890, 589,000 in 1922 and just over 1.3 million in 1948. The vast majority of these non-Jewish migrants were Muslims. All of which suggests that most of the Muslim (and Christian) inhabitants of Palestine were recent immigrants and had not been living there for generations as is sometimes suggested. Moreover, the figures show that Arab immigration was a fast-growing trend, propelled by external circumstances. But what?

Firstly, several thousand peasant farmers had come to Palestine in the first half of the 19th century to escape Egypt’s military draft, forced labor and taxes. Secondly, the Ottoman authorities transferred a great many people from Morocco, Algeria and Egypt to Palestine in the early part of the 20th century, partly in an effort to outflank Jewish immigration. Thirdly, the Zionist project was very attractive to Arabs who were drawn to Palestine by the good wages, healthcare and sanitation offered by the Jews.  Indeed, the Muslim infant mortality rate in Palestine fell from 201 per 1,000 in 1925 to 94 per 1,000 in 1945. Meanwhile, life expectancy rose from 37 to 49 years.

Furthermore, the Arab population of Palestine increased the most in cities where there were large numbers of Jews, which is a strong indication that Arabs were drawn to Palestine because of the Zionists. Between 1922 and 1947, the Arab population grew by 290 per cent in Haifa, 158 per cent in Jaffa and 131 per cent in Jerusalem. Tellingly, the growth in Arab-majority towns was far less dramatic: 37 per cent in Bethlehem, 42 per cent in Nablus and 78 per cent in Jenin.

During the British civil administration in Palestine (1920 to 1948), restrictions were placed on Jewish immigration in order to appease Arab troublemakers. However, the situation regarding Arab settlement was much more lax. Historian and author Freddy Liebreich claims there was significant Arab immigration from the Hauran region of Syria during the Mandate era – and that the British authorities turned a blind eye.

However, some people were taking notice. The Hope Simpson Enquiry (1930) observed  there was significant illegal Arab immigration from Egypt, Transjordan and Syria, which was negatively affecting prospective Jewish immigrants and contributing to Arab violence against Jews. The British Governor of the Sinai between 1922 and 1936 substantiated the view that unchecked Arab immigration was taking place, with most of the immigrants coming from the Sinai, Transjordan and Syria. And the Peel Commission reported in 1937 that a “shortfall of land” was “due less to the amount of land acquired by Jews than to the increase in the Arab population.”

Immigration continued at a pace until the Jews declared independence in 1948. The fact that Arab (largely Muslim) immigration continued right up until Israeli independence is borne out by the United Nations stipulation that any Arab refugee who had lived in Palestine for a mere two years prior to Jewish independence was entitled to refugee status. According to the UN Relief and Works Agency, Palestine refugees are defined as “persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.”

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If there were very few non-Jewish inhabitants in Palestine in the 16th and 17th centuries, what happened to the Arab invaders who arrived in 629 CE? Well, for a start, very few of the invaders actually stayed in Palestine. Many became absentee landlords who used native tenants to cultivate their estates and to pay the dhimmi tax. This is why Palestine, along with Egypt and Syria, remained overwhelmingly Christian for several more centuries. It is possible, however, that following the Muslim reconquest in 1187, many Jewish and Christian inhabitants of Palestine were forced to convert to Islam, thereby pushing up the number of Muslim inhabitants. However, Palestine’s population went into decline from the mid-14th century – in large part due to the Black Death, which swept in from eastern Europe and north Africa, travelling to Gaza, and making its way to Palestine, Lebanon and Syria. With no one to care for the land, many areas became malarial, especially in northern Palestine, which became largely uninhabitable. Depopulation continued as a consequence of the invasion of Palestine in 1831 by Muhammad Ali of Egypt and the ensuing Peasants’ Revolt of 1834, which reduced the male population of Palestine by about twenty per cent, with large numbers of peasants either deported to Egypt or drafted into Egypt’s military. Many others abandoned their farms and villages to join the Bedouin.

Clearly it would be futile to argue that there were few Arabs living in Palestine in the late 19th and the early 20th centuries, but the figures do show that the Arab population of Palestine had been in state of flux for centuries and that the overwhelming majority were migrants from the rest of the Arab world and/or the Ottoman empire. This is important because it tells us that the postmodern notion of a deep-rooted Palestinian Arab history/culture is bogus. All the evidence points to the conspicuous absence of Arab culture in late 17th century Palestine; and even in the 18th and 19th centuries the Arab inhabitants of Palestine were not indigenous but were latecomers. This explains why, historically, Arabs never talked about Palestinian identity – because there wasn’t one. They were Egyptian, Syrian, Moroccan, Iraqi and Ottoman Arabs, and many of them expressed allegiance to the concept of a Greater Syria.

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It wasn’t until the mid-1960s – nearly two decades after Israel declared independence – that a semi-coherent (and very violent) Palestinian Arab identity came into being. Until then, the Arabs had refused to call themselves Palestinians because it was a name reserved for the Jews. When people talk of a Arabic Palestinian culture or history, they are being disingenuous: the only Palestinian culture or history of any note is Jewish. Arabic-speaking Palestinianism started as late as the 1960s and was couched in fervently anti-Zionist and Judeophobic terms. Despite their successful efforts in deceiving the world, many Arab Palestinian leaders know the truth about the origins of their people. Egyptian-born Yasser Arafat made this very clear when he said, “The Palestinian people have no national identity. I, Yasser Arafat, man of destiny, will give them that identity through conflict with Israel.”

Even as late as the 1970s, the notion of a Palestinian people was still nothing more than a terrorist construct designed to undermine Jewish claims to the land of Israel. In a conversation with Dutch newspaper Trouw in March 1977, the leader of the pro-Syria as-Sa’iqa faction of the PLO, Zuheir Mohsen, remarked: “It is only for political reasons that we carefully underline our Palestinian identity […] yes, the existence of a separate Palestinian identity serves only tactical purposes. The founding of a Palestinian state is a new tool in the continuing battle against Israel.”

Why else do the people who claim to be Palestinians regularly turn down the possibility of an independent state alongside Israel? It’s because the Arabs themselves don’t really believe in a State of Palestine. Their only interest is abolishing the ample Jewish presence between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. Jewish self-determination is anathema to many Muslims who, since the time of Muhammed, have tried to keep the Jews in a state of subjugation and dhimmitude. When Arab and/or BDS protestors call for Palestine to be free “from the river to the sea,” what they are really calling for is the genocide of the Jews.

Many of the problems experienced by the State of Israel stem from something very simple but profound –  the change of name. While it is totally understandable that the leaders of the Yishuv chose the name Israel for their state (New Judea was another option), it has had unfortunate consequences. By rejecting the labels Palestine and Palestinian, the Jews circumvented their own local history and identity, and bequeathed both the name and heritage of Palestine to the Arabs. So we are now in a perverse situation where the indigenous Semites of Palestine call themselves Israelis and the people who flocked from the Ottoman and Arab regions call themselves Palestinians. What’s worse is the fact that the latter now claim to have been the indigenous people of Palestine all along – and the world (which has always been a sucker for conspiracy theories) believes it.

It is surely time to remind the Arabs and the international community that Jews are the true Palestinians. Why else would there be a Palestinian Talmud or a Jewish newspaper called The Palestine Post. Why, until the creation of Israel, were the Jews known as Palestinians? Why did philosopher Immanuel Kant refer to Jews in Europe as “the Palestinians among us”? Why did Jewish campaigners in the early 20th century produce posters calling for Jews of America to register as members of the Zionist Organisation of America “for the freedom of Palestine”? Why does the 1939 flag of Palestine have a Star of David on it?

Now some critics might say, “Well, all this may be true,  but the people who claim to be Palestinians are indeed Palestinians because they say  they are and they deserve our sympathy.” The trouble is, the so-called Palestinians make no attempt to explain who they really are but continue to perpetuate the antisemitic conspiracy theory that they are the primitive and indigenous people of Palestine who were/are cruelly oppressed by the wicked Zionists. The world believes this because they are told the lie often enough and because the Israeli state has done a poor job of communicating the truth.

And because of the big Palestinian lie, Jew-hatred is now at its highest level since the end of the Second World War. Given that the Palestinians themselves are unlikely to admit to themselves and to the world that Palestinianism is an antisemitic hoax,  it is down to us to do it for them.

The Noahide Laws: A universal code for peace and unity

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Noah and His Ark’ by Charles Willson Peale, 1819, oil on canvas

The Noahide Laws: A universal code for peace and unity 

And God spoke unto Noah, and to Noah’s children with him, saying, And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you, and with your seed after you.’

By Richard Mather  

Judaism is not a religion that seeks converts. Although conversion is not prohibited (far from it), Maimonides and other authorities teach that the Seven Noahide Laws, or Sheva Mitzvot B’nai Noach, are the sacred inheritance of all humanity. Those gentiles who observe the Seven Noahide Laws in accordance with the Torah will merit a share in the World to Come.

What are the Seven Noahide Laws? As enumerated in Sanhedrin 56a of the Babylonian Talmud, they comprise one positive commandment and six negative commandments given to Noah and his offspring after the Flood, and are as follows: to establish courts of justice; to refrain from blasphemy, idolatry, adultery, bloodshed and robbery; and to never eat flesh cut from a living animal. This last commandment is usually interpreted as behaving compassionately towards animals.

All descendants of Noah, which means all of humanity, are required to follow these laws. Gentiles who actively follow the Seven Laws of Noah are called B’nai Noach or Noahides. Sometimes they are referred to as “righteous gentiles” or “the pious among the nations.” Historically, the term B’nai Noach applied to all gentiles as descendants of Noah. These days, however, it is used to refer specifically to gentiles who observe the Seven Noahide Laws.

The Noahide Laws were give to Moses and also preserved by the sages of the Talmud. It is important to note that B’nai Noach observe the Seven Laws because they were reaffirmed at Mount Sinai and not because the sons of Noah received them previously. As a priestly nation, the Jewish people are to safeguard these universal principles and to teach them to the nations. According to Maimonides, “Moses was commanded by the Almighty to compel all the inhabitants of the world to accept the commandments given to Noah’s descendants.”

(Also worth noting is that a Noahide is only considered righteous if he or she accepts the Seven Noahide Laws as coming from G-d. A person who derives the laws from his or her own intellect is not considered righteous.)

Interestingly, the Seven Noahide Laws are more than just seven commandments. They are actually seven category headings or headlines under which a number of other commandants are compiled. For instance, the injunction against theft includes the prohibition against defrauding your neighbour. The commandment to establish laws and courts of justice includes the injunction not to kill a suspected murderer before he stands trial. Depending on the rabbinical authority, there are not just seven laws, but thirty or even sixty-six commandments.

Gentiles who acknowledge and observe the Seven Noahide Laws are not in the business of creating another religion, which is forbidden by the Torah. Rather it is about acknowledging Hashem as the One G-d of both Jews and gentiles, and recognising that He is a righteous and loving G-d, Who is intimately concerned with His creation.

Some Noahides attend synagogues and most study under a rabbi. B’nai Noach reject pagan holidays such as Christmas and Easter. But they are not supposed to create new religious festivals; nor are they allowed to observe Jewish religious holidays in the manner of their Jewish brethren.

However, there are a number of prayers and blessings that have been especially written for Noahides. Rabbi Moshe Weiner, the overseeing rabbi of Ask Noah International, has published a number of suitable prayers. These prayers do not encroach on the spiritual heritage of the Jewish people, and no attempt is made to establish additional obligations for gentiles beyond the Noahide Code.

The Noahide Way is gaining in popularity in the West, especially among former Christians who wish to have a relationship with Hashem without the baggage of Christian dogma (such as the trinity) and two thousand years of Church-sanctioned anti-Semitism. In fact, not since the days of the Second Temple when G-d-fearing gentiles regularly attended synagogues throughout the Diaspora, has the Torah played such an important part in the lives of non-Jews.

It is probably fair to say that Chabad Lubavitch has done the most in recent years to reach out to gentiles. In my home city of Manchester, England, for example, Hasidic Jews have been known to hand out Noahide literature to members of the public. In Manchester, London and other English cities, there are small Noahide study groups, which discuss the Torah and Halachic matters.

There are also Noahide groups and communities in Australia, Europe and North America. Significantly, in 1991, President George H. W. Bush signed into law an historic Joint Resolution of both Houses of Congress recognising the Seven Noahide Laws as the “bedrock of society from the dawn of civilization.”

And in 2006, the spiritual leader of the Druze community in Israel met with a representative of Chabad to sign a declaration calling on all non-Jews in Israel to observe the Noahide Laws. A year later, Chabad brought together ambassadors from Poland, Japan, Ghana, Latvia, Mexico and Panama, who all championed the Noahide Laws.

The late Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who launched the global Noahide Campaign, commented that a particular task of Chabad (and of religious Jews in general) is to educate and to encourage the observance of the Seven Laws among all people. “The religious tolerance of today and the trend towards greater freedom gives us the unique opportunity to enhance widespread observance of these laws,” he said.

The Seven Noahide Laws – given to the sons of Noah after the Flood and reaffirmed to Moses at Mount Sinai – are not only an expression of G-d’s divine goodness, they also help to ensure that human beings are united and bound by a common moral responsibility to G-d, and to each other. As it says in Midrash Tanchuma, “God gave the Torah to the Jewish people so that all nations might benefit from it.”

 

 

 

Labour’s view of Jews is an antisemitic caricature worthy of the USSR

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Anti-Zionist caricature from the Soviet magazine “Krokodil”, № 15, 1972 | Source: Mikhail Sychyov

Labour’s view of Jews is an antisemitic caricature worthy of the USSR

By Richard Mather 

The UK Labour Party is no longer in the business of winning elections. The party’s reticence stems from a more radical political desire, which is to “address the Jewish question” (to quote one of its activists) and to deZionize the party.

Even something as innocuous as a Jewish holiday message is subject to Labour’s obsessive scrutiny, with claims circulating that Labour’s communications director Seamus Milne apparently tried to ban the use of Hebrew in a Passover message because he felt it implied support for Zionism.

Under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is the British political party that is most hostile to Jews. Given that most Jews in Britain are Zionists and that most Zionists are Jews, Labour’s disdain for the vast majority of Anglo-Jewry is incontestable. To paraphrase British PM Theresa May, Labour is the “nasty party” par excellence.

This nastiness is deliberate. Like the Soviets, Labour antizionism is a crafted propaganda doctrine that aims to rob Jewry of their security and to oust them from political discourse. The main thrust of Labour’s antizionist message is this: Zionism is a form of racism, Zionists are similar to Nazis, and Israel is a tool used by Jews to foment imperialism and militant chauvinism. This is the politics of anti-Jewish contempt.

It’s true that antisemitism in Labour is not new. It was evident in the foreign policy decisions of the post-WW2 Labour government. But there has always been (at least until now) a significant and sizeable pro-Israel, pro-Jewish contingent within the party: advocacy groups such as Labour Friends of Israel, and important individuals such as Tony Blair and Gordon Brown who stood alongside the Jewish state and spoke out against antisemitic prejudice and bigotry.

Corbyn’s rise to power has done more than just embolden the minority of antisemitic cranks already within the party; he has enthused a new generation of antisemites who have joined Labour in droves. Labour Zionists are now marginalised, and Jewish Labour MPs are routinely abused and bullied by militant Corbynistas. As a result, financial donations from Jewish donors have all but dried up and Jews are abandoning the party.

But anti-Jewish hostility is not just a problem for Jewish members inside Labour. It is an issue of concern for Jews in the UK more generally.

The ascendancy of Corbyn and the militancy of Labour’s recently-formed Momentum group are reminders that left-wing extremism did not die out in the 1980s but remains an ongoing threat to the well-being and security of Anglo-Jewry. The rise in antisemitic attacks in the UK suggests that Labour and the rest of the British Left, in allegiance with Islamist radicals, now pose an existential threat to British Jews.

The ‘idea’ of the Jew

Corbynistas are a lot like the antizionist Soviet propagandists who studied Zionism in order to uncover its secrets. In Soviet lore, Zionism was/is the politics of the wealthy Jewish bourgeoisie which had closely allied itself with monopoly elites in the USA and the UK.

Like the Soviets before them, the Corbynistas are convinced that Israel is home to several million racists, and that Zionists around the world serve as “the front squad of colonialism and neo-colonialism,” to quote the third edition of the thirty-volume Great Soviet Encyclopedia.

Even when there isn’t a flesh-and-blood Jew in sight, Labour antizionists are still tormented by the idea of ‘the Jew.’ Lacking political depth and therefore unable to distinguish between the real and the imaginary, it is the idea of the Zionist Jew– albeit a false idea – that keeps their hatred alive.

It was the same with the Brownshirts and the Stalinists, the Lutherans and the medieval Catholic Church. The thought or image of the nefarious Jew is enough to engender a pogrom, a Stalinist show trial, an inquisition, a boycott.

It is no wonder that the Corbynistas are irrational and abusive. They imagine themselves living in a world controlled by Jew-Zionists. And this is why Labour’s focus is not on winning seats at the next general election but on cleansing the party (and the country) of undesirable Zionist Jews.

More than that, party members are well aware that they do not need to be in government in order to do this.

They already have the power and the resources to perpetuate their dirty war against Jews, not only through the media, but also by means of organized protests, marches and demonstrations, by the boycotting of Jewish businesses and individuals, and by aiding and abetting Islamist extremists.

Labour and the Far Right

Another recurring theme in Soviet antisemitism was the allegation that the Zionists and the Nazis collaborated against the Jewish people because Zionist leaders viewed ‘Palestine’ as the only legitimate place for Jewish immigration.

This view formed the basis of Mahmoud Abbas’ PhD dissertation. It is also the view of Labour’s Ken Livingstone, the former mayor of London, nicknamed Red Ken.

If the Soviets learned a great deal from the Nazis about how to slander Jews, so the contemporary Far Right is taking lessons from the Labour Party. Earlier this year, Nick Griffin, former leader of the extreme right-wing racist British National Party, took to Twitter to defend Ken Livingstone’s repugnant suggestion that Adolf Hitler was a Zionist:

“Hitler started war wanting to send all Jews to own homeland outside Europe & armed Zionist terrorists to fight Brits in Palestine. #RedKen,” wrote Nick Griffin, who then tweeted a message reading, “One day the world will know that #RedKen was right.”

Consider, too, the Far Right website deLiberation, which recently hailed Corbyn as the “antidote to the Blairite virus and Zionist snake-bite”:

“Many certainly can see Corbyn as Prime Minister – a very different and totally new style of PM, to be sure […] he’s a man to look up to and identify with […] a man who is not tempted by the Israeli shekel. If any of his opponents lands the leadership Labour will remain under the yoke of Zionist ambitions and enslave by the gangster regime in Tel Aviv.”

The end?

The Far Right’s fascination with the Labour Party is what happens when a once-major political party is taken over by lunatics who transform their irrational fixation with Jews into party policy.

The trouble is, even if Corbyn and his cronies are overthrown by sensible Labourites on September 24 (the date of the leadership conference), there’s not much evidence that the party is in a fit state to govern, even at a local or regional level. The rot may be too wide and too deep.

So is the Labour Party finished? The party is, on average, eleven points behind the Conservative Party. As things stand, there is no chance of Labour doing well in the next general election because the anticipation of election victory in 2020 is absent.

The only thing that matters to the Corbynistas is the cleansing of the party of Zionists and other political foes.

Yes, the Labour Party exists – but only just. Under its current leader, it has been reduced to a social media/student union protest body that proffers a seemingly endless proliferation of callow opinion from the naïve, foolish, the extreme and the dangerous.

Thanks to Corbyn and his communist apparatchiks, Labour is limping through a catastrophic collapse of meaning and intellectual malaise, propped up only by its Sovietesque obsession with Jews and Zionism.

 

Adam by Barnett Newman

Barnett Newman and the art of not making graven images

Barnett Newman and the art of not making graven images

By Richard Mather 

Barnett Newman was born in 1905 to Abraham and Anna Newman, Jewish immigrants from Poland who came to New York City in 1900. Although not religious, Barnett’s father was a passionate Zionist and a supporter of the National Hebrew School of the Bronx. As well as attending Hebrew school, Barnett and his brothers and sisters were educated at home by Jewish scholars from Europe. He went on to study philosophy at the City College of New York and later made a living as an art teacher, writer and critic.

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Barnett Newman

In the 1930s he made a number of paintings but eventually destroyed all these works. Newman started painting again in 1944 and he made a number of chalk drawings but it wasn’t until 1948 that he produced his artistic breakthrough: Onement 1 was a major achievement and it was this artwork that earned him the reputation as a pioneer of color field paintings.

It was around this time that Newman became preoccupied with Judaic creation stories. Art critic and friend Thomas B. Hess has described how Newman immersed himself in the Torah and Kabbalistic writings in the mid-1940s. Newman began to evolve a distinctive pictorial image: a vertical band, zip, or what Newman called a “streak of light” running from the very top to the very bottom of the canvas. The vertical strips of light (usually created by the ripping away of masking tape from the canvas) are thought to relate to the Kabbalistic notion of a ray of infinite light (kav) used to create the world. The form of the divine produced by this first ray of light is known as Adam Kadmon, literally, “Primordial Adam.” Perhaps this is why some critics regard the zip to be a representation of man, indeed, of the first man, Adam, who walks upright.

Thomas B. Hess regards the vertical bands of colour as “an act of division, a gesture of separation, as God separated light from darkness, with a line drawn in the void.” Newman himself claimed that the artist begins with the void. As Newman remarks in his essay “The Plasmic Image,” “It can be said that the artist like a true creator is delving into chaos. It is precisely this that makes him an artist for the Creator in creating the world began with the same material, for the artist tries to wrest truth from the void.”

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‘Adam’ (1951-2) by Barnett Newman

In 1951 Newman created Adam, an abstract expressionist colour field painting, complete with multiple zips or “streaks of light.” Adam is dominated by two colours: red and brown, blood and earth. The name Adam derives from the Hebrew word adamah (ground), but also adom, (red) and dam (blood). As it says in the Torah, “the Lord God formed man [ha-adam] of dust from the ground [adamah].” Newman makes no attempt to depict Adam in any natural or literal sense. As with many of his paintings, there is a conspicuous lack of literal representation. Art critic Arthur Danto suggests that Newman was moved by the Judaic injunction against the making of graven images. The Shulkhan Arukh (a codification of Jewish law) states that “it is forbidden to make complete solid or raised images of people or angels, or any images of heavenly bodies except for purposes of study.” The Shulkhan Arukh takes the literal meaning of פסל pesel as “graven image” (from the root פסל P-S-L, “to engrave”). The prohibition is seen as applying especially to some forms of sculpture and depictions of the human face.

Newman’s Adam is a “body-without-organs” (to borrow a curious phrase from philosopher Gilles Deleuze). It is pure surface, a plane of immanence, or what Newman calls the “the picture plane.” Newman’s streaks of light or zips do not destroy or collapse the painting; they unite it into a totality, into a plane of consistency. And yet there is just enough movement, just enough God-given possibility, to ensure that Adam isn’t congealed into a lumpen artwork devoid of energy.

Adam has a companion piece, Eve, painted at the same time. In a letter to the Tate Gallery (dated April 6, 1983), Newman’s widow Analee writes: “I think he thought of them as a pair because he worked on the first painting and then on the second continuously until they were finished and then named them ‘Adam’ and ‘Eve’.”

Eve 1950 by Barnett Newman 1905-1970

‘Eve’ (1950) by Barnett Newman

Like Adam, Eve is a color field painting, with one of Newman’s vertical bands or zips at the right side. Adam is slightly larger than Eve. It is different in colour. Whereas Adam is predominantly brown with red zips, Eve has a vast expanse of red, interrupted by a single, narrow band of purplish-brown running the length of the canvas’ right edge. The two paintings were the last Newman completed before his second one-man exhibition at the Betty Parsons Gallery in April–May 1951. At that time, Adam featured two stripes, but Newman added a third one down the left centre a year later, which is why it’s now inscribed with the double date of 1951-1952.

Both Adam and Eve are in the possession of the UK-based Tate art institution, but neither artworks are currently on display.

 

richard-mather2Richard Mather is a writer and journalist. He writes for Israel News Online and Arutz Sheva, and occasionally blogs for JPost. He has also written for the Jewish Media Agency, Poetica Magazine, Drash Pit, Voices Israel, The Best of the Manchester Poets, The Holiday Times Magazine (Chabad Lubavitch) and Triggerfish Critical Review.

Antisemitism in modern Britain is nothing new

By Richard Mather  

It has emerged that almost 5,850 people have been reported to the UK Labour Party’s executive, more than 3,000 of them for allegations of abuse, with the rest accused of antisemitism and of supporting other political parties, according to The Daily Telegraph.

This is hardly a surprise. Antisemitism has been rampant on the British Left for decades, although it has accelerated in the past year due to Jeremy Corbyn’s dismal leadership of the Labour Party. But Labour’s woes should not be seen in isolation. They are the inevitable outgrowth of hundreds of years of English and British Jew-hatred, augmented by the recent importation of Islamic anti-Semitism.

Antizionists in the UK would like you to believe there’s a qualitative difference between pre-Holocaust antisemitism and post-Shoah antizionism, but there isn’t. The assertion that antisemitism and antizionism are somehow different is a cynical ruse designed to both legitimise Jew-hatred in Britain and to delegitimise the State of Israel.

English antisemitism goes back to the first half of the twelfth century when King Stephen burned down the house of an Oxford Jewish man because he refused to pay a contribution to the king’s expenses. It was also around this time that the first-ever recorded blood libel/ritual murder charge against Jews was brought (in the case of William of Norwich).

Antizionism is, of course, a more recent phenomenon, but even this actually precedes the creation of Israel by several decades. An example: British journalists began a campaign accusing “Zionists” of fomenting the Turkish Revolution. This was in 1911/1912. Clearly, antizionism in 1912 wasn’t about Israel but was a paranoid reaction to a rumours of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy.

It is worth recalling that Britain’s blockade of Palestine during WW2 prevented the rescue of hundreds of thousands of Jews. And Labour’s postwar hostility towards Jews almost scuppered the creation of the State of Israel. (UK foreign secretary Ernest Bevin not only made plans with Jordan for the annexation of Palestine into the Hashemite kingdom, but he embargoed arms shipments at a time when the new Jewish state was fighting for its life.)

Throughout the ages, Jew-hatred in Britain has taken on different forms at different times. At times it has been religious in nature; other times it has been motivated by race or economics. All of these variants have one thing in common: demonisation, which in colloquial usage refers to propaganda or moral panic directed against any individual or group; more literally it is the imputing of diabolical influences.

Most sane people in the UK no longer believe Jews are agents of the devil who conspired to kill Christ, although a British-Pakistani Muslim in Manchester did once accuse me of killing Jesus(!). Once upon a time a great many people subscribed to this view. Indeed, Catholics were still being taught this up until the 1960s.

Now, instead of deicide (killing God), Jews are charged with a new and outrageous libel – the genocide of Arab Palestinians. In twenty-first century Britain, many people cling to this absurd but deeply-held belief. The long tradition in the West of Adversus Judaeos (“Against the Jews/Judeans”) apparently continues in the guise of irrational antizionism.

It’s true that Jews in England are no longer forbidden from entering certain professions (I’m thinking of Edward I’s Statutum de Judaismo, 1275, for example);  but it is the case that a large number of Brits boycott Israeli products and call for Israel to be expelled from the family of nations. And if most people in Britain have rejected Christian anti-Semitism, they have instead embraced Islamic antisemitism, which is equally nasty and virulent.

Antizionism is the superstition par excellence of modern Britain. As with the antisemites of old, the contemporary antizionist is immune to reason. Facts and statistics mean nothing to your typical antizionist bigot.

As the English novelist and social commentator George Orwell once said, “If you dislike somebody, you dislike him and there is an end of it: your feelings are not made any better by a recital of his virtues.”

 

‘3412 Kafka’: Out-of-this-world Jewish writing

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Kafka: Penguin Modern Classics book covers

By Richard Mather…

Earlier this month, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that the manuscripts of Czech-Jewish novelist Franz Kafka are the property of the National Library of Israel. The manuscripts have been in the possession of the family of Esther Hoffe, the secretary of Kafka’s friend Max Brod. The family had argued that it rightfully owned the manuscripts after her death, but the Supreme Court disagreed. The Court has asked Israel’s National Library to make the manuscripts accessible to the general public.

Franz Kafka was born July 3 1883 into a German-speaking, middle-class, minimally-observant Jewish family in Prague, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (now the Czech Republic). His Jewish upbringing was limited mostly to his bar mitzvah and going to the synagogue four times a year. Although professing to be an atheist in his teenage years, his interest in Judaism grew as he got older. While fascinated by the piety of the Hasidic Jews in eastern Europe, he felt alienated from his own Jewish tradition, once declaring that he had nothing in common with his fellow Jews.

One of the difficulties was Kafka’s relationship with his domineering father. Kafka felt that his father – and his family more generally – clung to their Jewish heritage in a superficial way. Kafka was in fact dismissive of western Jews who tried to integrate and assimilate into gentile society. Indeed, the sporadic outbreaks of anti-Semitic violence exposed the failure of assimilation and helps to explain why so many of Kafka’s friends were interested in Zionism.

Kafka himself was ambivalent about the Zionist project, which was still in its infancy. Although Kafka considered moving to British Palestine (he even studied Hebrew while living in Berlin), he never did visit the land of Israel.

However, we know from his diaries and letters that from the age of twenty-eight, Kafka was becoming increasingly interested in Jewish (especially Yiddish) history, folklore,  literature and theatre. He was so impressed by a travelling Yiddish theatre company from Poland, that he delved into the history of Yiddish literature and wrote extensively in his diary about Yiddish theatre productions.

Kafka does not make overt references to Judaism in his fiction, but some critics detect Jewish themes in his work. According to Lothar Kahn, “the presence of Jewishness in Kafka’s oeuvre is no longer subject to doubt.” And in the words of Harold Bloom, “despite all his denials and beautiful evasions, Kafka’s writing quite simply is Jewish writing.”

Some scholars speculate that some of Kafka’s works are allegories for larger Jewish issues. Karl Erich Grözinger believes there is a connection between Kafka’s writing and the Jewish High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. “Whenever Kafka speaks in them of judgment, sin, atonement and justification,” says Grözinger, “he is working from the direct context of a Jewish theology.”

Kafka’s novella Metamorphosis may be a bitterly ironic midrash on the Akedah, also known as the “binding of Isaac.” Whereas in the Genesis story Isaac is substituted by a ram caught in the thicket, the anti-hero of Metamorphosis is turned into a ungeheueren Ungeziefer or “monstrous vermin” – an unclean animal that is not suited for sacrifice. And if Isaac is disqualified for sacrifice because he is more precious in G-d’s eyes than the ram, Kafka’s ant-hero (called Gregor) is wholly unfit for sacrifice because he is vermin, an insect.

Darwinism, which in its fascist guise was to have catastrophic consequences for Europe’s Jews, plays a part in the thematic thread running through Metamorphosis. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, human differences were often described in racial or biological terms. Jews in particular were depicted as inferior, as other. And what could be more inferior or other than vermin or an insect?

Gregor’s transformation into “monstrous vermin” mirrors the anti-Semitic tendency to reduce Jews to some kind of specimen that can be killed off. Gregor is the embodiment of this perceived racial inferiority, and his death is a pointless and meaningless event, not at all sacrificial.

Similarly, there was nothing sacrificial about the imminent genocide of European Jewry. The word “holocaust” is inappropriate because the word comes from the Greek word holókauston, referring to an animal sacrifice offered to a god in which the whole (olos) animal is completely burnt (kaustos). This is why Jews tend to use the term Shoah, which means “Catastrophe.”

Kafka didn’t live long enough to see the murderous destruction wrought by the Nazis. He died in 1924, aged forty, of starvation brought on by laryngeal tuberculosis, which affected his ability to swallow. His remains are buried alongside his parent’s under an obelisk in Prague’s New Jewish Cemetery.

His fellow Jews in Prague were even more unlucky. They died in their thousands in the gas chambers and concentration camps of Europe, thereby bringing an end to ten centuries of Jewish life in Prague. The historical sources are confused, but it seems that Kafka’s three sisters were also killed by the Nazis – in the liquidation of the Lodz ghetto in 1944 or the Nazi concentration camps, possibly Auschwitz.

Few of Kafka’s works were published during his lifetime. The story collection Meditation was published in 1912 and A Country Doctor in 1917. A few individual stories (most notably Metamorphosis) were published in literary magazines. Kafka finished none of his full-length novels. In fact, his unfinished works, including his novels The Trail, The Castle and Amerika, were ordered by Kafka to be destroyed by his friend Max Brod. Fortunately, Brod ignored his friend’s request and published them after Kafka’s death.

In 1999, a committee of 99 authors, scholars, and literary critics ranked Kafka’s unfinished The Trial and The Castle the second and ninth most significant German-language novels of the 20th century. Harry Steinhauer, a professor of German and Jewish literature, says that Kafka “has made a more powerful impact on literate society than any other writer of the twentieth century.”

Curiously, an asteroid/minor planet from the inner regions of the asteroid belt (discovered by astronomers in January 1983) is named after Kafka. It is called ‘3412 Kafka.’

 

 

 

Planet Palestine: Why does the world revolve around the Palestinians?

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Red vs Blue/Fire and Ice. Image courtesy of Pininterest

Planet earth appears to turn on a Palestinian axis. The amount of time and money lavished on the creation of a State of Palestine has produced zero results, except the spilling of a great deal of Jewish blood.

By Richard Mather…

Planet earth appears to turn on a Palestinian axis. It is remarkable that the Palestinian Arabs, who have no historical, cultural or legal rights to Eretz Israel, are endowed with so much international and economic patronage by the EU, the UK, the USA and the UN, as well as charitable organisations such as Oxfam and Christian Aid. How did the Palestinian Arabs and their international backers achieve such a feat? Why does the world revolve around the Palestinians?

There are two answers to this. One is the Palestinian Arabs’ calculus of terror. They have learnt that violence is rewarded by the West. Acts of terror against Jews only strengthen the West’s belief that a Palestinian Arab state built on Jewish territory is the answer. Hence the two-state solution based on the so-called pre-1967 borders. But the West is being fooled. Palestinian Arabs do not want a political solution – not when terrorism and bloodshed reap dividends. This is why Yasser Arafat instigated the second intifada. He did it to mask his rejection of the Camp David deal in the year 2000. And what happened? The world blamed Israel for the “occupation,” which garnered further sympathy for the Palestinian Arabs.

Hamas and PA president Mahmoud Abbas know that terrorism focuses worldwide attention on Israel. Should the Palestinian Arabs ever have their own state, Western leaders and newspapers would lose interest and turn to other matters, such as Kurdish autonomy and Saudi human rights abuses. This is not what the Palestinian Arabs want. They want the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to continue because it exerts unbearable pressure on the Jewish state.

The second reason why the Palestinian Arabs enjoy so much international privilege and patronage is because they appeal to Western sympathy for the underdog (although this sympathy rarely extended to Jews during the 1930s and 1940s). They have achieved this by doing something rather remarkable. And that is to appropriate another people’s history and suffering.

First of all they stole the name. The word “Palestinian” was a designation given to Jews in the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. For example, the Prussian philosopher Immanuel Kant, who lived in the latter half of the eighteenth century, referred to European Jews as “Palestinians.” It acquired its modern connotation in the 1960s when Arafat began talking of “the Palestinian people.”

Arafat and his Soviet backers then appropriated and inverted the Holocaust so that the Arabs of Palestine could project themselves as the “new Jews” and the Israelis as the “new Nazis.” Then they appropriated places of importance to Jews. The biblical name of Judea-Samaria became “The West Bank” or “Occupied Territory.” And Judaism’s holiest city, Jerusalem, is called Al-Quds. To add insult to Jewish injury, the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb are now considered integral to a future State of Palestine. And there are attempts by the Palestinian Authority and Unesco to appropriate the Kotel as an Islamic holy site.

Appropriation on its own would not be enough, however. The Palestinian Arabs had to invent an entire backstory in order to fool the world. Claims that the Palestinians are descendants of the Jebusites, Philistines or Canaanites are risible. In truth, most of the people who now call themselves Palestinians descend from migrants who left Egypt, Syria, Iraq and the Balkans (among other places) in the eighteenth century onwards. Even the UN has acknowledged that many of these so-called Palestinians had only lived in Palestine for two years prior to Jewish independence in 1948. By contrast, there has been a continuous Jewish presence in the land for thousands of years.

So the Palestinians have managed to convince the world that they are an indigenous people who are now in exile because of Zionism. Some of the credit for this elaborate hoax should go to the Kremlin. In the 1960s, Soviet authorities and their Arab allies dreamt up the fiction of a Palestinian human rights struggle in order to destabilise Israel and its American ally. According to Major General Ion Mihai Pacepa (the highest ranking Soviet bloc defector), the Kremlin’s vision was to create an international anti-Zionist movement that would “instil a Nazi-style hatred for the Jews.” In other words, the Palestinian cause was a Cold War strategy to win the Middle East for Moscow.

This “Nazi-style hatred for the Jews” has a name. It is called Palestinianism. The ideology draws strength from a number of anti-Semitic canards, archetypes and sources, including the religious (“Jews are forsaken by God”), the conspiratorial (“the Israeli government is infecting Palestinians with Aids”), and the economic (“Zionists control international finance,” “Boycott Israeli products”). The interchangeability of “Zionist” and “Jew” in Palestinianist political discourse is, of course, indicative of its anti-Semitic nature.

The ideological similarity to other Jew-hating phenomena such as Lutheranism, medieval Catholicism and Nazism should not surprise us. Palestinianism is just the latest manifestation of an age-hold hatred. Christians and the Nazis were just as convinced as the Palestinianists of the righteousness of their causes. Indeed, each generation believes it has the answer to the so-called Jewish problem. Palestinianism is just the Final Solution by another name.

Because that’s what Palestinianism is about: genocide. When Palestinian Arabs and their supporters chant “Palestine will be free, from the river to the sea,” they are calling for the genocide and/or mass expulsion of millions of Israelis. This is what Western leaders fail to realise. Or they overlook it in the hope that boycotting Israeli goods will bring the Jewish state to the negotiating table. But this is not how Abbas and his acolytes view the boycotts. Abbas et al see the boycotts as economic warfare against the Jews, with the ultimate aim of bringing down Israel.

But there is another reason why Western leaders need to wise up. The Palestinian issue has resulted in decades of terrorism and a new wave of anti-Jewish prejudice.

Westerners suffer from cognitive dissonance. Most are horrified by images of the Holocaust but are unable to support a country that is run by Jews for Jews. If Israel was any other country – that is to say if it wasn’t a Jewish state – most people would gladly support a young, innovative, multicultural and thriving democracy. The only explanation as to why liberals, Christians and leftists are apologists for far-right Islamist terror groups like Hamas is that they harbour (perhaps unconsciously) unsavoury attitudes about Jews.

The rise in anti-Semitism in contemporary Europe has received little attention or sympathy because much of the abuse is carried out by Muslims and left-wing fanatics, who do not conform to the image of the anti-Semite as National Front skinhead. But the new anti-Semitism is more dangerous and more nuanced than the neo-Nazi thuggery of the 1970s. In addition to the hijackings, suicide bombings, shootings and knife attacks, Jews face a barrage of anti-Semitic propaganda emanating from pressure groups, universities, political institutions, charities, churches and media outlets.

The rise in anti-Semitism has started to attract some (belated) attention. David Cameron, when he was British prime minister, condemned Islamist Jew-hatred. But the issue of Jew-hatred is not a priority for most policy-makers, party leaders, international bodies or newspapers. In fact, some politicians and opinion-makers are complicit in the murder of Jews because they tell lies about Israel and/or turn a blind eye to Palestinian incitement and/or whitewash the issue.

The situation cannot continue. Not when Jews living in Jerusalem and Paris are being abused, attacked and butchered. So much for “never again.” Even before the Gaza conflict of July/August 2014 when anti-Semitism was at its highest since World War Two, around half of all Jews living in France, Belgium and Hungary were considering emigrating because they no longer felt safe.

So perhaps influential people in the West should be asking themselves one simple question: Is Palestinianism really worth so much Jewish suffering?

Let’s look at the facts: There have been over half a dozen opportunities since 1937 for the Palestinian Arabs to create their own state. Since the start of the 21st century, the Palestinian leadership has had three major opportunities to establish an independent state. In 2008, for example, the Israelis put forward a proposal in which the Palestinian Arabs would receive Gaza, the majority of the so-called West Bank, parts of east Jerusalem, safe passage between the West Bank and Gaza, and the dismantling of settlements in the Jordan Valley and eastern Samaria. Abbas did not give a final response on the matter and negotiations ended.

Another fact: Palestinian Arab figureheads and organisations – from the Grand Mufti Amin al-Husseini to Hamas – have been murdering Jews under the banner of Islam since the 1920s. So is the creation of a predominantly Sunni Muslim state between Israel and Jordan really a good idea, especially in our age of ultra-violent Islamic extremism?

And how likely is it that a State of Palestine will make peace with Israel?

And will homosexuals and lesbians in a Palestinian state be given equal rights or thrown off tall buildings? Will women have equal rights? Will there be a free press or will journalists be imprisoned and silenced?

In short, will a State of Palestine be a blessing or a curse?

Since it is clear that Jewish blood is flowing; since it is clear that the Palestinian Arabs are not interested in peaceful co-existence; since it is clear that the decay of Arab nations in the Middle East looks set to continue; and since it is highly likely that a Palestinian state will be a human rights basketcase, wouldn’t it be better for the international community to put aside childish notions of a Palestinian Arab state and lavish their time and resources on more important matters?

The liberation of the Kurds in Iraq from Islamist imperialism may be a good place to start. Or what about putting an end to the Syrian crisis? An end to sex slavery or bonded labour? There are so many pressing issues that require our immediate and full attention, that it seems absurd to pursue the creation of a State of Palestine when it is obvious that the Palestinian Arabs themselves don’t want a state.

It is time to tell the Palestinian Arabs and their fellow travellers that enough is enough. The world should not revolve around them any longer.

 

Europe’s anti-Zionists must share some of the blame for terror in France, Belgium and Germany

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Terrorism word cloud vector (image by Boris15)

Europe’s anti-Zionist leftists have the sown the wind of Islamic extremism by aiding and abetting the worst elements in Arab Palestinian society, and now Europe is reaping the whirlwind.

By Richard Mather

For decades, Europe’s anti-Zionist leftists have castigated and demonised the State of Israel, urging the Jewish state to relinquish territory to Arab enemies whose refusal to negotiate with Israelis can be attributed to the fact that Islam – and not land – is at the core of their rejectionism.

Anti-Jewish violence in the Middle East has always been religiously-motivated. Documents, news reports and speeches from the 1920s and 1930s clearly show that Arab invective was couched in extreme religious terms. The anti-Jewish rhetoric of Amin al-Husseini is a case in point. A democratic Jewish state, where Jews run their own affairs, is anathema to the supremacist instincts of those Arabs want either a pan-Arab nation or an Islamic caliphate where Jews and other minorities are stripped off their rights and/or murdered.

The West, which has become increasingly secular in recent decades, is blind to the religious warfare being waged against Jews and other so-called infidels. Europe’s left-wing idealists are inept in their understanding of religious conflict. They attribute acts of terror not to religion but to poverty, alienation, mental illness – anything but Islam. They are simply incapable of recognising the Islamist character of terrorism when it occurs in Nice, Paris, London and Madrid.

This is where the Islamists have the advantage. They understand only too well that the war against Jews and the West is an imperial-religious, even apocalyptic, war of conquest. Europe, by contrast, is ignorant of this reality because it is embarrassed by its own colonialist past and has rejected religion as a way of life. The near-total destruction of Jewish life in the 1930s and 1940s, combined with the post-1945 deChristianisation of Europe, has left the continent without a religious counter-ideology on which to base a comprehensive response to Islamist supremacism.

The situation would not be so bad if Europeans had embraced a robust and confident humanism, which emphasises critical thinking, freedom and progress. Sadly, many Europeans, again mainly on the Left, have become politically-correct automatons who tolerate the intolerable by creating “safe spaces” on campuses and institutions for anti-Semites and Islamists. And anyone who dares to criticise this sordid set-up is branded “Islamophobic,” “racist,” “a neo-con,” “a Blairite war-monger,” “a Zio-Nazi” or “Tory scum.”

But there is one thing that Europeans could do, while it is still possible. And that is to stop cosying up to the Jew-hating, misogynistic and homophobic elements within Arab Palestinian society, and instead stand alongside the democratic, secular and pluralistic Israelis who have enshrined so many things leftists are supposed to care about – workers’ rights, animal welfare, religious freedom, gender equality and equal rights for the LGBT community.

If Europe’s leftists really believe in tolerance, progress and equality, then they should support the Jewish state, not pander to Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, which regularly incite violence against Jews, murder gay people and lock up dissidents. But it seems the leftists’ obsessive anti-Zionism prevents them from seeing things clearly.

The Left’s betrayal of Israel is possibly one of the worst ethical missteps since the Nazi-Soviet nonaggression pact of 1939. By demonising and delegitimising the State of Israel, Europe has not only emboldened Muslim fascists in the region, it has also stiffened the resolve of Islamists around the world who smell the decay of Western moral failure and go on to attack civilians in European schools, cafes, promenades, bars, workplaces, supermarkets, nightclubs, trains and buses.

In other words, by picking the wrong side in what is shaping up to be a global conflict between liberal democracy and Islamism, Europe’s anti-Zionist leftists have helped unleash a very bitter whirlwind, which the rest of Europe is paying for. In other words, they are morally complicit in the Islamist attacks on the people (Jew and gentile alike) of France, Belgium and Germany.