Viser arkivet for stikkord holocaust

Avnery on the model for Israel

Uri Avnery
12.12.09

Spot the Difference

A SHORT historical quiz: Which state:

(1) Arose after a holocaust in which a third of its people were destroyed?

(2) Drew from that holocaust the conclusion that only superior military forces could ensure its survival?

(3) Accorded the army a central role in its life, making it “an army that had a state, rather than a state that had an army”?

(4) Began by buying the land it took, and continued to expand by conquest and annexation?

(5) Endeavored by all possible means to attract new immigrants?

(6) Conducted a systematic policy of settlement in the occupied territories?

(7) Strove to push out the national minority by creeping ethnic cleansing?

For anyone who has not yet found the answer: it’s the state of Prussia.

But if some readers were tempted to believe that it all applies to the State of Israel – well, they are right, too. This description fits our state. The similarity between the two states is remarkable. True, the countries are geographically very different, and so are the historical periods, but the points of similarity can hardly be denied.

THE STATE that was respected and feared for 350 years as Prussia started with another name: Mark Brandenburg. (Mark: march, border area). This territory in the North-East of Germany was wrested from its Slavic inhabitants and was initially outside the boundaries of the German Reich. To this day, many of its place names (including Berlin neighborhoods, like Pankow) are clearly Slavic. It can be said: Prussia arose on the ruins of another people (some of whose descendants are still living there).

A historical curiosity: the land was first paid for in cash. The house of Hohenzollern, a noble family from South Germany, bought the territory of Brandenburg from the German Emperor for 400,000 Hungarian Gulden. I don’t know how that compares with the money paid by the Jewish National Fund for parts of Palestine before 1948.

The event that largely determined the entire history of Prussia up to World War II was a holocaust: the 30-years war. Throughout these years – 1618-1648 – practically all the armies of Europe fought each other on German soil, destroying everything in the process. The soldiers, many of them mercenaries, the scum of the earth, murdered and raped, pillaged and robbed, burnt entire towns and drove the pitiful survivors from their lands. In this war, a third of the German population was killed and two thirds of their villages destroyed. (Bertolt Brecht immortalized this holocaust in his play, “Mother Courage”.)

North Germany is a wide open plain. Its borders are unprotected by any ocean, mountain range or desert. The Prussian answer to the ravages of the holocaust was to erect an iron wall: a powerful regular army that would make up for the lack of seas and mountains and be ready to defend the state against all possible combinations of potential enemies.

At the beginning, the army was an essential instrument for the defense of the state’s very existence. In the course of time, it became the center of national life. What started out as the Prussian defense forces became an aggressive army of conquest that terrified all its neighbors. For some of the Prussian kings, the army was the main interest in life. For a time, the soldiers and their families constituted about a quarter of the Berlin population. An old Prussian saying goes: “Der Soldate / ist der beste Mann im Staate” – the soldier is the best man in the state. Adulation of the army became a cult, almost a religion.

PRUSSIA WAS never a “normal” state of a homogenous population living together throughout the centuries. By a sophisticated combination of military conquest, diplomacy and judicious marriages, its masters succeeded in annexing more and more territories to their core domain. These territories were not even contiguous, and some of them were very far from each other.

One of those was the area that came to give the state its name: Prussia. The original Prussia was located on the shores of the Baltic Sea, in areas that now belong to Poland and Russia. At first they were conquered by the Order of Teutonic Knights, a German religious-military order founded during the Crusades in Acre – the ruins of its main castle, Montfort (Starkenberg), still stand in Galilee. The German crusaders decided that instead of fighting the heathens in a faraway country, it made more sense to fight the neighboring pagans and rob them of their lands. In the course of time, the princes of Brandenburg succeeded in acquiring this territory and adopted its name for all their dominions. They also succeeded in upgrading their status and crowned themselves as kings.

The lack of homogeneity of the Prussian lands, composed as they were of diverse and unconnected areas, gave birth to the main Prussian creation: the “State”. This was the factor that was to unite all the different populations, each of which stuck to its local patriotism and traditions. The “State” – Der Staat – became a sacred being, transcending all other loyalties. Prussian philosophers saw the “State” as the incarnation of all the social virtues, the final triumph of human reason.

The Prussian state became proverbial. Demonized by its enemies, it was, however, exemplary in many ways – a well organized, orderly and law-abiding structure, its bureaucracy untainted by corruption. The Prussian official received a paltry salary, lived modestly and was intensely proud of his status. He detested ostentation. A hundred years ago Prussia already had a system of social insurance – long before other major countries dreamed of it. It was also exemplary in its religious tolerance. Frederick “the Great” declared that everyone should “find happiness in his own way”. Once he said that if Turks were to come and settle in Prussia, he would build mosques for them. Last week, 250 years later, the Swiss passed a referendum forbidding the building of minarets in their country.

PRUSSIA WAS a very poor country, lacking natural resources, minerals and good agricultural soil. It used its army to procure richer territories.

Because of the poverty, the population was thinly spread. The Prussian kings expended much effort in recruiting new immigrants. In 1731, when tens of thousands of Protestants in the Salzburg area (now part of Austria) were persecuted by their Catholic ruler, the King of Prussia invited them to his land. They came with their families and possessions in a mass foot march to East Prussia, traversing the full length of Germany. When the French Huguenots (Protestants) were slaughtered by their Catholic kings, the survivors were invited to Prussia and settled in Berlin, where they contributed greatly to the development of the country. Jews, too, were allowed to settle in Prussia in order to contribute to its prosperity, and the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn became one of the leading lights of the Prussian intelligentsia.

When Poland was divided in 1771 between Russia, Austria and Prussia, the Prussian state acquired a national minority problem. In the new territory there lived a large Polish population that stuck to its national identity and language. The Prussian response was a massive settlement campaign in these areas. This was a highly organized effort, planned right down to the minutest detail. The German settlers got a plot of land and many financial benefits. The Polish minority was oppressed and discriminated against in every possible way. The Prussian kings wanted to “Germanize” their acquired areas, much as the Israeli government wants to “Judaize” their occupied territories.

This Prussian effort had a direct impact on the Jewish colonization of Palestine. It served as an example for the father of Zionist settlement, Arthur Ruppin, and not by accident – he was born and grew up in the Polish area of Prussia.

IT IS impossible to exaggerate the influence of the Prussian model on the Zionist movement in almost all spheres of life.

Theodor Herzl, the founder of the movement, was born in Budapest and lived most of his life in Vienna. He admired the new German Reich that was founded in 1871, when he was 11 years old. The King of Prussia – which constituted about half of the area of the Reich – was crowned as German emperor, and Prussia formed the new empire in its image. Herzl’s diaries are full of admiration for the German state. He courted Wilhelm II, King of Prussia and Emperor of Germany, who obliged by receiving him in a tent before the gate of Jerusalem. He wanted the Kaiser to become the patron of the Zionist enterprise, but Wilhelm remarked that, while Zionism itself was an excellent idea, it “could not be realized with Jews”.

Herzl was not the only one to imprint a Prussian-German pattern on the Zionist enterprise. In this he was overshadowed by Ruppin, who is known today to Israeli children mainly as a street name. But Ruppin had an immense impact on the Zionist enterprise, more than any other single person. He was the real leader of the Zionist immigrants in Palestine in their formative period, the years of the second and third Aliyah (immigration wave) in the first quarter of the 20th century. He was the spiritual father of Berl Katznelson, David Ben-Gurion and their generation, the founders of the Zionist Labor movement that became dominant in the Jewish society in Palestine, and later in Israel. It was he who practically invented the Kibbutz and the Moshav (cooperative settlement).

If so, why has he been almost eradicated from official memory? Because some sides of Ruppin are best forgotten. Before becoming a Zionist, he was an extreme Prussian-German nationalist. He was one of the fathers of the “scientific” racist creed and believed in the superiority of the Aryan race. Up to the end he occupied himself with measuring skulls and noses in order to provide support for assorted racist ideas. His partners and friends created the “science” that inspired Adolf Hitler and his disciples.

The Zionist movement would have been impossible were it not for the work of Heinrich Graetz, the historian who created the historical image of the Jews which we all learned at school. Graetz, who was also born in the Polish area of Prussia, was a pupil of the Prussian-German historians who “invented” the German nation, much as he “invented” the Jewish nation.

Perhaps the most important thing we inherited from Prussia was the sacred notion of the “State” (Medina in Hebrew) – an idea that dominates our entire life. Most countries are officially a “Republic” (France, for example), a “Kingdom” (Britain) or a “Federation” (Russia). The official name “State of Israel” is essentially Prussian.

WHEN I first brought up the similarity between Prussia and Israel (in a chapter dedicated to this theme in the Hebrew and German editions of my 1967 book, “Israel Without Zionists”) it might have looked like a baseless comparison. Today, the picture is clearer. Not only does the senior officers corps occupy a central place in all the spheres of our life, and not only is the huge military budget beyond any discussion, but our daily news is full of typically “Prussian” items. For example: it transpires that the salary of the Army Chief of Staff is double that of the Prime Minister. The Minister of Education has announced that henceforth schools will be assessed by the number of their pupils who volunteer for army combat units. That sounds familiar – in German.

After the fall of the Third Reich, the four occupying powers decided to break up Prussia and divide its territories between several German federal states, Poland and the USSR. That happened in February 1947 – only 15 months before the founding of the State of Israel.

Those who believe in the transmigration of souls can draw their own conclusions. It is certainly food for thought.

Avnery on Germany's unconditional pampering of Israel

Uri Avnery
5.12.09

The Height of Kitsch

IT WOULD have been the epitome of political kitsch.

Binyamin Netanyahu and ten of his ministers were to hold a joint meeting with Angela Merkel and ten members of the German cabinet.

What for? To demonstrate Germany’s love for Israel.

At the last moment, Netanyahu announced that he was sick, and the meeting was canceled. I imagine that Netanyahu was not very sorry about this. What did he need it for? In any case the Israeli government is already getting from Germany anything it wants.

A German journalist asked me about the reaction in Israel to the visit of the new German foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle. I had to disappoint him: most Israelis did not even hear about it. Another dignitary laying flowers in Yad Vashem. Another traffic jam in Jerusalem.

As so often happens, there is no equality in this marriage. The German bride loves the Israeli groom much more than he loves her.

FROM TIME to time, the relationship between Germany and Israel needs a review.

The Germans do not forget the Holocaust. They are steeped in this subject all the time. It appears on TV programs, cultural discourse and art.

That is as it should be. This monstrous crime must not be allowed to slip from memory. Young Germans must ask themselves again and again how it came about that their grandfathers and grandmothers were accessories to this enormous deed – those who took part in it, those who agreed silently and those who were silent out of fear or indifference.

The German government – the present one like all its predecessors – draws from the Holocaust an unequivocal conclusion: Israel, the “state of the victims”, must be pampered. All its actions must be supported without reservation. Not a single word of criticism must be allowed.

When the new German republic was founded, this was a calculated policy. The terrible war, which had been imposed on humanity by Adolf Hitler, had just come to an end. The Nazi crimes were fresh in the memory of mankind. Germany was a pariah nation. Konrad Adenauer decided that massive support for Israel (in addition to the indemnities paid to the individual victims) would open the doors to the world.

He found a loyal partner in his Israeli colleague. David Ben-Gurion believed that the consolidation of the State of Israel was more important than the memories of the past. He provided the “Other Germany” with an Israeli kosher certificate, in return for massive German aid to Israel.

Since then, much water has flown down the Rhine and the Jordan. The time has come to ask some questions.

QUESTION 1: While the German friendship with us is a moral imperative, does it have to include support for immoral actions?

I have heard more than once the argument: “After the terrible things done by the German people to the Jews, we Germans have no right to criticize the Jewish State. The descendents of the perpetrators cannot criticize the descendents of the victims!”

I have said it before: there is something in these sentences that disturbs me very much. Somehow they remind me of the German word Sonderbehandlung (“special treatment”), which has terrible associations. In the concentration camps, it was the code-word for execution.

The attitude of the German government towards Israel is a Sonderbehandlung. It, too, says: the Jews are something special. The “Jewish State” must be treated differently than all other states. That is to say, the Jews are different from all other peoples, their state is different from all other states, their morals are different from those of others.

A German audience was very amused when I recently told them about a demonstration of communists in New York. The police came and started to beat them up. Somebody shouted: “Don’t hit me! I am an anti-Communist!” To which the policeman replied: “I don’t care what kind of a communist you are!” Extreme philo-Semites remind me of extreme anti-Semites. One wonders whether somebody who is capable of one sort of special treatment is also capable of the other sort.

Special treatment? Thanks, but no thanks. That was not our intention when we founded this state. We wanted to be a state like all other states, a nation like all other nations.

QUESTION 2: What does friendship really mean?

When your friend is drunk and insists on driving his car – should he be encouraged? Is that the expression of true friendship? Or does friendship oblige you to tell him: Listen, you are smashed, lie down until you sober up?

Intelligent Germans know that our present policy is disastrous for Israel and the entire world. It leads towards permanent war, the empowering of radical fundamentalist Islam throughout the region, the isolation of Israel in the world and an occupation-state in which the Jews will become an oppressing minority.

When your drunken friend is driving straight towards a cliff – what does friendship tell you to do?

QUESTION 3: Friendship towards Israel – but which Israel?

Israel is a far from monolithic society. It is a vibrant, fermenting mix, with many tendencies, from the extreme Right to the extreme Left. At present we have a government of the extreme right, but there is also a peace camp. There are soldiers who refuse to remove settlements, but there are also soldiers who refuse to guard settlements. Quite a number of people devote their time and energy to the struggle against the occupation, sometimes exposing themselves to physical danger in the process.

Of course, a government has to deal with governments. The German government has to deal with the Israeli government. But from there to kitschy gestures, like a joint session of the two cabinets, the distance is great.

The Netanyahu government has paid lip-service to the Two-State principle and is violating it every day. It has rejected a full freeze of settlement activity in the territories, the very territories which all governments – including the German one – agree should become the State of Palestine. It is building at a crazy pace in East Jerusalem which – even according to the German government – must become the capital of Palestine. It is carrying out in Jerusalem something which comes very close to ethnic cleansing. Should Ms. Merkel hug this government and smother its face with kisses?

There are many ways for the German government to show its friendship to the Other Israel, the Israel that seeks peace and human rights for all. Pity that it does not do so.

THERE IS another German way. Two weeks ago, I saw it.

An audience of hundreds gathered in Berlin for a ceremony in which I was awarded the “Blue Planet Prize”. The name reflects the fact that from outer space the Earth looks like a blue globe.

The prize was awarded by the Ethecon foundation, which believes that the ideals of peace, human rights, the preservation of the planet and an ethical economy should be joined together into one whole. This is my view, too.

The award of this year’s prize to an Israeli peace-activist expressed, I believe, real friendship for Israel – the friendship of the Other Germany for the Other Israel. Revulsion at the Nazi crimes has led these Germans to engage themselves in the struggle for a better world, a more moral world, in which there is no place for the racism that is rearing its head in many places in Europe.

THAT LEADS us, of course, to what has happened just now in the land of Wilhelm Tell.

The Swiss have decided in a referendum to forbid the building of minarets. That is bad. It is abominable.

Anti-Semitism, it appears, has moved from one Semitic people to another. In post-Holocaust Europe it is difficult to be anti-Jewish, so the anti-Semites have become anti-Muslims. As we say in Hebrew: the same lady in a different robe.

From an aesthetic point of view, that is a stupid decision. In all anthologies of the most beautiful buildings in the world, Islamic architecture occupies a place of honor. From the Alhambra in Granada to the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, not to mention the Taj Mahal, hundreds of Islamic architectural creations arouse admiration. A minaret or two would do wonders for the urban landscape of Bern.

But this is not a matter of architecture, rather of primitive, brutal racism, the one the Germans are escaping from. The Swiss, too, have much to atone for. Their grandfathers and grandmothers, too, behaved abominably during the Holocaust, when they declared that “The Boat Is Full” and returned the Jews who managed to reach the Swiss border to the Nazi executioners.

(This memory should induce us Israelis to protest against the behavior of our own government towards the desperate Sudanese refugees who manage to reach our borders from Egypt. It is returning them to the Egyptians, who, on more than one occasion, have shot them.)

By the way, the Swiss referendum should give pause to those who have been tempted to think that the system of referendums is preferable to the Parliamentary system. A referendum opens the gates to the vilest demagogues, the pupils of Joseph Goebbels, who once wrote: “We must appeal again to the most primitive instincts of the masses.”

Jean-Paul Sartre once said that we are all racists. The difference, he declared, is between those who recognize this and struggle against their racism, and those who surrender to it. The majority of the Swiss, I am sorry to say, have just failed this test. What about us?

Palestinsk pogrom i Hebron

Israels statsminister Ehud Olmert (Kadima) sa i dag at han er skamfull over hvordan de israelske nybyggere i Hebron behandler palestinerne.

Den israelske hæren har fjernet 250 jødiske ekstremister fra et hus i Hebron på Vestbredden. Beskyttet av den israelske hæren, har jødiske ekstremister plaget og trakassert palestinerne i Hebron i årevis. Det var på tide at hæren grep inn, og på tide at israelske politikere omtalte behandlingen av palestinerne ved sitt rette navn.

Hærens aksjon mot husokkupantene var godt planlagt og effektivt gjennomført. Den kom etter at israelsk høyesterett først hadde beordret de jødiske husokkupantene til å forlate bygningen, uten at de lystret. Forsvarsminister Ehud Barak (Ap) beordret derfor hæren til å gripe inn.

De jødiske ekstremistene i Hebron lot det gå ut over den palestinske sivilbefolkningen. De brente hus og skjøt mot de ubevæpnede palestinerne. Avisen Haaretz opplyser at 17 palestinere ble skadet. En israelsk menneskerettighetsgruppe dokumenterte to av overgriperne på video, og de meldte seg for politiet, etter at Haaretz publiserte videoen på sine nettsider. De to er nå i politiets varetekt.

Den israelske statsministeren, som er tiltalt for korrupsjon og skal gå av etter valget til våren, omtalte Hebron-jødenes overgrep mot palestinerne som pogrom. For jødene har dette russiske ordet en historie. Det betyr ødeleggelse og ble internasjonalt kjent da jødeforfølgelsene startet i Russland på slutten av 1800-tallet.

Den russiske mobben ble mobilisert mot den jødiske minoriteten, som fikk sin eiendom stjålet eller brent. Mange ble drept, mange flyktet mot vest, til Europa. Den sterke veksten i den jødiske befolkningen ble i Tyskland og Østerrike utnyttet av nazistene, som på 1920- mobiliserte sine partibøller brunskjortene til å organisere nye pogromer. Da nazistene tok makten i Tyskland i 1933, og nazifiserte statsapparatet, forsøkte de å utrydde hele den jødiske befolkningen i hele Europa. Da fikk det dystre ordet pogrom følge av et nytt ord, holocaust. Det er gresk og betyr fullstendig forbrenning.

«Vi er barn av et folk som bygger sin moralske historie på minnet om pogromene. Jøder som skyter mot uskyldige palestinere kan ikke omtales som annet enn pogrom og jeg skammer meg over at jøder kan gjøre dette», sa Ehud Olmert.

Dersom Israel skal bli en troverdig forhandlingspartner for fred med palestinerne og nabolandene, må hele samfunnet ta et oppgjør med de bevæpnede, voldelige nybyggerne. Men for at staten skal kunne bruke makt mot dem, må det store flertallet godtar at maktbruken er legitim. Kanskje begynner politiske ledere i Israel nå å forstå at nybyggernes mishandling av palestinerne er like forkastelig som nazistenes mishandling av jødene.

Men hva sier Israels «venner» i Norge, når den israelske statsministeren kritiserer hebronjødenes behandling av palestinere på samme måte som norske kritikere? Er også Ehud Olmert antisemitt?