The first error in John Judis’ book “Genesis: Truman, American Jews, and the Origins of the Arab/Israeli Conflict” is in its title. The genesis of this conflict took place thousands of years before Truman when the Roman Empire imposed its colonial rule on the Jewish population using Arab mercenaries and when the Muslim Arab conquerors colonized Israel.
Judis describes the Roman ethnic cleansing of Israel’s Jewish population as the land going “through different religious incarnations after the pagan Romans ousted the Maccabee.” This is akin to another type of revisionist historian describing the Holocaust as Europe going through a new religious incarnation after the pagan National Socialists ousted Jewish communal leaders.
All the familiar myths of anti-Israel revisionist historians are present in Judis’ Genesis making it the least original book on Israel in some time. There are the European Jewish colonists seizing Arab land and powerful American Jewish lobbies intimidating politicians concerned about the “Palestinians” who would not spring into existence until after the failed invasions of Israel by the Arab colonial powers.
The Arabs are treated as a majority when it comes to their claim on the land and as a minority when it comes to soliciting liberal sympathy on their behalf. Judis justifies this political juggling act by rewriting history so that the Jews of Israel are reduced to European colonists rather than an indigenous minority.
Middle Eastern Jews are largely absent in his Eurocentric narrative because their existence upends his depiction of the Jewish resettlement as a Western colonial assault against a hapless native population. The Middle Eastern Jews, whose existence the left denies or minimizes, demonstrate that Zionism was no different than the national liberation movements of minorities like the Kurds or the Armenians.
Most Israeli Jews are Middle Eastern. Middle Eastern Jews were and are an oppressed minority under Arab Muslim rule. Their situation only improved under European colonialism. Instead of addressing that oppression; Judis pretends that Jews were better off as an oppressed minority under Muslim rule.
Like most champions of the Palestinian cause, Judis adopts the narrative of the Muslim conquerors, accepting its often imaginary and inconsistent history while disdaining the extensive history of the conquered and oppressed indigenous populations who suffered and suffer under their rule.
Judis denounces pro-Israel liberals who supported the rights of African-Americans for being “oblivious to the rights of Palestine’s Arabs”. Those American liberals however sided with national rights for a regional minority inclined toward democracy over a violently xenophobic regional majority already in possession of numerous ethnostates and theocracies that was enthusiastic about totalitarian fascism.
Their support for a Jewish State was based on the rights of a regional minority to self-determination.
Pro-Israel liberals supported minorities in America and the Middle East. John Judis supports minorities in America and opposes them in the Middle East; choosing Arab Nationalism and Islamic Supremacism over a majority-minority state that has protected the rights of Jews and other regional minorities.
The anti-Israel left champions Palestinian nationalism in the name of democracy and human rights for a “state” whose president is on the tenth year of his four year term and whose human rights don’t exist.
The “Palestinian” case that Judis retroactively constructs is a modern invention and he admits as much. Liberals of the day, like Bartley Crum of the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on Palestine, heard from Dr. Hitti of the Institute for Arab-American Affairs that there was no such entity as Palestine.
Ahmad Shukeiri, before he became the first Chairman of the PLO, told the UN Security Council that, “Palestine is nothing but Southern Syria.” Abu Nidal, the ultimate Palestinian terrorist, proclaimed, “Palestine belongs to Syria.” Azmi Bishara, the Arab Israeli MK who fled the country after collaborating with Hezbollah, said in a television interview, “I think the Palestinian nation is a colonial invention.”
Judis dismisses Jewish nationalism as a 19th century invention, when it’s Palestinian nationalism that is a late 20th century invention.
He emphasizes European Jewish migration to Israel, but not Arab Muslim migration. He repeatedly states that Arabs had been living in Israel for 1,400 years as if the entire Arab population had arrived with the Muslim conquests. The history of modern Ramallah, the capital of the Palestinian Authority, founded in the 16th century by a family of Christian refugees fleeing Muslim persecution, shows that the 1,400 year number that Judis keeps throwing around is as misleading as his suggestion that the Arab colonizers of Israel may be descended from the Philistines and the Canaanites.
Judis disavows the religious connection of Jews to Israel, writing that “Jews declared ‘Next year in Jerusalem’ annually during Passover dinners, but few took these words literally.”
Taking those words literally was the foundation of Judaism from before the Islamic conquest of Israel.
If, as Judis and other anti-Israel revisionist historians insist, Israel was a European colonialist invention, why have Middle Eastern Jews been the most dedicated to Israel and why did they immigrate in greater numbers to Israel than even the Jews of Germany and Poland?
Middle Eastern Jews were more traditional and religious than European Jews. The first returnees to Israel were Orthodox Jews. Today the American Jews most likely to move to Israel are Orthodox Jews. Zionism had a European political framework for a mandate based on religion and tradition. The vast majority of Jews living in Israel today are more influenced by the Bible than by Herzl or Ahad Ha'am.
John Judis begins his narrative in 1948 with Truman because he needs to justify a colonial solution. While the United States only had a limited impact on the rebirth of Israel, revisionist historians like Judis put the “blame” for Israel’s founding on the United States so that they can then demand that the United States undo the “wrong” that it did.
The rebirth of Israel had been long underway and the British withdrawal made it inevitable by simple absence. Truman acceded to recognizing Israel, but statehood was a matter for Israeli militias successfully defending their country despite the Democratic leader’s arms embargo on Israel.
Judis claims Truman opposed Israel because he “rejected the idea of a state religion”. That would be the same Truman who wrote to the Pope, “Your Holiness, this is a Christian Nation.” He claims that Truman “was not insensitive to the plight of European Jews” even though Truman had responded to Jewish pleas on behalf of DP’s by writing, “The Jews, I find, are very, very selfish.“ and had told the cabinet, “I have no use for them and I don't care what happens to them.”
American Jews are depicted as a powerful lobby that intimidated Truman and every president since, yet this same lobby failed to save the Jews of Europe from the Holocaust by allowing them to escape to the United States. If this supposedly powerful Jewish lobby could not open the doors of Ellis Island, how did it pressure the United States into setting up an entire country?
Judis has Truman talking up the plan of British foreign secretary Bevin as “the best possible solution for Palestine” to replace the State of Israel with an unworkable Jewish-Arab federation that neither side wanted and that would have become a war zone the moment that the last British soldier left.
Ernest Bevin was the man of whom James G. McDonald, Truman’s own envoy to Israel, wrote, “Facing Bevin across the broad table, I had to tell myself that this was not Hitler seated before me.”
Truman did not create Israel and could not have prevented its rebirth by any means other than dispatching American soldiers to oversee an extension of British colonial rule under the guise of a federation and he recognized that there was no hope of maintaining Bevin and Judis’s solution without an American military occupation that would have made Iraq look like Grenada.
And yet it is telling that despite dedicating an entire book to attacking Jewish “colonialism”, the preferred alternatives of John Judis to Zionism are British colonialism or American intervention.
Judis wraps up a book of bad history written in bad faith by asserting that the only way to reach an agreement would be for Obama and the EU to make it clear to the Israelis “that they would not tolerate any other outcome.”
This is typical of the Western left which denounces colonialism while championing it at their own hands.
Judis pretends that his book is an anti-colonial work when it is really a lament for the colonial intervention that should have taken place under Truman and a plea to Obama to engage in a final colonial intervention to displace an oppressed indigenous minority from its land.
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