Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Common threads

Via Dennis Perrin:
As Ze'ev Jabotinsky put it in his seminal "The Iron Wall" from 1923, "Culturally [the Palestinians] are 500 years behind us, spiritually they do not have our endurance or our strength of will . . . They look upon Palestine with the same instinctive love and true fervor that any Aztec looked upon his Mexico or any Sioux looked upon his prairie." Thus, "we conclude that we cannot promise anything to the Arabs of the Land of Israel or the Arab countries. Their voluntary agreement is out of the question." Jabotinsky was an inspiration to and godfather of modern Israeli rejectionism, primarily for those on the Israeli right, but not excluding more "moderate" Zionist currents. The bottom line is that Palestinians have never been part of the equation. They've been in the way, and their ongoing existence and resistance provide Israeli hardliners the fuel needed to openly kill and marginalize them. What is happening now in Gaza is merely the latest chapter of this barbarous narrative. Judging from official Israeli statements, this narrative is hardly near its end.
One might from a Zionist perspective, view the Palestinians as "wolves in human form" (h/t Jonathan Schwarz). The view of American Indians as untermenschen was not unique to George Washington, but was rather a shared view of the European settlers in much the same way that European settlers view the natives of Palestine. To show more common threads among colonizers and champions of moncultures: let's look at John Winthrop (first Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony):
That which lies common, and hath never beene replenished or subdued is free to any that possesse and improve it: For God hath given to the sonnes of men a double right to the earth; there is a naturall right, and a Civill Right. The first right was naturall when men held the earth in common every man sowing and feeding where he pleased: then as men and theire Cattekk encreased they appropriated certaine parcells of Grownde by inclosing and peculiar manuerance, and this in time gatte them a Civille right. . . . As for the Natives in New England, they inclose noe Land, neither have any settled habytation, nor any tame Cattell to improve the Land by, and soe have noe other but a Naturall Right to those Countries, soe as if we leave them sufficient for their use, we may lawfully take the rest, there being more than enough for them and us.
John Mason (commander of Connecticut troops during a massacre of a Pequot village):
The Indians ran as Men most dreadfully amazed. . . . And indeed such a dreadful Terror did the Almighty let fall upon their Spirits, that they would fly from us and run into the very Flames, where many of them perished. . . . [And] God was above them, who laughed his Enemies and the Enemies of his People to Scorn, making them as a fiery Oven; Thus were the Stout Hearted spoiled, having slept their last Sleep, and none of their Men could find their Hands: Thus did the Lord judge among the Heathen, filling the place with dead Bodies!
Here's Theodore Roosevelt from his book, The Winning of the West, Volume 1 (h/t The Try-Works)

After the great Teutonic wanderings were over, there came a long lull, until, with the discovery of America, a new period of even vaster race expansion began. During this lull the nations of Europe took on their present shapes. Indeed, the so-called Latin nations–the French and Spaniards, for instance–may be said to have been born after the first set of migrations ceased. Their national history, as such, does not really begin until about that time, whereas that of the Germanic peoples stretches back unbroken to the days when we first hear of their existence. It would be hard to say which one of half a dozen races that existed in Europe during the early centuries of the present era should be considered as especially the ancestor of the modern Frenchman or Spaniard. When the Romans conquered Gaul and Iberia they did not in any place drive out the ancient owners of the soil; they simply Romanized them, and left them as the base of the population. By the Frankish and Visigothic invasions another strain of blood was added, to be speedily absorbed; while the invaders took the language of the conquered people, and established themselves as the ruling class. Thus the modern nations who sprang from this mixture derive portions of their governmental system and general policy from one race, most of their blood from another, and their language, law, and culture from a third.

. . .

It is of vital importance to remember that the English and Spanish conquests in America differed from each other very much as did the original conquests which gave rise to the English and the Spanish nations. The English had exterminated or assimilated the Celts of Britain, and they substantially repeated the process with the Indians of America; although of course in America there was very little, instead of very much, assimilation. The Germanic strain is dominant in the blood of the average Englishman, exactly as the English strain is dominant in the blood of the average American. Twice a portion of the race has shifted its home, in each case undergoing a marked change, due both to outside influence and to internal development; but in the main retaining, especially in the last instance, the general race characteristics

Adolph Hitler (probably plagiarizing) Roosevelt in Mein Kampf (h/t The Try-Works)
In North America, where the population is prevalently Teutonic, and where those elements intermingled with the inferior race only to a very small degree, we have a quality of mankind and a civilization which are different from those of Central and South America. In these latter countries the immigrants–who mainly belonged to the Latin races–mated with the aborigines, sometimes to a very large extent indeed. In this case we have a clear and decisive example of the effect produced by the mixture of races. But in North America the Teutonic element, which has kept its racial stock pure and did not mix it with any other racial stock, has come to dominate the American Continent and will remain master of it as long as that element does not fall a victim to the habit of adulterating its blood.
Some more insight on Hitler from the book Hitler and His Secret Partners, by James Pool (h/t The Try-Works):

Hitler drew another example of mass murder from American history. Since his youth he had been obsessed with the Wild West stories of Karl May. He viewed the fighting between cowboys and Indians in racial terms. In many of his speeches he referred with admiration to the victory of the white race in settling the American continent and driving out the inferior peoples, the Indians. With great fascination he listened to stories, which some of his associates who had been in America told him about the massacres of the Indians by the U.S. Calvary.

He was very interested in the way the Indian population had rapidly declined due to epidemics and starvation when the United States government forced them to live on the reservations. He thought the American government’s forced migrations of the Indians over great distances to barren reservation land was a deliberate policy of extermination. Just how much Hitler took from the American example of the destruction of the Indian nations is hard to say; however, frightening parallels can be drawn. For some time Hitler considered deporting the Jews to a large ‘reservation’ in the Lubin area where their numbers would be reduced through starvation and disease.

. . .

Always contemptuous of the Russians, Hitler said: “For them the word ‘liberty’ means the right to wash only on feast-days. If we arrive bringing soft soap, we’ll obtain no sympathy…There’s only one duty: to Germanize this country by the immigration of Germans, and to look upon the natives as Redskins.” Having been a devoted reader of Karl May’s books on the American West as a youth, Hitler frequently referred to the Russians as “Redskins.” He saw a parallel between his effort to conquer and colonize land in Russia with the conquest of the American West by the white man and the subjugation of the Indians or “Redskins.” “I don’t see why,” he said, “a German who eats a piece of bread should torment himself with the idea that the soil that produces this bread has been won by the sword. When we eat from Canada, we don’t think about the despoiled Indians.”

Manifest Destiny (US Version):
The phrase was coined in 1845 by journalist John L. O'Sullivan, then an influential advocate for the Democratic Party. In an essay entitled "Annexation" published in the Democratic Review, O'Sullivan urged the United States to annex the Republic of Texas, not only because Texas desired this, but because it was America's "manifest destiny to overspread the continent". Amid much controversy, Texas was annexed shortly thereafter, but O'Sullivan's first usage of the phrase "Manifest Destiny" attracted little attention.

O'Sullivan's second use of the phrase became extremely influential. On December 27, 1845 in his newspaper the New York Morning News, O'Sullivan addressed the ongoing boundary dispute with Great Britain in the Oregon Country. O'Sullivan argued that the United States had the right to claim "the whole of Oregon":
And that claim is by the right of our manifest destiny to overspread and to possess the whole of the continent which Providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty and federated self-government entrusted to us.
That is, O'Sullivan believed that God ("Providence") had given the United States a mission to spread republican democracy ("the great experiment of liberty") throughout North America. Because Great Britain would not use Oregon for the purposes of spreading democracy, thought O'Sullivan, British claims to the territory could be disregarded. O'Sullivan believed that Manifest Destiny was a moral ideal (a "higher law") that superseded other considerations, including international laws and agreements.

Nerdified Link
Prime Minister Olmert's version of Manifest Destiny:
I offer no justification beyond that I KNOW Israel to be the land promised to us by G_d, and that I KNOW her to have awakened and embarked upon a march to glory.

To deny Israel her place is to deny the sun-rise, or the tides or the exquisite forces of gravity. We might idly ruminate on matters of the world, but to so do marks nothing more than the passage of time.

Israel's destiny is concrete, and here people might justly celebrate at such a time.

Professor Larry Portis comparing the monocultural visions of the US and Israel:
How did the historical experience of the United States help shape the image of Palestine? How did the "New Jerusalem" contribute to a change in the vision of the "old Jerusalem"?

A first connection is between an understanding of the Jewish Diaspora and the Protestant-puritan Diaspora of the seventeenth century. Despite deep currents of anti-Semitism, the parallel between John Winthrop leading the brave Puritans to the Promised Land and Moses leading the children of Israel back to the Holy Land has been regularly exploited in (what is today) the United States. For example, Thomas Jefferson suggested that the official seal of the United States could depict the "Children of Israel" following a pillar light sent by God.

The associations envisioned by Jefferson are eloquent: the notion of a chosen people-the Elect-to whom providence has assigned a spiritual mission linked to the conquest of a particular land. All this provides the basis for an affinity that is, in fact, more than elective-it is divine. More specifically, both chosen peoples were, ultimately, "people without a land" called upon to colonize "a land without a people".

When we speak of the colonizers, of America and Palestine, it is logical to forget the indigenous inhabitants of both places, for it was the land that was colonized--not the people living on it. The importance of the American Indians and the Palestinians comes from the fact that they have figured as obstacles to the fulfillment of the missions in question. Both groups have, in different ways, been characterized as lower forms of civilization slowing the march of progress. Both peoples have been described as savage and cruel.


The history of the British colonies in North America, and then the history of the United States throughout the nineteenth century is that of continuous colonization. The religious and economic motives typical of the seventeenth century continued to inspire settlers until the "closing" of the Frontier in the 1890s. What appear as the real novelty of the nineteenth century were the various utopian experiments in communal living. Hundreds of socialistic communities were established throughout the United States during the nineteenth century. To our day, such initiatives continue as part of the social and cultural landscape.

The Zionist settlements in Palestine combined all these same motivations. Not only were the Zionist colonies of different types, they sometimes-as in the case of the Kibbutzim-united in themselves religious Puritanism and secular socialistic modernity. This was a phenomenon appealing to United-Statesians reared on frontier myths, such as the idea of cultural-spiritual regeneration through a confrontation with adversity and violence.
I suspect you can find the common thread: namely a zealous belief by the perpetrators of being a "chosen people" combined with a demonization, a dehumanization of their victims. The reason for the brief history lesson (trust me, this one is truly brief) is simple - several of us have tried to warn you that these patterns do have a tendency to repeat, and that it is not always immediately obvious ahead of time just how truly awful the damage that is done.

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