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Wrong Israel Gershoni?

Israel Gershoni

Research Assistant, Professor

Tel Aviv University

HQ Phone:  (212) 742-9070

Email: g***@***.il


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Tel Aviv University

39 Broadway Suite 1510

New York City, New York, 10006

United States

Company Description

Founded in 1963, Tel Aviv University is one of Israel's foremost research and teaching universities. Located in Israel's cultural, financial and industrial heartland, Tel Aviv University is at the forefront of basic and applied research in a wide variety of sc...more

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Background Information

Employment History

Area Editor

Oxford University Press Inc

Area Editor

Oxford African American Studies Center




Research Triangle Park

Fellow of the National Humanities Center

Israel Science Foundation


BIRD Foundation


Institute for Advanced Study




Hebrew University


Hebrew University


Hebrew University

Web References(32 Total References)

Oxford AASC: About Dictionary of African Biography

Israel Gershoni
Tel Aviv University

Annette Herskovits: Nazism, Zionism, and the Arab World

For over six decades, the U.S. Congress, successive presidents, media, public opinion, all have supported a story which portrays Israel as wholly good and innocent, while painting those resisting its violence and injustice as anti-Semites, Nazis, and terrorists.
The myth that Israel is the victim of unprovoked attacks by uncivilized Arabs persists, even in the face of Israel's brutality and violations of international law in its 44-year long occupation of the Palestinian Territories. The grip of this fiction on the American collective mind reflects a conjuncture of causes: the West's guilt about the Holocaust; the proto-Zionist theology of American evangelical sects; U.S. imperial interests in Middle East oil reserves; and the West's long-distrust of and contempt for Arabs and Muslims. Propaganda produced by Israel and the American Jewish establishment inverts reality. It refutes the story told by pro-Israel zealots, who attribute hostility to Israel in the Arab world not to Israel's actions, but to Arabs' hatred of Jews: hatred, they argue, which originated in Islam and flourished with the Arabs' collaboration with the Nazis during WWII. Another attack, directed at Achcar's lecture in the Jewish Studies Department of the University of California at Davis, came from BlueTruth, a blog devoted to "refuting the accusations and exposing the lies that are being told ... about Israel, Jews and pro-Israel organizations ..." One such lie, to judge by the article, is that Israel was "built on Arab land." As someone whose mother and father were murdered in Auschwitz, and who herself survived the Nazis' barbarous nationalism thanks to the courage of a group of Catholics, Protestants, Communists, and Jews, I find the idea that defending the "Jewish state" supersedes all other human obligations both immoral and senseless. Nothing, not even the Holocaust, justifies Israel's treatment of Palestinians or the continuing efforts of pro-Israel zealots to show Arabs and Muslims as less than human. Israel and its unconditional supporters are on a path leading to catastrophe not only for Palestinians, but in the not very long run, for Israel itself. The first part of Achcar's book covers the period from 1933, when Hitler acceded to power, until Israel's foundation in 1948. At that time, "liberal Westernizers" and Marxists took a strong stand against both Nazism and anti-Semitism. In the various Arab nationalist movements, sympathy for the Axis varied but was overall low, and opposition to Zionism did not translate into hatred of "the Jews. It is only among "reactionary and/or fundamentalist pan-Islamists" that significant anti-Semitism and support for Nazism were found. Several recent studies confirm this. For example, Achcar's book quotes Israel Gershoni, a professor of Middle Eastern History at Tel Aviv University, who wrote that in the 1930s: The second part of Achcar's book traces the rise of anti-Semitism in the Arab world after the founding of Israel in 1948. Achcar writes: "There are more anti-Semites among the Arabs today than among any other population group-for obvious historical reasons" [emphasis mine].8 These historical reasons, which are indeed obvious, were they not again and again obfuscated by pro-Israel apologists, include: Israel's ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinian Arabs in 1948-1949 and its systematic destruction of 418 Palestinian villages to prevent the refugees' return: creating 300,000 more Palestinian refugees in 1967; a brutal and tyrannical occupation accompanied by continued ethnic cleansing ever since; and atrocities against civilian populations in wars in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Lebanon. Even Bernard Lewis, a historian favored by defenders of Israel, wrote "for Christian anti-Semites, the Palestine problem is a pretext and an outlet for their hatred; for Muslim anti-Semites, it is the cause."9 Remove the cause-that is, end Israel's ethnocentrism and expansionism-and Arab anti-Semitism would likely fade away. Achcar shows how Arab anti-Semitism is "reactive" and changeable-dependent on Israel's actions, its violence, its propaganda (e.g., calling Arabs "Nazis"), and on the particular historical and political circumstances of the various Arab/Muslim countries. The "Hasbara Handbook: Promoting Israel on Campus" (hasbara is Hebrew for "public relations, " or "propaganda"), published in 2002 by the World Union of Jewish Students, gives advice on how to score points "whilst avoiding genuine discussion": rather than addressing your opponent's arguments, make "as many comments that are positive about Israel as possible whilst attacking certain Palestinian positions, and attempting to cultivate a dignified appearance"; repeat points again and again, "If people hear something often enough, they come to believe it. Stillwell and Greene claim that, unlike anti-Semitism in the Arab world, "'anti-Arab attitudes in Israel' are neither widespread, [nor] promulgated through state-provided education and other official means. "Other official means" of promulgating racism include laws that are the very foundation of the Israeli state: the 1950 Law of Return and 1952 Citizenship Law, which allow every Jew in the world to immigrate to Israel and become an Israeli citizen. These same laws forbid the return of Palestinians who were forced to flee their homes from 1947 to 1952. This inequity may have made sense to those in the West who lived through the years after WWII, when the horrors of the Holocaust and general acceptance of colonialism blinded almost everyone to the injustice perpetrated against Palestinian Arabs. But it is much past time to look at the situation through Palestinian eyes. More recent laws show racism becoming increasingly institutionalized in Israel. Israel lodged a protest when UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon used the word in a telephone conversation with Mahmoud Abbas on May 2008, the 60th anniversary of the Nakba. Livni makes luminously clear that Israel is not a democracy for all its citizens. For the Jews, yes, although the rights of dissenters are increasingly restricted. Gail Rubin J.D. author of the BlueTruth article, waxes indignant at Achcar for describing Israel as a "'settler colonial project' built on 'Arab land,'" and "accusing Zionists of 'ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.'" That Israel was built on Arab land, whether bought or confiscated, is undeniable. In any case, no one denies that Israel prevented the return of refugees, a violation of international law. It was Israeli policy to shoot as "infiltrators" Palestinians trying to return to their villages in the night. Hundreds of villages were destroyed to foreclose their former inhabitants' return. Arguments about the colonial nature of the Israeli state usually take the form of semantic nitpicking. Sociologist Maxime Rodinson, a French Jew who first broke the taboo against calling Israel a "colonial-settler state," concludes his remarkable 1967 essay: In fact, following the conquest of land and expulsion of its native Arab inhabitants, Israel again and again inflicted great harm on Arabs and Muslims-primarily the Palestinians, but also those living in the border states-through actions that cannot be attributed to Israel's need to survive. Consider the annexation of Jerusalem, a city sacred to Islam; the occupation of the Palestinian territories and of the Golan Heights; and wars such as that against Lebanon in 2006, supposedly a response to the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers that resulted in 1,200 Lebanese deaths, almost all of them civilians. One example provides strong evidence that Arabs have not inherited the Nazis' exterminatory will. The 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, re-endorsed unanimously by the Arab League in 2007,25 calls upon Israel to withdraw from all the territories occupied since 1967, and for the establishment of a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital. The Arab countries would then commit to establishing normal relations with Israel and provide security for all the states of the region. Israel is entreated to accept the initiative to "[enable] the Arab countries and Israel to live in peace and good neighborliness and provide future generations with security, stability and prosperity. The initiative calls for "a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem," but expresses support for any negotiated settlement between Israel and Palestinians. It is difficult to find exterminatory anti-Semitism in all this. Unsurprisingly, Israeli politicians have ignored the initiative. All signs point to the fact that Israel has never wanted an equitable peace settlement. Israeli governments since Israel's beginnings, including Labor governments, have all acted to further the goal of a Greater Israel empty of Palestinians. The coalition works "to engage leaders at colleges and universities around issues affecting Israel, and to create positive campus change for Israel." Why this vast deployment of resources on campuses? The answer is straightforward. A recent document by the David Project, dedicated to ensuring that "effective support for Israel thrives on campuses and in our communities," states: "AIPAC has had a successful track record in building campus ties to future members of Congress and campus leaders."26 To-morrow's leaders are on campuses today, so the thinking goes, and they must be reached by Israeli propaganda as early as possible. Israel Gershoni, "Beyond Anti-Semitism: Egyptian Responses to German Nazism and Italian Fascism in the 1930s" (EUI Working Paper no. RSC 20001/32, San Domenico, 2001, p.6. See also "New Discriminatory Laws and Bills in Israel," June 2011. Both can be downloaded from Adalah. "Survival of the Fittest?

Lynne Rienner Publishers | Histories of the Modern Middle East New Directions

Israel Gershoni, Hakan Erdem, and Ursula Wokock, editors
Israel Gershoni is professor of Middle Eastern history at Tel Aviv University. Gershoni and U. Wokoeck. Gershoni and U. Wokoeck.

Oxford AASC: About Dictionary of African Biography

Israel Gershoni
Tel Aviv University

MESA Mentoring Award

Israel Gershoni, Tel Aviv University

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