The Case Against Israelby Michael Neumann
Pub. Date: 02/01/2005
Publisher: AK Press
The Case Against Israelargues that Zionism was responsible for the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians and that Israel is responsible for its perpetuation. The argument rests on widely accepted factual claims and impeccable sources. It avoids rhetoric and gratuitous moralizing. There is no attempt to blacken Israel through association with colonialism/i>
The Case Against Israelargues that Zionism was responsible for the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians and that Israel is responsible for its perpetuation. The argument rests on widely accepted factual claims and impeccable sources. It avoids rhetoric and gratuitous moralizing. There is no attempt to blacken Israel through association with colonialism, imperialism, or racism. Instead, Neumann’s argument emphasizes the fateful Zionist quest for Jewish sovereignty in Palestine. This quest—not the massacres or plans for transfer or other blots on Zionist history—made violence inevitable and compromise impossible. The prospect of Zionists gaining the power of life and death over all inhabitants of Palestine had to be seen by the Palestinians as a mortal threat. They responded accordingly.
The tragic consequences of the quest for sovereignty did not follow all at once, but in two stages. The Zionists established a sovereign Jewish state in 1948. Had they been content with that, peace might have followed the 1967 war, when Israel could have backed the creation of a Palestinian state in the occupied territories. Instead, Zionists pushed to extend Jewish sovereignty, this time through the settler movement. The settlements were a renewed mortal threat to the Palestinians and once again necessitated a violent response. The only solution is for Israel to withdraw, unilaterally, to its 1948 borders.
Michael Neumann was born in 1946, the son of German Jewish refugees. He graduated from Columbia University with degrees in European history and English literature, followed by a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Toronto. He teaches moral and political philosophy at a Canadian university. He has written What’s Left?, a critique of 1960s radicalism, and numerous articles relating to the Israel/Palestine conflict. His academic work includes The Rule of Law: Politicizing Ethics as well as articles on utilitarianism, rationality, and rights.
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Michael Neumann is a professor of philosophy at Trent University in Ontario. He writes, ¿I am a moral and political philosopher: if I have an expertise, it is in moral and political argument.¿ In this brilliant book he clearly outlines the essentials of the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians. He concludes, ¿Israel is, generally speaking, in the wrong in its conflict with Palestinians. The Palestinians, I will claim, are generally speaking in the right.¿ In Part One he looks at the Zionist project and its consequences. In Part Two he examines the current situation ¿ the occupation, the settlements, alternatives, possible Palestinian strategies, and terrorism. He summarises Part One, ¿The Zionist project, as conceived and executed in the 19th and early 20th century, was entirely unjustified and could reasonably be regarded by the inhabitants of Palestine as a very serious threat, the total domination by one ethnic group of all others in the region. ¿ The illegitimacy of the Zionist project was the major cause of all the terror and warfare that it aroused.¿ Zionism¿s ¿leaders literally conspired to dispossess or dominate the Palestinians. ¿ It was the implementation of this idea that made bloodshed in Palestine, if not inevitable, as close to it as we can expect to get. That blood is on the Zionists¿ hands.¿ The Palestinians were faced, ¿not with a long-standing conflict between two established populations, but with an invasion conceived and executed by a political movement. No one is morally required to compromise with an invasion. ¿ Any population may defend itself against the threat of an externally imposed sovereignty.¿ In Part Two, he argues, ¿Sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s, there was a fundamental change in the situation ¿. Israel¿s existence became as secure as any state has a right to expect. Its settlement policy was not defensive but a form of ethnic warfare, and, therefore, outrageously wrong. The Palestinians were justified in claiming that once again some sort of violent response was not only permissible, but necessary. Moreover, all this holds regardless of whether the previous arguments hold: regardless of whether the Zionist project was justified.¿ The Palestinians have no alternative to fighting for survival, but Israel has an alternative ¿ unilateral withdrawal from the Occupied Territories. Neumann points out, ¿Its willful and pointless rejection of that alternative places Israel decisively in the wrong. ¿ since Israel can withdraw at will and close its border, Israel can put an end to virtually all the violence. That violence is occasioned by the settlement policy, which is Israel¿s sole reason for the occupation. Since that occupation has no defensive or strategic rationale, Israel has no good reason to prolong it. Since Israel is willfully pursuing an unjustifiable strategy that it can end at no cost, it is responsible for all the consequences of that strategy. It follows that all the violence, and all horrors of the occupation, are to be laid at Israel¿s doorstep.¿
The author is not qualified to write on this subject. He teaches philosophy at an obscure Canadian university. His knowledge of politics and the Middle East is poor. There are at least 26 errors of fact in this book which is understandable since the author, Michael Neumann, tells the reader flat out he is out to make a polemical case, the truth be damned.While the author is not new to the spate of ranting-raving writers against Israel, he definitely breaks weird ground in seeking the destruction of Israel. His arguments are that states have no right to exist anyways and that every state, including the USA, was established on the basis of terrorism.Neumann comes to the end of his argumentation by justifying the use of Arab terrorism against the Israeli civilian population in cafes, hotels, shopping centers and buses. He admits he doesn't know if this is moral or not but as far as he is concerned, all is fair in love and war.On the basis of the foregoing, readers interested in argumentative books on the Arab-Israeli conflict would be best served by reading the works of informed commentators auch as Alan Dershowitz and Nonie Darwish.
1.Add an obscure philosophy professor from an obscure Canadian university, mix together with an equally obscure American publisher, and let them loose in the tiresome world of Israel-bashers and you come up with another hysterical rant against the Jewish state. That is all this book by Michael Neumann is about.
2. Neumann tries to make up for his lack of scholarly credentials on Middle East politics by trumpeting the fact that he is a Jew. Readers will not be fooled - he may be a Jew, but by birth only. His over 200 page propaganda screed makes it clear he is not a kosher Jew but rather an apostate. How so? He ventilates his hatred of the Holy Land created by the Jews from time immemorial, denies their history and peoplehood and their millenial attachment to that land. Their spiritual cousins the Christians will take no comfort from this, having their own stakehold in the Holy Land, especially the Palestinian Christians who are being ethnically cleansed by the Palestinian Muslim majority in Bethlehem and Gaza.
3. If that were not enough to toss this diatribe work, three other features would do the trick. The first are spelling errors, on nearly every fifth page. The second are dozens of factual errors strewn in each chapter. The third is the absence of logic and morality.
4.Throughout the book, the author exhibits a preference for universal anarchy, thus providing inadvertent comic relief. He claims Israel "is the illegitimate child of ethnic nationalism" and then promptly makes the case for an ethnic Palestinian Arab state. He denies history can justify a claim to a land and then suddenly states Palestine belongs to the Palestinian Arabs because they were there first. He denies the Palestinians are Arabs who usurped the Holy Land in 637 AD under the imperialist banner of Caliph Omar from Arabia and then admits "perhaps even the majority" of Jordanian Arabs are Palestinian. This childish dialectic goes on and on.
5. Then our author drops two bombshells. First, he writes (p.90) "no state has a right to exist." The reason? They are built on ethnic nationalism. But because their destruction would cause undue suffering, he grudgingly accepts that state actors are here to stay. As he charmingly puts it: " So Israel, like any other illegitimate state, does for all practical purposes have the right to exist." And he proceeds from here to dictate how Israel should exist (by surrendering to Palestinian extremists). The second bombshell is his open support for Palestinian terrorism against Jewish civilians in Israel. He even admits this terrorism consists of the deliberate killing of innocents (p.159). This is sheer racism on the author's part who, in this instance, reveals a neo-fascist bent.
6. Neumann's refusal to condemn Palestinian terrorism makes him become defensive: " I haven't got all the facts on the ground at my disposal (p.169)." How true in this case and, indeed, for this pathetic book as a whole.