The Israel Problem - A personal view
What a Mess!
Several people who know my rather unconventional view of Israel have asked me to comment on the current Palestinian/Israel debacle.
I’m loathe to do so but I do have a rather good reason to enter the fray. Let me explain.
I am of partial Jewish descent. I was at school during a rather strange series of decisions made across parts of Europe, Germany especially, which passed a law making it illegal to deny the holocaust.
Strangely, that unfortunate country, Ukraine, was where the real holocaust took place although no-one mentions it. Ten million citizens were quite deliberately slaughtered for no apparent reason. That represented a quarter of the population. Ukrainians are singularly unlucky. But I dont want to get into that problem.
My mother wanted me to get into Oxford University, and to do that I had to study latin, which I hated, and also had to write a scholarship paper which my teachers, knowing my mixed descent, suggested I use the current arguments about the holocaust as a basis for my paper.
This in itself was an interesting situation. I was seventeen at the time, so was a minor. This led to the most peculiar situation where my mother, the headmaster, my history teacher, and a representative of Wadham College all had to sign a D notice, whereas I didn’t.
I got to visit Auschwitz. I got to see the Death Books, and I had access to the Israeli tracing service papers. I also was allowed to read and make notes on the book written by the US commander who liberated Auschwitz, and held it for (I believe) only a couple of weeks before it was handed over to the Russian army.
Those documents led me to an obvious conclusion, namely, that six million jews were not exterminated there, or indeed anywhere else.
That number were not listed in the Death Books, nor by the Israeli Tracing Service, nor by the reports of the US command while in control of the camp.
There is, of course, plenty of collaborative evidence to say the figure is so far off point that it is ludicrous. I refer to just one fact, that there were, as far as I remember from my studies, only two million jews in the whole of the occupied territories. As far as I can recall, my assessment after a couple of months furious study of all the basic sources, was that if you lopped off a zero you would probably have a more reasonable figure of the damage.
Again, from memory, I believe that figures given at the Auswitch museum when I was there in the sixties was that 4.6 million Jews were killed at the camp. Those bodies have not been found, and the gas chambers, which I saw, were such that such a figure could not be justified. Most of the gas stoves, were the size of kitchen ovens, and were clearly used to delouse clothes. My memory suggests four were the size of the average shop lift.
In any event, much later when I returned, the official figure had dropped to a million killed. I understand it is now an indefinite number, but somewhat less than a million.
The books I had access to put the figure at just about 6,800. Most of the rest of the deaths were lunatics, homosexuals, and a vast number of captured Russians.
I did make the point in my paper that I thought the six million figure would live on because it had become embedded in the cultural psyche. I note it is still quoted despite the fact that it is historically considered absurd.
I put it in the same category as Alexander the Great, which appellation I adjust to Alexander the Great Bully. The word great can only apply to the number a harmless people he caused to be killed, and the sheer size of his failures. He of course, achieved nothing lasting at all. But I digress.
I subsequently went to Israel to help with the excavation of Herod’s palace on the great rock known as Massada, overlooking the Dead Sea, where we all came to loathe two words ‘Boker Tov’. That’s Hebrew for Good Morning. Which it decidedly was not good when screamed over the tannoy at 4.30 in the morning.
While living in Israel I found the people charming and friendly, although there was a different side to the country that one didn’t necessarily see. This was summed up by a joke that did the rounds at the time.
Q. Where did all the nazis go after the war? A. They all came to Israel.
In my early twenties I used to teach modern English literature at the Arab University in Cairo. I lived above a cafe in Rameses Square, opposite the station. I loved my time in Egypt, and found the people incredibly hospitable, though at the same time I felt the unpleasant side of the Israelis. I arrived in Alexandria harbour during the Six Day War. I was introduced very quickly to the insanity of war. It is unbearably loud, totally confusing, and thoroughly unpleasant. Bomber planes dont fly at the same level as passenger planes. They roar over hundred yards above you.
While I was there I was taken to Gaza to see one of the concentration camps which housed the Palestinians. An Israeli truck turned up with food. The food was thrown onto the ground, and the soldiers beat the Palestinians as they bent down to pick it up.
I was told that I had to go again on a friday night. I cant write about what happened. I have tried to describe the whole event, but I start shaking before I have written more than a couple of sentences. I’ll try to keep it to one sentence. An army truck arrived, a bunch of Israeli soldiers jumped out, and started shooting at children. Excuse me, but I cant write the rest.
Let me now go way back in history.
The Balfour declaration was made just over a hundred years ago. It was a bloody stupid idea, and has caused untold damage in the Middle East.
Nothing much happened until after the second world war, when the Middle East was turned into total chaos by the Western powers, mainly, I’m sorry to say, the Brits. My Uncle Arthur served in Palestine at the time. I found his letters home to my mother fascinating reading.
When I gave a talk on the subject at one of the Oxford Union meetings I tried to give what I thought was a useful reference as to what had happened.
Let me give you a parallel situation.
Suppose you live in Essex in the twentieth century. One day a bunch of American busybodies drive into town and make an announcement, telling all the inhabitants they have to get out and make way for the descendants of the people who used to live there two thousand years ago. (Do remember that the Jewish diaspora was in 73 AD. I used to walk up Titus’s ramp every morning to work on the Masada excavations, which is why I mentioned them earlier. As a result the Jews were scattered across the globe.)
OK, so pretend you are living peacefully in Essex where your ancestors have lived relatively peacefully for centuries despite the Danes, and all that violent mob from ancient Scandinavia, but now you are being thrown out to make way for the Celts from Ireland, the Brest peninsular and the wilds of western Spain because that was their traditional home two thousand years ago.
You tell me how you’d feel about it.
That’s how the Palestinians felt about being thrown out of Palestine.
I am happy to condemn the actions of Hamas at the beginning of this october. But this is what can be expected if you force a community out of their country and continue to oppress them, which is what has been happening over the decades.
I dont know what the answer is, but this wound goes deep, and something needs to be done here to appease both sides in this mess. The first step is a ceasefire quickly followed by some serious problem solving. It does not help that the US criticises the calls for a ceasefire. Once again, Washington is setting itself up for the wrath of rather a large proportion of the peoples of the world.
This is not Israel’s fault. This has been forced on all parties by that lunatic Balfour Declaration. The world must now move on this matter and try to undo at least some of the damage that has been done. This problem is not going to go away. Israel cant solve this by fighting the Palestinians. They are an arab nation. Look at the maps. Israel is surrounded by arab nations. Those guys need to be friends. Under current conditions that is impossible.