Dear Mr. Varon
Thanks for your kind words and I hope you will take the following in the
There have been a number of Israeli Jews who survived the Holocaust who
have compared Israel's treatment of the Palestinians
thus far with the treatment of the Jews in Germany from Hitler's rise to
power in the Thirties to the point where the Nazis
decided on the Final Solution. After that is another matter. Both Hitler
and Eichmann had, in fact, read Hertzl's Der Judenstaat and agreed with
different and the wrongest of reasons, that Jews were unable to live in
harmony with non-Jews, that anti-Semitism was a
natural occurrence when that happened, and consequently Jews needed to
find a separate state of their own.
Thus, the Nazis, through Eichmann, assisted the minority of German
Zionists in their efforts to emigrate to Palestine even
while they were making life unlivable for the non-Zionist Jewish
majority, allowing young Jewish pioneers to train on German
soil before leaving for Palestine. David Kimche, who would later be the
head of Mossad, wrote an article at the time,
bragging at how he had won over Eichmann to the plan.
There is more, including the Haavera or Transfer Agreement, in which the
Nazis allowed German Jews to take their liquid
wealth out of the country by buying German products which were then
sent to Palestine on Nazi flagships where the goods were
then resold, but I wanted to make the point that extermination of the
Jews was not Hitler's original plan, but developed as
the German war effort took a turn for the worse.
There are obvious differences between the Nazi treatment of those who
resisted its occupation in Europe and that of the
Israelis towards Palestinians and Lebanese, but it is the similarities
that should concern us.
The most striking of these are the sadistic treatment of their
respective occupied populations the use of "collective
punishment," a form of oppression deemed a war crime under the Geneva
Conventions, but which Israel has openly and proudly
employed on virtually a non-stiop basis since the founding of the State
as a means of eliminating, first, the Palestinian
presence in 1948, and then resistance to its expansionist policies in
the succeeding years.. .
I have only read and heard first-hand stories about what happened under
the Nazi's occupation, but I have witnessed that of
Israel's in Lebanon, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.. There is also
the time difference. The Nazi occupation was only a
matter of several years and that time difference is, I believe, crucial
in considering the escalation of the Palestinian
resistance into suicide bombing in the current intifada, although
Russians were considered heroes for sacrificing their lives
when they blew up German tanks with Molotov cocktails. True, these
Germans were soldiers not civilians, but Israel, as well
as the US, do not make that distinction when Israelis are killed,
considering an attack on soldiers, suicide or otherwise, to
be an act of terrorism. And the US and Israeli media also conflate the
two, so after a few days, if not a few hours, the
Israeli dead are all described as if they were civilians. There are, of
course, no justifications for killing of civilians
under any circumstances, but we only seem to hear and read of the horror
when the dead are one of "us" and we are provided
with the grim pictures that revolt our senses.
Hezbollah, contrary to what you have read, was born out of Lebanese
resistance to the Israeli occupation and the failure of
the secular forces in Beirut to respond to the occupation in any
meaningful way. To attribute its birth and success to
the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, is just to buy into the US and Western
propaganda line and fail to give the Lebanese Shi'a,
the poorest of Lebanon's poor, the dignity of fighting and whipping a
foreign occupying army that, ironically, they had
initially welcomed, believing that Israel would drive out the PLO and
then leave. They didn't, and when the Israeli soldiers
steeped in anti-Arab racism, began treating the Lebanese as they did the
Palestinians, they soon had a fight on their hands.
Here is a little piece of history you're not liable to find in the
accepted texts. Up to October, 1983, a year after the
invasion, I arrived in Lebanon after interviewing members of Yesh
G'vul, the Israeli reserve group made up of soldiers that
had either refused to serve in the invading force in 1982 and chose jail
instead, or who, though opposing the war, thought it
was better to go and argue with their fellow soldiers about its
validity on he front lines, and then, realizing they had
made a mistake, chose jail rather than returning for a second tour. They
gave me a good insight into the atrocities they had
seen their fellow IDFers commit during the invasion. But I digress.
A week before I arrived, the Shi'a were celebrating their most important
holiday, Ashoura, in Nabitya, the largest city in
Southern Lebanon. During the festival, in which the celebraters become
very worked up, two Israeli jeeps approached the
square where the celebration was taking place. According to a
photographer friend who was there, as well as the mayor, who I
later interviewed, the Israeli jeeps drove into the crowd, ignoring the
mayor's request that they respect the celebration and
drive around. The jeeps were burned, reinforcements were called, and
some Lebanese were killed, and the resistance was born.
The outrage was so great that one religious leader after another
competed in their calls for vengeance. There were no
Iranian Guards present to give them instructions.
Up to that point, there were very few portraits of Khomeni in Beiruit's
Shi'a quarter. For every one of the Ayatollah,
there were a half dozen of Mousser Sadda, a liberal Shi'a theologian who
was the acknowledged leader of their community.
Unfortunately, he had disappeared on a trip that he made to visit Moamar
Khadafy, a mystery which never had been explained
but did not endear the Libyan leader to the Lebanese Shi'a.
After the Ashoura attack, things began to happen very quickly, and this
is where Iran and Syria assisted, in providing
weapons and ammunition. By the time I left Lebanon and returned to
Israel two months later, the Israeli soldiers were afraid
to do foot patrol and had clear cut wide swaths on both sides of the
road. And, as they have done, with the Palestinians,
they escalated their sadistic behavior and their use of collective
punishment on the civilian population.
At one point, after the resistance had blown up the Israeli Intelligence
Hq in Sour (Tyre), an event cheered by most of the
western press, exclusive of the US who hung out at the Commodore Bar),
the Israelis decided to punish the entire population
of Southern Lebanon, blocking all traffic including food shipments, at
the bridge over the Awali River.
On the fourth day, I went down to the bridge where long lines of
traffic, including trucks with decaying food, were unable to
turn around. A large role of barb wire stretched across the bridge and,
if that wasn't sufficient, an Israeli tank was
sitting with its barrel pointed at the huge traffic jam. I decided to
walk around the barbed wire, past the tank, to take a
picture of the Israel and Lebanese flags next to a Mobil Oil sign. After
I took one photo, an Israeli soldier fired a shot
which creased my hair and luckily didn't hit anyone else. I took one
more photo of the two Israeli soldiers who were now
advancing my way. I turned around and left with the two other
journalists I had come down there with. After 12 days, the
Israelis let the traffic pass.
What seems to be forgotten, given the attention to Sabra and Shatila, is
that the Israelis killed 20,000 Lebanese and
Palestinian civilians and wounded and maimed five times that many. Their
use of US made cluster bombs against civilians in
the refugee camps, with the anticipated results, caused even Pres.
Reagan to suspend shipment of the bombs. Later, in an East
Jerusalem Hospital, I photographed six children who were victims of
those bombs who had come to a small Palestinian hospital
to be fitted with artificial limbs. The six children had, altogether,
only two legs left, among them. So I make no apologies
about comparing Israel's behavior with that of the Nazis, who committed
other barbarities besides the Holocaust.
That war, by the way, was initiated by Israel, not to stop the shelling
of its Northern borders by the PLO--that had stopped
for 11 months thanks to a truce negotiated by the US's Philip Habib--but
because Begin and Sharon were afraid that if the PLO
was seen as keeping to an agreement, Israel would have to negotiate. So
Israel began to provoke the Palestinians with its
own cross border attacks and when that didn't work, they used the
attempted assassination of Shlomo Argov, the Ambassador to
London, by the renegade Abu Nidal group, as an excuse to launch the war.
This was well known in Israel, but like most facts
about that conflict, the truth gets twisted as it crossed the water.
That Israelis elected Sharon doesn't say much for its
I never supported Khomeni and I don't support Hezbollah's religious
beliefs or political goals, but I supported its
resistance to Israeli occupation as I support the Palestinian
resistance. No one should be surprised that Israel's Arab
neighbors see it as their arch enemy that must be destroyed. Israel has
been bombing Lebanon intermittently since 1964,
before the PLO existed, and time and again,, Israel's attacks have
forced thousands of Lebanese to flee their homes and the
Palestinians have had more than enough reasons that should be obvious..
This attitude, of course, reinforces the belief of
most Israelis that their existence is threatened, which is nonsense.
Hezbollah still continues to attack Israel in a spot in
Lebanon that Israel insists is in the Golan Heights and still occupies,
and the Palestinians have little to hope for as long
as the US Congress remains in thrall to the Israeli lobby and the
corrupt Yasser Arafat .represents them.
Long ago I supported a democratic secular state, but that is so remote
as to be inconceivable after what has gone down
between both sides in the current intifada. And it will only get worse.
If the Palestinians, or at least a significant
number, see that suicide bombing is the only form of resistance left to
them, and that seems to be the message that Sharon is
sending with the destruction off Nablus, Jenin and Ramallah, and the
killing and arrest of fighters who are not the suicide
bombers (over 6,000 are currently being held at the moment), the
situation will only become deteriorate, to put it mildly. Only the US
can stop it, and
Bush doesn't want to suffer the same fate as his Dad when he challenged
the Israel lobby in 1991.
I know that I haven't responded to everything you wrote, but I think
it's probably enough.
.Subject: [sixties-l] Re: Hezbollah - the new Partisans?!
> Dear Mr. Blankfort,
> Long a reader of this list, I've long been fascinated by -- and learned much
> from -- your very studied and informative posts. Your latest, responding to
> Mr. Lerner, however, gave me tremendous pause. This line in particular:
> "The notion that Hizbollah is a terrorist organization is as valid as
> calling the French and Italian partisans terrorists which, of course, is
> exactly what Israel's Third Reich predecessors did."
> By speaking of the Nazis as "Israel's Third Reich predecessors," you seem to
> imply that Israel is somehow the successor of the Nazis, who, as we all know,
> tried to annihilate Jews anywhere its malevolent armies and influence
> reached. The analogy, if you intended to draw it in any strict or even loose
> sense, seems to me ill-advised and insupportable. All kinds of states act
> abusively towards internal minorities, those they see as external enemies,
> and populations whom they can abuse or exploit. Assuming, for the sake of
> argument, that this describes in part Israel's relationship to the
> Palestinians, I don't see why Israel's conduct must somehow be put on any
> kind of par with that of the Nazis. Oppression is always ugly and immoral;
> but it varies in degree and kind, and I needn't, I think, even deign to
> describe the obvious differences between the Third Reich and the Israeli
> state. It's become sadly popular lately to brand Israel as the Nazis reborn
> - -- whether you intended it or not, your phrase suggests this facile and
> reductive equation.
> Moreover, your reading of Hezbollah seems rather naive. It was spawned by
> Iran's Revolutionary Guard in 1981-2 and, so far as we know, continues to be
> funded by Iran. It's main mission -- a valid one, I think -- was to expel
> the Israeli occupiers from Southern Lebanon, which it succeeded in doing,
> supported, at least in principle, by various UN resolutions and much of the
> international community. Its official ideology, however, is Islamic
> fundamentalist; its ultimate, stated goals (found in its original and
> enduring charter, from which I would quote if I had the appropriate texts at
> hand) include destroying the state of Israel (dubbed "the Zionist entity" so
> as to deny rhetorically Israel of any legitimacy); to establish a theocratic,
> Shiite-dominate state in Lebanon (something to which the Syrians objected, to
> the point of a civil war in Lebanon); and to spread\the Islamic revolution of
> Iran's Khomeni -- to whom Hezbollah orginally pledged a kind of fanatical,
> "we will follow and die for our supreme leader, the Ayatolla" support. None
> of these goals seems good ones, unless one advocates a war for Israel's
> destrcuction (a leader of Hamas recently suggested that there are plenty of
> wide open spaces in the US where Jews can resettle once Israel is driven into
> the sea) and the kind of religious repression/terrorism that has been
> wielded against Iranians for over 20 years, and in whose name hundreds, even
> thousands of members of the Iranian left have been assassinated, tortured,
> and persecuted (FIRST they came for the Iranian Marxists! Does no one weep
> for them?).
> If one insists on analogies with the World War Two era, one might choose the
> right-wing nationalist resistance in Poland. They wanted and did a good
> thing -- attack the Nazi occupiers by means of guerrilla war. But they made
> war also against the communists and joined the Nazis and many common Poles in
> being aggressively, even murderously anti-Semitic. Not exactly my heroes.
> Bear in mind also that Hezbollah was perhaps THE pioneer of suicide bombing
> - -- though typically aimed at military targets, a crucial distinction, it
> seems -- and that brutal kidnappings -- including of clergy and members of
> int'l NGOs -- was another of their chosen means. The FLN, NLF, Sandanistas,
> FSLN, Pathet Lao, etc. waged wars of liberation by both necessary and
> unnecessary, at times insavory, but most often defensible means. The kinds
> of actions depiced in the Battle of Algiers are disturbing -- at the
> absolute, outer limit of what one might consider morally acceptable.
> The current craze of sending teenagers with bomb belts to blow civilians to
> bits -- in its relentless intensity and the righteousness accompanying it --
> may well have crossed the line, whatever we think of the Israeli occupation.
> Hezbollah must also be judged with respect to this disturbing and complicated
> And does "arms for hostages" ring a bell? These "heroic" liberation
> fighters, akin, you seem to think, to Italien and French Partisans (!),
> seemed to get on well (via Iran) with Ollie North in his sick effort to
> overthrow the Sandanistas.
> We, as a left, can argue better, I'm sure.
> Jeremy Varon
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