|Understanding the ‘Palestinian’ Movement
An HIR Series, in four parts
Historical and Investigative Research - 22 April 2006
by Francisco Gil-White
In 1929 there were terrorist riots in British Mandate ‘Palestine’ against the civilian Jewish population that lived there.
 This was not the first mass racist attack by Arabs against unarmed civilian Jews in British Mandate ‘Palestine,’ nor would it be the last attempted extermination.
- “The  riots were accompanied by militant Arab slogans such as... ‘Palestine is our land and the Jews our dogs...’ [and] brutal acts by Arabs...such as the killings in Hebron, where small children were tortured by their murderers before being murdered. ...the Jewish community in Palestine found itself caught up in a wave of violent disturbances that swept with a fury through Jewish settlements and neighborhoods throughout the length and breadth of the country. The danger now appeared to threaten the very survival of the entire Jewish community.”
Historian Anita Shapira, above, writes in a way that suggests compassion for the Jewish victims of Arab racism. She is considered to be a Zionist. For a different portrayal, let us turn to Zionism: False Messiah, by historian Nathan Weinstock, who agrees with Shapira on the most important facts but not on the interpretation:
[1a]]. These attacks cannot, however, in any way be assimilated to straightforward anti-Semitic outrages which had their source in classical European coordinates of the Jewish problem, but should be seen as a deformed expression of national consciousness, all the more understandable as the Zionist leaders clearly allied with the British while the latter encouraged this distraction from the anti-imperialist struggle.” Notice first that the anti-Zionist historian agrees that Arab mobs attacked civilian Jews in British Mandate ‘Palestine,’ and that these mobs were racist; Weinstock, like Shapira, quotes the slogan that the Arab rioters chanted in the streets: “Palestine is our country and the Jews are our dogs.” These are important points of agreement. The difference is that Shapira goes out of her way to stress the genocidal intent of the Arab attackers: “The danger now appeared to threaten the very survival of the entire Jewish community”; whereas Weinstock instead loudly forbids any comparison between the Arabs who tried but failed to exterminate the local Jews, and the Europeans who tried and succeeded: “These [Arab] attacks cannot...in any way be assimilated to straightforward anti-Semitic outrages which had their source in classical European coordinates of the Jewish problem.” (Weinstock neglects to put scare-quotes around the words ‘Jewish problem’).
- “...the Palestinian anti-colonialist movement was deformed by racism. The distorted national struggle expressed itself in anti-Jewish slogans (‘Palestine is our country and the Jews are our dogs’), followed up by attacks upon Jewish passers-by and store-owners, and eventually in mob violence akin to the all-too familiar pogrom [ = unprovoked racist attack against unarmed Jews, with the semi-unofficial assistance of the (in this case British) authorities
But if genocidal Arab racism against the Jews is not, as in Europe, “straightforward[ly] anti-Semitic,” then what is it? According to Weinstock, it is a consequence of Arab “national consciousness.” It is true that elsewhere in the same book Weinstock admits that there was no such place as ‘Palestine’ until the post-WWI British imperially defined Middle Eastern boundaries, giving this name first arbitrarily to one territory, then arbitrarily to another. But he nevertheless declares with bravado: “A good case can be made, however, that, even then, there existed a specific Palestinian identity” (p.51).
So, putting it together, Weinstock is saying that there was a ‘Palestinian Arab people’ whose “national consciousness” was awakened through a “Palestinian anti-colonialist movement” that was admittedly “deformed by [anti-Jewish] racism.” But this Arab anti-Jewish racism was “understandable” because “Zionist leaders clearly allied with the British” colonialists. One is almost forced to read Weinstock as saying that the Jews -- whom the Arabs attempted to exterminate -- got what they deserved. And yet in the next sentence Weinstock concedes that the British in fact “encouraged” Arab anti-Jewish racism because it worked as a “distraction from the anti-imperialist struggle.” This admission, to put it very mildly, appears to undercut Weinstock’s claim that the British really had an alliance with the Zionist Jews. And whence his allegation that there was a “Palestinian anti-colonialist movement” that amounted to an Arab “anti-imperialist struggle”? The British Liuetenant Colonel John Patterson, an eye-witness to Arab violence against Jews in British Mandate ‘Palestine,’ and disgusted with how his own British government “encouraged” this violence (as Nathan Weinstock himself admits), wrote that the British were inciting Arab violence against Jews in order to tell the world that there was so much local resistance to the creation of a Jewish homeland in ‘Palestine’ that the entire Zionist project had to be scuttled (see footnote 1a). Patterson's hypothesis makes more sense than Weinstock's supposed Zionist-British alliance against a “Palestinian anti-colonialist movement” and “anti-imperialist struggle,” because what everybody agrees happened is that the British imperialists were helping Arabs kill Jews.
In any case, Weinstock’s curious representation of the conflict between Arabs and Jews in British Mandate ‘Palestine’ is certainly consistent with the current representation of the Arab-Israeli conflict. We all know that the Arab enemies of the Jews turn their own children into bombs in order to kill Jewish men, women, and children. If people were doing this in the streets of the United States or Britain they would be institutionalized, whether in a mental facility or in a jail, if not killed. But since this violence is directed against Israeli Jews, we are asked instead to see it as an “understandable” consequence of a ‘Palestinian’ “national consciousness.”
I am not exaggerating. Just the other day, on 17 Monday, April 2006,
 A famous Israeli pro-‘Palestinian’ organization, dominant in Israel’s so-called ‘peace’ movement, Gush Shalom, immediately sent out an email to its list saying the following:
- “A Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up outside a fast-food restaurant in a bustling commercial area of Tel Aviv during the Passover holiday Monday, killing eight other people and wounding at least 49, police said.”
 In other words, Gush Shalom asks, How can we explain to the Israeli Jews that a child in her stroller deserved to be torn to pieces because she is the spawn of a colonialist power that dispossesses and oppresses a third-world people? How can we get Israelis to agree with the Orwellian logic of the above paragraph, where “senseless random killing” = justified political act? Since the threshold for endorsing violence against Jews is low anyways, it appears that Nathan Weinstock has already provided the answer: the trick is to insist that Arab antisemitism is a reaction to supposed Jewish colonialism, as opposed to just plain racism. And the better to allege that this is Arab “national consciousness” (as opposed to just plain racism), we will outlaw any comparison between Arab Muslim attitudes and those European attitudes that produced the Nazi Final Solution against the European Jews. Says Weinstock:
- “Sure, we are horrified by the senseless random killing. But we have also something to say about why it happened, how it might have been prevented, how the next one can still be prevented. But how to say it on this day and in that location? How to make comprehensible, to shocked and angry and traumatized people, that the occupation is the root cause of our suffering as well as the Palestinians’? How to explain convincingly that we must dry at source the oppression which makes young Palestinians don explosive belts and throw away their lives together with those of others?”
Historical and Investigative research is a website built on the premise that, in order to get a grip on the present, one must learn some history. Thus, in order better to understand the ‘Palestinian movement,’ and better to judge whether the current representation of the violence perpetrated by West Bank and Gaza Arabs against Israeli Jews is a fair representation, I propose to examine the following four questions (those in blue are already posted and you may hyperlink below):
- “These [Arab] attacks cannot...in any way be assimilated to straightforward anti-Semitic outrages which had their source in classical European coordinates of the Jewish problem.”
To continue with the first question:
- 1 Was Arab racism in the first half of the 20th c. fundamentally different from the European variety?
- 2 Was there, in British Mandate ‘Palestine,’ a ‘nationally conscious’ ‘Palestinian Arab people’?
- 3 Were the British and the Zionist Jews really allied against an anti-colonial Arab movement in ‘Palestine’?
- 4 Were the Arabs in British Mandate ‘Palestine’ dispossessed of anything by the Zionist Jews?