Tuesday, January 20, 2015

RaelJeanIsaac. Middle East Peace. Chomsky’s distorted perspective. Congress Bi-Weekly. vol. 41. no. 24. 27 Dec 1974.

Irene Gendzier, a professor of History at Boston University, closes her foreword to Noam Chomsky’s prescription for the Middle East [Peace in the Middle East, Vintage Books. $1.95] with these words: “But beyond the critical level of providing Knowledge, Chomsky has demonstrated his continued commitment to its purpose, Justice wedded to truth. One may disagree with what is offered, but none can fault the honesty and Moral integrity of the effort.”
Not so. Chomsky’s essays are the work of a myopic moralist and in the opinion of this reviewer it is only this aspect that bears discussion. For, as essays in “politicalthought” or on the “arab-israeli conflict,” the volume is scarcely worth reviewing. The only two reviewed I have seen, by Michael Walzer in The New York Times and Theodore Draper in The New Republic, both point out that it is hard to imagine any editor thinking the contents, old articles and speeches delivered before arab groups, worth publishing on their own merits; the volume is published only because the author is Noam Chomsky, a distinguished figure in modern linguistic theory, a vocal critic of the Vietnam “New Left.” The salient question thus becomes “Why does Chomsky hate Israel so much?”
Chomsky’s antagonism flows from the failure of Israel to conform to his own utopian framework of worldorder. Chomsky has decided, presumably on the basis of his own superior Moralinsights, that the proper [unclear] for men to live is in “a world [unclear] democratic communities in which [unclear]litical institutions, as well as the commercial and industrial system [unclear] whole, are under direct popular [unclear] control, and the resources of modern civilisation are directed to the [unclear] faction of humanneeds and libertarian values.” Notice the term “communities” and not “States.”
Chomsky dislikes the nation[unclear] because the search for Justice “trascends national lines; some would argue that it requires abolishing [unclear] overcoming national divisions.” Never mind that humanbeings have grown no sign of believing that the “satisfaction of humanneeds,” lies in the abolition of the nationState but, on the contrary, have sought to [unclear] ever more of them. Chomsky kn[unclear] what humanneeds really are eve[unclear] the balky humanrace continues [unclear] define its humanneeds quite differently.
On the basis of his own concept [unclear] framework Chomsky might be [unclear]pected to dislike all nationStates with equal heartiness, so there remains [unclear] question why he singles out Israel a primary target for attack. To be sure, Chomsky does not applaud [unclear] arab States, they too are “reactionary,” and for Chomsky the [unclear] bright spots in the generally so[unclear] middle eastern picture are the guerillas. Presumably Chomsky likes [unclear] terrorists (“the formation of elFatah [unclear] prove to be a significant step towards peaceful reconciliation”) because they threaten not only Israel [unclear] all the arab States. Given Chomsky’s Platonic “Idea,” toward which the world is to be dragged, if necessary [unclear]gled and screaming, the terrorists become the solvent to destroy the [unclear] structure of middle eastern [unclear]es. There is room for doubt that [unclear]cialist international brotherhood” is [unclear] would be brought in as replacement, but Chomsky, for all his an[unclear]nced pessimism concerning the picture of the Middle East, is at time [unclear]te the wideeyed optimist.
Thus, to those who cautiously point out that the phrase “secular democratic State” that has replaced “throw [unclear] jews into the sea” in the Rhetoric of the [PLO] may be a euphemism for the [unclear] target, he responds that “this [unclear] possible, but no an absolutely necessary, interpretation of such proposals.” Chomsky suggests that by [unclear]ng them a different interpretation israelis might “help to give substance [unclear] Reality to a more sympathetic and [unclear]structive interpretation.” If the nazis tell the deported jews they are [unclear]ng to a comfrotable hotel, if the jews will believe them, lo and behold that is what their destination may become.
It is only possible to guess why [unclear] Chomsky singles out Israel for [unclear]se when the world is so rich in [unclear]es, many of them neither secular and democratic. Perhaps one important reason is that Israel represents challenge to Chomsky’s Ideology in a way that the wave of successor [unclear]es created in the wake of banished Imperialisms do not. For Israel is not merely a new State but a State resting [unclear] part on an ancient faith and in [unclear] on an Ideology that Statehood provided the ultimate answer to the problem of a people initially not even [unclear]sent in large numbers on the soil on the land in which they aspired to believe that end. In addition to this, Israel is frankly a State dedicated to the welfare of a nation, a nation whose nationality and Religion are inextricably bound together. This situation is [unclear] distasteful to Chomsky that he [unclear]ply asserts that in Israel “there can be no full recognition of basic Human Rights,” that it is a “State based on the principle of discrimination,” or again, “if a State is jewish in certain respects, then in those respects it is not democratic.” All the arab States except Lebanon are, of course, moslem States and unlike Israel none of them are democratic, but of this not a word in Chomsky’s.
Chomsky’s Ideologism leads him to Moralblindness. He argues not merely that the arab and jewish case can both be formulated with Power and persuasiveness but that “each can plausibly be raised to the level of a demand for survival, hence in a sense an absolute demand.” That the arabs look upon Israel’s continued existence as a challenge to their own “survival” has been fully documented by Yehoshafat Harkavi, whose work Chomsky alludes to a number of times. It is because the arabs look upon the challenge of Israel’s existence in this fundamental fashion that the chances for peaceful accomodation being reached at this point are negligible.
But Chomsky is not merely noting this arab attitude; he is endorsing it. Both can “plausibly,” he says, be treated as a demand for survival. Yet this is nonsense. Only in one case is survival in fact threatened, as all but the Morallyblind can ascertain.
In similar bizarre fashion, Chomsky refers to certain unnamed elements in the american jewish community as “precise counterparts” to Qaddafi and asserts “it is a measure of the bias and irrationality of american opinion that Qaddifi is regarded as a fanatic, whereas his counterparts are considered moderates.” This is so silly that it almost defies comment, although, as Draper points out in The New Republic, the question of Power is surely relevant. Thus, where are the american jews financing terrorists, buying up Mirages and every sort of lethal equipment to be used to destroy a State, or buying up african States wholesale and some european and south american ones reatil to contribute to that policy? Only a Chomsky – or a General Brown – can make that claim.
But perhaps the most interesting in this regard is an essay largely devoted to the defence of Daniel Berrigan, whose vicious diatribe against Israel, delivered while the Yom Kippur War was still going on, was aptly described by Arthur Hertzberg, president of the American Jewish Congress, as “old fashion theological anti-Semitism.” Hertzberg as well as Irving Howe are given scathing treatment for their criticism of Berrigan, although interestingly, even Chomsky has qualms about his own defence, at one point remarking, “perhaps for once, the criticism is well taken and the charges accurate.” Chomsky accuses the critics of Berrigan of “Fanaticism” but of course, it is Chomsky who is the fanatic, ideologically blinded to Reality.
Chomsky’s “solution” is socialist bi-Nationalism; the society he envisages “will not be a jewish State or an arab State, but rather a democratic multinational society.” Notice the word “State” is still not used by Chomsky; perhaps the “society” will take its place in the “revitalised international movement that would stand for the ideals of brotherhood, cooperation, Democracy, social and economic development guided by intrinsic, historically evolving needs.”
Jolted to Earth from this empyrean, Chomsky does somewhere note that the last arab to advocate a binational society (in 1946) was killed by fellow arabs twelve days after he did so. The Hashomer Hatzair, with which Chomsky claims an early sympathy, continued its advocacy longer, although a substantial segment of it is now devoted, with no greater wisdom, to a “two State” solution, palestinian and israeli, within the borders now controlled by Israel, a solution which Chomsky has, of course, trascended.
This book is full of talk of the need for “humaneness,” “realisation of Just hopes and highest ideals,” “intrinsic, historically evolving needs,” and so forth. And yet, fundamentally, there is no trace of humanity in this volume, the humanity that is concerned with the neds of real people in actual situations. The people of Israel overwhelmingly believe their needs must be satisfied within the framework of a jewish State; Chomsky is ready to deny them the fulfilment of those needs as they define them and is quite prepared to throw them upon the mercy of the [PLO] in hopes that a “constructive interpretation” can be put upon its words. If Israel does not fit his pattern, Chomsky’s solution is not to change the pattern, but dispose of the deviants.
I should like to say that this book is simply drivel, but given the fact that it will undoubtedly prove useful to arab propagandists, I am constrained to say that the book is dangerous drivel.

AbbaEban. Trauma and recuperation. Congress Bi-Weekly. vol. 41. no. 6. 19 Apr 1974.

It is very difficult to convey a full impression of the national mood: a victory without celebration, rescue with no exaltation, and with it all, a somber sense of fragmentation and of incompleteness. The fact is that the israeli people have not yet emerged from an Experience of profoundly traumatic scope.
What happened in the first week of October was not merely the collapse of certain assumptions and predictions concerning the true Reality of the balance of Power. What is more wounding is the necessity, without any transition, to bring about a substantial modification of all our conceptual principles and to try to look at ourselves and the world around us in a new perspective.
The origin of what is called the crisis of morale in Israel flows not from the War of 1973, but from the War of 1967. Let there be no misapprehension. The 1967 War was the most chivalrous and heroic of all Israel’s military exploits. None of us can forget the special exuberance which attended us in its immediate aftermath and for many years beyond. Yet, as we look back on those six and onehalf years, we cannot avoid the impression that we were living within an insubstantial and distorted vision. There had been a total israeli victory, total arab defeat, we constructed, and the rest of the world with us, an image of ourselves and of our neighbours.
Israeli omnipotence, arab ineptitude – these were the visions that most of the world carried in its consciousness from the summer of 1967. I remember how this [unclear]come to expression in concr[unclear] [unclear]lomatic occasions, especially [unclear] studies of the power balance[unclear] discussions with our friend [unclear] about whether three arab [unclear] to every israeli aircraft con[unclear] israeli superiority, three arab [unclear] to one israeli tank meant [unclear] predominance.
There was lost, because [unclear] dazzling evidence of the [unclear] War, that salutary measure [unclear]criticism and of prudent self[unclear] which had come after the [unclear] Independence, which was [unclear]tory won with great sacrifice [unclear] after many setbacks and [unclear]. The 1973 War is a more [unclear] historic phenomenon. It takes [unclear] the story of the War of Independence, but in the intervening [unclear] our sense of proportion had [unclear] distorted by an event that [unclear] [unclear]ceptional in its Absolutism [unclear] which was allowed to bec[unclear] criterion for generalised jud[unclear]. Therefore, we find – as jew[unclear] [unclear]tempted to do through the [unclear] intensity of their temperamen[unclear] find ourselves in this [unclear] swing from what might have [unclear] an excessive selfconfidence [unclear] excessive melancholy, and our [unclear]ness is to find a point of [unclear]. The israeli crisis does not flo[unclear] day from obssession with the [unclear] but from uncertainty about the future.
Onehundredandfifty days [unclear] elapsed since the Yom Kippur War and the characteristic jewish [unclear] for recuperation has not yet asserted itself. The work will [unclear] to be done by the israeli people [unclear] their elected leaders, with the [unclear]taining help of the jews across the world.
The business of leadership [unclear] out of the past into the [unclear]. Its aim is not merely the [unclear]vation or order, or the admiration of existing machinery. [unclear] the anticipation of social wants, [unclear] invention of new forms, the [unclear]ration of new groths. The [unclear]erate making of issues is very [unclear] the core of the stateman’s [unclear]. The greatest wisdom is re[unclear] to select policies that will [unclear] the public mind, and the [unclear]cy for recuperation by a clear [unclear] lofty articulation of national [unclear].
[unclear] therefore, frankly told you [unclear] the need for psychological [unclear]peration. I do not believe that [unclear] be achieved by Rhetoric alone, [unclear]though it would do no harm to [unclear] israeli people to be told some[unclear] about its affirmative promise, [unclear] of which have been swept [unclear] in the debris of the Yom Kippur War. There is a furious as[unclear] upon leadership. Anybody [unclear]ing from Mars would believe [unclear] we have come into the governmental offices in Jerusalem with [unclear] and asserted ourselves by [unclear]. Nobody would possibly be[unclear] that the problem of our leadership was decided in the public bal[unclear] less than two or three months [unclear].
There are, therefore, things that [unclear] to be said to the israeli peo[unclear]. It has to be said that although [unclear] were setbacks and disappoint[unclear] there was no defeat, that no national interests have been irre[unclear]bly lost, that we are neither [unclear]shed nor defeated nor over[unclear]own. We are discussing how to [unclear]gage israeli forces from their [unclear]timity to Cairo and Damascus. [unclear] are not discussing how to dis[unclear]age arab forces from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. This nation’s land [unclear] under its feet and its resources [unclear] in its hands, and its destiny lies [unclear] it.
What are the goals toward which Israel has the capacity to move to the degree that it has a lucid sense of its own priorities?
The priorities are, first, the new opportunities for Peace. It is simply not true that Israel emerges from the Yom Kippur War without politicalgain. If we analyse the sources of the deadlock in the six and onehalf years that went before, we come again and again upon two central themes. We never succeeded before 1973 in persuading the egyptian Government to negotiate with Israel facetoface without accepting on our part beforehand the full egyptian territorial claims. And we did not succeed before 1973 in persuading them to accept interim agreements on the road to Peace unless, in the course of that agreement, we prejudiced in their favour the outcome of the final Peace.
We were not even able to make crucial, experimental, exemplary steps towards a Peaceeffort without deciding the final boundary in their favour. Now, there has been a complete unfreezing in both of these directions. Egypt has sat with us at a Peaceconference on the Middle East without our giving an engagement for total withdrawal. In fact, I remember that the egyptians and the rest of the listening world heard the israeli Foreign Minister say on that occasion that we do not intend to return to the previous armistice lines, and having heard this, the egyptian Government continued to sit with us at a Peaceconference and to enter into a negotiation with us, not that they accepted or that we asked that they accept that declaration. But this was the antithesis of what they always wanted. They had previously said that a condition of negotiation was that we should decide the future boundary in their favour in advance.
Why is is that Egypt has accepted, since October 1973, proposals and ideas which it had firmly rejected before that date? The reason is that there was pressure upon it to accept it. The reason is that our proximity to their capital, the advance across the Canal on the western side, created a necessity and a compulsion for urgent compromises, just as the egyptian inroads into our positions east of the Canal created an absolute compulsion for a new balance of compromise. In other words, there have been farreaching politicalresults. What will be the future evolution of this process is hard to say. But even on its own, the egyptian-israeli disengagement agreement is an innovation of unusual scope. If it is carried out in fidelity, as it has been so far, if, in addition to accepting all the limitations of forces inherent in the agreement, the strengthening of the ceasefire, abstention from active belligerency and blockade, the egyptian Government transfers the focus of its effort to economic development, creates a new center of international navigation and of civilian life within the canal zone, that Reality will be a greater guarantee for the preservation of Peace than any signature on a document, for it will create a voluntary vulnerability which would indicate a genuine investment, if not in final Peace, at least in a new Philosophy of disengagement from the recurrent cycles of War and tension.
You cannot have concrete Peacesettlements unless you first achieve some progress in weakening mutual skepticisms, and I believe that the faithful fulfillment of the egyptian-israeli disengagement agreement – the more so if followed by other agreements – will do much to undermine the Absolutism of that skepticism, and thereby create a momentum favourable to Peace. One might say that this is only the first step, only the first movement, but surely it is the first movement that counts, first, because it creates momentum and secondly, because it sets a direction. Anybody who has ever had the Experience of trying to push a stationary car knows full well that it is the first push that exercises the greatest strain, both upon one’s physical strength and upon one’s peace of mind. Once in motion in the right direction, everything seems easier than before. Therefore, we have decided to go forward upon this path of approach to Peace in tangible, concrete, realistic steps.
It is also our goal, basing ourselves on the effort of conciliation, to bring about a general compromise within our arena. You must have been following some of our internal problems with perplexity. If you don’t understand them, then take comfort from the fact that many of us don’t understand ourselves either.
The basis for all this movement and turbulence is a genuine division of opinion between those whose skepticism about Peace leads them to an insistence on the status quo and those of us who believe that without mobility, compromise and a fair measure of control and calculated risk, we shall never bring the prospects for Peace even to a degree of examination. The virtue of a disengagement agreement is that it is a laboratory test. We can argue forever – and we do argue forever in our seminars of experts and orientalists and socialscientists about whether Egypt is prepared for Peace. Instead of arguing about the doctrine, we have subjected it to a laboratory test – that’s what a disengagement agreement is. Our task is both to bring about the maximal approach to Peace and also to ensure vital security interests.
We also wish to reconstruct our international relations. Here, I believe that forces are at work to which we should give more time and preoccupation. There are forces alive in the world which I believe are congenial to a restoration of Israel’s international position. The fact is that the forces which threaten israeli security also threaten the fundamental values of organised civilisation. The extreme form of arab Nationalism which attacks Israel’s integrity also attacks the Economies of the industrialised countries; also attacks the immunity of air travel, also attacks the legal systems of Europe and other countries submitted to terrorist violence; also attacks the universal monetary system.
Concerning the energy crisis, the question is not what America and Europe intend to do about Israel’s independence, but what they intend to do about their own independence. Does the american nation want to celebrate the 200th anniversary of its independence as a colony of Kuwait or Abu dhabi? Do the european nations, which have quite rightly ceased to colonise the arab world, propose to submit to the destiny of becoming colonies of the Arabian Peninsula? Can the control of daily life of welfare and of economic growth in the industrialised States be in the hands of a few people to whom geological accident has granted a monopolistic control of energy resources or, at least, a monopolistic control that has imprudently been allowed to develop through a lack of vision and a lack of foresight in organising alternatives and sources?
The fact that Terrorism, economic extortion, the artificial pressure on the moneymarket, the paralysis of industrial Economies, the destruction of solidarities on air and sea, the undermining of legalsystems in favour of blackmailing and hostagetaking – the fact that all of these attributes of extreme radical arab Nationalism afflict the basic interests and values of mankind creates a potential solidarity between the bulk of mankind and Israel which, in the long if not in the short run, is bound to have its effects.
These are two of our goals: pursuit of Peace and reconstruction of whatever has been weakened through our neighbours’ vast assault on our international structure. A third task is, of course, to learn the security lessons of the October War and to put right whatever has to be amended. A fourth task is to look very carefully at our Democracy in the light of its present dead[unclear]. Here, I believe there are three [unclear] to perform. The first is to review [unclear] electoral system; the second [unclear] arrive at a clear definition [unclear] dividing lines between military [unclear]gation and politicalresponsibilities and the third is to achieve a [unclear]ciliation between the claims of [unclear]thodox tradition and the incre[unclear] demand for Pluralism and div[unclear]. In each case, the key word is [unclear]ance. In no single one of [unclear] conflicts can you achieve any[unclear] by solutions which give a [unclear] victory to one side and inf[unclear] total defeat on the other. The [unclear] note for jewish statesmanship [unclear] the next decade at least, is [unclear]ciliation and not sharp adjudica[unclear]. Be prepared, therefore, for [unclear] what untidy compromises [unclear] bring conflicting interests into [unclear]mony in the service of union.
The relationship between our [unclear]tionhood and our religious fai[unclear] of course, a profound and tom[unclear] [unclear]ing issue. Nobody can possibly [unclear]ceive that the jewish religious israeli History should be exactly [unclear] same as in any other national [unclear]tory. The fact is that religious [unclear] has played a unique part in pre[unclear] [unclear]ing the coheesion and the identi[unclear] our nation, and it would be unh[unclear] [unclear]ical to imagine that this should [unclear] no effects whatever on our [unclear] Reality.
But yet our current Reality [unclear] current Reality. It is the Reality [unclear] contemporary men and women [unclear]ing within the atmosphere of [unclear] Times, and there must be a com[unclear] effort to meet on a middle gr[unclear] which gives tradition its due [unclear] pride and stature, but which [unclear] acknowledges the inalienable [unclear] rights of citizens, including [unclear] rights of diversity. Nor can any[unclear] seriously look at jewish History without religious thought as a [unclear] as a Reality. One can regret this [unclear] or one can approuve, it makes [unclear] difference. Its factuality cannot [unclear]sibly be undermined by any [unclear] judgement. One can dislike [unclear] Himalayan Mountains and the Mississippi River, but disliking them [unclear] not make them go away. And [unclear] fact is that in jewish life, and [unclear]cially in american jewish life, [unclear]gious devotion is expressed in [unclear]ersity and in Pluralism, and no [unclear] within the the old monistic pat[unclear]. Therefore, if we are to asso[unclear] the whole jewish world with [unclear] israeli enterprise, there must be [unclear] kind of spirit of reconciliation [unclear] has not come to full expression. We need, also, to define our po[unclear] within a new public psychological understanding our place in the [unclear] without underestimating its [unclear]ngth, but also with a due sense [unclear] proportion. We need a reanima[unclear] of our intellectual life, sum[unclear] [unclear]ing to that task all of Israel’s [unclear]llectual and scientific resources, because the gap between Politics and academic life, between those who act and those who think, is [unclear]der in israeli Politics than, perhaps, in any other working Democracy. The task of the israeli intellectual is not to sit upon an ivorytower contemplating our society from impossible standards of perfection, nor to make sudden, parachutelike incursions a few weeks before each electoral struggle, but rather to undergo a constant exercise in the restraint of passion and rationality. For, in the life and [unclear]ory and Experience of our people, there are so many emotional, metaphysical and passionate ele[unclear] that it becomes the intellectual’s task to contribute the balac[unclear] dimension of rationality.
And we also face tasks in bringing about a closer sense of common identity between Israel and the jewish people. This common identity is, of course, unique. We have nothing to go on in the Experience of any other nation. This special kind of solidarity that is hard [unclear] work in the life and mind of jewish communities everywhere does [unclear] have any precedent or parallel. That does not mean to say that it is abnormal. Some historians, like Toynbee and others, in their passion for generalisation, tend to react with violence against anything which does not fit a generalised and classified system of ideas, and since there is nothing like the relations between jewish diaspora and Israel, therefore they decreed that it must be abnormal. A situation can be unique without being abnormal.
The unique links between Israel and those who share its heritage across the world are a part of the Cartography and the History and the cultural Experience of mankind. It is, I think, essential, however, that some limits should be observed. You might have noticed that we do not like being lectured to from Brooklyn, for example, about whether or not we should abolish our Socialism. We have a deep respect for religious authority abroad, but in our own reading of the jewish faith, one of the most emphatic commandments is that which is known as yishuv ha-aretz, namely, residence in the land of Israel, and somewhat less pedantically, at least – al ha regel – to come here three times a year.
Now, I have great respect for those who decide otherwise, but I must say that it does create a certain skepticism about their rights to influence decisions that affect the physical security and the concrete conditions of life of every citizen in this country. We, therefore, do ask our friends abroad to temper their Dogmatism with a constructive humility, and all this is quite possible within the framework of accepting the concept of a universal jewish solidarity.
One of the contributions of jews abroad is to bring into israeli life the warm currents of a universal solidarity. Something, I think, was missing in the first weeks after the Yom Kippur War. We needed, in my view, the spectacle of tens and hundreds of thousands of jews filling our streets and our buildings, whether or not they had any special vocation or any concrete purpose. The sheer physical illumination granted to our lives by the massive, concrete, physical presence of jews gathering around Israel in solidarity should have been asserted much earlier as one of the ways of reminding israelis that their solitude was a figment and that the map did not tell the whole truth about the sources of Love and trust and confidence that israel commands across the world.
The fact is that our burdens are too heavy for us to bear alone, and we see no reason why we should be called upon to bear them alone. For, after all, everything we have built and defended here, we have defended and built together in the service of a common solidarity and a common pride. We ask you, thus, to look upon the turbulent currents of israeli life and try to isolate those streams of History which make for progress, growth, affirmation and which would take our people’s minds away from the wounds on which it justly broods, for the only legitimate despondency is the despondence of grief and of mourning. Everything else can be reconstructed and replaced. That alone cannot be replaced. But not even the grief of the bereaved can be allayed by a paralysis of growth. In our tradition, insofar as consolation is conceived as possible, it arises out of construction. There is a saying which calls upon mourners to console themselves in the building of Zion and of Jerusalem, not to console themselves in a nihilistic paralysis of everything that carries the tale of life forward.
I, therefore, ask you to be objective and realistic about what you have seen, and to try to reach a generalised conclusion that might be transmitted back across the invisible electronic networks that bring jewish hearts together, to transmit back to the israeli nation the old message, chazak v’amatz, be strong and of good courage.

GilCarlAlRoy. Arab mentality. Congress Bi-Weekly. vol. 41. no. 1. 18 Jan 1974.

The Arab Mind by Raphael Patai. Scribner’s. $12.50.

Gil Carl AlRoy is professor of Political Science at Hunter College.

With the growing impact of the Middle East on our lives – through the arab-israeli conflict and the energy crisis – more and more people want to know what kind of person the arab is. What distinguishes arab mentality from ours? What are the values that mold and direct arab behaviour? How do arabs feel about War and Peace, international cooperation and conflict, and many other things?
While expressing some reservations about such concepts as “national character,” contemporary orientalists indeed feel they can go far in answering these questions. They are fortunate in having before them the fruit of observation and speculation of their precursors, whose curiosity about the mores and minds of muslims had been aroused a very long time ago. The literature on the subject is substantial in both volume and perception.
A number of propositions have entered the popular Imagination. Arabs are thus widely thought of as highly emotional persons; they are said often to confuse words for deeds, wish for external Reality, intentions for outcomes; they are said to be intensely proud; they are said to be quarrelsome. For the laymen who would like to penetrate the arab mind beyond stereotype, there are some comprehensive guidebooks, the most recent of which being the work of Raphael Patai, distinguished anthropologist, an acclaimed expert on middle eastern Society and Culture.
Beginning with childrearing practices, Patai indicates that they instill more than just masculine superiority, but actually mold such widely disparate personalities in male and female children as to deny them their common humanity. (Arabic has no literal equivalent to “children”; there are only “sons” and “daughters,” or “boys” and “girls.”) Rigid conformism, willingness to persevere for the purpose of deferred achievement, and a fatalistic outlook are also traced to earliest life Experiences.
Arabs also appear nearly obssessed with oral functions but curiously devoid of Timesense. As a result of vagueness and overassertion in Language and the unconcern with Time, the whole matter of defining Experience is among arabs drastically different from our own – a point not sufficiently grasped by even experts in international Politics who invariably speculate on what arab statesmen learn from this or that event by projecting what they themselves (as westerners) might learn from it. Language is the root also of alienation and marginality, for with the spread of literacy arabs become bilingual, acquiring some Knowledge of literary arabic, quite different from vulgarised versions spoken by the masses; many become further bilingual also in the sense of acquiring a european Language (french or english mainly,) invariably regarding it as a superior medium for modern life to their own. Estranged from their people and demeaned in their very essence in this way, it is a little wonder that the educated class in the arab world [unclear] often been termed restless, [unclear] even nihilistic.
Bedouin and islamic valu[unclear]pear as obstacles to the ratio[unclear]tion of arab life, especially [unclear] heavy emphasis on honour, [unclear] improvidence, and a decidedly [unclear] puritan workEthic. Selfrespect [unclear]cial, but the entire Ethical sy[unclear] outwardoriented; this mean[unclear] what matters is manifest [unclear]ior that others judge, not [unclear] Moralvalues. Guilt, so, impor[unclear] our life, does not shape arab behaviour – shame does. However, [unclear]lievable in our own terms, the [unclear] conscience is strange to the [unclear] mind. Formalism and super[unclear] permeate arab Art as well; [unclear] Art as in Music there is se[unclear] endless repetition of small el[unclear] decorative and bereft of focu[unclear].
While, along with other [unclear] Patai has been informative ab[unclear] [unclear]traits cited here, he has, surp[unclear] been rather bland about other [unclear] of the arab character. He sa[unclear] about the extraordinary role [unclear]dacity, deception, manipulation [unclear] ingratiation in arab life. This [unclear] clearly across in such works as Hamady’s Temperament and character of the arabs. Particularly surprising is his failure to cite [unclear] Authoritarianism pervading arab society, where demands for to[unclear] [unclear]missiveness affect interperson[unclear] [unclear]tical and international relation[unclear] extraordinary manner.
Those seeking better understanding of the arab-israeli confli[unclear] some acquaintance with arab mentality will find Patai’s work [unclear] useful. It would actually ha[unclear] better if Patai had refrained from specific references to that con[unclear] becasue his implicit and cau[unclear] [unclear]ments are sometimes of ques[unclear] character. Patai, for example, [unclear] suggest, by means of illustrated [unclear] parities between words and deeds of the arab world, that arabs [unclear] really mean what they say wh[unclear] [unclear]ing extreme threats to Israel[unclear] disparities indeed exist, both [unclear] arab warfare has rhetorical [unclear] and because arabs often ex[unclear] their capacities, but to ignore the fact that the arabs have not [unclear] where they could, opportunities [unclear]jure Israel is puzzling indeed.
Patai is much more co[unclear] when he addresses himself to [unclear] critical problem for the arab [unclear] the world, the matter of arab [unclear]wardness in relation to the [unclear]. However, in following the view of [unclear]lar arab writers, Patai envisages [unclear] problem as one merely of “stagnation.” This is consistent with the [unclear] understatement of the rest of [unclear] work, but not with Reality. In this [unclear] the arabs, heirs to a grand [unclear]sation, have been standing still [unclear] others forged ahead in recent [unclear], and the solution presumably [unclear] the arabs to face up to this [unclear] and to determine to narrow it [unclear] which Patai trusts is happening. [unclear] problem with this view is that it [unclear] the real point: how to narrow [unclear]ap. And there has been no lack [unclear] provocative thinking both inside and outside the arab world on this [unclear] especially as concerns the basic [unclear] approach to modernity, orient[unclear] to creativity and the Moralsub[unclear] underlying western progress. [unclear] Zaher wonders: How are [unclear] to overcome their proclivity for [unclear] the modern technological ad[unclear] in order to defend and pre[unclear] their own backward ways? [unclear] Hottinger asks: How can they [unclear] to appropriate successfully the [unclear]ial fruits of progress while [unclear]ing its intellectual and Ethical premises? Z.B. Zahlan asks: How much longer, despite advances in literacy and other fields, will the arab world remain a scientific desert, infertile and inhospitable to rational thought?
While Patai makes some perceptive observations on the Psychology of westernisation in the arab world, he barely touches the above crucial concerns and tends to gloss them over when he does. When he touches on the root problem of creativity, he manages to confuse it with mere industrial production and technical aptitudes. But the real problem with modernity in the arab world is not whether foreign Technology can be operated by arabs or even be reproduced by them – though in these respects there also exist difficulties. Arabs have in fact long enjoyed a reputation for sheer repetition and imitation. What they have so far missed is their own living Science and a creative participation in modern life, with discovery and innovation. For this reason they may in a real sense now be farther behind the West than over a century ago, although appearing closer to it.

AbbaEban. Israel today problems and aspirations. Congress Bi-Weekly. vol. 38. no. 11. 12 Nov 1971.

The article below is adapted from an address delivered by Israel’s ForeignMinister. Abba Eban, at the Stephen S. Wise Award Dinner of the American Jewish Congress held october 17th. Mr. Eban was cited “for distinguished achievement in advancing the dignity, freedom and security of the jewish people.”

Why have I received your approuval? The reason is that I have had, for many years, a story to tell and have told it everywhere in Israel’s name and in yours. It is a story the like of which has never been heard before – the story of the jewish people in this unforgettable generation.
The story opens on a note of agony, an agony so sharp that all recovery from it seemed inconceivable. For when Stephen Wise and his associates organised the life of the american jewish community, in the Second World War and in its aftermath, they faced such a volume of anguish and humiliation as no family of the humanrace had ever been called upon to endure. They stood before the stark horror of massacre and martyrdom in Europe. They were called upon to convey to mankind that out of the darkest depths of man’s divided nature there had sprung this catastrophe which left sixmillions of our people slaughtered in Europe.
But the next act in the History is one of transition, of Israel’s emergence into the international community. The people that had seemed to be battered beyond any capacity to show its vitality again, had emerged into its greatest era of identity and independence. The History of the jewish people in this generation will forever be dominated by this unparalleled transition from agony to triumph, from tragedy to consolation. The american jewish community has been not only a spectator, but a partner and an architect of this transition. Its organised institutions, with the American Jewish Congress as the very earliest link in the chain of development, have understood that devotion, Patriotism must be organised if they are to become effective in the life of our times.
We find the three major centers of jewish identity in full momentum. We find Israel embarking on the second generation of its independent life, solidly entrenched within its reigon, demonstrating its capacity to withstand the hostile forces which have implacably assailed its interests. We find american jews taking part both in the emergence of the United States to preeminence and responsibility in humandestiny and in the forefront of the processes which has brought Israel back into the community of nations.
We also find great stirrings in the third most populous center of jewish life. We find soviet jews throwing off the inhibitors and complexes of intimidation and proudly proclaiming their right and their unquenchable aspiraiton to join themselves with the main currents of jewish History. And we find the international echo to their cry for liberation becoming more audible than ever before. We find that the gates, although still shut too tight, are beginning to reveal a breach through which thousands have come out this year in order to join in the challenges of israeli life.
This, then, is the story of recuperation. What an immense dignity there is in this story, both in the suffering and in the deliverance.
I expect that what you want me to talk about is the israeli part of this story. Soon the twentyfifth anniversary will be celebrated and many will go back in Memory to the small beginnings out of which out society arose: that little community of 650.000, in some sense an elite community born out of the Democracy and the social Idealism of Europe. It has increased by more than 400% within the life of a single generaiton, a rate of unprecedented growth in History.
What are our fortunes in the next stage of challenge? The year that has passed since you last made your awards has been a year of affirmative development. It has for the first time in many months been a year of ceasefire. It has been a year in which we have not had, day by day, to fear a clash of arms which would involve the prospect of global escalation, for across one of the ceasefire lines, at the Suez Canal, the confrontation is not regional or provincial; it is between Israel and the armed presence of one of the major nuclearpowers. The soviet forces irresponsibly introduced into the Middle East have the intention and the effect of converting a regional tension into the possibility of global menace to all mankind. Israel forces the soviet forces on the Suez Canal, unaccompanied by any other military presence but, nevertheless, strong with the recent infusion of military aid from the United States, which has also undertaken commitments to the middle eastern equilibrium and to Israel’s security.
The past year has also seen the decline of extremist Radicalism. Do we not all remember how we were told last year that the terrorist groups and the air pirates were the revolutionary wave of the future, that they were irresistible, that they would soon take command of Jordan, that they would soon control all arab Governments until there would not be any possibility of arab decision from the intimidation of a doctrine so frenzied and extreme as to rule out any possibility of conciliation in the Middle East?
Well, they are resistible, they have been resisted. They have been resisted firstly in Israel, they have been resisted in Jordan, they have declined in Lebanon, and with this decline there has come a diminution of resonance. Their voices are less heard. I doubt whether Mr. Arafat, the leader of the Fatah, would even qualify for a front cover in Time Magazine this year, because nothing in contemporary Culture fails like failure.
There have been other evidences of progress. Across the open bridges of the Jordan 110.000 arabs from countries allegedly at war with Israel have come into the constructive contact of daily humanCommerce. This does not solve the basic problem of their civic and national identity, but the hundreds of thousands of humancontacts between israelis and arabs from hostile lands is an enormous investment in the Peace of the future, a convincing proof that israelis and arabs are not incompatible when they meet on the normal humanlevels of mutual interests and reciprocal recognition.
These are important gains. And yet, consoling as they are, they do not, of course, comfort us for the lack of Peace. The attainment of Peace must remain in the center of Israel’s aspirations. This is the case, whatever the prospects of its attainment, for if Israel is to be a jewish State, it cannot remove the vision of Peace either from its heart or from its vocabulary. The jewish mind has never conceived a more dynamic concept than the concept of men beating their swords into plowshares, the vision of a family of nations joined together in a convenant of Justice and Peace.
Peace, however, unlike security and unlike development, does not depend upon Israel’s will alone. And nobody can imagine that the recent statements of arab policies indicate that Peace is yet central in their minds. The last expression of arab policy comes in a joint communique signed in Moscow. The soviet-egyptian statement of last week, like all its predecessors, is notable for its total exclusion of three central ideas. It excludes any advice by the Soviet Union to Egypt to establish Peace with Israel. There is no suggestion that the issues of boundaries and withdrawal be decided by negotiation and agreement. And there is no effort to break out of deadlock into a new vision and a new hope by embarking on a rational negotiating procedure.
At the root of the deadlock, then, there lies the arab illusion that time works inevitably against Israel’s security and that in the course of years our nation, under the burdens created by the absence of Peace, will be strangled by the hostility surrounding it. Now this is an empty dream. Israel would prefer to flourish in Peace, but it is capable of flourishing in any case. Of course we would prefer a Peace negotiation tomorrow, even to the prospect of an indefinite continuation of the present situation. But if an authentic and sincere Peace is denied us by the policies or circumstances of our region we may still hope to grow within the attempted siege.
That is the story of the past four years of a great vitality bursting into Reality, even under the pressure of hostility. Four years after the War of 1967, Israel is larger in its population – 250.000 jews more than in 1967. Four years after the summer war, Israel is more productive in its Economy, far stronger in its military capacity and equipment, broader in the scope of its international connexions, more exposed to massive pilgrimage and tourism, more versatile in its economic and cultural links, and more confident in its general destiny than it was four years ago. If Israel was expected by its neighbours and adversaries to dwindle and languish, we have not been faithful to that scenario – we have not dwindled, we have not languished; we have endured and we have even flourished.
That is why I believe that the great dialogue between Israel and its friends on the effects of Time upon History should not lead us to panicstricken conclusions. If I am asked whether Time works against us, or for us, my answer is that Time does not do anything at all. It is what men do with Time that is decisive, and if Time is used, not in passive Fatalism but in the strong mobilisation of creative forces, then Time, even in the absence of Peace, can bring about every year the spectacle of an Israel, stronger, more solid and more stable than before.
That is why I believe that the arab States and the Soviet Union will not be able indefinitely to refuse any response to the diverse Peace options which Israel’s policy leaves open to them.
I have, as you know, been making a policy statement at the UN on Israel’s approach to the question of Peace and taking up with U.S. leaders the prospect of a first stage in the unfolding of a new peaceful pattern. We offer, in the first place, an arrangement for the Suez Canal. It is there that the conflict is global and not merely regional. Therefore, if we wish to defuse the conflict, it is there that the process should logically begin. We, therefore, offer an agreement which would separate the forces, which would give Egypt immense maritime advantages, which would give Egypt great civilian opportunities. Our only conditions are that these concessions be not exploited to the detriment of our physical security and our politicalrights. Such a settlement would not be the last word. It would accelerate and inspire progress towards further agreements and thus towards an overall settlement.
I, therefore, note that despite all the conflicts and differences and reservations, the Governments of Israel and Egypt are agreed that there should be further exploration of this prospect, and they both invite the United States to use its good offices to explore it. Therefore, we at least have a common objective and common modalities. Let there be intensified perseverance in the pursuit of a beginning which, if it is secured, would give an air of confidence and momentum to the Peacemaking efforts.
We would also be willing to hold detailed and concrete negotiations on an overall settlement. In discussions of secure boundaries, we would propose such modification of previous lines as is necessary for stable security and the avoidance of new Wars. I would plead with you never to be apologetic for a single moment about the fact that boundaries of Peace may be different from armistice lines. The object of statemanship is not to reconstruct the explosive dangers from which we emerged, but to build a new and more stable territorial and security structure in the Middle East.
Those who question the right of Israel to negotiate its boundaries are guilty of an alarming inconsistency. A few weeks ago, I entered the debating hall of the UN General Assembly to hear Mr. Gromyko with his usual vehemence express the following views: “One must take account of postwar Realities. One cannot reconstruct the vulnerabilities which countries endured before fighting. Nations which had been living under explosive threat for years cannot be asked to go back to the territories and conditions which symbolised that threat. They must have a new security system to be built by negotiation.”
I thought that we had made a very sudden breakthrough in Soviet policy, until I realised that he was speaking of the european security system. He was explaining why the Soviet Union had changed its boundaries quite properly in order to avoid the terror and the vulnerability of Nazism. It explained why the Soviet Union required secure and recognised boundaries with Finland and with Japan, because Leningrad could not be within 38 miles of the ferocious descendants of the vikings. It explained why the polish boundary couldn’t be the same as before the war because the object was to avoid wars and not simply to reconstruct the conditions for their explosion. He was explaining why, of course, you couldn’t bring back into Czechoslovakia the hundreds of thousands of sudeten german refugees who by their return would make the life of that State untenable.
It is only when we come to the Middle East that such considerations are deliberately overlooked. It is ridiculous to praise a european security system based on new negotiated agreements while condemning the Middle East for the explosive configurations which helped to make War inevitable. Israel does not have a policy of expansion or annexation, but it does have a policy of not reconstituting the kinds of conditions which, in June 1967 and the late days of May and early June, gave the world the horrifying spectacle of a nation on the verge of possible destruction.
Do not forget that four and onequarter years ago the prospect of Israel’s destruction was being seriously considered across the world. Therefore, it isn’t our policy again to stand under the threat of syrian guns, again to have Israel’s waterways potentially blocked, and thus War invited by hostile forces, to have cities, especially the most unified and unifying of all cities, divided in sacrilegious separation. Of course, we must do better than this.
Israel’s policy in the coming months is therefore to be devoted to clear objectives: The consolidation of a ceasefire; the exploration of a Suez Canal agreement which would improve the prospect of an overall Peacesettlement; the maintenance of a balance of strength, especially in the air.
The period between 1970 and 1971 was unexampled in Israel’s History in this regard. Israel had never received such a massive infusion of physical strength as that which poured into its veins and arteries between the summer of 1970 and the summer of 1971 through the assistance of the United States. But the essence of a salutary policy is in its continuity. Nobody who follows governmental and parliamentary expressions in this country can fail to see that the necessity of strengthening Israel’s balance of power has made great strides in opinion. This is the crux. With a weak Israel, the arab nations will never make Peace. With a strong Israel, they will eventually reconcile themselves, perhaps in the first case through reluctant inexorability, and later, in a more affirmative understanding of what can be gained by a peaceful order of relations in the Middle East.
And we will also continue to expound our Peaceoptions and to reinforce our international links. On this point, let me tell you that there is no word that less befits Israel’s international situation than the word “isolation.” The votes in multilateral agencies are a superficial and sometimes frivolous index of international Realities. Do not believe the idea of these parliamentary bodies expressing the conscience of the world.
The concrete Realities of a nation’s international position are to be found in the range of its direct diplomatic relations, in the scope of its Commerce, in its relationships with the main regional and continental organisations, in its role in international development, in the dimensions of its humanexchanges in pilgrimage, tourism, air and sea Communication, and in its ability to awaken solidarities and sympathies when its vital interests are at stake. In all these terms, Israel has a stronger international position than four or even two years ago. Its flag flies on embassies and delegations in 100 capitals. Its commerce takes it into the markets of 110 countries. Its relationships with the European Economic Community and the interamerican organisations is increasing. The demands upon its manpower and Experience by other developing States are reaching extraordinary proportions. The shopping list that was presented to me in a recent visit to eight african States was almost embarassing.
Therefore, let us not believe in the legend of attrition. Israel, of course, cannot live an isolated life. Sometimes I meet the representatives of friendly island Republics who tell me that they have no neighbours within 500 miles. They can see the wistful look of envy upon my face. But that is not Israel’s destiny. All the movement of action and thought and ideas flow across that crossroads where Israel stands. We must be united, therefore, by thousands of links with the outside world in order to survive, and these links are intact. This, too, is our vocation, to look after the interests of the jewish people, to protect is legacy, and to guarantee its future.
I can only tell you, in accepting this award, that it has been a moving Experience to express the lesson of jewish History to the world. Israel has meaning and authenticity only in the degree to which it embodies the principles and traditions of jewish Humanism. Separate Israel from the traditions of jewish Humanism, and it becomes simply another middle eastern State. Israel’s links with world Jewry are much more important in the spiritual and Moral sense than in the more familiar economic and financial aspects of our relationship, for Israel’s society faces problems for which jewish solutions must be found. By jewish solutions I mean solutions which reconcile high principle with pragmatic Reality and with a lucid sense of balance.
We have not yet found the reconciliation that we need between the claims of religious tradition and those of modern progress. We have not yet found a point of harmony between our citizens from eastern and western lands. We have still not overcome those tensions which arise in a developing society between employers and Labour, and perhaps now that the impact of external violence seems to be weaker we find all the discord and the dissent rising to the surface. But these are the pains of youthful growth and not of senile decadence. They are, above everything else, the index of our freedom.
But, of course, much in Israel is still imperfect, lacking in outer form and inner harmony, but the total impression is one of growth. Therefore, my main reflexion is that jewish History is an eternal celebration of resilience. A nation that has lived with tragedy and with triumph must come to terms with each, for the jewish doctrine of History places man in command of destiny and not in subjection to a preordained fate. According to our view of History, men are not the creatures of circumstances; circumstances are the creatures of men. Israel and the jewish people, therefore, are not yet affected by the nihilistic currents of contemporary life. For us, and especially for the youth amongst us, the important thing still is to build and not to destroy. In Israel, affirmation is still more important than protest. If we hold these values intact then the next decade may have no less nobility than the two that have gone before. But everything depends upon the partnership that is symbolised in this room.
And this is Israel’s message to the American Jewish Congress, and to the most powerful jewish community in the thousands of years in jewish History: our burdens are heavy, we cannot bear them alone. We can by our unaided effort ensure our security, but if you want us to go beyond this, not to be a Sparta concerned only with physical defense, but also to be Israel in the deepest term – that is to say, a society in full growth and development and creativity – then you must join your efforts to ours. You have joined your efforts to ours amidst all the triumphs and the ordeals and adversities of this year. Do not abandon us. Do not leave us alone. Stand with us constant, unflinching, indomitable, until the obstacles are surmounted and the task is done.