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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

Monday, October 23, 2023: both sides realize they were duped, given “conflicting assurances."

Monday, October 23, 2023

The only way this can stop is for both sides to realize that they were duped, suckered, given “conflicting assurances,” and “sold the same horse.”

"Those who don't study history are doomed to repeat it. Yet those who *do* study history are doomed to stand by helplessly while everyone else repeats it."

I find the following article very important in understanding the conflict in Israel/Palestine. At the end of the article I list the link where it is published along with a letter sent to me by Nancy McFarland and addressed to Joe Biden -- maybe we can all use it as a template for our own letters. It is in WORD and PDF formats.

with love - David


In a letter written by future 1st Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, to his wife, in 1938, he writes what Lord George of Great Britain, said of the British Colony that was then Palestine: “I’ll be frank with you. During the world war they gave Arabs and Jews conflicting assurances. We sold the same horse twice.”

This is the epigram of a very important book by Ronald Florence,

Lawrence and Aaronsohn: T.E. Lawrence, Aaron Aaronsohn, and the Seeds of the Arab-Israeli Conflict.

If you want to know how we got here, this is a great place to start.

The book shows the origins of Zionism, as a pro-active idea that came about as Jews were denied citizenship in nation-states in Europe after Bismark, around 1880, starting with Romania deciding that 100,000 Jews were not citizens, could not own land or businesses, and had both land and businesses appropriated. They were displaced. Other nation-states followed.

Many went to America, of course, but others, who heard from relatives already here about ghettos and sweatshops, looked elsewhere. Some thought about Argentina. Others Uganda (this was, after all, the golden age of colonies and Colonization). And some went to Palestine, then part of the Ottoman Empire.

The book notes that there were some Jews living in Palestine since the time of the Romans, and were pretty much left alone with enough baksheesh. There had not been a time in 2,000 years when the the inhabitants had not been colonized, from the time they were oppressively ruled by the Romans through their oppressive rule under the Ottoman Empire. During the war, the Turks who administered Palestine were extremely brutal and demanded increased crops for their troops from the natives who lived near subsistence-levels without that demand, both Jew and Arab.

As “Lawrence of Arabia” was organizing the Arabs to fight against the Ottoman Empire to help the British Colonizers defeat the Turkish Colonizers, famed agrarian Aaron Aaronsohn, who had been ordered by the Turkish Magistrate to help quell a locust infestation, was told by the Magistrate that after the Turks exterminated the Armenians, “You’re next.” That forced Aaronsohn to desperately try also to help the British Colonizers defeat the Turkish Colonizers, through a British military that was considerably anti-Semitic and distrustful of Jews. The British reluctantly tolerated calls for Zionism because chemist Chaim Weissman figured out how to efficiently synthesize acetone which was used in creating explosives.

In the end, the British Colonizers defeated the Ottoman Colonizers with the help of both Arabs organized under Lawrence, and Jews, who secretly provided the English with intelligence about Turkish positions, as Aaronsohn was given access to travel throughout the colony in his efforts to stem the hoards of locusts. As a geologist, he helped them figure out where to dig wells so that they didn’t have to bring water with them from Egypt.

Still, the British ended up selling the same horse twice.

Jews and Arabs got along, more or less, side-by side in what was then the colony of Palestine until after the first world war, until after the British came in, and promised both the same horse. Aaronsohn died shortly after the war in what some believe was a suspicious plane crash with all of his maps with him, maps that, as an agronomist and geologist, would have divided water and resources equitably to sustain all sides.

After the war, the British brought in bureaucrats with no knowledge of Arabic or Hebrew to sort things out. The Arabs hailed the British Colonizers for defeating the brutally oppressive Turks, and now they thought that they could live freely in their own land.

The English had other ideas:

“For Britain, Palestine still represented an age-old dream. Richard the Lion-Hearted and the Crusades were vivid to British Schoolboys, Jerusalem almost as integral a part of British history as the long wars with France. The Anglicans had built cathedrals and churches in Palestine, and missionary groups were active. The British forces in Palestine were fascinated by the biblical scenes of shepherds with their flocks of sheep, olive groves, rock-strewn slopes of the Judean Hills, and camel caravans; they had seen similar scenes in Sunday School evoking familiar passage from Scripture….”

Arabs, having tasted victory, and Zionists, free of the threat of annihilation by the Turks, both started to claim the same horse, promised to each of them. Skirmishes and bloodshed did not start between native Palestinians and Zionists until after the British proclaimed their Mandate after the first world war, under the British Mandate, as the Allies, the victors, were divvying up the Middle East into European colonies. Palestine was still a Colony. This time it was British.

We cannot understand the 75 years since the creation of Israel without understanding the 75 years that preceded it. It starts with Bismark and nation-states in Europe denying Jews citizenship, denying Jews the right to own land and the right to run businesses, appropriating land and property that was theirs, in the latter part of the 19th century. If that did not happen, there would have been no Zionist movement. Had the British not “won” Palestine to rule as a colony from the Turks who had ruled it as a colony in the world war, the idea of self-determination would likely have not entered the Palestinian consciousness, as what was known as Palestine, and the greater Middle East from Iran to Egypt, had been ruled by colonizers for two thousand years.

And the Turks would have started to attempt to exterminate Zionists after finishing off the Armenians. I don’t need to tell you what happened to Jews between the world wars, and during the second one.

Lord George had it right, 20 years after the first world war, a year before the start of the second, when he was frank with Ben-Gurion, which is where we started:

“During the world war they gave the Arabs and the Jews conflicting assurances. We sold the same horse twice.”

The two sides have been fighting over that same horse ever since, each relying on the conflicting assurances made to each, each navigating a post-colonial world of self-determination.

Palestinians, in the West Bank, are living in a land Occupied oppressively by the nation-state of Israel, land which had previously been occupied by Jordan before before June,1967, as part of the post-colonization of the colonized world.

Palestinians in Gaza, are living in a land Occupied by — Hamas, really. Israel pretty much withdrew from Gaza a while ago — which had previously been Occupied by Egypt before June, 1967, as part of the post-colonization of the colonized world.

I wrote an article in Tikkun Magazine some 23 years ago in which I shared Professor Yeshayahu Liebowitz’ prescient understanding of what the Occupation would do to the psyche of Israel:

Believing that the land was theirs to rule, both seculur kibbutzniks and religious Jews to quickly accepted the role of occupier…. Leibowitz… shortly after the war, predicted that this decision to retain rule over the occupied territories would have tragic consequences. He suggested that religious traditionalists, in arguing that the land had traditional significance, were actually idolizing the land, and thus corrupting the very religion they strove to maintain. Instead of Jews working together on the land and in all levels of society, the process of maintaining rule over 1.5 million to 2 million foreigners within the territories would have significant social repercussions. Arguing that hierarchical relationships would necessarily develop between Jewish Israelis and the Others, he predicted that within a few years there would be no Jewish workers or Jewish farmers, that Arabs would be the working people and the Jews the administrators, inspectors, officials and police. In short, he predicted the dissolution of Israeli social fabric and and boundaries as surely as the boundaries of the country itself.

Liebowitz proved in large part correct. Palestinians are subjugated, and yet Palestinians are also brutally oppressed by Hamas, but cannot say so for fear of giving fodder to Israel. And Israel is surrounded by enemies who not only want to destroy the nation-state, but some who also want to exterminate Jews as a people.

At some point, both sides will have to recognize that their grievances are as a result of both being sold the same horse.

In a rational world, when two sides have each been sold the same horse, or the same anything, each side was victimized by the seller, not each other. In a rational world, each side is a victim of these circumstances.

In a rational world, each side would recognize that not only are they victims of fraud, but so was the other party who was also was sold that horse, or that anything.

In a rational world, while each party is a victim of fraud, neither one would be blaming the other victim.

In a rational world, each party would attempt to negotiate an amicable settlement.

But we don’t live in a rational world. And each side has done considerable damage to the other, fighting for right to own the same horse.

And each side is comprised of many sides. As I wrote in that article in Tikkun Magazine some 23 years ago, when Jews have a common enemy, we stand shoulder to shoulder, as Israelis are now. A few weeks ago, before October 7th, in the absence of that enemy, our firing squad collapsed into a circle. Those fighting to keep Israel a secular Republic were in the streets fighting those who want Israel to become a theocracy. Those who want to end the Occupation were fighting those who want to build more settlements on the West Bank.

There are many sides that support the Palestinians who are not Palestinian, each for its own political purpose -- some because they misunderstand the meaning of “intersectionality” others who want to exterminate Jews altogether, and most in between — while the Palestinians, who are oppressed by both Hamas and Israel, are pawns, at times enduring collective punishment for the actions of a few.

The only way this can stop is for both sides to realize that they were duped, suckered, given “conflicting assurances,” and “sold the same horse.”

Only when each side can recognize this, and negotiate something that makes sense for all, providing security and safety and self-determination for all involved, can any of this be resolved.

But how can this happen? I don’t know.

I leave you with a story I heard many years ago about a woman who heard about a very pious old man who prayed every day, without fail, at the Western Wall, the “Wailing Wall,” the last remaining vestige of the Temple destroyed in Israel almost 2,000 years ago. She heard about this man, and watched him for a few weeks, day after day, without fail, pray in the ruins of the old Temple.

One day, as he was leaving, she asked him if it is true that he has been praying every day, as she has seen him do, for decades.

“Yes, I have.”

“What do you pray?”

“I pray the same prayer, over and over.”

“Really? If you don’t mind me asking, what is that prayer?”

“I pray for peace in the Middle East, peace in Israel, peace between Palestinians and Israelis, and peace between Arabs and Jews.”

“Wow. What’s that like?”

“It’s like talking to a wall.”

Right now, It the Hebrew Union College in Israel, they have stopped their scheduled curriculum to focus on the liturgy of funerals and the preparation for burials. There are 220 hostages being held in Gaza. And there are concerns about retaliation which might only make things worse.

Because no one knows how to make things better….

…. Unless all sides can step back, realize that they were sold the same horse, and negotiate.

But to suggest that is like talking to a wall….

Read the full article using this link:

President Joseph Biden and Senators Letter
Download DOCX • 14KB

President Joseph Biden and Senators Letter
Download PDF • 40KB

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