Financial Times

Financial Times book review promotes distorted Herzl quote

In his fawning Feb. 28th Financial Times book review of ‘The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine’ by Rashid Khalidi (a US academic and former PLO propagandist), David Gardner wrote the following:

Khalidi begins his story with a prescient and premonitory letter his great-great-great uncle, Yusuf Diya al-Din Pasha al-Khalidi, an Ottoman governor, mayor of Jerusalem and professor in Vienna, directed in 1899 to Theodor Herzl, the Viennese journalist and founder of the Zionist movement. Deploring European persecution of the Jews, acknowledging their emotional ties to the biblical land of Israel, he nevertheless said: “In the name of God, let Palestine be left alone,” warning that its Arab majority (then 94 per cent) would not consent to being supplanted and any attempt to do so would imperil well-rooted Jewish communities all over the Middle East.

Herzl did not reply, but four years earlier had written in his diary of emptying Palestine of its “penniless” Arab population. “Both the process of expropriation [of land and property] and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly,” he wrote.

By arguing that this quote is prescient, Gardner suggests that Zionism’s goal was to “supplant” (meaning, to replace) the Arab population. In fact, in accepting both the 1937 Peel Commission Report and the 1947 UN Partition Plan, Zionist leaders were accepting ideas for statehood that would have left very large Arab minorities.

Moreover, the quote by Herzl is but one sentence in a much larger idea.

Here’s the full Herzl diary entry:

When we occupy the land, we shall bring immediate benefits to the state that receives us. We must expropriate gently the private property on the estates assigned to us. We shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it any employment in our country.The property owners will come over to our side. Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discretely and circumspectly … It goes without saying that we shall respectfully tolerate persons of other faiths and protect their property, their honor, and their freedom with the harshest means of coercion. This is another area in which we shall set the entire world a wonderful example … Should there be many such immovable owners in individual areas [who would not sell their property to us], we shall simply leave them there and develop our commerce in the direction of other areas which belong to us.

The second half of the quote makes clear that Herzl wasn’t even contemplating forced expulsion of the Arab population.  Moreover, as historian Efraim Karsh has observed, there’s no evidence whatsoever that Herzl believed in the forced transfer of Arabs – not in The Jewish State (1896), in his 1902 Zionist novel, Altneuland, “in his public writings, his private correspondence, his speeches, or his political and diplomatic discussions”.  The Financial Times journalist is imputing to the founder of modern Zionism (and, by extension, the Zionist movement more broadly) an appetite for ethnic cleansing based entirely on one meager and extremely unrepresentative sentence within a fuller quote, whilst completely ignoring the vast body of Herzl’s life’s work – which would of course contradict the desired conclusion.

But, there’s something even more misleading about the intended inference of that quote.

Here’s Karsh:

Most importantly, Herzl’s diary entry [from that day] makes no mention of either Arabs or Palestine, and for good reason. A careful reading of Herzl’s diary entries for June 1895 reveals that, at the time, he did not consider Palestine to be the future site of Jewish resettlement but rather South America. “I am assuming that we shall go to Argentina,” Herzl recorded in his diary on June 13…Indeed, Herzl’s diary entries during the same month illustrate that he conceived all political and diplomatic activities for the creation of the future Jewish state, including the question of the land and its settlement, in the Latin American context. “Should we go to South America,” Herzl wrote on June 9, “our first state treaties will have to be with South American republics. We shall grant them loans in return for territorial privileges and guarantees.” Four days later he wrote, “Through us and with us, an unprecedented commercial prosperity will come to South America.”

In other words, the ‘damning’ Herzl quote doesn’t even have anything to do with Palestine or Arabs.

Moreover, the suggestion in the FT review that the story of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of Jews attempting to supplant or ethnically cleans Arabs from the land is a historical inversion. 

Even if we leave Arab violence against and hatred of Jews (including the genocidal plans of the pro-Nazi Palestinian mufti) in pre-state Israel aside, Palestinians and Arab leaders have repeatedly tried to rid the land of Jews, whilst Zionist leaders have consistently sought compromise and accommodation. The war against the nascent Jewish state in 1948 was not motivated by a desire to adjust the borders, but to annihilate Israel. Likewise, in 1967, in the lead-up to the war, Arab leaders did not speak of their desire to create a Palestinian state alongside Israel, but, rather, waxed eloquently about how this would be a war of annihilation.

Though we’re not surprised that Khalidi, who described the Balfour declaration as “a declaration of war by the British Empire on the indigenous population”, refuses to commit to supporting Israel’s continued existence, and has evoked antisemitic tropes, would peddle such historical fiction, we do find it surprising, and quite troubling, that a journalist at a serious publication would promote such agitprop.

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7 replies »

  1. I was surprised to read such a biased review – such an uncritical narrative of a naturally highly partisan academic.
    Just to take one reference: “Zionism – the coddled step-child of British colonialism” – when the need to keep the Arabs on side
    with the coming war meant that it was anything, but (not that it did keep the Arabs onside)

    “re-branded itself as anti-colonial” – that is contemptuous as well as in-accurate: and the “settled Jewish communities in Arab lands” – a bit of a juggling with the facts

    He mentions the “100 years war on Palestine” – I would mention the 2000 year war on Jews.
    To call the book “definitive” – Im not sure of what.

    Quite surprised by the FT. Even the Guardian is more balanced.

  2. Zionism was devised 50 years before the Balfour Declaration, but that’s how we Jews work it. One cannot control an entire planet without time travel.

    Stay classy, Financial Times.

  3. David Gardner has more in common with Rashid Khalidi than Mr. Levick seems aware of. He is career Israel-basher and Iran apologist. Look at just the recent history of his “produce” the FT.

  4. The Greeks do not give jobs to the Turks.
    Azerbaijanis do not build schools for Armenians.
    Serbs do not pay pensions to Albanians.
    Why do Jews do all this for the Arabs ?

    Is there a party capable of liberating Jews from the Arab burden in Palestine ?
    It is necessary to initiate a referendum on the issue:
    Separation of Jews from Arabs on the basis of citizenship.
    Citizenship of a Jewish State – for Jews Citizenship of an Arab State (without an army) – for Arabs.
    The party that will organize a referendum will double its attendance in the Knesset.

    An Arab state, without a Jewish presence, exists in Palestine since the end of the 20th century.
    A left-wing myth disintegrated.
    Arabs are not eligible for citizenship (or residency) of a Jewish state.

    Separating peoples on the basis of citizenship is the most rewarding.
    Checked in the past by:
    Greeks – Turks, Hungarians – Austrians, Poles – Germans, Lithuanians – Russians, Czechs – Slovaks, Irish – British, Serbs – Croats and so on.

    Solution of the century – natural, fair and fast:
    ALL Palestinian Arabs between the sea and the Jordan receive identity cards issued in Ramallah and pay taxes ( income tax and health tax) to the Arab Authority.
    After 2 million Arabs become citizens of their state (without an army), they will be gradually absorbed in Ramallah, Nablus, Jenin, Hebron, Jericho, Abu Dis, Bethlehem, Gaza, etc.

    It’s time to release the “occupied” and compare the rights of Arabs in Haifa and Jaffa to the rights of Jews in Ramallah and Gaza.
    Palestinian-Jordanian ☪️ citizenship, Abu Dis and Shu’afat – for Arabs,
    Israeli citizenship ✡️ and Jerusalem – for Jews !

  5. Martin Kramer did a fine job a few years back of exposing Rashid Khalidi for the fraud he is as an historian. He is just one more academic as overt propagandist sucking of the teat of the American University system while pushing the Arab cause at the expense of the Jewish people’s right to live sovereignly our ancestral homeland.
    As commenter Barry Garfield has mentioned juxtaposing the two thousand years war on the Jews with Khalidi’s fake and phony 100 year war on “Palestine.” Khalidi is well aware of the centuries of dispersion of the Jews from our native land and the persecutions our people have suffered. His long lost relative’s asinine statements about Jews leaving Palestine alone should be something he should be living down rather than touting as some sort of proof of anything. What, Mr. Khalidi’s super uncle said don’t come to Palestine, so Jews shouldn’t come home? Screw you! Mr. Khalidi, the Jews were entitled to return to their own land, because it is theirs. It is the rather huge claims you make of an indigenous “Palestinian” people that is somewhat dubious and up for debate, not our presence and historical right to our homeland. Learn to replace your contempt with some humility vis a vis the true indigenous people of this land. Not only were the Jews there first. Israel is an indigenous name. Where does “Palestine” come from, and what in the world did that have to do with you? You are an Arab. Palestine is Jewish land.