Category Archives: Palestinian Issue

The Biggest Prison on Earth. The History of the Occupied Territories – Ilan Pappe. 

The ‘Shacham Plan’, ‘The Organization of Military Rule in the Occupied Territories’.

The strategy was presented by the Israeli Chief of the General Staff to the army on 1 May 1963 and was meant to prepare the army for controlling the West Bank as an occupied military area.

The West Bank, of course, was not yet occupied, but the fact that four years before the actual occupation the Israeli military was ready with a judicial and administrative infrastructure for ruling the lives of one million Palestinians is highly significant.

Since 1948, and even more since 1956, Israel’s military and political elite was looking for the right historical moment to occupy the West Bank.

The plan was code-named the ‘Shacham Plan’ and it divided the West Bank into eight districts so as to facilitate the imposition of an organized military rule. The plan included the appointment of a legal advisor to the future Governor General of the Occupied Territories and four military courts.

The main concern was that the Geneva Convention did not permit executions. A year into the occupation Israel decided that the Convention did not apply to the occupation and, as for executions, the Israelis would not adopt the death penalty but instead resorted to other equally lethal means of execution.

Mandatory emergency regulations became the legal infrastructure for the military courts, those institutions through which hundreds of thousands of Palestinians would pass, arrested without trial, sent to be tortured and abused. Only rarely did they emerge from them unscathed. The judges were all army officers, and were not required to have a legal background. Courts had either one, two or three judges. Those courts with three judges had the right to order executions or sentence people to life imprisonment. Among the theoretical institutions envisaged in 1963 was a special military court of appeal that would become operational in 1967, sanctioning the decisions of the lower courts in order to show to the world a system that apparently had the right to appeal built into it.

What the 13th Israeli government contemplated and executed in 1967, and what successive generations of Israeli bureaucrats would maintain, was the largest ever mega-prison for a million and a half people – a number that would rise to four million – who are still today, in one way or another, incarcerated within the real or imaginary walls of this prison.

After almost three months of deliberation, they concluded their discussions with a series of decisions, all of which in one way or another condemned those living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to life imprisonment in the biggest ever mega-prison of the modern age. The Palestinians living there were incarcerated for crimes they never committed and for offences that were never committed, confessed or defined. As this book is being written, a third generation of such ‘inmates’ have begun their lives in that mega-prison.

Never before, or since, this government’s term in office would such a consensual partnership lead the State of Israel in its future and critical decisions.

Contrary to conventional wisdom about the history of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, no one apart from the government of Israel has played a crucial role, then or now, in deciding the fate of these territories or the people living in them. What these ministers decided in the second half of June 1967, and in the following months of July and August, has remained the cornerstone of Israeli policy towards the Occupied Territories to this day. None of the successive Israeli governments have deviated from this path, and nor have they ever wanted to, in any shape or form.

The resolutions adopted in that short period, between June and August 1967, clearly charted the principles to which future Israeli governments would religiously adhere and from which they would not diverge, even during the most dramatic events that followed, be it the first or second Intifada or the Oslo peace process and the Camp David Summit of 2000.

This government represented, as never before or since, the widest possible Zionist consensus. This can also be attributed to the euphoric mood in the wake of the total devastation of three Arab armies by the IDF and the successful blitzkrieg that ended with the military occupation of vast areas of Arab lands and countries. An almost messianic aura surrounded the decision-makers in those days, encouraging them to take bold decisions of historical consequence that their successors would find hard to refute or change.

Because the decisions taken reflected the consensual Zionist interpretation of the past and present reality of Palestine as an exclusive Jewish State, none of the developments occurring thereafter appeared to undermine their validity for future Israeli policymakers. The only way of challenging the decision taken then was by questioning the very validity of Zionism itself.

Two fundamentals of Zionist ideology were still unfailingly adhered to by the politicians of 1967, just as they had been by their predecessors. The struggle for the survival of the Jewish State depended, on the one hand, on its ability to control most of historical Palestine, and, on the other, on its capacity to reduce considerably the number of Palestinians living in it.

The historical consensus dictated a wish for a purely ethnic Jewish State. There were sometimes attempts to ascertain what would constitute a tolerable non-Jewish minority within a Jewish State, but the unspoken (and at times spoken) desire was to have only Jews in what was considered to be the ancient Land of Israel.

1948 provided the historical opportunity to realize both goals: taking over much of the land and getting rid of most of the local population.

Several discrete processes came together to allow the Zionist movement to ethnically cleanse Palestine that year: the British decision to withdraw from Palestine after thirty years of rule; the impact of the Holocaust on Western public opinion; the disarray in the Arab and Palestinian worlds; and, finally, the crystallization of a particularly determined Zionist leadership.

As a result, half of the country’s native population was expelled, half of its villages and towns destroyed and 80 per cent of Mandatory Palestine became the Jewish State of Israel.

The dispossession was witnessed at close hand by representatives of the international community: delegates of the International Red Cross, correspondents of the Western press and UN personnel.

The Western world, however, was not interested in listening to their incriminating reports; the political elites chose to ignore them.

The message from Europe and the US was clear: whatever happens in Palestine is the inevitable final act of the Second World War. Something had to be done so that Europe could atone for the crimes committed on its soil against the Jewish people – and therefore a last, massive dispossession of Palestinians was needed so that the West could move on to post-war peace and reconciliation.

The situation in Palestine, of course, had nothing to do with the movement of populations in Europe in the wake of the Second World War or with the genocide of Europe’s Jews; it was the culmination not of the war in Europe but of Zionist colonization of the land that had begun at the end of the nineteenth century. It was the final act in the making of a modern-day settler Jewish State at a time when the international community seemed to view colonization as unacceptable and an example of the deplorable ideology of the past.

But not in the case of Palestine. The message from the enlightened world was unambiguous: the Israeli dispossession of the Palestinians as well as the takeover of most of Palestine were both legitimate and acceptable. Almost half of the ministers attending the 1967 meetings were themselves veterans of the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine. Some were members of the small cabal that took the decision to expel almost a million Palestinians, destroy their villages and towns and prevent them from ever returning to their homeland. Others were generals or officers in the machinery that perpetrated the crime. All of them were fully aware of the international indifference in 1948 when the Zionist movement took over 78 per cent of Palestine. And this is why they, and their colleagues, were convinced that the international community would allow them once more to act unilaterally now that the Israeli army occupied the remaining 22 per cent of the land. Having acted with impunity in 1948, there was no reason to expect any serious rebuke for, or obstacles to, a similar policy of ethnic cleansing in June 1967.

The government was determined, almost en masse, to decide unilaterally about the territories’ future, but was more divided about the possibility or the wisdom of another huge ethnic cleansing after the official end of hostilities. The counter-arguments were clear: a post-war ethnic cleansing could have awakened an otherwise dormant Western conscience. Furthermore, it was also doubtful if the army had the will and mentality to carry it out, as it was unclear whether it had sufficient means to accomplish it. The 1967 government was also a larger forum than the one that devised the 1948 ethnic cleansing. The thirteenth government included quite a few conscientious ministers who would have objected to such a master plan on moral grounds.

Notwithstanding the decision to refrain from mass expulsion, very few members of that government and those that succeeded it objected to the incremental expulsions and dispossession that have reduced significantly the number of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories (nor did they object to the harassment that triggered emigration from Palestine). The fewer the Palestinians, the easier it would be to police them in the new mega-prison that was constructed.

So, ethnic cleansing on a grand scale was ruled out in 1967.

However, the prevailing sense was that the international community would not act against Israel’s land expansion – not as an endorsement of expansionism per se but more as a reflection of an unwillingness to confront it.

But there was one crucial caveat: there could not be a de jure annexation of the territories, only a de facto one.

There were two reasons for this: first, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip were regarded by international law as occupied territories, whereas the areas Israel occupied during the operations in 1948 were all recognized by the United Nations as part of the State of Israel. Second, if the population could not be expelled, it could also not be fully integrated as equal citizens of the Jewish State, given their number and potential natural growth that would have.

There was then, and there is now, an Israeli consensus and an overwhelming desire to keep the West Bank and the Gaza Strip for ever, while at the same time there was and still is the two-fold recognition of the undesirability of officially annexing these territories and the inability to expel the population en masse.

And yet keeping these territories, with the population in them, seemed as vital as the need to maintain a decisive Jewish majority in whatever constituted a Jewish State.

Ministers were convinced, as all the ministers after them would be, that they had found the formula that would enable Israel to keep the territories it coveted, without annexing the people it negated, while safeguarding immunity against international condemnation and rebuke.

In fact, they had not discovered anything new. Since 1948 they had faced a similar predicament when they and their predecessors had had to decide how to treat the Palestinian minority inside Israel. They imposed on them a military rule that was only lifted after eighteen years and replaced by a new kind of regime of inspection, control and coercion. With time, this eased somewhat but became more hidden and complex. But by now there were more people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; therefore, while the limited citizenship granted to the Palestinian minority in Israel seemed to tally with the aim of maintaining a decisive Jewish majority in the state, the same would not have been the case had similar citizenship been extended to the people of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Thus, there was a need to keep the territories, not to expel the people in them, but at the same time not to grant them citizenship.

These three parameters or presumptions have remained unchanged to this day.

1. Maintain a decisive Jewish majority in the State of Israel.

2. Keep the Occupied Territories.

3. No granting of citizenship to the Palestinian people in them.

They remain the unholy trinity of the consensual Zionist catechism.

In 1967 the official Israeli navigation between impossible nationalist and colonialist ambitions turned a million and a half people into inmates of a mega-prison. But it was not a prison for a few inmates wrongly or rightly incarcerated: it was imposed on a society as a whole. It was, and still is, a malicious system that was constructed for the vilest of motives.

The open-air prison also became Israel’s peace plan, endorsed by the USA and European countries. This plan formed the basis of diplomatic efforts and the ‘peace process’. In Israel and in the West, a vast laundering of words and a very cooperative media and academic community were essential for maintaining the moral and political validity of the open-air prison option as the best solution for the ‘conflict’ and as an idealized vision of normal and healthy life in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

But this laundering did not cleanse the reality of the situation, and the hyperbole of peace and independence did not deafen the conscientious members of all the societies involved: in the Occupied Territories, in Israel and the outside world. In the age of the internet, an independent press, active civil society and energetic NGOs, it was hard to play the charade of peace and reconciliation on the ground where people were incarcerated in the biggest ever human prison witnessed in modern history.

This book is as much about the officials, academics and bureaucrats as it is about the system they built in June 1967 and that is still maintained today. A second generation is already in place and a third is imminent. Once you cross that generational gap any discourse about temporality or even finality is useless. It becomes a living organism that is very hard to combat or dismantle, hence the understandable desperation in recent years that takes the form of suicide bombs or rocket attacks, neither of which have any hope of persuading Israelis to dismantle this monstrosity.

This book does not seek to demonize Israeli society as a whole, although many of its members support the mega-prison and many others choose to turn a blind eye. It singles out the politicians and academics who in 1967 established the mechanism of the creation of an enclave and imprisonment, as well as the thousands of officials, officers, soldiers and police who ran it. Some who appear in this book are as guilty as those individuals all over the world, and throughout history, who stood by and did nothing about the crimes committed on their behalf, in their name and before their very eyes. These Israelis, who either support or do not object to the oppression, are still hailed in the Western world as champions of peace and humanity, endowed with an endless stream of undeserved prizes and awards.

But that said, there are very few really evil people in modern human history but there are quite a few evil systems. The mega-prison of Palestine is one of them.

The villains of the piece, of this book, are therefore the Israelis who worked out the fine detail of the system to begin with, those who upheld it for all those years and those who ‘perfected’ its operation: namely, its power to abuse, humiliate and destroy. They were and are servants of the bureaucracy of evil. They come quite innocent into the system but only very few among them fail to succumb to its raison d’être, to its modus operandi. As wardens of this largest prison on earth, they are constant abusers, dehumanizers and destroyers of Palestinian rights and lives. Only when the last of them has been discharged from this service will we know that the mega-prison of Palestine has been abolished for ever.

This book is dedicated to those who relentlessly tried to alert decent human beings to the importance of not standing by and watching while millions of people were being treated in such an inhumane and dehumanizing way – just because they were not Jews.

***

The Biggest Prison on Earth: the History of the Occupied Territories

by Ilan Pappe

Get it on Amazon

Israelis tend to think they can intimidate critics into silence. But I will not be silenced. – Zenia Stampe, Danish MP. 

I am a Danish politician and Member of the Danish Parliament. I have just returned from a week in Israel and Palestine. The trip concluded with a very unusual experience. We were meeting with a political director from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He also happens to be the next Ambassador to Denmark. We discussed the situation in the Middle East. But towards the end of the meeting he changed the subject and began attacking Facebook updates I have written in Danish.

It is very unusual for a diplomat to argue with a politician from abroad. It shows how sensitive the Israeli government is to foreign criticism. It also shows that Israelis tend to think they can intimidate critics into silence.

But I will not be silenced. I have seen systematic and deliberate breaches of international law during the last week. I intend to speak out. And now I know the Israeli government is listening.

And that’s why I ask you to read and share my post with your network. For the further it reaches, the more seriously the Israeli government will be forced to address it.

We often hear the Israeli government using “security considerations” to justify their politicies But one thing is now only too clear to me: Israel is making systematic efforts to drive the Palestinians out of large areas of the occupied territories. Israel is in the process of colonizing the areas that were intended to become the Palestinian state. And the word security is a thin layer of varnish applied by Israel to cover that policy.

Let me provide just four examples:

1. Confiscation of Palestinian houses

Israeli law allows any Jewish Israelis to claim homes where Jews lived before 1948. Note that this is taking place in the occupied territories, not in Israel. This means that an Israeli Jew can knock on the door of a house where a Palestinian family has lived for generations. They can obtain a court order to force the family to move out; the settlers then move in. Most often they put a huge Israeli flag on the roof. And the Israeli military is now obliged to protect the house. So the neighbours suddenly see their street turned into a militarized area. The children play among heavily armed soldiers and checkpoints.

How can this policy benefit Israel’s security in any way?

2. Settlements

There are currently 600,000 Israeli settlers living in the Palestinian territories, and the number is rising rapidly. According to international law the settlements are illegal. An occupying power must not transfer its own population to occupied territory. But the most critical aspect is not the growth in the number of settlers but the systematic confiscation of Palestinian land, the demolition of Palestinian property, the depletion of natural resources, and the compulsory relocation of Palestinians. These are all breaches of international law, and a de facto colonization of the Palestinians’ country.

This is not just a matter of principle. I have witnessed demolitions. I have spoken to farmers driven off land where they have lived and which they worked for generations. I have seen settlements covering larger and larger areas on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, with security walls, control towers and huge security zones. If this development continues Palestine will become like a Swiss cheese, where all that is left for the Palestinians is the holes in the cheese. The Palestinians are confined to ghettos in their own country.

How can this in any way be justified by security considerations?

3. Living Conditions

Palestinians in large areas of the West Bank must submit applications in Israel to extend their homes, dig wells, etc. But their applications are systematically rejected. They find water supplies get cut off and electrical installations destroyed by the military. Meanwhile they see the settlements in the area constantly expanding and being given unrestricted access to electricity and water. I have stood on a road where the Palestinians on one side of the road only had a little water, while the settlers on the other side of the road had all the water they needed. It is not just a problem for individual families and businesses forced to cope with very limited resources. This is also a huge obstacle to the Palestinian economy because it impedes the creation of jobs. We visited a farm and a brewery, both of which were very well run and had considerable potential. But when you only have very limited access to water and do not know when it’s going to be cut off, it’s hard to expand production.

What has any of this to do with security?

4. The security wall

Israel has the right to protect its borders from potential terrorists. This includes the right to build a wall. But Israel’s security wall is not on the Israeli border and it does not separate Israelis from Palestinians. The wall cuts through Palestine and prevents Palestinians from accessing their own farmlands, schools, institutions, hospitals, and jobs. Thousands of Palestinians cross the wall every day but doing so requires permits and hours of waiting in chaotic conditions.

The wall is therefore a clear breach of international law, and it cannot be justified by security considerations. If this were about security, the wall would surely be located along the green line: the internationally recognized border between Israel and Palestine. And why does Israel at least not provide a proper number of operational checkpoints so that Palestinians can cross the wall quickly? Chaotic scenes with thousands of desperate people queuing for hours and hours are normal. It’s sheer harassment.

How can this be of any value in terms of security considerations?

I know many Jews and many Israelis. I understand and respect how centuries of persecution have created a need for security, both in terms of protection from persecution in the many countries where Jews live and in the mere fact that Israel exists as a safe haven. I will stand up for this at all times.

But the Israeli government is pursuing goals that are not about security. They are about a land grab; about taking over the little the Palestinians have left. It is a slow and deliberate displacement of the Palestinians from their own country. This must not go unremarked. We have a duty to criticize it.

I look forward to welcoming the new Israeli ambassador to Denmark. He must know that many Danes follow what is going on in Israel and Palestine. Many of us are gravely concerned. And we are not going to remain silent.

Please share. Thanks!

PS: The photo shows me on the outskirts of the Palestinian village of Susiya. Susiya has been demolished by the Israeli military six times and is subject to a standing demolition order. On the horizon, the watchtower of the settlement that Israel says is threatened by the village. Which is why the village is to be demolished. But actually, who is threatening who?”

***

Zenia Stampe, Danish MP 

T.E. Lawrence and the Desert Bromance That Sold America on a War – Clive Irving. 

The truth about Lawrence of Arabia & the beginnings of the Middle East disaster. 

It was bromance at first sight. The young American journalist was alone, walking along Christian Street in the Old City of Jerusalem. A group of Arabs approached, “their faces, half hidden, swarthy and bearded. All but one…I could see that this one, though dressed like the rest, and even with his face beaten by the weather and burned by the sun, was different. He was smaller, clean-shaven, his features more finely wrought, his eyes were a startling blue.”

Lowell Thomas didn’t realize it at the time but he had found the biggest story in the Middle East, centered on another young man that he would adulate with an astonishing outpouring of purple prose and, in the process, make himself a small fortune.

A few months earlier, in 1917, Thomas had been assigned by President Woodrow Wilson’s administration to an urgent propaganda role: sell America’s into World War I. 

Thomas’s 25th birthday fell on the day America declared war on Germany, April 6. He was a rookie journalist on a Chicago newspaper whose travel writing had caught the eye of Interior Secretary Franklin Lane. He was called to Washington where Lane told him, “Our people are not ready for this war.”

Lane’s idea was that Thomas should go to France, where the British and French armies were suffering horrendous casualties in stalemated trench warfare against superior German forces. He would hire a cameraman and together they would report on the arrival of American troops and on their hoped-for success in turning the tide, helping to silence those back home who thought Wilson should have stayed out of the war.

One look at the carnage of the trenches was enough for Thomas to realize that there was no uplifting message there and, with his photographer Harry Chase, he moved to the Italian Alps where the Italians were fighting a combination of the German and Austrian armies, assisted by a few American airmen. This battle was also going badly and offered no scope for sunny propaganda.

Then, in Venice, Thomas saw a military bulletin announcing that the British had appointed a new commander to their Middle East army, General Sir Edmund Allenby. Thomas knew little about this other war, where the British and Australians were attempting to end centuries of domination by the Turkish Ottoman Empire. He knew that most Americans were equally unaware that a conflict was taking place in a setting of such great contrast to the quagmire of Europe—the exotic orient where Chase’s camera would find much more promising vistas.

At first Thomas hit a bureaucratic wall. The British military didn’t see any value in the help of somebody as green about war as Thomas. But Thomas was personable and pulled strings in Washington and from there contacts were made in London. The British propaganda chiefs were anxious to do anything to stimulate America’s commitment to the war, and suddenly Thomas found himself in Cairo with access to Allenby…just as Allenby made his first big assault on the Ottomans and liberated Jerusalem.

As the British army paused and regrouped in Palestine, Thomas, taking his walk through the old city of Jerusalem, spotted the “blue-eyed Arab” —noting that he wore the short curved sword of a prince of Mecca. Thomas thought he might be a Circassian, a Muslim from the Caucasian Mountains. The British told him that he had probably seen a young British officer called Thomas Edward Lawrence who was working clandestinely with the Arab armies—and had a price of $500,000 on his head offered by the Turks for his capture or death.

Lawrence’s desert campaign had already been going on for more than a year, but had gone unnoticed in the British press. Thomas couldn’t believe that knowledge of it was still confined to a small circle of military officers and Lawrence’s intelligence handlers in Cairo.

David Leans Lawrence of Arabia recast the Lowell Thomas role as an American reporter named Jackson Bentley, played by Arthur Kennedy and much older than Thomas. This removed from the movie what must have been very apparent at the time—that Lawrence and Thomas were of the same generation and were both, in very different ways, adventurers out for fame and found it in this mutually reinforcing saga. As propaganda it was to far outshine and outlive anything that emerged from the charnel house of Europe.

Up to his meeting with Lawrence, Thomas had been a pedestrian travel writer, given to lazy stereotyping, as in this account of his arrival at Luxor, on the Nile:

“One old Arab said sadly: ‘American tourist he come no more. All we guides starve. Oh, woe! My guide here thirty-five years. Only real tourist in the world is you Americans. The Inglisse (English), German and French spend all their time counting their centimes. If American want something he say How much? You tell him, and no matter what price is, he say, All right, wrap her up.’”

The effect of Lawrence and his singular personality on Thomas’s prose was not corrective. The material was so original and vivid that Thomas lost any control he might have had of hyperbole. Thomas never really understood the inner torments and depths of his hero. He sweeps along on the surface of things, in partnership with Lawrence on the greatest of military adventures, ramping up the drama, inventing and embellishing where he fancies it is needed.

In the following passages I have used Thomas’s original text (and spellings and punctuation) as it appeared in a series of magazine pieces at the time. Standard Western prejudices about Arabs and the orient are evident. Later, given more perspective and attaining more maturity Thomas revised his descriptions (although he never lost the original fever). Here is his introduction to Lawrence:

“At the Gulf of Akaba we found Lawrence and Emir Feisal. The setting was so fantastic and full of color, and these Arabs so picturesque in their flowing beards, their gorgeous robes and peculiar head-dress, that it all seemed like some bizarre Oriental pageant. Lawrence was wearing an even more gorgeous costume than the one I had seen him wearing in Jerusalem. It was of pale green embroidered with beautiful gold figures. Nearly always he wore beautiful robes of pure white. To insure that what he wore should be clean, he carried three or four changes of clothing on a spare camel.”
This moves on to a morning in Feisal’s camp where Thomas describes Lawrence’s hypnotic gifts:

“One morning a young Bedouin was brought in charged with an evil eye. Feisal was not present. Lawrence told the young Arab to sit on the opposite side of the tent and look at him. For ten minutes Lawrence regarded him with a steady gaze, his steel blue eyes boring a hole right through him. At the end of the ten minutes Lawrence dismissed the Arab with the verdict that he had driven off the evil eye.”
As Thomas gets into the spirit of the desert campaign there is a rising celebration of their shared bloodlust:

“He was telling me about his archaeological work when suddenly he broke off to remark ‘Do you know, one of the most glorious sights I have ever seen is a trainload of Turkish soldiers going up in the air, after the explosion of a mine?’ I suggested to Lawrence that it would be a good idea for him to arrange a little dynamiting party for my benefit.”
There follows a scene of almost erotic symbolism that appears in the Lean movie, although in a different form:

“The train carried some 400 Turkish soldiers on their way to the relief of Medina…one of the Turkish officers recognized that the lone Arab was the mysterious Englishman for whom a reward of $500,000 had been offered. Lawrence allowed the Turks to get within about twenty paces of him, and then with a speed that would have made an Arizona gunman green with envy he whipped out his long barreled Colt’s automatic from the folds of his gown and shot six of the Turks in their tracks.”
Thomas wrote that the Arabs, however, are not to be trusted with explosives:

“The Bedouins were entirely ignorant of how to use dynamite; and so Lawrence planted nearly all his own mines and took the Bedouin along with him merely for company and to help carry off the loot. In 1917 he blew up 25 trains…and seventy-nine bridges.”
Occasionally, Thomas makes an effort at a more sober appraisal:

“Many times when we were trekking across the desert he told me that he thoroughly disliked war and everything that savored of the military.
“What was the secret of Lawrence’s success? He not only lived as an Arab, but thought as one. At the same time his brilliant mental gifts enabled him to achieve far greater results than any Arab leader could have attained.
“He made a special study of the camel. Lawrence is the only European I have met who possesses ‘camel instinct’ a quality that implies intimate acquaintance with the beast’s habits, powers, tendencies and comparative worth.”

Thomas becomes totally unmoored with the biggest scene of the story—the fall of Damascus, and Lawrence’s entry:

“The twenty-eight-year-old commander-in-chief of the greatest army that had been raised in Arabia for five centuries, this five-foot-three, pink-cheeked, blue-eyed, peerless young archaeologist, who in less than a year had made himself the most powerful man in Arabia since the days of the great Caliph Haroun-el-Raschid, this quiet young Oxford graduate who had been made an Emir of Arabia, made his official entry into Damascus, the city which was the ultimate goal of his whole campaign, at seven o’clock on the morning of October thirty-first. Hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Arabs, including the entire population of Damascus, the oldest city in the world which remains standing, and thousands and thousands of the wild Bedouin tribes from the fringes of the desert packed the street that is called straight and jammed the bazaar section as Lawrence rode through the city, dressed in the garb of a Prince of Mecca. Howling dervishes ran in front of him, dancing and sticking knives into their flesh, while behind him came his flying column of picturesque Arabian knights. As Lawrence passed the gates of Damascus the inhabitants in that ancient Arab capital, which was once the most glorious city in the east, realized they had at last been freed from the Turkish yoke.”

The correct date was October 1, and at 7a.m. that morning Lawrence was not riding into Damascus at the head of his column of Arabian knights. With another officer he had stopped by a small stream to wash and shave. They were found by a patrol of Bengal Lancers, part of Allenby’s army, and because they were both in Arab robes they were arrested. The Lancers spoke only Urdu and could not understand Lawrence’s explanation of who he was. Prodded by bayonets they were taken as prisoners and released only when discovered by a British patrol.

Allenby and an Australian General, Sir Henry Chauvel (a name misspelt by Thomas), were aware that Feisal and the Arab commanders knew that Damascus had already been promised to the French, in a backroom deal that gave them Syria after the war, and they did not want to inflame the Arabs any more by having any British officer, Lawrence included, parading as the conqueror. Chauvel in particular had a subtle understanding of the politics and was opposed to any theatrics from Lawrence.

Of course, the fake story was far better as propaganda than the rather ignominious predicament that Lawrence found himself in at the end of the adventure that would, with Thomas’s help, make him the most famous man in the world for a while. 

In New York the silent film footage that Chase shot was cut into a documentary with a commentary delivered by Thomas. It ran for eight weeks at Madison Square Garden to packed audiences. In America it had the effect of making the war look better because the Allied victory went beyond just European interests: the liberation of Jerusalem from the Ottomans had enormous religious appeal for both Christians and Jews.
Lawrence emerged as a matinee idol, a robed wraith in the service of Christendom, finally avenging Saladin’s 12th century humiliation of the Crusaders.

That was the real beginning of the Lawrence legend but the same narrative did not play in London. There it was received as a reassuring display of Britain’s imperial power, executed in part by a highly unorthodox military upstart. Realizing this, Thomas rewrote his script to give more space to Lawrence. The new show was a smash hit at the Royal Opera House. The British prime minister, David Lloyd George, saw it and said, “In my opinion, Lawrence is one of the most remarkable and romantic figures of modern times.”
Lawrence himself slipped unseen into a performance and sent a note to Thomas:
“I saw your show last night and thank God the lights were out!”
This should not be taken too literally. Lawrence was a master of backing gently into the limelight. He understood that the more elusive a hero is the more famous he becomes.

Thomas had done the job he was sent to do, romancing the war beyond what anyone had thought possible and making it look like a noble and disinterested act by Wilson in the cause of world peace. Until that time, America had no interests or involvement in the Middle East, and for the moment it made perfect material for a diverting fairy tale.
However, later Thomas did record a conversation with Lawrence at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, where Lawrence had to witness how, in his words, “the old men came out again” and fixed the Middle East map according to their own interests, including the creation of Syria as an entity ruled by France. Lawrence’s words serve to show that what was true nearly 100 years ago remains disastrously so today:

“In history, Syria has always been the corridor between sea and desert, joining Africa to Asia and Arabia to Egypt. It has been a prize-ring for its great neighbors, the vassal of Asia Minor, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Arabia and Mesopotamia. When given a momentary independence because of the weakness of its neighbors, it has at once resolved itself into northern, southern, eastern and western discordant kingdoms; for if Syria is by nature a vassal country it is by custom a country of agitations and rebellions. Autonomy is a comprehensible word: Syria is not.”

Clive Irving wrote the story for A Dangerous Man, Lawrence After Arabia, an Emmy winning TV movie starring Ralph Fiennes as Lawrence

The Daily Beast

New Zealand must show Israel cost of staying its course – Janfrie Wakim. 

Our Government and the United Nations Security Council are optimistic if they think the UNSC Resolution 2334 is a bold and balanced measure which will bring a two-state peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

The only thing new about it was the lifting of the United States veto which had protected Israel from any UNSC criticism during the Obama years.

Previous US Administrations, from President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956 to Secretary of State James Baker in 1991, have given much harsher responses to Israel’s military or settlement adventures than Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent tepid statements.

Other than Obama’s betrayal of his previous obsequiousness towards Israel, what generated this resolution was the increasing rate of illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. Israel has continued building them, contrary to clear international law and its own Oslo Agreement undertakings, since it conquered these lands in 1967.

There are now 650,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the proposed area of the Palestinian state. The resolution becomes quixotic in the context of such a non-reversible demographic injection designed by Israel to thwart the two-state outcome.

NZ Herald





A typically Jewish perspective. Israel vote was an affront to all New Zealanders. – Juliet Moses. 

New Zealanders are often told that our country punches above its weight internationally. Unfortunately, in the case of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 regarding the conflict between Israel and Palestinians, Minister of Foreign Affairs Murray McCully has delivered New Zealand an uppercut to its face.

New Zealand co-sponsored the “anti-settlement” resolution with Senegal, Malaysia and Venezuela, hardly bastions of human rights. (Hans: that’s a typically childish Israeli response. ‘But he’s doing it too’.)

With the United States abstaining, the Security Council passed it at its last sitting of 2016 on Christmas Eve.

You don’t have to be a fan of Jewish settlements in the West Bank to criticise the resolution. And there are many people, like me, who support a two-state solution – the co-existence of a secure Jewish state and a viable Palestinian state, who are demoralised by this resolution, believing that it makes that outcome less likely.

The resolution goes well beyond condemning Israel for West Bank settlements. It deems all settlements beyond the 1949 armistice lines a “flagrant violation of international law”.  (Which they are, as the world has been telling Israel since 1967. Israelis seem to forget that their nation was created for them by the UN. That hasn’t been enough for them. The typically super arrogant Jewish state has been a criminal state ever since.) 

It declares all the land beyond those lines “occupied Palestinian territory”. That includes East Jerusalem, where Judaism’s holiest site, the Temple Mount, as well as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, are situated.

When Israel’s Arab neighbours mounted a second unsuccessful attempt to exterminate her in 1967, Israel acquired East Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan. Palestinians have never had a sovereign state in the West Bank or elsewhere, although they have refused several opportunities for one. (Bullshit! The only solutions Israel has ever offered have been heavily loaded with impossible preconditions.)

That is not to say that they should not have such a state. It means, however, that the Security Council has purported to act as an international court, creating a legal principle in doing so. (And it is high time that legal principle is established.) 

It has pre-determined an issue that should be negotiated between the two parties. It has taken away any incentive for the Palestinians to negotiate without pre-conditions and to accept any less than what they have now been told is theirs. (Yes, and it is theirs, Israel stole it in 1967. Why should they settle for anything less?) 

It has undermined Israel’s policy of trading land for peace, successfully implemented with Egypt, for, if the West Bank is not Israel’s, what bargaining chip does she have? (Israel doesn’t need a bargaining chip. It needs to get out of the occupied territories as the UN resolution states. Are you thick, or is it just your typical Israeli arrogance that blinds you?) 

It has ignored that Jews have the best legal claim to the land as the indigenous people, under the League of Nations mandate and as the victor of a defensive war. And it requires Israel to return to suicidal borders, the very ones that led to her being attacked in 1967, with no guarantee of her security. (It’s a bitch when the shoe is on the other foot, isn’t it?) 

The major obstacle to a Palestinian state is not settlements. It never has been. (It is for the Palestinians. Shall we tell you again? WE WANT OUR LAND BACK!

It is the refusal of the Palestinian leadership, along with many Arab and Muslim states, to accept the existence of a tiny Jewish state smaller than Northland. When Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005 and disbanded settlements, it was thanked with thousands of rockets from the reigning Islamist group Hamas, whose charter calls for the destruction of Israel.

(And Israel has blockaded and otherwise made life very difficult for people in Gaza ever since. That’s not to say that the Hamas attacks are OK, the attacks on Israel are murderous criminal acts for which ‘the perpetrators’ deserve to be punished in a court of law. Does Israel ever ask itself whether genuine economic help for the people of Gaza over the last 40 years might have changed their mindset regarding Israel?)

The more “moderate” Palestinian Authority which rules the West Bank refuses to recognise Israel and glorifies terrorism in its schools and media. Israel cannot risk that the West Bank goes the same way as Gaza or worse still Syria, on which the council has been an abject failure. (Israel is a fact. Any deal over the occupied territories needs to recognise the State of Israel. Won’t happen if the deal doesn’t include economic assistance. Why should we pay? Israel will ask: the Palestinians have been paying for the consequences of Israel’s actions for decades.) 

The security of the Jewish state and the survival of its people is not something that warrants merely a passing mention in a resolution under the guise of even-handedness, nor is it something that we can afford to be reckless about, as history attests. (The current insecurity of the Jewish State is largely the consequence of Israeli actions and more importantly, inaction, since 1949.)

Palestinians should have their self-determination, but not at the expense of the Jewish people’s(Israel has had it’s self-determination at the expense of it’s neighbors since 1949.)

As a Jewish New Zealander, I feel betrayed by our Government. Given our own shameful colonial past, New Zealand’s role in illegalising an indigenous people in their ancestral homeland has been noted by several overseas commentators. (Typically arrogant Jewish statement. We are dealing with events now, in 2016. Debating tit for tat ‘you did, no you did’ over regrettable events in the distant past has zero to do with the Israeli made plight of the Palestinians.) 

However, all New Zealanders, regardless of religion or political ideology, should ask questions about this resolution. (Only one question comes to mid: Why has it taken so bloody long to arrive at this resolution? The territories have been illegally occupied since 1967.)

How did Murray McCully manoeuvre this resolution, opaquely and urgently, on the last day of New Zealand’s two-year term on the council, and upon whose advice or insistence? (Us Kiwis tend to empathise with the underdog, especially when the victim is treated to decades if occupation and cluster bombs. Also we have a conscience, not something Israel would easily understand.) 

It is doubtful that the resolution was put to Cabinet, so who determines our foreign policy? Why the apparent change in policy as regards Israel? And when can we expect the prime minister to finally respond to calls for comment? (Their is no further comment needed. Shall we tell you again? THE SETTLEMENTS ARE ILLEGAL.

We might expect such a lack of transparency and accountability from our new besties, Senegal, Malaysia and Venezuela, but for proud puncher New Zealand, it is of grave concern. (Once again, the arrogant attitude we have witnessed from Israelis for decades.) 

Juliet Moses is an Auckland-based lawyer and member of the New Zealand Jewish Council.

When Jews light the Hanukkah candles, they should remember their own history and stand up to Israel over illegal settlements – Michael Segalov. 

Though the story of the Maccabees fighting their oppressors took place thousands of years ago, disputes over who should control swathes of land in Israel and Palestine are pressing and pertinent to this day.

Following last week’s United Nations Resolution 2334, which describes Israel’s settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as “illegal” and an obstacle to peace with the Palestinians, the Israeli government has made its position clear: settlements in the occupied territories will continue growing, and any states who criticise this are making a “declaration of war” against Israel. Ambassadors have been; meetings with leaders have been cancelled; Israeli aid to Senegal has been stopped.

This latest resolution isn’t much of a development in the history of the region. Back in 1967, Resolution 242 was passed by the UN Security Council calling on Israel to withdraw its military from the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights. But after years of inaction from many of the world’s most powerful nations, the significance of this latest warning to Netanyahu’s government can’t be underestimated.

The vast majority of Jews living in Britain simply don’t support the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

It’s now more evident than ever that the occupation of the Palestinian territories must come to an end.

The voices of the Jewish diaspora must now join in this growing crescendo calling for the occupation to end.

The Independent 

The two-state solution in the Middle East – The Guardian. 

For decades, the two-state solution has been held up by the international community as the only realistic deal to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Its basis is two separate states, Israel and Palestine, living peacefully side by side on the land between the western bank of the Jordan river and the Mediterranean Sea. This territory would be divided broadly along the pre-1967 armistice line or “green line” – probably with some negotiated land swaps. Jerusalem, which both sides want as their capital, would be shared.


Past negotiations have failed to make progress and there are currently no fresh talks in prospect. The main barriers are borders, Jerusalem, refugees, Israel’s insistence on being recognised as a “Jewish state” and the Palestinians’ political and geographical split between the West Bank and Gaza.

The Palestinians demand that the border of their new state should follow the green line, giving them 22% of their historic land. But Israel, which has built hundreds of settlements on the Palestinian side of the green line over the past 50 years, insists that most of these should become part of Israel – requiring a new border which would mean, according to critics, the annexation of big chunks of the West Bank. Land swaps could go some way to compensate but negotiations have stalled on this fundamental issue.

Jerusalem is another obstacle. Israel has said it cannot agree any deal which sees the city shared or divided between the two sides. The Palestinians say they will not cede their claim and access to their holy sites, all of which are located in East Jerusalem, on the Palestinian side of the green line.

The Palestinians have long insisted that refugees from the 1948 war and their descendants should have the right to return to their former homes, although many diplomats believe they would settle for a symbolic “right of return”. Israel rejects any movement on this issue.

Israel insists that the Palestinians must recognise Israel as a “Jewish state”. The Palestinians say this would deny the existence of the one in five Israeli citizens who are Palestinian.

Any potential deal is complicated by the political breach between Fatah and Hamas, the two main Palestinian factions, and the geographical split between the West Bank and Gaza.

The Guardian