First Published: Jewish Affairs, Vol. 3, No. 8-9, August-September 1972.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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(Note: On August 20 the English pages of the Morning Freiheit carried a letter by a reader, Pearl Kimel, concerning the eviction of 6,000 Bedouins from their lands by the Israeli government. She states that in her view “this smacks of fascism.” She asks what has happened to the idea of building socialism in Israel and states that she is “disappointed and embittered at our Jews who are capable of such deeds.” The letter is followed by an “Editor’s Reply” which takes her to task for blaming the whole Jewish people for acts committed by the Israeli government and for loosely using the word “fascism.” The reply then calls attention to injustices and repressions in Africa and indicates that one should not therefore develop a hatred for the African peoples. Finally, it lists some of the virtues of Israel as a capitalist democracy.
In the letter which follows, Carl Bloice, editor of the West Coast progressive weekly, People’s World, takes issue with this reply. We do not know whether the Morning Freiheit will publish the letter; however, we present it here together with some of our own comments. – The Editors.)
To the Editor, Morning Freiheit:
The reply to Pearl Kimel (August 20) regarding eviction of 6, 000 Bedouins from their lands in Israel was unfortunate.
It is correct on one score: any attempt to hold Jewish people responsible for the actions of the Meir-Dayan government is totally unjustifiable. Quite the contrary, it is the attempt of the Zionists and the supporters of the Tel Aviv government to equate criticism of the government with an attack on Jewish people which has, thus far, shielded the regime from much of the condemnation it deserves.
To Fidel Castro’s injunction – “A revolutionary never condemns a whole people” – must be added: A revolutionary never equates a ruling class government with the people. Both are the tests of internationalism. With the pressures of nationalism all around us it’s sometimes a difficult test; but if you can’t pass the test, you won’t make the grade.
Ms. Kimel never called Israel a fascist state. She only said that the actions she had learned of “smacks of fascism.” Well, don’t they? She apparently hasn’t heard the whole story. The herding of the Bedouins off the land was accomplished with methods rivaling anything that happened on the bridge in Selma, Alabama.
The Freiheit flays at straw men. By capitalizing on Ms. Kimel’s unfortunate feelings of guilt or shame for the actions of the Meirs, Dayans and Allons he evades the question she is obviously more interested in: “What will happen to these 6,000 Bedouins?” There is no answer for that and she suggests nothing that could be done by way of protest. You only offer the lame excuse that such things happen under capitalism. At least she doesn’t claim that it is a Marxist response.
You can’t be allowed to slur over things by fast talking, either. The kibbutzim employ on a large scale Arab labor, particularly construction workers and pay them the same wages the capitalists in the cities do. You don’t have to be acquainted with the concept of surplus value to know that’s old fashioned exploitation, but it helps.
How does one claim the presence of Arabs in the Communist Party of Israel is a plus for the present system in Israel? Surely, you are aware that Arab Communist leaders must apply to the nearest military commander for permission to leave their own villages or towns and that it is often denied, and that when they do leave they must carry a travel permit. Doesn’t that smack of fascism, too?
The response is disturbing. Why do you pick on Africa as a place where injustices are also done? Who brought up Africa? Why are Israel’s virtues so important when compared with Asia and Africa? Whatever happened to Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, and Mississippi ? One can only wonder why you brought up the subject at all and be a little suspicious.
The Freiheit editors put a headline on the exchange: “Exaggerated Charges Against Jewish people.” O.K. We dealt with that one. Of course, there are no justifiable charges against “Jewish people” or any “people” for that matter. But what would you write under a headline reading “Exaggerated Charges Against Meir-Dayan Government”? Surely you will not pretend 6,000 homeless Bedouins don’t exist.
For the information of our readers, the original draft of the above letter, in its opening sentence, described the “Editor’s Reply” as “shameful.” At another point it refers to “the racism of the response.” In a letter to Carl Bloice, the Morning Freiheit editor Paul Novick states that the letter cannot be published because the above are “insulting words.” Says Novick: “There can be no dialogue when such words are used. . . . This is certainly not the way to write in a progressive newspaper which is constantly fighting racism, as it is constantly exposing the misdeeds of the Golda Meir government, including the outrageous act of evicting the 6,000 Bedouins.”
In a reply to Novick, Bloice totally rejects this criticism and states that “not wishing to appear as one who does not appreciate the spirit of “dialogue,” I have made some changes in the letter and am hereby resubmitting it.”
We consider the language of the original draft fully justified. Novick’s reply to Pearl Kimel is shameful and it is racist. And one does not conduct “dialogues” about racism; one condemns it.
Pearl Kimel writes as one who is anguished by the fact that Jews are committing acts which smack of fascism. And the expulsion of Arabs from their homes and lands to make way for Jews is a brutal, racist act which does smack of fascism. One would think that Novick would be similarly anguished by it. But no. After the opening sentence, which reads “Your indignation is completely justified,” his reply has not one word to say about the treatment of the Bedouins. Instead, what disturbs him is the use of the word “fascism.” Then he misinterprets the reference to “our Jews” to mean the Jewish people as a whole and delivers a misdirected sermon against blaming all Jews for the misdeeds of a few.
His allusion to the African nations only compounds the crime. He says in effect: Look at the terrible things taking place in these countries, much worse than any injustices committed by the Israeli government. Yet there is no excuse for cultivating hatred of the African peoples as a whole; how much less, then, is there reason for doing so in the case of one’s own people. The invidiousness of this comparison between Jews and Africans is inescapable. It is made all the more so by playing up the virtues of Israel as a bourgeois democracy. This can only be characterized as a crass piece of racism.
In addition, the reply as a whole is nothing but an apology for the Meir regime, a glossing over of its crimes. The brutal treatment of the Bedouins is treated as merely an isolated incident, not part of a racist, expansionist policy.
Yet any criticism which calls this disgraceful conduct by name is rejected as “insulting.” But this response to the letter of Carl Bloice, a Black Communist, is itself blatantly racist.
This is how the Morning Freiheit “fights” racism and aggression!