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The Real Enemy of the Jews

By Alan Hart,

a Book Review by Oren Ben-Dor

Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, February 4, 2013



excerpt from


Alan Hart's 3-volume epic on the Israel/Palestine conflict: 


Journal of Palestine Studies (JPS 165), 2012

"These three wide-ranging, highly readable, and extremely well-informed volumes are a real gem that should be read by every politically- and historically minded seeker of truth, justice, and enduring peace in historical Palestine.

Alan Hart, a former ITN and BBC Panorama correspondent and a biographer of Yassir Arafat, gives us a seminal work whose great sophistication is matched by its moral courage and conviction. The scale and ambition of the work is all-embracing, unlike many books on Palestine which focus on one aspect of the conflict at the expense of the panoramic insights and grasping of larger trends. Hart’s own personal encounters with key players in the conflict make for highly engaging reading that gives a sense of firsthand involvement with history as it happened. He also shows us the unknown and intimate sides of the politicians—the main actors in Hart’s books—while providing the reader many insightful anecdotes.Personal accounts are very well-informed by contemporary research and complimented by scholarly narration of early Zionist involvement.

Broadly, Hart sets out to achieve three interlinked objectives. First, he attempts to give a multi-perspective historical and political account of political Zionism and its transformation into a militarist state that maintains its unity by constantly provoking violence against itself despite many opportunities for peace and compromise with its neighbors. He shows that what began as a movement to solve Europe’s “Jewish problem”—through the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine—became a complex mission to gain great power-recognition of Jewish statehood. He exposes the exploitation of the Holocaust which has ensured both Israel’s survival and the continuous rationalization of its militarist righteousness and expansionist behavior.

Second, Hart maintains an unambiguous moral criticism of political Zionism by exposing the oppressive core of the settler-colonial project that continues to take place in Palestine. Hart shows how the partition of Palestine, the seeds of which were sown into the thinking and words behind the Balfour Declaration, played into the hands of political Zionists for the last century. Perhaps Hart could more greatly emphasize the fact that international resolutions only address Israeli actions and not Israel’s nature, although the two are linked. The only way of complying with all these resolutions (i.e., ending the occupation and allowing for the return of the refugees) would require the replacement of the partition logic, and the resultant Jewish state, with an egalitarian, non-sectarian polity.

Third, and crucially, as the title conveys, Hart hammers home the message that there is no connection between Jewish being and thinking on the one hand and political Zionism on the other. Additionally, he contends that political Zionism is, arguably, the worst enemy of the Jews. Hart investigates Jewish opposition to political Zionism, arguing that anti-Zionist thought does not threaten Jewish thought. He argues, if political Zionism entails the exploitation of the Holocaust and sheer tribal pride in Israel’s military ‘successes’ it should not enjoy Jewish support. Hart accounts for how Jewish nationalism was opposed by both orthodox and modern Jews in Europe, Britain, and the United States for reasons ranging from pragmatic petitions to deep historical and philosophical convictions.

The tragedy is that through their political maneuvers and monopoly over Holocaust memory, political Zionists have managed to disempower opposition to political Zionism from within Judaism.Hart only condones Zionism that is spiritual in nature—one that espouses a focal point from which Jews around the world may adopt values and practices (Ahad Ha’am)—or simply advocates living in Palestine in full equality with indigenous Palestinians (Arendt, Magnes, Buber). Those who historically advocated for these strands of Zionism prophetically saw the kind of state Israel would become, alongside the rise of Palestinian nationalism. Volumes two and three provide detailed political commentary on how Israel’s internal politics have become increasingly hawkish and suppressive of any moderate voices calling for peace and reconciliation, essentially arguing that, indeed, David has become a Goliath. Hart’s masterful account points to the uncanny unity of ‘no choice’—the anxious righteousness that caused this oblivious drop in compassion effectively unites the seemingly more moderate Zionists with revisionist, right-wing Zionists.

The first volume accounts for the tactics to obtain political support for a Jewish state by Russian politicians, as well as allies in complicity with the imperial sentiment which led to the gaining of the Balfour Declaration. He shows how British and Zionist leaders deceive Hashemite Hussein through insincere promises of Arab independence and managing to keep President Wilson’s opposition to Zionism at bay. The declaration of a totally illegal mandate on Palestine was followed by an increased Zionist influence on the British Mandate. This followed the outbreak of the Arab Revolt and the British White Papers of the 1930s which sought to limit Jewish immigration to Palestine. Following the Holocaust, Zionism tragically achieved a prominent place in world politics and within Jewish hearts despite its incompatibility with Jewish values.

In the second volume, Hart exposes, in detail, the horrors Zionism has inflicted on the indigenous Palestinians—from their massive expulsion (carried out in order to enable the establishment of the Jewish state) to the daily horrors of military occupation suffered by Palestinians since 1967. In this volume, Hart follows the aftermath of the establishment of the Jewish state. He portrays how the Zionist project grew into a militarist state that subverts, manipulates, and marginalizes the moderate voices within it.

In the third volume, Hart continues to highlight the pathology of Israel: Its flagrant violation of UN resolutions and its near absolute control of U.S. policy by the pro-Zionist lobby in the United States, in addition to providing an overview of the Palestinian nationalist movement. The main objective of the books is to encourage and strengthen opposition to Zionism by “good Jews.” For Hart, to be a good Jew means opposing political Zionism and doing away with the very ethos of the colonial and entrenched, separatist ideology of the Israeli state. He calls for seeing the Holocaust for its universal humanist message, and for overcoming the victim-based mentality of anti-Semitism that is paradoxically nourished by the very Zionism that attempted to respond to it.

One of the book’s central claims is that the tragedy of political Zionism ultimately encourages anti-Semitism, and/or anti-Jewish violence (namely violent opposition to Jewish support for what is being done to Palestinians in the name of the Jews on a daily basis). Hart shows that not only is Israel not a haven for Jews, it has, in actuality, become the instigator of violence against Jews worldwide...

Oren Ben-Dor is a professor of law and philosophy in the School of Law at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom. He is the author of Constitutional Limits and the Public Sphere: A Critical Study of Bentham’s Constitutionalism and Thinking About Law: In Silence with Heidegger, and editor of Law and Art: Justice, Ethics and Aesthetics.

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