Friday, June 05, 2009

Which Side Are You On?

There's an old labor song by Florence Reece called "Which Side Are You On?" Sometimes self-styled Palestinian solidarity activists bring this tune to mind. For example, not long ago I attended a presentation at the Washtenaw Community College on the Michigan Peace Team by a designated representative of that organization. One of the low points of the talk was when the presenter flashed an anti-Jewish quote attributed to King Abdul Aziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia from 1937. It was a portion of the passage below:
'Our hatred for the Jews dates from God's condemnation of them for their persecution and rejection of Isa (Jesus Christ), and their subsequent rejection later of His chosen Prophet. It is beyond our understanding how your Government, representing the first Christian power in the world today, can wish to assist and reward these very same Jews who maltreated your Isa (Jesus).

''We Arabs have been the traditional friends of Great Britain for many years, and I, Bin Sa'ud, in particular have been your Government's firm friend all my life, what madness then is this which is leading on our Government to destroy this friendship of centuries, all for the sake of an accursed and stiffnecked race which has always bitten the hand of everyone who has helped it since the world began.*
What is the purpose of this? It was given in the context of Jewish Zionist statements about Palestinians but don't Palestinians/Arabs/Muslims already get enough bad press in the West as it is and isn't the Jews-as-victims drum banged loudly and often enough without "friends of Palestine" joining in? Doesn't this kind of stuff stem from genuflecting at the false idol of neutrality/objectivity?

In any case, I'm always skeptical of these kind of quotes. I mean, haven't we learned anything from the Zionist manipulation of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King's legacy? The quote was presented with no source citation but it's all over the Internet on mainly Zionist sites. The source appears to be a book, Islam in the modern world and other studies, by Elie Kedourie (pp. 69-74). Kedourie cites a British Foreign Office file as his source.

Unless another secondary source can be found confirming the existence of Kedourie's primary source and his accurate usage of it, it is certainly worth wondering if Kedourie hasn't fabricated the report. I say this because Kedourie was an ardent Zionist and an Orientalist. As Israel Shahak wrote:
... Israeli policies bear the easily recognizable imprint of Orientalist ‘expertise’ abounding in militarist and racist ideological prejudices. This 'expertise' is readily available in English, since its harbingers were the Jewish Orientalists living in English-speaking countries, like Bernard Lewis or the late Elie Kedourie who had visited Israel regularly for hobnobbing on the best of terms with the Israeli Security System. It was Kedourie who performed a particularly seminal role in fathering the assumptions on which Israeli policies rest and who consequently had in Israel a lot of influence. In Kedourie’s view, the peoples of the Middle East, with the 'self-evident' exception of Israel, would be best off if ruled by foreign imperial powers with a natural capacity to rule for a long time yet.
Kedourie was also reportedly a fan of Likud and the terrorist Menachem Begin. Kedourie was a frequent contributor to the American Jewish Committee's Zionist, neoconservative house rag, Commentary.

Even assuming the Foreign Office record actually exists and Kedourie has quoted it accurately there are still grounds for questions about it. First, it is the record of a retired British diplomat and colonial adminstrator, at the time, very evidently still in service to the Empire, Colonel H. R. P. Dickson. The report was duly submitted to George W. Rendel of the British Foreign Office. Dickson allegedly spoke with Abdul Aziz Al Saud in 1937 in the context of the great Palestinian uprising of 1936-1939, twenty years after the British government attached itself to the Zionist project with the Balfour Declaration. In his report, Dickson indicates that the Saudi monarch did not permit anyone else to listen to his words and that Dickson did not have a stenographer standing by or tape recorder running--his report is a post hoc paraphrase of a lengthy monologue. Dickson is no disinterested party, and there is, apparently, no independent confirmation of the British diplomat's account.

One other point worth making is that if the Dickson report is accurate and authentic it would tend to undermine a claim Kedourie makes later in his book. On page 116, he says: "There had never been a 'special connexion' between the Arabs in and outside Palestine, much less a 'special connexion' between Palestine and Saudi Arabia." But consider this excerpt from Dickson's report:
His Majesty early on turned to the subject obviously close to his heart, namely the Palestine tangle, and for close on an hour and a half delivered himself as follows. He spoke for the most part in low earnest voice ...

'We are most anxious that the British Government should send us every eight months or so an experienced officer whom they trust, or equally well an ex-official like yourself, who can listen personally to what we have on our minds, and what troubles our hearts, for times are deeply serious and full of danger these days. ...

'Today we and our subjects are deeply troubled over this Palestine question ...
But why should Kedourie care about what an Arab says? And why should peace activists leave off bashing Arabs with questionable quotes when it serves their own purposes?

* To see the text in its larger context go to and scroll down to "Report of Conversation of Col H.R.P. Dickson, with HRH Abd al Aziz ib Sa'ud, king of Saudi Arabia October 28, 1937". I haven't checked it real carefully but this appears to be an accurate rendition of the text in Kedourie's book.

Last revision: 1/15/2010

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The King Saud 1937 quote has been commonly used to characterize an Arab perspective. Whether myth or fact, it is part of the popular culture and establishes anti-Arab attitudes. On the other hand, the quotes of Ben Gurion and Sharon in the same presentation clearly established the Israeli attitudes from 1937 to 1998 which called for the taking of Arab land and expelling Arabs for the sake of Zionism and a Jewish state.

The presentation at Washtenaw Community College clearly presented how the Palestinians have suffered at the hands of the Israelis under an illegal and immoral occupation. They have been deprived of their land, homes, farms, human rights, livelihoods and dignity. The presentation was definitely not pro-Zionist under any interpretation.

I would challenge the blog author to present a perspective on the presentation that differs from what has been published by him..
“Whether myth or fact”?? I support the blogger’s attempt to distinguish one from the other; if we don’t do sophisticated research into false or misleading claims by others – as this blogger clearly has - then we might as well continue to swallow the “Land without people for a people without a land” lie, and many others created by the Zionist community.

I agree with Mr./Ms. Anonymous that the speaker was “not pro-Zionist”, but that can often be a low bar. As far as peace activism is concerned, one cannot maintain neutrality on a moving train: one is either a Zionist or an anti-Zionist, i.e. one who opposes the state of Israel as a Jewish supremacist state. And whether the speaker is anti-Zionist was left unclear to this viewer.

The problem with using the Saud mis-quote is that it continues to undermine any clear solution for Palestinian self-determination and a just peace. It does this by playing the already-overplayed card of Jewish exceptionalism and (false) unique suffering. That is, it stresses the very reasons the Western world supported and supports the state of Israel: “long-suffering” Jews need a place to rule. And hence he confuses his listeners: what are they to do, now that he’s imbued them – accidentally, perhaps – with the very reasons that would prevent them from challenging notions of Israel’s legitimacy?

So I think it fair to challenge not the blogger, but the speaker and to ask him (politely, of course), “Which side are you on”? Do you support Israel’s claimed right to exist as a Jewish state in Palestine?
Anonymous, nowhere in my original post is it asserted or implied that the presentation was "pro-Zionist". In fact, the use of the dubious quote is cited merely as a "One of low points." Further, the post was not meant to be a critique of the entire presentation. So, I'm not sure how to understand your challenge but perhaps I have satisfied it by posting your comment.
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