March 22, 2015

Contra Bauer

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 6:25 pm by yisraelmedad

From the new issue of Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs, Volume 9, Issue 1, 2015:

On Yehuda Bauer’s Letter to the Editor


While I may or may not have read Prof. Yehuda Bauer’s article “very carefully” as he surmises, I certainly perused his reply to my letter very studiously. Allow me to begin with his stupefying ending.

My mention of Bauer’s Palmach membership was not meant to label him as “terrible,” but rather to point to the major fault line in his polemical writings, as opposed to his scholarship: I am referring to his ideological mindset, which is hard left. Bauer’s anti-Bergson group stance, as exemplified by his writings in this journal, is one expression of this. His letter provides additional insight into his political thinking. Oddly, Bauer notes my domicile in Shiloh, which, I might point out, is not located in, as he calls it, the “West Bank,” which is an artificial geopolitical term that did not exist prior to April 1950, but in Samaria, as it was called by the United Nations in outlining the borders delineated in the 1947 Partition Plan. While graciously allowing me my views, Bauer then, irrationally, and for no possible purpose except to paint me politically outside the pale, identifies me in an intentional slur as being equivalent to a Jew in Brooklyn or Paris, in other words, in the Diaspora, except that I do not require a plane to reach my home. Why is that? Simply because the State of Israel has not applied its sovereignty to the area in which I reside. For the record, I was born in the Bronx and grew up in Queens, New York.

Bauer’s astounding implication is that I am in chutz la-aretz [outside the borders of the Jewish homeland], as if Shiloh—the location of the Tabernacle, where Joshua divided up the Land of Israel, where Samuel first ministered and where the Prophet Achiyah spoke the truly terrifying words about dogs and vultures—is not somehow fully Jewish and/or part of Eretz-Yisrael—the Land of Israel. This reveals an empty and detached approach to Jewish history and heritage. Given that Bauer came from Prague to this country in 1939, when it was not a state with any sovereign power, I hope he did not consider himself still in the Diaspora simply because the British ruled the land. That is, unless belonging to the Labor/Socialist faction of Zionism somehow bestowed upon him and his comrades a mantle of belonging that he now claims does not apply to me in Shiloh.

To return to the rest of Bauer’s letter, let me respond quite briefly to his complaints. No, he was not guilty of misdeeds in belonging to the Palmach unless he personally tortured Irgun members and handed them over to the British Criminal Investigation Department. Yes, prior to the October 1944 Saison sponsored by the official Yishuv [pre-State Jewish community] bodies, Lehi [Stern group] members were obliquely identified by Irgun intelligence officers to the British. However, Bauer absents conveniently the Palmach’s own pre-Saison operations against the Lehi in early 1942. And yes, and to his credit, he was the first historian to shed light on this episode.

As for Bauer’s supposing that I somehow attacked his Holocaust scholarship, I should have used the word “previous” rather than “past,” although I would characterize some of his conclusions, which I first heard in his lectures at Hebrew University during my 1978–79 academic year, as arguable. Regarding another semantic matter, I will admit to being unable to fathom the precise difference at least as far as the end result is concerned, between his suggestion that a coalition of Islamic states should mediate the Arab–Israeli conflict, as I described it, and his correction that his suggestion was actually that the major powers should act in that fashion.

The final point I wish to make is that Bauer insists that the 230-page Torat HaMelech tract (and I will not engage in a dispute over whether or not and to what extent it is “unabashedly racist and even potentially genocidal”) has had an impact. He is a scholar and, therefore, we can presume that he will eventually academically and empirically prove his charge of a direct link between disgusting acts of anti-Arab/Islam vandalism and that book, published in 2010. However, surely he realizes that violent acts against Arabs, justified or not, do not require esoteric Halachic, Midrashic, or Kabbalistic deliberations of the sort found in that book.

In the summer of 1943, the Palmach punished an Arab rapist of Jewish women in the Beit Shean Valley by surgically castrating him (although none of them was a surgeon or even a physician) and then celebrated the event for years with the campfire song “Sirasnucha Ya Muhammed.” That was not an isolated incident of retribution against Arab rapists. Moreover, there were the Palmachniks who killed some eighty Arabs, reportedly shot while their hands were rope-bound, at Ein Zeitoun on May 1, 1948, and who, in the attack at Sassa on February 15, 1948, blew up houses, killing over sixty Arabs, the majority of whom were women, children, and the aged. Another dozen civilians were killed when the Palmach’s Third Brigade blew up dwellings in Al-Khisas on December 18, 1947. Other Palmachniks had operated even prior to the November 30, 1947 beginning of Israel’s War of Independence against Arab forces at Yaquq and near Kfar Syrkin.
None of them, we can surmise, was a wild-eyed “hilltop youth” who delved into tomes of ancient Jewish literature. They were, rather, “the handsome young men with the forelock,” who, unlike the “terrorists” of the Irgun and “Stern Gang,” mythically behaved according to the principle of “purity of arms.”

Yisrael Medad



1 Comment »

  1. well done. But one clarification. Bauer was MAPAM, not MAPAI. That is, he was “Marxist-Zionist,” not the social democratic variety typified by MAPAI.

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