Skip to content

Abandoning the Iron Wall

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

To Exist is to Resist

A small excerpt from “Abandoning the Iron Wall: Israel and ‘The Middle Eastern Muck’Middle East Policy 15, no. 3 (Fall 2008) by Ian S. Lustick:

Zionists arrived in Palestine in the 1880s, and within several decades the movement’s leadership realized it faced a terrible predicament. To create a permanent Jewish political presence in the Middle East, Zionism needed peace. But day-to-day experience and their own nationalist ideology gave Zionist leaders no reason to expect Muslim Middle Easterners, and especially the inhabitants of Palestine, to greet the building of the Jewish National Home with anything but intransigent and violent opposition. The solution to this predicament was the Iron Wall — the systematic but calibrated use of force to teach Arabs that Israel, the Jewish “state-on-the-way,” was ineradicable, regardless of whether it was perceived by them to be just…

At first, Zionist settlers, land buyers, propagandists and emissaries negotiating with the Great Powers sought to avoid the intractable and demoralizing subject of Arab opposition to Zionism. Publicly, movement representatives promulgated false images of Arab acceptance of Zionism or of Palestinian Arab opportunities to secure a better life thanks to the creation of the Jewish National Home. Privately, they recognized the unbridgeable gulf between their image of the country’s future and the images and interests of the overwhelming majority of its inhabitants. With no solution of their own to the “Arab problem,” they demanded that Britain and the League of Nations recognize a legal responsibility to overcome Arab opposition by imposing Jewish settlement and a Jewish polity in Palestine.

By the 1920s, however, it was obvious that Arab opposition to Zionism was broad and deep, especially within Palestine. Arab demonstrations and riots erupted…

The policy adopted was that of the “Iron Wall,” famously advanced in an article published in a Russian Zionist journal by Vladimir (Ze’ev) Jabotinsky in 1925 (“O Zheleznoi Stene”). The central lines of its analysis came rapidly to be accepted across the broad spectrum of mainstream Zionist organizations and parties, from Jabotinsky to David Ben-Gurion, Berl Katznelson to Menachem Begin and Chaim Arlosoroff to Chaim Weizmann. The only way, Jabotinsky argued, that the necessary peace agreement with the Arabs could ever be achieved was if an “Iron Wall” were to be constructed. This wall would be so strong that Arab enemies trying to break through it would experience a long series of devastating defeats. Eventually this strategy would remove even the “gleam of hope” from the eyes of most Arabs that the Jewish National Home, and then the State of Israel, could ever be destroyed…he predicted that the overwhelming majority of Palestinian Arabs and Arabs in the surrounding countries would eventually come to the conclusion that a practical settlement with Zionism was preferable to unending and humiliating defeats. Only then would negotiations be productive, and only then would Zionism achieve its ultimate objective: a secure and permanent peace, albeit a peace based on resignation of the enemy to an unchangeable reality rather than acceptance of the justice of the Zionist cause.

following the 1967 war, the center of gravity of Israeli politics moved toward maximalist positions. Israel did not welcome moderate Arab offers to negotiate (such as those of West Bank Palestinian notables in 1967 and 1968, King Hussein in 1972, Egyptian President Sadat in 1971-72, or King Hussein again in the mid-1980s). Rather, successive Israeli governments in the late 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s adopted the view that the Arabs in general, and the Palestinians in particular, were only advancing moderate-sounding positions in order to deceive Israel and regain territories that would be used to destroy the Jewish state “in stages.”

Advertisements
3 Comments
  1. nate permalink
    Wednesday, January 7, 2009 8:43 am

    Several important facts are omitted from this paper. 1, it was the intentions of early Arab leaders and warriors to eradicate West Asian Jewery, not only the Jewish State (i.e. Hajj Amin al-Husseini; the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem from the late 20s through the 30s). Arabs were and still are targeting CIVILIAN targets. And since when is intolerence an acceptable reason for warfare? Let alone one accepted by the left?

  2. Saturday, January 10, 2009 2:37 am

    Nate, none of the content of your comment has nothing to do with the article in question, it has nothing to do with the evidence provided in question and has nothing to do on Israeli foreign policy post-1948 and what is it that you are talking about “intolerance an acceptable reason for warfare”?

    There was never a history in the Arab world to “eradicate West Asian” (Arab) “Jewery.” There was however tremendous violence and reaction during the 1920s and 30s when many European Jews started immigrating to Israel. But, again, this has nothing to do with the author’s thesis about “the center of gravity of Israeli politics moved toward maximalist positions.”

    About targeting civilians; that’s a complicated issue, especially with Israel itself targeting civilians, killing journalists, and firing upon aid workers. But, again, absolutly nothing to do with a change in Israeli politics post 1967, and especially 48; so, again, what’s your point? It has no relevance to this article.

  3. nate permalink
    Sunday, January 11, 2009 3:54 am

    First of all, the leader i mentioned in my last comment was considered the first Palestinian national leader, and had, in fact, collaborated with the nazis. The relevance of this to the article is that husseini’s stance had a tremendous effect on the policies of subsequent Palestinian leadership, and therefore had a tremendous effect on Israeli leadership. to blame zionism for the terrorism and hatred it recieves is like blaming the Jews for anti-Semitism, and the former is exactly what this article is doing.
    in 1967 the Arab armies used the west bank and gaza as points from which to launch attacks; points that left the civilian population centers of Israel at risk. nobody likes an occupation, jack, but the fact is that this article is backward: the goal of every war against Israel has been a war of extermination, and therefore Israel losing any of these wars spells doom for west asian jewry.
    finally Israel DID make peace with Sadat’s Egypt, as well as Jordan as soon as it recieved the slightest bit of peaceful gestures from these countries (Sadat visited Israel, and kissed Golda Meir on the cheek; Hussein visited Israel and personally appologized to the families of victims of suicide bombings). and it is in the process of making peace with Mahmoud Abbas and the PA. (id also like to add that niether Egypt nor Jordan give 2 shits about the Palestinians, and neither has tried to solidify a peace as much as Israel has).
    the point is this: Israel’s foreign policy is not maximalist, its REACTIONARY because it has to be. Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran; they all BLATANTLY threaten the CIVILIANS of Israel with extermination. and Israel does not target civilians, Hamas and Hezbollah hide behind civilians when engaging Israel and win international public opinion with every civilian killed. (again, Hamas and Hezbollah are less concerned with Palestinian statehood (Hezbollah not at all) than they are with the destruction of Israel).
    so agian, blaming zionism for the hatred it recieves works how???

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: