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He then worked as the U. He proved a skilled, effective operative. Commuting from his New York home to Washington, where he lobbied for U. But Stone, on his own, sent a letter to these senators directly appealing for their support for aid to Israel, and compounded the damage by listing the existing cosponsors of an aid proposal—all of them from the North. Relations between the two men became venomous.

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Soon Kenen was planning to leave the country. In February , Kenen was back on board, with enhanced authority. Kenen will conduct his work under the direction of the chairman of the Council, employing wherever possible the methods used in The Washington office of the Council will be under his sole direction. Lipsky's letter to you of January 30th, the Council will feel free to call upon your services and advice during the period of your retainer.

Kenen's struggle with Stone signified more than a dispute over tactics or a tussle for power in a small Washington organization. Kenen was determined to build a broad Jewish coalition in support of U. Indeed, he described his goal to Jesse Calmenson of St. In a detailed memorandum of September , Kenen recounted the delicacy of his coalition-building with both declared Zionists and non-Zionists.

So he worked with them extensively but informally. It is not hard to see why Kenen may have preferred not to work through them. Many in those groups considered non-Zionists unworthy and unreliable allies in the cause. They wished to have longstanding Zionists clearly in charge of pro-Israel advocacy. Kenen wanted to forge a pan-Jewish, pro-Israel political force in the United States. This means winning Jews as well as Christians. We will not get very far in our campaign if we try to limit our forces to enrolled Zionists. Kenen kept a watch on the U.

Eisenhower, a presidential nominee with unclear views on Middle East policy, won a convincing victory over Democrat Adlai Stevenson, who, in the tradition of outgoing President Harry Truman, another Democrat, had assured heavily Democratic Jewish voters of his warmth toward Israel.

Nonetheless, lines of communication still existed between the Truman White House and pro-Israel advocates, and such contacts were not guaranteed under Eisenhower. Most worrisome to pro-Israel activists, John Foster Dulles would be the new secretary of state.

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Dulles's State Department identified three major issues requiring resolution for the settlement of the overall Israeli—Arab conflict: Arab demands for border modifications; the allocation of water flowing through the Jordan River watershed; and the resettlement or repatriation of Palestinian refugees living outside of Israel. Conflict over each of these issues led to violence.

Many of them now lived close to the armistice lines fixed in and wished to return. A minority among the returnees committed violence against Israelis. Israeli historian Benny Morris concludes that these accounted for perhaps 10 percent of all Palestinian returnees in — These were designed as disproportionate and indiscriminate military actions, rather than efforts to punish, much less to apprehend, culpable individuals.

One fearsome IDF attack in particular excited sharp protests among diplomats and international observers, and deep anxiety and intense consideration of tactics and strategies among the most active supporters of Israel in the United States. Historians have not fully recognized the ramifications of this episode. Beginning on the night of October 14, , IDF forces launched an onslaught against the Arab village of Qibya, about one mile inside Jordanian territory on the West Bank. The operation was a reprisal for a raid from inside the West Bank on the night of October 12, on the nearby Jewish Israeli settlement of Yehud or Yehuda, where unknown persons murdered Susan Kanias and her two children in their home with an explosive.

The Israeli attack occurred two nights after these killings and lasted until the early morning hours of October The IDF had readied this response in advance, creating a special army outfit, named Unit , under the command of a retired major recalled to service, Ariel Sharon. On October 13, Ben-Gurion—even though he had stepped down from his posts as prime minister and defense minister months before—and other top leaders decided that Unit would target Qibya as collective punishment for the Yehuda killings.

They shot every man, woman and child they could find, then turned their fire on the cattle. After that, they dynamited 42 houses, a school and a mosque …. The villagers huddled in the grass could see Israeli soldiers slouching in the doorways of their homes, smoking and joking, their young faces illuminated by the flames. Time reported sixty-six deaths among the villagers and none among the IDF contingent , the most fatalities anywhere in the Israeli—Arab conflict since the war. News of the massacre at Qibya spread quickly after Jordanian forces inspected the scene.

The U. Furthermore, HKJ's [Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan] cooperation with Israelis in tracking down murderers … sharp contrast to Israeli massacre of 45 [ sic ] Jordanian villagers.

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This operation was the first since the establishment of our state that world Jewry refused to identify with …. The news from Qibya threatened the notably positive press that Israel had enjoyed in the United States in its early years. Israel's chief defenders displayed sharp concern over the first of these possibilities.

Dulles and Eisenhower authorized a denunciation of Israel's attack at the UN. He quickly orchestrated a completely false cover story, claiming that Jewish villagers inside Israel, not IDF soldiers, had attacked Qibya out of understandable anger over Arab violence from across the border. International audiences found this narrative generally unpersuasive, although the Israeli public and some American Jews appeared ready to believe it.

The weeks and months surrounding the Security Council censure became the pivotal interval for the restructuring of pro-Israel advocacy in American power centers. The scattered renditions of this process by participants rarely attribute the intensification of this reorganization to the anger over the Qibya killings, but it is unlikely the timing is a mere coincidence. The subsequent months would feature two organizational innovations clearly inspired by the events: the clear establishment of a Capitol Hill lobby at least officially separate from the AZC, and the organization of the Presidents' Conference.

Dulles announced that Washington had, at least temporarily, suspended economic aid to Israel.

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Eisenhower had resolved to take this step before the Qibya killings, in response to the water controversy, but Dulles confirmed it publicly only after Qibya. It has discredited the premises of our propaganda and has given the color of truth to Arab propaganda efforts to portray Israel as aggressive, unfaithful to the UN, and brutally indifferent to the Arab refugees whom it allegedly expelled. It is time that we passed from introspective brooding about the past and resumed the offensive by restoring perspective on the Near East conflict and by fixing responsibility for the continuation of that conflict where it really belongs.

The immediate aftermath of Qibya in the United States shows Kenen and other activists engaged in a hectic round of communications as they grappled with a politically threatening situation. In these days of crisis, Kenen proved to be the key man, not only in Washington, but also in relaying talking points to pro-Israel activists elsewhere in the country—as his frequent missives to correspondents in one city, among the strongly Zionist Jewish community of Boston, serve to illustrate.

According to Kenen's later account, by late word had spread in Washington that the Eisenhower administration suspected the Israeli government was funding the AZC and that the administration might demand the AZC register as the agent of a foreign power. So a new entity henceforth would lobby for Israel. However, donors would fund the new Committee for Public Affairs with direct contributions. These donations, unlike those to the AZC, would not be tax-deductible, which meant that fewer restrictions would apply to the new group's activities in Washington.

Until this time Kenen had lived in New York, but he now set up shop in Washington.

The retaliation at Kibya portended a long battle. Pro-Israel activists, after their balance returned, acted energetically to cope with the crisis, wavering between ignoring Qibya entirely and seeking to marginalize it in the public conversation. Weinstein, the Council president, relayed to local Jewish community leaders a dispatch that they and presumably others elsewhere had received from Kenen on October The JCCB was neither a Zionist group nor a non-Zionist group as such, but rather an umbrella group of major Jewish organizations in the area, and it could speak both for and to Jewish Boston authoritatively.

It became Kenen's regional partner in pro-Israel advocacy. The very day that dawned with word of the massacre burning up the diplomatic cables saw Kenen summarize the issues besetting U. Developments of subsequent days made it impossible not to speak of Qibya, however. Perhaps most important, on October 19, Ben-Gurion aired in public his story about vigilante Israelis.


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Incidents, no matter how tragic and regrettable, cannot be removed from their historical context …. The decision to withhold aid from Israel was made weeks before the Kibya incident. But world attention remained on Qibya, and Kenen appeared to think he needed a new approach. On October 23 Kenen issued a revised response to the continuing controversy, and Segal passed it on to the Council's member groups. This document marked a turning point, away from dismissals of Qibya as insignificant and toward a more frontal refutation of the moral opprobrium being heaped on Israel and a more concerted effort to advance an alternative narrative of the violence.

According to Morris, the Israeli civilian death toll between and was , plus civilians wounded, for a total of civilian casualties due to border violence. In addition to this, he counts Israeli soldiers killed during this period, although those military deaths occurred in battles, often in engagements initiated by the IDF. Kenen did not clearly distinguish civilian from military casualties, and he lumped Israelis killed and wounded together. Thus, Kenen's unsourced number of Israeli casualties between and was not very far off the mark.

However, he made no mention of the extensive fatalities among Palestinian boundary-crossers in the same time span: at least ten times as many as Jewish deaths from the violence. But he and allies like the JCCB appeared uninterested in the full context of lives lost in the border violence. They chose the numbers that would make the case for the defense, maximizing the significance of Jewish deaths and not bothering to count Arab ones.

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Not all were happy with the prospect of closed-ranks support for this line. It read:. I received a call from Herbert Ehrmann this morning complaining about the letter he had received … summoning a meeting on the Israel crisis for October He asked whom are we fighting and for what?

He stated that the fight now going on in Israel can be compared with the old one between Indians and the settlers. He said that he didn't think the Zionists should summon people. He added that he did not think we should engage in issuing joint statements with the Zionists.

Israel at Sixty

Herbert Ehrmann was far from an obscure community member. A prominent Boston lawyer and activist, he would serve as president of the AJC from to His outburst was likely known to very few at the time, but many years later it illuminates the private discord within organized American Jewish life over the orchestration of a united front to defend Israel after Qibya. Incidentally, the analogy Ehrmann made to conflict in the American West was used not only by critics of Israeli behavior.