It’s a safe bet that John Kerry hasn’t heard of General Evelyn Hugh Barker, GOC (General Officer Commanding) of British forces in Palestine (Eretz Yisrael). Lack of erudition, however, has hardly prevented anyone from regarding Jews much in the same light as Barker did.
Of course Kerry, unlike Barker, operates in an age of rigorous political correctness, so the US Secretary of State dare not give full vent to prejudice, not even when he cannot fully hide it. A case in point is Kerry’s proposal that Jews from Arab countries be compensated in the framework of the “peace” he strives to impose on Israel.
The subtext of his suggestion is that Jews can be bought, that they’ll ditch all that’s dear and sacred to them for a little lucre.
It’s here that we backtrack to Barker. In 1946 the British GOC set out to make all Jews of pre-state Israel “suffer punishment and be made aware of the contempt and loathing with which we regard their conduct.”
He therefore instructed all British military personnel to boycott “all Jewish establishments, restaurants, shops and private dwellings. No British soldier is to have social intercourse with any Jew… I appreciate that these measures will inflict some hardship on the troops, yet I am certain that if my reasons are fully explained to them they will understand their propriety and will be punishing the Jews in a way the race dislikes as much as any, by striking at their pockets and showing our contempt of them."
Reenter Kerry. What has his initiative vis-à-vis those Israelis whose families fled Arab intimidation to do with Barker? Let’s connect the dots.
Kerry is doubtless familiar with the formulaic division of this country’s Jews into two opposing camps – hawks and doves. The hardnosed hawks are invariably cast as Jews of Mideastern origin (inaccurately all lumped together as Sephardim), while the doves are just as invariably identified as Jews of European origin (popularly dubbed Ashkenazim). This one-dimensional oversimplification of Israel’s sociopolitical make-up is a favorite of the leftwing Jews who proliferate in the Obama Administration.
The upshot is that the White House and State Department seek slick schemes to change the minds of all those presumably benighted Israeli intransigents. This is where Kerry, like it or not, in effect subscribes to Barker’s characterization of the Jew as one who cares more than all else for money.
To be sure, Kerry is no Barker-style foaming-at-the-mouth anti-Semite. Kerry is way more genteel and refined than Barker was but no less consistent.
He doesn’t hector that the Jews must be hit “by striking at their pockets.” Kerry instead opts to warn the Jewish State of the terrible financial calamity that would befall it, should it disobey his diktats. According to Kerry’s enlightened approach, barely veiled threats of BDS horrors (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) should suffice to yield the desired Jewish compliance.
Kerry had reiterated this identical enlightenment on more than one occasion, making it quite disingenuous to accuse Israelis of either nasty misrepresentation or imbecilic misapprehension.
Moreover, his implied threat against our Jewish pockets was followed up with an enticement campaign geared to sway Jews by dangling a bit of alluring remuneration under their noses. The point of departure here is that Jews - be their background Mideastern or otherwise - are greedy. If only offered enough payback, Israel’s “hardliners” will let go of all their mistrust of the Arabs, among whom they or their ancestors lived and from whom they had to flee for fear of their lives.
Thus – to bait those covetous Jews – the notion of compensating Jewish refugees from Arab lands was inserted into Kerry’s so-called framework for a peace agreement.
At first glance it looks like an unassailable proposition. If anything, it should be cheered. Here, so it would seem, is the first tangible acknowledgement of our long-time contentions that there had been no Arab calamity in 1948 but in effect an exchange of populations.
Some 600,000 Arabs fled what was to become Israel – in many cases at the prompting of their leaders. This resulted directly from a war the Arabs had instigated to annihilate Israel. Their misfortune was that the genocide they planned had backfired and the Jews, slated for extermination, had the temerity to win and remain alive.
In fact, these uncooperative Jews remained alive enough to absorb into their midst over 800,000 Jews who fled Arab lands. Unlike the Palestinians, these Jewish refugees did not start a war, did not aim to massacre their neighbors or destroy the countries where they had constituted the oldest continuous communities, long predating both the Arab conquests and Islam.
These were genuine refugees rather than frustrated aggressors who had ascribed their own homicidal fervor to their intended victims.
The so-called Palestinian refugees, furthermore, weren’t on the whole local Arabs anyhow. Many were itinerant Arab laborers drawn to this country by the Zionist Jews who made the desert bloom and the land habitable. For the benefit of those who forget, this was the remote, malaria-ridden, depopulating hinterland of the decaying Ottoman Empire. The Jews, who longed for this forlorn place – their one and only historic home – literally watered the wasteland with their blood, sweat and tears.
Word then got round the entire Arab sphere that there’s opportunity to be had here – the term used was “prosperity.” Arabs started flocking in from Iraq, Syria, Egypt and all the way to Libya and the Maghreb.
The British mandatory government, which callously collaborated in the Nazi “final solution” by barring the entry to this country of desperate Jewish refugees from Hitler’s hell, flung the gates open for Arab economic migrants (see Joan Peters’ matchless From Time Immemorial). The UN later unabashedly defined as a Palestinian refugee any Arab, no matter from where, who sojourned temporarily here for two years before the 1948 Arab attack on day-old Israel.
No such benign attention was focused on Jews fleeing Arab countries. Indeed no attention whatsoever was paid them. They, like the displaced post-Holocaust European Jews, were looked upon as detestable bothers whose very plight upset the global applecart and destabilized the Mideast. Jewish tragedies evoked no compassion. It’s as if Jews were anyhow, from the dawn of history, portable and destined to rootlessness and wandering.
So obviously no heartstrings were tugged by the fact that refugee Jews from Arab jurisdictions had left far more land and way more property behind than did the diverse Arab transients who ran away from Israel, plainly expecting the Jews to mete out to them all that they had boastfully declared they would do to the Jews.
Arab hardship was lamented while Jewish suffering was, as per usual, overlooked (if not actually disdained). Making matters worse was that beleaguered newborn Israel, where there wasn’t enough of anything and where the most basic foodstuffs were severely rationed, welcomed the refugees as repatriated brethren.
The reverse occurred across the armistice lines. Arab refugees were segregated in camps, not allowed to assimilate or to economically rehabilitate. A special UN agency – UNWRA – was set up uniquely for them and for them alone. Their refugee status was perpetuated over the generations. The Jews, in contrast, were never regarded as refugees.
Israel is held accountable for the Arab displacement, despite the fact that it implored the Arabs to stay and not to attack. Consequently, in Kerry’s view, Israel must in the very least compensate dispossessed Arabs. To make this palatable, it appeared prudent to also throw in compensation for the Jews who streamed penniless into Israel from all corners of the Mideast.
But is it fairness Kerry is after? The truth is quickly exposed via a simple question – who will pay? Whereas Israel must make reparations to the Arabs (because they had failed to defeat it), who will pay the Jewish refugees?
Surely it won’t be the Palestinians – not that we know who among them would pay even if they were trustworthy peace partners, which they clearly are not. Will jihadist Gaza pay? Will terror-glorifying Ramallah? Seriously? Even if all the goodwill in the universe suddenly descended upon them, they will surely shirk responsibility for what Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, etc. had done.
And surely Baghdad, Damascus, Cairo, Tripoli, Sana’a, etc. (all in the dire throes of internecine turmoil) will assert that they aren’t sides to any deal between Ramallah and Jerusalem.
Technically they would be darn tootin’ right. Washington cannot foist any sort of financial onus on them. Obama (considering the deficits with which he has lumbered his own country) would surely not endorse a payout to Jewish refugees from depleted American coffers. That’s not how far his “sharing the wealth” ethos extends.
The long and the short of it is that nobody will compensate the Arab realm’s Jewish refugees. Obama knows it. Kerry knows it. So why make promises that can’t possibly be kept? Well, of course Kerry’s entire misnamed peace framework is a promise that can’t be kept.
But the specific attempt to tempt Jewish refugees borrows a page from Barker’s playbook. Its premise is that the Jew will sell his soul for money. Hence, the promise of a windfall can magically transform Sephardi hawks into Ashkenazi doves – that is if you at all buy into the blanket generalization of facile (and inherently offensive) stereotypes.
Finally, a historical footnote. Barker in time rescinded his boycott orders but was nevertheless removed from his post after less than a year. On his very last day in office, February 13, 1947 – 67 years and one day ago – he found it essential to confirm the death penalty on three Jewish underground fighters: Yehiel Dresner, Eliezer Kashani and Mordechai Elkachi.
A couple of months later Barker wrote his Jerusalem-resident Arab paramour, wealthy Syrian-born socialite Katy Antonius, about what he felt toward the Jews: “Yes, I loathe the lot – whether they be Zionists or not. Why should we be afraid of saying we hate them? It’s time this damned race knew what we think of them – loathsome people.”
Debunking the Bull, Sarah Honig’s book, was recently published by Gefen.